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Front Page » FYI Miami » Fyi Miami

Fyi Miami

Written by on June 28, 2007


Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead

of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.

   BACK TO PAPER: Florida’s brief experiment with trouble-plagued touch-screen voting machines is coming to a costly end for Miami-Dade County. Under the state’s new "mark sense" paper ballot law, the county must get rid of most of the touch-screen machines it bought after the 2002 presidential election count fiasco and pay off the remaining $15 million owed for the machines. The only scan machines to be kept will be designated for use by voters with disabilities. The machines are to be replaced by optical scanners that provide a paper record of each vote cast.

   COUNTY’S BIG SHARE: The state is providing $4 million to $5 million to buy the optical scanners. The county must come up with up to $8 million to cover its share of the price. Under the plan agreed to by commissioners Tuesday, the state will cover the cost of 800 machines and the county about 1,600. That guarantees at least one new machine for each voting precinct. The new paper-trail machines are expected to be used in the Aug. 28, 2008, primary and for all countywide and municipal elections thereafter.

   HOPING FOR HELP: Like the 14 other counties with touch-screen machines, Miami-Dade could have opted out of the deal with the state. But that would have meant bearing the entire cost of replacing the machines, said County Manager George Burgess. Some hope for getting help with the new machines rests with a pot of money the state will receive from the federal government next year for voting machine replacements. County officials say they’ll lobby the Legislature for a share of the money next year.

   BILLBOARD FIGHT: An ordinance allowing Miami-Dade cities to opt out of county regulations restricting sign placement near expressways was passed twice Tuesday by Miami-Dade Commissioners. The ordinance would allow cities to determine their own rules regarding signs such as billboards, which could be more or less strict than the county’s laws. After initially passing 9-2 with no discussion, Barbara Jordan asked county attorneys for clarification that the new law would not lead to a proliferation of billboards. Told that it might, she asked that the item she just voted for be reconsidered. That gave Katy Sorenson an opening to launch a diatribe on sign companies’ longtime flaunting of the county’s sign laws, while Natacha Seijas defended free-speech rights. The second time, the ordinance passed 9-4 with Commissioners Sorenson, Jordan (switching her vote), Sally Heyman and Bruno Barreiro dissenting.

   PRICES UP, SALES DOWN: Asking prices for single-family homes and condos in Miami-Dade County continued to rise in May despite a significant drop in sales, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. The county’s condo sales fell 46% from May 2006 and single-family home sales fell 44%. The average asking price for condos was $272,000, up 8% from May 2006, however, and average single-family home prices rose 6% to $401,100.

   PAPPAS HEADS YOUNG PRESIDENTS: Michael Pappas, a founding member of the Miami chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization, will become the organization’s international chairman in July. He is president and CEO of Miami real estate firm The Keyes Co. A 57-year-old international non-profit, the Young Presidents’ Organization has more than 11,000 members age 55 or younger. RoDetails:

   COORDS RETIRES: Robert H. Coords, 64, who took over as chairman and CEO of SunBank/Miami on Jan. 1, 1990, is to retire Sunday as chief risk officer of SunTrust Banks in Atlanta. He had been president and COO of Flagship Bank Miami in 1982 and stayed on in the mid-1980s when Flagship and SunBank merged. He became chairman and COO of SunTrust Bank, South Florida in 1996 before moving to Atlanta in 1999.

   NOT GOING MEEKLY: Under fire for their alleged involvement in a scandal-plagued Liberty City biotech park, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and his mother, retired congresswoman and Miami political icon Carrie Meek, have found a defender in Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis Moss, who during Tuesday’s regular commission meeting said the media was being unfair to the Meeks and lauded their contributions to the community. They should be "given the benefit of the doubt," he said at the close of Tuesday’s meeting, citing the contributions the mother and son have made to the county. The controversy stems from a Miami Herald investigative series that began Sunday questioning the Meeks’ ties to the Poinciana Industrial Park and Boston developer Dennis Stackhouse.

   NO GARAGE HERE: The county backed out of a deal Tuesday to build a $23 million parking garage on the Poinciana site, where County Manager George Burgess said Mr. Stackhouse has missed deadlines, placing him in default.

   NOT GOING MEEKLY, PART TWO: The younger Meek on Tuesday sent out a letter calling for any county funds spent in support of the project to be recovered and to stop any more federal funds from going to the troubled park. He said the newspaper reports "raise serious questions" about the project’s planning, financing and private-sector support. In response, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez expressed "surprise and disappointment" at Rep. Meek’s letter. As the former chairman of an urban economic revitalization task force, "you are undoubtedly aware of the loan-review process and how funding is allocated," the mayor replied.

   MIXED-USE MARKETING: Sky Development Inc. has launched a marketing campaign for the Class A office and retail components of City Place Aventura, a mixed-use project that includes residential and hotel space. Commercial brokerage Cushman & Wakefield is handling leasing for 150,000 square feet of Class A office space and 50,000 square feet of retail. City Place Aventura is to rise — beginning at year’s end — on 7.5 acres at 2900 Waterways Blvd. Details:

   RETAIL SALE: BPG Properties sold an East Kendall strip center this week for $5 million to Equity One Acquisition Corp. Operating as the consortium BPG-Sunset Inc., the company unloaded Shoppes of Sunset, a 21,704-square-foot retail complex at 9743 Sunset Dr. Commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis represented BPG in the deal.

   WRAPUP: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and Florida Chamber of Commerce are to host a luncheon to review legislative issues at 11:30 a.m. Friday at 1601 Biscayne Blvd. State Rep. Dan Gelber is a confirmed speaker, and Rep. David Rivera and Sen. Frederica Wilson may also attend. The cost is $55 for members, $65 for non-members. Details: (305) 577-5464.

   HIT THE ROAD: The $225 million three-mile extension of State Road 836 to 137th Avenue is now open to traffic. The first SunPass-only open tolling road in Miami-Dade County, the roadway allows drivers to pay the 25-cent toll without stopping. Toll collection is to begin Sunday. Tolls are to be used to repay bond money used for the project and fund improvements to expressways.

   RECORD HIGH WORKFORCE: Miami-Dade County’s labor force and number of persons employed set all-time highs in May, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. As unemployment shrank, the number of persons at work grew faster even than the total workforce. The county had 1.18 million persons in the workforce last month, the bureau reported, up 29,248 from a year earlier. The total number of persons employed, 1.15 million, was 32,613 more than in the prior May. That brought the unemployment rate down to 3.2% here in May from 3.5% in May 2006.

   GOVERNMENT JOBS SOAR: Adding to Miami-Dade County’s job growth has been a spurt in government employment, which set a record at 156,500 jobs here in May — nearly 14% of all persons employed in the county, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. The number of government jobs grew by 2,400 in just a year, a 1.6% increase — numbers that may not rise as rapidly next year in the face of state-mandated real property tax cuts for cities and counties.


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