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Front Page » Top Stories » Shriners Put Riverfront Acres On Block

Shriners Put Riverfront Acres On Block

Written by on August 3, 2000

By Candi Calkins
Miami commissioners have agreed to consider two alternate scenarios for the city’s parking system.

In either, changes would alter the independent parking agency that takes in more than $12 million annually in revenues from garages and on-street meters.

Commissioners in September will review two proposed charter amendments introduced last week by Mayor Joe Carollo. If commissioners approve, at least one would go on the November ballot.

Commissioners asked for an amendment to abolish the parking agency either through privatization or by a merger with the city.

A second proposal would change the makeup of the Off-Str6″>

Art Noriega, executive director of Miami Parking System, said Monday that while commissioners probably will put a parking proposal on the November ballot, "I have a lot of confidence that the voters, when they go to the polls, will side with keeping the authority in its current setup."

Parking officials plan a presentation to commissioners Sept. 7 "to basically substantiate our current existence and justify the revenue we return to the city," Mr. he said.

Since 1997, following the onset of the city’s financial crisis, the parking agency has paid more than $2 million annually to city coffers.

While the agency is to send $2.3 million to the city this year and next, Mr. Noriega said the agency will exceed its scheduled contribution this year by $300,000 due to higher than anticipated revenues. With revenues rising, he said he expects a similar surplus for the city next year.

The mayor last week advocated abolition of the agency, saying more money would be available to the city if the agency were privatized or placed under the city manager’s supervision.

"I know the City of Miami is not receiving millions of dollars more every year that we should be receiving," Mr. Carollo said. "We do not even have the right to audit this organization."

Commissioners say they are reluctant to turn the agency into another city department. Willy Gort, for one, said the agency has lower operating costs outside the city. A merger would bring the agency’s employees under city unions, raising salaries, pensions and other costs.

"To make it a city department might not be what we’re looking at," Mr. Gort said.

Joe Sanchez said he also might consider privatizing the agency but wanted to know the effect on bond ratings. He said he also fears higher parking rates and a loss of the ability to build new garages.

"I’m willing to let the people decide," Mr. Sanchez said.

Arthur Teele said he would not support abolishing the agency but supported the second proposal, a reorganization of the Off-Street Parking Board that controls how agency funds are spent.

"The question as far as I’m concerned is a question of direction in government," he said.

Mr. Teele said an outstanding bond debt of $14 million could be an obstacle to abolishing the agency. Although he also favored privatization, he said, analysis of wages and operating costs is needed.ù”-98

8P justify the revenue we return to the city," he said.
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