South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Palmetto Bay

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.

PB: Early Budget Meeting Report

You want $20 Million for What?!?!

The council’s only real budget debate centered around an obscure section of the capital plan where the administration proposes future capital projects. Think of this as a kind of “wish list” for politicians trying to sway voters.

Vice Mayor John Dubois took issue with the arbitrary insertion of a $20 million line item for a new multi-purpose complex at Coral Reef Park. To give you an idea of the scale of such a project, note that the entire village hall complex cost a mere $12 million.

So what exactly are they planning for a park that already struggles to offer parking? According to Mayor Stanczyk, she needs a meeting room that can accommodate 65 people. Mr. Dubois suggested using the council chambers (capacity 90+), which costs nothing. SDM was able to find a rendering of Mrs. Stanczyk’s ideal building:

Taj

The fast spending Mayor Stanczyk was unswayed and clung to what amounts to her umpteenth grandiose but unplanned concept. Remember the parking garage/entertainment complex next to village hall? Or, her massive plans for Thalatta Estate? This mayor has never seen a spending project that doesn’t deserve a good fat dose of your tax dollars.

In the end, the council overrode Mayor Spendthrift and halved the project’s budget. Perhaps the next council will look more critically at foolish and wasteful self-aggrandizing monuments.

Time for a Police Review?

SDM can’t say that Mayor Stanczyk is not creative with the uses for your money. In a year where the village is “flush” according to FOSDMs, Mme. Mayor still thinks we have more to give. Last night, she proclaimed that the village needed a separate millage for the police department. Yes, you heard that right.

Why do we need such a thing? Well, she went on to say that during her time in office, police costs had risen from around $4.5 million per year to the current year projection of $7 million. She seemed to think the way to solve this challenge was to add more taxes. Remember, the $7 million figure could jump because the county hasn’t completed its negotiations with the PBA.

SDM checked our neighbor to the north and found that Pinecrest fields a force of 77 (including 32 full time officers) for a cost of $7.9 million. Palmetto Bay’s policing unit is comprised of 46 souls, 35 of which are full time officers.

SDM Says: The next council should establish a task force to see if Palmetto Bay is getting its money’s worth when it comes to police services. It looks to us like we’re getting about half the force we’re due for what we pay. And, please, dump the half-baked separate millage idea.

One more Stanczyk Tax Bites the Dust

SDM failed to notice an ordinance the Mayor put on the agenda for first reading that would have established a new tax in Palmetto Bay. She called it a “Solid Wast Franchise Fee,” which is a tax on your garbage and is especially aimed at commercial properties.

The rest of the council gave the proposal a moment of silence and it failed for lack of a motion.

SDM Says: The Mayor and her Manager wield their authority like a tax and spend wrecking ball. More employees, more unfunded projects, more taxes and more bad ideas…it is really time for a change.

Joan’s Gone

Apparently the rumors are flying about Councilwoman Joan Lindsay’s status given that her Palmetto Bay home is for sale. You can check out the listing here. It looks like a great place and given the nearly $1.5 million price tag, SDM has to wonder whether the Palmer situation really hurt her property values.

JL

SDM Says: The home looks great. Hope it sells fast and for a great price.

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

 

PB: Seen at Levine Cava Party

SDM was going through the pictures posted on Eye On Miami and found this picture. The second shot is a close up, cropped version.

party 2

MME

It don’t take a rocket surgeon to identify these folks! Mme. Mayor searching for some coattails to ride.

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.

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

David Singer

Guest Post by David Singer: Seat 3 Candidates Speak

The Candidates from Seat Three 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:

Henry Clifford’s “First Hundred Days” on Village of Palmetto Bay Council

In my first 100 days, I hope to work with others to improve Palmetto Bay in the present and for the future. To:

1. Take immediate steps to reduce traffic speeding and cut- through, specifically in the 87-82-77 avenue corridor, and all subsidiary paths.

2. Initiate a program to identify and acquire additional lands for small, passive neighborhood parks.

3. Finish the site approval process for both Fire stations planned for the eastern Village.

4. Establish permanent boards:

Long-Range Planning

Business Cooperation/Coordination

Transportation/Traffic Mitigation

Our first long-range planning committee lasted one meeting. Our business property owners need to be encouraged and enabled to work, together and self-funded, to improve appearance, compatibility, and occupancy rate. Our Board can coordinate and push all civic business groups. Our transportation plans need continuous revision, and our traffic problems will never go completely away. Boards need coordination with counterparts in adjoining cities.

5. Post explanation of all reserve fund monies/bank balances, next to check register on the Village web page. Sources and designation of all monies in every reserve need to be clearly and continually displayed.

6. Establish a repair/replacement reserve fund for all hard Village assets.

7. Publish all zoning applications that are anywhere in pipeline, as the law allows. We need no more surprises. Identify all public works projects planned before, state if and when they will be carried out; be sure the public knows of them before bids are authorized.

8. Protect residents.

Larissa Siegel Lara’s “First Hundred Days” on Village of Palmetto Bay Council

Government is instituted to represent us, to unify our community and to deliver services efficiently. Everything I do on the Council will be directed towards achieving that standard.

To guide us toward that end and keep us on track, we need a strategic plan, developed by the Council and representatives from across the community. Achieving community goals requires a tangible plan of action with specific accountabilities, timing, budget and expected results.

During the first 100 days, I will:

1. Establish a Parks and Recreation Citizen Advisory Board to bring the community’s perspective on programming, operating hours and maintenance planning to Palmetto Bay’s parks.

2. Request oversight of Downtown Redevelopment Taskforce so the Council is directly involved with this vital undertaking. My focus will be to ensure that this effort remains energized and progresses toward a successful implementation.

3. Launch a citizens committee to develop a Strategic Plan. Tasked with drafting both a 1-year and 5-year proposal for council review within 90 days, the Committee will benchmark neighboring city plans, and develop a specific approach for stakeholder inclusion.

These initiatives will help invigorate the community, activate smart growth in the business districts and provide resources to sustain high quality services.

My background in business processes and leadership has prepared me as a methodical decision maker and problem solver. My passion for bringing people together will produce tangible results. As an open and independent thinker, I will consider all sides of every issue before the Council.

Jim Shedd’s “First Hundred Days” on Village of Palmetto Bay Council

Public Service means serving the public interest, doing the greater good. For over 33 years I had the honor and the privilege to serve my country beginning at the age of 19 when I enlisted in the U.S. Army (Vietnam 68-70), that was followed by a combination of 30 years of State of Florida Law Enforcement (9 years), and over 21 years with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Since January 2005, I have been a small business owner in Palmetto Bay and having been on both sides of the aisle (Government and Private); I understand the differences and similarities and therefore, assist both sides in achieving the common goals.

When anyone steps into the public arena and is asking the citizens to trust him or her with that which is most precious in or democracy: “your vote”, it carries with it a very heavy burden and responsibility; I am capable of bearing that burden and fulfilling that responsibility believing in Duty, Honor, Country.

I pledge to you that not only just for the first 100 days, but for the entire time that I have the privilege of representing the Village of Palmetto Bay and its citizens, I will make the decisions that are necessary, keeping focus on the greater good for the entire Village with integrity, civility and a respectful conduct towards all.

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

- David Singer

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