Dozens of frustrated Opa-locka business owners and their families packed a City Commission meeting Wednesday night to voice frustration about road conditions in their neighborhood.
Businessmen and workers in auto and body shops on Northwest 127th Street at the intersections of Cairo Lane, Port Said Road and Alexandria Drive said they were tired of the city’s lack of effort to fix potholes on the road and to put in proper drainage to prevent flooding when there is heavy rain.
“It’s been 20 years and nothing has happened, it’s time to do something,” said Jesus Lopez, who has a business on Cairo Lane.
His neighbors echoed his concerns during the citizens’ forum portion of the meeting. Jose Lizama, owner of Munich Autobahn said a fire on one of his properties Monday damaged hundreds of vehicles and burned for so long because, according to Lizama, the firefighters could not safely traverse the street and there was no fire hydrant nearby.
“They had to wait for another fire truck, and when the other fire truck got there, they had to combine all their hoses in order to get water and extinguish the fire,” said Lizama.
The commission responded by saying that they had a plan in place based on a meeting they had earlier Wednesday that outlined streets, including Cairo Lane, where they want to do major road and drainage improvements. The estimated cost for all the fixes is $22 to $25 million.
Commissioners asked the city manager to make the improvements a priority adding that the city should engage the businesses in dialogue going forward and have something set by April. Commissioner Timothy Holmes pointed out that the issues in Cairo Lane have been discussed in the past.
“That road is no road anymore, it’s a pothole,” Holmes said. “Don’t think we aren’t doing anything, we are, but it’s just hard at times for us to get the money to get things done.”
Mayor Myra Taylor interrupted resident Angel Vargas, when he asked his neighbors to stand, saying that Cairo Lane could not be fixed “overnight” or in “20 minutes” to which an audience member yelled “It could be fixed over 20 years!” Taylor banged her gavel multiple times and threatened to dismiss some audience members. Then she said the city has a plan.
“I don’t need a demonstration, I see them here, I see you here, you’re speaking for them, but yes, your commission is working for you,” said Taylor.
Also on Wednesday, commissioners discussed a resolution proposed by the mayor to introduce term limits in the city and have residents vote on the change at a special election in August. The language of the resolution would limit city officials to eight years in a single office, but included a provision that would let a mayor run for a commission seat after eight years or vice versa.
The commission was split on the resolution, with Holmes, who has served as a commissioner since 1994, speaking in opposition. Holmes added that he got calls from residents suggesting that the resolution was being considered to get rid of him. The mayor eventually chose to defer the item and present it to citizens at a town hall meeting. She added that it was not targeted at any current commissioner.
“This is for the future of Opa-locka — fresh ideas, bringing in young people, giving them an opportunity to bring in some stuff,” Taylor said. “It is not directed to anyone, and especially not you, Commissioner Holmes.”
Also at the meeting, the city passed a resolution to create a non-profit organization to help support schools in the city, approved purchasing new radios for the police department, and passed a resolution to begin a student internship program.