Newly-elected Miami Commissioner Christine King had her first city commission meeting Thursday and was praised and complimented by her colleagues on her solid victory Nov. 2.

“You didn’t win, you got a mandate,” said Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who had lobbied hard to appoint her last year to fill the seat vacated when Commissioner Keon Hardemon ran for the county seat. DLP said her getting 65% of the vote was a reflection of her service to the community for the past several years as president of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp.

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Miami-Dade Commissioner Keon “Pay-to-Play” Hardemon showed his true petty colors on Tuesday when he tried to take $550,000 allocated in the county budget from the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center in North Miami — which just so happens to be operated by Gepsie Metellus, who ran against him last year for the seat vacated by Audrey Edmonson.

And he did it using the same dirty tactics he used in the campaign.

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The exit of State Rep. Daphne Campbell into a Senate run election2016has created an open seat and the largest clusterbunch of Democrats in any primary in the whole state of Florida.

There are seven candidates running to replace Campbell in House District 108. Count ’em. Seven! Sure, there are other races where there might be five or six wannabes. But all those include both parties and usually a write-in candidate. No other race has as many competing in the primary in the whole Sunshine State. The next biggest bout is the five-way Republican brawl in District 118, which we will get to later.

In District 108 — which encompasses North Miami, Biscayne Park, Miami Shores, El Portal and parts of the city of Miami from the 195 to the Golden Glades interchange — the seven hopefuls108bunch are: Roy Hardemon, uncle of Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon; former Campbell campaign staffer Fayola Delica, immigrant rights activist Francesca “Fran” Menes, former schoolteacher Moise Duge, former North Miami City Councilwoman Marie Erlande Steril, Indian-born businessman Henry Patel and Taj Collie-Echoles, who ran against Campbell in the 2014 primary and lost with only 17% of the vote.

Those kind of numbers could be a victory for Collie-Echoles this time around. With seven candidates vying for votes, the next state rep for district 108 might very well be elected by less than 20% of the voters.

Right now, it looks like the contest is a three-way between Steril, who must enjoy good name recognition, Menes — who has the Ruth’s List and the Florida Young Democrats’ endorsements — and Patel, who puts his money where his mouth is. Patel leads the pack with $48,000 in his campaign account, including $15,000 he loaned himself. Steril reported $29,000 in contributions and Menes lists $26,665 collected so far.

Despite his politically connected nephew, Hardemon hasn’t reported raising a dime and none of the other three candidates have raised more than $6,000, which makes it hard for them to get voters to notice.

This is a solidly Democrat district. Not a single Republican is running. So whoever wins next month without a majority is our new state rep. Like it or not.

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An effort to officially name the neighborhood known as Little Little_Haiti_southHaiti has drawn a bit of controversy as it goes before the Miami city commission on Thursday.


Haitian leaders have been wanting this recognition for years. They say the area deserves to have its cultural and historical impact acknowledged. But some residents and activists are against the naming — a fight they already waged about three years ago.

See? That part of town is also known as Lemon City, which has a rich little history of its own. Developed by African American and Bahamian pioneers — many of whom built downtown, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables and the Flagler railroad — and named for the trees that grew wild in the area, Lemon City was home to one of the county’s oldest schools, the Lemon City School, and its first library. It is the birthplace of Winn-Dixie, after the grocery giant’s first store opened there in a neighborhood market.

Lemon City’s history goes back to 1850. It’s population in 1895, a year before the incorporation of Miami, was 300 — bustling for that era. There was a hotel, a post office, three general stores, a barbershop, a real estate office, a bakery, a sponge warehouse, two or more saloons, a restaurant, a blacksmith, a livery stable, a sawmill and a photo studio. There were 13 ships moored on Biscayne Bay and the area became a commercial trading center.

“Miami owes a great debt to the African Americans and Bahamians who are really the pioneers of our city,” said Peter Ehrlich, who owns property in the area and will speak at the commission meeting today against the renaming.

“It was a mix of people. There’s no reason to single out one nationality or another,” Ehrlich said. “We beat it back three years ago. And that was a very contentious hearing.”

It likely will be again. Ehrlich will be joined by several other community activists, including Enid Pinkney, a preservationist and community activist who wants it to remain Lemon City.

So we can expect it to get as ugly as it got when this very same thing was proposed by then Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones? After hours of heated and divisive debate, the matter died. A big difference this time is that this resolution is sponsored by Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon, who hardemondid not return several calls from Ladra over the course of three days. I talked to Kiara Garland, his media liaison, twice but not to him. He’s very busy, she told me.

According to a Miami New Times story, however, the fear is that rich white people will buy property and gentrify Little Haiti into a trendy, artsy, upscale and out of reach neighborhood and change its character in the process, a la Wynwood and South Beach before that.

Of course, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t still do that. Unless Little Haiti is not as attractive a name as Lemon City — or Little River or Buena Vista. Of course, there’s no talk of gentrification on the resolution Miami city commissioners will consider today. It says that the name change should happen because the Haitian community is so vital to our cultural diversity and to the relationship between Haiti and the U.S. — and because the Greater Miami Visitors and Convention Bureau markets the neighborhood in its tourism promotions.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still Lemon City, does it?

Deputy City Attorney Bernaby Min says both names can coexist.

“This just recognizes the area,” he told Ladra. “We’re not publishing maps.”

The Miami City Commission meets at City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive, beginning at 9 a.m.

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