South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Pinecrest

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.

PB: On Variances

Councilman Patrick Fiore placed an item on the Monday council agenda to discuss the village’s variance procedure. SDM has discussed the village’s very strict variance process several times and appreciates Mr. Fiore’s efforts at finding a middle ground on the issue. After watching the discussion, SDM did a little research, which you may find interesting or put you into a coma.

A variance is required whenever a property owner’s plans would not conform to the code. Examples of residential variances were discussed recently in our post titled PB: Crushing Dreams Since 2002. Variances are also requested by commercial property owners when their development plans do not comport with the code. Sometimes these variances are minor – someone wants to place a pool inside a setback. Sometimes they are major – a business wants to provide fewer parking spaces with the result that cars park all over the public right of way.

The problem for any code writer is trying to anticipate all the variations the human mind can conceive and then incorporating the acceptable options into a written, prescriptive code. Newly formed municipalities and the pols that lead them often want to be “tough on developers,” so they adopt both a very strict code and a very strict variance procedure. Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay both fell into this trap.

The inevitable result is bad lawmaking and inflexibility to address what are often neighborhood-level issues. So, how does a local government deal with the conundrum of wanting to be objective yet humane?

One approach is what Palmetto Bay has taken. Lay out the code and tell anyone who wants a minor variation to go pound sand. An alternative approach can be found in Palmetto Bay’s neighbor to the south, Cutler Bay, which adopted the following variance approval standard:

Owners of lands or structures may apply to the Town Council for a variance from the requirements or restrictions of the Land Development Regulations; except that no variance for use or density issues shall be considered. Variances shall be submitted in writing through the Department, stating the specific variance(s) requested. Each variance of a code requirement necessitates a separate variance application and process. The Town Council, after a public hearing, may approve, approve with conditions or deny the application.

A. Application. An application for a variance shall include a written statement by the applicant with supporting explanation and evidence regarding the following requirements:

1. The particular provision of the Code which prevents the proposed construction on, or use of the property.

2. The existing zoning of the property, including any previously approved conditions, or modifications.

3. The special circumstances, conditions or characteristics of the land, building or structure that prevent the use of the land in compliance with the terms of this ordinance.

4. The particular hardship that would result if the specified provisions of the ordinance were to be applied to the subject property.

5. The extent to which it would be necessary to vary the provisions of this ordinance in order to permit the proposed construction on, or use of, the property.

6. A disclosure statement by the parties with at least 5 percent interest in the project shall be signed by the applicant and notarized.

B. Approval Standards. The applicant shall have the burden of proof and provide a written statement describing the manner and degree of compliance with the following standards:

1. The variance will result in conditions that maintain and are consistent in all material respects with the intent and purpose of these Regulations, and that the general welfare, stability and appearance of the community will be protected and maintained.

2. The variance will be compatible with the surrounding land uses, and otherwise consistent with these Regulations and the Comprehensive Plan, and will not be detrimental to the community.

3. That the request for a variance is not based on an economic disadvantage to the owner or occupant of the property upon which the variance is sought.

Compare that reasonable standard to Palmetto Bay’s heartless version:

Village council action and criteria for approval. After the public hearing, the village council shall adopt a written resolution granting, granting with conditions, or denying the variance. In order to authorize any variance from the terms of this division, the village council must determine whether the following criteria have been met:

(1) That the variance is in fact a variance allowed in this division and is within the province of village council.

(2) Existence of special conditions or circumstances. That special conditions and circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land, structure, or building involved and which are not applicable to other lands, structures, or buildings in the same zoning district.

(3) That the special conditions and circumstances do not result from the actions of the applicant.

(4) That granting the variance requested will not confer on the applicant any special privilege that is denied by Chapter 30 to other lands, buildings, or structures in the same zoning district.

(5) Financial difficulties or economic hardship shall not be a factor for determining whether a variance should be granted.

(6) That literal interpretation of the provisions of Chapter 30 would deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same zoning district under the terms of Chapter 30 and would work unnecessary and undue hardship on the applicant. The purchase of property which has an illegal nonconformity with Chapter 30 shall not be considered a hardship for the granting of a variance, nor shall conditions peculiar to the property owner be considered.

(7) That the variance granted is the minimum variance that will make possible the reasonable use of the land, building, or structure.

(8) That the grant of the variance will be in harmony with the general intent and purpose of the comprehensive plan and Chapter 30, and that the variance will not be injurious to the area involved or otherwise detrimental to the public welfare.

(9) In granting any variance, village council may prescribe appropriate conditions to mitigate the proposed variance and to ensure safeguards in conformity with the comprehensive plan and Chapter 30 or any other duly enacted ordinance. Violation of conditions and safeguards, when made a part of the terms under which the variance is granted, shall be deemed a violation of this chapter and shall nullify the variance development approval.

There procedures are similar in many respects, but SDM has tried to highlight a subtle difference and a monster difference. Cutler Bay’s A.3. requires special circumstances, but focuses on the individual property as opposed to every property in the same zoning district as Palmetto Bay does. This difference allows the Town of Cutler Bay to look at a variance request in the context of a neighborhood where Palmetto Bay’s council must look at every property with that zoning code, which can include neighborhoods literally on the other side of town.

The monster, killer difference – almost like a flying, vampire fish – is the requirement that the owner not create the condition that the variance is to cure. Cutler Bay residents intentionally granted to their council the discretion to assist a homeowner who may have inadvertently purchased the property with a nonconformity or who may have hired a less-than-diligent contractor who left them with a nonconforming structure or use.

The discretion is limited by Section B, which does not permit economic hardship to be a factor or allow uses that would be detrimental to the neighborhood.

SDM Says: There is no need to reinvent the wheel when the words we need to import into the village code have been carefully constructed by others. We elect our officials to facilitate our lifestyles and to protect our property values. Instead of hiding behind a “strict hardship” standard, it’s time the village council take the responsibility we vested in them and make sound decisions that benefit property owners, their neighbors and the village as a whole. Turning away our neighbors just because their improvements violate some hypothetical aesthetic cannot continue.

PB: Roundabout Roundup

Palmetto Bay’s village council met on Wednesday and received a report from staff regarding a proposed traffic circle (or roundabout) for the intersection of SW 136th Street and Old Cutler Road. SDM was very supportive of putting in the traffic circle because we just like them better, but then we received a fascinating comment that added to our enthusiasm. (Definitely click on the comment and watch the video.)

Apparently, roundabouts are well known to be good things because, among other benefits, they reduce fuel usage and automobile emissions while making intersections safer. SDM did not know that left turns at traffic lights are the most dangerous maneuvers and that traffic circles eliminate them. Makes sense when you think about it.

But you didn’t come to SDM to hear all the good stuff; we look at things closely here so we have some criticisms to level.

The Village Manager provided to the council a bunch of documents and other facts related to the traffic circle, but none of those documents are posted on the website or made part of the COW agenda. (He also provided a financial report that was likewise omitted from the agenda package.) When will our village staff understand that WE want to see these documents contemporaneously with the meeting? If you let the public view your little secrets Mr. Manager, maybe they would be less skeptical of your plans.

During public comments, Peter England – a candidate for Mayor last time around – noted that SW 67th Avenue (Ludlam Road) was not part of the traffic circle plan. He noted that leaving Ludlam out was a dumb idea and SDM could not agree more. Then again, SDM has no way of knowing what is in the plan and what is out because the Manager keeps them in his pocket.

SDM Says: If you are going to install a major traffic solution at this crazy intersection, fix it all and do it once. Go to our Members of Congress and get them to donate part of the Department of Agriculture property to the project. (Doing so will increase the value of the federal property, SDM has no doubt.) Make the circle a landmark and immediately steal Mr. Tolbert’s excellent idea of installing both pine trees (for Pinecrest) and palmetto (for Palmetto Bay). Make the intersection pedestrian and bike friendly so that all the folks out exercising can safely navigate the area. Lastly, but probably most importantly, GET THE TRAFFIC MOVING on all the roads that intersect there.

PB: Pariser only wanted half a village

One of the advantages of age is that you tend to recall things that some folks would like to forget. For instance, do all of you who live South of SW 168th Street know that Vice Mayor Pariser never wanted you to be part of Palmetto Bay? Yes, that includes all of you CCOCI folks, too.

Oh, you don’t believe SDM? Look at this article from the Miami Herald dated March 23, 1995:

NEIGHBORHOODS SEEK STUDY ON INCORPORATION GROUP EAST OF U.S. 1 SEEKS FACTS

OSCAR MUSIBAY Herald Staff Writer

Prompted by efforts of other Dade neighborhoods to incorporate, some residents living east of U.S. 1 between Southwest 136th and 168th streets want a study of how much it costs them to be a part of Metro government.

Residents of East Grove Estates and five other neighborhoods are circulating a petition asking Dade County to compare taxes paid by residents within the area to money spent for Metro services. The area is mainly made of single-family homes.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean we want to incorporate, but we want to know the facts,” said Brian Pariser, president of the East Grove Estates Homeowners Association. “We don’t want to be left out of something, nor do we want people to be makers of our fate.”

The coalition of residents will have a town meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 14260 Old Cutler Rd., to discuss the issue.

Pariser’s group wants the county to provide a feasibility study of about 20,000 people who live between Southwest 136th Street on the north, 168th Street on the south, Biscayne Bay on the east and South Dixie Highway on the west.

Areas to the north and south of East Grove Estates already are investigating incorporation.

In November, residents of Perrine and Cutler Ridge to the south formed a steering committee to report on whether Perrine, Cutler Ridge and Saga Bay could support their own government.

Pariser said the study area is too wide and would thin resources.

To the north, the Pinecrest/Palmetto area also is meeting to assess its chances as a municipality.

If anyone thinks SDM is overstating Mr. Pariser’s position, why not ask some of the key founders who are still around? Eyewitnesses are invited to comment on this post. Tell SDM how this blog’s version of events is wrong.

SDM Wonders: Why did Mr. Pariser want to cut-off the village boundary at SW 168th Street? SDM heard rumors for years it was because Pariser and his neighbors thought the southern neighborhoods weren’t compatible with the northern ones. (Not compatible is  a code word for some other very unkind terms.)

Fortunately, the narrow-minded Mr. Pariser was overruled by the wise founders who argued pragmatically that a city of the size Pariser imagined could not support itself.

SDM Says: If one wonders about the roots of Mr. Pariser’s divisive tenure on the council, one should start at the beginning when his words were unguarded.

 

PB: Guest Post by David Singer

Mr. Singer wrote this comment to an SDM post. SDM liked it so much that it rates its own post. Without further ado:

The Village of Palmetto Bay’s direction and future is at stake on November 6th.

The election of candidates and charter changes related to the Village of Palmetto Bay – the choices that you will make on this election cycle’s ballot -  is a referendum on how best to define COMMUNITY.

The present Council, including Mayor Stanczyk, Vice Mayor Pariser and Councilwoman Lindsay have demonstrated during their tenure that their definition of COMMUNITY can be defined as purely residential housing and nothing else.

They support policies that result in the restriction of private schools that could ultimately eliminate them from our neighborhoods.

They feel that residents should leave the Village to worship, eat and shop because those activities are an annoyance to residential living.

They feel that reasonable noise and lighting from children playing baseball, football and basketball is more of a nuisance to them than it is a joy to those of us who are parents and a benefit to our future generation.

They’ve all been a part of depleting the Village coffers by 10+ million dollars in three years, part of which was on an overblown Village Hall as an extravagant monument to their wasteful bureaucracy.

And, maybe this is the worst of all, they support policies that build a virtual moat and wall around the Village to out keep non-village residents.  To them, COMMUNITY stops at our borders.

Candidates running for office including John Dubois, Jim Araiza, Karyn Cunningham, Howard Tendrich, believe in a different definition of COMMUNITY.

While I am in not endorsing any of them by including their names or pointing this out, their view includes a measured balance of homes, schools, churches, businesses and opportunities for children. Furthermore, they support a sensible, responsible fiscal plan going forward.

This [post] isn’t meant to disparage the Mayor, Vice Mayor or Councilwoman.  If you asked them, they would admit they desire to have ultimate control of all growth, lighting, noise, traffic and construction and they certainly have a right to their point of view.

But to what end?  Should a church be allowed to expand if they have the land to do so?  Should children be permitted to play outside even if you can hear their distant laughter in your yard? Wouldn’t you like to eat and shop in your COMMUNITY rather than driving 20 minutes or more?

Is it really sensible to place virtual roadblocks in an attempt to keep non-village residents out of our COMMUNITY?  Is that what you do if you’re proud of where you live?  Imagine if Pinecrest, or Coral Gables, or Cutler Bay did that to us?

This is not a type of atmosphere, which I choose to live in.  I love the fact that there is the possibility for our Village to be an all-inclusive COMMUNITY to live in.

I’m requesting that before you vote on November 6th, you take the time to delve into what the candidates are advocating.  I would request that you ignore lawn signs and petty tit-for-tat issues.  I would hope that you vote based on the definition of COMMUNITY on its most all-encompassing meaning.

For the record, and hopefully to give you a level of comfort about my intentions: I, David Singer, have not given any contributions, committed my vote, endorsed, placed signs, run, walked or played patty cake with any candidate in this election.  I am beholden to no one and no one is beholden to me.  That’s just how I roll.

On November 7th, the day after the election, everyone in our COMMUNITY will still wake up, go to work, pay our bills, feed our families and celebrate life.  The real question is in what type of COMMUNITY would you like that to be?  Only you can decide with your vote.

David Singer

SDM Says: Sometimes others just say what SDM is thinking, only better.

PB: SDM’s first guest post – David Singer asks some good questions

SDM took a little liberty with the blog today to post a comment from David Singer. SDM has never met Mr. Singer nor have the two of us ever spoken. His words are powerful, though SDM cautions that whenever a resident attempts to discuss a public entity’s budget there is a risk that he or she may misunderstand the document.

In Mr. Singer’s case, SDM has confidence in his comments because he focused on the fund balances, which in lay terms is the amount of cash the village will have on hand at the end of next year’s budget cycle. It’s a pretty tough number to fudge. If Mr. Singer is correct, there is big trouble in River City.

This email and documentation went to the Mayor and Council this morning.

To all,

I have not been able to meet, after repeated attempts, with the Palmetto Bay’s Director of Finance [Desmond Chin]. This meeting was imperative to either confirm or refute my calculations below. Thus since no meeting occurred, this will be the story I will be submitting to the Miami Herald. Of course it will be more detailed.

In accordance with the attached Summary of Funds that I downloaded from the Village website, the beginning Fund balance on October 1, 2012 is $15,061,167. The ending Fund balance budgeted for September 30, 2013 is $8,298,573. Therefore the use of funds during the upcoming year, based on the current budget is going to be $6,762,594. You are spending almost seven million dollars of reserve. That’s not what you said on the record.

If you look further into the numbers of the attached document, you will see that the use of reserve funds over the past three-year period has been $10,014,568. That is really horrendous for a Village that ran in the Black for the first eight years of operation. Where did the 10 million dollars go?

Looking further down on the attached document, you will see that the Unassigned Fund balance ending as of September 30, 2013 is $5,440,180. This Unassigned fund balance, or ‘reserve,’ if you will, is lower than any other local municipality I have investigated, which includes Pinecrest, Miami Lakes, Coral Gables, and others. There were references made at the budget meeting that the Village had more money in reserves than other many municipalities in Miami-Dade – a total misrepresentation on the part of the Mayor.

At no point in the final budget meeting, and I’ve watched it repeatedly, was a $6,762,594 use of reserves mentioned. $6,762,954 is the number budgeted to be spent in FY 2012-2013 regardless of what was represented verbally at a public hearing. In fact, everyone who spoke about the numbers is on record as saying that only $2.3 million would be used. And that was only after they finally admitted that the $900,000 which they originally floated was deemed to be a misrepresentation during my simple questioning. If you need reminding, the budget hearing is on video, unless of course there is a Nixonesque deletion of the hearing in the near future.

At no point in the final budget meeting was there disclosure that there is only $5.4 million in unassigned reserves rather than $8.3 million. $8.3 million turns to $5.4 million because $2.8 million has been earmarked as “committed” and can’t be used for a contingency (unless you have your own accounting definition of what “committed” means.) In fact, when Vice Mayor Pariser asked for current reserves Manager Willams noted they were $9.8 million – another incorrect remark. If the Manager has not been able to review his copy of the Budget, he could always check it on the Village Website – that where all this information comes from.

At the last budget meeting, the Mayor accused me of disseminating misinformation, but it’s the Mayor and Village Manager that continue to mislead the public. But what is of further concern is that no other Council member corrected the financial information that was being disseminated. Somebody needs to be looking at the numbers. At least one Council Member, though, had the good sense to vote against the budget. It seems to me that there is enough to go the State Attorney’s office involved.

And as a personal aside, Eve [Boutsis, village attorney], I’m not being superfluous and inflammatory as you have accused me of previously – but you can only cover up the current administration’s incompetency for so long. I’m planning on making an appointment at the State Attorney’s office sometime this week if you would like to join me.

It is far from palatable what is occurring at Village Hall. Budgeting and correct financial records are a bedrock of any democracy. I guess the only transparency in the Village of Palmetto Bay resides in Meighan Alexander’s office where information is provided on a timely basis.

There used to be a saying when I was working in public accounting “NUMBERS DON’T LIE, PEOPLE DO.”

I look forward to seeing everyone at the Wednesday event [the State of the Village speech by Mayor Stanczyk].

David Singer

THERE WILL BE MORE INFORMATION TO FOLLOW.

SDM Wonders: Why wouldn’t Finance Director meet with a resident who has a question about the budget? If he was told not to meet with Mr. Singer, who gave the order and why? Inquiring minds want to know.

Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay & Cutler Bay: Election Season Report

SDM decided to take a look from 30,000 feet at the political races for local municipal offices in Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay. Never fear, SDM will get picky, too.

SDM macro observations:

  • Pinecrest differs from Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay on the cycle for campaign reports. Pinecrest candidates followed what SDM thinks is the correct procedure, essentially reporting 4 times since April 1st. Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay candidates reported only twice during the same period. Campaign reporting should not be so complicated that adults in three cities come to different conclusions as to when to report.
  • Palmetto Bay elected offices are far more expensive to seek. Compare: Palmetto Bay’s Cunningham had almost $16,000 on hand while Cutler Bay’s Wolmers reported having only enough to buy a pizza, and maybe some wings.
  • Palmetto Bay candidates have raised more than twice the amount raised by all the candidates in Pinecrest and Cutler Bay combined.

SDM Wonders: What is making Palmetto Bay so expensive? Maybe the chaos caused by the Three Amigos?

City Race Total Raised Total Spent Cash on Hand
Pinecrest Seat 1
Butler, Germaine $1,600 $769 $831
Ross, Robert C. $4,945 $3,603 $1,342
Wollmann, Jennifer $950 $341 $609
$7,495
Pinecrest Seat 3
Hingston, Robert A. $7,847 $1,969 $5,878
McDonald, James E. $11,901 $2,157 $9,744
$19,748
Palmetto Bay Vice Mayor
Cunningham, Karyn $18,036 $2184 $15,852
Dubois, John $26,555 $17,352 $9,203
Pariser, Brian W. $11,480 $7,721 $3,759
$56,071
Palmetto Bay District 2
Araiza, James $9,360 $8,184 $1,176
Schaffer, Tim $6,825 $2,229 $4,596
Tendrich, Howard $5,250 $3,108 $2,142
$21,435
Cutler Bay Vice Mayor
Sochin, Ernie $7,825 $1,719 $6,106
Wollmers, Ed $200 $171 $29
$8,025
 

SDM’s race by race comments:

Pinecrest Seat 1

Incumbent Bob Ross holds a narrow lead in fundraising but his sign presence in the area stands out to SDM’s eye. Former School Board Member Betsy Kaplan and former Pinecrest Council Member Cindy Blanck contributed to Ross’s campaign.

Not counting the candidate, Challenger Germaine Butler only has 2 campaign contributions. Not a sign of much depth of support…

Wollman is a late arrival, only joining the fray in mid-August.

+++

Pinecrest Seat 3

McDonald ended the last reporting period with twice the money reported by former Council Member Hingston. McDonald’s signs are all over South Pinecrest. He received financial support from local notables Charles Intriago, Ed Williamson, Ed Ludovici and John Pistorino.

Hingston is supported by Nancy Harter, who is vacating the seat; by Blanck, former Mayor Evelyn Greer, former Council Member Leslie Bowe along with other Pinecrest luminaries.

+++

Palmetto Bay Vice Mayor

Incumbent Vice Mayor Brian Pariser is facing a stiff challenge from newcomers Karyn Cunningham and John Dubois. Pariser boasts support from Palmetto Bay’s old guard.

Cunningham is a surprise. Her campaign enters the home stretch sitting on more money than any candidate in the tri-city area.  Former Mayor Eugene Flinn headlines her supporters.

Dubois is on the ballot for the second time having lost to current Councilwoman Joan Lindsay two years ago. Dubois is supported by Michael Miller, publisher of the Palmetto Bay News, local activist Stanley Kowlessar, Cutler Bay Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin and many others. Dubois is rumored to have the full support of Commissioner Lynda Bell, too.

Dubois also has one of the weirdest campaign reports. He filed an amendment to the September 14 report that is literally incomprehensible. Perhaps someone uploaded a draft document or something. In any case, SDM chose to publish Dubois’s numbers as typed into the original report.

+++

Palmetto Bay District 2

Incumbent Howard Tendrich is an SDM favorite, but his fundraising is lackluster. He raised less than either of his opponents, although he enters October with more cash on hand than the big-spending Jim Araiza. Tendrich is supported by local famous person Don Noe, Flinn, former Councilman Ed Feller’s wife and better half Arlene, and former Councilman Paul Neidhart.

Jim Araiza once again has posted excellent fundraising numbers. He also has spent much of what he raised, leaving him short on cash – at least as of mid-September. Araiza is running again after failing to make a runoff in 2010 against Palmetto Bay’s sitting mayor. His supporters include legal and business representatives from both Palmer Trinity and Shores at Palmetto Bay, both of which are deeply embroiled in litigation against the village. Araiza is also supported by village activists David Zisman and Bob Orban.

The mysteriousTim Schaffer enters the critical September-October period with the most cash on hand. He also boasts contributions from village gadfly and chief NIMBY Marsha Matson and alleged sign purloiner Libby Williams. Schaffer is clearly a SOP (Palmetto Bay’s tiny reactionary minority group) candidate based on the cast of characters supporting him; SDM calls him the Fourth Amigo.

+++

Cutler Bay Vice Mayor

Incumbent Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin was surprised when Cutler Bay activist Ed Wollmers jumped into this race at the last minute. Today, Sochin has a huge lead in cash on hand, but Cutler Bay races are not customarily decided by money alone. In fact, a Ridge Rat might start asking questions if a candidate has a bunch of money.

While Sochin has carefully cultivated an image of everyone’s favorite uncle, his campaign reports are peppered with lobbyist contributions including $500 from a firm called Educational Management Services owned by Fausto Gomez – the town’s lobbyist.

Wollmers ended the last reporting period with just $29 in the bank. He better hope SDM is right about Cutler Bay’s electoral propensities.

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