South Dade Matters

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

Category: Uncategorized

PB: Today, We May Heal

When SDM started this blog in July, 2011, the issue that drove us to write was the travesty that was (and is) the way Palmetto Bay treated Palmer Trinity.

What we’ve learned in the past 3+ years is that the Palmer fiasco was a symptom of a more insidious disease: Stanczykitis.

Never heard of it?

According to SDM’s medi-pol dictionary, Stanczykitis (sometimes confused with its close cousin, Pastorella Syndrome, which is more of a psychosis) is defined as follows:

A fatal disease where paranoia and malaprops drive disgruntled retirees and near-retirees into political madness; indicators include weird ordinances seeking to muzzle Sparky, wild about-faces on issues critical to the health and welfare of the Village People, and a general malaise and government drift.

The cure for Stancykitis is a purge, generally performed by voters but occasionally by political serendipity.

When we first ventured on this quest to rid village politics of this debilitating disease, we felt like the only path to sanity was by replacing the elected officials we kindly referred to as the Three Amigos.

In 2012, SDM urged voters to oust former Vice Mayor Brian Pariser by voting in John Dubois…one amigo down, which left Councilwoman Joan Lindsay and Mme. Mayor.

In a bit of a surprise in 2012, we supported re-election of Howard Tendrich and were saddened when he lost.

We were pleasantly surprised – and those suffering from Pastorella Syndrome much dismayed – that Tendrich’s successor, Tim “Marathon Man” Schaffer, turned out to be an independent and reasonable voice. Thus, serendipity gave an unexpected win to the good guys.

Today, we have the chance to clean out the wound in the mayor’s office by voting in Eugene Flinn. We also have a bonus opportunity to give the current majority a strong and diverse membership by electing Larissa Siegel Lara.

We certainly hope those of you who care about and pay attention to Palmetto Bay’s drifting government will help us cure Stanczykitis once and for all. Pastorella Syndrome is not so easily eradicated…so SDM will remain vigilant.

SDM Agrees With Eye On Miami – Twice

On Replacing Carlos Curbelo

SDM read the Eye On Miami post that reports a hideous rumor  concerning former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell. Namely, that due to Congressman-elect Carlos Curbelo’s excellent win over the tainted Joe Garcia, Governor Rick Scott will name someone to serve out the remainder of Curbelo’s term on the School Board. The hideous rumor is that Scott might choose Bell! (gag)

While SDM and EoM are ideologically opposite on most things, we fundamentally agree that Lynda Bell should be exiled from the county political scene. Bell is needlessly divisive and untrustworthy; she will drag the school board into chaotic dramas on issues that will serve only to reinforce the worst imaginings of the political left.

SDM believes the school board must focus on two critical things: (1) getting it’s fiscal house in order by reining in its unions, and (2) becoming more favorable to charter schools to create a competitive educational environment.

Mrs. Bell’s fractious politics focuses on minutiae and her vindictive personality will disrupt whatever comity exists on the school board. We urge Governor Scott to look elsewhere.

On Marijuana

SDM wasn’t completely stunned by the outcome on Amendment 2, but we were dismayed. We believe that any adult who wants to consume marijuana should be able to do so legally and with a minimal amount of government regulation and intrusion.

As we have written here before, we occupy a seat in the Libertarian Wing of the Republican Party, which means we want less government and more personal freedom and liberty.

The legislature must take a hard look at the fact that even the screwy Amendment 2, with all of its election-year baggage, garnered more votes than any of the Republican statewide candidates. If it were a referendum, and it ought to be given such lofty consideration, it passed mightily during a Republican year.

It’s time to allow adults to smoke pot if they want to do so. It’s time to stop harassing people for an act that most people consider not only relatively harmless but relaxing and recreational. Republicans ought to legalize marijuana by legislative fiat and do so because it expands individual freedom and liberty, two of the most cherished principles of our party.

SDM Says: If SDM and EoM can find common ground, so can our elected officials.

Why You Shouldn’t Vote Today

Got your attention?

Everyone – blogs, politicians, pundits and most of your family – will encourage you to “get out and vote” today.

But if you are one of these people, you should skip exercising your franchise:

  • If your only opinion about a candidate is based on political ads, you shouldn’t vote today.
  • If you intend to vote for someone because he or she is male, female, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Haitian, Republican, Democrat, Independent or any other human subset, then you shouldn’t vote today.
  • If you are voting for a candidate as a protest against the President, you shouldn’t vote today.
  • If you intend to vote for someone because his or her last name sounds a particular way, you shouldn’t vote today.
  • If your union sent you a list of candidates to vote for and that is the only reason you are voting for those people, then stay home…you shouldn’t vote today.
  • If you tore the Miami Herald’s voter recommendations from the paper and that is the only reference you have for casting a ballot, then you definitely shouldn’t vote today…or ever.

Voting in America confers enormous power on a person. Elected officials at every level can ruin – literally – your life, privacy, business, job, church, school and any other cherished right imaginable.

That’s why, if you intend to vote, you must take the duty seriously. You must study for the exam and be ready to give a good reason for voting for a candidate. (You are not voting against anyone.) This is part of your job as a citizen, so if you haven’t prepared, you shouldn’t vote today.

For those of you who take your civic duty seriously and know why you are voting for a particular candidate, SDM thanks you for caring about your country, your state and village.

Happy Election Day.

PB: Charter Amendment – SDM Says Vote Yes

Palmetto Bay voters may be scratching their heads when they notice the charter amendment on their ballots. What, pray tell is the origin of this question?

Referendum Regarding Expansion of Private Schools: The proposed Charter Amendment changes the requirement that 75% of the electors living within a 2,000 foot radius of a private school seeking to expand student enrollment approve of such expansion in a referendum to a requirement that a majority of such electors approve of such expansion in the referendum. Shall the above described amendment be adopted?

SDM wrote a blog on May 2, 2013 explaining the history of the amendment.  (Hint: You may enjoy the Monty Python reference.) Later in that year, the village held a referendum asking whether the Alexander Montessori School should be allowed to add students. Here is what we wrote in the aftermath of that vote:

Lindsay’s Lawsuit City

In what SDM sees as a very sad story, a Palmetto Bay’s Alexander Montessori School failed to garner enough votes to add a paltry 59 seats to its enormous 270 student body. As SDM blogged about in PB: Ready for Another Lawsuit?, the Alexander school needed to convince 75% of its neighbors to vote for the school’s expansion.

This crazy requirement comes from a Councilwoman Joan Lindsay sponsored charter amendment, which foolish Palmetto Bay voters adopted after Ms. Lindsay lost her battle against the Palmer Trinity expansion. Ironically, Ms. Lindsay asked the Alexander School’s neighbors to vote for the expansion, though SDM doubts Ms. Lindsay would have  given Palmer a positive vote if it were up to her.

One of the school’s owners told the Miami Herald that they may ask the voters to consider their plan again. SDM has to give the guy credit for being an optimist. The tragedy is that instead of investing his hard earned money in improving his school, the owner is forced to pay for another referendum that he might lose again. Of course, a referendum might be less expensive than a long and protracted lawsuit, especially given the village council’s history of intransigence.

SDM Says: Councilwoman Lindsay often strikes a tone of reasonableness now that her re-election is on the near term horizon. But this referendum requirement that she mothered into existence will eventually be challenged in court on basic fairness principles. In the meantime, children and property owners in this village are suffering. When voters evaluate her record, Councilwoman Lindsay must not be permitted to escape her legacy of litigation.

The charter amendment rids the village of the dangerous, arbitrary and totally unfair 75% requirement and grants a majority of neighbors a veto of a privates school’s expansion plan.

SDM Says: We will vote yes because the amendment is an improvement over the status quo, but we still think the requirement violates the school’s due process rights.

PB: Peter England’s Record – Part I – The Early 80’s

SDM saw a mailer for the Peter England for Mayor campaign and it got us to thinking about what we know about Mr. England’s service as Vice Mayor of St. Petersburg, which is…nothing, until now.

SDM spent some valuable time researching and found a trove of information about Mr. England’s service to St. Petersburg so we decided to share some of it with you in these pages. Because there is so much to review, we will be publishing two parts. Today’s post will cover his first term and the next part will cover his second term.

The First Term

Peter England’s political activism appears to have started in 1979, at the very end of the Carter years. Late in 1979, England decided to seek public office. He was young and worked for a St. Pete bank. He had (and still has) a beautiful wife and family; his wife June ran a tight ship.

Despite not being endorsed by at least one paper in the area, England ultimately won a spot as Councilman for District 5 after beating back a challenge from a Black opponent who complained of some ballot chicanery. (Check out an England ad by clicking here.)

It appears England joined a city facing serious economic challenges, including an enormous deficit. Of course, this was the early 1980s when double digit inflation wreaked havoc on government budgets. Changes in the federal budget caused England to work on saving Amtrak service to St. Petersburg.

To cure its own budget problems, St. Petersburg considered hiking utility taxes and recreation fees though the Council was split on how to address the city’s revenue and expenditure imbalance with England “supporting the increase.”

The council ultimately chose to raise property taxes by 7.7% along with increasing water, sewer and garbage collection fees. (The budget story continues here (scroll up and right) and here and includes an amusing reference to a Carter-era rule limiting thermostat’s to 78 degrees, which made an already difficult budget literally “heated.”)

Though the final budget story doesn’t lay out the votes, England appears to have supported the tax and fee increases when he said in a prior meeting that “[t]he selective cuts we can make are not going to have a major impact on the bottom line. So we have to look at (increasing) revenues.” (Emphasis in the original.)

The budget battle seemed to take a toll on the council’s comity when a couple months later a shouting match broke out at City Hall. England is reported to have “exploded,” calling a fellow council member a “one-man wrecking crew about this council’s credibility with half-truths and innuendos.” England told the official he “was sick of it.”

As 1980 progressed, England involved himself in reinvigorating a portion of the St. Pete waterfront by joining on a trip to see how other cities were doing it. But the city council’s propensity to travel during a budget crisis caused a minor rift when it was extended to visiting the home towns of city manager candidates.

Nevertheless, England went about the city’s business, voting on zoning changes, dealing with a proposal to close a municipal pool, calling for evening meetings to allow more public participation, and working with federal officials on a dredging project. Amid the drudgery of council service, England had to defend himself against an ethics charge that was ultimately decided in his favor.

In heat of summer, St. Pete’s budget problems continued to plague the council. At a tense meeting on August 29, 1980, England rejected a call to cut costs to balance the budget. England explained his position in clear terms:

I think we have a reasonable budget. If we don’t bite the bullet and go for a major tax increase, this city is going back to the dark ages. I don’t think anyone wants unnecessary services, but unless we make some difficult moves on the property tax, it’s going to go beyond cutting things that are nice to have.  We’re going to get into the meat and the bones.

But the city council’s budget wasn’t always popular. The city’s decision to reduce bus services caused the city council to feel the protest at home.  After a bombardment of phone calls, the council changed course and restores some of the night routes. This would not be the last time England would change course on a budget decision.

Despite the city’s budget troubles, England proposed a pay increase for the city’s manager and several months later, a raise for the city council.  England said he didn’t “have any apologies for bringing [a raise for the council] up.”

1981 saw another tough budget year, which coincided with the legislature’s adoption of the convoluted truth-in-millage law. When the city issued its tax bill, taxpayers erupted in fury, which caused the council to rethink its budget strategy. According to reporting by the St. Petersburg Evening Independent newspaper:

England, who had earlier this week said he was satisfied with current 1981-81 (sic, should be 1982) budget proposal said he heard the word: “It caused me to rethink and relook at just exactly what we are going to spend this year. Everybody’s going to have to give one last agonizing reappraisal at what we are going to spend next year…The question is, what services are you willing to give up?”

The budget wasn’t the only trouble facing the city. In December of 1981, England took another stand when he pushed his fellow council members to approve a controversial HUD apartment complex to provide affordable housing.

Then as 1982 dawned, lighter issues attracted the council’s attention. On a 4-3 vote, the council permitted drinking beer and wine at city parks for certain events. England said he supported the measure because it legalized “something that’s already taking place.”

Also in 1982, England objected to a cut to the city’s public information office and later found a compromise that made the city’s financial disclosure law less burdensome on England and his fellow elected officials.

The end of 1982 also marked a transition period for England. The 1983 elections loomed only a few months away and before the year was out, England would become a major player in the issue that would dominate his second and ultimately incomplete term as a in office: The Quest for Major League Baseball.

PB: An Endorsement to Ignore

In the “no surprise there” category, outgoing Councilwoman Joan Lindsay issued an endorsement of Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, which Mme. Mayor posted on her campaign site. Mrs. Stanczyk, er, Mrs. Lindsay makes a couple of claims that SDM decided to evaluate and analyze.

According to Lindsay:

Under her leadership as Mayor, Village reserves have grown to $13.6 million from $9 million in 2010…

The truth about the village’s unassigned fund balance (i.e., the “reserves”) is that they are expected to be about the same as the year Mrs. Stanczyk first took office (the first budget for which she is listed is FY 2006-07):

Year                      Fund Balance
FY 06-07             $9,034,987 (Actual)
FY 07-08             $13,589,615 (Actual)
FY 09-10             $15,502,780 (Actual)
FY 10-11             $8,573,042 (Actual)
FY 11-12             $9,500,714 (Actual)
FY 12-13             $10,453,169 (Actual)
FY 13-14             $10,035,468 (Estimated Final)
FY 14-15             $9,054,468 (Proposed Budget)

It’s hard to figure why Mme. Mayor wants to tout these figures, or even from where she is drawing them in the first place. Perhaps a better set of figures to look at is the ever-increasing number of employees Palmetto Bay residents pay for under the Stanczyk era:

Year                           Full Time           Part Time
FY 06-07 (Actual)          22                          20
FY 14-15 (Proposed)      53                          30

So, in about 8 years, Palmetto Bay almost doubled the number of regular employees. SDM can’t help but wonder why Mrs. Lindsay isn’t touting Mme. Mayor’s incredible ability to bloat our local bureaucracy.

As we’ve said in the past, we will miss Mrs. Lindsay’s intellect on a council that is in short supply of the quality. However, we won’t miss her selfish use of the village resources to wage the war on Palmer Trinity School, surely the most divisive campaign in the 10 year history of our little burgh. And, we won’t miss her incomprehensible slavish devotion to this failed mayor.

PB: How to Plan a Park

Palmetto Bay needs to rebuild, restore or replace the main building at Coral Reef Park according to village staff testimony during the recently concluded budget hearings.

Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, outgoing Councilwoman Joan Lindsay and Councilman Tim “Marathon Man” Schaffer all voted to retain a $10 million “place marker” in the capital section of the budget ostensibly for this purpose.

Vice Mayor John Dubois and Councilman Patrick Fiore (a candidate for Mayor) voted against keeping the $10 million line item because: (a) there is zero chance the village will spend the money during the budget year, because (b) nobody knows what this building would look like or what its programming would be.

cart-before-horse-2

As Dubois and Fiore rightly point out, the administration’s proposal puts the cart before the horse.

Now, there is a better way. Did you see yesterday’s Miami Herald story on the new park proposed for Wynwood? A private individual funded an international architectural competition to come up with a design that would transform his parking lot into an iconic public space. The result is pretty darn cool:

Wynwood Greenhouse Credit Azeez Bakare

The lesson here is that the private individual laid out some general parameters and then asked some clever people to deliver a design that would capture the imagination.

The Village of Palmetto Bay could try something similar. First step is to imagine what the village wants – within reason. For example, we don’t need to build something that competes with private owners (think: gyms, wedding venues, gun ranges :) ). We probably could use a public gathering space for indoor and partially indoor events. As a village we shouldn’t be too quick to jump on any one concept or, likewise, too quick to dismiss realistic options.

SDM Says: Once the Village People decide what we want and have a basic understanding of what we can afford, why not try our own competition and see what the world suggests? Maybe there’s an opportunity for a public-private partnership, too. The point is, while the horse’s ass must be in front of us that doesn’t mean we must be led by one. :)

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