Column: Double Standards — The Pride Center should not be given preferential treatment

The mission of our Code Enforcement Department is to maintain the highest quality of life possible for our Island City residents. They do this by ensuring healthy and safe neighborhoods through the enforcement of our Municipal Code and addressing issues that have been identified as a public nuisance.  

Residents should expect everyone to be handled equally and in the same manner. Unfortunately, residents who happen to be neighbors of the Pride Center along Dixie Highway might feel otherwise.  

These residents have had to endure years of the Pride Center not controlling or properly monitoring parking issues when hosting large events such as Yard Sales and Plant Sales. Residents upset and overrun with people parking on their properties, damaging their lawns, blocking right of ways are usually met with a condescending attitude by Pride Center management who claim they have no control over such issues.  

Then there was the Children’s Playground debacle. The same blasé attitude and claims of ignorance of the law when forced to deal with having a sexual predator on staff offers no comfort to city residents. 

But wait, there is more.  

Now an illegal business is operating on the Pride Center campus. Noise complaints by neighbors were initially met with contempt and mockery by the business operators and patrons. The Pride Center claims no responsibility, blaming the lessee (the business owner). Once again, the CEO of the Pride Center has failed to acknowledge his responsibilities when legal matters are concerned. Current plat restrictions on the Pride Center property specifically ban operation of a commercial business. In addition, all commercial business must be licensed by our city. None of which seems to matter to the Pride Center and their commercial business tenant. 

I find myself pondering the question, “Which is a better indicator of a person’s true character, their actions or their words?”  

Well, we know by now that the words of the Pride Center are very different than their actions. Their press releases state that they value their relationship with the city and with their neighbors. Their claim to be the best community players under the sun might be of news to those living near and around the Pride Center Campus.  

Their actions leave a lot to be desired. The playground issues, ongoing parking issues, and now the illegal gym with noise complaints over the past year are just a precursor to the issues that will arise with the proposed low-income supportive housing development on the Pride Center Campus. Can we expect anything different from the Pride Center management if this project goes ahead? Will they just throw up their hands and tell city residents the issues are neither their fault nor their problem, and blame Carrfour, their partner and operator of the proposed facility? 

Our city commission does not currently entertain taking any action on code lien reductions or granting variances or other decisions unless the entity in question is current on all code violations and has satisfied all liens owed to the city. How is it then that the Pride Center,  with outstanding code issues and an illegal commercial business operating on their campus, can continue moving ahead with their planned partnership with Carrfour and the planned low-income, supportive housing complex for their campus?  

To add insult to injury, Commissioner Carson announced at last week’s Commission meeting that the Pride Center and Carrfour are looking to get their hands on the city’s Affordable Housing Fund in the amount of $200,000.00. That money was previously earmarked by our City Commission to offer various means of assistance to Island City residents in need of affordable housing solutions. Our City Manager was instructed by Commissioners to formulate a plan for our residents in need, such as down payment assistance, rental subsidies, and other assistance.   

Now it seems like that plan has just been thrown out the window, and the dais will soon be lining up to give the money away to the Pride Center and Carrfour instead. That money should be used for our residents, not for Carrfour, a non-profit based in Miami-Dade County whose CEO makes over $160,000 a year. It might appear to some that a band of carpetbaggers have come to town looking to scheme and shyster their way into the pocketbooks of residents with false promises, hypnotic trances, and snake oil, eventually leaving town with residents holding the tab for many years to come. 

Residents need to start asking their elected officials some serious questions and start paying closer attention to how this deal continues to develop if we want to keep life just better here for all our residents.   

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