Welcome to the Grapevine

The only place for Coconut Grove, FL News, Views & Opinions - Sunlight is the best disinfectant

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

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
Coconut Grove

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well said I do agree with all you points. I do not know what is happening but the other day I passed by the satellite police station on Grand Avenue and it appears to have closed.

August 03, 2016 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When searching Guillermo de la Paz, I found a real estate agent listing in Coral Gables with a PA after his name. Are you one and the same? I might be opening my mouth, only to change a foot, but are you attempting to gain some edge in attacking our commissioner Mr. Ken Russel? Or to gain some edge in some real estate transactions you have planned at some future date related to our West Grove? Or, finally, do you plan running for Mr. Russel's commission seat? Which is it? Jobie Steppe

August 03, 2016 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very sad...Last Saturday night I dropped off my co-worker Tyrone in front of his building near 37 Ave and Grand Avenue; ignoring that a few minutes later he will be murdered there. Black lives really matters to society? Why this neighborhood is plagued with abandon, crime and drugs and there is not a solution for this?

August 03, 2016 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, and the solution is called EDUCATION, FAMILY & COMMUNITY, as in "No child is left behind". I'm not religious, but as the story goes as Jesus was turning over the money tables he was yelling "What's last is 1st and what's 1st is last". I understand that it translated at that time and is appropriate today that folks back then placed money 1st and children and their chief child care giver, the woman, second.

August 03, 2016 10:09 AM  
Anonymous swlip said...

According to the BLM crowd, engaging in proactive law enforcement in the West Grove would be racist. That's too bad, because the first victims of a lack of law enforcement are black children and families.

August 03, 2016 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Guillermo de la Paz said...

To Jobie Steppe

I'm not attacking Commissioner Russell, I have been trying since October of last year to talk to him, and make him understand this situation. I am not trying to gain any "edge" in any real estate transaction, much less would I ever consider running for a political position. I prefer to use that time and energy to spend time with my family. My email is, email me, I would love to meet with you, you can come by my house and meet my family. I'm sure you will realize that I am a normal person with no hidden agenda.

August 03, 2016 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to start an small space of meditation in the West Grove. We need an sponsor, a great heart to do this. A place that can help to irradiate peace, respect for life, alternatives to bad habits. I don't have money, but I have the will .If somebody knows how we can make this project a reality, please, write to me: Let's try!

August 03, 2016 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SWLIP, Black Lives Matter don't matter because Elite Lives Matter. Please look up the definition of Gentrification and Ghetto.

August 03, 2016 4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the City of Miami meeting this past week where there was a presentation by Mr. John Snyder about the code violations and warrants in Coconut Grove (he only had 2 minutes but other people talked about the same subject). Commissioner Russell of course was not there for this important issue. Nothing in the Grove is getting done, we have been 2 years almost with no real bathrooms in Kennedy Park. Their excuse is that they do not have the money to do that. If they did not spend money in the stupid peanuts like the one on 27Ave and Tigertail, maybe they would for rea problems. Mr. de la Pax's letter is exactly what every one of the Grove residents would like to write, I am sure.

August 03, 2016 5:59 PM  
Blogger Nadine Johnson said...

I do not know the person who wrote this letter, but I think it was heartfelt. He did not attack anyone, but simply stated the facts about his efforts to seek help from our local representative. I think it was wrong to accuse him of having an ulterior motive. Why can't the people in the Grove work together to address the problems we all know exist in the West Grove? That would be productive and it would benefit all of us. I apologize to Mr: de la Pax for the rudeness of that response. It was wrong.

August 03, 2016 7:38 PM  
Blogger anonymous said...

Guillermo, Let us know what concrete steps we citizens can do to press your concerns forward. Many of us are ready and willing. I understand Ken needs to spend time positioning himself in his new role, but like you, I have had no response from his office on several issues. It is time for him to dig in and get to work. As a priveleged white, I feel strongly that West Grove is our priority.

August 04, 2016 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Ken's problem just that he has a really bad chief or staff?

August 04, 2016 11:08 AM  
Blogger Lance said...

He have shown that is not capable of hire the correct staff.Lest hope that the same criteria is not going to be use for the rest of his decisions.Any good leader should have time to listening .Societies don`t erase overnight what happened years back ,dialogue is a good star.

August 04, 2016 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous so I can speak truth to power said...

Jobie Steppe,

You need to apologize and start thinking before you let your troubled mind run wild with tin-foil hat conspiracies. You are embarrassing yourself and this forum. Shame on you.

To Guillermo:

I just want to note appreciation for your words and ways. Sadly, a lot of pressure has to be applied to get the city to do anything at all, other than line the individual pockets of its employees.

You may want to direct some pressure toward the corporation that owns all of the property in question, and is permitted to be quite derelict due to its political contributions (one company owns every lot in question - and most of the west grove at that, under a variety of paper names).

August 05, 2016 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The City has many problems. Yes, it is true Ken Russell has no experience and very little interest in taking care of his many constituents. During the campaign Ken bragged he "knew nothing", he "never voted" and he was "not a politician". Really. So of course he was in Philly when he should have been in Miami prepping for a crucial City meeting. True, Ken's staff sucks. They brag about how young and naive they are. Oh, and $75,000 per year for on-the-job training? Taxpayers getting screwed, thank you very much.

August 05, 2016 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anon 11:50, please allow us the name of the alleged one corporation that owns "all the property in question" that attention needs to be direct at, so we can benefit by your privileged info, who ever it is you refer to, ops the cat has got your tongue. Are you inferring that the various separate owners are straw buyers. I'm not the slightest bit embarrassed, nor do I own any tin-foil hats that I've noticed in your closet, yes my dear, it's me. Plus, Mr. Guillermo has made it clear he's covets political power previously and where better to lay claim to an area where gentrification between Latins & Blacks is taking place. Mr. Russell has NEVER uttered such intentions. Gutter trash. Jobie Steppe

August 05, 2016 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading several comments above it appears that the honeymoon with the newly elected commissioner and his staff is over and buyers remorse has set in!

August 08, 2016 10:36 AM  
Anonymous That Guy said...

Ineffective, inexperienced, naive and even unqualified are still leaps and bounds better than Sarnoff.

August 08, 2016 2:49 PM  
Blogger Ralph Cabrera said...

I have known Mr. Guillermo De La Paz for over 15 years. Initially, he was one of my constituents while I served as a twelve (12) year Coral Gables City Commissioner. Over time we became good friends. We are also fellow cyclists. Our sons are classmates and friends as well. Mr. De La Paz shared his open letter with me recently and I then decided to go on this blog and read the comments. Let me be clear... Mr. De La Paz wrote this letter out of pure frustration. He only has one over riding motive... to make his community a better place to live. He absolutely has NO hidden agendas, or potential business opportunities, and most importantly NO political aspirations. His wife and I will do everything possible to ensure that! So... for all of you who decided to criticize and find some sort of "scheme" or "angle", you won't find one. Instead you will find a resident who only wants what's best for his family and community and can't seem to get his elected representative to take notice and more importantly... address the issues raised! That's why the people of West Grove elected him. So please... all you back seat politicians understand when you are elected into office, there is NO honeymoon, or camp, or Politics 101. You have to hit the ground running and address the pressing issues, concerns, and feedback of ALL your constituents. It's called... representing the electorate and then...Doing your job.
Ralph Cabrera

August 09, 2016 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Cabrera & Guillermo de la Paz, but 1st Mr. Paz, what were you thinking purchasing a lot on Charles? Mr. Cabrera, your acquaintance "for over 15 years" states "That's why the people of West Grove elected him". Yet, both of you state you have no political agenda HELLO!

Your letter to the editor of the COCONUT GROVE GRAPEVINE attacks our commissioner Ken Russell namely as being incompetent. HOWEVER, at a hearing on April 14, 2016 (See the minutes page 30) Mr. Russell listened to your numerous complaints, about 19, about overgrown grass, and trash on the side streets and asked you "What do you want" and you said "I don't know, it's up to you guys" and you then said "It's the system that's in place now, it doesn't work". Commissioner Russell then said he would come to your home and neighborhood, walk around, observe, and try to resolve you concerns, again, which you previously stated "I don't know". If you don't know, then who should. You stated you paid to have stuff, trash, removed - do you have receipts?

Mr. Cabrera, After 12 years as a commissioner in Coral Gables, and losing a bid for Mayor, what do you suggest?

Both of you obviously have been misplace from Coral Gables and are trying to get a foothold here in OUR GROVE and the best you guys can come up with is over grown grass and trash on the street before pick up on scheduled bulk pick up days. THANKS, BUT NO THANKS. Jobie Steppe

August 09, 2016 6:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home