Now that he’s a county commissioner, Juan C. Zapata readily makes this uncomfortable admission: During his eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, he did more for the cities in his South Miami-Dade district than for its stand-alone neighborhoods.
Cities had elected politicians and paid lobbyists jostling for limited state dollars. Neighborhoods didn’t. In the end, the cities got more money for more projects, Zapata said. The neighborhoods were left behind.
“I was able to do nothing for my unincorporated areas,” Zapata has lamented from the commission dais.
That perceived inequity is one of the crucial reasons Zapata, who now represents a swath of unincorporated western suburbs, and other commissioners have given for endorsing countywide incorporation, which would require every inch of Miami-Dade to belong to a city — just like in Broward County.
The long-discussed concept has been recently taken up by a new task force charged with making recommendations on how Miami-Dade should proceed.
That neighborhoods will try to incorporate is a given. A year ago, commissioners lifted a five-year ban on new cities, opening the door for five communities that had already declared their cityhood intentions to revive their efforts. But should the county take an all-or-nothing approach and require that every neighborhood join an existing city or form a new one? And if not, how could Miami-Dade ensure that unincorporated communities receive an adequate level of public services?