South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Tim Schaffer

PB: Can it be? Comity?

SDM watched the video of the swearing-in and first meeting of the updated village council (yes, we updated by going retro) and came away with just one word to describe it: comity.

No, not funny…though Gene Flinn is certainly much more of a card than Shelley Stanczyk, except when she didn’t mean to be funny, of course.

Comity is where a public body behaves with respect toward one another, where members speak and listen while a colleague answers. We’d almost forgotten what it looked like…and we weren’t alone. At one point, Councilman Schaffer seemed stunned to be asked to make his comments without his having to first interrupt the presiding officer.

But you don’t come to SDM to hear mush, or do you? We didn’t think so.

The truth is that the first meeting after an election is usually lots of sunshine and light as the parties accustom themselves to their roles and colleagues. Nonetheless, we can make some observations:

Mayor Flinn – SDM couldn’t help but notice how pleased Flinn appeared as he took his seat. Even as long-time council watchers, it’s was a little surreal seeing him on film. There were not cameras in the chamber when he was mayor.

The other thing we noticed is that Mayor Flinn v. 2.0 is not merely physically different (we estimate he’s 40 pounds lighter), he’s also more patient. Sure, the quick wit and sharp tongue aren’t gone completely (he’ll get himself in trouble soon enough), but he seems more…what is the right way to describe it? More subdued? More careful in his choice of words?

One aspect of the old Flinn is still there: He is a man on a mission. He has an agenda and he’s going to move it, but v. 2.0 wants to bring his council along with him rather stand behind them and push.

Which causes another word to come to mind: refreshing. We pray version 2.0 lasts.

Councilwoman Cunningham – Describing Cunningham is one word is easier: she is prepared.

Cunningham took to the microphone in her swearing-in speech and methodically thanked everyone and laid out her agenda. If we were being picky, we might say the speech was too long, but then again how many times do you get to thank the people who helped you in two consecutive campaign seasons?

Then on the dais, we could see her working through her list and asking relevant questions. We suspect sitting through hundreds of committee meetings in Tallahassee give one a leg-up on how to behave in a public body and Cunningham clearly benefited from her experience.

And it may not be that Cunningham alone benefits from her lobbying experience. She pushed her colleagues to demand and schedule a discussion immediately to adopt a state legislative agenda because, as Cunningham knows, the legislature waits for no man…er…woman.

Councilwoman Siegel Lara – SDM could almost feel her nerves through the video stream. Campaigning and governing are as similar as riding a bicycle and swimming. You may be using the same parts of your body, but the application is completely different.

Our one word for Siegel Lara: rookie. (Don’t be too upset, Ms. Siegel Lara, everyone is a rookie at being a pol. It’s how you grow into the gig that matters to us.)

Ron Williams – SDM doesn’t buy into David Singer’s view that Williams future is certain. Then again, Singer goes to the meetings and speaks to the politicians so he may have more actual knowledge.

At SDM, we read tea leaves. Williams looks to us to be posturing. We’ve never been sold on his competence, so our vote is to change horses and Williams seems to be open to moving along, too.

In the end, our one word to describe Williams is endangered.

PB: Today, We May Heal

When SDM started this blog in July, 2011, the issue that drove us to write was the travesty that was (and is) the way Palmetto Bay treated Palmer Trinity.

What we’ve learned in the past 3+ years is that the Palmer fiasco was a symptom of a more insidious disease: Stanczykitis.

Never heard of it?

According to SDM’s medi-pol dictionary, Stanczykitis (sometimes confused with its close cousin, Pastorella Syndrome, which is more of a psychosis) is defined as follows:

A fatal disease where paranoia and malaprops drive disgruntled retirees and near-retirees into political madness; indicators include weird ordinances seeking to muzzle Sparky, wild about-faces on issues critical to the health and welfare of the Village People, and a general malaise and government drift.

The cure for Stancykitis is a purge, generally performed by voters but occasionally by political serendipity.

When we first ventured on this quest to rid village politics of this debilitating disease, we felt like the only path to sanity was by replacing the elected officials we kindly referred to as the Three Amigos.

In 2012, SDM urged voters to oust former Vice Mayor Brian Pariser by voting in John Dubois…one amigo down, which left Councilwoman Joan Lindsay and Mme. Mayor.

In a bit of a surprise in 2012, we supported re-election of Howard Tendrich and were saddened when he lost.

We were pleasantly surprised – and those suffering from Pastorella Syndrome much dismayed – that Tendrich’s successor, Tim “Marathon Man” Schaffer, turned out to be an independent and reasonable voice. Thus, serendipity gave an unexpected win to the good guys.

Today, we have the chance to clean out the wound in the mayor’s office by voting in Eugene Flinn. We also have a bonus opportunity to give the current majority a strong and diverse membership by electing Larissa Siegel Lara.

We certainly hope those of you who care about and pay attention to Palmetto Bay’s drifting government will help us cure Stanczykitis once and for all. Pastorella Syndrome is not so easily eradicated…so SDM will remain vigilant.

PB: Fire Station = Violation of Neighborhood Protection?

We need churches, we need schools, we need fire stations… – Joan Lindsay

In the end, however, Councilwoman and soon-to-be ex-Palmetto Bay resident Joan Lindsay voted against locating a new fire station next to perpetual gadfly Gary Pastorella’s house. The fire department aims to purchase approximately two acres owned by Old Cutler Presbyterian church located on the southeast corner of Old Cutler Road and SW 142nd Terrace.

Mr. Pastorella hired an attorney to interrogate village staff and anyone within swinging distance last Monday night. After what amounted to an expensive rant against siting the fire station, Pastorella’s lawyer warned that if the council voted in favor of the fire department’s application, he would appeal it on Pastorella’s behalf.

SDM can’t figure out if this is ironic – given Pastorella’s repetitive whining at council meetings about his being sued – or karmic since he led the forces who pushed a charter amendment that will not “rescue” him (sorry for the pun):

All non-single-family-residential developments, structures, or use (that is/are a direct or indirect result of that development, structure, or use) in, adjacent to, or nearby any single-family zoned properties shall not disrupt or degrade the health, safety, tranquility, character, and overall welfare of the adjacent or nearby single-family residential properties by creating negative impacts on those properties such as density, intensity, noise, light, glare, dust, odor, vibration, traffic or run off that exceeds that of adjacent single-family properties. Nothing herein should be construed or applied to abrogate the vested rights of a property owner.

Mr. Pastorella’s attorney stated pretty clearly that the so-called neighborhood protection charter amendment would be the basis of his suit. His somber reading of the amendment appeared calculated to frighten the council by the “obvious” takeaway that a fire station would run afoul of its provisions.

Of course, Mr. Pastorella’s presumptions about the charter amendment are logically unsound: How can a life safety necessity like fire rescue “disrupt or degrade the health, safety, tranquility, character, and overall welfare of the adjacent or nearby single-family residential properties”? By definition, a fire rescue station does exactly the opposite.

The other “no” vote came from Mayor Shelley Stanczyk who apparently couldn’t say no to Pastorella since he forms the last remaining element of her neighborhood support. That the site was $200,000 less and a savings to taxpayers would not sway Mme. Mayor. She seems to have bought the line that if the county pays the money then you as village taxpayers don’t. Huh?

Stanczyk was also unswayed by the site’s easy ingress and egress for vehicles. Then again, the site across Old Cutler has the advantage of being a poke in the eye to her nemesis David Zisman, so maybe her vote against fire and rescue protection for northeast Palmetto Bay makes sense.

Make no mistake, the entire hearing on Monday night radiated with election year political intrigue. Nobody wants that fire station near their home…unless you were the woman who testified about her husband dying in the rescue vehicle parked in her driveway. She recounted waiting 17 minutes before hearing that wailing siren, which turned out to be too long.  SDM can’t even imagine her grief, but we can surely commend her bravery and sense of duty. Based on her testimony, which very likely carried the day, the majority could say Please In My Back Yard .

SDM Says: Bravo to the three gentlemen who decided for the fire station: Messrs.  Fiore, Dubois and Schaffer. They would not sit by idly and allow the NIMBYs to put thousands of people at further unnecessary risk. All three showed what forceful leadership looks like when life and death matters are at issue.

PB: SDM’s Candidate Forum Observations

SDM listened to the entire Palmetto Bay Village Voice candidate’s forum that was held last night. You can tune in if you wish by going to the Miami Hal (Feldman) website. (Thanks Hal. You’re a mensch.) Scroll down to the Local Listings and Stories section and click on the Palmetto Bay Candidates Forum icon.  And, nice job PBVV and David Singer!

Aside: Who says we don’t have a place to hold meetings in Palmetto Bay? Christ Fellowship Church opened its doors to the village for the forum, as it always seems to do when asked, and we taxpayers didn’t have to pay for it!

Ok, enough of that blather, on to SDM’s observations:

Seat 1

David Zisman – Mr. Zisman careens from comprehensibility to inconsistency whenever he speaks and last night was no exception. For example, he identified a critical problem with Palmetto Bay, which is its negative attitude toward business development. He said he wanted to see the Palmetto Bay downtown area have a restaurant row and believes he can best lead the village in that direction. He also said the village budget is unsustainable and needs to be pruned (we’re paraphrasing). SDM couldn’t agree more.

But then, in response to a question on whether the village should be doing special events, he said the village should hold a Fourth of July celebration every year without saying whether taxpayers should be forced to foot the bill. How can a village budget be sustainable when it throws away $60,000 on a taxpayer-subsidized party for village insiders?

Karen Cunningham – Mrs. Cunningham is the yin to the Zisman yang. Where Zisman is all emotion, Cunningham is pragmatic and under control. Where Mr. Zisman wants to make the free keg party an annual, subsidized event, Cunningham wants to plan the event better so that taxpayers won’t have to pay for it. (Imagine that!)

Another example: Zisman, in his closing remarks, implied that since he’s walked the village and listened to voters and presumably knows it all now, a new council just needs to get seated and start making decisions.  Cunningham says we need to calmly, professionally adopt a strategic plan so that we can methodically determine what the community wants and measure our progress toward the goals the Village People set.

SDM Says: We understand that some people find Mrs. Cunningham to be overly cautious and that sometimes her positions lack specificity, but her demeanor fits our bill better than does Mr. Zisman’s. We think Zisman will be  needlessly disruptive and unpredictable. Even though he’d be manna from heaven for SDM, he will ultimately be bad for Palmetto Bay.

Seat 3

Jim Shedd – Mr. Shedd certainly seems to be enjoying himself as he discovers all of Palmetto Bay’s lingering controversies. We note that he is “discovering them” because he seems truly amazed by topics we’ve been harping on since the inception of this blog.

Example: Shedd probably got the biggest applause of the night when he wondered aloud why the Thalatta Estate was so often closed to visitors and residents. Of course, SDM readers know why but it’s always interesting to watch as a newbie learns the truth about our little burgh.

Mr. Shedd rarely offers much insight into his past, which can be forgiven since he spent virtually his entire career as a federal agent. What did he do for the DEA? Well, he caught bad guys, of course. The only problem with this line is that when you Google him, you find that he was – at least for part of his career – a spokesman that handled the media. How much time did he spend in the field? SDM can virtually guarantee we will never know.

When he was asked to cite an act of leadership from the past year, he finally shed some light on his current means of earning a living. Mr. Shedd advised the audience that he consults for defense attorneys and recently helped to exonerate an innocent man. Bravo! Of course, the old saw is that the penitentiary is full of innocent men, but who are we to judge?

Henry Clifford – While Mr. Clifford’s personality is the precise opposite of Mr. Zisman’s, Clifford shares Zisman’s penchant for internally inconsistent positions.

Example: Clifford told the audience that Palmetto Bay may face a serious budget crunch in the near future. He reiterated the position more than once that the village would have to pare its budget. We infer he wants to avoid tax increases since he never mentioned them as a solution.

The inconsistency comes from a later statement where he said he would push for the lowest density possible, presumably in every future development in the village.

SDM Wonders: How does Mr. Clifford’s position on density square with the stated goal of the downtown redevelopment task force of improving the village’s tax base? Answer: It doesn’t.

Where Mr. Clifford is most inconsistent is in a statement he made regarding village parks. He said he wanted to see more lighting at the village’s tennis courts. Now isn’t that an interesting position to take when Mr. Clifford was such a vocal opponent to other lighting proposals, including for Coral Reef Park and Palmer Trinity School?

Mr. Clifford comes to this race as a puppet of Mayor Stanczyk and her crew so not unsurprisingly he has adopted their inconsistent position on who gets to play into the evening and who doesn’t: In Palmetto Bay, people with red signs get to make this decision, not the property owner.

Larissa Siegel Lara – Mrs. Siegel Lara, like Mrs. Cunningham, is a person of structure. She kept emphasizing the need for methodical decision making, planning and holding people accountable to measurable outcomes. Be still SDM’s heart!

Mrs. Siegel Lara’s biggest downside is that she has virtually no experience with government, which means she could fall prey to the disease currently affecting the Marathon Man (Tim Schaffer): staff-infatuation-itis. On the plus side, she comes off as a decision maker who does her own research and makes decisions based on her own process.

SDM Says: While green as hell, Mrs. Siegel Lara is the best choice for Seat 3. We can’t predict exactly how she will vote on property rights or how she will balance the demands of neighbors vs. the rights of  individuals, but we like her approach and see a big upside to having her on the council.

Mayor’s Race

Soon to be eliminated from consideration:

Mayor Shelley Stanczyk – SDM is long on record on why Mrs. Stanczyk must be retired. As usual when she opens her mouth, she just gave us more ammunition last night.

Forget her re-writing of the history of the fire stations and Thalatta Estate. Forget her inane statement that the problem with the village manager is his contract (huh?).

The newest and best reason for voting against Mme. Mayor is what she said last night about the village’s reserve fund. No, it’s not that she uses the figure of $13.6 million as the amount of the reserve…she may be right that today we have that much in reserve. The fact that it’s not a figure reflected in the budget is just a case of manipulating of statistics.

No, the latest best reason to voter her out of office came during her closing statement. Mayor Stanczyk clued us all into the real danger she poses when she said the reserve is a fund that can be used for future village projects. Yes, you are reading that right. In Mme. Mayor’s view, a reserve is a pot of money one can use to pay for, oh we don’t know, a $10 million unfunded building at Coral Reef Park?!?!

SDM’s Educate-the-Mayor Moment: A reserve fund’s purpose is to protect the village from an emergency (unbudgeted) downturn in revenues or uptick in expenses. Think: A hurricane hits and the village’s revenue is severely depleted for several years while expenses for police and municipal services skyrocket. Also think: Rating agencies demand reserves so that if a bond or other debt obligation cannot be satisfied from its intended revenue source then the agencies can be satisfied that the village has sufficient revenues to cover the debt service. A reserve is not a capital fund to be used for future projects and our budgets don’t reflect that those funds will be used this way.

The fact that Mme. Mayor has attended 12 years of budget meetings and doesn’t understand the purpose of the reserve immediately and on its own disqualifies her from further service to this village.

Patrick Fiore – SDM likes Mr. Fiore but we don’t get why he’s running for Mayor. Sure, we understand he wants to be the public works mayor who fixes the potholes, but that just isn’t enough for us. We also understand that Mr. Fiore takes credit for spending approved by the councils upon which he sat. What he doesn’t say is that he regularly voted against at least some of those budgets.

Taking credit while not deserving it is nothing new to politics, but that’s not why Mr. Fiore falls short. Palmetto Bay needs a Mayor who will lead us to better functioning traffic, not just to smoother roads, a difference that seems to escape Mr. Fiore.

The Contenders:

Peter England – There’s something soothing about Peter England’s approach. He’s perpetually upbeat even when he’s leveling criticism. His obsession – locating two fire stations – is admirable and necessary. That he can offer his time in abundance to village matters is also a big plus.

But there’s also something missing from Mr. England’s latest quest for Palmetto Bay public office. SDM went back over our notes and couldn’t find one comment he made last night that stood out. No major plan. No critical issue – other than the fire station. No real controversial comments and – sadly – no real vision, except for his commitment to comity. (Not to be confused with comedy – that is Mme. Mayor’s area of expertise.)

Eugene Flinn – Where England is bland, Flinn is busting at the seams with enthusiasm mixed generously with barbs against his opponents. Flinn said he is fit and ready to come back to restore Palmetto Bay’s dignity. He wants to work with neighboring municipalities – which is a not-so-subtle knock on Mme. Mayor’s inability to gain the respect of her fellow mayors in Pinecrest and Cutler Bay.

Sure, Flinn toots his horn like most politicians, but it feels like there is a purpose behind the self-aggrandizement. Think: “Look at my record. Palmetto Bay worked when I was Mayor.” The purpose is to remind us that back in the day we didn’t always worry about whether we’d have to count how many times our dog barks.

Here’s an example from last night of vintage Mayor Flinn: When asked about whether he would keep the current village manager (a Flinn hire), Flinn noted that when Village Manager Ron Williams reported to his council, things got done. He cited traffic calming and funding for drainage as examples. Then, to sink the nail deeper into the current mayor’s electoral coffin, he said the village manager should be graded on the assignments he’s given by the council.

The not-at-all-subtle subtext: The last several councils under the current mayor weren’t properly managing the manager, so what do you expect from the guy? Ouch!

SDM’s Bottom Line: We think England and Flinn will face each other in a run-off. We’ll take Flinn this round and then watch the fireworks. :)

PB: How to Plan a Park

Palmetto Bay needs to rebuild, restore or replace the main building at Coral Reef Park according to village staff testimony during the recently concluded budget hearings.

Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, outgoing Councilwoman Joan Lindsay and Councilman Tim “Marathon Man” Schaffer all voted to retain a $10 million “place marker” in the capital section of the budget ostensibly for this purpose.

Vice Mayor John Dubois and Councilman Patrick Fiore (a candidate for Mayor) voted against keeping the $10 million line item because: (a) there is zero chance the village will spend the money during the budget year, because (b) nobody knows what this building would look like or what its programming would be.

cart-before-horse-2

As Dubois and Fiore rightly point out, the administration’s proposal puts the cart before the horse.

Now, there is a better way. Did you see yesterday’s Miami Herald story on the new park proposed for Wynwood? A private individual funded an international architectural competition to come up with a design that would transform his parking lot into an iconic public space. The result is pretty darn cool:

Wynwood Greenhouse Credit Azeez Bakare

The lesson here is that the private individual laid out some general parameters and then asked some clever people to deliver a design that would capture the imagination.

The Village of Palmetto Bay could try something similar. First step is to imagine what the village wants – within reason. For example, we don’t need to build something that competes with private owners (think: gyms, wedding venues, gun ranges :) ). We probably could use a public gathering space for indoor and partially indoor events. As a village we shouldn’t be too quick to jump on any one concept or, likewise, too quick to dismiss realistic options.

SDM Says: Once the Village People decide what we want and have a basic understanding of what we can afford, why not try our own competition and see what the world suggests? Maybe there’s an opportunity for a public-private partnership, too. The point is, while the horse’s ass must be in front of us that doesn’t mean we must be led by one. :)

PB: Budget Review I – Mailing It In

Why Some of Us Don’t Trust Village Manager Ron Williams

As SDM noted in several earlier blog posts, we have some experience in deciphering government budgets…not as much as some people, but definitely more than the average Joe.

So we can sympathize with Vice Mayor John Dubois. Starting at about minute 25:00 and going through Councilman Schaffer’s analysis ending around minute 43:00, anyone can see why regular people are frustrated and don’t trust the numbers coming from the village manager and his administration.

The first topic was the $10 million place holder for a “Design Build Community Building.” Vice Mayor Dubois asked a simple question: why does the budget say that this project is proposed for the 2014-15 fiscal year (i.e., next year) when everyone from the village manager to the groundskeeper at Coral Reef Park knows it won’t happen?

The answer was straight out of Wonderland: That’s not what the budget says, Mr. Dubois. Oh really? Mr. Dubois pointed to a page in the Capital Improvements Element (a budget document) that stated specifically that the community building is proposed for 2014-15. SDM also found the same statement on page 2 of the Capital Improvement Plan. (“The capital projects proposed (including roll over projects) by Parks and Recreation for Fiscal Year 2014-15 are…” and the community building is listed among a list of projects.)

SDM’s Message to Mr. Dubois: We realize that sometimes you feel like the ranting funny uncle when you challenge the village manager. In your mind, you may be shouting “doesn’t everyone else see this nonsense for what it is? Hello?” We hear you brother…keep it up…you’re fighting the good fight.

The fact is that fixing the building at Coral Reef Park is probably a good idea. But doing the project in the order it is currently contemplated is obviously bass-ackwards, if you know what we mean. You budget the money AFTER you know how much you need to spend to achieve the objectives. Simple…except for bureaucrats. They want the money identified in the budget even though the money doesn’t exist yet. Makes perfect sense if you sit in a government building long enough.

The second topic that rankled the Vice Mayor involved the police budget. As we reported here a month or so ago, the police budget went up this year because of the county union. We were told that we would be taking an $800,000 hit, so Mr. Dubois noticed that the police budget only went up by $200,000 from last year. What happened to the other $600,000?

SDM Translation of the administration’s answer: We have no darn clue. We listened to the discussion twice (the limit placed upon this activity by our psychiatrist) and we still don’t understand what the answer means. Even with Mr. Schaffer’s analysis, we are still lost on the subject.

Aside to the Marathon Man: you can love the hell out of the MDPD Mr. Schaffer, but please don’t accept their budget numbers as gospel. They fatten their bottom line just like everyone else.

So why do some residents lack trust in Mr. Williams? Pretty much every staffer available attempted to answer Mr. Dubois’s inquiries EXCEPT FOR the village manager.

SDM Wonders: Does Mr. Williams know what’s in his budget? Did he read the words on the pages? Why must Mr. Chin sit there and try to explain that crap about the police budget without any assistance from the top administrator? And why is the Planning Director attempting to cover for the Parks Director by alleging that Mr. Dubois suddenly lost the ability to read black and white text?

In a village the size of Palmetto Bay, the village manager MUST know it all – from the lowliest employee on the totem pole to the underlying arguments for increasing the bond rating. When Mr. Williams sits there, mailing in his budget, even casual observers recognize a short-timer. Maybe the word is out and all those department heads were auditioning? If so, count SDM as unimpressed.

PB: Guest Post by David Singer (With SDM Comments)

The good guys actually achieved a well-deserved win during Monday’s [June 23, 2014] special council meeting when Councilmen Patrick Fiore, Tim Schaffer and John Dubois, voted down what could have been a disaster for Village residents, Churches, Private Schools and Daycares within Palmetto Bay.

It was a grueling experience watching the Monday’s council meeting, but with the exception of Mayor Stanczyk the remaining Council members attempted to reach a compromise on the Charter Amendment. This amendment would have eliminated all outdoor lighting for non-governmental, non-residential or non-commercially zoned properties.

[SDM Comment: We disagree with Mr. Singer’s characterization. The proposed charter amendment would have prohibited outdoor lighting of recreational areas (except underwater swimming pool lights) owned by religious institutions, child care facilities, private schools,  and other non-governmental public assemblies located in residentially zoning districts.  We agree that the idea is crazy and will cover lots more lighting than we were told.]

During the meeting the Village Zoning Director confirmed my suspicions that if the amendment had passed it would prohibit all lighting; basketball, tennis, ground, pathway, landscaping, etc. The amendment would supersede any prior Village Ordinance.

[SDM Comment: Mr. Singer is hitting on why this measure and the code provision are so misguided. We’ve asked before: Does this mean a private school’s pool could not have outdoor lights for the pool deck, stairways and pathways leading to it? Is everyone supposed to bring a flashlight? Why allow the underwater lighting in the first place if it cannot be used in any practical sense?]

Unfortunately, as we heard from Mayor Stanczyk the battle is far from over. After the vote was finalized she could be heard saying “We’ll Walk”. I would assume by her comment that she will lead various sullen individuals in an initiative to collect enough signatures to place the Charter Amendment on November’s ballot. Not exactly the Mayor’s responsibility to undermine the governmental process she’s been sworn to uphold, but then again she’s hasn’t shown herself to be very ethical while in office.

[SDM Comment: If you walk away, walk away, walk away, walk away… [SDM won’t] follow.]

Maybe if the Mayor spent the time researching various municipalities within Miami-Dade County she would have found there are 19 cities, 6 towns and 9 villages for a total of 34 separate municipalities. These municipalities, along with Unincorporated Miami-Dade, represent 2.6 million residents.

[SDM Comment: What? Me? Do research? I’ll tell you what you can do with your stinking research!]

None of the municipalities, including Unincorporated Miami-Dade County have their lighting code defined or guided by a City Charter. It’s just not standard or appropriate.

Could there be something that all the other Municipalities in Miami Dade County know that our Council doesn’t? Could what the Mayor is trying to pass be unconstitutional? Could it lead to more lawsuits for the Village of Palmetto Bay? Could the residents be footing the bill for more legal fees? Isn’t eight years of litigation enough?

What is really driving this venture into unknown and potentially very expensive territory?

Well for one thing, there is the location of Councilwoman Joan Lindsay’s home. Her house is approximately 100 feet away from the Palmer Trinity property line. Joan Lindsay was an original director, president and vice-president of the Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler, Inc. (CCOCI) for years. She has a serious conflict of interest and ethically shouldn’t even be voting on any issues related to Palmer Trinity.

[SDM Comment: This here would be an appearance of a conflict of interest, though not legally a conflict. Just FYI.]

There is also the fact that The Village of Palmetto Bay has spent over a million dollars in legal fees fighting Joan Lindsay’s and the CCOCI’s war against Palmer Trinity, which they would love to continue. Mayor Stanczyk, Joan Lindsay and the CCOCI all know that the Charter change will bring more litigation to the Village.

Unfortunately, we as residents have all experienced a history of Mayor Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay spending taxpayer’s money for Palmer Trinity litigation.

Simply put, all the Churches, Schools and residents in the Village have become collateral damage in a war that has nothing to do with us. Our hard earned tax dollars have become collateral damage. The Real Estate rights of Churches and Schools have become collateral damage, as seen by what happened to Alexander Montessori School when they wanted to expand. Alexander Montessori School has lost thousands of dollars in revenue due to a war which is raging between Mayor Shelley Stanczyk and Joan Lindsay and Palmer Trinity.

The passing of this Charter Amendment will commence a cycle of new litigation but this time it just won’t be with Palmer Trinity. It will be with the various churches and other educational institutions in the Village.

There are both Federal and State laws which prohibit the type of action the Mayor and Councilwoman are attempting. The Village Attorney has stated on record that this Charter Amendment could bring future litigation.

[SDM Comment: Mr. Singer is being a little misleading here and you know we can’t stand such effrontery. The Village Attorney is quite comfortable that the proposed charter amendment was constitutional and permissible under RLUIPA and other statutes. He noted that anyone can sue, but he was clear that he believed such suits would not prevail, though he also stated such suits would not be frivolous. We’re not sure Mr. Lehtinen is correct with respect to the level of scrutiny applied to the question: he says strict scrutiny would not apply, where we think it would under RLUIPA’s statutory scheme. Anyone attempting to sue has a hard road, regardless.]

If anyone were to question the likelihood of future litigation please look no further than The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. When filed it will takes years to resolve, just as the Palmer litigation has taken years to resolve.

If asked to sign a petition respectfully decline and warn all your friends and neighbors who live in Palmetto Bay not to sign. If the petitioner tells you it’s about stadium lighting don’t believe them as they are not being honest. The Charter Amendment they are attempting to pass is written to prohibit all lighting at institutions which should be respected not discriminated against by the Village of Palmetto Bay.

[SDM Says: Right on!]

David Singer

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