Zapata urges center at airport, criticizes Gimenez on budget

Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Zapata favors location of a West Dade government center at Miami Executive Airport once the county begins a feasibility study to pursue its development, according to a statement to the Gazette made on Aug. 7.

On Aug. 6, in a separate letter addressed to residents, he severely criticized the lack of West Dade project funding in Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed budget for FY 2015-16.

With commission approval of $10 million BBC (Building Better Communities) bond money for the project on July 14, Zapata said potential locations in West Kendall, west of Florida’s Turnpike, should be studied for consolidated county offices, either in a newly constructed building or within leased space.

“We will still need additional resources and I am interested in starting a conversation with the state about being a part of this project,” he said. “If we could locate this at the Miami Executive Airport, we would be able to save a lot of money.”

Zapata has identified the airport (formerly the Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport) as an economic engine for West Dade employment growth.

Asked how he reconciled sponsorship of a county center with his initiation of West Kendall incorporation studies, Zapata replied, “Our approach has always been a regional/local approach and key to that is develop a long-range vision for the area. This should be a data and needbased- driven process and not one of political convenience.”

Neither the renamed West End North or South Municipal Advisory Committees have held incorporation study meetings since May, but Zapata attributed the suspensions largely to vacation absences.

Asked if they were performing adequately for his West End goals, Zapata said, “It’s summer and people have busy schedules. We are confident that meetings will gain momentum once school starts again.

“We want to give the process as much time as is needed. There is a lot of misinformation and lack of understanding of how we are treated in an unincorporated area.”

Zapata is critical of Gimenez’s proposed budget.

In a separate statement, Zapata wrote website letters to Kendall citizens urging them to express their concerns about the future of the county prior to a Town Hall meeting set by Mayor Gimenez for Aug. 11, one of a series of countywide sessions to receive feedback on the FY 2015-16 budget proposal.

“For too long, this community has paid disproportionately higher taxes when compared with the services and attention received,” Zapata stated.

“Projects such as the expansion of SW 142nd Avenue or the development of West Kendall Regional Park have failed to break ground. Our police force at the Hammocks Police Station is regularly short staffed, which limits their ability to respond efficiently,” he added.

“Mayor Gimenez has even failed to champion our expansive connectivity plan, which includes the creation of bike paths, in sharp contrast to projects in the eastern portions of Miami-Dade County, such as The Underline and Ludlam Trail.”

Zapata concluded by encouraging residents to question Mayor Gimenez on his stance regarding incorporation of “our community” and what he has done to attract high-paying jobs to the West End.

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