South Dade Matters

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

Good night till it be morrow

After 640 posts since July 25, 2011, SDM has decided to hang up the pen. We began this blog for the purpose of shining a light on the malfeasance gripping Palmetto Bay. Over the years, we have also decided to opine on other doings affecting our neighborhood. You, dear readers, commented over 3,000 times and we enjoyed (almost) all of them.

The truth is that blogging is like having a demanding significant other: the claims on one’s time and energies never cease…until one closes up shop.

We hope that another intrepid soul will stand in our shoes and carry-on the battle. But for now, let us leave with you a final quotation that sums up our experience and our feelings today:

‘Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone—
And yet no farther than a wan-ton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.

I would I were thy bird.

Sweet, so would I,
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. [Exit above]

Romeo And Juliet Act 2, scene 2, 176–185

Why Xavier Suarez Should Not Run For Mayor

SDM likes Xavier Suarez as a politician  – sometimes.

Mr. Suarez is a sitting county commissioner and former mayor of the City of Miami where he endeared himself to regular folks while earning the well-deserved moniker of “Mayor Loco” from city hall insiders.

You see, Surarez is one of those people whose intellect makes him formidable and eccentric, often concurrently.

Take the latest example. Mr. Suarez touted in the media a short three weeks ago that he intended to push for a referendum to cap county salaries at $162,000. The Miami Herald reported Suarez as saying that “high salaries are a concrete example of needed government reform… “It’s partly symbolic…somebody has to shake up the bureaucracy.”

SDM couldn’t agree more with the last statement though a cap on salaries wouldn’t accomplish a bureaucratic shake up at the county. It would only make hiring top end officials more difficult.

And why $162,000? What is the magic in that number? Well, Suarez’s logic is that no county official should make more than a state supreme court justice. Huh?

SDM understands that Mr. Suarez is looking to shock the conscience but outside of a tiny portion of the legal community, who really knows what a state supreme court justice even does?

But the clincher that makes Mr. Suarez unfit for the mayor’s job is his lack of forethought on this uncooked idea. At yesterday’s county commission meeting, Suarez essentially admitted he didn’t do enough homework to put a referendum on the ballot.

SDM listened carefully to Mr. Suarez explain how much he learned about the difficulty of passing a referendum and our only response was, well duh? The public has been bitching – fairly – for years that the referendum process is fixed and Mr. Suarez is just finding this out now?

SDM Says: Being mayor of this county is a serious job and it would be tragic to place our community’s well-being into the hands of a person who acts without thinking as Mr. Suarez is wont to do. We prefer Mr. Suarez to remain on the commission and to continue to be a pain in the bureaucrats’ backside…and, we prefer that he prepare himself so as not to look loco.

Miami-Dade County’s New Unisex Restroom Policy

Yesterday’s post received some outraged comments so we decided to dig even deeper to see why Representative Frank Artiles is proposing a reasonable law to prohibit Miami-Dade County’s unisex restroom policy.

At the start, let us state for the record that we support most of Miami-Dade’s strong laws against discrimination. We as a society should not countenance discrimination based on race, religion, gender, etc., when it comes to employment, housing, admittance to restaurants, and lots of other issues.

However, we happen to disagree with the county’s decision to force public accommodations to operate unisex bathrooms, which is the effect of the ordinance adopted last December. Let us explain.

Public accommodations under the county code include the following:

Places of public accommodations shall mean any establishment, service, place or building which offers, sells or otherwise makes available to the public any good, service, facility, privilege or advantage. Each of the following establishments which services the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this article:

(a) An inn, hotel, motel or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five (5) rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;
(b) A restaurant, bar or other establishment serving food or drink;
(c) A motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment;
(d) An auditorium, convention center, lecture hall or other place of public gathering.
(e) A bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;
(f) A laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital or other service establishment;
(g) A terminal, depot or other station used for specified public transportation including but not limited to taxis, limousines and buses.
(h) A museum, library, gallery or other place of public display or collection;
(i) A park, zoo, amusement park or other place of recreation;
(j) A nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;
(k) A day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency or other social service center establishment; and
(l) A gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.
(m) Any area or structure provided for the purpose of storing personal property.
(n) Gas station retailers. For purposes of this article, “gas station retailer” shall mean any full service gasoline station; or any self-service gasoline station that has two or more attendants on duty at any given time during the hours the station is open for business to the public.
(o) A gasoline station. For purposes of this article, “gas station” shall mean that portion of property where flammable and combustible liquids used as motor fuels are stored and subsequently dispensed from fixed, approved dispensing equipment into fuel tanks of motor vehicles by any person.

Section 11(A)(20) Miami-Dade County Code of Ordinances

As you can see, the definition of a public accommodation is pretty broad and we would argue that it covers everything that is not specifically and narrowly exempted, such as certain religious facilities. (An example might be that a mosque could have separate bathrooms for men and women and not be required to allow transgender persons to choose the restroom he or she prefers.)

Anyone who operates one of the public accommodations described above who is not specifically exempted must adhere to the following or face prosecution by the county under its police power:

It shall be an unlawful practice for any person to engage in any of the following acts because of the race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, marital status, familial status, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation of any individual or of any person associated with that individual:

(1) To refuse, withhold or deny to a person any services, access, advantages, goods, facilities or privileges of a public accommodation including the extension of credit; or
(2) To publish, circulate, issue, display, post or mail any communication, notice or advertisement to the effect that accommodations, services, goods, advantages, facilities or privileges of a public accommodation shall be refused, withheld or denied to a person or that the patronage of such person is unwelcome, objectionable, or unacceptable; or

(4) To segregate any public accommodation except where such segregation is caused by barriers to accessibility which are not required to be eliminated through reasonable accommodation.

Section 11(A)(19) Miami-Dade County Code of Ordinances. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

Taken together, SDM reads the county code as meaning that anyone operating a public accommodation, including all of its services (e.g. restrooms) may not deny access to a facility on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. So what do these terms mean?

(12) Gender identity shall mean a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate).
(13) Gender expression shall mean all of the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another.

Thus, a person may dress like a man and have an “innate, deeply felt psychological identification” as a woman or some other gender and be able to step into a ladies’ bathroom at the Children’s Museum and nobody could say boo about it.

Note that this concept of “innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth” is not temporally bounded.

A guy caught in the ladies room at Coral Reef Park could say to a police officer that he felt like a woman at the time he walked in and no court in this county could do otherwise but dismiss an infraction.

In fact, it may be illegal to have separate restrooms for men and women because these separate facilities constitute segregating the public accommodation based on gender identity and/or expression! Maybe SDM should file a lawsuit against the village for having segregated restrooms at village hall. Hmmm…

[Late afternoon edit: The Florida Building Code requires public and private structures to be built with both men’s and women’s restrooms so it doesn’t look like Miami-Dade can outlaw them.]

SDM Wonders: Did commissioners (with the notable exceptions of Bovo, Diaz and Zapata who voted no) really understand what they were doing when they adopted this new de facto unisex bathroom policy? Or were they too busy clapping each other on the back for being sensitive and politically correct?

SDM Says: The more we look into this travesty, the more we support Representative Artiles and his proposed law. See the post yesterday on this subject by clicking here.

Who’s In That Stall Next To Your Granddaughter?

SDM read this alarming headline in the Miami Herald last week: “Proposed law would limit transgender protections throughout Florida.” Wow, that sounded pretty terrible, but what we found was that the Herald’s headline mis-tells the tale.

It happens that South Dade State Representative Frank Artiles – a former Marine and father of two daughters – proposed what seems to SDM to be a pretty sensible law:

Single-Sex Public Facilities: Requires that use of single-sex facilities be restricted to persons of sex for which facility is designated; prohibits knowingly and willfully entering single-sex public facility designated for or restricted to persons of other biological sex; provides exemptions; provides private cause of action against violators; provides for preemption.

The rub is that a person who may be of one biological sex might desire to enter a public restroom of the other biological sex. See the problem?

According to activists for transgender persons, such a limitation discriminates against them because they want to be able to enter whichever restroom suits them.

So the other day, SDM was cooing over a newly arrived granddaughter and wondering what to do when she wants to be a big girl and go to the lady’s room on her own? (Of course, this assumes that this little angel’s other grandparent would even permit such an act of independence in the first place, but we digress.)

The question that struck SDM must also have struck Mr. Artiles whose busy schedule keeps him from hovering over his little ones. He, like we, ask: who is in the stall next to our little girls?

Surely, one should be able to feel comfortable that persons who share our children’s biological sex would be the same persons sharing such a private place as a restroom, no?

Or, has the notion that our children have a right to some kind of gender privacy become something that old fuddy duddies like SDM harbor like memories of dinners where nobody texts at the table?

SDM Says: Representative Artiles has our support on this issue. At the end of the day, no matter how we might liberalize our thinking about accepting people, we have to draw the line somewhere. Mr. Artiles has picked the right place to start pushing back against political correctness gone mad.


SDM’s 3 Reasons for Bush-Rubio 2016

SDM knows that there has never been a President from Florida, which is a little shocking considering that the other large states are all represented on multiple occasions: California (Hoover, Nixon and Reagan); New York (Van Buren, Fillmore, Arthur, Cleveland, T. Roosevelt and FDR); Texas (Johnson, G.H.W Bush and G.W. Bush).  Thus, we think it’s time for Florida to be represented in the White House.

We also think that Jeb Bush is Florida’s best chance, though we know Marco Rubio belongs on the national stage, too. So, despite the age-old “balanced ticket” argument of picking nominees from different regions, we think 2016 is the year to pick a ticket from Florida balanced by ideology, ethnicity and age instead. Here’s why.

  1. For some reason, there is national consensus among the self-styled conservative wing of the Republican Party that Jeb Bush is not sufficiently conservative. (We think this is a bunch of demonstrably false hoo ha, but we’ll assume it for the moment.) What better way to “balance” the ticket than for Jeb to pick Marco as his running mate? While both are at odds with the hard right on immigration, Marco more than makes up for that problem with his perceived tea party roots.
  2. A Bush-Rubio ticket could attract ethnic Hispanic voters or at least those who are attracted to the idea of electing the first person of Latin heritage to national office. It can only help that both Bush and Rubio have broken from the hard right in support of a fix to the nation’s immigration mess. Imagine Bush and Rubio working Spanish television and radio stations across the country, actually speaking the language of those outlets.
  3. While certainly not old by presidential standards, Bush would benefit by having the youthful Rubio available to appeal to younger, more Libertarian voters who self-identify as Independents but who also populate the Republicans and the Democrats.

Bush and Rubio have already worked closely together when Jeb was Governor and Marco was Speaker of the House. Perhaps more importantly, both are men of ideas and believe in the power of persuasion. While they may get in the door with Hispanic voters because of their language abilities and personal histories, each will attempt to earn the vote based on his belief in a core set of understandable and applicable principles.

The largest argument against such a ticket is that we can’t put two people from the same state on a modern presidential ticket. To that SDM Says, hogwash. In fact, Marco is from Miami, which is really a separate country, so balance dat!

PB: End of an Era

This blog regularly criticized Village Manager Ron Williams though we tried to do so in a spirit of advocacy and not of malice. Our opposition was never personal; Mr. Williams is widely regarded – rightly – as a gentleman of integrity.

Our opposition was rooted in a policy disagreement. Namely, Mr. Williams grew Palmetto Bay’s bureaucracy perpetually, whether the revenue winds blew hard or weak and, for most of his tenure, with little opposition from the village council.

So, when the council took his growth of government mantra to heart and added unnecessary employees to the village police department, Mr. Williams shrugged it off. What could he say, after all, when his own policy was to bring seemingly every activity in-house and to add staff nearly every year? Not much as it turned out.

Nevertheless, we wish Mr. Williams well in his retirement and not because we are glad to see him go, but because he served the village faithfully and without rancor for its entire existence. He leaves behind not a whiff of unseemly behavior and with his sterling reputation intact.

On Wednesday night, the village council will name Building Department Director Ed Silva as a caretaker while they belatedly search for a new manager. One might ask why we ended up needing a caretaker when Mr. Williams’ intentions were pretty clear all the way back in October of last year, but why scratch at an old wound?

(Maybe everyone thinks Mr. Williams is a glutton for punishment and would have stuck around if Mrs. Stanczyk was re-elected? :) )

SDM has only one objection to the council’s plan of naming Mr. Silva: why shouldn’t he be able to apply for the job himself? Mr. Silva exerted more Director-level leadership in this village than any other person we can think of. Why leave him out of the mix now that he has a chance to show his wares?

SDM Says: We believe there are several good candidates out there for this village to interview but the council should be looking to poach the best talent available. Avoid hiring a search firm that will merely bring us the retreads. Don’t waste too much time looking at candidates outside Florida, either. Oh, and let Mr. Silva apply. He’s earned the chance.

Should Palmetto Bay blindly support the school district’s legislative agenda?

Okay, sure, SDM has been on a hiatus. Writing all the time is not easy and we aren’t as regularly offended as some other bloggers.

What does get our blood boiling, though, are requests by vested interests to support issues nobody has read.

SDM is a supporter of Karyn Cunningham – not “was,” yet – whose job is to lobby the legislature on behalf of teachers. Hers is an honorable profession, but we disagree that Palmetto Bay’s representatives should be jumping on the district’s lengthy bandwagon. A couple of examples…

  • Did you know that Ms. Cunningham is asking her colleagues to change the number of appeals you may request if you decide to challenge your valuation before the value adjustment board? If the district gets its way, you will be granted only one rescheduling of your appeal and only upon showing of good cause, which is probably not that your child got sick or you got sent out of town for your job.
  • Ms. Cunningham is advocating that “accountability consequences” be suspended for an additional year. Hmmm… Why would we as parents want to get rid of accountability consequences AGAIN? Wouldn’t that just mean that there are no accountability consequences?
  • Here’s one that always bugs SDM: “Oppose any diversion of Local Discretionary Capital Outlay levy revenue from traditional public schools to charter schools.” Would you be surprised to know that our local district does not spend its Local Discretionary Capital Outlay levy on capital costs? In fact, it spends most of this revenue on paying janitors and property insurance premiums while the schools crumble.
  • Ms. Cunningham is also advocating that charter schools be limited in their ability to compete with the district’s schools. Check out this one: “Allow districts with charter school enrollment exceeding 15 percent to limit approvals of charter school applications through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to locate in areas of highest need or through the formulation of district/charter collaborations.” Let SDM translate: Charter schools are eating our lunch and we need to either ban them or control them. Do you support this idea Mr. or Mrs. Councilmember, and why? (P.S. The entire charter school section is junk and is solely designed to eliminate competition.)
  • In the funding section, Ms. Cunningham appears to support increasing the sales tax by eliminating exemptions. Does the council support raising taxes?
  • And why would the village council want to interfere with an injured person’s ability to receive compensation if he or she is hurt by a public employee, facility or vehicle? If the council does in fact want to oppose changes to the state’s sovereign immunity caps, then perhaps that should be fully vetted at a public hearing first.

SDM Says: We just did a cursory review of the topics we understand (much of the district’s legislative proposal is written in bureaucratic jargon) and we identified several proposals that jump out as facially controversial and inappropriate for a village to endorse. We hope our village officials will either pass on the opportunity to support this agenda or at the very least discuss each and every one to make sure they understand it.


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