BID FOR STATUS QUO: A proposal to freeze any bid to create a city in Miami-Dade County is moving forward. The county commission last week approved the measure preliminarily and sent it to its Infrastructure and Land Use Committee for a Sept. 13 hearing. The measure, sponsored by Commissioner Natacha Seijas, notes that since 2000, Miami Lakes, Palmetto Bay, Doral and Miami Gardens have become cities. The county has much more power in unincorporated municipal service areas than in cities, which often provide police, fire and other services the county handles elsewhere. The measure would suspend incorporations or land annexations to cities until County Manager George Burgess spells out the effects of such actions.
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RIDGE OR BAY? Even as commissioners sought to slow the drive to create cities, they voted 10-0 last week to allow Cutler Ridge residents to vote Nov. 1 whether to adopt a charter for the proposed South Dade town and to vote at the same time what to call it. The choice is either Town of Cutler Ridge or Town of Cutler Bay. The Cutler Ridge Charter Commission created the proposed charter. The county commission's vote isn't final - the panel is to vote again Sept. 8.
PEACE OF MIND: A service to have zoning officials inspect properties in unincorporated areas for potential buyers or sellers to determine whether a property complies with regulations and whether an added room or new swimming pool would be allowed has won a national award. The Miami-Dade Department of Planning and Zoning won the National Association of Counties' Achievement Award for its Pre-Purchase Zoning Inspection Service. "With the current housing boom that South Florida is experiencing," said Planning and Zoning Director O'Quinn Williams, "we wanted to offer peace of mind to people who were shopping for a home and those who were planning on selling."
BRIGHT IDEA: McFarlane Road is shining new light onto the streets of Coconut Grove. "Old streetlights are being uprooting to support new ones in a street lighting project that will modernize the streets and improve lighting in and around the Grove," said Robert Mesrieh, member of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement Committee. The city will pay for the project, budgeted at $235,000. FPL is to place the new streetlights from Fuller Street to Grand Avenue and along Mary and Matilda streets in future phases of the project. The project began with a master plan in 2001-02.
PARKS FOR OVERTOWN: An Overtown workshop for Miami 21, a master plan to improve City of Miami land use and urban planning, was rescheduled after Hurricane Katrina passed through. The new date is 4-8 p.m. Sept. 7 at Culmer Park, 1600 NW Third Ave. The workshop targets parks and recreation.
KPMG LANDS AUDIT: County commissioners last week awarded a $1.04 million, three-year airport auditing contract to second-ranked KPMG after top-ranked Ernst & Young and county officials couldn't strike a deal. Ernst & Young wanted added language regarding dispute resolution, minimizing its indemnification coverage, fee increases for events beyond the county's control and the right to terminate the deal, County Manager George Burgess told commissioners in next recommending KPMG. Ernst & Young protested awarding the contract to KPMG but a hearing examiner July 20 recommended denial of the protest. Commissioner Barbara Jordan was alone in voting against the contract for KPMG.
PUMP PUSHBACK: Higher gas prices prompted county commissioners last week to unanimously back Chairman Joe Martinez's resolution directing County Manager George Burgess to study saving money by converting the county's vehicles to gasohol or another alternative fuel source. Mr. Burgess is to report findings with 30 days to the Regional Transportation Committee.
I SPY: Unmanned cameras could be installed at Miami-Dade County's most dangerous intersections as a result of a study the county commission ordered last week. Commissioners 11-0 backed Chairman Joe Martinez in seeking a report from the county manager within 90 days exploring using cameras and creating a program to send warning letters to drivers spotted running red lights. State Attorney General Charlie Crist recently issued an opinion that local governments have authority to use unmanned red-light cameras as monitors and to record violations, though a state law change would be needed to allow ticketing of drivers based solely on the cameras.
HAITIAN MAGNET: Miami-Dade County's 95,669 Haitians at the last census comprise the largest Haitian community in the US, according to a recent Brookings Institution report. Brooklyn is next with 74,000, followed by Broward County with 62,000, the report says. In Miami-Dade, 18,600 Haitian-Americans live in the City of Miami and 18,300 in North Miami - but none were recorded in either Hialeah or Miami Beach.
LOWEST IN INCOME: Haitians have the lowest median income of any group in Miami-Dade County, the Brookings report says. While the county's median household income in 1999 was $35,966, Haitian-Americans had a median of $27,284. By comparison black non-Hispanics had a median $28,617, Cuban-Americans $33,427, Puerto Ricans $34,854, Nicaraguan-Americans $35,059 and white non-Hispanics $49,673. And while 15% of all workers in the county had low-wage jobs, 31% of Haitians held such jobs.
MULTINATIONAL TASTES: An international business expo run by the Florida Foreign Trade Association and sponsored by 24 other internationally oriented groups is to be held in Doral on Sept. 29. The event, A Taste of Florida II, will be held from 4-8:30 p.m. at the Doral Park Country Club, 5001 NW 104th Ave. Admission is free; display tables are $75 for members of supporting organizations, $95 for others. Details: (305) 471-0737.
EMERGENCY FUNDS GROW: Miami-Dade continues to build its emergency reserve for natural disasters, a fund County Manager George Burgess said might be used to repair some of Hurricane Katrina's damage. "We are still quantifying the impact and assessing costs," he said. The fund, entering its third year, should total $45 million at the end of fiscal 2005-06, he said, and exceed $100 million to $120 million in six to seven years. "We are ahead of schedule," he said. One-tenth of the county's millage assessed on property is set aside for the emergency fund.
BANK BUILDING SOLD: The Regions Bank building at 2151 LeJeune Road in Coral Gables has been sold for $9.1 million to Ron Simkins, a Miami real estate investor. The property previously was owned by Coral Gables-based Aquarius Capital. The tenants remain. With 96% of the property leased, Regions Bank occupies 7,850 of the 36,000 total square feet. Regions' lease expires in December 2007. Another major tenant is Sterling Health Care, with 5,500 square feet, whose lease expires in February 2010.
BUDGET TALKS: The Doral City Council is to discuss the city's 2005-06 budget at 5 p.m. Sept. 7 at Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue headquarters on Northwest 41st Street. "This allows the council to have a direct interaction with city staff," said council member Robert Van Name. A week later, at 7 p.m. Sept. 14, Doral is to hold its monthly council meeting. At 6 p.m. Sept. 15, the city will conduct its first budget public hearing.
PUBLIC WORKS HEAD: Miami-Dade County has appointed its first female public works director. Esther Calas, who joined the department in 1976 as an engineering drafter, replaces Aristides Rivera, who is retiring after 32 years with the county. Ms. Calas beat out hundreds of applicants and five other finalists to the position.
LITTLE HAVANA HOUSING: A statewide organization has awarded $21 million in tax credits to a Miami nonprofit organization to help finance a project with a homeless housing element in Little Havana. Florida Housing Finance Corp. is providing the funds to Carrfour Supportive Housing, which is planning a $30 million mixed-used project called Villa Aurora. The development is to include supportive housing, affordable housing, office space and a public library.
NOT CAUGHT NAP-PING: Days after Hurricane Katrina hit Miami-Dade County, the operator of the Network Access Point of the Americas in downtown Miami announced it had entered agreements with three law firms to protect their data during future storms. Coconut Grove-based Terremark announced Tuesday it had signed up Ferrell Law, Greenberg Traurig and Shutts & Bowen. Negotiations began before last week's tropical storm.
HOME(STEAD) MOVIES: Rhode Island-based Flagship Cinemas raised the exterior walls for its 14-screen movie theater in Homestead on Tuesday, 13 years after the city's only cinema was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. There were no problems at the site with standing water left by Hurricane Katrina, said Lillian Delgado, city spokeswoman. Most of the floodwaters, she said, had receded from city streets by Monday. The 40,000-square-foot cinema with stadium seating is expected to open in early November. The nearest theater is in Cutler Ridge.
CORRECTION: A proposed master plan for the Coconut Grove waterfront and spoil islands will not be ready for city officials to see in October, as reported last week. The creation process is to begin in October, and it will be a year before City of Miami commissioners view the design.