Saturday, November 21, 2009

Michele Spence-Jones: Bleeding her community?

Let's get on with it:

so... You remember Tammany Hall? The Sons of St. Tammany? Small refresher: (Irish run) Democratic turn of the last century political machine in NYC so notoriously violent and skeezy that Teddy Roosevelt registered Republican?   From the 1790's to the 1960's it held sway over New York  Democrat politics. You know..."nothing dumber than a New York Democrat"?  It rose to enforcement on a constituency of poor and disenfranchised, notably immigrants, who in the early days_ were paid for their votes.   Though Tammany Hall was not completely without redemption; they did represent the Democratic Party...their social contributions included aid to the sick and unemployed, advocacy for tenants and workers.  Precursors to the Social Security Dept and other  massive government social programs...the better to plunder!  Not a bad legacy, if that were all it were.  "Boss" Tweed was notoriously the most corrupt of the heyday sports' who ran the old town through graft and political corruption with a penchant for purchasing votes from the working class / poor and forging documents to transfer city funds into his bank accounts.   It's a well worn warrant of politics and Tammany Hall is a standard bearer for political graft, corruption and manipulation.  

District 5 in Liberty City, Miami, is now exemplifying notoriety like a southern Tammany Hall with Michele Spense-Jones as it's active Boss.   Her methods of graft are 'curious and simple', just like Boss Tweed's, including the use of an established political machine to assist her in retaining her voting constituency by all means including the purchase of their loyalty, as the word is.  Just talk on the street by wiser folks who stand back and watch it all go down with the usual grimace of communal fatigue and ultimately, community defeat.  Beaten down by the 'man' who, in this case, is a grand standing, arrogant woman playing politics for a dime and reversing the argument to proclaim her 'innocence'. 
Last week this came down:

Nathaniel Styles and Harlan Woodard down at Osun's Village in Liberty City are disappointed.   So is Marvin Weeks at Timbuktu.  You can't blame them.  These creative inner city mentors have worked diligently and without much applause to bridge creative / artisan communities between the Caribbean, Mother Africa and south Florida to provide a new, robust tourism base for their chosen community: Liberty City.  Little did they know that Michele Spense-Jones had purloined funds that they had  tirelessly lobbied for!  They felt their work, the work of many volunteers inside and outside of the community, had been unduly swept aside, but they had no genuine idea why.   

[In the case of the Osun's Village grant, prosecutors discovered, the victims didn't even know they were victims.
In 2004, architect Harlan Woodard and his partner, Nathaniel Styles, needed grant money for Osun's Village, a special district along Northwest Seventh Avenue where they hoped to remake the business facades with modern architecture reflecting African heritage. They took their plan to Carey-Shuler.
``This project is really to reconnect the people to who they are,'' Woodard said Friday. ``We wanted this to be an area that is primed for transformation.''
But no money ever arrived. They forgot about their request.
Later, Weeks (Marvin) in passing mentioned the grants to them. Woodard later searched the Internet -- and discovered county records showing that Carey-Shuler had set aside $25,000 for their project.
The slap in the face: MMAPP had given the money to Karym Ventures, which opened a spa and cafe just nine blocks from Woodard's Liberty City office.
Woodard said he and his partner never had any agreement with Spence-Jones to work together on the Osun's Village project.
When Scruggs and investigator Robert Fielder met with Woodard and Styles, they showed them an unsigned letter under their organization's name. It had been used to give MMAP authorization to hand the money over to Spence-Jones. ``We are victims of identity theft!'' Woodard told Scruggs and Fielder.] Miami Hearld 11-21-09

To bring a renewable vitality into a community with a median household income of $18,809.87 is a service that speaks about the quality of their character and their dreams.   Neither Harlan nor Nathaniel or Marvin Weeks did anything outright to provoke the enmity of Spense-Jones, it was more that they stood in the way of her own needs: ``Shoes, clothes, perfumes, etc.,'' Fern├índez Rundle said. ``Many might say such uses of the public's money did very little to improve the lives in Miami District 5's community.'' 

District 5, Liberty City is a community of 3.5% combined Latino, .06% White, 1.7% mixed racial identity and 94.7% African American citizens.   It spreads across 6 square miles of inner city Miami.  To many Floridians, Liberty City was a 'watchword' for violence, stemming from the "Liberty City Riots" of 1980 (an unfortunate injustice clearing guilty cops from the death of a black motorcyclist) and the area is blight with drug gang violence.  It was home to Carrie P. Meeks a FL state Representative, District 17,  of great respect and acclaim.  [Her son, Kendrick Meek is the only candidate at this point to oppose and run in the current Senatorial race against Crist & Rubio...SUPPORT HIM!]  Liberty City is also home to the Miami Workers Center. A strategy and organizing center for low-income communities and low-wage workers in Miami-Dade County. Initiated in March 1999, the Center’s mission is to work to end poverty and oppression. 

The inner city political career of Michele Spence-Jones has enjoyed a short ride of profiteering plenty.  Mud clings to her skirts throughout it, repeatedly investigated for years.   She cultivates the 'community' with the help of a considerable politic machine as the protege of past Mayor Manny Diaz (whom has not outwardly denounced her, yet is distancing himself abjectly).  As an account from Spense-Jones' point of view reads over at New Times, the main witness against her will recant: [Barbara Carey-Shuler is apparently backing off her sworn statements against her protege.]  New Times - 11-16-09   This certainly does not read...since Ms. Carey-Schuler has agreed to testify after charges against her have been dropped under the provision of her testimony.   Spense-Jones' attorney claims that Ms. Carey-Schuler contacted him saying 'her testimony was taken out of context'...does anyone think that this is out of context: [``Did you in any way intend for Karym Ventures to get the money from Timbuktu and Osun Village?'' prosecutor Richard Scruggs asked her, in a transcript of her sworn interview released Friday.
``Absolutely not,'' Carey-Shuler replied. ``I intended for it to go to groups that I allocated it to at the budget hearings.''] - Miami Herald
What remains in light of this fact is really, what does the evidence say and who's zoomin' who?   In the New Tiimes piece a neighborhood supporter of Spense-Jones, Leroy Jones, decries KDI (Woodard and Styles) as angry for not receiving the funds (ah, yeah, well, dude...obviously you've gotten YOURS) ... [Jones says his organization Neighbors for Neighbors Association had partnered with KDI Architecture, a company owned by Woodard and Styles, on a $500,000 project to renovate building facades along NW Seventh Avenue with Afrocentric designs. "KDI has been paid $71,000 by the city but they have never submitted any drawings," Jones says. "Michelle took the position that they needed to turn in the plans before the city gave them any more money."]  but if you check the city planners office you will find the submissions from KDI presented over a year ago.  You feel me?!  GAD! 

here be monstersMichele Spense-Jones is a pariah on Liberty City.  Ultimately it's Liberty City who looses.  Someone who now defines audacity in running for the seat she has just been suspended from!  Tragic. 


Liberty City resident said...

Are you kidding me with this? I think you need to come here to see what is really going on before you go on talking about Ms. Spence-Jones. Get the facts.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

I don't think any part of this issue is a joke. Respectfully, the evidence supports the charges of graft and grandstanding. New Times articles may portray Ms. Spence-Jones as a candidate / politician being 'persecuted' by the DA's office, however; if you read investigative journalism, like the Miami Herald, you are exposed to the facts of this case.

This is not the first time Ms. Spence-Jones has come under investigation during her service to Miami. re: the Herald article linked in the post. I hope for the best for Liberty City... further.... KDI submitted their plans for building / projects as they began lobbying for funds. Her hand is caught in the cookie jar. And in order to avoid being charged with like crimes, Ms. Carey-Schuler is happy to come to court and testify as to what happened. There is a nest of corruption being exposed in Miami / Liberty City. In the meantime, hard working people who have honestly served the community with their own funds and dreams (Osun's Village project - Timbuktu) who deserved help were denied and abused by a profiteering politician. Do I think this a JOKE?
No I don't, not at all.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

I am not a stranger to Liberty City. No, I don't live there. I have friends and associates in Liberty City.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the media is putting the whole story out there. KDI got money to do work also and is playing the victim. All them (KDI, Weeks, Leroy Jones, Spence Jones) are just more in a long list of poverty pimps. None of them can be trusted.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hah! You don't live in Liberty City, or work in Liberty City... then please table any further comments about Liberty City, and b the way, try using SPELLCHECK!