Written by Miami Today on January 2, 2003
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
NEARING FINISH LINE: Most financial information on the Grand Prix of the Americas race is in the hands of City of Miami staff for an internal audit, but the report is on hold pending an answer to one final question, Victor Igwe, the city’s auditor, said Monday. The city is trying to determine how much money it should reap from a ticket surcharge from promoter Raceworks. The deadline to pay the surcharge was Dec. 5. Raceworks did pay $50,000 in usage fees and $50,000 to the Bayfront Park Management Trust, said Frank Rollason, an assistant city manager. Chuck Martinez, event executive director, said Raceworks also paid the city $440,000 for public services while the event generated about $180,000 in parking surcharge funds for the city.
HOT SPOT: Though local hoteliers are hurting, Miami was still the globe’s fifth-most booked destination in 2002 on Hotels.com, an Internet provider of discount lodging worldwide. Ahead of Miami were, in order, New York, Las Vegas, Orlando and Chicago. Trailing Miami in the top 10 were Boston, Los Angeles, London, Washington and New Orleans. San Francisco and Reno in 2002 fell out of the top 10.
COUNTY ON WHEELS: The Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s Office is coming soon to a parking space near you. The office is boarding a bus to stop at 18 spots countywide in January and more in February to allow homeowners to file for homestead exemptions, good for a $25,000 reduction in property tax appraisals. To find out that nearby location, call (305) 468-5900. And, if you don’t need a homestead exemption, you might still want to drop by. The bus also handles baby stroller permits, passports, dog licenses, transit tokens and parking permits. C’mon down.
CREATIVE IDEA: Coconut Grove’s parking advisory committee has hired Miami marketing firm Creative Ideas to boost its image in the community and visitation to the Grove. Creative Ideas is getting $30,000 to redesign the Grove’s parking smart card, a meter debit card, and developing an incentives campaign to get Grove merchants to market and distribute the cards. "The idea is to boost traffic into the Grove and improve business by creating a system that makes parking for patrons easier," said Art Noriega, Miami Parking Authority executive director. The parking committee, formed a decade ago under the auspices of the city, pools money collected from Grove business owners into a trust fund used to help finance public projects such as the smart card promotion and the $6.5 million Oak Street Parking Plaza, which received about $2 million from the fund.
ANOTHER CONDO CONVERSION: Developer Michael Samuel and Dan Pfeffer, president of Midtown Equities of New York, say they plan to add about 100 units to the 405 Banyan Bay apartment complex, 680 NE 64th St., and convert it to condominiums. Units will sell from $150,000 to $300,000, Mr. Samuel said. They now have a contract on the 17-acre apartment complex and hope to close the deal in a couple of months, he said.
SUNNY ISLES SALES: Fortune International’s M Resort Residences sold 70% of its condo units in less than three months. The 210 units in Sunny Isles Beach sell from about $300,000 to $900,000. "This kind of enthusiastic reception is unprecedented, but exactly what we hoped for when we planned these oceanfront residences," said Edgardo Defortuna, head of Fortune International. "We wanted an upscale look, but at a price that would put beachfront resort living within the reach of more people." Construction of the 25-story tower is to begin in February and be done by fall 2004.
ETHICS SETTLEMENT: The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust approved a settlement with former county employee Brenda Williams for having become a Section 8-landlord while working for the county’s housing authority, said Robert Meyers, commission director. The county "code says you cannot contract with your own department," he said. The commission had issued an opinion last year against her becoming a Section 8-landlord "but she went ahead and did it," he said. Although Ms. Williams recently left the county, she must pay a $1,750 fine as part of a settlement agreement with the commission, Mr. Meyers said.
LOAN OR GIFT?: The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust found probable cause against former county employee Leonardo Rivero for not disclosing a $3,500 gift from a county vendor, said Robert Meyers, commission director. Mr. Rivero requested the loan, promising to pay back $7,000 within three days, Mr. Meyers said. "He never repaid it. We don’t know if he solicited a gift, which goes against the county’s code of ethics. He also failed to disclose the gift," as he should have by county code. Mr. Meyers said Mr. Rivero can request a hearing or try to settle.