South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Miami Herald

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.


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. :)

MDC: Fair Play

The Miami Herald reported today that the county commission will be voting on whether to move the Dade County Youth Fair off of its traditional home and on to a new location.

SDM Says: Bravo, it’s about time. The homeowners near The Fair must be jumping for joy given the traffic snarl it creates each year.

Sure, SDM youngsters went to The Fair, just like the SDMers did. We all had a blast and it is a fine tradition.

But what is more important to those kids and to us? Attending The Fair or growing FIU to allow those same kids access to more programs?

Surely the right answer is to let FIU grow and become a world-class university. FIU is one of a handful of institutions that is critical to our community’s economic future. The Fair, by contrast, is at best a temporary shot in the arm and only redirects internal community spending.

So what to do about The Fair?

Well, there are lots of interesting spots in South Dade (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) that could be great long term locations, though The Fair probably wants a sweetheart deal to give up is current location. According to the Herald, the fair’s lease runs through 2040 with extensions to 2085 and the county would be “on the hook” if it were to break the lease. (Who gives away land better than our local governments? Nobody, we tell ya!)

SDM Says: The fair needs the county and the county needs FIU. Somebody has to broker a “fair” deal and let the parties move on.

Jeb Gets It Wrong

Big story today: Jeb Bush, former super successful Florida Governor and potential candidate for President n 2016, came out swinging against medical marijuana:

Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire… Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.

SDM is a big Jeb! fan, but this position smacks of elitism, not to mention a lack of situational awareness.

Mr. Bush, are you saying that your prefer all of the illegal, small-scale pot growing and importing over a reasonably regulated legal market? Or, do you believe that nobody is growing, importing or smoking pot in Florida?

SDM can’t help but wonder where all these elitists on the left and the right get their information. It’s as if they either don’t accept the data or prefer to stick their heads in the sand and ignore Florida’s and America’s reality: People – lots of them – smoke marijuana and our social efforts for more than five decades to stop the practice have failed miserably.

Unfortunately for Jeb! supporters, he seems to insert his moccasins into his maw regularly on big issues. Remember this:

Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family…I honestly think that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.

We understand your point, Mr. Bush, but you just sound like you’ve been living in an alternate universe when you utter these kinds of statements.

SDM Says: Dear Mr. Bush, please look at the world as it is and not as you may want it to be. Adults in this country should be permitted broad latitude when it comes to their preferences – sexual, social, physical – so long as they are responsible and not endangering others. We libertarians would like you to back off the marijuana debate and focus your immense talents on solving the world’s important problems. If you cannot bring yourself to do so on policy grounds, do it to save your political future. You are on the wrong side of history on this one.


MDC: Bell v Levine Cava – Battle of Deceptive Mailers

SDM received a mailer from an organization called “Changing Florida’s Future PC” with a Tallahassee post office box listed as its address. Changing Florida’s Future PC is a political action committee run by Mark Herron, a Tallahassee lobbyist.

The PAC lists many contributors. Some of the larger ones:

  • Several local unions ponied up $46,000
  • West Flagler Associates, LTD (the corporation behind the Magic City Casino) donated $30,000
  • A company called Suniland Associates, Ltd with an address of 801 Arthur Godfrey Road, #600 donated $15,000 (in what may be an odd coincidence, the well-known company Terranova Corporation shares the same address)
  • One Julie Levine donated $10,000 despite listing her occupation as “disabled”
  • A Lois J. Levine donated $30,000

Most of the remainder of the contributors is made up of addresses located in New York and Palm Beach, though one address in Palmetto Bay was listed accounting for $50 of the $188,000+ raised by the PAC.

So you’re saying, so what SDM? Everyone knows these political candidates wash money through PACs and Committees and such. We don’t really expect Ms. Levine Cava to act any differently, do we? Ms. Levine Cava wouldn’t ask relatives to donate funds to a PAC to avoid the $1,000 campaign contribution limit, would she?

Let’s hold off on the motivations for a minute.

Instead, let’s take a look at one of the claims made in the mailer. According to Changing Florida’s Future PC, Ms. Bell stated on the record somewhere that with respect to “Arsenic… Class “A” Human Carcinogen…Lynda Bell…is not worried. [SDM deleted the punctuation to make this flow a little.]

The mailer goes on to say: “When arsenic was found at a local public school site, Lynda Bell didn’t want to spend the money to do a proper cleanup. She even fought with the local school board, which knew it would take more than scraping away a little dirt.”

Then the mailer adds a footnote referencing the National Resources Defense Council (presumably for the proposition that arsenic is a human carcinogen); three Miami Herald articles (SDM won’t pay the archive fees, but let’s presume they report on the Homestead school issue); a Miami-Dade ordinance without a reference number (instead the mailer includes an item number and a date – you try to figure out what that is referencing); and finally, the important one: a June 5, 2012 BCC meeting and a YouTube video.

SDM decided first to check out the video, so we carefully inserted the web address, and…nothing. The link produces a dead page saying video not available, or something like it.

So, SDM went back – grumpily, because we really are starting to hate watching these public hearings – and watched the hearing for the famous anti-children message.

On the day in question, Commissioner Bell and her colleagues were listening to Congressional Candidate and former Commissioner Joe Martinez’s fantasy of having Donald Trump build a movie studio at Homestead Air Base. At 2:59:30, Ms. Bell is recognized to blather on about how she loves the idea but has some reservations.

In that context, Ms. Bell notes that Mr. Trump’s team may find arsenic on the site but based on her experience as Mayor one can clean up arsenic. She acknowledges that it’s a long process, but it can be done. The clean up involves removing (scraping up) soil and capping the ground. She notes she was familiar with the process because she had to clean up a school site in Homestead that had arsenic. The exchange ends at 3:02:57.

Now, SDM ain’t no rocket surgeon, but for our lives we cannot figure out how Ms. Levine Cava, er, the PAC, can logically twist this discussion into “Lynda Bell is not worried about arsenic.”

You may find this awfully hard to believe but arsenic is a byproduct of modern agriculture and it is found all over deep South Dade. When land is redeveloped, the topsoil is often removed and replaced to mitigate the arsenic. It is SDM’s understanding that the Homestead site where this particular arsenic was located is now occupied by a district school! (Gasp.)

Is the PAC suggesting the school be shut down? Would Ms. Levine Cava support such a dumb idea? Inquiring minds want to know.

SDM Wonders: Does Ms. Levine Cava agree with the allegations in this mailer? Or would she, as SDM does, find this to be a sleight-of-hand or a misdirection?

Ms. Levine Cava also sent out a mailer in the past couple weeks, which contains her Three-point Plan to Fight Corruption. (SDM has goosebumps!) Here is number 2:

Increase transparency: If a County Commissioner is campaigning or fundraising, the Supervisor of Elections should always be aware of it. My plan would require Commissioners to disclose all solicitation activities so the public is kept informed.

SDM’s Question for Ms. Levine Cava: You cleverly say that “Commissioners” instead of “candidates” should disclose solicitation activities, thereby exempting yourself, for now. Would you voluntarily tell the public that you solicited some wealthy family members and unions to fund a PAC working on your behalf by attacking your opponent? Or, are you going to be just more of the same?

Reprise: Daniella Levine Cava

SDM received a comment over the weekend asking us to look carefully into Daniella Levine Cava’s history presumably because doing so will help us to jump on her bandwagon. Well, SDM already looked into the commission candidate’s background and what we saw unnerved us.

In addition to the Miami Herald report stating that she was put into the race by the local Democratic party, a fact alone that should make every South Dade taxpayer tremble, we also looked into her work history. Today, we will reprise our previous blog for those who are new to this site.

The fact is that Ms. Levine Cava will be a liberal vote on a county commission that is over loaded with like minded tax and spenders. Our distaste for Mrs. Bell notwithstanding, the last thing this community needs is another braying yes vote for every county spending plan.

Levine Cava Campaign Kicks Off (Originally published January 8, 2014)

Yesterday, Daniella Levine Cava kicked off her campaign to unseat the very beatable Commissioner Lynda Bell. SDM is glad she joined the battle but we’re also extremely worried about Ms. Levine Cava’s beliefs and views.

Ms. Levine Cava founded an organization called the Human Services Coalition, which eventually turned into Catalyst Miami. In a recent Miami New Times story about Ms. Levine Cava (who is identified only as Daniella Levine, interestingly), she says that “Catalyst is an emanation of my soul…and I believe in pulling people in the right direction instead of pushing them.”

So what emanates from Ms. Levine Cava’s soul? Here are some examples from Catalyst Miami’s website:

  • The Penny Wise Campaign: “The Penny Wise Campaign was launched when Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez proposed a budget for FY 2009-10 that would eliminate all funding for community-based organizations in social services, environment and the arts. Thousands of Miami-Dade residents organized in response to these plans, attending planning meetings, signing petitions, demonstrating at rallies and collaborating across organization and sector. Thanks in large part to a strong shared message from community organizations, nonprofits were not eliminated from the budget. Instead, 70% of the previous year’s budget amount was preserved. In 2010, Mayor Alvarez proposed cutting 25% of CBO funding. Again, because we organized, our funding was preserved.” (Emphasis added by SDM.)

SDM Wonders: Will Ms. Levine Cava be a permanent vote for the bloated county social services budget of which she was so recently a beneficiary? If so, this view of the county’s responsibilities will be quite different from that of Ms. Bell and many fed up taxpayers, too.

  • The Harvest Democracy Program, according the Catalyst website “helps nonprofits accomplish their missions by incorporating advocacy and policy analysis into their organizational strategic planning, and by being effective advocates at all levels of government.”

SDM Wonders: Surely Ms. Levine Cava recognizes that 501c3 nonprofits are not supposed to be lobbying, so why would Catalyst be encouraging nonprofits to “contact members of their congressional delegation as needed on issues related to a public policy agenda”?

SDM Says: One would be hard pressed to find an issue that divides the right from the left more than Obamacare and Ms. Levine Cava’s Catalyst is the go-to organization implementing this disaster of a program.

There is more, but you get the picture. Ms. Levine Cava represents a sea change in county commission candidates: a true believer in the liberal/progressive world view of government being the ultimate catalyst for social change. Even the left-leaning, former Commissioner Katy Sorenson couldn’t boast such a frightening record before she entered politics.

SDM won’t be climbing on board this particular train.

UM Geologist: The End Is Near

The Miami Herald ran a story over the weekend highlighting a local climate change scientist Dr. Harold Wanless. SDM has heard Dr. Wanless make his doomsday presentation on South Florida a couple times and we always walk away with the same question: If he’s right, then what are we South Floridians supposed to do about it?

EndDr. Wanless played an important role in guiding Miami-Dade County’s task force regarding projections of sea level rise. According to that committee, sea level rise – the level our government should be planning for – will be between three and five feet.

During presentations where SDM was present, however, Wanless has argued that sea level rise may reach 10 feet in a century. Wow. In fact, Wanless believes Miami will not survive into the future:

“The truth is out now. Our tenure on low-lying parts of South Florida is coming to an end. You buy down here at your own peril,” he said. “If communities and governments aren’t fairly warning people, they are at massive risks for lawsuits because the reality is here.”

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about your home value now doesn’t it?

SDM follows climate change science and reads lots of material on the subject of sea level rise. Frankly, we think Dr. Wanless is an outlier in a sea of outliers (pardon the pun).

The Herald story regurgitates what is now a roundly dismissed media overreaction to the news last week that one of the major glaciers in Western Antarctica has passed the point of no return. Several “news” outlets breathlessly reported that the loss of the glacier could cause sea levels to rise as much as 12 feet. One scientist was quoted as calling it a “holy shit” moment.

Unfortunately for the manics, the paper itself dismissed any notion that its models were designed to tell us anything about sea level rise. A second paper was published that same week that sought to analyze the impact of the Antarctic changes. Their results estimated an increase from 0.45 mm per year versus a prior estimates of 0.19 mm per year.

For South Florida, a doubling of the impact from Antarctic glaciers on sea level rise is not inconsequential, but it is also not catastrophic. Currently, sea level rises here 2 mm per year based on historical records dating back to 1896. That works out to less than one foot per century of rise, so even if you go to 2.5 mm per year, you are talking about relatively small numbers.

The real problem with Dr. Wanless’s reckless projections – and of the politicians here locally who are latching onto them – is that insurance companies are now looking harder at re-rating flood risks here. Dr. Wanless and his models are giving insurers just the blessing they need to make our lives more expensive.

Sure, we know there are folks out there who will call SDM deniers and all other kinds of nasty names. Lots of people are emotionally invested into the idea that mankind is destroying the Earth. We get it, but we disagree with the focus on carbon. We think trash is a bigger problem, especially in the developing world.

Where will our ever changing climate take this planet in “several hundred years?” Think about it this way: Miami is only about 120 years old. Go look at historic photos and note the differences in technology that occurred in just the last century alone.

Does any serious person really believe that mankind – if it still exists several centuries into the future – will not have evolved dramatically so as to adapt to whatever the new reality is?

There have always been those who believe the end of the world is right around the corner. More often than not, their dire warnings fail to materialize largely due to the limits of our imaginations.

Obamacare Preview; Question for Levine Cava

SDM heard an exciting story the other day about a young couple that decided to avoid getting married because as a couple their Obamacare premium and deductible would essentially bankrupt them. You see the young lady will be having a baby soon and her solo income allows her to apply for Medicaid, so the young couple is putting off marriage for a while.

Isn’t that just a wonderful American story? A baby born out of wedlock to avoid losing one’s shirt. Thankfully, she has access to Medicaid – a state run operation – so at least she has  some “insurance.” And, Medicaid is such a success, right?

Well, take a look at our future in a story from today’s Miami Herald. If this story looks like a repeat, you are a careful reader of the fish wrapper. This is probably the 10th Miami Medicaid ripoff story SDM has read in the past five years.

Three Miami men charged with Medicare fraud in alleged $190 million scam

 Three Miami men charged with Medicare fraud are the latest of about 40 defendants who have been prosecuted for the alleged $190 million mental-health clinic scam carried out by the now-defunct American Therapeutic Corp.

A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted Roger Bergman, 64, Rodolfo Santaya, 54, and Nelson Rojas, 43, on charges of conspiring to commit Medicare fraud by filing false claims and related offenses during the previous decade.

Bergman, a licensed physician’s assistant, and Santaya, a patient recruiter, were each charged with conspiring to defraud the taxpayer-funded program for seniors. Rojas, the co-owner of a check-cashing store, was charged with conspiring to pay kickbacks to recruiters.

Since Miami-based American Therapeutic was shut down in October 2010, the Justice Department has convicted dozens of former employees and others who participated in the alleged scheme, including one-time CEO Lawrence Duran. He is serving a 50-year prison sentence.

Now doesn’t that just give you lots of warm fuzzies about the future of government-run health care?

For those of you out there who are jumping up and down and screaming “SDM, you are wrong. Obamacare is not government-run health care. The exchanges allow people to shop around for policies from private insurers.”

Well, if that is what you said, you  would be partially correct. The health care exchanges have indeed enrolled people into private health insurance plans, though it is not clear just yet how many of those enrollees have actually paid their premiums.

But, the other function of the exchanges is to determine if enrollees qualify for the expanded benefits Obamacare requires of certain participating states. Obamacare has enrolled millions into expanded Medicaid programs, which according to, ” increase eligibility levels to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line ($23,550 for a family of four).” (The Florida legislature wisely opted out of expanding Medicaid.)

So guess what we are going to get with more Medicaid enrollees? Maybe some more insured people, though one has to wonder if we are just going to see cost shifting. But, certainly, we can expect more fraud and, sadly for us old fuddy duddies, more kids in single parent households.

SDM Says: You may want to ask commission candidate Daniella Levine Cava her views on this situation since her organization Catalyst Miami is an Obamacare navigator organization.


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