Parking board to meet over mayor's take-over bid
By Catherine Lackner
As Miami Mayor Joe Carollo continues a long-standing fight to abolish the Off-Street Parking Board's control of the Miami Parking System, members of the board have scheduled a strategy meeting for Aug. 23.
"We're going to bring the board of directors up to speed as a group," said Art Noriega, the agency's director. "We'll discuss what our options are."
The board last met on July 27.
Mr. Carollo said the parking department, which brings in about $11 million annually, would be more profitable if privatized. He wants the question added to the November ballot.
Miami city commissioners on Sept. 7 will discuss the ballot question and an alternative proposal by Commissioner Art Teele that would preserve the Off-Street Parking Board but give commissioners more say in operations.
As part of a five-year agreement signed two years ago, the Miami Parking System turns over $2.5 million to $3 million of revenues to the City of Miami and reinvests the rest in capital improvements.
"Before that," Mr. Noriega said, "the parking authority didn't return any money to the city we reinvested all of our revenues into new facilities and upgrades to existing facilities."
Though the authority opposes privatization, "we're not opposed to Mr. Teele's plan," Mr. Noriega said, although the city charter establishes the way the parking board is composed and that might take some overhauling. "We're going to make our case" to the commission.
"Our first line of defense is the City Commission because it's their decision whether or not it goes on the ballot," said Michael Kosnitzky, a member of the parking board. "The real issue here is, do they believe a public asset should be placed in private hands?
"I have no issue with the referendum," Mr. Kosnitzky said, "because I think the voters will make an intelligent decision about what people's motives are here."
Privatization, Mr. Kosnitzky said, might leave some areas of the community under-served.
"The private sector would cherry-pick the most beneficial locations and the others would be allowed to deteriorate. In Overtown, Little Haiti and other areas that are not necessarily in the downtown core, there's a need for parking but not necessarily the resources to support it," Mr. Kosnitzky said.
"The authority has done what's in the best interests of the city. But would a private agency do the same thing? I don't think so."
While he said he'd like to see the parking board continue to function as it is, Mr. Kosnitzky said he also does not object to Mr. Teele's plan.
"I'm not offended by it or even by the question of privatization because people get the government they choose. Do they want an independent parking authority or one that's controlled by politicians?"
"We think the city has been well-served by the Miami Off-Street Parking Board," said Arthur Hertz, board chairman, "and no improvement or great gain will be realized by making the authority a city division."
He pledged his support when the issue comes before the City Commission in September.
The parking board operates four garages, 60 parking lots and more than 6,000 meters with about 17,000 revenue-producing parking spaces.
Details: (305) 373-6789.
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