Written by Miami Today on September 27, 2007
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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LEAVING THINGS BE: Though some Miami commissioners say they would like to redo an Aug. 20 budget workshop the city never advertised, violating the state’s Sunshine Law, administrators probably won’t act to right the illegal workshop. The legal staff and city manager have deemed it unnecessary. Lawyers with the Florida First Amendment Foundation, however, maintain that every action following the meeting is tainted, which could render the budget illegal should anyone challenge it.
IN THE NICK OF TIME: The Miami city clerk’s office has drafted in time for today’s (9/27) final budget hearing written minutes of the illegal budget workshop. The office said last week it could only offer audio on compact disc and that transcribing the recordings could take three weeks.
SAVING MOM AND POP: Miami-Dade County’s popular Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program survived last week’s budget fight, coming out with 85% of last year’s $1.95 million funding after initially being targeted for elimination in Mayor Carlos Alvarez’s proposed budget. Impassioned pleas at a budget hearing from business owners who benefited from the program and strong support from commissioners such as Dennis Moss helped to save the program. In addition, commissioners can contribute to the program from their own budgets.
PARK ROADBLOCK: During budget cuts Sept. 11, Miami commissioners sliced more than 25% of the operating budget for Virginia Key Beach Park, about $500,000 from the proposed $1,816,156. This comes in the year the park is to open after 25 years of dormancy, says park trust board chair Gene Tinnie. The reduction won’t shut action down, he said, but will make things difficult. "It’s kind of shameful that here is something that citizens have owned and not been able to use for 25 years. But we’re in it to win it."
BRINGING CLARITY: The Florida Supreme Court Sept. 18 agreed to clarify its ruling from earlier in the month that requires a referendum before financing bonds for capital-improvement projects with Community Redevelopment Agency funds. The ruling as is could impede the agencies in their mission to relieve blight through area improvements. The most important question to be answered, Miami Commissioner Tomás Regalado said, is "who should vote" in the referendum — area, city or county residents.
BEACON BLOWOUT: The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s economic development arm, is to host its annual meeting at 5 p.m. Oct. 1 at The Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., highlighting the year’s accomplishments and including a Miami Lifestyle Auction. Tickets cost $75 for the meeting, $35 for the auction alone. Registration: www.beaconcouncil.com or (305) 579-1342.
ARRIOLAS CRUISING: Former Miami City Manager Joe Arriola has moved to Madrid to become interim CEO of Pullmantur, a Spanish cruise line that Royal Caribbean bought last year, says son J. Ricky Arriola. Carnival Center for the Performing Arts Trust board members elected the younger Arriola to their helm Tuesday, succeeding attorney Parker Thomson, who chaired the trust 18 years. Royal Caribbean representatives did not return calls.
NEW OFFICERS: The arts center trust board also elected Mike Eidson as chair-elect, Sonia Dulá as treasurer, Bill Armstrong as assistant treasure, James Herron as secretary and Penny Thurer as assistant secretary. Members also voted unanimously to approve the center’s proposed business plan, which still needs Miami-Dade County approval.
HEARTY RAISE FOR HARDY: Trust board members Tuesday also raised President and CEO Michael Hardy’s salary nearly 42%, from $230,000 to $326,000 a year, with a possible performance bonus of up to 17.5% to be added in October. The center’s foundation is to pay about a third of the salary. Supporters said the raise simply fulfilled a 2004 contractual obligation after years of no bonuses for Mr. Hardy. Those opposed, including Miami Beach Commissioner and mayoral candidate Matti Bower, said that after the center’s financial pitfall and the public criticism that followed, a raise was not appropriate "in this moment. I know that he’s worth it," she said, "but we’ve been scrutinized a lot." The board also voted to direct Mr. Hardy to obtain an advance against up to the $644,168 earned in endowment funds to contribute to center operations.
HOME SALES DOWN, PRICES UP: Miami-Dade single-family home and condominium sales are down significantly but sale prices are creeping upward, the Florida Association of Realtors said Tuesday. August’s 385 single-family home sales were 45% below August 2006, and condo sales fell 44%, from 761 to 426. Average sale prices for single-family homes rose 4%, however, to $392,900, and condo sale prices rose 5% to $262,000.
TECH TOWN: Miami/Fort Lauderdale is the leading technology business metropolitan area in Florida, according to the Florida Cybercities 2007 report released this week by the American Electronics Association. Miami/Fort Lauderdale employs 75,300 technology industry workers and had the highest payroll at $4.6 billion in 2005, representing 27% of Florida’s technology payroll. The average annual tech industry wage is $61,614, which ranks sixth in the state.
CAROLINA BOUND?: A yet-to-be-identified marine manufacturing company is asking Miami-Dade County commissioners for $282,000 in economic development incentives in exchange for keeping a proposed $9 million expansion project here that would create 150 jobs at an average wage of $36,101 per year. The company, whose name is concealed in county documents, says it also is looking at North Carolina as a home for its expansion. The company is based in commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro’s District 5, which includes a portion of the Miami River. The commission is to take up the company’s request Oct. 2.
RIVER DANCE: While the project’s description rules out the biggest name in Miami-Dade marine work, Merrill-Stevens, whose much larger $55 million expansion is to add 350 new jobs, the county is working hard to retain and grow the several marine companies along the Miami River. Florida has been losing jobs in its $14.1 billion marine industry to states like North Carolina and Georgia. Merrill-Stevens’ expansion, scheduled to begin in 2009, does remain dependent on regulatory approvals and on government funding to finish dredging the river so that the larger mega-yachts the company plans to service can get upriver from Biscayne Bay. Also, the local marine industry has been feuding in court with the City of Miami over a city policy of rezoning land along the river from marine use to residential. The industry says the residential encroachment jeopardizes a vital economic sector.
OFFICE ULTIMATUM: After pumping more than $600,000 into renovating the Ward Rooming House on Northwest Ninth Street in Overtown and being asked to approve $450,000 more, Miami Community Redevelopment Agency board members this week gave agency staff an ultimatum. They’ll finish funding a revamp of the about 1,500-square-foot facility, they said, so long as the agency moves its offices there once its lease at 49 NW 5th St. ends next summer. The agency pays $1,400 a month rent for current offices, so "it makes sense" to move, Miami commissioner and agency board member Tomás Regalado said. Then, "we are building an office, we are not building a building we cannot use."
CORRECTION: A Sept. 20 article on proposed zoning standards for Metrorail stations should have quoted Miami-Dade Transit spokesman John Labriola as saying the standards would "put the cart behind the horse."
CORRECTION: A Sept. 13 item should have said that Health Choice Network’s Jessie Trice Cancer Prevention Benefit will honor Marvin O’Quinn, president and CEO of Jackson Health System; John Schelble, former chief of staff for former US Rep. Carrie Meek and for US Rep. Kendrick Meek; and Alina Perez-Stable, former executive director of Camillus Health Concern.