Miami-Dade commissioners on Tuesday sided with dozens of residents seated before them who insisted they did not want to live in the county’s 35th city.
“I would not want another layer of government. I have enough levels of service now,” Hermine Pollard, a South Dade resident, told the board during an afternoon hearing on a proposed referendum on forming a city out of about 24 square miles west of U.S. 1. “No more mayors.”
Pleas by Pollard and others carried the day as commissioners said they didn’t even want to let residents vote in November on whether to form a new city of about 145,000 people — larger than every Miami-Dade municipality but Miami and Hialeah, according to county figures. “I’m more open to supporting incorporation efforts when it’s homegrown,” said Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who represents the Hialeah area. “I’m not sure if this one is homegrown.”
The proposed city would have included the neighborhoods of Perrine, Richmond Heights, Goulds and others in an area that also includes Zoo Miami. The county drew up a yearly budget of about $40 million for the unnamed municipality and said that could be funded without increasing what residents currently pay in property taxes for county municipal services.
But with almost every city charging more in property taxes than that rate, opponents argued local government would eventually demand more money from residents.
“They all start off low,” Julio Forte said of tax rates in new cities. “But where are they now? We are going to end up paying higher taxes.
A county advisory board recommended against the incorporation plan last year, following a packed public hearing where speakers overwhelmingly argued against considering the new municipality. They cited the inevitability of new taxes, potential for corruption in small government and satisfaction with the regulatory status quo.
The crowd who filled most of the seats at the County Commission chambers Tuesday tilted heavily against the idea too, prompting sponsor Dennis Moss to pull the proposal rather than see it defeated.
“Obviously there’s no support up here for the item,” Moss said after eight of the 11 other commissioners at the meeting, including Bovo, said they were going to vote against him.
The withdrawal represents the latest defeat for the incorporation effort in Miami-Dade — a push to form cities out of the vast suburban area that currently relies on the county for municipal services, including trash, police and fire. The total “unincorporated” area outside of city limits is home to about 43 percent of the county’s 2.7 million people, and is larger than the combined population of Miami-Dade’s eight largest cities.
The last city formed was Cutler Bay in 2005. Last year, voters outside Aventura rejected the proposed formation of a new city there. That election was held after commissioners agreed to send the incorporation question to voters in the area.
Moss and his supporters on the commission argued that anti-tax residents almost always protest incorporations, and end up being more motivated to show up at public meetings than other residents are.
“What I’m afraid of is we haven’t heard from the silent majority. Which would be the people who aren’t here,” said Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who represents the Miami Gardens area. “What makes you afraid to have a vote?”
Some residents of the would-be city did come to the county’s chambers in downtown Miami to support a new local government. They argued that some areas in the proposed city, including low-income rural neighborhoods, could finally turn neglect into government action by electing local leaders.
“If you grew up a child in the Richmond Heights area, you would understand why we are trying to make a city in our community,” Diane Grant told commissioners. “A lot of the social services we need in our community are not getting to our community.”