jean_monestime_053112_web.jpgNORTH CENTRAL MIAMI-DADE – Residents of a large swath of unincorporated North Central Miami-Dade County are pushing ahead with plans to create a city that will sit at a key junction of transportation hubs. The move comes at a time when state and local officials are actively expanding business infrastructure to catapult the area more prominently into international commerce. 

For the residents, the incorporation initiative is driven by a desire to wrest control of their community’s economic resources away from downtown Miami in hopes of securing a more stable socio-economic future for themselves. 

Residents and supporters hosted a conference at Miami Dade College’s North Campus this week to work on “the planning, funding, and implementation” of different activities they feel are necessary to create the county’s newest municipality. 

Business owners, academics and residents gathered at the conference to discuss the future of the 12-square-mile area tentatively referred to as Encida.

“It’s an opportunity to engage the community in a conversation that is long, long overdue,” said Mack Samuel, who, along with Doretha Nichson, has been a strong proponent of incorporation.

The issue boiled down, he said, to “remaining as you are or having your own self-determination.”

Nichson and others expressed a sense of urgency in the drive to incorporate.  “Opa-locka is annexing part of this area, including Miami Dade College,” she said, adding that Hialeah is also looking to absorb parts of the area.  “We have to fight attempts to cherry-pick our area.”

According to Nichson, Encida proponents established a Municipal Advisory Committee (MAC) to research and make the case for a city but further moves were frozen when the County Commission imposed a moratorium on creation of new municipalities.

That moratorium was lifted it at the end of last year and the county has re-authorized the Encida MAC which supporters are activating, with new members to be appointed.

The issues that a MAC has to deal with include marking out the boundaries of the proposed city, providing proof that the new municipality will have fiscal sufficiency by drafting a budget and holding a referendum.

So far, supporters have set out the boundaries, which the county has approved. Discussions are continuing. 

Nichson and Samuel see Miami Gardens as a model to follow.  Created barely a decade ago, Miami Gardens was formed from a large part of North Miami-Dade County that sits on the border with Broward County – and in the midst of a great deal of uncertainty and hand-wringing. But the municipality is already beginning to thrive, speakers said. 

Because of that, the conference organizers invited the founding mayor of Miami Gardens, Shirley Gibson, to speak on a panel discussing incorporation.  When it comes to incorporation, Nichson said, Gibson has “been there and done that.” 

“Stop being afraid of being in charge of your own community,” Gibson told the meeting. “If you don’t own it now, someone else will later.”

Business owner Darryl Holsendolph, urban planner Ron Frazier and T. Leigh Toney, executive director of  the Miami Dade College’s Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center in Liberty City also were on the panel.

Holsendolph pointed to a growing push to invest more resources into making Miami-Dade County an even bigger player in international trade. He said that colleges and universities such as the University of Miami, Florida International University and Miami-Dade College are collaborating with an initiative created by the Beacon Council called One Community One Goal to design degree and certificate programs to meet that need. 

It is imperative that related academic and vocational programs be created and supported within public schools located in North Central Miami-Dade, he said.

Nichson indicated that incorporation leaders have not had much success meeting with county officials, including Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The Beacon Council – which is charged with promoting business and investment in

Miami-Dade – was “not responsive,” she said. “They don’t see us as clients.”

Nichson cited as an example the absence of County Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Jean Monestime, who represent parts of North Central Miami-Dade. Instead they sent their aides, Misty Brown and Jordan Ricketts, respectively. 

Nichson was also frustrated over the lack of “economic diversity” initiatives introduced and implemented by the area’s county commissioners.  “All they do is affordable housing,” she said.

 According to 2010 Census figures, some 85,000 people live in the proposed incorporation area. African Americans comprise 61.2 percent or 51,682 residents, followed by Hispanics, 35 percent or 29,891  people. Incorporation would make the new city one of the largest black majority municipalities in Florida.

Figures from 2006 to 2010 indicate almost 14 percent of North Central Dade residents were unemployed, compared to eight and a half percent for the entire county.

Also, only 35 percent of residents had a high school diploma or its equivalent and just 7.5 percent had earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

North Central Dade County is bordered by Hialeah to the west, Miami to the south, North Miami to the east and Opa-locka to the north. It includes neighborhoods such as Model City, Brownsville, Westview and West Little River.

Miami-Dade County Commission Districts 2 and 3 run prominently into North Central and it is anchored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor (Northwest 62nd Street),  the U.S. 441 corridor along Northwest Seventh Avenue, the Unity Boulevard corridor along Northwest 27th Avenue, the Northside corridor along Northwest 79th Street and the Northwest 119th Street corridor. 

The intersections of Northwest 119th Street with Northwest 27th and Seventh avenues figure prominently in plans by the Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority (MDX) to connect the Gratigny Parkway – which is an extension of Northwest 119th Street – with Interstate 95 to provide more direct access to the Port of Miami from Interstate 75. 

That expressway extension would pass directly over Northwest 119th Street. 

Other transportation assets located within the area include two Metrorail stations, three Tri-Rail stops and easy access to State Road 112, in addition to I-95 and the Gratigny. 

The area is also home to Miami Central and Miami Northwestern high schools and their feeder schools, as well as the Dorsey Vocational Center and the William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, in addition to the North Campus of Miami-Dade College.

*Pictured above is county commissioner Jean Monestime.