South Dade Matters

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

Category: Palmetto Bay

PB: It’s Official – Lindsay’s Out

The Miami Herald reports that Councilwoman Joan Lindsay – perhaps the most controversial figure to occupy public office in Palmetto Bay’s short history – will not seek re-election in November.

As she departs on her travels, she leaves a dubious legacy for the next village council to clean up:

  • A community divided over her relentless attacks on Palmer Trinity School;
  • As many as three separate (and possibly more) lawsuits for the village to defend;
  • A neighborhood protection ordinance and charter provision that will plague Palmetto Bay for as long as they remain on the books; and
  • Numerous amendments to the village code lying dormant like so many computer viruses just waiting to be activated and unleashed on unsuspecting property owners.

On the one hand, we wish Mrs. Lindsay all the best and thank her for agreeing to serve the village. No one should understate how difficult and time-consuming public service can be.

On the other hand, SDM would have liked to see Mrs. Lindsay apply her talents in a more constructive fashion. She, of course, would take umbrage at our characterization of her legislative history.

SDM Says: History will decide if her efforts to “protect neighborhoods” were more about whipping up a public frenzy or were well-founded and implemented in good faith.

+++

Message to Eye on Miami readers: SDM will be taking a look at the development plans for the Palmetto Bay Village Center (a.k.a., the old Burger King Property) before they come up for a vote next time. We thought the objections to the plan were over-the-top given its scope, but we understand our duty here and will review the concept as objectively as we can.

PB: Tangled Web Edition

Have any of you been following the Michael Pizzi trial? Pizzi is the former Mayor of Miami Lakes and Medley Town Attorney who was accused of taking bribes in a government sting operation.

Corruption in politics rarely rates a review in SDM given how commonplace it has become in the Magic City, but this particular trial has a Palmetto Bay connection.

Most readers may not be aware, but one of the key players in the sting was Palmetto Bay resident Michael Kesti. Kesti was a registered lobbyist in Palmetto Bay in 2009, 2010 and 2012 – years that coincide with the time the sting began, according to the Miami Herald:

The FBI sting operation was launched in the summer of 2011 after public-corruption agents retained Miami-Dade lobbyist Michael Kesti as an informant. Kesti, who would be paid $114,000 in fees and expenses including a rented Lexus, told the FBI there were several corrupt lobbyists and politicians in the county.

The lobbyist tapped by Kesti to do the dirty work in Miami Lakes and Sweetwater, Richard Candia, was also a registered lobbyist in Palmetto Bay in 2011, when he represented Ygrene’s Pace Program. Around that time, SDM ran our yappers about the project in a post titled “Former Councilman Feller to Municipalities: Wake Up!”

SDM Wonders: Did Kesti cross paths with Candia while he was wandering around Palmetto Bay Village Hall communicating with “elected officials, the Manager and others regarding procurement”?

SDM Also Wonders: Was Kesti thinking of any Palmetto Bay officials when he alleged, according to the Herald, that “there were several corrupt lobbyists and politicians in the county”?

PB and MDC: This and That

Bell v. Levine Cava

SDM’s commentary on the mailer war between Commissioner Lynda Bell and challenger Daniella Levine Cava elicited an interesting set of comments, which leads SDM to philosophize…

One of the commenters said they couldn’t wait to get this race over with and we agree. The choice is not very appealing: a confirmed liberal who will surely be the swing vote to raise taxes or a confirmed vote against more taxes along with some really disturbing ethical questions. Hmmm… what to do.

Another commenter challenged SDM to look at what the candidates intend to do while in office, rather than at what their histories show us. SDM declines.

What a candidate will do in office can be better divined (to the extent it can be divined) by looking at her record. Levine Cava is what she is and SDM doubts she would deny our characterization. She has run for many years an organization that assists the transfer of money from taxpayers to those her organization claims are in need.

That organization, Catalyst Miami, recently organized like-minded groups and entities to protest any cuts to social service funding, despite knowing that many of the recipients provide overlapping services and that many organizations are spending government money on staff instead of direct assistance.

SDM Wonders: What would make anyone think she will be a guardian of public funds with such a track record?

We have written extensively on Commissioner Bell in these pages. We did so before she had any opponents and we were and are critical of her record.

We know we can expect more cronyism from her. She will continue to self-aggrandize as when she named a public facility after her mother. We also know she will be a vote to contain spending and will at least be somewhat vigilant when it comes to union abuses. Will she make South Dade proud? Nope. Will she get in trouble in her next term? Probably.

SDM Says: Our choice stinks this time around, which means SDM will end up voting our pocketbooks.

James A. Shedd, Palmetto Bay Seat 3

SDM is still trying to figure this guy out. Since he filed, we have learned that he served our country in Vietnam and as a DEA officer for over 30 years. SDM thanks you for your service.

Shedd, according to his bio on this website, wants to increase police presence in Palmetto Bay. Ruh, ro Shaggy.

Perhaps Mr. Shedd hasn’t been paying attention, but Palmetto Bay has already hired at least two (and probably more) extra officers who weren’t requested by the department head. Perhaps Mr. Shedd intends to use existing resources better instead of just pandering to the union…we will see.

Mr. Shedd also put this phrase into his bio, which caused us some concern about potential code words: Make Preserving and Protecting Our Quality of Life a Top Priority. Note all the capital letters? He must mean it. :)

Look, we get it. Palmetto Bay is under constant siege from the forces of evil. So we need more cops and fewer wicked developers. But we sure hope Mr. Shedd is not saying he wants more “neighborhood protection” ordinances that will help us find ourselves once again in the Dade County courthouse.

We noticed that former Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick donated to Mr. Shedd’s campaign. What that tells us, we don’t know, but it’s interesting that a neighboring city leader thinks highly enough to contribute to him.

(Just don’t come around lobbing anyone if Shedd wins, Mayor Slesnick. If you do, you will find out the hard way that we don’t take kindly to contributors exercising their free speech rights here in Palmetto Bay!)

SDM Says: We don’t know where we are going with Seat 3 yet.  Please, candidates, tell us more about your philosophy since we can’t look at your track records and, candidly, know nothing about you.

PB: Quick Bites

Land Use Meeting Goes Awry

SDM couldn’t bear to watch the July 21 meeting, though we tuned in for snippets thinking at some point the main event would begin.

But no…instead of finally resolving Palmer Trinity, we were treated to chaos over the Palmetto Bay Village Center. SDM doesn’t know how or why Palmer’s hearing got sidetracked, but we know who wanted the issue to get bogged down once again.

Therefore, we suspect the usual suspects.

SDM Says: It’s really too bad Palmetto Bay’s election is in November instead of next month. Our relief is tantalizingly close but still over the horizon.

Rumors Running Rampant Regarding Retirement

Sitting Village Councilwoman and moving target Joan Lindsay still has not filed to run for re-election, which is causing speculation all over town as to why.

One SDM commenter floated a rumor that Ms. Lindsay is moving out of town. Others have let fly much less charitable explanations that you did not see and will not see printed here without real evidence.

Whatever the truth is, Mrs. Lindsay has three announced candidates in the race for Seat 3 and SDM thinks at least two of them will stay in regardless of what Lindsay does.

Seat 3 is Getting Crowded

Since our last election update, perennial council public speaker Henry Clifford has joined the race for Seat 3 to succeed Joan Lindsay.

Mr. Clifford is well known to be one of the usual suspects, a CCOCI guy, etc. He hasn’t filed any campaign reports so SDM can’t say whether he will be a serious candidate.

Both Larissa Siegel Lara and James Shedd are showing respectable cash supplies for this early in the campaign so we should expect some fireworks in this now competitive race.

Mayor’s Race: Stanczyk Finally Gets a Contribution – One Contribution!

In the Mayor’s race, the news continues to be bizarre. Sitting Mayor Shelley Stanczyk – the incumbent, with all the trappings of office – finally, in her FOURTH campaign report – disclosed a single $99 campaign contribution. That’s it. Ninety-nine bucks.

Oh and she put in $4,000 of her own money, so now she has about the same cash available as Patrick Fiore…call it about 4 grand apiece. Not a good reporting cycle for the two incumbents…not good at all.

The real mayoral candidates continue to report good numbers: Peter England has about $13,000 on hand and Eugene Flinn, about $10,000, most of which he loaned himself…better step it up!.

Seat 1: The Powers Collide

Karyn Cunningham is motoring along as if she’s done this before. (She has, in fact, done this before and it shows.) Cunningham can be seen most days tooling around town in her convertible while she sits on around $25,000 that will no doubt be unleashed in the last 30 – 60 days of the campaign. If you don’t know all of David Zisman’s foibles by now, you will surely know them by November.

Not to be outdone, David Zisman is sitting on about $26,000 and will be ready to fire back in kind. He too can be seen most days behind the wheel of his golf cart with a gorgeous, bubbly blond who we presume is his spouse (we’re kind of crusty old farts about stuff like that).  In any case, Given Mr. Zisman’s proclivity to incivility at  council meetings, we expect vitriol in the extreme coming from his camp November.

SDM Says: Election 2014 will be a wild ride in November so get your popcorn ready.

PB Guest Post by David Singer

The end of a disaster

Over the past six years there have been individuals on this council and in our community who have lectured on the importance of citizen’s rights. These same individuals have held themselves out to be honorable, respectable and trustworthy leaders of the Village of Palmetto Bay. These are the same individuals who maintain they know what Palmetto Bay residents yearn for when it comes to “quality of life”. These are also the same individuals who have stated time and time again they know what’s best for the Village of Palmetto Bay. They are the ones who say “follow me, I will lead you”.

What if tomorrow Palmetto Bay residents actually woke up and found out that these individuals are not who they pretend to be? What if as a community we finally realized that these individuals who were placed in power, whether it’s Mayor Stanczyk, certain council members including Joan Lindsay or a spouse of an elected official, believe they are due an entitlement at the expense of the community? That these individuals have held certain Palmetto Bay institutions to a higher standard then they hold for themselves? That these individuals will bend the truth at every available moment and discriminate against anyone who does not agree with their political agenda? That these individuals believe that laws and rules don’t apply to them? That these individuals have passed zoning laws for the benefit of a small minority of residents because they truly believe in the motto “do what I say, not what I do”?

So here we finally are, remedying an injustice that was perpetrated on Palmer Trinity for the last 6 years. Of course this same group I refer to do not believe that Palmer Trinity should be considered a member of our community. They actually feel that anyone or any institution other than taxpaying residents should not have the same rights as they have. They feel that wasting over a million dollars to stop the expansion of Palmer Trinity was justified when the Village is basically approving the same exact expansion plans they should have approved four years ago.

Presently, there is no legal reason to not approve Palmer Trinity’s site plan and if not approved will certainly bring more litigation to the village. I understand that there are certain residents who would like nothing better than delay or stop approval but these are the same individuals who have cost this Village dearly over the past six years.

So it’s time to put our sordid little past behind us. It’s time to approve Palmer Trinity’s site plan and move on. It’s time to move on and focus on actually improving the quality of life in Palmetto Bay. It’s time to move on to insure our Village is not bankrupt within the next five years. It’s time to move on and make sure our parks are run efficiently, time to move and make sure our tax dollars are being spent wisely, time to move on and elect the best representatives we can to embody what this Village actually stands for.

It’s time to stop the nonsense and begin a new and respectable history for the Village of Palmetto Bay.

David Singer

PB: What’s up with the mosquitos?

We’ve lived in South Florida long enough to know that this is mosquito season and there’s no getting around it.

But we’ve also lived here long enough to remember seeing mosquito spraying trucks cruising through the neighborhoods late at night killing off the little buggers.

What ever happened to the mosquito sprayers?

For the past few weeks, one can’t even go outside for a minute without being attacked. Meanwhile, our elected officials in Palmetto Bay dither over barking dogs.

Here’s SDM’s idea for the village people: Instead of paying for a July 4th celebration for a few, pay for mosquito spraying for all of us.

 

PB: Levine Cava and Stanczyk Agree (Watch Out)

Okay, so SDM has been a little absent for a week or so; to paraphrase the words of a certain elected official, so sue us!

Seriously, the SDM crew took off for the holiday and left the blogging alone. Of course, once we got back to the real world, life and business were waiting to be managed so our dereliction of duty has continued into this week. We’d apologize but, according to Palmetto Bay’s Mayor, nobody reads this blog anyway.

Nevertheless, we will begin our commentary on the July 7th village council meeting with an observation about Mme. Mayor and candidate for county commission, Daniella Levine Cava.

Ms. Levine Cava was granted an unusual two-fer at the council meeting when she was granted double opportunities to address the council during public comments. Her first comments were a fawning congratulations for the village fireworks giveaway…er, extravaganza. Ms. Levine Cava noted that one of her campaign staffers won the hot dog eating contest by consuming 10 of the buggers.

But it was the second commentary (Are you reading this, Mr. Singer? You are now allowed to speak twice in public comments!) that caught our attention. Ms. Levine Cava stated her support for Mayor Stanczyk’s resolution urging the county commission to fully fund the pet’s trust.

The reality is that a Village of Palmetto Bay resolution to the county commission urging them to spend money is an exercise in pandering. Anyone who is following the budget discussions at the county knows that they are facing a $64 million deficit and are planning to close a golf course, cut jobs and generally give everyone over there a well-deserved haircut.

So where, pray tell, will Ms. Levine Cava find the ten or so million necessary to meet all of the alleged demands of the voters who approved the pet’s trust?

Well, let SDM tell you. The county commission can balance the budget using its collected tax revenue at the current tax rates, or, it can increase one or more of the rates to generate additional money.

If the commission chooses to keep rates flat, which is what Mayor Gimenez has recommended, then the commission must take money from one part of the budget to pay for the pet’s trust spending.

The old saying rings true here: Money doesn’t grow on trees.

SDM Wonders: Do Ms. Levine Cava and Mrs. Stanczyk support raising the county tax rates? Or, will they suggest ideas of which departments should bear cuts sufficient to pay the costs of the pet’s trust? Or, maybe they want to increase the fees charged to those who rescue the animals or on those damned dog licenses?

Free advice from SDM to Ms. Levine Cava: Think carefully before you agree with the pandering mayor of this little village. She rarely thinks these things through.

PB Election Update: Games People Play

The Village of Palmetto Bay election just got more interesting.

A new entrant filed for the district three seat currently occupied by Councilwoman Joan Lindsay. Joining unknown candidate James Shedd (Watch out Jimmy, Stanczyk is probably cooking up a special “Shedd” ordinance just for you!) in the race is first-time candidate Larissa Siegel Lara. SDM found a photo online (hope it’s you, Ms. Lara):

LSL

Ms. Lara’s campaign issues are phrased as if they were written by a long-time executive, which she was. She claims in her bio to have had 17-year career at Burger King as VP for Management and Training. Lara was educated as an engineer. According to her democracy.com website post:

The day she takes office, Larissa will hit the ground running. She will provide leadership to build a council that is collaborative and focused on building Palmetto Bay for all residents.  Her skills and decision-making capabilities will be focused on building consensus on the future of the Village.

She will lead the charge to formulate a viable long-term plan for the Village, including goals, fiscal infrastructure, and sound human resources.  The plan will consider both the revenues and expenditures to sustain and improve Village services that benefit our community. By balancing time, money, and people, the Village can develop the appropriate support system to create a better future and long-term services for Village residents.

Hard to argue, but we will want to hear more!

SDM Says: We are fascinated by the game Councilwoman Lindsay’s is playing. Is she running or not? Most sane politicians don’t wait so long that the race fills up with opponents. Ms. Lindsay may find herself in deep do-do if she relies on CCOCI to get her re-elected, especially when she is facing another woman who looks to have solid credentials.

PB: Guest Post by David Singer (With SDM Comments)

The good guys actually achieved a well-deserved win during Monday’s [June 23, 2014] special council meeting when Councilmen Patrick Fiore, Tim Schaffer and John Dubois, voted down what could have been a disaster for Village residents, Churches, Private Schools and Daycares within Palmetto Bay.

It was a grueling experience watching the Monday’s council meeting, but with the exception of Mayor Stanczyk the remaining Council members attempted to reach a compromise on the Charter Amendment. This amendment would have eliminated all outdoor lighting for non-governmental, non-residential or non-commercially zoned properties.

[SDM Comment: We disagree with Mr. Singer's characterization. The proposed charter amendment would have prohibited outdoor lighting of recreational areas (except underwater swimming pool lights) owned by religious institutions, child care facilities, private schools,  and other non-governmental public assemblies located in residentially zoning districts.  We agree that the idea is crazy and will cover lots more lighting than we were told.]

During the meeting the Village Zoning Director confirmed my suspicions that if the amendment had passed it would prohibit all lighting; basketball, tennis, ground, pathway, landscaping, etc. The amendment would supersede any prior Village Ordinance.

[SDM Comment: Mr. Singer is hitting on why this measure and the code provision are so misguided. We've asked before: Does this mean a private school's pool could not have outdoor lights for the pool deck, stairways and pathways leading to it? Is everyone supposed to bring a flashlight? Why allow the underwater lighting in the first place if it cannot be used in any practical sense?]

Unfortunately, as we heard from Mayor Stanczyk the battle is far from over. After the vote was finalized she could be heard saying “We’ll Walk”. I would assume by her comment that she will lead various sullen individuals in an initiative to collect enough signatures to place the Charter Amendment on November’s ballot. Not exactly the Mayor’s responsibility to undermine the governmental process she’s been sworn to uphold, but then again she’s hasn’t shown herself to be very ethical while in office.

[SDM Comment: If you walk away, walk away, walk away, walk away… [SDM won't] follow.]

Maybe if the Mayor spent the time researching various municipalities within Miami-Dade County she would have found there are 19 cities, 6 towns and 9 villages for a total of 34 separate municipalities. These municipalities, along with Unincorporated Miami-Dade, represent 2.6 million residents.

[SDM Comment: What? Me? Do research? I'll tell you what you can do with your stinking research!]

None of the municipalities, including Unincorporated Miami-Dade County have their lighting code defined or guided by a City Charter. It’s just not standard or appropriate.

Could there be something that all the other Municipalities in Miami Dade County know that our Council doesn’t? Could what the Mayor is trying to pass be unconstitutional? Could it lead to more lawsuits for the Village of Palmetto Bay? Could the residents be footing the bill for more legal fees? Isn’t eight years of litigation enough?

What is really driving this venture into unknown and potentially very expensive territory?

Well for one thing, there is the location of Councilwoman Joan Lindsay’s home. Her house is approximately 100 feet away from the Palmer Trinity property line. Joan Lindsay was an original director, president and vice-president of the Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler, Inc. (CCOCI) for years. She has a serious conflict of interest and ethically shouldn’t even be voting on any issues related to Palmer Trinity.

[SDM Comment: This here would be an appearance of a conflict of interest, though not legally a conflict. Just FYI.]

There is also the fact that The Village of Palmetto Bay has spent over a million dollars in legal fees fighting Joan Lindsay’s and the CCOCI’s war against Palmer Trinity, which they would love to continue. Mayor Stanczyk, Joan Lindsay and the CCOCI all know that the Charter change will bring more litigation to the Village.

Unfortunately, we as residents have all experienced a history of Mayor Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay spending taxpayer’s money for Palmer Trinity litigation.

Simply put, all the Churches, Schools and residents in the Village have become collateral damage in a war that has nothing to do with us. Our hard earned tax dollars have become collateral damage. The Real Estate rights of Churches and Schools have become collateral damage, as seen by what happened to Alexander Montessori School when they wanted to expand. Alexander Montessori School has lost thousands of dollars in revenue due to a war which is raging between Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay and Palmer Trinity.

The passing of this Charter Amendment will commence a cycle of new litigation but this time it just won’t be with Palmer Trinity. It will be with the various churches and other educational institutions in the Village.

There are both Federal and State laws which prohibit the type of action the Mayor and Councilwoman are attempting. The Village Attorney has stated on record that this Charter Amendment could bring future litigation.

[SDM Comment: Mr. Singer is being a little misleading here and you know we can't stand such effrontery. The Village Attorney is quite comfortable that the proposed charter amendment was constitutional and permissible under RLUIPA and other statutes. He noted that anyone can sue, but he was clear that he believed such suits would not prevail, though he also stated such suits would not be frivolous. We're not sure Mr. Lehtinen is correct with respect to the level of scrutiny applied to the question: he says strict scrutiny would not apply, where we think it would under RLUIPA's statutory scheme. Anyone attempting to sue has a hard road, regardless.]

If anyone were to question the likelihood of future litigation please look no further than The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. When filed it will takes years to resolve, just as the Palmer litigation has taken years to resolve.

If asked to sign a petition respectfully decline and warn all your friends and neighbors who live in Palmetto Bay not to sign. If the petitioner tells you it’s about stadium lighting don’t believe them as they are not being honest. The Charter Amendment they are attempting to pass is written to prohibit all lighting at institutions which should be respected not discriminated against by the Village of Palmetto Bay.

[SDM Says: Right on!]

David Singer

PB: Stanczyk – And the mob will rule…or maybe not

Palmetto Bay’s village council took up a controversial measure proposed by Mayor Shelley Stanczyk on June 23rd, which would prohibit by charter any form of lighting to be installed on religious facilities, daycare centers, private schools and other nonpublic facilities.

Immediately upon her measure losing – even after a heroic effort by Councilman Patrick Fiore and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay to find a compromise – Mme. Mayor Stanczyk’s true reason for pushing the measure surfaced. After the vote went down 3 to 2, “we’ll walk it,” she said.

There you go. Incumbent Mayor Stanczyk, who has so far failed to report a single contribution for her re-election, has a re-election strategy of walking door-to-door to scare the public in person. We can only imagine what Mme. Mayor and her minions intend to say to the village people as they canvass unsuspecting residents.

We have sufficient reason for trepidation given the Mayor’s long questionable history regarding telling the truth to those who may wish to vote for her.

In a very recent effort, Concerned Citizens Of Cutler Inc. and Mrs. Stanczyk told hundreds if not thousands of residents that Palmer Trinity wanted to install “stadium lighting” on its athletic fields. This lie is most egregious since Mrs. Stanczyk knows that the code does not permit such lighting and would never be approved by a village council.

What also troubles us is the mob mentality that permeates village politics. Mrs. Lindsay and Mrs. Stanczyk claim that the village charter is the people’s document. Implicit in their statement is an acknowledgment that schools like Palmer Trinity are somehow excluded from the charter because of their non-person or non-taxable status (as former candidate Bev Gerald and village gadfly Warren Lovely shamelessly remind us at every meeting).

Mrs. Lindsay and Mrs. Stanczyk endorse the majority’s ability to legislate away the property rights of religious, nonpublic facilities. (If you doubt the master plan, note that both Mrs. Lindsay and Mrs. Stanczyk parroted the line that “hundreds of people sent emails” against the red herring stadium lights. Not much of a big deal given that the village has thousands of residents, but plenty for the purpose of scaring those who fail to pay attention to what’s really going on.)

Fortunately, three courageous members of the council (Mr. Fiore, Mr. Dubois and Mr. Schaffer) decided against placing on the ballot Mrs. Stanczyk’s divisive and politically motivated charter proposal.

SDM Says: Which leaves the decision up to us… If you think we should be zoning by charter and that we ought to create second class property owners based on religious or nonpublic status, then by all means open your door to Mayor Stanczyk. No doubt she will leave her re-election literature with you, too. However, if you think our village is being drawn once again into a state of perpetual strife, then you can tell Mrs. Stanczyk that you disagree with her plan to further divide this village and that you will be looking for different leadership this fall. You can also tell her to leave our dogs alone.

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