South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Palmetto Bay News

PB: Three Weeks To Election Day

It’s hard to believe, but election day is right around the corner and the tired, tired Palmetto Bay voters just screamed in unison: Finally!

The Money

As of the end of September, the Mayoral candidates stack up as follows in terms of money available:

  1. Peter England $13,000
  2. Shelley Stanczyk $9,400
  3. Eugene Flinn $6,000
  4. Patrick Fiore $5,000

SDM Says: Money, while important, is less of a factor in a small race like Palmetto Bay’s. Nevertheless, whenever a sitting public official, like Mayor Stanczyk, is running for re-election and is being outspent by a challenger, that is a bad sign.

Seat 1 is a dead heat in the money game with Karyn Cunningham and David Zisman heading into the home stretch with an astonishing $30,000 each in the bank. Zisman has raised more overall ($43,000) but Cunningham is close on his heels ($38,000).

SDM Says: We can’t figure out how TWO council candidates each have almost as much money available at this point as do FOUR mayoral candidates. This seat must be setting the spending record for Palmetto Bay.

Seat 3 has three candidates with “normal” sums of money available:

  1. Larissa Siegel Lara $9,000
  2. Henry Clifford $7,000
  3. Jim Shedd $5,000

SDM Says: The smart money has to figure a runoff in this race, which means some donors are likely to hold out to get a bigger bang with runoff money.

It looks on the street like England and Siegel Lara have combined forces just as the color-coordinated Stanczyk and Clifford have done. Really Henry? You want to be hitched to Mme. Mayor so blindly that you can’t even pick your own sign colors?

Fire Stations Remain Controversial

Despite a Herculean effort to ram home the two fire stations before the election by Mayor Stanczyk, both the southern location at the Palmetto Bay Village Center (F/K/A Burger King Headquarters) and the northern site(s) at Farmer Road and Old Cutler Road continue to fester.

Grant Miller, publisher of the Palmetto Bay news, took Mayor Stanczyk to task for her blatant attempt to curry favor with the property owner by circumventing a covenant running with the land:

Under the covenant, the referendum to obtain a minimum of 75% voter approval is only required if the application is submitted by the property owner.”  So what does Mayor Stanczyk do? In the same year her family members have incorporated at least two construction companies located in Palmetto Bay;  she becomes more than a cheerleader, she actually SPONSORS the change, becoming the actual applicant, which robs the residents of their protections of the covenant.

Boy, that stings. It’s funny. SDM thinks the property owner deserves a fair hearing on maximizing the use of his land, especially if the so-called “endangered habitat” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

However, we also think it’s dirty pool by a mayor who is so desperate to make headway on siting the fire station. We understand how the property owner may be using the fire station as leverage to get his site plan amended, but if the deal isn’t good for the environment and the community then why pursue it?

The northern site is shaping up to be a headache for the next Mayor and Council. On the East side of Old Cutler, you have the endlessly hyperbolic Gary Pastorella who may actually suffer a stroke if the fire station is installed at the opening to his cul-de-sac. And, on the other side of Old Cutler you have candidate Zisman – who may become Councilman Zisman – and who has flip-flopped from supporting the station site on his side of the road to now opposing it.

SDM Says: Welcome to Palmetto Bay! The Village of Lawsuits.

Have You Seen The Avmed Commercial?

Former Channel 10 front man Dwight Lauderdale appears in a commercial touting Avmed and guess who is one of the spot’s stars? Yep, none other than mayor candidate Peter England. The ad below is another in the Peter England body of work, but his speaking role seems to have been cut out:

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?

PB: Dubois Taking the Lead on DRTF?

You may have seen a story in the Palmetto Bay News where Vice Mayor John Dubois raises some very serious questions about the village administration’s plan for downtown Palmetto Bay. Among his comments, SDM found these to be right on point:

  • “The missing link is the financial plan with projections,” the vice mayor said. “We have seen a 90-slide PowerPoint, but a PowerPoint is not a plan. We need a written plan that is properly documented.”
  • DuBois asked how many years it would take for return-on-investment for the project, and who the first seven anchor tenants of the new shopping area would be.

Incredibly, one member of the DRTF committee responded that “[t]he redevelopment plans can’t all be driven by return-on-investment…” And, “[Palmetto Bay is] not business, this is government, and government is supposed to create a better environment for people.”

While it is strictly true that government is not a business, it’s resources are not infinite; choices must be made. So, when Palmetto Bay is presented with a project like downtown redevelopment where some $2.5 million will be spent from village reserves, a reasonable question to ask is “what are we getting for the money?”

Generally, a government expenditure on road construction, for example, would come from a dedicated source of funding like gas taxes, fees or revenue sharing. What Mr. Dubois is correctly pointing out is that Palmetto Bay is being asked to “invest” in the downtown using general funds, rather than dedicated revenues.

We as residents are giving up something precious when we agree to spend reserve money in the downtown. We are giving up the opportunity to reserve against future downturns and/or to spend that money on some other activity that will “create a better environment for people.” Most importantly, we are giving up flexibility.

The other thing we think Mr. Dubois should be concerned about is the task force’s murky behavior. We’ve pointed out that they don’t keep minutes – or at least that the don’t post them on their site. We’ve also been told by people we trust that some of the members of the task force are speculating on the downtown.

That’s all well and good so long as the decisions the council makes are not being influenced by the speculators. In other words, if downtown Palmetto Bay needs road improvements and sidewalks, then those needs should stand on their own two feet and clearly benefit the entire community.

However, if a speculator needs some specific work that will make her property more valuable – which can benefit the village – then a return on investment model makes perfect sense. Again, the village must employ some rational mechanism to choose between competing expenditures, so why not use a reliable, time-tested methodology like ROI?

SDM Says: The DRTF is a good thing and is doing important work. We wish we could feel confident that it’s on the straight and narrow path. Vice Mayor Dubois has our support to hold the task force accountable and we think his colleagues on the council should join him in doing so.

PB: Rethinking Shade Session Release and Some Other Stuff

Are the shade session documents ready for public review?

The Village of Palmetto Bay announced an attorney-client session for August 7th. The purpose of the meeting is as follows:

The Village of Palmetto Bay shall be holding a Special Council meeting on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm, at Village Hall, 9705 E. Hibiscus Street. The purpose of this meeting shall be to announce an Attorney Client Session, as noticed below, and to hear an “Other Business” item, as follows:  Release all shade session transcripts for all cases that are currently active (sponsored by Vice Mayor John DuBois.) Emphasis added by SDM.

SDM Wonders: Is the attorney client session separate from the discussion of the “other business” item? Or, is the village council going to hold a public hearing to determine whether the village will release all the other transcripts the Mayor has hidden in her desk?

SDM Also Wonders: Is there a real settlement on the horizon that will finally terminate the seemingly endless litigation with Palmer Trinity?

The Miller Brothers Strike Again

Grant Miller, publisher of the Palmetto Bay News, blistered Mayor Stanczyk once again. Read the editorial here. Here’s a morsel to chew on:

It sure would be nice for the residents to see some actual positive communication for the mayor and her supporters, some kind words for each other instead of salutes with only the middle finger. Residents deserve progress on important issues such as a recovery of the lost fire station at the USDA land; upgrade to the village code; acts and civility that lead to an improved property tax base, and an end to the very public discontent between and amongst the public and council members.

Palmetto Bay residents deserve better.

SDM Says: Palmetto Bay voters need to spend some time watching and digesting the government they elected. When you have the husband (Jerry Templer) of a sitting council member (Joan Lindsay) flipping the bird to the village council, it’s time for a change.

South Dade Congressman Joe Garcia Doesn’t Even Live In The District

Joe Garcia who fired two staffers for allegedly committing ballot fraud is now facing a new allegation. Apparently, Mr. Garcia committed to moving into his congressional district after he was elected. The Miami Herald reported last week that Mr. Garcia has yet to move into his district:

It has been almost a year since Joe Garcia told The Miami Herald’s editorial board that he’d move into the new Key West-to-Miami-Dade Congressional District 26 if he won.

Garcia won. But he hasn’t yet moved. His office said the freshman Democrat is in the process of getting a place.

SDM Says: Frankly, Mr. Garcia ought to save his money and continue living outside the district. That way, when South Dade elects a real local candidate, Mr. Garcia will avoid the expense of moving his household.

Summer Roundup

dol·drums [dohl-druhmz, dol-, dawl-] noun ( used with a plural verb ): a state of inactivity or stagnation, as in business or art: August is a time of doldrums for many enterprises.

SDM fell into a summer doldrums for several days, but will shake loose the funk and report on local goings on.

Homestead Makes SDM Feel Better About Palmetto Bay

The Miami Herald ran a story this morning titled “Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman under probe over secret consulting deal.” SDM once had high hopes for Mr. Bateman, which may have been just pangs of relief after he surprised South Dade and unseated the intolerable Lynda Bell.

But this story of a secret consulting contract with Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI) is nothing if not a scandal. CHI provides health services to the poor and is funded largely – if not totally – by public monies. CHI apparently hired Mr. Bateman to secure the installation of a pump station to serve a facility in Homestead.

Mr. Bateman is reported to have demanded meetings with county officials, including Mayor Carlos Gimenez, under his title as Mayor though in fact he was acting as CHI’s paid consultant. Mr. Bateman was a lobbyist who apparently failed to register or declare his status.

SDM Says: Mr. Bateman is in big trouble and will probably be forced to resign if these allegations prove true. They’re just too easy to prove and once proved are, at best, clear ethics violations. If his clients at CHI knew what he was doing and failed to act, they too may be facing sanctions. Homestead deserves much better.

Cutler Bay Still Trying to Be Palmetto Bay

Last weekend, a Herald Neighbors story titled “Cutler Bay Farmer’s Market Closes, Food Trucks Banned,” caught SDM’s attention. The guts of the story are that on June 9, due to a code enforcement issue related to food trucks, Cutler Bay’s very popular Farmer’s Market closed down:

In early June…an anonymous caller to code enforcement pointed out that a town ordinance prohibits unlicensed vendors at the Farmer’s Market. Seeking immediate attention, the caller also claimed there had been a case of food poisoning from a market vendor. …the town confirmed that some unlicensed vendors had been operating at the market. Officials also discovered that the town had an ordinance which wasn’t being enforced, prohibiting food trucks at the Farmer’s Market.

This story seems to be the norm in the new municipalities in South Dade. You have your ubiquitous “anonymous caller” and a town that didn’t know certain vendors were operating illegally, despite the fact that most of the council visited the market on numerous occasions. Can anyone say “vendetta?”

SDM speculates that the caller might be a disgruntled restaurant owner seeking to get rid of some competition. Another possibility is a nearby homeowner who didn’t like the traffic. A third possibility is that an insider with knowledge didn’t like the fact that town officials were looking the other way. Regardless of the source, the anonymous caller is a party pooper.

Of course, the town’s chief negative nabob, Councilwoman Peggy Bell, jumped on the anti-food truck bandwagon immediately:

We cannot say you can have food trucks at this one event because you’d like to and not others…

SDM Says: Ms. Bell has never met a business she couldn’t imagine shutting down and remodeling to suit her own sensibilities. God only knows what she will do if Cutler Bay elects her as Mayor.

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.

Stanczyk Gets Ripped by the Miller Brothers

Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, the other official expected to appear on next year’s village ballot, was ripped mercilessly in the Palmetto Bay News. You can read the story for your self by clicking Mayor Stanczyk: Time to stop the ugly vendettas. Getting ripped by the Millers is no small problem for the Mayor given that their newspaper played a critical role in fostering the incorporation of the village.

In the editorial, the paper’s publisher asks an important question:

Why do Palmetto Bay residents continue to suffer with a mayor who fails to address ongoing issues due to indecisiveness and pending expensive litigation…?

Mr. Miller fairly blames Mrs. Stanczyk for failing to find an appropriate location for a fire station, an absurd Art in Public Places Program, an unstable property tax base and – most importantly – for the ongoing discontent on the village council.

SDM Says: Mrs. Stanczyk enjoys the discontent when it works in her favor; she really, really dislikes it – to the point of tears – when it goes against her. The truth is that Mrs. Stanczyk is reaping what she has sown.

SDM Wonders: When will a serious Palmetto Bay resident give us an alternative to rally around? We need your leadership now more than ever.

Blog Note: Summer is a slow time for SDM not merely because local government tends to slumber. We will publish when the mood strikes but less frequently than some of you may have become accustomed. :)

PB: Palmer’s Latest News – Positive & Perplexing

SDM sometimes wakes up wondering how the universe functions, especially after reading this momentous article in the Miami Herald:

Court rules Palmetto Bay is not on the hook for Palmer Trinity’s legal fees

By Howard Cohen
The Miami Herald

The Miami-Dade Circuit Court has ruled in favor of Palmetto Bay, which argued it does not have to pay the legal fees connected with its longstanding battle over Palmer Trinity School’s expansion.On Nov. 5 the court denied the school’s request that the village pay its attorney’s fees and costs, which could have totaled more than $300,000.

In July, the school won the right to expand to 1,150 students and, with that victory, filed a motion to collect legal fees.

In August, Palmetto Bay petitioned the Third District Court of Appeal to reconsider its July order that the village pay the school’s attorney’s fees. In September, the appeals court reversed its earlier ruling that the village pay the school’s legal fees. The case went back to the Circuit Court, which ruled in favor of the village.

“It’s over. The appeal is over and hopefully everyone can get back to doing what we do,’’ says Palmetto Bay Village Attorney Eve Boutsis. “The city continues to be a city and Palmer Trinity already has its development order and will do what it has to do and hopefully everyone can move on,” Boutsis said Tuesday afternoon. “This was a great result for the village and it ends this cleanly.” (Emphasis added by SDM.)

[SDM Question: Does this mean the transcripts of the shade sessions will be released now?]

Stan Price, the attorney for Palmer Trinity, commented on Wednesday. “We’re extremely disappointed. We don’t know what you have to do to prove bad faith on behalf of government entities before you can get fees, but we’ll continue with the litigation and hopefully, at the end of the day, we’ll be totally vindicated.”

The village still faces a civil suit filed by the school, which contends it’s owed more than $12 million in lost tuition and other revenue as a result of the suits. The village is fighting those charges.

Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk has faced criticism from some residents who formed a political action committee to have her recalled next year along with Council Member Joan Lindsay for their decisions to fight the school. The Recall Palmetto Bay group has also worked against re-electing Vice Mayor Brian Pariser, who faces a runoff on Nov. 20.

The group is upset because the three council members continued to lead the fight against Palmer, after the court ruled against the village. The village has spent more than $600,000 in legal fees since the dispute began in 2006.

The recall group used the Third District Court of Appeal’s strongly worded language against the village as ammunition. The appeals court ruled that Palmetto Bay acted with “willful disobedience” regarding previous judicial instructions. The court had also noted the village’s appeals were “an exercise in superfluousness and futility.”

Village supporters strongly disagreed with the unusually harsh language. The battle has divided the village during the recent Nov. 6th elections. Pariser finished a close second and faces challenger John DuBois in the runoff. Council member Howard Tendrich, who disagreed with Pariser, Stanczyk and Lindsay, lost his bid for reelection. His challengers, Tim Schaffer and Jim Araiza, will be in the runoff.

On Tuesday, Stanczyk expressed satisfaction with the latest court decision. The court did not elaborate on its decision, saying only the motion was denied.

“This ruling continues the statement that the village has not acted with willful disobedience and that our actions were not frivolous,” she said.

First off, SDM wants to say bravo to the village’s legal team for protecting the taxpayers from this cost. Having to pay $300,000 to Palmer would have been a blow to the village, though a manageable one. Palmetto Bay’s lawyers lost the case, but won a critical skirmish over fees and costs and Ms. Boutsis deserves praise for achieving this result.

But the result also sparks questions in SDM’s tiny mind. For example, why are Palmer’s legal fees and costs half the amount the village has incurred in defending the lawsuit? If the village’s financial exposure was $300,000, why didn’t someone try to settle the matter before we incurred more than half-a-million in legal fees and costs on our end?

Perhaps more importantly, did it make sense for the village to spend tax dollars and to drag Palmer through all of this torment over a net difference of 250 children spread over more than 50 acres of land? Earlier posts noted that village staff believed Palmer could have added some 2,000 students based on the code.  (Staff essentially talked them down to their 1,150 recommendation.) Was this result worth all the time and money spent by the village on this lawsuit?

SDM also wonders why the village elders and legal counsel never discussed the dimensions of the village’s financial exposure with residents. With all due respect, the calls for settlement that have emanated from SDM and the Palmetto Bay News for at least 18 months appear well-founded. While the village attorney deserves kudos for this victory, her obsession with keeping the rest of us in the dark looks to have extended this lawsuit. Inevitably SDM must ask: who benefits when a lawsuit drags on?

Finally, SDM wonders how the Mayor can be so clueless. Seriously, does she not understand that the village lost the lawsuit? That the court said specifically that the village’s behavior in the Palmer litigation amounted to “willful disobedience of the court’s instructions”? [Read more at Palmer Litigation: An Exercise in Superfluousness and Futility.] Frankly, SDM cannot figure out why the village lets her speak to reporters.

SDM Wonders: How does Ms. Boutsis conclude that “[t]his was a great result for the village and it ends this cleanly” given the following:

  • The village lost the underlying suit and spent a small fortune defending its position.
  • Palmetto Bay was slapped with a humiliating and harshly worded order questioning the village’s motives. (Judges are human, too, they talk about cases to one another. SDM cannot see how this case was good for Palmetto Bay’s reputation.)
  • One of the village’s most important institutions (and one of its largest employers, too) has been unable to expand for a minimum of four years. (How many kids missed out on a Palmer education, Mme. “Education” Mayor?)
  • Palmer still has a lawsuit pending on damages.
  • A once tranquil village finds itself divided.

SDM Says: This not so great and not so clean “victory” rings a little hollow. Do the candidates for Vice Mayor and District 2 agree with Ms. Boutsis?

PB: Is Captain Kreepy doing CCOCI’s bidding?

As regular SDM readers know, SDM has a pet name for Palmetto Bay’s flack: Captain Kreepy. The name comes from the flack’s publication on the village Facebook page of a group of children Kreepy was trying to identify.

Kreepy’s job ostensibly is to keep the community updated regarding various goings-on and to make sure village meetings are webcast and televised on the cable channel. Most of the time, he runs a good shop although he did manage to delete more than half of a crucial meeting on the “neighborhood protection” ordinance.

But then over the weekend, Captain Kreepy published this notice:

David Singer Makes Information Request for Village E-mail List

Village realizes residents may experience some inconvenience in use of your personal e-mail addresses, but must comply…

PALMETTO BAY, FLA., Oct. 20, 2012 — For more than four years, the Village of Palmetto Bay has distributed e-Currents to keep residents and other interested parties abreast of Village news and information. We do hope you have enjoyed the content and format of our newsletters — and hope that you will continue to do so in the future.

This special edition e-Currents is to advise you that an individual by the name of David M. Singer has requested the list of all e-mail subscribers to our Village newsletter. Under the laws of the State of Florida, disclosure of public records is the norm unless there is a specific exemption. In the case of an e-mail list that is accessible to the city, the e-mail list is a public record and subject to release. Additionally, while we belive (sic) your privacy should be respected, Mr. Singer may use the list without your approval.

We realize you may experience some inconvenience as a result of the release of your e-mail address; however, the Village must follow the Florida Sunshine Laws.

For information, contact the Village (see below), or David M. Singer [information deleted by SDM].

SDM has confirmed that in addition to publishing this message on the website, it was also sent under the village-owned constant contact account. What’s odd about this email is that the village website contains the following warning for anyone wanting to join the e-currents mailing list:

Be advised that if you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to or share your e-mail address with Palmetto Bay.

So why is there a need to warn folks on this public email list that someone, in fact, made a public records request for the list?

SDM Codebreaker: Mr. Singer is one of three Palmetto Bay residents who formed Recall Palmetto Bay, which seeks the defeat of Vice Mayor Pariser and the recall of Mayor Stanczyk and Councilwoman Lindsay. The Three Amigos and their SOP puppet masters at the Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler (CCOCI) don’t like him much and they apparently think they can intimidate him into silence.

This isn’t the first time the village has stooped to attempting to intimidate someone for having the nerve to request a copy of the village’s email list. Palmetto Bay attacked Grant Miller (publisher of the Palmetto Bay News) and the Palmetto Bay Village Voice for doing so.

Yet, SDM does not recall a similar message sent out when Mayor Stanczyk got a copy of the list. Stanczyk regularly terrorizes the public with incoherent emails sent without permission from the recipient.

But one significant part of this obnoxious tactic surprised event the jaded SDM. Captain Kreepy published Mr. Singer’s business address, phone numbers and email! There is only one reasonable explanation for doing so:  Kreepy is trying to shut Mr. Singer up.

SDM Wonders: Who ordered Kreepy to put out this email and to publish this notice? Will Palmetto Bay residents condone this outrageous behavior from a village employee? If Kreepy was acting under orders, how high does this aggressive act of intimidation go?

SDM Says: The village council must ask Village Communications Director Bill Kress to explain why he published this offensive message and whether he did so under any person’s instructions. Village residents must not be implicitly excoriated when they ask for records to which they are entitled.


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