BALLPARK TALK: While approving a resolution Tuesday redirecting $50 million in Building Better Communities bond funds for use toward a Florida Marlins ballpark at the current site of the Orange Bowl, Miami-Dade commissioners had plenty to say about the tough road forward. Joe Martinez batted leadoff, saying he was reluctant to enter into any partnerships with the City of Miami because the city had "burned" the county on a number of recent occasions, most recently by not allocating its $50 million share of the state-county-city funded port tunnel project.
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MORE BALLPARK TALK: Dennis Moss reminded commissioners of a resolution passed this year asking that a Homestead spring training site and name change to Miami Marlins be included in negotiations with the team over a stadium deal, and José "Pepe" Diaz pled with fellow commissioners not to let the drive for a stadium fall apart because "it won't come back together again."
HARDY AGREED NO BONUS: Embattled Carnival Center CEO Michael Hardy "concurred" with the past and present chairs of the Carnival Center Trust last month that he deserved no bonus after the performing arts center's difficult first year. The one-paragraph minutes of Mr. Hardy's performance review show that Parker Thomson and J. Ricky Arriola discussed at length with him the challenges facing the center, noting that 2006-07 "had been a difficult year for the organization" and that "expectations for improvement were high on both sides." The chairs also "stated their strong support" for Mr. Hardy, the minutes noted. The bonus could have been as high as $57,000.
RAISING QUESTIONS: Mr. Hardy did receive a 42% raise to $326,000 a year, however, which Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto is questioning. At least, he was planning to at Tuesday's commission meeting. Mr. Souto deferred the item in part because he had to catch a plane before it came up. Mr. Hardy presided over first-year miscues that included grossly underestimated operating costs that required a $4.1 million county bailout.
TWENTY-ONE IS ENOUGH: Miami-Dade County commissioners decided last week not to add to the Charter Review Task Force a 22nd member who would represent the Haitian community. The Government Operations and Environment Committee voted 4 to 2 to defeat the proposal by Audrey Edmonson, whose district includes Miami's Little Haiti community. Among the arguments: It would create an equal number of task force members, the task force is too far into its work to add a new member, and other groups would feel empowered also to ask for a representative.
THE GOSPEL IRONY: As Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson on Tuesday was pushing through an amendment that would help The Gospel Truth qualify for ads from the county's Community Periodical Advertising Program, the Christian newsletter's publisher was pleading guilty to filing false tax returns in connection with a $200,000 loan from the maligned Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust. Sandy Walker, a local lobbyist and the sister of Commissioner Barbara Jordan, agreed to quit lobbying and to cooperate with investigators.
ADVERTISING DOLLARS: Ms. Walker will serve a combined 42 months of probation and house arrest. Her newsletter is one of about 60 Miami-Dade based publications eligible for the Community Periodical Advertising Program, which the county uses to send its information to residents who cannot afford to buy or subscribe to a newspaper. Newspapers that participate get advertising revenue in exchange for providing information to residents in all of the county's cultural and ethnic communities.
REDEVELOPMENT REDO: The Florida Supreme Court last week held a rehearing that may clarify a recent ruling requiring a referendum before financing bonds for capital-improvement projects with Community Redevelopment Agency funds. It could answer questions such as who would vote in the referendum. No opinion has yet been released.
APPRAISE THE APPRAISER: Miami commissioners voted last week to hold a non-binding straw ballot regarding whether Miami-Dade County's property appraiser should be elected. They tried in the past, said Commissioner Tomás Regalado, but a lawsuit kept results from being released. Last year, the same happened in Hialeah — but the city won an appeal in its suit, he said. About "78% of the voters in the city of Hialeah supported the straw ballot asking for an elected property appraiser," he said. Miami residents should see a ballot question in January "with the exact wording the City of Hialeah" used, he said, to prevent future lawsuits. The county's Charter Review Task Force was split evenly in a trial vote on whether the appraiser should be chosen by voters. It is to take up that issue again.
NOT A PLASTIC BAG: Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, long a proponent of a "green city," last week distributed to each fellow commissioner a cloth sack labeled "I'm not a plastic bag" to use in place of traditional grocery bags. If everyone gave up using plastic bags in South Florida, he said, "we would save 700,000 gallons of gasoline a year." It's time to move beyond just talking about saving the environment, he said. "It's time that we walked the walk a little bit."
SISTER CITY: Jacmel, Haiti, is to be a sister city of Miami after a vote by the City Commission last week. Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, who spearheaded the effort, called Jacmel a "city of the arts." It is her intention to aid residents there by ensuring the Haitian city can acquire surplus items disposed of by Miami.
CASTING A WIDER NET: City of Miami residents are to soon receive courtesy public notices in community publications in addition to mandated notices in mainstream media after commissioners last week passed a resolution setting minimum standards for publications. These include that a publication be within city bounds, have a circulation within the city of at least 3,000 copies per edition and not be the arm of a political party, candidate or elected official.
LAW LULL: Months after the University of Miami School of Law revealed possible plans to move downtown, administrators are still considering leaving 1311 Miller Drive and are looking at "a number of sites without any details yet," Dean Dennis Lynch said, as well as "continuing plans to build a new building where we are" as an alternative. There is no timetable, he said, to set plans in place.
PLAY BALL: Florida Marlin's president David Samson is to speak at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce networking breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Miami Marriott Dadeland, 9090 S. Dadeland Blvd. RSVP: (305) 577-5458.
STRICTLY EDUCATIONAL: In its continuing support, the New York City-based Heckscher Foundation for Children has awarded a $500,000 grant for Miami Art Museum's two-year educational programs that include Brick by Brick, an after-school program for underserved teen-agers. Brick by Brick begins in January. Chipi Morales, curator of education at the museum, said a large chunk will be used to implement Brick by Brick and the rest will be endowed to support educational programs that begin in 2011 at the museum's planned new home at Museum Park, currently Bicentennial Park.
ALUMNI DEED: Miami accounting firm Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra has given Florida International University $250,000 to establish a Professorship in Accounting. The endowment goes into the already-established Securing Our Future Fund at the university to attract top professors and support their research without taking funds out of the accounting department's operating budget, university officials say. The first recipient is Krishnamurthy Surysekar, an associate professor at the university. In 2003, the firm gave $100,000 to support the College of Business Administration's Building Complex Fund at FIU. According to the firm, a large percentage of its accountants are FIU alumni.