The Hialeah City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday night banning the naming of city properties after living officials.
The measure passed with a unanimous vote of all seven council members.
During the brief debate council chairwoman, Isis García-Martínez expressed her support for Hernández’s initiative, which establishes that Hialeah buildings, parks and streets can no longer be named after living elected officials.
“The purpose of holding these public offices is to serve the community,” Martínez said. “I believe that the recognition of someone’s legacy must be done at the end of life.”
Hernández said he was pleased with the initiative’s approval upon first reading, saying that what he had submitted to the council reflected “comments by people on the street.”
“I am happy with this first step,” Hernández said. “The council’s decision shows that I am not the only one who has listened to the people. People have approached me on the street with these comments, and I have seen that same feeling in other cities.
In Hialeah, at least two city properties are named after former elected officials who are still alive: the city hall building, named after Raúl Martínez to honor a former mayor of the city; and Roberto Casas Park, honoring a former state senator.
Raúl Martínez refused to comment on the ordinance Wednesday.
However, on Sunday he said that the ordinance could not have a retroactive effect. He said that if Hernández or the council specifically planned to change the name of the Raúl L. Martínez Government Center, they should do it by a direct resolution implementing such an initiative.
The city hall building at 501 Palm Ave. was inaugurated in the late 1960s and named after Raúl Martínez in 2006 under the administration of then-mayor Julio Robaina.
In the case of Roberto Casas Park, the former senator has said that the ordinance is an act of “revenge against Mayor Hernández’s political adversaries.”
Council member José Caragol, who voted in 2006 in favor of naming city hall after Raúl Martínez, said that it was important to reconsider a government decision in response to “popular sentiment.”
The firefighters union
Hernández also referred in the council meeting to the approval of a contract with the firefighters union for the next three years.
“I’m very happy with the agreement we reached with the firefighters,” Hernández said. “This is the result of joint work we have developed over the past few months with the firefighters union, and I must highlight here the leadership of Willy Guerra and the members of his union.”
Hernández said that the new contract is part of necessary pension reform in the city.
Guerra, who attended the evening session, said the agreement covers an additional increase of 5 percent for pensions. The union leader said that firefighters currently contribute 7 percent to their pensions, and that that figure will increase to 12 percent annually.
The new contract includes two mandatory days off without pay every year.
“I believe it has been a fair process,” Guerra said. “All 242 firefighters in the department are making a sacrifice, given the reality our community faces.”
The interim chief of Hialeah’s fire department, Miguel Anchía, highlighted the team effort by the city and the union.
“This contract will have a positive impact on the city and its employees,” said Anchía, who attended the public session. “The reality in which we live is difficult, but the important thing is that we continue working to benefit the community.”
During the session, García-Martínez and Luis González were ratified unanimously as the council chair and vice chair, respectively.
“This has been a great experience,” García-Martínez said during the session. “Thank you for this privilege.”