Fabiola Santiago

Hialeah mayor uses ‘racists’ smokescreen to cover up growth mismanagement | Opinion

Mayor Carlos Hernández runs Hialeah as if it were his own little country.

Faced with opposition from neighboring communities who don’t buy the traffic jams he’s peddling, Hernández calls the people of Miami Lakes “racists.”

Such chabacanería — lack of grace, taste, and merit — is his trademark.

We, in Miami Lakes, are supposed to bow to the dictator south of us who wants to break a long-standing agreement between the cities to keep residential Northwest 154th Street closed. And we’re supposed to sit quietly and let him shove down our roads the consequences of his bad planning and runaway development.

He overbuilds to please his developer friends and donors — and to collect more taxes for Hialeah.

And we, in Miami Lakes and Palm Springs North, pay the price with a major blow to our quality of life: Lots more of the choking traffic we already have at peak hours with the opening of a major thoroughfare, Northwest 154th Street (Miami Lakes Drive), where it dead ends and a park is supposed to be built. And of Northwest 170th Street nearby, too.

Miami Lakes Drive connects our communities — and is our way in and out.

It’s cluttered enough without more traffic from people who live a major highway away from us also driving through it. By opening both bridges they would be boxing in an area cluttered by the traffic generated by several public, charter and private schools.

That’s the only reason we oppose the openings. It’s pretty clear. But Hernández has demagoguery in mind.

“We’re friendly neighbors,” Hernández said at a recent meeting to rally support for the openings to Hialeah and I-75 traffic. “I have a lot of respect for the government of Miami Lakes. But I’ve made it very clear, too. There’s a small group in Miami Lakes who don’t like us. They’re racists. That’s the reality.”

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Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández addresses a meeting of residents about the city’s push to open overpasses on 154th and 170th streets on Aug. 21, 2019. Miami Lakes, on the other side of the bridges, is trying to build a park to block opening of the 154th Street overpass. To his left is Pedro Portela, an executive of Lennar, which built developments near the overpasses, and to his right are Miami-Dade commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Esteban “Steve” Bovo. BY DOUGLAS HANKS dhanks@miamiherald.com

Only in you’re head, papi, are those who oppose poor governance racists. And it’s no small group opposing you. It’s all of Miami Lakes and PSN.

No, you don’t get to win this so-called “bridge war” by race-baiting.

You can take the girl out of Hialeah but you can’t take the Hialeah out of the girl — and I’m here to call BS.

The Google definition of racist: “A person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.”

That fits your president to T — you know, he who wants only immigration from white Norway — but not the hardworking people of Miami Lakes who put life savings into homes for which we pay hefty taxes. We chose to live in a master-planned city. Wanting to protect quality of life and property values does not make us racist.

Plus, even if your preposterous charges were true, we would have to be racists against ourselves as most of the Cuban-Americans living in Miami Lakes grew up in Hialeah — and are damn proud of it.

Check out my Twitter profile.

“Hialeah High grad,” it says. Go, T-Breds!

When I’m in the supermarket in Miami Lakes and someone calls out — “Fabi!” — it’s usually someone I knew in high school or at Hialeah Junior High.

“This is upscale Hialeah,” my friend Carmen famously said the day we ran into each other at Winn-Dixie some years ago. We both laughed in recognition. We love Hialeah. We love our roots. And we love our green and peaceful Miami Lakes now.

What’s to miss?

I woke up one day to 82nd Avenue at the entrance to my subdivision being named Pedro Pan Way for the 1960s exodus of unaccompanied children from Cuba. We have not one, but two Vicky Bakeries close by.

“The ‘racists’ comment was nothing but deflection [from the issues],” said Miami Lakes Councilwoman Marilyn Ruano, who proposed a resolution condemning Hernández’s behavior but, regrettably, didn’t have support from a single council member to pass it.

“I’ve been told we need to be the bigger person,” said Ruano, born and raised in Hialeah.

I don’t buy it.

The real reason: Miami Lakes politicians are intimately connected to the Hialeah political machinery. They don’t want to rock a boat that wins elections. So it’s OK to pass a resolution condemning Venezuela 1,621 miles away but not the Hialeah mayor who disrespects us at our doorstep.

There’s some irony to Hernández’s calling people racists when he presides over a city that’s always landing on the lists of least diverse cities in the United States.

How can that be?

Hialeah has the largest percentage of Hispanics in the country — and, at 95.64%, it’s the most ethnically homogeneous place in the nation. More so than white Vermont.

To a lesser extent Miami Lakes is also predominantly Hispanic now, but on my street, for example, there’s interesting diversity: My next-door neighbors are African Americans of Bahamian heritage. Across the street is a Jamaican American family, a Colombian-Panamanian family, and down the street are Brazilians and a Venezuelan or two. The rest are Cuban-Americans.

Maybe Hernández was referencing income differences between Hialeah and Miami Lakes — and he meant to say we were “classist.”

But if he has a problem with some people making more money than others, isn’t that…communism?

His voter base might object to that, and God knows, we’re struggling to make ends meet here, too.

The mayor should take back his statement, as Ruano suggests.

His ‘racists’ comment is a smokescreen to cover up the mismanagement of growth in Hialeah. The area in question is overbuilt to the extreme. You can see in aerial photos acres and acres of homes crammed next to each other without green space or enough parking – and more development in the works.

An aerial view of a closed bridge on Northwest 154 Street linking Hialeah to Miami Lakes can be seen on Thursday, September 12, 2019. Members of a neighborhood in Hialeah are asking Miami-Dade County officials to open the bridge that would connect their community to Miami Lakes. They say the bridge would give their neighborhood a second outlet for traffic and emergency vehicles. MATIAS J. OCNER mocner@miamiherald.com

Stop trying to divide us — and instead do better by the people of Hialeah.

They deserve ample green spaces, tree canopies, public transportation, and roads that get them where they need to be without trampling on other communities — before you build even more.

To get to Miami Lakes and PSN, they already have plenty of pavement: 57th, 67th and expanded 87th avenues plus 138th and 186th streets are all through streets.

By opening bridges on residential 154th and 170th streets, you’re hurting not only Miami Lakes but also unincorporated Palms Springs North, another bedroom community without representation because County Commissioner Esteban Bovo, who lives in Hialeah, only cares about Hialeah’s interests.

If holding politicians accountable is being a racist, then count me in.

If preferring the canopy of live oaks and the carpet of green parks to concrete jungle is being a racist, count me in.

If preferring to live in a master planned community rather than in the jam-packed housing subdivisions that extend past the urban boundary Hernández and his cohorts have allowed in Hialeah, count me in.

Viva Hialeah. Viva Miami Lakes. Viva PSN.

Award-winning columnist Fabiola Santiago has been writing about all things Miami since 1980, when the Mariel boatlift became her first front-page story. A Cuban refugee child of the Freedom Flights, she’s also the author of essays, short fiction, and the novel “Reclaiming Paris.”