Carey-Shuler says Beacon Council neglects urban areas
By Shannon Pettypiece
The Beacon Council is under pressure from Miami-Dade County Commission Chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler to bring businesses and development to disadvantaged urban areas.
"What I really would like to do is work closely with them to develop a plan or strategy to spread some economic development and target it at urban communities," said Commissioner Carey-Shuler, whose district includes Little Haiti, Overtown and Liberty City. "They haven't shown me that they have done anything in those communities."
The Beacon Council is the county's economic-development agency and receives county funds each year.
Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero said Tuesday that the organization has placed 17 projects in underdeveloped zones designated by the county, called Enterprise Zones, but plans to increase its urban outreach.
"While we believe the Beacon Council's track record has been quite good, we will continue to do more to increase investment and create jobs," Mr. Nero said in a written statement. "We share [Commissioner Carey-Shuler's] frustration at the lack of progress in our community's urban areas."
The Beacon Council will get $3.7 million from the county next year from occupational-license taxes, said Jurgan Teintze of the county's budget office. The council received $300,000 from the county last year for marketing expenses, he said.
Commissioner Carey-Shuler told the Beacon Council in a meeting last month that she had "some serious concerns" with the council's practices and lack of attention to low-income areas.
"I told them I had concerns with what they are doing with their dollars," she said. "They need to redirect their money to the urban areas, where the real need is."
The council's Web site says businesses attracted to the county by Beacon Council efforts have resulted in more than 59,000 direct and indirect jobs and $1.7 billion in capital investment since 1986.
County auditors combed through the Beacon Council's records seven years ago and found inflated figures on the number of companies it attracted and also found mismanagement of funds.
After that audit, county commissioners called for closer ties between local government and the Beacon Council, which received $2.4 million in county funds that year.
Mr. Nero said the Beacon Council passed a county audit last year and has a positive relationship with the county.
"The Beacon Council had a performance audit conducted by the county last year, and the results were exemplary," he said. "Our results are audited every year and are verifiable and transparent. As recently as Sept. 8, Commission Chair Dr. Carey-Shuler commended our performance."