Written by Miami Today on June 1, 2006
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE: Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson is seeking to prohibit lobbyists hired by the county from lobbying county officials during state legislative sessions. She plans to present the measure to a June 14 Intergovernmental Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee meeting. "We have had cases over the years where lobbyists hired to represent Miami-Dade turn around and have clients lobby us during the legislative session," she said. "It is an awkward situation that creates an uncomfortable feeling." The measure would match guidelines now used in Broward County. Violation would result in a lobbyist’s contract being voided and a three-year ban from lobbying on behalf of Miami-Dade.
GARAGE DEAL PARKED: The Miami-Dade Transit Department is mulling a 3-year-old proposal by the Miami Parking Authority to manage its garages. The authority informally offered the deal to the transit department in early 2003, but discussions did not begin until last year. Manny Palmeiro, information officer for Miami-Dade Transit, said officials continue to review the proposal with no timetable to address the offer. If the transit department accepts the proposal, it would be recommended to County Manager George Burgess, who could then draft a measure for county commissioners to vote on.
AIRPORT REVS UP: Passengers flying through Miami International Airport in April increased 11% from a year earlier, continuing a six-month climb, according to the Miami-Dade Aviation Department. "We are very encouraged by this healthy increase in our passenger traffic," said Aviation Director José Abreu. "With both domestic and international passenger numbers up significantly even before the peak summer travel months have begun, we are optimistic that this trend will continue." Passengers this year exceed the same period of 2005 by 5.4%, rising to 11.2 million from 10.7 million. April’s domestic travelers increased 12.1% to 1,616,710 and international passengers rose 10.1 % to 1,225,213.
OPENING DOORS: Citing "the financial demands of residing in a metropolitan center like Miami-Dade County," County Manager George Burgess is recommending to county commissioners that they vote June 6 to repeal the county’s requirements that most employees live within county limits. Since the commission passed the requirement in 1998, Mr. Burgess noted, it has amended the rules four times, "allowing for additional recruitment flexibility." But in a memo to commissioners, he cites "recruitment difficulties in those classifications that require specialized knowledge, skills and abilities." He cites difficulties in hiring in engineering, planning, auditing, information technology and finance and says the construction boom makes hiring in that field almost impossible.
HURRICANE PREPARATION: It would cost $2.5 million to put backup generators at the county’s 500 most critical intersections for use in hurricane situations, a report to the Miami-Dade County Commission says. It also says it would cost about $250,000 a year for maintenance. But County Manager George Burgess cites failure last time it was tried: Dozens were installed at intersections in the 1970s, there are no records that they were ever used, they weren’t maintained and all were stolen, vandalized or inoperative by 1980. Those that remained were discarded by the mid-1980s.
ANOTHER SOLUTION: The county’s Public Works Department within several weeks will target intersections where rented commercial light towers equipped with generators and serviced by contract workers should be installed for disaster operation to be deployed as needed, Mr. Burgess told commissioners.
LAND-USE PLANNING: Four county commissioners are asking their peers to vote June 6 to initiate a countywide dialog on future land use that would culminate in a comprehensive plan for distribution of the projected growth of Miami-Dade population to more than 3 million by 2025. Carlos Gimenez, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Audrey Edmonson and Barbara Jordan say the the county hasn’t looked at land-use planning in more than 25 years ago. They note that the number of county residents living in municipalities now surpasses that in the county’s unincorporated areas.
CARTS, AIR AND SEA: Miami-Dade commissioners are to vote next week to request proposals for a luggage-cart concession at Miami International Airport that would provide 4,200 carts. Smarte Carte has been operating the concession since December 1998 but is on a month-to-month basis and without a long-term contract is unwilling repair and replace hundreds of carts, aviation officials said. Smarte Carte, which operates luggage-cart concessions in major airports around the country, is eligible to bid. The measure before the commission would allow County Manager George Burgess, at his discretion, to negotiate a separate contract with the winning bidder to provide luggage carts at the Port of Miami as well.
LOANS AVAILABLE: Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss is asking fellow commissioner to direct the county manager to promote by every available means the availability of $3 million in loans through the South Florida Regional Planning Council for businesses expanding in or relocating to Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. Loans range from $50,000 to $300,000, his resolution states.
STREETSCAPING PARTNERSHIP: The City of Miami has made an agreement with Miami Dade College to help run a streetscape construction project for Northeast Fourth Street between Northeast Second Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard. The college’s Wolfson campus received $875,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation to improve the point where Northeast Fourth meets the Metromover Bayside Promenade. The city is funding $185,000 for the construction, post-design and construction administration. The college is putting up $185,000 for the design.
RECRUITING POLICE: Officer recruitment begins this week for the Miami Police Department. Applications must be submitted to the City of Miami employment office at 444 SW Second Ave. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. Recruitment is to end June 6 or when 500 applications have been submitted. Miami police officers get a starting salary of $37,817 and receive benefits, pension, training and promotional opportunities.
SENIOR HOUSING HELP: Miami commissioners approved a resolution last week to convey land at 1525 NW 60th St. to Miami Dream Home Investment Group Inc. to build a multifamily rental project consisting of seven units for low-income senior citizens.
HELPING VETS: Miami commissioners unanimously approved Commissioner Joe Sanchez’s proposal to create a program for military veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. The program will include helping them find affordable housing and employment. Financial literacy and technical assistance programs also are planned.
OFFICE TOWER SOLD: A limited-liability corporation of Eddie Avila, Carlos Avila and Simon Abel Groll has closed on the purchase of Coconut Grove’s 21-story SBS Tower and says it will convert the building to office condos. KRA Office Tower LLC said in a press statement that it acquired the circa-1989 building from Irradio Holdings Ltd., a partnership operated by media investor Raul Alarcon Jr., in a $100 million-plus deal. Mr. Alarcon has retained four floors as part of the transaction. Other tenants of the tower at 2601 S. Bayshore Dr. include Terremark, the tower’s original developer; Oppenheimer; Ocean Bank; and Bermello Ajamil and Partners Architects. In addition, KRA bought 16 town homes attached to the building’s 1,092-space parking garage. Eddie Avila said he expects the office condo units to be sought after by end users and investors. "The pricing is going to be a motivating factor that will surprise many people," he said. Key Realty Advisors has named Alfred Martinez director of sales for the building. Details: (305) 857-0400.
AIRING IN THE ISLANDS: TV crews from Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic were to be in Miami this week shooting segments for broadcast to their home countries. Television Jamaica was to air five-minute features on its morning program, "Smile Jamaica – It’s Morning Time." From Barbados, the Caribbean Media Corp., a content provider, is to produce a half-hour feature on Miami and distribute it to member stations in the Caribbean Broadcasting Union. Out of the Dominican Republic, "Con Freddy y Punto," which airs on Color Vision-Channel 9, which has the highest ratings in the nation, will air a show about Miami as a result of its visit.
BRAZILIAN EXPOSURE: The Brazilian Festival, scheduled for Friday-June 10 in Miami Beach, is to bring not only lovers of Brazilian films here but also a contingent of Brazilian journalists. The media contingent will cover the festival and Miami’s entertainment scene. Among them will be reporters from La Revista Caras (circulation: 362,198) and TVE & Canal Brazil (viewership: 1 million-plus). The event is considered the largest exclusively Brazilian film festival outside that country. It presents recently produced films available for distribution and sale.
FEDERATION LEADER: Real estate developer Saby Behar, CEO of Hialeah-based General Stair Corp., last week was elected president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. He came to Miami in the 1970s from his native Peru and for the past two years was the federation’s general campaign chairman. He succeeds developer Michael M. Adler.
ARGENTINA TRADE TIES: Trade relations between Greater Miami and Argentina took a step forward last week with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Argentine-Florida Chamber of Commerce and FundaciÛn Exporta. "This memorandum of understanding will open a lot of doors, including the exchanging of delegations and the attracting of trade," said Maria Masvidal-Visser, vice president of international business development at the Miami chamber. Ms. Masvidal-Visser signed the agreement with Ambassador Gregorio Dupont, Argentine counsel general, at Sol de Mayo, held at the Turnberry Isle Resort in Aventura. The agreement grew out of the chamber’s most recent Americas Linkage trade mission.
CUSTOMS SCHOOL OWNERS: On-line customs broker-training company Customs Review has been acquired by industry executives Karma Ruiz and Hamlet Rodriguez. Ms. Ruiz is a licensed customs house broker and president of Miami-based World Wise Consulting Inc. and the Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association. Mr. Rodriguez is president of Almar USA Corp. of Miami. The 13-year-old Medley-based school plans to offer classroom settings in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Details: 888-846-5508 or www.customs-review.com.
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