South Dade Matters

Looking at the World South of Miami: Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Miami-Dade County.

PB: Guest Post By David Singer

Where’s the Fire?

On September 22nd, the Village of Palmetto Bay will hold a zoning meeting to discuss a potential site for a new Palmetto Bay Fire Station at 14200 Old Cutler Rd. The zoning meeting to approve the residential lot next door to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church isn’t as much the story as is the length of time it has taken to procure a new fire station – and why its approval is being rushed when a preferable site is located directly across the street.

For over 6 years, the Village of Palmetto Bay has desired and desperately needed two new fire stations to serve the east side of the Village. Now, two months before the election, Mayor Stanczyk and Council are rushing to approve an inferior site which boarders a predominately residential neighborhood and Farmers Road.

The reason this particular site is now being pressed is mainly due to the fact that during her term as Mayor, Shelley Stanczyk has ignored the fact that residents in the northeast section of the Village have not received the same commitment to, “Life Safety” as other residents of the Village. In fact, over the past three years the subject of a new Fire Rescue Station has been brought to the Mayor’s attention ad nauseam by various member of the community, including Peter England.

So what’s the rush now? It’s a game of politics – a subject that can now be used by the Mayor as a poker chip during election time. She now plans to push and approve an inferior site for her political advantage.

One of the main problems with the site scheduled to be approved on September 22nd by Mayor and Council is the poor ingress/egress access.

Additionally, you would hope the Mayor and Council would understand the residential site next to St Andrew’s Church is not only inferior, but will probably lead to litigation from the neighbors, and will cost the Village real estate tax revenue.

Thankfully, there IS a superior site available – and directly across the street, on Old Cutler Road.

Anyone with knowledge of both sites would agree the location for the Fire Station should be developed next to Old Cutler Presbyterian Church. Here are several reasons:

• The Presbyterian site is $200,000 LESS than the residential location adjacent to St. Andrew’s. At a time when local governments don’t have any money, why would the Council approve to pay $200,000 more for the St. Andrew’s location?

• The Presbyterian site is owned by the Church and has never paid any property taxes.

• The site on Old Cutler and Farmers Road is a private house and historically paid its fair share of property tax. By converting residential property to a Fire Station location it will cost both Dade County and Palmetto Bay millions of dollars in tax revenue.

• The ingress/egress on the Presbyterian site is superior and will not require fire trucks to drive down a predominately narrow winding residential road that is well-traveled by pedestrians, dog walkers, joggers, bike riders and over 1200 cars a day. The abundance of overhanging trees that line Farmers Road will also be an issue for the large fire trucks.

• For a Council historically committed to traffic and noise control, it is puzzling that they are set to approve fire trucks traveling down a residential street that will disturb the peaceful enjoyment of all Farmers Road residents.

• Both sites are approximately the same size with the Presbyterian Church site being 50,965 sq. ft. (approximately 1.16 acres) and the residential site being 60,113 sq. ft. (1.38 acres). The Presbyterian Church has twice the frontage on Old Cutler Road as the residential location.

With all due respect to the present Council, the vote to approve the new Palmetto Bay Fire Station should be delayed until the proper due diligence is conducted and the best site for the Fire Station is confirmed. It has already taken the Village seven years and counting to arrive at this point – what real difference does a 30-60 day extension of the site approval process mean when the goal is the selection of the best location to serve all of the resident’s needs?

David Singer

PB: Bike Paths and the Budget

SDM couldn’t resist a second post today.

During Monday night’s budget discussions, a local resident discussed bike paths and parks. This gentleman regularly comments at council meetings and is focused like a laser on making Palmetto Bay bike-friendly and walk-friendly. He nags and cajoles the council relentlessly to improve these services and you can see the results of his efforts all over the village.

SDM wants to give this gentleman credit for the improvements (?) to the bike path on the East side of Old Cutler, but the project was executed so poorly that we are going to allow him to keep his anonymity in the fear that he may be associated with a shabby mess.

Do you walk, run or ride your bike on the Old Cutler bike path? Then you know that someone, we think it’s the village, paid a bunch of money for striping and marking the path. As one enters or exits the path, helpful stripes and signs show a path user the correct side to traverse. (Is this really necessary? But we digress.)

If you are a regular or even infrequent user of the bike path, you’ve probably seen the mess the vendor made. The striping is the standard road marking – kind of a burnt umber color. But before the vendor laid down the striping, it spray painted white markings all over the place. The problem is the burnt umber markings don’t coincide with the white spray paint.

The result is so ugly that someone went out with a can of black spray paint and tried to paint over the visual nightmare.

SDM Wonders: How much did the village – or the county- pay to this vendor for such an ugly, shabby job?

SDM thinks we should get our money back.

And, if we are planning on installing bike paths and markings elsewhere in Palmetto Bay, we need to ensure the vendor follows its contract. Nobody deserves to have such shabby work painted on the street or sidewalk in front of her home.

Harvey Ruvin’s Sea Level Rise Hysteria

SDM always finds it odd to point out that Miami-Dade’s primary peddler of climate change hysteria is our Clerk. For those of you who don’t know, the Miami-Dade Clerk is Harvey Ruvin, former County Commissioner and original flower child.

2013_clerk_ruvin

Now the Clerk’s office is a ministerial organization that manages the daily affairs of the county’s court system, keeps official records, and acts as clerk of the Board of County Commissioners. This extensive list of responsibilities is not sufficient to keep Mr. Ruvin busy, apparently, because he moonlights as chief of climate change hoopla.

Yet, “moonlights” is not a truly accurate description of Mr. Ruvin’s climate change activity. Over the past five years, he has chaired dozens of meetings on the subject, including a recent task force on sea level rise. You can read the report here.

The report several recommendations that push Miami-Dade toward “adapting” to sea level rise. SDM acknowledges that sea levels are rising in Miami, the only question is to what extent. Mr. Ruvin and his sycophants have agreed on this model for future sea level rise:

Pages from sea-level-rise

As you can see, the model suggests that local sea level will rise between 9 and 24 inches by 2060, or at a rate of between 1.5 and 4 feet per century. Scary right? Well, sure but also completely unfounded based on observed data.

Before we show you the actual sea level rise trend, understand that the document above was created in approximately 2010 and included in the Southeast Regional Compact report in 2011. Thus, if this projection is accurate, we should be able to detect between half an inch and nearly two inches of sea level rise today in 2014. The problem is no such trend exists and no observed data matches the projection.

In July, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/National Ocean Service released its annual sea level rise trend for Miami Beach. The data set covers 51 years and shows that the sea level rise trend has been steady for the entire time period. True, measured, observed sea level is rising at Miami Beach at a rate of between .64 and .92 feet per century, or 7.68 to 11.04 inches per century (adjusted for the confidence interval):

Mean Sea Level Trend
Miami Beach, Florida

8723170

The mean sea level trend is 2.39 millimeters/year with a 95% confidence interval of +/- 0.43 mm/yr based on monthly mean sea level data from 1931 to 1981 which is equivalent to a change of 0.78 feet in 100 years.

The actual sea level rise data shows a very manageable figure – one that both the private and public sectors should already be including in their plans. But such a reasonable approach causes no real hysteria or need for more government intervention, does it?

The impolitic fact is that as time passes, more and more real time data indicate that the sea level rise projections are faulty at best and fraudulent at worst. Yet, Mr. Ruvin continues to push this narrative all the while knowing that he is damaging our community financially:

Using predictive scenarios, [Swiss Re, a property insurance reinsurer] estimated the expected losses for Southeast Florida by scenario and by hazard ranged from $17 billion, or 8.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2008, to $33 billion or 10% of GDP in 2030.

In other words, at Mr. Ruvin’s direction, a huge, global company, which insures property and casualty insurance companies used the questionable (phony?) Southeast Regional Compact data to create a new and more costly projection for their loss models, which insurance companies can use in the future to justify increased property insurance rates for homeowners.

Why would any local leader do such a thing? Well, the answer can be found in Mr. Ruvin’s report:

RECOMMENDATION 3: The Sea Level Rise Task Force recommends that Miami-Dade County implement the Adaptation Action Areas (AAA’s) called for in the Comprehensive Development Master Plan (CDMP) and to incorporate sea level rise and storm surge risks utilizing best available data.

Sounds harmless, but what exactly is an Adaptation Action Area? According to the CDMP, they are “areas
vulnerable to coastal storm surge and sea level rise impacts for the purpose of developing policies for adaptation and enhance the funding potential of infrastructure adaptation projects.”

A possible “policy for adaptation” could include prohibiting development in areas that the Southeast Regional Compact determines will be subject to sea level rise, using their “garbage-in” data. See how the circularity works? SDM doesn’t need to explain “funding potential of infrastructure adaptation projects” do we? It’s merely government speak for more taxes. And to what end?

Here’s another of the recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION 2: The Sea Level Rise Task Force recommends that the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners direct County administration to establish formal oversight, and dedicate sufficient resources and staffing to ensure implementation and update of the specific Climate Change Advisory Task Force (CCATF) recommendations.

Well there you go. Even though sea level rise will be negligible into the foreseeable future, based on real-time observed data, we taxpayers still need to dedicate sufficient resources and staffing to expend scarce tax dollars a non-issue.

It is time now to observe another human trait which is universal and infallible: the bureaucracy is expanding to meet the expanding needs of the bureaucracy. - French cliché.

SDM Says: Mr. Ruvin ought to concentrate on his real day job or voters ought to retire him outright.

PB: Early Budget Meeting Report

You want $20 Million for What?!?!

The council’s only real budget debate centered around an obscure section of the capital plan where the administration proposes future capital projects. Think of this as a kind of “wish list” for politicians trying to sway voters.

Vice Mayor John Dubois took issue with the arbitrary insertion of a $20 million line item for a new multi-purpose complex at Coral Reef Park. To give you an idea of the scale of such a project, note that the entire village hall complex cost a mere $12 million.

So what exactly are they planning for a park that already struggles to offer parking? According to Mayor Stanczyk, she needs a meeting room that can accommodate 65 people. Mr. Dubois suggested using the council chambers (capacity 90+), which costs nothing. SDM was able to find a rendering of Mrs. Stanczyk’s ideal building:

Taj

The fast spending Mayor Stanczyk was unswayed and clung to what amounts to her umpteenth grandiose but unplanned concept. Remember the parking garage/entertainment complex next to village hall? Or, her massive plans for Thalatta Estate? This mayor has never seen a spending project that doesn’t deserve a good fat dose of your tax dollars.

In the end, the council overrode Mayor Spendthrift and halved the project’s budget. Perhaps the next council will look more critically at foolish and wasteful self-aggrandizing monuments.

Time for a Police Review?

SDM can’t say that Mayor Stanczyk is not creative with the uses for your money. In a year where the village is “flush” according to FOSDMs, Mme. Mayor still thinks we have more to give. Last night, she proclaimed that the village needed a separate millage for the police department. Yes, you heard that right.

Why do we need such a thing? Well, she went on to say that during her time in office, police costs had risen from around $4.5 million per year to the current year projection of $7 million. She seemed to think the way to solve this challenge was to add more taxes. Remember, the $7 million figure could jump because the county hasn’t completed its negotiations with the PBA.

SDM checked our neighbor to the north and found that Pinecrest fields a force of 77 (including 32 full time officers) for a cost of $7.9 million. Palmetto Bay’s policing unit is comprised of 46 souls, 35 of which are full time officers.

SDM Says: The next council should establish a task force to see if Palmetto Bay is getting its money’s worth when it comes to police services. It looks to us like we’re getting about half the force we’re due for what we pay. And, please, dump the half-baked separate millage idea.

One more Stanczyk Tax Bites the Dust

SDM failed to notice an ordinance the Mayor put on the agenda for first reading that would have established a new tax in Palmetto Bay. She called it a “Solid Wast Franchise Fee,” which is a tax on your garbage and is especially aimed at commercial properties.

The rest of the council gave the proposal a moment of silence and it failed for lack of a motion.

SDM Says: The Mayor and her Manager wield their authority like a tax and spend wrecking ball. More employees, more unfunded projects, more taxes and more bad ideas…it is really time for a change.

Joan’s Gone

Apparently the rumors are flying about Councilwoman Joan Lindsay’s status given that her Palmetto Bay home is for sale. You can check out the listing here. It looks like a great place and given the nearly $1.5 million price tag, SDM has to wonder whether the Palmer situation really hurt her property values.

JL

SDM Says: The home looks great. Hope it sells fast and for a great price.

PB: Budget Quick Bites

My How You’ve Grown

During budget year 2004-2005, Palmetto Bay employed 15 people on a full-time basis and 11 people part-time.

For this upcoming budget year, Emperor…er…Village Manager Ron Williams is recommending 53 full-time staff and 38 part-time employees.

Ten years and our little village has more than tripled both its full-time and part-time staffing levels.

You almost have to go to Washington, DC to find that kind of out-of-control spending.

But, Your Recurring Revenues Are About The Same

If you take away the “Special Revenue Funds,” the revenue picture changed only slightly over the ten year period. Total revenue in 2003-2004 was $12,080,038 and in 2012-2013 (actual) the total was $13,704,657.

So, revenues rise by just under 12% but full-time employees grow by 353%. Now that’s a lean government!

The Fund Balance – a/k/a The Reserve – Drops by Almost $1 Million

Page 46 of the budget book shows that the village is proposing to reduce its reserve – called the “fund balance” – by $961,000.

And that’s how you pay for your new employees!

Governor’s Game: Who said that?

Palmetto Bay will hold its budget hearing tonight so we will have the chance to discuss the village manager’s empire buidling scheme later in the week. Today, we will let you play a little game of, who said that? Your choices are Charlie Crist, Democrat, or Rick Scott, Republican.

I’m pro-life. I’m pro-gun. I’m pro-family. And I’m pro-business.

You’re correct! Charlie Crist said that! Let’s try another one.

I’ll continue to fight for school choice and home schooling. Do I believe in accountability? You bet I do.

Wow, you really are smart, that was Charlie Crist again!

Speaking of President Obama:

I don’t agree with the guy on hardly anything he does…I mean, what they’re doing with health care right now is unbelievable.

You must be a political genius to get three in a row! Yes, that was also Charlie Crist. Now let’s see if you really are as good as you think you are.

I stand for limited government, fiscal responsibility, personal freedom, personal responsibility, so the Republican Party will support me.

Okay, that was a tricky one because it’s a Rick Scott quote. We’ll give you one last chance to redeem yourself.

It’s more important to promote a culture of life. What I mean by that is that I believe what we need to do is not change the law, but change hearts.

And the answer is…

You think you have it?

Charlie Crist.

SDM Says: One has to wonder how all those Democrats have so willingly jumped on the Crist bandwagon after considering how changeable he’s been on his core views. If elected, which Charlie Crist would Florida get anyway?

SDM Quick Bites: Budgets Edition

Palmetto Bay Budget Trick?

Over the past couple of years, SDM has written extensively (and has accepted guest posts) on the Palmetto Bay budget. One question always puzzled SDM: Why is it that the proposed budget seems to never get close to the actual figures? Which also leads to a corollary question: What is the tactical advantage of underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses?

On the first point, let’s look at the actual vs. budget numbers to see if there is anything amiss. Village Manager Ron Williams’ budget estimated that the final 2013-2014 budget will have total revenues of $19,327,329 but he only expects revenue to amount to $18,196,445. The major difference is in the Special Revenue Fund, but SDM couldn’t find a note as to why the Manager expects that fund to decrease by about $1.5 million.

On the expense side, the Manager is once again increasing the size of the village government. Three employees who were part-time last year look to be moving to full-time status in the coming budget year. For that reason and due to another optimistic capital outlay plan, the village’s total expenditures will rise from the final estimate for 2013-2013 amount of $18,004,739 to a projected budget amount for 2014-2015 of $22,934,195.  Interestingly, next year’s budgeted amount nearly matches last year’s budgeted expenditures even though the Manager couldn’t hit that target.

The answer to the second question above is that it always looks better to have more money at the end of the year, which incentivizes slow spending out of the capital account. In effect, the manager is using the capital account as a kind of reserve.

SDM Wonders: If the village is unable or unwilling to spend its capital budget, why should village taxpayers finance it? Maybe there’s a good reason to hold on to our money instead of investing it in infrastructure and projects.

School Employees Get Smacked By Obamacare

The Miami-Dade County School Board will hold its budget workshop today. As an update to an earlier post, SDM found these updates on the effect of the Affordable Care Act:

Initial actuarial projections for the 2014 calendar year indicated that healthcare costs would increase by approximately $59.20 million or 17%, inclusive of medical trend, as well as fees and plan design changes required by the Federal Affordable Care Act, if no other changes were made from the previous 2013 plan year. MDCPS Budget, 2014-2015 at p. 8-1. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

2009-2010 Actual Operating Expenses for MDCPS Self-insurance Fund: $167,293,664.

2014-2015 Projected Budget for MDCPS Self-insurance Fund: $360,275,258.

The difference between the costs in 2010 and 2015 are truly amazing and frightening. The MDCPS budget goes on to note that the district’s unions sat down with management and rejiggered the health plan so that the increases would be less, presumably by reducing the benefits in some creative fashion.

SDM Says: For some reason, local governments are maintaining a low profile when it comes to disclosing the effects of the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps they are rooting for its success so they can transfer their burden to that system…hmmm

 

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