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28093: Hermantin(News)Haitian Americans receive an apology (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Fri, Mar. 10, 2006
Haitian Americans receive an apology
Haitian Americans voiced their concerns Thursday to Fort Lauderdale city
officials at the first town hall meeting to reach out to the community since
By DARRAN SIMON
Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas offered his apologies Thursday to
the city's growing Haitian population for not reaching out to the community.
Gretsas made his remarks before some 300 people who had packed into the
cafeteria of North Side Elementary School for the city's first town hall
meeting since 2003 with members of the Haitian-American community in Fort
The city, its police department and North Side Elementary hosted the meeting in
English and Creole for Haitian-American residents to learn about city services
and meet city and school leaders.
''We need to be doing more of this,'' Gretsas said, of the meeting that was
organized by Junia Jeantilus-Robinson, Fort Lauderdale's community relations
specialist who works with the Haitian-American community. ``I think we need to
be meeting quarterly to discuss issues that affect your community.''
Several other city leaders attended the meeting, including Mayor Jim Naugle,
Police Chief Bruce Roberts and Broward School Board Chairman Benjamin Williams.
Gretsas and other city officials addressed questions on issues ranging from
what some perceived as discrimination against Haitians to frustration over the
paltry number of Haitian Americans on the police force, in the school system
and in decision-making positions in city government.
''We have qualified Haitian Americans who can work at any single level in this
city,'' said Francois Leconte, founder and CEO of Minority Development and
Communication between the city and Haitian Americans has stalled under the new
administration, Leconte said.
He also complained about the city not translating important materials into
Creole so that it can reach the more than 15,000 Haitians living in Fort
Naugle said the city did translate FEMA information into Creole during the 2005
hurricane season so Haitian residents could get the information.
Many questions were directed at Williams. Audience members asked how could the
district ensure that Haitian Americans who graduate can read and how should
students deal with a verbally abusive teacher.
Fred St. Amand Sr., a member of the Miami Police Department's civilian
investigative panel, said he was disappointed at the low number of
Haitian-American officers in Fort Lauderdale. Three of the city's five
Haitian-American officers attended the meeting.
But, St. Amand said, he was encouraged at Thursday's turnout.
''The power belongs to you,'' he said.
Some left the meeting feeling unsatisfied, saying panelists' answers were vague
and short on specifics.
''It doesn't make sense,'' said Timothy St. Fleur, who thought the meeting
itself was a good idea.