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NUMBER 21 - APRIL 27, 2018

On Tuesday, City Manager Emilio Gonzalez got into a Black SUV with his driver, his aide who takes the photos, and if I'm not mistaken Eugene Ramirez, the new Communications Director, and perhaps one or two more bureaucrats - I've been told that it's a time consuming process to round up all the people that go along when Gonzalez decides he wants to go out for one of his "visits" - and they went to the Pork & Bean's Housing Project, the site of so much recent violence, to visit some of his police officers.

Now, I've had personal experience with these kinds of visits in another life, and I have a different opinion of the message these photographs send than the message that the City Manager thinks he's sending.

I don't think that the message in these photographs necessarily bodes well for the future of the residents of Pork & Beans and/or folks in other parts of Miami, because Gonzalez really is a Colonel Klink character, and one who shows evidence of being a tone deaf martinet who has been conditioned by his years in the Army to thinking of himself as a Command Officer who would, if he could, demand that people salute him and step to the side as he passes.

While I've not had much personal time with him, I don't believe from all that I've heard and seen that he has the kind of nuanced view of what it takes to be a public servant dealing with people less educated, less fortunate, and less willing to put up with bullshit from a guy who clearly comes across as a stiff-backed phony.  

I have taken the photographs from Twitter, enlarged them, and I would ask you to look at them,  I mean REALLY look at what is going on in each photograph.    

The first thing that I saw when I looked at the photographs is that there isn't a single civilian in any of the photographs.  There aren't any kids in the photographs. There aren't any adults in the photographs.  There isn't a body in sight except cops, government officials, police cars and Black SUV's. I counted 9 cops in the 3 photographs. There might have been a few more.

As both a photojournalist and film producer I've had the opportunity to travel to various parts of the world, and I always start paying very close attention when I find myself in a situation where there are no civilians on the street, but plenty of cops or solders.

The second thing I see is that the photos were for all intents and purposes staged, and in each photograph the City Manager is in the center of the photo standing in a thoughtful, attentive pose, or reaching out to shake an employee's hand.  The benevolent boss is there to make sure that he's photographed as being the benevolent and attentive boss.

The third thing I see, in the middle photograph, is a golf cart in the middle of the street.  That tells me that for all intents and purposes the City Manager is standing in a secured position, surrounded by cops, and with some traffic control.

If I saw that, so did the people in all the housing units bordering the street who looked out their windows at what was going on.  

And you can bet that the Colonel, after shaking hands and posing for pictures, put his ass back in his SUV and was driven away lickety-split, because given the media whore that he's shown himself to be, if he had even gotten within 10 feet of a civilian, and especially a kid, he'd have made sure that that photo was included in this Twitter post.

There is no question that a leader needs to support his troops, or his employees, but in the context of where those employees are engaged in an act that to some will seem oppressive, even if temporarily necessary, you cannot ignore the people who even if only in minimal amounts, pay the taxes and are the recipients of those services. Respect has a whole different connotation in places like housing projects, and a lack of showing respect often leads to unintended consequences.

Living in a housing project like Pork & Beans is difficult, stressful, and dangerous. In order to try and stop the violence it appears that the City and the County have decided to basically occupy the project and blanket it with cops.

That works for a while, but it also wears on people, because I'm willing to bet none of you who read this would appreciate waking up tomorrow morning and finding your neighborhood occupied by cops, no matter the reason.

So when you're living under those conditions, and you look out your window and you see a bald white guy in a suit, shaking hands and posing for pictures with the cops, you're bound to wonder who he might be.

Therefore, whenever a City Manager shows up and doesn't spend quality time every time he shows up to walk around, knocking on doors letting people know who he is, and that he's there to do everything he can, besides just having his police department occupy their housing project, then that's the sign that you've got a city manager who doesn't gives a fuck about everybody.

I don't have any idea of what the Colonel's agenda was in going to Pork & Beans for this staged photo op, but clearly it wasn't about having much contact with the residents.  

To me, and I think to a lot of other people who have a decidedly jaundiced view of those who would deny the historic racism, neglect and failed social policies that have played such a significant role in turning Pork & Beans into what it has become, even the perception that this housing project has now become, in military terms, a site of enemy combatants belies the fact that the majority of the people there are in fact the equivalent of prisoners of a war where they been used, abused and set up foir target practice.

The arguments for the importance of self-reliance and determination as the path for success grows stronger the whiter and richer you go up the social ladder in this country, and with it the willingness of many government officials to treat poor people of color significantly different than they would treat their neighbors under similar circumstances.

That's one of the problems with this gang at City Hall that I've touched on before.

Because Francis Suarez is so determined not to leave any opportunity unexploited in his effort to get the voters to approve his efforts to become a "Strong Mayor," he, and the Colonel, and the Chief of Police, and even the garbage collectors are all engaged in a never ending photo op to try and show a largely inattentive population that they are on top of every situation.

The proof of that is that when he wants to, and when it's in his interests to cater to a different crowd, the Colonel and the Chief of Police definitely know how to be social, gracious and pose for photographs that, like the photos above, were staged to create an image.