MIAMI – Residents and community partners were welcomed aboard the Opa-locka train of progress as Mayor “Lady” Myra L. Taylor gave her State of the City address to more than 400 people Friday night inside the city’s new community center at Sherbondy Village.
In her progress report, Mayor Taylor likened Opa-locka to an express train still moving on track, stopping at major city milestones, both past and future.
The mayor said her confidence in Opa-locka’s ability to grow despite setbacks and perceptions of limited resources comes from a divine revelation that she shared with the crowd.
“When God gave Moses his assignment to free the children of Israel from Egypt, Moses told God, ‘they will not believe me, nor harken to my voice,’” said Taylor to the crowd, retelling the biblical story from the book of Exodus. “Then God asked Moses, ‘What is that in thine hand?’,” the same question Taylor said she had asked herself.
“Then I realized what I had. I have over 16,000 residents, over 1,600 businesses, one high school, three elementary schools, two charter schools, nine daycare centers, five grocery stores and 22 churches.”
Opa-locka, surrounded by nine highway corridors along with an airport, Tri-Rail and Amtrak, has the largest collection of Moorish architecture in the Western hemisphere, Taylor said in her speech.
The city’s partnership with the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation and the Opa-locka Police Department, combined with more than $20 million in Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding, has transformed the former drug-ridden community once known as “The Triangle” into a beautiful renaissance called Magnolia North, she said.
A longtime area resident attested to the positive changes in his neighborhood.
“Everyone has to help for change to happen,” said Arthaniel “Muhammad” Irvin, a Magnolia North resident. “That’s what the mayor talked about, everybody on the train working together.”
“Remember this train is fueled by and charged by your support, your push and your encouragement,” said Taylor at her event.
Irvin said he sees the mayor driving in the community talking, to residents about issues. Irvin, a retired plumber active in the city, has volunteered with the city’s emergency response team and housing board. He said he’s seen drug houses removed, police patrolling more frequently and affordable housing apartments that have transformed Magnolia North.
“The community is quiet, safer for people to walk down the street,” said Irvin. “Neighbors are friendlier. There’s more unity.” The train is moving,” said Taylor.
In the room, the crowd blew whistles as excitement filled the air.
Taylor touted the city’s success in securing $7.2 million in grants to manage 35 existing projects underway throughout the city, plus $550,000 earmarked to transform the city through cultural arts.
“The (public works) crews asked the train to stop on Northwest 22nd Avenue where they installed a new lighting system in the median,” Taylor said regarding her beautification initiative that will also add an electronic billboard on 27th Avenue and offer businesses on major corridors funds for façade improvements.
When the city completed construction on three sewer pump stations, area businesses gained the freedom to expand, she added.
“The train saw our police department increase the number of certified officers and create sub-stations to better protect and serve. Through a successful gun buyback initiative, they purchased over 100 guns this past December.”
The question remains, said Taylor, “Where will the train go from here?”
The train is moving towards four new developments, the mayor said, referencing the Georgia Ayers residential apartments, Presidente supermarket, Helen Miller Center and a Town Center senior apartment complex.
Named after the Miami-Dade County community activist Georgia Jones Ayers, the Georgia Ayers development is a 72-unit multi-family dwelling in the Nile Gardens community. Slated for completion this year, the complex includes a police substation with 24-hour security.
“The Presidente supermarket is the city’s first major grocery store chain since the late 1970s to make a large investment in the Opa-locka community,” said David Chiverton, assistant city manager. “A resident work agreement ensures at least 20 Opa-locka residents are employed at the supermarket.”
Renovations to the Helen Miller Center include added parking, a second floor with rooms to rent and an improved structure.
The $19 million dollar Town Center senior apartment complex will be the largest development in the city’s history, and “will serve as a catalyst for the redevelopment of our downtown area,” said Mayor Taylor.
“The train will seek out a location for an urgent care center, while steaming up to broaden our territory through annexation.”
Ending her speech, the mayor said, “There is a forward shift in our spirit, a pull on our imagination and a demand on our potential.
“Tonight, the train will leave this station, headed for new destinations. Faith in God, hope for the future, unity and love for one another.”
Elra Daniels, a resident at Archbishop McCarthy Residence senior apartments, active with the city’s Seniors on the Move program, said the mayor’s speech resonated.
“I loved that the train is still moving,” said Daniels. “We’ve seen change in the community. I encourage the seniors to give feedback to officials.”
Before the mayor began her address, the night was full of musical performances.
The Rev. Dr. Gaston Smith, pastor at Friendship M. B. Church, served as the master of ceremonies. Clarence Burt III, an Opa-locka youth, gave the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Musical group Unselfish performed The National Anthem. Deana Butler-Rahming sang I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly, and Brothers of Expression from the New Beginning Embassy of Praise danced up and down the aisles.
The Miami-Carol City Senior High School marching band also performed.
Opa-locka pastors who prayed for the city during the event included Pastor Cristino Pinales from Ministerio Renuevo, pastor Jonas Pierre from Broadmoor Baptist Church and the Rev. L.B. Roundtree Sr. from New Mt. Pleasant Community Baptist Church.
Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, representing District 2 for the Miami-Dade County School Board introduced Mayor Taylor, who presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Commissioner Timothy Holmes, a first in the city’s history.
“We pray for Opa-locka,” Daniels said. “God has the last word.”