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The South Florida Roundup

City of Miami takes over historically Black beach, Brazil's tight presidential election, wetlands boundary moved

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Aerial photo of Virginia Key

When Miami commissioners recently moved to take over management of Virginia Key Beach, the city’s historically Black beach, the reaction from the community was swift.

Commissioners had suggested ‘malfeasance’ in the running of the Virginia Key Trust and indicated their frustrations over the lack of progress on a Black history and civil rights museum promised nearly two decades ago.

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But the city’s auditor suggested little more than an improvement in accounting practices, while the board protested that Miami-Dade County had held up the $20 million funding for the museum project.

On the South Florida Roundup, Amy Driscoll, deputy editor of the Miami Herald editorial board, and attorney Norman Patrick Range II, the former chair of the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust Board, said they were worried about the future of the barrier island park.

Coming just weeks after Commissioner Joe Carollo’s plans to set up a homeless encampment on the beach were thwarted, the move raised suspicions among some. The board, which was majority Black, will now have no more than three of seven Black members.

"The Trust was created to give the community a voice," said Range, who spoke out against the move.

He was among the civic leaders and fourteen Black businesses who signed a letter to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez to voice their discontent after Miami commissioners voted to oust the board. They asked him to veto the decision, but he told the Miami Herald that the “commission spoke ‘decisively’” when voting 4-1 to obtain management of the board.

After the vote, Commission Chairwoman Christine King is the only Black person sitting on the board. King is allowed to appoint two more members to complete the seven-person group, so at most the board will have three Black members out of seven.

Days before the announcement, the City of Miami had released an audit that suggested the board’s leadership should implement financial controls and improve its accounting operations. However, it did not mention any financial misuse.

"I think the city commission could've done more to ask for reports, understand what was going on and bring things forward to the public," Driscoll said.

During the summer, Range had come out against a plan pushed by Commissioner Joe Carollo meant to relocate homeless people to tiny homes on Virginia Key. The idea has since been put aside. Commissioners said the vote was unrelated to the criticisms of the proposition.

"There's something going on behind the scenes for them to take away the community's voice," Range said.

Virginia Key Beach was the first beach Black residents were allowed to use in Miami during the Jim Crow-era segregation. The museum project would honor the legacy of Black Miami. "That kind of museum is a really public statement to the community," Driscoll said.

On the South Florida Roundup, we also talked to WLRN’s Environment Editor Jenny Staletovich about Miami-Dade County’s decision to move a boundary that protects wetlands in order to construct warehouses, call centers and other commercial uses.

Host Wilkine Brutus also discussed with WLRN’s Americas Editor Tim Padgett and Florida International University’s Latin America and Caribbean Center Director Anthony Pereira this week’s Brazilian presidential election results and how they might affect democracy in the South Florida diaspora.

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