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: What’s the deal Palmetto Bay News?

SDM is a loyal reader of Community Newspapers’ Palmetto Bay News – even though they never put any of them at the new Publix next to Home Depot. PBN was instrumental in keeping the future Village People up to date on the progress of the incorporation project.

Given the paper’s stellar history, SDM was left scratching our collective noggins by this story, which was also rebroadcast via email:

Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk received the prestigious William Lyman Phillips Award on Apr. 4 from the Miami- Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department in a ceremony conducted at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden during the Great Park Summit-2014.

The award is presented “for excellence in park, recreation and conservation open space planning and design in Miami-Dade County.” 

Now isn’t that nice? Our peripatetic mayor received an award for the parks we pay for! But something struck SDM while reading this little puff piece: why would the county give an award to an individual mayor and neglect the rest of the council? Well, as it turns out the county didn’t. Here is the news as reported by Kaptain Kreepy on the Palmetto Bay website:

PALMETTO BAY, FL, April 4, 2014 – On behalf of the Village of Palmetto Bay, Mayor Shelley Stanczyk (photo right) recently received the prestigious “William Lyman Phillips Award” at the Great Park Summit-2014. The award is presented annually by Miami-Dade County for excellence in park, recreation, and conservation and design. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

At least KK knows not to piss off the rest of the council and those forsaken fools, the taxpayers.

SDM Wonders: Has Mayor Stanczyk asked for a correction from PBN? She wouldn’t let such an oversight stand now would she?

Quick Bites: Money and Principles Edition

Palmetto Bay Campaign Reports

Not a lot to report on the campaign front, but some tidbits are hiding in the campaign reports.

  • Shelley Stanczyk and Patrick Fiore posted modest campaign numbers for their initial filings. Stanczyk mustered only one contribution – from herself! It’s not a good sign when a sitting elected mayor cannot even find one other person to open her campaign fund. Fiore managed four contributions and is leading on the money front early. Peter England and Eugene Flinn haven’t posted any reports yet.
  • Council candidate Karyn Cunningham is sitting on a healthy balance of more than $15,000 while her opponent David Zisman has a balance of more than $20,000. SDM expects this race to get ugly given Zisman’s uncivil past. Vice Mayor John Dubois contributed wine for a party in honor of Mr. Zisman’s campaign, which indicates he’s made a decision in this race. If the rumors about Mr. Zisman turn into fact, look for Dubois to hedge his bets with Cunningham.
  • Given Dubois’ support of Zisman, SDM can only scratch our collective pates at Cunningham’s largest expenditure last reporting period. She paid over $4,000 (some of which was for hard printing costs) to the Green Point Group, which managed Dubois’ campaign last cycle. Green Point Group is Jose Castillo’s consulting company that ran Lynda Bell’s surprisingly successful campaign for county commissioner. SDM Says: Money talks.

Soccer’s lights are dimming

The Miami Herald is spending much time on the back and forth over the David Beckham’s dream of a waterfront soccer stadium at Port Miami.

SDM is sympathetic to the allure of the bright lights that seem to accompany Mr. Beckham wherever he goes. Politicians and the local hoi polloi find his aura irresistible, so much so that they are seriously considering paralyzing Miami’s second largest economic engine.

Fortunately for those of us who wish to see an end to corporate welfare – especially, dumb corporate welfare – a serious and potentially devastating counter-puncher has appeared on the scene to stave off Mr. Beckham’s advances.

Miami’s own Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines seems to have rallied the port’s tenants into forming the “Miami Seaport Alliance,” which is designed to dim the soccer promoter’s klieg lights.

SDM Wonders: Isn’t it a little ironic that the Arison family’s company is a force behind killing off a downtown sports stadium?

SDM predicts that county commissioners will turn their backs to Mr. Beckham now that their regular supporters have awakened to the potential of a soccer nightmare at their doorstep. However, we don’t expect these masters of raiding public coffers to extend their outrage over this deal much past the port’s confines. A principled stand this is not.

PB: And then there were 4…or, one too many.

Palmetto Bay’s election transformed from a desert to an oasis of options last week when two new (at least new to this election cycle) mayoral candidates entered the race.

As expected, former Mayor Eugene Flinn and former candidate (multiple) Peter England filed papers to take on incumbent Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and current Councilman Patrick Fiore.

Now, a race that looked positively moribund has become a real dog fight…no pun intended.

Here at SDM, we are pleased to see Mr. Flinn back in the mix. We have fond memories of a village that seemed to stay on track. We acknowledge some of his faults (voting with Mayor Stanczyk on the ordinance that sparked the land war with Palmer, for instance) but at the same time recognize his steady leadership. It would be nice to see some fresh faces at village hall, but since nobody seems willing to step up, then an experienced hand will do the trick.

But what do we do with Peter England? SDM notes that as of today Councilwoman Joan Lindsay is unopposed, meaning nobody has announced a run against her. How is this possible given her disruptive and divisive legislative history?

Here is our suggestion: Since Mr. England lives in District 3, he should take a pass on the mayor’s race and take on Mrs. Lindsay. We understand that she’s tough to beat. She works hard and even SDM can find nice things to say about her.

But Mrs. Lindsay must be challenged by a serious and sober candidate. We believe her views on how this village should grow display the worst tendencies of the Not In My Back Yard crowd. If Mrs. Lindsay remains unopposed without having her views challenged, then we can expect four more years of divisive politics masquerading under the misnomer of “neighborhood protection.”

SDM Says: C’mon Peter, give us a slate of candidates around whom we can rally!

 

 

PB: Where Politics is Dog Eat Dog

Eventually this blog will move on from the dog barking ordinance, we promise.

But before we leave this story, SDM wants to bring our readers up to speed on the  Who Shot John.

While most Palmetto Bay residents go about their sometimes humdrum lives, other residents involve themselves in blood feuds with their neighbors. (Think: Councilwoman Joan Lindsay and Palmer Trinity School.)

As these feuds escalate, other neighbors are dragged in. Some are forced and others willingly pick sides. Sometimes these feuds become so intractable or even dangerous that the village administration or police are dragged into the melee.

In the case of the barking dogs, SDM concludes that a neighborhood dispute that once revolved around – of all things – a tennis court, has escalated into a feud over barking dogs.

We have been contacted by folks familiar with the protagonists on each side of the drama and we can’t make heads nor tails of who is telling the truth anymore. (SDM is not going to identify the barking dog guy by name since we get all of our information second-hand.)

Here is what we have gleaned (Caveat: we ain’t the PoPo so take this for what it’s worth):

  • A property owner on Farmer Road who is also running for public office in Palmetto Bay (and has run before) was eventually permitted to build a tennis court on his large estate.
  • Some of his neighbors – at least one family – objected strenuously, claiming the new construction was causing flooding on their property.
  • The tennis court owner either before or after these objections arose took umbrage with Mayor Stanczyk because she supported his neighbors’ claims.
  • So, the property owner ran against her and has vilified her mercilessly since.
  • Fast forward to 2013-4 and the neighbors have decided to alter their strategy. The property owner/candidate owns dogs (said to be well-maintained) but which are barkers. So the neighbors started complaining about the barking dogs. Were these complaints proxies for the prior dispute? SDM cannot say for sure.
  • Enter the village: Either at the request/instruction of Mayor Stanczyk or on its own, the village administration decides to call the property owner/candidate and the neighbors in for a conference. Some kind of agreement is reached and one or all of the parties proceed to break it.
  • According to the neighbors, they continue to attempt to resolve the matter amicably with the property owner/candidate. They tell the village council that he refuses to fix the problem. The village says there’s nothing we can do under the current code.
  • Enter Mayor Stanczyk: She files legislation containing an enforcement procedure straight out of Animal Farm. Namely, any neighbor who hears dogs barking under certain circumstances can file an affidavit against the offending property owner. Former Mayor Eugene Flinn and SDM go nuts when we read this craziness. Why should we disrupt the entire village when this is essentially a neighborhood feud?
  • The offending property owner/candidate says he is being unfairly attacked. He takes care of his dogs and they only bark because the neighbors are inciting his pets. He is the victim in this case, not the half-dozen or so neighbors who came forward to testify to their disrupted lives.
  • Final Act: In a courageous move, Stanczyk withdraws her legislation so that the issue can continue to fester and further divide a deeply divided community.

So what should we make of this tragedy in multiple acts?

First, Mme. Mayor is far too willing to foment further chaos instead of calmly finding a workable solution to what is essentially a human problem and not a dog problem. Even if the council were to pass her legislation, the problem on 72nd Avenue would not be solved, which is the definition of an ineffective law.

Second, whether right or wrong, the property owner/candidate in this drama is not temperamentally suited for public office. Elected officials have to be peace makers and not law breakers or, worse, agents provocateurs. Even if you give this person the benefit of the doubt, he still looks like  a guy who can’t find a way to settle his disputes with his neighbors without everyone walking away pissed off. Do we need more elected officials like this? Seriously?

SDM Says: We really hope Poker and Blackjack are okay. What we love about our dogs is they never judge us. We leave judging human behavior to voters.

Who’s the real dog?

Sometimes SDM wishes we had an insider at the village who could help us break the code.

We watched last night’s meeting with rapt attention, first hearing candidate David Zisman excoriate Mayor Stanczyk for singling him out. Of course and as usual, he exceeded normal bounds of public communication so that even SDM started feeling sorry for Mme. Mayor.

Then, a parade of folks living on SW 72nd Avenue rose to demand, request and beg the council to relieve them of a bad neighbor who permits his dogs to bark at all hours of the day and night.

Village gadfly Bev Gerald came closest to breaking the code when at the end of public comment she noted that nobody was identifying the person whose dogs are disrupting everyone’s life style and quiet enjoyment of their homes. Ms.Gerald didn’t see this as quite fair given the harsh treatment of the Mayor.

Hmmm…

SDM doesn’t know for sure who the culprit is (though one SDM commenter claimed the dogs are named Poker and Blackjack), but we are getting the feeling that he is right under our noses…and stinking the place up.

Since we don’t know for sure who he is, we are just going to make some observations as to how we think this particular person ought to be treated based on the testimony of several of his neighbors:

  • The village should make public the names of the people who attended the meeting with the village manager and discussed this subject. If minutes or notes were kept, then they are public record and should be released, too. In other words, if the name of this individual has been made public to the manager, then the rest of us should also know.
  • The village ought to take serious and rigorous steps to investigate the neighbors’ claims. Affidavits are not necessary, but everyone living around this property ought to be interviewed to build a record. A summary report of findings should be made available as a public record.
  • The county or whoever enforces the laws against cruelty to animals ought to investigate the conditions in which these dogs are being kept. It very well may be cruel to keep dogs outside at all times of the day and night, especially if the dogs are barking regularly. This could easily be a sign of distress.
  • We, as voters, certainly ought to hold this person accountable if he seeks public office or is participating in public life. One cannot stand before the village council – assuming he does so – and claim to be working toward the betterment of the community while at the same time thumbing his nose at his neighbors. We don’t need any more Jekyll and Hyde council members “serving” us.

SDM Says: We were given some broad hints as to what is going on with the case of the barking dogs, but we doubt we’ve heard the last of this mystery.

The Dogs Barked and the Mayor Turned Tail and Ran

So the village website now tells the “tail” of Item 12 A – Stanczyk’s Barking Dog Law: PLEASE NOTE THAT MAYOR STANCZYK INTENDS TO WITHDRAW THIS ITEM.

Mrs. Stanczyk has wisely decided to let sleeping dogs lie…or to let barking dogs bark?

Funny thing about dog lovers: most of them prefer the company of their pets to anyone else on the planet. So when some petty politician creates a nonsensical plan to muzzle their furry little friends, these dog lovers (SDM included) start to snarl.

(Can you stand anymore of SDM’s puerile puns?)

But let’s be fair, too. Mayor Stanczyk is responding to a serious problem. Some pet owners are oblivious when their dogs go outside and bark for hours on end. SDM doesn’t understand how people can allow this to go on, especially at night, but clearly just as in every other aspect of life, in every bushel there are a few bad apples.

So here is SDM’s suggestion on fixing (or do we say neutering?) this problem. When a code enforcement complaint comes in, check with some other neighbors in the area to confirm whether the barking is serious. If it turns out that a particular home is causing a problem, then send the code enforcement team out to talk to the owner.

Our experience is that perpetually barking dogs is likely to be an indicator of a bad owner who may be neglecting the animals. As a society, we cannot allow pet owners to abuse their dogs by leaving them outside all night barking.

Explain the rules and let them know their neighbors are complaining. If public shame won’t change the behavior, then gradually escalate the pressure to fines. Instead of affidavits, multiple complaints over a period of time should be enough to open a case.

SDM Says: The last result we should want is for innocent, caring owners to be penalized for a noisy dog. At the same time, reckless and uncaring owners deserve the village’s intervention to ensure those animals are not being abused.

Update on SDM’s New Business

In yesterday’s post, SDM discussed our new business. As soon as the village council passes its new anti-barking-dog legislation, SDM will launch SDM’s VANCA Affidavit Service (SVAS).

According to the new law, a homeowner will face a $500 fine for the first violation and $1,000 for the second. (Presumably, the dog will go to doggy jail on the third offense.)

So here is how an SVAS contract will work:

  1. A homeowner – let’s call her “Mrs. Stanczyk,” to randomly choose a common surname – will finally tire of her neighbor’s barking dog. (We will call the neighbor “Mr. Zisman,” another common last name.)
  2. Mrs. Stanczyk will call her best friend SDM and pay SVAS $100 to submit the first VANCA affidavit against Mr. Zisman. (You see, Mrs. Stanczyk doesn’t like Mr. Zisman so she doesn’t want him to know she’s complaining about him. She can stay anonymous…hmmm…this sounds familiar. :) )
  3. SDM will go to Mr. Zisman’s house while he’s at work (say between 10:30 a.m. and early happy hour – 3:30 pm) and bring along a recording device. SDM will stand at Mr. Zisman’s gate and call the dogs. If they fail to bark, SDM will shake the fence or bring along another barking dog. If none of these tactics make Mr. Zisman’s dogs bark, SDM will just use some stock audio of dogs barking.
  4. SDM will then send Mr. Zisman a nasty gram, probably by email so we can attach a copy of the barking dogs file. SDM will demand $350 dollars from Mr. Zisman or else SDM will submit the affidavit.
  5. If Mr. Zisman pays, SDM will refund Mrs. Stanczyk her $100 and pocket $250 gross profit. (SDM’s time is worth something!)
  6. If Mr. Zisman tells SDM to take a hike, SDM will submit the affidavit and proceed to the next step, which involves shaking down Mrs. Stancyzk. (Don’t want to get into our business plan here. You might steal this idea!)

SDM Says: Mme. Mayor Stanczyk really thought this idea through, but she never encountered the sick minds here at SDM!

Barking Dogs

Have you heard the latest contretemps in Palmetto Bay? Barking dogs. Seriously.

For a good taste of the issue, former Mayor Eugene Flinn’s blog is a great place to read all about it.

SDM is not going to rehash the obvious points; instead, we will focus on the business opportunity this new legislation offers to willing entrepreneurs…especially fearless ones.

Here is how Mayor Shelley Stanczyk’s new ordinance would work:

Under current Code, enforcement action may only proceed upon an officer witnessing 20 minutes of continuous barking or an hour of intermittent barking. Often, the alleged incident either passed or was indictable by the time the officer responds to the complaint. TI,e proposed remedy is to permit the complainant to submit a notarized Verified Animal Noise Complaint Affidavit (VANCA) asserting the violation occurred. Such action will result in the officer issuing a courtesy warning. If a subsequent VANCA is submitted within the thirty days of the courtesy warning, the officer will issue a citation. As provided for all code compliance cases, the person receiving the citation shall have the right to appeal. In the event of such an appeal, the affiant will be requested to testify at the appeal proceeding as the existence of the event(s) identified in the VANCA. It then becomes incumbent upon the Special Master to determine whether in fact the Violation existed.

So here is SDM’s brilliant new business: SDM’s VANCA Affidavit Services.

Say your neighbor is a jerk. You know, he starts his boat at 6 am on a Saturday morning or throws his yard trash over the fence onto your property or he let’s his kids have parties…whatever…SDM doesn’t really care. All SVAS wants to know is if the guy has one of those little terriers that like to bark at the squirrels.

You call SVAS and we submit a VANCA affidavit on your behalf and another one two weeks later. Of course, we will say that the dog was barking at, say, 3 pm when your neighbor is at work. He won’t be able to disprove the charge and will be cited for that felonious little monster he calls a dog.

The best news? Your neighbor can’t pin the complaint on you! SVAS takes the heat and we pack heat in case your neighbor wants to challenge us outside of the courtroom.

Aren’t we smart over here at SDM? Where others see an absurd and ridiculous legislative policy we see an opportunity to earn our bread at the expense of some poor Palmetto Bay resident. Thank you Mayor Stanczyk!

SDM Says: Before moving to Palmetto Bay, one of our writers experienced some badly mismanaged and poorly trained dogs that barked all night. The same writer also had a very dumb dog that liked to bark at a possum who the writer swears used to sit on the fence just to make this very dumb dog bark at him all night. So, at least one of us understands the problem and sympathizes with those suffering from bad neighbors. What we never fully understand is why our lovable lump of a Mayor can’t see her own folly when others see it immediately. The village council needs to put the brakes on Mme. Mayor’s newest brainf… er… idea.

PB: Getting Personal

If you haven’t watched the March 19 Committee of the Whole meeting, you might want to do so.

Village gadfly Gary Pastorella once again embarrassed himself with a completely unsubtle and direct personal attack on Vice Mayor John Dubois.

Mr. Pastorella makes no bones about his intense, personal hatred of the Vice Mayor. As an example, Pastorella spoke against a recent land use decision by accusing Mr. Dubois of voting based on campaign contributions. Of course, Pastorella ignored that his favorite pol Mrs. Stancyzk accepted campaign contributions from the same individual.

What struck us as bizarre was Mayor Stanczyk’s flexible application of the village’s ever-malleable decorum ordinance. For a refresher, below is the decorum statement:

Any person making impertinent or slanderous remarks or who becomes boisterous while addressing the Village of Palmetto Bay Council shall be barred from further audience at this meeting before the Village of Palmetto Bay Council by the presiding officer, unless permission to continue or again address the council be granted by the majority vote of the council members.

According to Dictionary.com, impertinent is defined as follows:

im·per·ti·nent [im-pur-tn-uhnt] adjective

1. intrusive or presumptuous, as persons or their actions; insolently rude; uncivil: a brash, impertinent youth.

2. not pertinent or relevant; irrelevant: an impertinent detail.

3. Archaic. inappropriate, incongruous, or absurd.

4. Obsolete . (of persons) trivial, silly, or absurd.

 Mr. Pastorella made statements, which the Vice Mayor directly addressed as being untrue, alleging that a landowner coordinated contributions and expenditures of an independent committee with Mr. Dubois. Isn’t such a comment intrusive and presumptuous, not to mention insolent, uncivil and rude?

Or, as the Mayor stated, is Mr. Pastorella merely exercising his right of free speech?

To give you an idea of how the Mayor views free speech, almost immediately after Pastorella’s rant, sometime guest poster David Singer rose and questioned how Mr. Pastorella as a simple flight attendant had such amazing access to information.

Mayor Stancyzk interrupted Singer to upbraid him for calling out Mr. Pastorella.

So Mr. Singer doesn’t have a free speech right, Mme. Mayor?

SDM Says: Mayor Stanczyk is not the first presiding officer challenged by implementing restraint on public speech. She’s also not the first to muddy the water when applying the rules. SDM would like to see some consistent application of the decorum rule or the council should abandon it entirely. Otherwise, decorum just becomes another word for favoritism.

PB: Guest Post By David Singer – Losing Thalatta?

State contract requires that Palmetto Bay return Thalatta Park?

Prediction? Yes! Hyperbole? Maybe. Looks like Thalatta Park will be required to be returned to the State of Florida due to the incompetence of Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, Village Manager, Ron Williams and Finance Director Desmond Chin. Way to go guys! Is it any big surprise that the Village of Palmetto Bay is in trouble again?

Thalatta Park is a 3.5 acre parcel of land purchased by the Village of Palmetto Bay with funds primarily from the Florida Community Trust in 2004. The Florida Communities Trust (FCT) is a State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection land acquisition program for projects that further outdoors recreation and natural resources protection needs as identified in the local government’s Comprehensive Plans.

The Grant Contract between the Village of Palmetto Bay and the FCT that made funds available to acquire Thalatta Park has specific requirements and limitations regarding the land and the house on it that was built in 1925. This agreement can be found here.

According to Grant Contract there are 18 “Special Management Conditions” which are required at Thalatta Park. While almost all of the 18 requirements are not most likely not being met, the following are four examples of requirements that have never occurred to my knowledge:

1.  The facilities shall be developed in a manner that allows the general public reasonable access for observation and appreciation of the natural resources on the project site. [DS Comment: Eight hours a week of public access is in no way “reasonable.”]

4.  12 regularly scheduled and ongoing educational classes for programs that promote the protection of environmental resources shall be provided at the project site. [DS Comment: Not currently happening.]

5.  A staffed museum shall be developed on the project site to provide year round educational classes or programs. [DS Comment: Also not currently happening.]

8.  The project site shall be managed in a manner that will protect and enhance the listed and non-listed native wildlife species and their habitat. [DS Comment: This is not happening currently unless the valet parkers, caterers, band members and party guests happen to be botanists also.]

In addition to the required Special Management Conditions there are 7 specifically disallowed activities and violations at Thalatta Park entitled “General Obligations of the Recipient as a Condition of Project Funding.” The following are two or three disallowed activities that are occurring which violate the Grant Contract as far as I can tell:

1. Any use of the Project Site by a non-governmental person other than in such person’s capacity as a member of the general public. [DS Comment: This provision is violated by the Village barring the site to the general public during events where the property is rented.]

2. Any change in the character or use of the Project Site from that use expected at the date of the issuance of any series of Bonds form which the disbursement is to be made. [DS Comment: The use expected in the Grant Contract is environmental protection, observation and education. Rental of the park for entertainment and events does not conform to that standard.]

3. Such other activity or interest as may be specified from time to time in writing by FCT to Recipient. [DS Comment: I’d be shocked if the FCT has permitted environmental sensitive land to be used as a wedding venue.]

The facts are crystal clear after reading the Grant Contract that the Village signed with the Florida Communities Trust. Thalatta Park is required to be open to the public, used for educational purposes and NOT USED AS WEDDING VENUE FOR PROFITS TO THE VILLAGE OF PALMETTO BAY as it is now.

There are serious consequences to the Village of Palmetto Bay for not complying with the obligations, objectives and commitments required by the Grant Contract including “legal and tax consequences under Florida Law and federal income tax law”.

Once again this debacle is due to weak leadership and sloppy and uniformed management at the Village of Palmetto Bay. The leadership issue will solve itself since the Mayor’s political career is all but finished, fortunately, and she will not be sitting on the dais after she’s beaten by anyone in this November’s election.

As far as management is concerned, the Village Manager and Finance Director are expected to have knowledge of all contracts and obligations of the Village and should be directing such information to the Mayor and Council when they have ideas that deviate from the Village’s responsibility under these contracts.

Thalatta Park has gone so far from its intended use as represented to the Florida Community Trust without a peep from Finance Director Chin or Manager Williams that its hard see how they are remotely qualified to stay employed in their positions after this. They should be terminated at the next Council Meeting.

Williams and Chin are responsible for not enforcing compliance with the FCT Grant Contract’s strict provisions. And they are responsible for all the penalties to be incurred when the Village is found to be noncompliant with their FCT contractual obligations.

David Singer

++++

SDM Note: We have not verified any of Mr. Singer’s statements; they are his own. However, our experience says Mr. Singer is onto something here.

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