Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Opa-locka wants to leave old stereotypes behind, refocus on new projects

Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor is fed up hearing about her city being portrayed in a negative light.

In an attempt to improve the city’s image, Taylor introduced a resolution at the last Opa-locka commission meeting to begin soliciting proposals to hire a public relations firm.

“It’s nice to have fliers and to have the community newspaper, but outside of this city, no one knows what we’re doing,” Taylor said. “What we’re doing is not being publicized outside of these four walls.”

The mayor hopes such a new hire will help to market Opa-locka as a city of revitalization, instead of one of the most dangerous places in Florida, as it was known three decades ago.

Of the improvements that she believes remain relatively unnoticed are a multimillion-dollar infrastructure master plan to fix flooding and wastewater issues, the restoration of historic City Hall and a public art transformation project.

“It’s high time to put our name out,” she said. Her push for a PR firm also comes as the city works to push its legislative requests in Tallahassee and Washington. The city’s 2015 priorities, as outlined in its state legislative agenda, include further work on the city’s stormwater improvements project, a citywide brownfield assessment and cleanup, and the construction of a multipurpose cultural facility.

Commissioner Joseph Kelley and Vice Mayor Timothy Holmes voiced disapproval of the resolution because it symbolized additional costs that the city did not budget.

“I thought the festival was going to improve our image,” Holmes said about Opa-locka’s Art of Transformation two-month event celebrating the city’s public art project late last year.

Kelley added that the resolution’s wording seemed open-ended, although he was in support of the general idea. The city has not used a public-relations team for more than a decade.

“We do need to get our story out, but I can’t support bringing in a firm to get a proposal because that’s a cost we don’t have budgeted,” Kelley said. “If you ask them to make recommendations, that’s a cost. Nobody’s going to do that for free.”

Commissioner Luis Santiago agreed that a change in the city’s reputation was key for future success, but suggested that the commission begin the process.

“It has to start from us, that’s the way to change it, to try to do the best we can,” Santiago said. “It’s good to have somebody, but I’m sure they’re going to start with us.”

Santiago also noted that the city’s newspaper, the Opa-locka Review, was helpful in marketing improvements, but that it hadn’t been published for 11 months.

City Manager Kelvin Baker later told the Miami Herald that the city was making strides to produce another edition of the newspaper, but there was no indication when it would be printed.

The mayor’s resolution to solicit proposals passed 3-2. Holmes and Kelley voted against.

In other business, the City Commission approved creating a committee to plan a celebration of the city’s 89th birthday this May.

The resolution was not a budgeted line item, but the mayor said she had the city’s best interests in mind when proposing the idea.

Initial disapproval by a majority of the commission led to full support of the resolution once they added an amendment calling for Baker to flesh out a plan for the proposed celebration and bring it back for approval before moving forward.

“I’m one of the main ones that likes to watch the budget, so if I can’t raise this money and get away from Mr. Baker, this birthday celebration will have a candle in here,” Taylor said. “I’m not the one for spending city money.”

The next City Commission meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 at 215 N. Perviz Ave.