Liberty City leaders defend beautification plan

Michael Putney says plan 'is putting lipstick on a pig'

Author: Jeff Weinsier, Investigative Reporter, jweinsier@Local10.com
Published On: Feb 10 2012 06:01:44 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 13 2012 08:06:10 AM EST
MIAMI -

"The Putney Perspective" has some Liberty City residents and business leaders outraged. 

It began when the city of Miami announced $428,000 in tax money would be spent to beautify four privately owned businesses on Northwest Seventh Avenue. 

During his commentary at the end of "This Week In South Florida” last Sunday, Local 10’s Michael Putney said, "Why are taxpayers footing the bills for it, and what long-range difference will it make to Liberty City? I would say, not much.’" 

VIDEO: Putney Perspective

READ: Michael Putney's Column

"Spending this money on four -- just four -- businesses is absurd," Putney added. 

The area is in Commissioner Michelle Spence Jones's district, and she said Putney is absolutely wrong. Spence-Jones said this grant was earmarked for commercial rehabilitation. 

On Friday, some 70 people gathered to attack Putney's on-air comments and his op-ed in the Miami Herald. 

"I think it's bigotry towards the residents of Liberty City," said Leroy Jones, executive director of the Neighbors and Neighbors Association. 

A Chinese restaurant, a day care center, a lounge and a beauty salon will all get the taxpayer-funded makeover. It will include new paint, stucco, impact windows, doors and lighting. 

Putney said the money would be better spent elsewhere. 

"Why not take that $428,000 and spend it on after-school tutoring, special programs for kids who attend schools in Liberty City, so they will have the intellectual and social skills to get the heck out of there if they can," said Putney in his commentary. 

In print, Putney said it was a short-term fix that would lead to long-term failure. 

"This is putting lipstick on a pig," he wrote.

"It was a slap in the face to every black person in this community," said the Rev. Nathaniel Wilcox. 

Wilcox said public money was being used to build the new Marlins stadium, so why not spend some money in Liberty City? 

"We are taxpayers, too," he said. 

Community leaders said cleaning up the buildings will increase morale and make the area attractive in the hope of bringing in new business and customers to the area. 

Putney stands by his editorial comments and said they are based on 35 years of reporting in South Florida.