Written by Miami Today on February 15, 2007
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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PONDERING PARTIES: Details are being worked out on a controversial ordinance proposal that would block owners of single-family homes in Miami Beach from renting them out for profit-making parties. At a standing-room-only workshop meeting Monday, the city’s land-use committee heard testimony from residents seeking to limit the proposed law’s provisions. Several residents also complained that Miami Beach code-enforcement officials were ticketing cars belonging to guests at private parties. They urged that the problem be considered separately and not bundled with other provisions in the proposal. The committee will continue discussing the proposed ordinance at its March meeting.
CHECKUP: Coral Gables Commissioner Rafael "Ralph" Cabrera Jr., wants quarterly updates on this year’s $4 million worth of city capital improvement projects. "All I’m trying to do is keep it in the forefront," he said at Tuesday’s commission meeting. Projects include Americans With Disabilities Act compliance efforts, sidewalk repair, alleyway improvements and others. Public Works Director Alberto Delgado responded that "with the exception of one or two, they are already on their way." One exception is repairs on the city-owned Miracle Mile Theater marquee, which Mayor Donald Slesnick said needs to happen soon. "It’s a hazard in its present condition," he said. And "Miracle Mile wouldn’t be Miracle Mile without the Miracle Theater marquee." Mr. Delgado said of this and the other projects: "I think that we will be able to fulfill all of them by the end of this fiscal year," Sept. 30.
HANGING FIRE: A legal showdown between GB/JT Hotel Partners and condo owners at Key Biscayne’s Grand Bay Project is set for Friday in Judge Thomas S. Wilson’s Miami-Dade Circuit Court. The development company is seeking a temporary stay of a court order giving residents control of the master homeowners’ association that runs the posh project, which includes the Ritz-Carlton hotel, a single-family enclave, two deluxe condo towers and a beach club. Judge Wilson was to hear the case last week, but scheduling conflicts forced a postponement. The battle began two years ago after condo owners objected to plans to enlarge the Ritz-Carlton ballroom.
FLOWER POWER: Miami International Airport is America’s Valentine’s Day capital, handing 86% of the fresh flowers imported by air for this week’s lovefest, aviation director José Abreu says. During the runup to Valentine’s Day, Mr. Abreu said, the airport was filled with the sweet smell of success, transshipping 125,000 boxes of flowers and about 15 million roses every day. Miami International is the nation’s No. 1 air hub for the flower industry.
HOT STUFF: Miami-Dade’s new 25-member Climate Change Advisory Task Force, chaired by County Clerk Harvey Ruvin, will hold its first meeting Feb. 23 to begin drafting plans to reduce the impact of global warming on the local economy and environment. Mr. Ruvin, a noted environmentalist, says higher temperatures threaten the county’s water supply, beaches, agriculture and businesses. The task force’s job, he said, will be to recommend ways to head off the threats.
ALL’S FARE: Miami-Dade Transit chief Roosevelt Bradley is proposing a 50-cent hike in bus and rail fares beginning in 2009 to help offset rising operating costs. If the county commission approves his plan, rates would continue to climb every two years, hitting a peak of $4.75 per trip in 2037. But not all commissioners are on board. Bruno A. Barreiro and Katy Sorenson said they’re reluctant to increase fees. Fare hikes reduce mass transit ridership, they said, and only increase traffic congestion.
MUSICAL CHAIRS: Mr. Barreiro, chairman of the county commission, has scrapped a plan to replace the seats at the dais in the Stephen P. Clark Center’s County Commission chamber because of costs. But he still scrambled seating assignments as part of a reorganization plan put into effect last week. Commissioner Carlos Gimenez was moved into the dreaded hot seat next to the official stenographer at the far end of the U-shaped dais. Audrey Edmonson, who had sat there since joining the commission nearly two years ago, was moved to a prime spot in center court — at her request. Ms. Edmonson seems delighted. Mr. Gimenez merely says his new seat offers "a unique perspective" on commission sessions.
HOLD US ACCOUNTABLE: Coral Gables residents should be better informed of city happenings, Vice Mayor Maria Anderson said at Tuesday’s commission meeting. "Accountability is what we have to do all the time," she said, suggesting that communication with citizens through the city’s Web site, TV and radio stations and newsletters be simple and clear with more bullet points and graphics and less "flowery, long verse." She said she hopes to see the budget displayed more prominently at coralgables.com and suggested that CGTV air informative programs, suggesting a segment called "Your Taxpayer $$$ at Work in Coral Gables." She will meet with the communications committee to discuss and pursue the initiatives.
GOING GREEN: Gables Waterway, a mixed-use development at 1390 S. Dixie Highway, is the first project in Coral Gables to seek green status, asking the US Green Building Council for its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification this week. To receive the designation, the project must offer water savings, energy efficiency and other environmental provisions. Gables Commissioner William "Bill" Kerdyk Jr. brought up the need for green buildings at Tuesday’s commission meeting, prompting Commissioner Rafael "Ralph" Cabrera to ask, "Which green building?" Laughing, Mr. Kerdyk informed him, "We don’t have any yet. It’s something I want to make sure we are on the cutting edge of." The project is planned to have 80,000 square feet of Class A offices, 95 luxury condominiums and 25 boat slips.
HONOR FOR THE HENRIQUESES: Adolfo and Liz Henriques are the recipients of United Way’s highest philanthropic honor, the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Outstanding Philanthropy. Mr. Henriques is chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Orange Bowl Committee, the Miami Business Forum and the boards of US Century Bank and the Cruise Industry Charitable Foundation. He is past chairman of the Florida International University board of trustees and was chairman of the board of United Way of Miami-Dade in 2001-03.
STAPLES DONATION: Staples Inc., which opened a new office-supplies store in Miami this month, donated $50,000 to a pair of local non-profits. The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and Overtown Youth Center each received $25,000 at a special VIP event last week.
FILES UPDATE: Miami commissioners took a step toward changing the city’s process for transferring public files from an outgoing commissioner to a successor. The commission approved, by a 4-0 vote on first reading, an ordinance proposed by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff to require commissioners and mayors leaving office to keep all printed and electronic records in their offices and return office keys to the city manager. The city clerk would continue to be the designated custodian of the records if the ordinance passes a second time next month.
POLITICAL POSITION: Rudy Fernández will begin serving as the University of Miami’s vice president for government affairs Feb. 12, replacing Aileen Ugalde, who is now vice president, general counsel and secretary of the university. Mr. Fernández most recently served as special assistant to President George W. Bush in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. At the university, he will serve as liaison to federal, state and local governments and as support to university President Donna Shalala. "I’m super-excited about the opportunity because I, having grown up in South Florida, see the role of the University of Miami as central to the present and future of the South Florida community," he said. "My main goal is to support her very ambitious vision for the University of Miami."
STREETSCAPE IMPROVEMENTS: The City of Miami increased its contribution to a roadway improvement project on South Miami Avenue from Southeast 15th to 25th roads by $490,000 to $3.23 million to match Miami-Dade County’s $350,000 increase to $1.2 million. City commissioners approved the funding hike by a 4-0 vote during last week’s meeting. The added money will fund new bicycle lanes on the roadway and drainage improvements.
HONORABLE GUEST: The Association of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce in Florida will honor the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhamad Yunus of Bangladesh, March 15. Dr. Yunus is to receive the association’s Award for Leadership in Global Trade during a gala dinner at 7 p.m. The cost is $69 per person. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW VENTURE FOR RESTAURANT PROS: Jim Dunn and David Terry, who formerly headed the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group and were involved with the Hard Rock Café’s expansion abroad, have formed WellDunn, a restaurant company that will open an upscale seafood and steakhouse in the One Biscayne building, 315 S. Biscayne Blvd., in April. The 260-table eatery, Prime Blue Grille, will feature organic prime beef steaks, grilled seafood, sushi and a raw bar as well as a small market. The company hopes to take the concept nationwide.
WOMEN ON BOARDS: BankUnited Financial Corp. in Coral Gables and Ryder System Inc. in Miami were among 21 Florida companies honored by Women Executive Leadership for having two or more women serving on their corporate boards. According to the results of a survey conducted by the organization with the University of Miami, 14.2% of Florida’s largest public companies had two or more women on their corporate boards last year, an increase from 12.2% in 2004.
CORRECTION: A story in the Feb. 8 issue should have reported that Fearless Yachts will unveil its 28-foot vessel, which retails for $299,000, during the Miami International Boat Show, and the 44- and 68-foot vessels will be unveiled next year.
CORRECTION: An article last week incorrectly indicated that Mayor-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez proposed giving the county’s chief executive sole authority to approve and execute contracts. Mr. Alvarez actually wanted to give that power to professional county managers, not the mayor.