TUNNEL FUNDS: A resolution pledging $50 million from an unnamed source toward Miami-Dade County's port-tunnel project was removed from last week's Miami City Commission agenda and deferred to July 10. The administration is targeting community redevelopment funds for the project, said CFO Larry Spring, but commissioner and agency board member Tomás Regalado said he plans to move to deny the funds at a June 25 agency meeting.
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LERNER YOUR LESSON: Miami City Manager Pete Hernandez said at a commission meeting last week that demolition is in the cards for the vacant Lerner's building downtown, 30 E. Flagler St. He is to sit down next week with representatives of building owner 26 East Realty Corp. of New York "to discuss some zoning issues and a timeline," according to his executive assistant, Gilbert Cabrera. Miami's code enforcement department has cited the building owner for "failure to maintain the exterior of a commercial or residential property," and a fine of $250 per day is being levied.
DECISION DISRUPTION: The Miami Science Museum must wait until July 10 for Miami city commissioners to discuss granting $2 million in bond money to the museum's proposed Bicentennial Park facility. Commissioners were to have seen a resolution allowing it last week, but the item must first go through the Bond Oversight Board, which did not have a quorum at its last meeting, city officials said. The commission did approve a $2 million contribution to the Miami Art Museum.
DONE DEAL: Miami commissioners last week approved collective bargaining agreements with the solid-waste workers and firefighers unions, ending a 2˝-year quest to settle with all city unions. Resolving employee contracts was a main goal of City Manager Pete Hernandez when he took the job last year.
HELPING HISTORY: Miami city commissioners gave the final OK last week to an ordinance establishing an ad valorem tax-exemption process for improvements made to architecturally and historically significant structures. Loss of the returns would be a "drop in the bucket in terms of the city's ad valorem tax revenues," said Ellen Uguccioni, historic preservation planner.
COMPROMISE: Miami's requirement that developers contribute to an affordable-housing trust has been waived for those who build fully affordable-housing projects in the city. The move came on a vote of the city commission last week. Those qualified are to be able to defer impact fees.
ANNEXATION AHEAD: Miami city commissioners last week approved an application from the Village of El Portal to annex a northwestern area near the village abutting the City of Miami.
PLAY BALL: The Florida International University Golden Panthers are to call the Orange Bowl home next season after Miami city commissioners gave the go-ahead last week. FIU's new campus football stadium is to be open by the 2008 season.
EXTREME HIGH-SCHOOL MAKEOVER: The first Miami High School structure in Southside Park on Southwest 11th Street is to be restored and transformed into parks offices after a vote by the Miami City Commission last week to grant $355,000 to the Dade Heritage Trust to do the renovating. The improvements will allow "programming for kids and make it more attractive for the neighbors to use," said Becky Matkov, head of the trust.
UNPRETENTIOUS PARKS: While Miami commissioners directed City Manager Pete Hernandez last week to negotiate an agreement with Cooper, Robertson & Partners to design Bicentennial Park, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff called the firm's plan "complicated." Said Mr. Hernandez: "We all agree that the plan as we have it today is too elaborate and consequently too expensive." Mr. Sarnoff asked for "three public meetings if not more" to continue to develop the plan.
HIGHER AND HIGHER: Miami commissioners last week agreed to allow the Miami- Dade County aviation department to raise the maximum building height in the city's urban core from 949 to 1,000 feet. That would allow Tibor Hollo to develop One Bayfront Plaza — a $1.8 billion, 70-story mixed-use tower with 2.13 million square feet of rentable office space, 112,000 square feet of retail and 850 hotel rooms at 100 S. Biscayne Blvd. — almost as high as his desired 1,049 feet.
ARTS AWARD: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is to receive a Public Leadership in the Arts award at the annual US Conference of Mayors meeting this weekend in Los Angeles. He is to be honored for leadership and advocacy of the arts along with Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano; "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson; actor Jimmy Smits of "The West Wing, "NYPD Blue" and "LA Law"; and the Actors Fund.
LENDING A HAND: A veteran Miami-Dade County financial expert has been quietly at work helping to unravel the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts' tangled finances. Tarea Hebert joined the center's trust as chief operating officer last month after holding county positions as a commercial accounts supervisor, budget analyst and most recently director of administration at the county's Performing Arts Center Management Office. Center officials say she will assist in development of "long-term capital repair and replacement budgets." To be seen is whether her track record and familiar face before Miami-Dade commissioners lends credibility to the center's request for a $4 million capital infusion. The commission is expected to take up the matter Tuesday.
TAXI WOES: Miami-Dade County has an oversupply of taxicabs at the airport and seaport and in downtown Miami, Coral Gables and Miami Beach with "service being very good in those areas," a study prepared for the county says. However, mystery shoppers calling for service in other areas of the county reported difficulty getting service, said the study by the Tennessee Transportation & Logistics Foundation. Wheelchair-accessible cabs are difficult to secure throughout the county, the secret shoppers found. County cabs lack technology such as electronic dispatching and to accept payment of fares via credit card, the report says.
PRELUDE TO REFORM: The report presented Tuesday to the county commission's Economic Development and Human Services Committee is a supplement to an interim report given to commissioners in February. The taxi report makes nearly two dozen recommendations and is expected to serve as the basis for reform of the county's taxi policies and regulations.
TEAMWORK: Beacon Council chairman-elect Pete Pizarro and Dominique Virchaux, the economic development organization's vice chairman of international efforts, say the council is to work more closely with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in the coming year to "focus on reducing any redundant efforts the groups might be engaged in," Mr. Pizarro said. Chamber Chairman Hank Klein also cited this as an aim at the chamber's recent Goals Conference. A main thrust will be coordinating international outbound missions, Mr. Virchaux said. Working together on marketing may be in the cards, Mr. Pizarro said.
SCHEDULING SHENANIGANS: Despite plans to devote a special meeting to discussing Miami 21, the city's proposed zoning code and blueprint for growth, it and its accompanying zoning in progress measure are now on the regular June 28 commission agenda. "It's being pushed at us by the administration," said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. "I want all commissioners at a workshop together before we hear this and vote on it." Commissioner Tomás Regalado agreed that more briefing is needed and said, "I would refuse to hear that item because we are not prepared." A workshop is now slated for 1-4 p.m. today (6/21) at city hall. "After a workshop," Mr. Sarnoff said, "I'll know whether Miami 21 is ready to go primetime."
NEW DEPUTY: Max Fajardo, an 18-year veteran of the Miami-Dade aviation department, has been named deputy director of operations and maintenance to supervise air, terminal, ground and maintenance operations of Miami International and four general aviation airports. He replaces Bruce Drum, who retired in May. Mr. Fajardo has led the management of Miami International—'s South Terminal program since January. South Terminal is on schedule for its first flight in August. He has held management positions in maintenance, planning, programming, facilities initiation, strategic planning and coordination in the department.
READY, SET, RETAIL: The Downtown Development Authority last week voted to allot $60,000 of its budget to a citywide retail study and recruitment effort designed to strategically draw merchants to Miami. However, some board members have asked to further review the project before dispersing the money, said Davon Barbour, the authority's manager of economic development. The authority is to partner with the city's economic development department in the $100,000 endeavor.
BONDS, CITY BONDS: Fitch Ratings last week upgraded the rating of Miami's ad valorem tax bonds to A- from BBB+ and the general obligation tax bonds to A from A-. Also last week, commissioners voted to issue the next $50 million of the city's $255 million Homeland Defense Bond, reallocated toward projects set for the first $155 million issuance that have not been completed; and to issue $25 million in special obligation bonds, $5 million to each district, to "allow the city the ability to start projects from another source of funds until we receive the bond proceeds," said CFO Larry Spring. This "allows for the acceleration of projects by at least 30 days," City Manager Pete Hernandez said.
CARIBBEAN CHATS: The Florida Foreign Trade Association is to host a trade mission of representatives of 21 Caribbean companies seeking to meet with local manufacturers and distributors. One-on-one business appointments are to take place 2-5 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesday at DoubleTree Hotel Coconut Grove, 2649 S. Bayshore Dr. Details: (305) 471-0737.