Oscar Braynon and Mayor Joseph L. Kelley Town Hall Forum in the City of Opa-locka

By Christina Gordon

City of Miami Garden’s Jay Marder, Florida State Representative Oscar Braynon and Opa-locka Mayor Joseph L. Kelley address Census questions at a Town Hall Forum in the City of Opa-locka on Wednesday, June 16, 2010.

On Wednesday, June 16, 2010 from 6:30 to 8:15 p.m. District 103 State Representative Oscar Braynon II and Mayor Joseph L. Kelley along with the City of Opa-locka Commission, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Center for Faith Based & Community Initiatives and the U.S.CENSUS 2010, held a Town Hall Forum at the Opa-locka Municipal Complex, 780 Fisherman Street, to discuss first-hand, topics and resources that concern the community. During a question and answer period, knowledgeable professionals were equipped to address perspective issues related to each agency.

Elaine Bryant from the Department of Homeland Security spoke on Building Resilience with Diverse Communities. She stressed the importance in preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters. “We spend a lot of time in the ‘mist of,’” she said. “We need to understand, and collaborate, in order to maximize the potential of a community.” She elaborated on “expanding the contributions of established organization,” such as churches and other groups.

Stepping to the podium behind Bryant, was Pedro J. Garcia of Miami-Dade County, who shed light on some of the changes in property taxes. He alleged that the City of Opa-locka has a reduction of approximately 15.4 % taxable value from last year, citing the biggest problem as “no new construction.” However, he planted “a glimmer of hope,” by encouraging the purchase of property now… because “it is the right time!”

Following Garcia’s report was a U.S. Census update by City of Miami Garden’s Jay Marder, who shared positive statistics on the Census, with Opa-locka up from the year 2000, reaching a 64% mail in rate. Overall, he described a 72% rise in the country in Census mail-in responses.

Terry Parker of the Miami-Dade County Grants Department, directed attendees on where to look for “FREE MONEY,” and how to be placed on a “Grant Mail” sign-up sheet at Miamidade.gov. As a result of the American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which past in Feb. 2009, Parker stated that his office (along with other grant writers), brought in 300 million dollars to Miami-Dade County over the last 12 months for programs, housing, development, transportation, roads, highways, health and other services for the elderly, disadvantage and a number of other groups. Parker communicated that his Department also conducts grant training and provides grant tools, applications, opportunities and grant foreclosure information, on-line and through handouts.

David Brown from “Sustain A Village,” located in Miami, talked about “Down to Earth,” a community-based environmental stewardship campaign providing environment education and alternative energy weatherization, with combining traditional methods of weatherization on residential units. This is a program which Commissioner Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson brought to Opa-locka. Brown revealed that if the project is funded, the City of Opa-locka will be one of 10 cities expected to participate; providing a 75% energy efficiency increase, a 50 % reduction in carbon dioxide and a savings of up to $2000 a year on an average home, through environmental education and Weatherization, while providing homes and jobs to the community by “Going Green”. Also through the “Going Green” campaign, Commissioner Johnson announced that Nathan B. Young Elementary will be one of the first schools in the City of Opa-locka to have a Farmer’s Market.

Representing Florida Power and Light, Hector Maestri, along with Mayor Kelley, reminded residents to “be prepared for the worst, and hope for the best,” during this hurricane season. He cautioned that each household should have three-toseven days of supplies, including one gallon of water per person (children to elderly), per day.

Executive Director of the Housing Finance Authority, Patricia Braynon, was also available to encourage the use of government programs to purchase housing through auctions during the next 60 days.

Finally, State Representative Oscar Braynon highlighted the 2010 Legislative Session. Among topics of conversation were this year’s 74 billion dollar budget and last year’s three billion dollar deficit. He answered inquiries on the 2.3 billion dollar Federal stimulus package that Florida received, as well, he commented on drastic cuts to services, increased college tuition, the 15% reduction in bright future scholarships, and on Florida’s Republican controlled legislation which consist of almost 700,000 more registered Democrats. Braynon also took a moment to simplify some of the upcoming Amendments on Fair Districting, Healthcare and Education, along with other issues anticipated by voters this election year. Braynon indicated that he represents over 133,000 people, however, more would be reflected if there was a larger response. But on this night, the residents of both Opa-locka and Miami Garden responded well to the information presented at the booths and during the Town Hall Forum. They were especially please to have qualified and well prepared staff available to provide details, clarification, contact information and other assistance. Representatives from the Offices of Congressman Kendrick Meeks and Miami- Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan were also accessible.

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