Guide To Trashing Taxpayers: Hialeah Okeechobee Road Landmark

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
Cost: $411,848.56
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

longtime ruler.

Guide to Trashing Taxpayers:

Marc Sarnoff's Circle

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.