New cities’ impact on Miami-Dade Police, fire pivotal
Four months after a failed move to create a new South Dade city, Miami-Dade lawmakers have ordered a study on how police and fire rescue services would be affected by similar efforts in the future.
County commissioners Nov. 19 approved a resolution sponsored by Vice Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa directing Mayor Carlos Giménez’s office to analyze the impact on emergency first response services when unincorporated areas are carved out to create new municipalities or add to existing ones.
The item, which directs the county administration to deliver a report by late May 2020, cites “currently pending annexation and incorporation items” in calling for a study.
The most recent incorporation effort occurred July 23, when commissioners were asked to vote on a resolution that would have called for a special election this month submitting to residents within a proposed new municipality in South Dade the question of whether the county should create a new city there.
Had it succeeded, the theoretical 35th Miami-Dade city – composed of neighborhoods in Goulds, Perrine and Richmond Heights, among others – would have been the third-largest in the county.
But cityhood never reached a vote. Commissioner Dennis Moss, its prime sponsor and the representative of the unincorporated area it concerned, pulled the measure from consideration after seeing opposition from residents and fellow commissioners.
A major criticism of the incorporation was that the cost of emergency services for areas surrounding but not included in the new city would have shot up even though county police would still serve the city itself.
Furthermore, Deputy Mayor Ed Marquez wrote in an accompanying memo, the costlier services would still see cutbacks.
“As less revenue is available to fund services, the remaining area will pay more for these services and/or departments will be required to reduce service levels and/or personnel,” Mr. Marquez wrote. “Should municipalities transition to their own departments, the [Miami-Dade Police Department] will need to adjust personnel as there is less service area and less revenue.”
Commissioner Joe Martinez, a former policeman whose entire district is unincorporated, said he’d long opposed incorporation because of its effects on police services.
“I saw how it affected the department,” he said. “Back then, we had 4,000 [police] on the road. Now we have 3,000-something, and a lot of it has been lost there.”
Ms. Sosa said her endorsement of any incorporation or annexation is contingent on keeping police and fire rescue services at responsible levels and at a minimal extra cost to residents.
“It would have to be fair for everybody,” she said. “The ones who lose in terms of fire [and] police protection is the public, when there’s fragmentation.”
Roughly 43% of Miami-Dade residents live in the county’s unincorporated municipal service area.
The last successful effort to incorporate, in 2005, resulted in the creation of the Town of Cutler Bay.
In the 14-plus years since, voters or county officials have shot down all other attempts, including a similar effort to form a new city between Aventura and North Miami Beach last November.
That ballot measure failed narrowly, according to Ballotpedia.com – 3,197 to 3,086 votes, or roughly 51% to 49%.