Newly elected Commissioner Joe Martinez is sort of on a war path. And there is no bigger casualty than former Commissioner Juan Zapata. Martinez has several items on Tuesday’s agenda to start to undo some of the things that Zapata is most proud of from the last four years.
Martinez will ask his colleauges to strip the “West End” name from county facilities — basically erase it from the map. He also wants to stop the North end Municipal Advisory Committee, which has been meeting to move forward on the incorporation process.
“It was my platform. It’s why I ran,” Martinez said though we know that he ran because he can’t stand not being in office. After all, he ran for mayor in 2012 and for Congress in 2014 but couldn’t get elected outside his district.
He says that the West End name was thrust upon the public without their consent or input. “People didn’t have a say. A lot of people didn’t like the way the name was just given to them.”
If approved, the West End Regional Library will go back to being the West Kendall Regional Library, the Miami-Dade Police Department’s West District Station will go back to being the Hammocks District Station and the West jEnd District Park will go back to being the West Kendall District Park.
“That’s fine,” Zapata told Ladra on Sunday, explaining that the West End moniker was intended to be a regional brand to bring together the communities of West Kendall, Bird Road, Country Walk, Kendale Lakes, Calusa and Hammocks, among others.
“You can self identify whatever you want, but you need a regional brand,” Zapata said, adding that he had sought the advice of marketing experts and had three town hall meetings about it. “They couldn’t market West Kendall. Everyone just thinks of it being ‘so far’ and ‘the traffic.’ I wanted to change that narrative. I couldn’t change the narrative without that name. I wanted people to look at this area differently. I wanted to change the vibe.”
Counters Martinez: “I’m not doing it to undo what he did. In the 12 years that I was commissioner, not once did anybody say let’s change the name.”
But while he says Martinez is doing the same thing that he accuses Zapata of — making the name change arbitrarily without input from the community, the former commissioner and state rep is more concerned with the rescinding of the MAC, which has met for about two years to put together its incorporation application.
“All I did was allow a process, start a conversation,” Zapata said. “I can’t understand why anybody would be against neighbors getting together to discuss the future of this community.”
Zapata and incorporation supporters say that the district provides $16 million in revenue to the county through property taxes but does not get it’s fair share of unicorporated municipal services.
“We’ve actually been waiting fo the county to do a public hearing” said Joe Rodriguez, a member of the North side MAC. “It’s very feasible to do a city out here. The county’s own consultant told us we’re getting raped out here by the county. We give millions in taxes but you never see a cop out here, or very rarely.
“We’re almost at the end of the process. We’re not finished because the county has been dragging their feet,” Rodriguez said, adding that Martinez never even went to the group to tell them what he was doing.
“We’re at the end of the process,” he told Ladra last week. “All we’re asking is to let this go to a vote of the people If it passes, it’s the will of the people. If it fails, it fails.”
Martinez counters that very few people attend the MAC meetings. “If there were 200 people who show up, or 150. But I don’t remember many people being in favor of it.” He says he campaigned against the incorporation because voters told him they were against it.
“They do not want another layer of government,” he told Ladra, “and the people who show up to vote are just the eople in favor.”
He says he’s open to getting it started again — “if that’s what the people want.”
Asked how he would pay for the changing of the signs — which Zapata paid for out of his office funds — Martinez said he had not thought about that yet. He wanted to see if the old signs were still around somewhere. But he might seek private sponsors to make donations.
But won’t he owe someone a favor then?