South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Pinecrest

SDM: Harvey Ruvin Update

SDM received two comments from Clerk Harvey Ruvin asking for us to call him to discuss our post, Harvey Ruvin’s Sea Level Rise Hysteria. In that post, SDM argued that Mr. Ruvin’s moonlighting as a hawker of a phony sea level rise threat to Miami could hurt us if insurers begin to rate us differently. SDM went on to argue that we ought to retire Mr. Ruvin based on his insisting the sky is falling (err…the water is rising?) when it clearly isn’t.

Apparently Mr. Ruvin took issue and asked SDM to call him so he could berate or argue with us. We don’t take calls, as the innumerable folks who have demanded we call them already know, because we are anonymous. Calling you, Mr. Ruvin, would screw that up.

But, your call got us to thinking about what has changed since our September post and surprisingly much has.

For example, just a few days ago, the world learned that we just passed 18 years without any global temperature increase:

RSS

We also learned that the theory that the deep ocean has absorbed the hypothetical global heat does not bear out when actual measurements are taken.

deep_ocean_heat_argo

All of these data coincide precisely with the observations of sea level from Key West, which has the best information for our region (the Miami Beach station was retired so it doesn’t reflect data from the last two decades):

Key West

The mean sea level trend is 2.24 millimeters/year with a 95% confidence interval of +/- 0.16 mm/yr based on monthly mean sea level data from 1913 to 2006 which is equivalent to a change of 0.73 feet in 100 years.

Note that the Key West readings are trending at an increase of less than 1 foot per century and that the trend has been steady for the entire measurement period.

The other thing that is important to note is that NONE of the models Mr. Ruvin and his group rely upon as gospel for cataclysmic sea level rise predicted the results actually measured in real time. None.

So why is SDM so angry about Mr. Ruvin’s avocation as a climatologist? Consider the following.

If you live in Palmetto Bay – or anywhere in the United States that has flood exposure, for that matter – your community is rated under the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System. Your flood insurance rate is based at least in part upon how many feet above mean sea level your real property sits.

Thus, if Harvey Ruvin is right and mean sea level is going to rise according to what the “experts” in the local climate change scientific community claim, then we are looking at changes in mean sea level as follows:

Pages from sea-level-rise

Instead of charging us rates based on actual sea level rise (i.e., just under one inch per decade or 6 inches by 2060), what is to stop the government or private companies from using Mr. Ruvin’s “scientific consensus” (9-24 inches by 2060) to justify higher rates? Most insurers probably think Mr. Ruvin was heaven-sent.

Now, We understand Mr. Ruvin’s passion. He was an early advocate when the ozone layer was the big deal. Now, he’s latched on to climate change. We as voters – if we were paying attention – knew what we were getting when we voted him into office. Perhaps we were a little hasty.

SDM Says: Mr. Ruvin seems oblivious to the damage he could do – or may have already done – to Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay and Pinecrest homeowners if our flood insurance rates were to be calculated based upon a bunch of faulty computer models.  It’s the kind of damage you can’t cure with a phone call either.

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.

MDC: District 8 Aftermath

First off, SDM says: Congratulations Ms. Levine Cava for your victory. We wish you all the best and hope you represent South Dade well. (Would that your opponent had sufficient breeding to say the same to you last night.)

In retrospect, SDM should not be surprised that Ms. Levine Cava is South Dade’s newest political figure. Despite anemic turnout (15.9% in District 8, which was just a tiny bit higher than the countywide figure), Levine Cava secured a 2% victory over a sitting county commissioner. No small feat.

But the reason SDM should not have been surprised can be found in two sets of numbers. First, the ethnic breakdown of District 8: 45.7% of registered D8 voters consider themselves to be Hispanic; White, 35.7%; Black, 11.2%.

The second set of numbers is also important: 40.75% of D8 voters are registered Democrats; 29.65%, registered Republicans; and 28% register as not affiliated with the major parties.

These numbers show that Levine Cava entered the race – all things being equal – with a built-in advantage approaching 20% with ethnic voters (Hispanics + Blacks, who vote North of 90% for Democrats) and an 11% edge with partisan Democrats. One might even go so far as to say that Levine Cava underperformed given her numerical advantages, but saying so when a new candidate topples a well-heeled incumbent seems picky.

SDM Aside: If the Bell campaign consciously turned this race into a partisan test, she deserved to lose.

Of course, incumbency usually grants an enormous edge in money and resources and Lynda Bell certainly milked that cow fully. Time will tell the extent of her financial advantage; SDM has no doubt it will be substantial. But Levine Cava should be acknowledged for keeping the money race close enough for campaign purposes.

Compound all of Ms. Levine Cava’s assets with Mrs. Bell’s well-chronicled faults and the result is a a political earthquake at county hall. We commend to you the postmortems by Eye On Miami and Political Cortadito:

From Eye on Miami: Who are the winners and losers? It is a good day for Good Government, for former county commissioner Katy Sorenson who supported Levine Cava quietly at first but increasingly visible in the final weeks, and for Cindy Lerner, mayor of Pinecrest, a smiling, optimistic and battle-scarred survivor of Florida’s slash and burn politics. Today will be a very low day for any of the campaign advisors and lobbyists who supported Bell.

Political Cortadito named Organized Labor, County Employees, the current commission majority, the Miami-Dade Democrats, the LGBT community as winners, the Pet’s Voice, and Levine Cava’s campaign managers as winners. Losers included Mayor Gimenez, developer Wayne Rosen, and Bell’s staff and campaign advisors.

Here’s SDM’s take on the winners and losers:

Katy Sorenson & Cindy Lerner: Both were early Levine Cava supporters and form an ideological sisterhood with the Commissioner. Both will find open doors at county hall and not just with Ms. Levine Cava.

Bell’s campaign advisors and lobbyists – Both the advisors and lobbyists will find a way back into favor. The same folks who supported Bell will be courted down the road to support Levine Cava and a smart pol will try to keep the advisors off the field next time. The folks at Eye On Miami will look the other way to get her back in office, too. It’s how things work.

Organized Labor – The county unions had a big, big victory yesterday. Levine Cava will be a solid vote for them…or, will she? Think about this fact: Ms. Levine Cava will become the wealthiest person on the county commission when she takes her seat. Once she really sees what’s going on with budget and the abuses by the union, will she remain a loyal soldier? All you have to do is say “no” one time and the unions will be looking to put in the back-up quarterback. Good luck staying on their good side while retaining your ethical center.

County Employees – It’s interesting and telling that Ladra (Political Cortadito’s author) draws a distinction between labor and the employees. In fact, the two groups are not always on the same page and Ms. Levine Cava will learn that lesson during the budget hearings next month. Non-union employees have been getting the shaft for nearly a decade while the unions have been getting rich. We shall see if Ms. Levine Cava cares about non-union staff.

Miami-Dade Democrats – Was it Democrats who won this election? Or, was it the non-affiliated voters? Or, was it White voters (a mix of the three) who dumped Bell? If the Democrats were the difference, then why wasn’t the margin larger?These super-low-turnout elections are so difficult to figure out.

LGBT Community – No argument here from SDM. The LGBT community will find a friendly ear with Levine Cava and rightly so. We don’t buy into the religious right’s intolerance.

Pet’s Voice – Again, SDM agrees with the following caveat: the reason the pet’s trust hasn’t been funded to the level that Pet’s Voice demands is because the county doesn’t have that kind of money, pure and simple. Ms. Levine Cava will learn this uncomfortable fact next month and will have to choose between funding the very worthy cause of animals who face euthanasia and the other worthy causes involving mammals that walk on two legs.

Levine Cava’s campaign team – SDM’s simple response: what have you done for me lately?

Mayor Carlos Gimenez – Understand something about this entry by Ladra: she has flipped 180 degrees on this guy. During Gimenez’s first run, she fawned all over him like he was a rock star. Now, she wants him recalled. Nevertheless, she’s right that Gimenez put his chips on Bell and lost, so he has to do some work to win over Ms. Levine Cava. In the end, politicians find a way to kiss and make up. SDM bets Gimenez will find a way to work with Ms. Levine Cava and vice versa.

Wayne Rosen – SDM agrees, Rosen bet big and lost big. Then again, guys who will write checks of the magnitude Rosen does tend to attract politicians the same way Miami attracts scam artists. So long as Mr. Rosen will contribute big money, someone will take his calls.

Bell’s staff and campaign team – Losing one’s job sucks and SDM hopes they bounce back soon. The campaign team will find other candidates to represent, though the top guys have lost their “wunderkind” status.

SDM Says: To paraphrase a 19th century English statesman: Dade politicians, lobbyists and advisors have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.

PB: State of the Village Quick Bites

Everyone’s Rich on Friday

Back when SDM was coming up, an employer used to say that we all feel rich on payday. We run off to the bank and then feel poor again on Monday or Tuesday after we pay our bills.

An SDM commenter noted that Mayor Stanczyk made what the commenter described as a highly misleading claim at the State of the Village. The Mayor says at 18:40 that at the end of the last Fiscal Year, Palmetto Bay had around $13 million in the bank.

The commenter said that while this statement is accurate, it doesn’t reveal the scary fact that Palmetto Bay’s budget anticipates that figure to drop to $10.7 million at the end of the next Fiscal Year.

So what does a drop of a little more than $2.3 million represent to Palmetto Bay? At our current millage rate, village property values would have to rise by a fraction under $940 million to replace that money.

The property appraiser pegs total village property values at $3.3 billion. To understand how difficult it will be to grow those values by a third, SDM notes that last year our property values decreased by a little more than half a percent!

SDM Says: Where once Palmetto Bay looked like a penurious miser, it is now starting to look a lot like a day laborer blowing his paycheck on beer and cigarettes on Friday and then wondering why he can’t pay his bills on Tuesday.

The Vision Thing

The Mayor debuted a video on the Franjo Triangle project during the State of the Village speech. SDM must say that watching it made us feel good about Palmetto Bay’s future.

Can you imagine a downtown Palmetto Bay with restaurants, shops and residential housing? Wouldn’t it be cool to spend a Sunday afternoon at an outdoor cafe near the park, especially if the cafe was in bicycle riding distance from our homes?

While we see no way that a downtown project can generate enough to replenish village reserves, certainly SDM will be rooting for the vision to come true.

But…you knew there was a “but” coming, right?

Here’s the problem and it was stated perfectly by one of the people on the video. A guy named Joe Corradino, who is a planner and a member of the Pinecrest council, said two important things about the downtown project:

  • Investors in this kind of project need to know that the “government wants them to be there” and
  • A project like this requires “Vision, Leadership and Effort.” He went on to say that “Palmetto Bay has the vision.”

Did you notice the omission? Corradino doesn’t say the village has the leadership or the effort and SDM is sure he wasn’t meaning to be explicitly critical. We think he is implying that the village better find leadership and effort if it wants the downtown project to succeed.

SDM Says: We agree and we hope the government wants the investors there, but Palmetto Bay is to be found wanting when it comes to leadership both for the Franjo Triangle and the larger community. Like a growing tax roll, nobody can snap her fingers and produce “leadership.”

Kaptain Kreepy’s Kalculations

According to the Miami Herald, “Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk delivered her annual state of the village address Wednesday night to an audience of about 170 people…”

Now look at this text from the village website:

Palmetto Bay’s 25,000-square-foot Municipal Complex houses the Village’s administrative departments, the Policing Unit, and Council Chambers with a 98-person capacity.

SDM Wonders: SDM watched parts of the speech and noted some empty seats in the chamber. So how again did the Mayor speak to almost double the maximum number of people the facility was designed to fit? What’s up with that Kreepy?

Quick Bites

Palmetto Bay’s Funky Reserve Budgeting Continues

Here at SDM, we pride ourselves on being able to read a public sector budget. One key indicator for the health of a government is its gross reserve or fund balance. Consider this sequence of events in the village’s fund balance entries:

Actual Fund Balance FY 11-12: $17,562,873

Original Adopted Budget FY 12-13: $10,655,059

Estimated Final Budget FY 12-13: $15,577,547

Proposed Budget FY 13-14: $9,307,026

So how should the Village People read this head bobbing cluster of numbers? Well, if we are sycophants for the Mayor, we might say that the budgeted reserve will decline by a little less than 13% from last year. We might claim to be pretty happy to have kept the decline so low given the crappy economy, etc.

SDM, on the other hand, would say two things. One, that this year’s budget – if adopted and implemented as proposed – will have butchered a once healthy reserve by almost half (47%). Two, the village intends to spend 40% of its reserve ($6.27 million) in one year!

Now, SDM likes to be fair so let us state a tiny caveat that the Manager may have hidden somewhere in his budget message. The capital account shows that $3.3 million that was budgeted for FY 12-13 was not spent and has probably been shifted into FY 13-14. Perhaps to complete the Thalatta renovations?

But even deducting the shifted capital means that 20% of the reserve will be spent in one year.

SDM Says: FY 13-14 is an election year. Apparently the council wants to spread around some goodies to their favorite causes…at your expense, of course.

How About a Sub-Regional Fire Department?

SDM read recently where Mayor Cindy Lerner of Pinecrest is asking for some money to study whether her city should start its own fire department. No doubt she is tired of fighting with Mayor Shelley Doublespeak to the south who can’t give a straight answer on where to locate a new fire station.

Here’s SDM’s better idea: Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay ought to do a joint study to see if they could field a sub-regional fire department. By combining the relatively compact areas into a larger consortium, these cities could still get the benefits of economies of scale while not sacrificing local control. They could probably beat the county’s price by 30%, too.

A Good Idea from County-land

Rein in Union Perks

Commissioner Steve Bovo offered a measure at yesterday’s finance committee meeting that would make unions pay for their representatives when they are doing county business. Today, the county pays these union representatives as if they were in the field doing whatever job they normally do.

During the discussion on the item, the county attorney said that when he started working on county union contracts 30 or more years ago, the county paid for a dozen union representatives. Now, there are more than 40 of them.

Bovo noted at the hearing that one department had 19 employees, some of whom are earning six figure salaries, working full-time on union work, rather than on serving the people.

In the end, the item was watered down to a direction to the Mayor to add the topic to future negotiations. South Dade Commissioner Moss voted no.

SDM Says: Commissioner Bovo is on the right track. Put these folks back to work in their regular jobs and let the unions pay their salaries when the employees are on union business.

Homestead Blows Up

By now most of you have heard that a third Mayor took the perp walk when Homestead’s Steven Bateman was arrested this morning (8/28/13).

SDM had been cogitating over doing a Bateman post, but the issue seemed to have died off. However, like any good Scout, SDM is prepared to comment today. In July, Bateman published an open letter to Homestead residents. You can read the ful text here. Following is an excerpt SDM thought you might find either enlightening or nauseating given today’s news:

Insofar as the pump station is concerned, at the February 20, 2013 city council meeting, I stated to the city council on the public record that I was meeting with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to discuss several issues of importance. I subsequently appeared before Mayor Carlos Gimenez in my official capacity as Homestead Mayor to discuss four issues; one among them was the pump station.  According to Section 2-11.1, Code of Miami-Dade County, I am exempt from registration because I appeared in my official capacity as Homestead Mayor which I so stated on February 20, 2013. Emphasis added by SDM. [Snarky comment: Apparently, the cops think otherwise.]

He went on to justify his actions by saying that the pump station he advocated served all of Homestead and not just his client, CHI. It’s amazing how politicos develop blind spots when it comes to obviously illegal behavior…simply amazing.

SDM Says: Three Mayors arrested inside of a month must be some kind of a record.

PB: More Council Quickbites

Post Office Controversy

Several residents discussed the rumored relocation of a post office facility to the old city hall facility on SW 152 Street (Coral Reef Drive) near US 1. Surrounding neighbors are legitimately fearful that locating a major post office facility in that inaccessible building could finally blow up that already terrible intersection. SDM agrees.

This kind of issue lends itself perfectly to strong village leadership. One of the reasons this community incorporated was to ensure that whenever a major local issue arose, local residents would have a government that could speak to the county, the state, or to federal authorities on our behalf.

SDM Wonders: Given the weakness of Palmetto Bay’s current Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, can we really expect results on such a complicated negotiation? If she can’t get the job done, does she belong in the mayor’s chair?

Figures Lie and Liars Figure

A speaker at the council meeting attempted to draw a connection between SDM’s claim that Palmetto Bay’s variance standard is too strict and property values. His thesis is that since Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay have higher property values and a strict variance standard and that Cutler Bay, which has a more reasonable standard, has lower property values, then Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay are well-served by the stricter standard – at least from a property values standpoint.

Here is the fault in the gentleman’s logic: All three cities were largely built-out before incorporation. As SDM has noted, the build-out occurred while the areas were under the county jurisdiction and regulated by the county code. The county’s variance standard was applied all over Palmetto Bay and it is and was even less strict than Cutler Bay’s.

SDM Says: If your purpose in citing statistics is merely to justify your pre-conceived notion, then your conclusion is destined to be faulty. The better practice is to look at the issue objectively and then draw a conclusion. Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest are penalizing homeowners, the vast majority of whom purchased their homes under the county’s rules. They too have a right to utilize their property under the rules that applied when they purchased their homes. One cannot fairly argue that Palmetto Bay property values are solely the result of incorporation.

Village Attorney Report – Fine Print Counts

For those like SDM who have repeatedly heard a refrain that goes something like “Palmer Trinity has amended its complaint umpteen times,” implying that the school’s complaint for damages is falling apart and has no merit, please take a gander at this portion of the village attorney’s report:

Palmer Trinity v. Village of Palmetto Bay: The Applicant has med two civil suits against the Village: the 2008 litigation seeks damages, while the 2010 litigation seeks to find out quasi-judicial ordinance unconstitutional. The 2010 case was consolidated with the 2008 case, for discovery purposes. The 2010 matter has been amended five times. … As indicated the two civil actions incorporate by reference the appellate matters and claims that the appeals contribute to damages for the plaintiff. Mediation was held on June 3, 2013. An Attorney Client session was held on June 26, 2013. A hearing on the Village’s motion to dismiss certain counts of the 5th Amended Complaint was heard on June 12, 2013 by Judge Beth Bloom. Certain counts were dismissed, remainder to be answered within 20 days of the hearing. Emphasis added by SDM.

SDM Codebreaker: The village’s motion to dismiss was only partially granted by the judge; she ordered the village to respond to the remaining counts. This means the court determined that the remaining counts stated a claim and/or that the court has jurisdiction. It also means that the litigation is very much alive as is the the village’s exposure to financial damages.

Education Compact Opening Door to Village Taxes Being Spent on Schools?

The Village’s Education Committee presented with great fanfare a proposed Education Compact between the Village of Palmetto Bay and the school district. The compact has lots of wonderful objectives and talks about lots of “collaborations.” Even the cold-hearted SDM can see the value in working with the school district to enhance public education.

SDM Says Two Things About the Compact:

1. The Council should add an express limitation to the compact stating that village tax dollars shall not be used to pay for school district expenses of any kind. Making this point clear from the start will save lots of trouble when the district tries to replicate the high school it forced Cutler Bay to pay for.

2. The Compact should clearly state that public schools include charter schools so that any future charter school public students will have access to the same benefits the village is granting to the existing public schools. Kids should not be penalized if their parents choose the charter school option.

Next on SDM: Going AIPP-sh*% and Shade, Shade, Go Away…

Don’t Get Sick In Palmetto Bay or Pinecrest

This weekend’s Herald Neighbors had a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) story that left SDM agape – not such an easy feat given our level of cynicism.

The story titled “Pinecrest still working on new fire station” describes opposition from King’s Bay homeowners to a county plan to purchase a portion of the USDA property (at SW 136th Street and SW 67th Avenue) for a new fire station:

The goal is to build a station south of 124th Street and north of 152nd Street, so Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief David Downey and Planning Bureau Manager Carlos Heredia presented seven alternate locations, all within Palmetto Bay. Several sites along 152nd Street were considered but they all posed problems, said Downey who added the only feasible option is the USDA site.

Apparently, some folks living in the King’s Bay area think that fire stations are too noisy so they killed the deal with USDA. So now, all those people living on the East side of Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest are put at risk because their homes are farther than reasonable from a fire station.

Since when did the location of a fire station that serves thousands of people become determined by a tiny minority of homeowners? Was there a poll taken in King’s Bay or did a couple of loudmouths “represent” their neighbors? If SDM were a King’s Bay homeowner, we would sure like the option of having a quick response to our next heart attack.

SDM Wonders: What kind of a person hears a fire truck blast off from a fire station and then says, “Geez, that fire truck is so loud, it’s wrecking by barbecue?”

SDM Says: When SDM hears a fire truck’s siren, we silently say a little prayer for the unknown soul or souls who needs the service.

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