Tenants Ask President to Remove Airport from Miami-Dade

MIAMI , Feb. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Airport tenants petition President Obama to remove Opa-Locka Executive Airport from Miami-Dade County and to place it under an independent authority.

Miami-Dade's Aviation Department manages the 1,800-acre Opa-Locka Airport and MIA. Obtained in 1961 through the federal surplus properties program it was once the busiest airport in the nation, but activity has decreased as land has been given to developers for non-aviation use at the expense of existing and minority aviation businesses, says BMI Salvage's Stephen O'Neal , a 21-year airport tenant.

"To work with your family and build up a business with your own money only to have a private developer step in at the last moment and threaten to take this land and everything you own and hold dear, it is almost unthinkable," states the now Mayor of Miami Lakes , Michael Pizzi , in a 2007 letter to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez . "It is unconscionable to evict these people and force them to lose all of their investment, all they have worked for and cause financial ruin to their families. This is wrong."

Six tenants have filed federal discrimination complaints against the County as well as lawsuits, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has overturned in one case the FAA's no discrimination decision by the County. "In addition," states O'Neal, "there are concerns of racial discrimination and retaliation by the County against minority tenants including the pending eviction from the airport of Opa-Locka Flight Line, the only African American owned Fixed Base Operation (FBO) in the United States ."

"In his inaugural address President Obama called on us to put aside childish things," states O'Neal, "but the County has demonstrated year in and year out that it has neither the leadership nor constitution to do so and the result is that doing business in Miami-Dade County presents unacceptable levels of financial risk."

"Buyer beware is a time-honored legal doctrine," O'Neal continues. "Airlines, corporations, business owners, rating agencies, investors, underwriters and insurers of bonds need to look no further than two recent corruption scandals published by the Miami Herald."

In 2007 the Herald published the Pulitzer Prize-winning article "House of Lies," which prompted the Federal Government to remove the HUD program from the County and in 2008 published "Taken for a Ride," an expose on how County Government spent monies raised by the one-half penny transit tax.

"The facts clearly demonstrate how County Government squanders the public's trust and money and its shameful self-service that has absolutely nothing to do with public or community service," concludes O'Neal.

"The foundation of government that secures both the Aviation Department and Opa-Locka Executive Airport is morally and ethically challenged and the time for responsible management at an airport owned by the citizens of Miami-Dade County is now."

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