Want Separate Authority For Opa-locka Executive
Tenants have taken their fight to remove Opa-locka Executive
Airport (OPF) from the Miami-Dade Aviation Department straight to
the top -- petitioning President Barack Obama to place the airport
under an independent authority.
ANN has reported on the fight over Opa-locka
before. In May 2008, several businesses at Opa-locka
filed a complaint with the FAA regarding alleged economic
discrimination by Miami-Dade County and its contracted developer
for the airport, Michael Adler. The businesses asserted Adler was
putting the thumbscrews to them in order to force them to leave,
clearing the way for a new, non-aviation business park there.
Threatened with eviction, tenants asked the FAA to invalidate
the lease of airport developer AA Acquisitions and grant their
businesses long-term leases... which was denied. Six tenants have
since 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
"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," wrote Michael Pizzi, now Mayor of
Miami Lakes, 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."
Miami-Dade's Aviation Department currently manages the
1,800-acre Opa-locka Airport and MIA. Obtained in 1961 through the
federal surplus properties program, Opa-locka 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, said BMI Salvage's
Stephen O'Neal, a 21-year airport tenant.
"In addition," O'Neal added, "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," O'Neal said, "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
O'Neal concluded by calling Miami-Dade's authority over
Opa-locka "morally and ethically challenged," adding "the time for
responsible management at an airport owned by the citizens of
Miami-Dade County is now."