Apparently, Opa-locka is getting better. In fact, the city is doing so much better that it deserved a round of applause. This is according to Myra Taylor, the mayor of one of the most dangerous towns in Miami-Dade County, who delivered on Monday her annual State of the City speech.
As any American speech trying to avoid real problems, this one was full of religious quotes, as The Miami Herald noted. But even worse, Taylor took pride in what should be considered as terrible backward steps for Opa-locka, a city of 16,000 often portrayed by the FBI as the second most criminal city in South Florida (the first one being Medley).
For instance, one of the main points of the State of the City was the increase in police activity in the War on Drugs. For years, the local police force has been pictured as very corrupt, even in Floridian standards, and now, the new policy is to enforce laws against victimless crimes, even though the real crime rate increased throughout the city in 2012.
"We had a thriving pharmaceutical business down in the Triangle until Police Chief Cheryl Cason and her forces broke that up," acclaimed the mayor. She also praised the confiscation of 23 marijuana plants.
But when it really matters, the facts are on the wrong side. Property crimes went up by 2%. Some violent crimes were less often committed, but the downward trend will soon be canceled as 2013 is expected to see a rise in burglary, grand theft auto, murder, and other categories. The best that could be said about the crime rate in Opa-locka is that it is a high, steady rate. But claiming that the city is "doing better" is a far stretch from reality.
Last December was also one of the most successful gun buybacks in local history. More than 100 weapons were exchanged for cash. Myra Taylor showed this statistic as an improvement for the city. What this really means is that the city wasted taxpayer money to buy stolen guns from thieves and used an ill-intentioned publicity to convince law-abiding citizens to give in their best means of protection in exchange of some temporary cash.
A large part of the speech was dedicated to the Beautification Initiative, a public works program wasting millions of dollars to just put some flowers in the streets. The State of the City also focused on many multi-million dollar projects planned for 2013, only one of them being a worthy and entirely private initiative: the building of an El Presidente supermarket complex, the first chain store opening in the city for decades.
At the end of the speech, the Mayor announced the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. It was given to Commissioner Timothy Holmes, occupying his seat since 1994. The reasons behind such a choice are hardly justifiable, however. Two years ago, a Nigerian businessman admitted funneling some $40,000 to Commissioner Holmes between 2004 and 2007. A very large bribe for a "Lifetime Achiever."
Opa-locka is far from getting better. A proper State of the City would have had the decency of telling the truth, but then again, a proper State of the City address would have to be told by a different Mayor.
There is an easy solution out of the sad state of the city, however. Let's have a town that doesn't imprison young men and women for harmless drug possession; a town that secures the people's right to protect itself through gun ownership; a town that doesn't waste millions of dollars in pointless public works projects but rather allows private companies to do the work more efficiently; a town with a much lower taxation rate to lower corrupting revenues and no zoning regulations expelling businesses.
Only then will we be able to talk about Opa-locka getting better.