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Bill would hurt Liberty City kids

Resource type: News

The Miami Herald |

Last year was a year of change and Liberty City, for once, was ahead of the curve. In July 2008, Gov. Crist signed the Florida Children’s Zone into law in Liberty City. Modeled after the innovative Harlem Children’s Zone, the Magic City Youth Zone seeks to recreate Miami’s inner city into a desirable community for children and families.

Unfortunately, less than a year later, state Sen. Larcenia Bullard, whose district includes portions of Liberty City, proposed legislation that would thwart change and continue the victimization of Liberty City. Children’s Promise Zones — S 2470 — removes the current board of the Magic City Youth Zone, ousting PTA parents, students, colleges and community organizations.

It also inexplicably removes the geographic boundaries of the zone, destroying any guarantee that these efforts would address youth violence that plagues Liberty City. The bill died in committee, but the most damaging language from the bill resurfaced as an amendment to HB 318. As is characteristic of legislative backdoor dealing, this amendment was attached to a potentially beneficial bill to expand the rights of grandparents with loved ones in the child-welfare system. It also places the Department of Children & Families and Miami-Dade County in the driver’s seat, effectively taking the project from the community and further delaying the zone’s potential positive impact on children.

The amendment embodies two persistent characteristics of political dealings affecting communities of color: disrespect and broken promises. Again we see funds and programming, in this case $3.6 million, promised to our community lost because of political maneuvering. If our elected officials are not going to advocate for our community, who will?

The Magic City Youth Zone is working to increase college-attendance rates, reduce violence and improve the overall well-being of children in the zone. We must reject an outmoded approach that silences the intelligence, creativity and insight of our communities in favor of a removed and incapable bureaucracy, lack of imagination and an unwillingness to effect real change.

Liberty City is an unfortunate bellwether of the state’s urban challenges. I urge Gov. Crist to veto HB 381 and let the Magic City Youth Zone continue its business of bringing real change to these promising communities.

H. LEIGH TONEY, board chair, Magic City Youth Zone, Miami

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Harlem Children’s Zone