This week, Miami New Times is publishing a guide to the eight of the worst public works projects in Miami-Dade, where bureaucrats and elected officials take pride in wasting millions in taxpayer dollars on crap residents have little-to-no use for. As we reveal each one of these boondoggles on Riptide, we're asking readers to send us their suggestions of the most asinine things local government has built in your neighborhoods. We'll pick the best one and send the winner a seven-day pass to try out the wonderfully terrible public bus and rail system provided by Miami-Dade Transit. Leave your suggestions in the comments or email them to Banana Republican. Enjoy!
Today, we visit a monument stroking the ego of Hialeah's most famous king.
Hialeah landmark and fountain
Year built: 2005
What's dumb about it: You can't
enter this building because it serves no other purpose than to be a
six-figure backdrop for a fountain.
Why it got built: Raul! Raul!
During the 1980s and 1990s, a coral
rock fountain on a grassy patch at SE Fourth Street and Okeechobee
Road was rallying point for Hialeah candidates. Signs for council
contenders Jimmy Gunn and Silvio Cardoso and the city's
then-on-the-rise mayor, Raul Martinez, littered the city-owned
property, which is conveniently located at a major entrance to
Hialeah. On weekends, Martinez, his allies, and their opponents would
stand in front of the fountain where they would wave to the passing,
honking motorists. "In 1983, this was the place to be," Martinez
says. "It was a prime corner."
The site's political history gave
el alcalde (now in a runoff to regain his job) the excuse to erect an
expensive grand daddy beacon to greet residents and visitors entering
la ciudad que progresa.
Today, driving west on Okeechobee Road,
you can't miss the two-story pale yellow structure. The
Mediterranean-style building, which features two sentry towers and a
stone fountain on the ground floor, is an oddity among the rows of
lowbrow motels and warehouses. It is a gargantuan reminder that you
are no longer in the United States of America. And it cost Hialeah
In the original budget, the city figured $20,000 was
enough to cover the railings and other metal work and $23,010 would
buy all the stucco needed for construction. Wrong! The city council
had to approve an extra $12,700 to finish the structure.
When the plaza was completed six years
ago, Martinez hailed it as a monument to the diversity of Hialeah's
Cuban residents, from recently arrived balseros to the older exiles.
"We are proud of the city of Hialeah," he said. "And the people
we sometimes tend to forget."
Yet the plaza is no tourist
attraction. There are no sidewalks that allow people to walk up to
the structure to take pictures. There is no parking either. You can't
even enter to enjoy the view from the second-floor terrace. It is a
six-figure waste of taxpayer money brought to you by the city's
Guide to Trashing Taxpayers:
Marc Sarnoff's Circle