More than 1,000 people gathered Monday to talk with Miami-Dade County commissioners about crime, early childhood education and jobs. None of the 12 commissioners showed up.

People Acting for Community Together, known as PACT, hoped the commissioners would listen to the concerns of residents and answer questions at the group’s annual Nehemiah Action Assembly and invited them in January to attend.


Commissioners Barbara J. Jordan and Carlos A. Gimenez sent representatives to the meeting at Corpus Christi Catholic Church, at Northwest Seventh Avenue and 32nd Streets.

“I feel disappointed and disrespected by the commissioners. I would understand if they had something to do but to just not show up is inexcusable,” said Agathine Scotland, 58, a member of Saint Monica’s Catholic Church in the Carol City section of Miami Gardens. 

PACT is a coalition of more than two dozen churches, synagogues, schools and community groups throughout Miami-Dade County representing, it says, more than 100,000 people. The organization focuses on what it calls “direct action,” encouraging public officials to act on behalf of low- and moderate-income people and holding them accountable for their promises.

The organization’s Nehemiah Action Assembly is named for the Old Testament prophet credited with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem after they were destroyed.

The meeting, which was cut short because of the commissioners’ absence, would have had commissioners responding to concerns about high unemployment and crime, a need for early childhood education and a proposed county “First Source” ordinance requiring contractors to work with South Florida Workforce to give residents priority when filling new jobs.

South Florida Workforce is a state-sponsored employment agency that works with employers seeking workers and provides training for unemployed or economically challenged people and refugees.

“The First Source ordinance requires contractors to fill job vacancies with the South Florida Workforce and wait seven days before recruiting from elsewhere,” said Rabbi Gary Glickstein of Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach and a member of PACT’s executive committee. “The contractor would not be required to hire candidates but justify to South Florida Workforce when candidates don’t get the position.”

One official who did attend the meeting was Matthew Boyd, chief the Miami Gardens Police, who was asked to respond to demands for an increased police presence near Saint Monica’s church.

“I am not a public official and will not answer questions with a simple yes or no,” Boyd said.

Some participants dismissed promises by the commissioners’ aides.

“It is one thing to hear it but it is another thing to see it actually happen. Promises have no accountability,” said Liberty City resident Sheila Delancy.

Others shared her opinion.

“We need to get all this in writing so we can hold our officials accountable for what they say,” said VivaneTutt, treasurer of the Miami Workers Center in Liberty City.

PACT leaders were equally dismayed.

“Usually, when the public officials have to look their constituents in the eye, they get embarrassed and accept their demand,” said Herve Bony, the organization’s treasurer.“Tonight, however, the community didn’t get that chance.”

Alec Scott may be contacted at ascot002@fiu.edu