Written by Miami Today on March 15, 2007
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FOUL OR FAIR? A pair of Overtown business leaders split last week on whether the ParkWest/Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency should contribute $15 million toward a new Florida Marlins stadium downtown. Don D. Patterson, president/CEO of BAME Development Corp. of South Florida, said he hopes to see the much-criticized CRA funding idea rally to become reality. "I see it as a positive," he said during an interview at Friday’s Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Leaders Luncheon. "I wouldn’t turn my back on the opportunity. It’s an economic engine," added Mr. Patterson, whose Northwest Eighth Street firm is involved in affordable housing and other economic development projects in Overtown. Bill Diggs, president and CEO of the predominantly black Miami-Dade Chamber, says the pitch for CRA money is way out of the strike zone. "That’s ridiculous," he said after the luncheon. "There are so many challenges for Overtown. If the community is going to grow, it needs economic development. I don’t think this does that."
DRAINO: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez concedes that his proposal to save money on a $1.1 billion Goulds-Perrine wastewater treatment plant was all wet. Mr. Gimenez wanted the entire project to be built at once — instead of in the two-step process proposed by county water and sewer director John Renfrow. Mr. Gimenez figured building both phases at the same time could head off rising construction costs. He asked Mr. Renfrow for a cost analysis — then rejected findings compiled by county employees, who indicated the two-step approach was less costly. But a second study prepared by independent engineering firm Malcolm Pirnie also concluded the two-phase plan was the most cost-efficient. Mr. Gimenez has dropped his objections. "What can I say? I was wrong," Mr. Gimenez said. "But at least now we’re certain that we’re doing the right thing and making the best use of our money."
GOOD COP/BAD COP: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez publicly apologized to Mr. Gimenez and other government leaders last week after a heated war of words over a new law that puts local public corruption probes under state or federal control. Initially, the mayor and Police Director Robert Parker opposed the law sponsored by Mr. Gimenez and drafted by County Attorney Murray Greenberg. Backed up by his boss, Mr. Parker came out against the plan with guns blazing. He branded the measure "unethical and illegal." Mr. Alvarez’ apology was designed to defuse the situation. But Mr. Gimenez and Mr. Greenberg were still fuming when they confronted Mr. Parker at the county commission meeting. Mr. Parker followed the mayor’s lead by apologizing to Mr. Greenberg. But he couldn’t quite bring himself to mend fences with Mr. Gimenez.
BATTER UP: Miami-Dade County’s Mr. Baseball, Ian Yorty, has been called up to the major leagues. After several years guiding the county’s bid for a new Florida Marlins baseball stadium, Mr. Yorty was promoted from tax collector to assistant county manager last week. He got a new 29th floor office and a new assistant, but kept the same old headaches. He’ll still be pitching stadium deals as the debate over the Orange Bowl and downtown Miami sites heads into extra innings this spring.
SWAMP THING: A push to build a $300 million, 11-mile skyway to replace Tamiami Trail in the heart of the Everglades bogged down Tuesday when a Miami-Dade County Commission committee derailed legislation designed to help find money for the project. Although they say they support the skyway plan, commissioners Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Carlos Gimenez, Javier Souto, Joe Martinez and Rebeca Sosa refused to formally endorse the project until they find out where the Miccosukee Indians stand on the issue. The skyway plan is the darling of environmentalists, who say it will restore natural water flow in the River of Grass. But Mr. Martinez said some Indian leaders have indicated the elevated road would create flooding that would destroy two villages. Tribal leaders have been invited to present their views at the Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting next week.
THE WINNERS ARE: Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leaders Luncheon recognized a civic leader and a trio of business people at its annual gathering Friday at the Rusty Pelican. The community Service Award went to Brad Brown, a long-time civil right activist who recently retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Alma Knight’s patient advocacy company Paramount Community Health Team won Small Business of the Year. The Corporate Business of the Year went to Macy’s, a subsidiary of Federated Department Stores that employs 3,000 in Miami-Dade County. Eric Knowles, senior director of community relations and government affairs for Dolphin Stadium, was recognized as Board Member of the Year.
THE HELM AT CARNIVAL: As Micky Arison looks for a successor to run Carnival Corp., he probably won’t land on Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Bob Dickinson — at least, according to Mr. Dickinson. Mr. Arison, 57, whose compensation last year was $8.56 million, told the Associated Press last week that he may step down in a year or two. "I doubt that I’m on the short list," Mr. Dickinson told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce board of governors and trustees. Mr. Dickinson, seven years older than Mr. Arison, cited his age, as a key factor. In fact, he said, it was he who hired Mr. Arison at Carnival. With the depth of good executives in the corporation, Mr. Dickinson speculated, the replacement could be another insider. By the way, Vice Chairman Howard Frank is 66.
WHERE THERE’S SMOKE: The City of Miami’s fire-fee drama blazes on with continued back-and-forth between the city’s counsel and the citizens’ lawyers. Miami City Attorney Jorge Fernandez says the city is "aggressively" pursuing those who owe money and actively working to reach a settlement with those whom it owes. Richard Williams, who represents property owners owed after being charged the fee that was judged unconstitutional, says otherwise regarding a settlement. Last summer, Mr. Williams and company offered to settle at $24 million — "not greedy," he said, as some believe the city could owe property owners up to $90 million. The city ignored the offer until it was taken off the table months later, Mr. Williams said. Last week, the city offered to settle at $5.2 million, which the plaintiffs rejected. "At this point, we’re planning on going to trial and asking for everything they collected in the fire-fee assessment," which could be in excess of $100 million, Mr. Williams said. First, they will participate in mediation in the coming months, Mr. Williams said. The city hopes to find a "win-win" from the mediation, Mr. Fernandez said.
CHUGGING ALONG: The environmental assessment of Miami’s proposed streetcar project will not go before the commission this month as planned but more likely in May, said Operations Director Mary Conway. The study is before the Florida Department of Transportation, she said. However, "there are efforts associated with the project that continue to move forward" in the interim, she said, such as "a detailed survey of the entire corridor and soil testing." The commission will be asked in May to approve the environmental document and to authorize city administration to pursue a public/private partnership for the project, Ms. Conway said.
BUS START: As they approved a resolution authorizing a 20-year contract for new bus shelters — 600 over the next three years — Miami city commissioners were adamant about providing more comfort, shade and convenience to residents. "We keep asking people to use public transportation, and yet we don’t offer them at least shelter and shade," said Commissioner Tomás Regalado. He also suggested planting trees at stops that can’t accommodate shelters, also to provide shade. Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones asked to see more public service announcements on shelters in her district, which includes Overtown and Little Haiti, rather than the alcohol ads existing shelters display.
CONTRACT CAVEAT: The Miami City Commission gave final approval last week to an ordinance restricting city department heads or staff committee members for two years after leaving their posts from receiving compensation or employment from any party involved in contracts they helped facilitate. The rule, designed to prevent conflicts of interest, applies to any contracts involving $500,000 or more. The city manager and chief procurement officer are exempt, however, as their level of involvement in projects "is so global," said City Attorney Jorge Fernandez.
RECORDS RESOLUTION: The Miami City Commission passed an ordinance on second reading last week providing a process for the transfer of records kept by members of the commission upon leaving office. The ordinance comes as a response to a missing-flies snafu that occurred upon Commissioner Marc Sarnoff taking office in November: he claimed his predecessor, Linda Haskins, left his office devoid of physical or electronic files. She denied it.
PARK PROCURED: Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez received permission from the city commission last week to purchase six acres — $8,350,000 worth — at 2300 NW 14th St. to expand the city’s Fern Isle Park. The city established a special revenue fund in November of last year allotting more than $650,000 from a grant from the Florida Communities Trust toward the project. The city will pay the difference.
SAND IN MY SHOES: Miami hotel mogul Sherwood "Woody" Weiser will receive the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Sand in My Shoes award, chamber officials announced last week. The award, to be given in November at the chamber’s annual gala, honors community leaders who have made significant contributions in South Florida. Leonard and Jayne Abess were last year’s recipients.
TELLING TALLAHASSEE: In partnership with Miami-Dade Days, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will travel to Tallahassee April 17-18 to meet with State Legislature leaders and present its legislative issues, including transportation, education, healthcare, workforce housing, property taxes and insurance.
SHANGHAI SHIPPING: The Shanghai International Port Group has become the first Asian port member of the Cruise Line International Association, based in Miami. It debuted its new state-of-the-art international cruise ship passenger terminal at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention at the Miami Beach Convention Center earlier this week. The port handled more than 443 million tons of cargo last year. Spokespeople say the group is discussing setting up its US headquarters here, but there are no formal plans yet.
NEW DIGS: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Emilio Gonzalez will unveil plans for four new immigration services field offices planned for Miami, Oakland Park, Kendall and Hialeah on Friday. The new buildings will replace the existing Miami facility. The unveiling will be held at the Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Boulevard, from 1:30-3:30 p.m.
PEACEFUL PRESENCE: Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus will deliver the keynote speech at the Association of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce in Florida’s gala today (3/15) at the Ritz Carlton, Coconut Grove. The association is honoring him with its Award for Leadership in Global Trade for his worldwide work helping people overcome poverty.
CHECKS FOR NON-PROFITS: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s NOVO Awards presented $1,000 checks to Kristi House Inc. and the Children’s Bereavement Center Inc. last week in its sixth annual recognition of non-profit organizations. Kristi House, which works with sexually abused children and their families, was cited among organizations with more than $2 million in annual revenue. The bereavement center, which educates and advocates for children who have suffered the death of a loved one, was honored among groups with less than $2 million revenue.
LAWYERING UP: Lawyer Neisen O. Kasdin along with associates Spencer Crowley and Andrew Frey will head Akerman Senterfitt’s land-use practice, jumping from Gunster Yoakley, where Mr. Kasdin headed that firm’s group. Mr. Kasdin, a former Miami Beach mayor, helped lead revitalization of South Beach. His experience includes several significant public/private projects, urban development and neighborhood revitalization. He also formerly chaired the Beacon Council and held several other offices.
BEACH GRANTS: The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce is accepting applications from local organizations for grants that help support community service, education/scholarships, the arts, the elderly, the homeless or the disabled. The grants will be distributed twice yearly. Deadline for the first round is March 30. The grants are part of the organization’s Pillar Trustee program. Details: www.miamibeachchamber.com.
CHICAGO LINKS: Two officials of the University of Chicago were in town to explore links with Miami. At an informal luncheon hosted by Mikki Canton, a shareholder at Gunster Yoakley, Susan E. Mayer, dean of the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy of the University of Chicago, and Raja M. Kamal, the school’s associate dean for resource development, visited with city leaders. "We see Miami as our link to Latin America," said Mr. Kamal, who added that the school is also exploring possible joint projects with Florida International University. "We don’t have that many students from the South," Mr. Kamal added.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: The City of Miami Beach honors three Women Worth Knowing at 6:30 tonight (3/15) at the South Beach Marriott, 161 Ocean Dr. Marice Cohn Band, Karen Fryd and Deborah Markham-Ruggiero will each receive a certificate honoring their commitment and hard work. The Women Worth Knowing program honors women who have made a difference to the community.
WOMEN IN REAL ESTATE: The Miami chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Women Network is to participate in a national initiative to encourage teenage girls to pursue careers in real estate. The program gives up to 800 students across the country a chance to take part in role-playing activities and converse with active female real estate professionals. Details: www.crewnetwork.org.
NET-WORKING: Miami’s Bicentennial Park will be the site for the opening event of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, the AVP Cuervo Gold Crown Miami Open, April 13-15. The professional volleyball organization has partnered with HEAT Group Enterprises to promote the AVP tour locally. The event will bring 150 of the world’s best volleyball players to Miami-Dade County, according to the Miami-Dade Sports Commission. Details: www.avp.com.
NORTHSIDE UPDATE: Redevelopment company UrbanAmerica says it is attracting big-name tenants to its Liberty City area Northside Centre. The New York-based company spent $32 million to renovate the 540,000-square-foot office and retail complex, formerly known as the Northside Shopping Center, at Northwest 79th Street and 27th Avenue. Tenants signed to leases include Foot Locker, Citibank, Subway and McDonalds. Details: (305) 696-2320.
BUILDING BRIDGES: The University of Miami’s College of Engineering this week opened the National Science Foundation Industry-University Cooperative Research Center for the Repair of Buildings and Bridges with Composites. In the center, students and industry professionals will work on rehabilitating and strengthening buildings, bridges and other structures to withstand hurricanes by using the latest technologies. The Center is one of three National Science Foundation-funded Civil Engineering facilities in the US. Details: www.miami.edu.
CORRECTION: An item in last week’s FYI Miami column should have reported the state grant to help fund Dinner Key Marina dredging will be up to $390,000.