Written by Miami Today on January 4, 2007
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TOWER OF POWER: Miami-Dade commissioners Barbara Jordan and Carlos Gimenez want to scrap the massive U-shaped raised dais that dominates County Commission Chambers in the Stephen P. Clark Government Center. Last week, both told new chairman Bruno A. Barreiro that the dais — built like a bench designed by the All-Powerful Wizard of Oz — intimidates citizens by forcing them to stand in a pit and look up at officials, who are seated several feet above eye level. Mr. Barreiro agreed with their analysis but said lowering the dais isn’t in the cards since it would cost at least $300,000. Construction crews are installing a $44,000 high-tech sound system, including microphones and tape recorders, in the dais. That project is to be complete Jan. 10. Another rehab, which includes new voting machines for commissioners, is scheduled for August.
SEED MONEY: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa will host seminars Jan. 23-25 to teach companies how to get county-sponsored Mom & Pop Small Business Grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. The cash is part of a 9-year-old program that gives each of the 13 county commissioners a $150,000 annual budget for business-development grants. To qualify for the seed money administered by the county’s Community Economic Development Office, a business must be at least a year old and have fewer than seven employees. Applications for grants are due by Feb. 7. Last year, Ms. Sosa gave grants to 83 companies. Details: (305) 267-6377 or www.miamidade.gov/district06.
NO MAN’S LAND: A $4.5 million privately funded construction project to automate fee collection at the Port of Miami’s terminal gates will officially begin with a groundbreaking scheduled for 11 a.m. today (1/4). The project, to be completed in March, replaces 12 manned guard booths with 16 automated gates that will collect fee information via cameras and computers similar to the Sun Pass setup on toll roads, a Port of Miami Terminal Operating Company executive said. The executive said the system will ease traffic delays caused by truckers stopping at manned booths to provide billing information and other paperwork. The independently owned Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co. pays the county for the right to run operations at the port.
MUCKRAKERS: Miami-Dade officials are scrambling to come up with $26 million to complete the Miami River dredging project, which has been stalled for more than a year due to a lack of federal funds. County Department of Environmental Resources Management chief Carlos Espinosa says 40% of the job is done. But he fears the US government won’t come through with its $26 million commitment before a contract with the dredging company expires in April 2009. If that happens, he said, the project would have to be re-bid and costs would climb astronomically. Although the county’s share of the work is only $500,000, commissioners Carlos Gimenez and Jose "Pepe" Diaz say the project is vital to Miami-Dade’s economy. So the county may be willing to foot more of the bill since the remaining work is in the river section used most by cargo ships. New funding plans under development could be made public this week.
NO MACY’S MEETING: Frustrated by street maintenance and safety issues, Federated Department Stores officials acknowledged last month that they are considering moving the Macy’s store at 22 E. Flagler St., opened as a Burdines’ in 1912, out of downtown Miami. Members of the city’s Downtown Development Authority vowed to intervene and to enlist the aid of city officials. "The city administration is working closely with the Downtown Development Authority to coordinate a meeting with Macy’s representatives in an effort to address their issues," Kelly Penton, city director of communications, said Tuesday. She said the meeting has not been set but City Manager Pete Hernandez "will be available to listen to their specific concerns and hopefully work towards a resolution."
HAPPY TOUR YEAR! If you rang in 2007 locally, you were in good company — Miami-Miami Beach ranked 12th of 50 worldwide destinations to spend the special night, according to Priceline.com. South Beach ranked 17th and Coral Gables-Coconut Grove 26th. In all, Florida took 15 spots on the list. The Internet travel company’s survey was based on actual hotel bookings through Dec. 31.
PARKING COMING: Construction of a five-story, 650-space city parking garage behind Miami Beach City Hall that’s to include 32,000 square feet of retail space is to begin within a month, with completion due in spring 2009. The public can comment at a community meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 in the City Commission chambers at 1700 Convention Center Dr.
TRADE VISITS: The Florida Foreign Trade Association has proposed 11 incoming trade missions for this year. The missions are arranged through the Miami association’s TRADE-USA program, designed to promote American products and services and increase international trade through local meetings between local and international businesses. The association expects visits from business representatives from Honduras, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, Peru, Argentina, Haiti and Colombia between February and November.
FRESH: County Manager George Burgess says Miami International Airport ranks No. 1 in handling perishable products that fly into the US. In his 2006-07 budget report released a few weeks ago, Mr. Burgess said the airport handles 88% of all cut flowers, 66% of all fish, 55% of all fruits and vegetables and 69% of all other perishable goods flown into the nation. He said Miami International Airport’s total trade volume was $26 billion last year.
FLYING HIGH: Miami-Dade’s Aviation Department is eating 53% of the county’s $1.25 billion transportation project capital budget. By comparison, mass-transit projects, including buses and rail lines, get 26% and public works, including streets and sidewalks, gets 17% of the funds. Only 4% of the capital-improvements budget is set aside for the Port of Miami-Dade.
ROAD WAYS: Four experts will seek an end to the area’s transportation crisis at Miami Today’s International Roundtable on Jan. 10. Panelists will be Mary Conway, chief of operations for the City of Miami; John Herin Jr., head of the land-use and government-affairs practice at Stearns Weaver Miller; Jose-Luis Mesa, director of the Miami-Dade County Metropolitan Planning Organization; and Javier Rodriguez, director of transportation development for the Florida Department of Transportation District 6. The free 5 p.m. event, sponsored by the Miami Parking Authority, will be in the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St. A reception will follow. RSVP: Jezabella Miranda, (305) 358-2663.
CORRECTION: Last week’s Page 1 photograph of architect Roberto Espejo, senior project manager and senior designer for the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, was improperly identified.