South Dade Matters

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

Category: Uncategorized

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.

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

 

More on the Deteriorating Obama Legacy

From President Obama’s speech to the Clinton Global Initiative on September 25, 2012:

And today, I want to discuss an issue that relates to each of these challenges. It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.

Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it — in partnership with you. The change we seek will not come easy, but we can draw strength from the movements of the past. For we know that every life saved — in the words of that great Proclamation — is “an act of justice,” worthy of “the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”

News from the Middle East on ISIS’ slavery of women and girls:

Thousands of Iraq’s Yazidis, driven from their homes by ISIS and trapped in the desperate siege of Mt. Sinjar, have captured the world’s attention and received some relief from U.S. airstrikes and humanitarian aid. But hundreds of Yazidi women taken by ISIS and held in a secret prison where they have been raped and sold off like property are facing an equally dire fate.

Survivors who managed to escape from ISIS say the women held in its prison in Mosul face two fates: Those who convert to Islam are sold as brides to Islamist fighters for prices as low as $25, and ranging up to $150. Those who do not convert face daily rape and a slow death.

Accounts of the prison have come from women who managed to hide their cellular phones, calling relatives to describe their plight. Some imprisoned women have been forced by militants to call their families. The mother of one woman still held captive told The Daily Beast about the call she received from her daughter. She was forced to listen as her daughter detailed being raped by dozens of men over the course of a few hours. Still other women testified that multiple children had been born under these conditions, with the newborns ripped away from their mother’s arms to fates unknown.

If you can take it, read more here.

SDM Wonders: Do the President’s words mean anything?

 

MDC: District 8 Aftermath

First off, SDM says: Congratulations Ms. Levine Cava for your victory. We wish you all the best and hope you represent South Dade well. (Would that your opponent had sufficient breeding to say the same to you last night.)

In retrospect, SDM should not be surprised that Ms. Levine Cava is South Dade’s newest political figure. Despite anemic turnout (15.9% in District 8, which was just a tiny bit higher than the countywide figure), Levine Cava secured a 2% victory over a sitting county commissioner. No small feat.

But the reason SDM should not have been surprised can be found in two sets of numbers. First, the ethnic breakdown of District 8: 45.7% of registered D8 voters consider themselves to be Hispanic; White, 35.7%; Black, 11.2%.

The second set of numbers is also important: 40.75% of D8 voters are registered Democrats; 29.65%, registered Republicans; and 28% register as not affiliated with the major parties.

These numbers show that Levine Cava entered the race – all things being equal – with a built-in advantage approaching 20% with ethnic voters (Hispanics + Blacks, who vote North of 90% for Democrats) and an 11% edge with partisan Democrats. One might even go so far as to say that Levine Cava underperformed given her numerical advantages, but saying so when a new candidate topples a well-heeled incumbent seems picky.

SDM Aside: If the Bell campaign consciously turned this race into a partisan test, she deserved to lose.

Of course, incumbency usually grants an enormous edge in money and resources and Lynda Bell certainly milked that cow fully. Time will tell the extent of her financial advantage; SDM has no doubt it will be substantial. But Levine Cava should be acknowledged for keeping the money race close enough for campaign purposes.

Compound all of Ms. Levine Cava’s assets with Mrs. Bell’s well-chronicled faults and the result is a a political earthquake at county hall. We commend to you the postmortems by Eye On Miami and Political Cortadito:

From Eye on Miami: Who are the winners and losers? It is a good day for Good Government, for former county commissioner Katy Sorenson who supported Levine Cava quietly at first but increasingly visible in the final weeks, and for Cindy Lerner, mayor of Pinecrest, a smiling, optimistic and battle-scarred survivor of Florida’s slash and burn politics. Today will be a very low day for any of the campaign advisors and lobbyists who supported Bell.

Political Cortadito named Organized Labor, County Employees, the current commission majority, the Miami-Dade Democrats, the LGBT community as winners, the Pet’s Voice, and Levine Cava’s campaign managers as winners. Losers included Mayor Gimenez, developer Wayne Rosen, and Bell’s staff and campaign advisors.

Here’s SDM’s take on the winners and losers:

Katy Sorenson & Cindy Lerner: Both were early Levine Cava supporters and form an ideological sisterhood with the Commissioner. Both will find open doors at county hall and not just with Ms. Levine Cava.

Bell’s campaign advisors and lobbyists – Both the advisors and lobbyists will find a way back into favor. The same folks who supported Bell will be courted down the road to support Levine Cava and a smart pol will try to keep the advisors off the field next time. The folks at Eye On Miami will look the other way to get her back in office, too. It’s how things work.

Organized Labor – The county unions had a big, big victory yesterday. Levine Cava will be a solid vote for them…or, will she? Think about this fact: Ms. Levine Cava will become the wealthiest person on the county commission when she takes her seat. Once she really sees what’s going on with budget and the abuses by the union, will she remain a loyal soldier? All you have to do is say “no” one time and the unions will be looking to put in the back-up quarterback. Good luck staying on their good side while retaining your ethical center.

County Employees – It’s interesting and telling that Ladra (Political Cortadito’s author) draws a distinction between labor and the employees. In fact, the two groups are not always on the same page and Ms. Levine Cava will learn that lesson during the budget hearings next month. Non-union employees have been getting the shaft for nearly a decade while the unions have been getting rich. We shall see if Ms. Levine Cava cares about non-union staff.

Miami-Dade Democrats – Was it Democrats who won this election? Or, was it the non-affiliated voters? Or, was it White voters (a mix of the three) who dumped Bell? If the Democrats were the difference, then why wasn’t the margin larger?These super-low-turnout elections are so difficult to figure out.

LGBT Community – No argument here from SDM. The LGBT community will find a friendly ear with Levine Cava and rightly so. We don’t buy into the religious right’s intolerance.

Pet’s Voice – Again, SDM agrees with the following caveat: the reason the pet’s trust hasn’t been funded to the level that Pet’s Voice demands is because the county doesn’t have that kind of money, pure and simple. Ms. Levine Cava will learn this uncomfortable fact next month and will have to choose between funding the very worthy cause of animals who face euthanasia and the other worthy causes involving mammals that walk on two legs.

Levine Cava’s campaign team – SDM’s simple response: what have you done for me lately?

Mayor Carlos Gimenez – Understand something about this entry by Ladra: she has flipped 180 degrees on this guy. During Gimenez’s first run, she fawned all over him like he was a rock star. Now, she wants him recalled. Nevertheless, she’s right that Gimenez put his chips on Bell and lost, so he has to do some work to win over Ms. Levine Cava. In the end, politicians find a way to kiss and make up. SDM bets Gimenez will find a way to work with Ms. Levine Cava and vice versa.

Wayne Rosen – SDM agrees, Rosen bet big and lost big. Then again, guys who will write checks of the magnitude Rosen does tend to attract politicians the same way Miami attracts scam artists. So long as Mr. Rosen will contribute big money, someone will take his calls.

Bell’s staff and campaign team – Losing one’s job sucks and SDM hopes they bounce back soon. The campaign team will find other candidates to represent, though the top guys have lost their “wunderkind” status.

SDM Says: To paraphrase a 19th century English statesman: Dade politicians, lobbyists and advisors have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.

Guest Post by David Singer: Mayoral Candidates Speak

During the election cycle there are few opportunities for the average Palmetto Bay resident to get to know a candidates objective in running for Council. I had an interesting idea, why not request from each candidate a narrative on what their personal goals will be in their first 100 days of their term if they win their respective council seats. Narratives were limited to 250 words and I pledged to all candidates I would not comment or change what was submitted. As promised please find their essays below:

Peter England’s “First Hundred Days”

The highest priority of my administration as Mayor is to restore inclusiveness in Palmetto Bay. Everyone will be heard, everyone respected. We will conduct Council meetings in an atmosphere of respect and openness for residents and Council members alike. Every member of the Council is elected by and represents the entire Village and we will conduct their business accordingly. As Mayor, I preside over Council meetings, but our success will depend on collaboration to achieve our common goals.

One of the first proposals I will put before the Council is to empanel a new Charter Review Committee to assess this document in advance of a referendum in 2015. We must put discriminatory behavior, and the associated litigation, behind us and ensure that every member of our community has equal standing under our law.

We will conduct a thorough review of our Constitutional officers to ensure they are in synch with the direction of the Village Council.

Finally, we will institute a policy of total transparency, so that any resident can easily obtain any document which pertains to Palmetto Bay’s business. The Village’s current policy claims transparency, but does not provide full access to information and often erects egregious barriers to a resident’s ability to obtain what they want. I will work with the Council to fix this.

We have a great Village with enormous unrealized potential. My pledge is to make Palmetto Bay’s government as good as the people it serves.

Patrick Fiore’s “First Hundred Days”

The primary concern for this Village in the first one hundred days is to ensure that all residents are encouraged to participate in their governmental process. By “participate,” I mean that everyone’s opinion will be considered in a respectful manner, without condescension. I, as Mayor, will strictly uphold the provisions of the Citizen’s Bill of Rights, that is listed in our charter.

During the very first council meeting of the new council, I will introduce an agenda item, on dealing with the traffic issues, and excessive speed issues on our interior residential streets, and the process to resolve them.

As Mayor, I would facilitate the flow of the meetings quicker.

I would like to see added importance given to the Committee of the Whole meetings, especially on items where there is limited time to discuss at a regular council meeting.

I plan on proposing more reductions in our permitting fees, although changes were made, there is still more to do.

I will institute a “Mayor for a Day Program”, based much on my “Councilman for a Day” events I have held since 2011, where residents get first hand, close up knowledge of issues within the Village, especially infrastructure/public works, and quality of life issues.

The Mayor, and the Council should work closer together with our County, State, and Federal partners to ensure that Palmetto Bay is aware of all the resources available to assist us on big item issues, like road projects, protecting our natural resources, and environment, outreach would begin as soon as the new council is sworn in.

Patrick Fiore, candidate for Mayor of Palmetto Bay.

Eugene Flinn’s “First Hundred Days”

FDR coined the term, “First 100 Days,” and in that time, he passed fifteen bills which formed the basis of the New Deal. I want my first 100 days to be productive in establishing this community, and I have a solid record of experience in my eight years as Palmetto Bay’s founding mayor to back it up. Working with residents and staff, in my First 100 Days, we will:

• Hold roundtable meetings with officials, residents, and local business owners to identify our mutual goals and give everyone a voice in updating the long-term Master Plan;

• Review the condition of the parks to restore the fun that has been stripped from the play lots. Get the concession stands reopened for regular hours and repair any broken park equipment;

• Conduct a personnel audit to so village government functions at peak efficiency;

• Set committee goals and set up a system to view the goals and minutes of our existing committees, including the Downtown Redevelopment Task Force;

• Create and appoint a youth advisory committee. Reestablish a special events committee, create more events that residents will attend. Why not bringing back an annual Art Show in our village?;

• Reinvigorate the budget and finance committee to identify opportunities to improve spending decisions; and

• Improve the village website for ease of use, improve content and simplify payment features. Keep an accurate and easy to locate document archive. Restore the online services to our village permitting department and WiFi in our parks, which are no longer available for unexplained reasons.

I will maintain an online diary of so everyone can constantly monitor our progress and offer suggestions.

Go to eugeneflinn.com for the full plan.

Mayor Stanczyk’s “First Hundred Days”

1. My first 100 days will begin by working with the unsuccessful candidates on incorporating some of their ideas into Village plans. The efforts and their supporters should be part of the positive direction of our Village.

2. Enact a strategic planning process that will provide for efficient resource allocation for Parks improvement, the continued advancement of the Down Town Redevelopment/economic development program, and capital improvements. This will be an inclusive process for residents, Council and staff to share the best information, and incorporate resident input into priority setting and future goals so that the Village will continue to set high standards of service delivery for the next 10 – 20 years.

3. Traffic and speed are the most commonly mentioned concerns. Traffic mitigation is frustrated by County standards. I will renegotiate the County agreement to allow the Village to determine solutions to traffic and speed issues. While traffic always exists, it can be improved.

4. The two Fire Stations found locations. The building, manning and equipping of the stations is a priority that a re-invigorated Fire Board can work to bring to completion.

Our Village is entering a new phase; we are into our second decade. Planning is important to ensure that we continue striving for excellence in service to residents. However, the reasons we incorporated remain true and are the reasons I am running: a safe community, enhanced quality of life, protecting our residential character, great parks, low taxes and control of our zoning. This I will always deliver.

+++

My disclosure…… I have not endorsed either of the candidates or their positions.

David Singer

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