An Open Letter to Commissioner Ken Russell
Dear Commissioner Russell,
I moved to the West Grove July 9th, 2015 after having finished building my own home. Throughout the construction process I developed a sense of urgency to try and create change within the area. I reached out to the Code Compliance Offices of the City of Miami to address code violations in the area, issues mainly consisting of overgrown lots, illegal constructions, broken sidewalks, pot holes in the street, city trucks dumping garbage on the street, and homeless citizens living on unoccupied lots without running water. As extensive as that list sounds, it does not compare to the extensive disappointment I have faced working with the City of Miami officials and your office.
If you recall I went in front of the City Commission on May 14th and June 23rd. of this year. Both of these occasions your Chief of Staff, Eleazar Melendez, called to persuade me to cancel my appearance. An interview or simple phone call was impossible to achieve with you. Not only have I navigated all the city departments related to this issue for weeks, but I have yet to find a person that is willing and capable of engaging in the betterment of your so called “neglected neighborhood”.
The West Grove doesn’t only face problems of Code Compliance. This 15 sq. block community is plagued with drugs; bullets are fired into classrooms; explosions are frequently fired with heavy explosive capabilities, people are picking up cars from valet parking with bullet holes; buildings along Grand Avenue have been ignored by the City of Miami Code Compliance for a long time, and nothing gets done. The reality is that for a young member of this community to live under these circumstances is the definition of neglect. Why should a young child in the West Grove not be able to walk down the same paved street that one-‐child two blocks away walks on? Why does the entire infrastructure cease at the borders of the West Grove? Why are there cameras in CocoWalk and not in Hibiscus and Plaza Street, where drugs are sold?
On my appearance on June 23rd I expressed my frustrations with the Code Compliance Director, Eli Gutierrez. A man who was fired from the City of Coral Gables for using the same excuses he uses with me. A man who reports to Alberto Parjus (Assistant City Manager), which supervises the Code Compliance Department, and has no interest in doing anything. Parjus reports to the City Manager, Daniel Alfonso, overlooks this entire fiasco, and does absolutely nothing to contribute towards a solution.
On my last appearance I mentioned to the Commission that the overgrown lots were not only aesthetic issues, but were brewing disaster in relation to mosquitos. Today, the City of Miami is all over CNN with negative press regarding Zika concerns. We are never proactive to situations; rather we are reacting to them. Your solution was to Tweet “Great Zika Tips” today, instead of doing something to prevent the possibility of events like that.
Commissioner, you are an elected official, you ran for this job. We the people elected you, your responsibility is to work with us, not avoid us. Not to choose a Chief of Staff that gets paid $75,000 a year to persuade citizens away from voicing their concerns. You’re supposed to run a decent office, that responds to the voices of your people. Your not supposed to leave a portion of your city unattended. These issues are real, and more important than the algae’s in the Lake Okeechobee, the people you met recently at the Democratic Convention, and your yo-‐yo tricks.
There is a lot of people spending money and taking risks to move this city forward, and I am a part of that. As a family, we build, consume locally at shops and restaurants and use the parks. We also help and employ various people within the community.
I am not asking you for a variance, to change setbacks or to change zoning. I am only asking you for the basic rights that my community shares as citizens of your District 2. I am asking you to respect the right of my two sons, and those of every other son and daughter in this community to walk down a decent and safe street.
Guillermo de la Paz
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