West Kendall

Possible West Kendall city gets mixed reaction

As the process to study the possibility of creating a city in West Kendall is getting started, public opinion is divided between those who want to keep an open mind and those who strongly oppose it.

The Municipal Advisory Committee, or MAC, for Section 1, a swath of unincorporated West Miami-Dade that could become a city, held its third public meeting Wednesday evening at the Kendale Lakes Branch Library.

More than 100 residents packed the room and the hallway leading to it. Organizers from the county are looking into moving the location to a local school to accommodate the increased interest in the committee’s work, which is to weigh the pros and cons of incorporation, listen to public input, and eventually make a recommendation to the county commissioners.

On Wednesday, several residents who’d learned of the MAC meetings through emailed notices and an article in the Miami Herald attended to sound off on what they think. So far, there are a lot of mixed feelings.

For resident Madeleine Hernandez, a new city would just mean unnecessary government and increased taxes.

“We already have to deal with the federal government, the state government, and then the county, and now another layer of government?” asked Hernandez. “To have a mayor, a police department, build a city hall, we’d have to pay for that. And we’re taxed to death.”

Juan Carlos Mestre, a lifelong West Kendall resident, said the the usual selling points for incorporation — improved police services, local control on planning and zoning issues, locally run parks — are all unnecessary.

“I’ve never been robbed. My father’s never been robbed,” he said. “Police service is fine.”

But others insist that creating a city could benefit residents for those same reasons. They say the public should let the committee gather information and look at the options.

“We should allow this board to look at the facts,” said Lawrence Percival, president the Greater Kendall Community Activists Inc. “At the end of the day, each and every one of these people have the right to vote on this.”

Indeed, the final decision on incorporation would lie in the hands of the voters. The MAC has up to two years to collect and analyze information on what the impacts would be on services, study the tax base and ponder what the potential city’s budget would look like.

On Wednesday, the MAC proposed a work plan that includes 20 future public meetings to cover information-gathering and budget discussions, which include two public hearings specifically held to get residents’ input.

Wednesday night, several residents asked why incorporation was even on the table. They demanded to know who’d come up with the idea.

County Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, a West Kendall native who has long said the county should get out of the municipal services business, stepped forward from the standing-room only crowd to share why he proposed creating the MAC.

“I want this community to decide it’s own destiny,” he said, adding that he will present information at a future meeting about how taxes paid in West Kendall don’t all come back to that community.

At one point, a citizen interrupted Zapata by yelling that he supports incorporation because he wants to be mayor of a future city.

“On my father’s honor, I will never run for mayor of a city here,” Zapata said.

He later said that regardless of the outcome, he wants to MAC process to be an educational experience for all involved.

“What I want you do to, more than anything, is for you to become better-informed citizens,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, whether we’re a city or not, better informed citizens make a better community. So all I ask is for this to be a good community dialogue.”