written by on January 31, 2023
  • miamitodayepaper.com


Mayor Suarez pledges $1 million to nonprofit, but commission rejects it

The Circle of Brotherhood’s social media biography reads, “Black Men Solving Their Own Community Problems,” a slogan that appears to make good on the $1 million in federal funds promised by the City of Miami to the Black-led nonprofit. Seems fair after failing.

In October 2021, Mayor Francis Suarez held a press conference and presented a large $1 million check to Circle of Brotherhood in recognition of their unwavering commitment to the Black community. The non-profit organization was formed in 2013 to address issues related to increasing violence in Miami’s Fifth District.

Since its formation, Circle of Brotherhood has provided programs dedicated to community service, crime prevention, youth mentoring, and economic development in the city’s Black neighborhoods.

After being put off for over a year, the city commission voted on January 26 to approve the funding. The resolution ultimately failed 3-1 with a dissent from Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla after a circular line of questioning from Commissioner Joe Carolo raised concerns about how much money the nonprofit had in the bank.

Commissioner Manolo Reyes went to vote in the morning, but Speaker Christine King insisted they wait until the afternoon to give Mr. Carolo and Mr. Diaz de la Portilla more time to discuss the matter. A four-fifths vote was needed to pass the motion. Due to two vacant seats in the district, all current commissioners were required to vote in favor.

When the commissioners returned an hour and a half late for the afternoon session, Mr. Carollo sought clarification on how the money would be distributed. The money comes from a $137 million package the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA. The money will be paid as reimbursement, pending the Circle of Brotherhood properly documenting its expenses.

This prompted Mr. Carolo and Mr. Díaz de la Portilla to speculate about the financial portfolio of the group. “How do we know that whatever money we’re going to reimburse them, they have it in the bank?” Mr. Carolo asked.

This sparked a back-and-forth between the two commissioners and the Office of Management and Budget staff member, who reiterated that the group needed to submit detailed information on spending before it could be reimbursed.

Despite explaining that the money would only be paid as reimbursement, Mr. Carolo and Mr. Díaz de la Portilla continued to question whether the Brotherhood had enough money.

Circle of Brotherhood executive director Lael Muhammad said, “I find this question very offensive because we have enough money in our bank account right now to cover any reimbursement we may receive from the city.”

Mr. Muhammad said no other organization’s finances had been scrutinized under the 2021 ARPA rules as the Brotherhood had been. Earlier that day, the commission unanimously approved $500,000 in ARPA funds for another nonprofit, with no discussion of its finances.

Background information on the resolution noted that the city’s ARPA advisor reviewed Circle of Brotherhood’s funding request and determined it was eligible to receive ARPA funds.

The organization criticized the commission for not supporting the black community after the Circle of Brotherhood refused to pledge $1 million. Over the past few months, the Brotherhood has repeatedly expressed dismay at the commission after the commissioners ousted the Virginia Beach Park Trust and eliminated majority black leadership.

Candidate for District Commissioner Cathy Parks Suarez encouraged the commission to reconsider and support Circle of Brotherhood.

“I have worked with these people and what they do is amazing. All they have asked to do is go to the first step. They have a lot of paperwork to do to get to the next step,” Ms. Parkes Suarez Said. “We have seen other projects approved by ARPA for money to West Grove to go to the federal level which are absolutely questionable. I would be very happy to meet you all.”

Despite not receiving the funds promised by Mayor Suarez, the Congregation of the Brotherhood assured the commissioners that they would continue to support Miami’s black community, with or without help from the city.

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