By AL CALLOWAY
I first heard about the “Sistrunk Mafia” from one of Ft. Lauderdale’s shakers and movers while dining downtown. I’ve heard it several times since in the black community, some call it the Sixth Street Mafia. Sistrunk Boulevard or Sixth Street is the historical thoroughfare of Ft. Lauderdale’s black community. (A study says Ft. Lauderdale is Florida’s third most segregated city.)
People smile when they say Sistrunk or Sixth Street Mafia which, supposedly, refers to a small group of local black politicians that consider themselves a black political powerhouse to be reckoned with. But why – joke or no joke – would seemingly reasonable black people want to label themselves a Mafia. Do they not understand the connotation, the connection – the overriding negativity?
On the other hand, are these people telling us that they are gangsters, cold-blooded crooks — a mob that must be chased out? Are they telling us that they are working together to undermine the black community’s interests, to make deals downtown and in Tallahassee that benefit them at the expense of black people? Could this be a group Freudian slip and they just really snitched on themselves?
Meanwhile, as Negro so- called leaders are uptown dangerously acting crazy, real gangster activity has been going on downtown. Believe it or not, right before the Sistrunk Mafia’s eyes, operating out of City Hall, big time rip-offs of Black Ft. Lauderdale have been planned, designed and implemented. Ft. Lauderdale City Manager, Lee Feldman, allegedly, orchestrates this City Hall Mafia type activity.
Ft. Lauderdale has a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) that operates in the segregated, predominately black Northwest section of the city. Its main purpose is to develop projects to “eliminate slums and blight.” The Florida State Statute is called The 163 Plan. According to rules 163.360, 163.362(5), and 163.70 in part, “If a project or program is not outlined in the redevelopment plan, it cannot be undertaken by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).”
So if a CRA veers away, in any form or fashion from the plan submitted, the responsible person(s) will have misappropriated funds by doing so. Well, a whole lot of Northwest CRA funds have been used, ostensibly by order of Lee Feldman, that are not part of the submitted redevelopment plan. Check this out, seven million, eight hundred thousand dollars for the downtown Wave Loop that has nothing to do with the Northwest neighborhood — that’s called stealing money, folks!
Feldman spent $300,000 on a Wave Feasability Study, $241,312 on Marketing and Branding and $59,999 on “Urban Intervention.” He gave the Flager Village Civic Association $142,500 and the Sun Trolley $196,709. Here’s what the Northwest neighborhood got: $87, 498 for Christmas Lights and $50, 000 for “Light Up Sistrunk.” Where was the Sistrunk Mafia when the Feldman Mafia was sticking up the Northwest neighborhood? A poster or flyer I saw read “Stealing from the rich is illegal. Stealing from the poor is capitalism.” But those of you involved in Northwest Ft. Lauderdale activism who can say you knew nothing, must face what ought to be a startling reality: you don’t pay attention to City Hall, nor the CRA. All politics is local. Who in the community is on top of community issues involving County government and the School Board, anybody?
People of Northwest Ft. Lauderdale, do you realize that you have allowed yourselves to get ripped off again by not standing up for your own interests. Stop looking for a Moses to do your work. Now you need to make the city reimburse the Northwest CRA and take an active role in it. Find out what black persons sit on various boards including the CRA Advisory Board, Economic Development, Zoning, Unsafe Structures and other boards.
Ultimately Lee Feldman must resign or be fired by the City Commissioners and they, too, must take responsibility because they are the CRA Board of Directors and the Mayor chairs the Board. The Sistrunk Mafia must all bare shame for playing silly juvenile games instead of being on point. The CRA ripoff occurred on your watch, not just one of you, but all of you. Watch for the Ft. Lauderdale CRA Audit that is due within the next 2-3 weeks. Get it and act.