South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Miami Herald

Why Xavier Suarez Should Not Run For Mayor

SDM likes Xavier Suarez as a politician  – sometimes.

Mr. Suarez is a sitting county commissioner and former mayor of the City of Miami where he endeared himself to regular folks while earning the well-deserved moniker of “Mayor Loco” from city hall insiders.

You see, Surarez is one of those people whose intellect makes him formidable and eccentric, often concurrently.

Take the latest example. Mr. Suarez touted in the media a short three weeks ago that he intended to push for a referendum to cap county salaries at $162,000. The Miami Herald reported Suarez as saying that “high salaries are a concrete example of needed government reform… “It’s partly symbolic…somebody has to shake up the bureaucracy.”

SDM couldn’t agree more with the last statement though a cap on salaries wouldn’t accomplish a bureaucratic shake up at the county. It would only make hiring top end officials more difficult.

And why $162,000? What is the magic in that number? Well, Suarez’s logic is that no county official should make more than a state supreme court justice. Huh?

SDM understands that Mr. Suarez is looking to shock the conscience but outside of a tiny portion of the legal community, who really knows what a state supreme court justice even does?

But the clincher that makes Mr. Suarez unfit for the mayor’s job is his lack of forethought on this uncooked idea. At yesterday’s county commission meeting, Suarez essentially admitted he didn’t do enough homework to put a referendum on the ballot.

SDM listened carefully to Mr. Suarez explain how much he learned about the difficulty of passing a referendum and our only response was, well duh? The public has been bitching – fairly – for years that the referendum process is fixed and Mr. Suarez is just finding this out now?

SDM Says: Being mayor of this county is a serious job and it would be tragic to place our community’s well-being into the hands of a person who acts without thinking as Mr. Suarez is wont to do. We prefer Mr. Suarez to remain on the commission and to continue to be a pain in the bureaucrats’ backside…and, we prefer that he prepare himself so as not to look loco.

PB: Pot, Meet Kettle

If SDM had a dollar for every time Gary Pastorella complained about being sued by Vice Mayor Dubois or about Palmer Trinity suing Palmetto Bay, well, let’s say that SDM wouldn’t have time to blog. We’d be too busy indulging in fruity cocktails on various sandy beaches.

Now, we don’t begrudge anyone from hiring lawyers and chasing the government. Many times, government oversteps its bounds and every citizen has a duty to challenge public officials when they allow state power to be abused.

But ask yourself whether Mr. Pastorella’s stated reason for filing this suit meets this test:

“Clearly it doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood. That’s our argument,” said Gary Pastorella, who lives immediately east of the vacant 1.17-acre parcel the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Department hopes to buy at the southeastern corner of Southwest 142nd Terrace and Old Cutler Road.

Fire stations don’t belong in residential neighborhoods. Think about that contention, especially given the context of the particular challenge facing Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest.

The problem for those whose lives are at risk is that THERE IS NO COMMERCIAL LAND IN THIS AREA. Why is this fact so so difficult to understand?

Granted, the Pastorellas and their nearby neighbors aren’t the first families to fight locating a life-saving service  in this area. Coral Gables residents successfully torpedoed an earlier attempt to locate the fire station on the enormous USDA property at Old Cutler and SW 136th Street.

SDM understands that a fire station could create some noise on occasion and might not be constructed and maintained properly (hell, it’s the county, for crying out loud). On the other hand, is there any alternative to locating a county fire station somewhere in this residential area that will serve the residential customers that need the service?

The short answer is: no. The county couldn’t figure out how to use its own property near the transfer station at the entrance to Deering Bay. (Frankly, SDM thinks this is a great spot, but for some bureaucratic reason it is not available.)

The county fire department worked for several years to identify locations and only recently found property that it could afford and that were located in the right geographic boundaries. The bottom line is that a station would be located in a residential area and the issue now is down to which one.

The Pastorellas and others have every right to fight the fire department and the village if they wish. But please spare us the holier-than-thou attitude when you stand before the Council next time.

SDM Says: Palmetto Bay recently changed village attorneys, hiring a litigation pro in Dexter Lehtinen. Mr. Lehtinen is a former U.S. Attorney and most recently represented a litigious native American tribe. This case looks like a good initial test of whether the Lehtinen choice was a good one.


PB: An Unlovely Endorsement

Perhaps we should say the endorsement is unhelpful, but we couldn’t resist the word play.

Oh, you don’t know what we’re talking about because you have a life?

Well, the Miami Herald posted an “endorsement letter” for Henry Clifford that is a must-read. Because we know you are busy, we will share the key section below:

His pleasant attitude, common sense and ability to be a team player by far outweigh his opponent, Lasissa Siegel Lara. While she provides a summary of her key skills and experience as a Burger King Corporate Executive and “Independent Thinker” we believe our city needs just the opposite; a thinker that will listen to & collaborate with the council, staff, and the residents they were elected to represent, on a peer non-corporate level.

We have had enough of independent thinkers in Palmetto Bay. Henry knows the residents and will listen to their needs to get the job done, through advocacy and leadership. (Emphasis added b y SDM.)

Now we suppose that Warren and Helen Lovely meant well, but you have to wonder if either of them actually read this letter before hustling it off the local newspaper.

Warren Lovely is not a new face at Village Hall. In fact, one might say Mr. Lovely coined a term for what he demands from the elected officials he supports. Mr. Lovely wants “sheeple”:

My six year old grandson asked me if I was going to do something and I said I needed to talk to grandma nana first. He looked at me and asked, are you going to be like a sheep and do what you’re told or be like a people and make up your own mind? I said, I’m going to be a sheeple until I talk to your nana.

And what does a good “sheeple” like Mr. Clifford do? Well, he must follow the diktats of the nanas. Here is Mr. Lovely lecturing the village council on “neighborhood protection”:

For those folks that want to talk about not-for-profits, we have the largest park system of anybody in this area. We provide it to everybody in South Florida. But our parks system is paid for by the single family home taxpayers. For the not-for-profits that are churches, schools and that sort of thing…sure, maybe they provide a service, but it’s limited and for that, most of them are getting paid. But the village isn’t getting paid because we’re providing all of the services they require without collecting any tax revenue. So, once again, I’m for your idea of restricting the invasion into the single family residential areas and I do think it’s a good idea to get as tight and specific as you can. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

SDM Aside: We are not religious people here at SDM, but we understand the value of spirituality. How can anyone so ignorantly trivialize another’s spiritual path as merely being an avenue toward “getting paid” or that churches and schools are invading the neighborhood? Even heathens like us find this kind of talk to be offensive.

Once you understand what a self-anointed “community leader” like Mr. Lovely wants, then you can understand why he detests independent thinkers like Larissa Siegel Lara. (Imagine someone with the temerity to consider schools and churches as important components of a healthy community. Oh the horror!)

No, what Mr. Lovely and his tiny ilk want is robotic allegiance to the whims of CCOCI and the rest of Palmetto Bay’s NIMBY establishment and Henry Clifford apparently fits the bill perfectly.

SDM Says: We prefer a person with an independent brain, thank you very much. Vote for Larissa one week from today.

PB: I See Silly People

Palmetto Bay Seat 1 Candidate David Zisman sent out a mailer this week and it made us chuckle. Here is the “positive” side:


Do you notice the use of “I” in every bullet? SDM has news for Mr. Zisman: YOU can’t do it all by yourself, unless of course you will be donning a police uniform and catching speeders with your trusty radar gun. This mailer could not have been drafted by anyone other than the candidate himself, which is even more obvious from the “negative” side:


This may be the most pathetic attempt at a negative mailer SDM has witnessed in 20 years of watching the business. You as a voter are supposed to be rocked in your boots because “Karyn” is a lobbyist for the evil teacher’s union. Look, SDM has no love for unions, but is advocating for teachers more treacherous than an owner of a company declaring bankruptcy? See Herald background checks find spots on Palmetto Bay candidates’ records:

In 2012 and 2013, Zisman filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcies on two of his businesses, which deal in barbecue equipment, Jacuzzi baths and kitchen appliances.

The 2013 bankruptcy, filed in November, was for Evening’s Delight Inc. According to Zisman, the bankruptcy was purely “administrative.”

“Evening’s Delight has never been in financial trouble. Ever, ever, ever. [It’s] all about consolidating the corporations,” he said.

But before that bankruptcy was filed — the proceedings are still ongoing — two creditors named in the bankruptcy filed lawsuits for unpaid debts and received judgments in their favor.

Vent-a-Hood, a Texas-based kitchen hood manufacturer, won $62,313 plus $12,882 in attorney’s fees in October 2010 when it sued Evening’s Delight in a Texas state court.

Samuel, Son & Co., a metals distributor, won $29,171 in damages from Evening’s Delight in June 2013.

Asked about the lawsuits, Zisman said they did not indicate he had any problem paying back vendors. He said he had called to let them know he would be filing for bankruptcy, and that they had opted to sue just to make sure the bankruptcy wouldn’t allow him not to pay them back.

“I let them know what was going on; they were merely protecting themselves. And they did that. And if you pull the court records, you’ll see I didn’t even have a defense. I just let them do what they wanted to do,” Zisman said. “They’re getting paid back as we speak.”

According to Vent-a-Hood president William Miles Woodall III, Zisman filed for bankruptcy after Vent-a-Hood tried to prove that Zisman had shifted assets to another Evening’s Delight company to get out of paying the debt.

Vent-a-hood did not sue because Zisman had warned them of the bankruptcy, Woodall said. It’s the other way around, he said.

“He filed for bankruptcy because we started deposing his family,” he said. “There’s no question he did it to get out of what he owed us.”

Pressed as to why the vendors were not paid between the time they received judgments in their favor and when the bankruptcy was filed — just over three years elapsed between Vent-a-Hood’s initial judgment and the bankruptcy filing — Zisman stopped answering questions.

“I told you already, this is a story about nothing. You and the Herald are trying to do a hatchet job on me. I don’t appreciate it. Please do a story on a real event. My business is in business; I’m doing well. Thank you very much.”

Zisman also criticizes his opponent, Karyn Cunningham, for wanting to plan the village’s future for the next five years (oh, the horror) and because she wants to “open a dialogue with village residents” (for shame).

SDM Says: The choice between Zisman (I, I, I) and Cunningham (We, we, we) was never made more clear than in this mailer.

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.



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