Written by Miami Today on November 8, 2007
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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LIVE ANYWHERE: Miami-Dade County’s 30,000 employees not already exempt from a requirement to live in the county will be allowed to live anywhere they want, after commissioners voted 7-4 Tuesday to repeal the county’s residency requirement. Police and firefighters are among the several thousand who were already exempt. Supporters argued that many employees can no longer afford to live in the county. Commissioner Audrey Edmonson said she felt it was simply wrong for the county to dictate where someone can live. Dennis Moss was among those who argued that county salaries and benefits shouldn’t go to persons who aren’t paying taxes in the county. Commissioners are exploring legislation that would give hiring preference to county residents.
HOTEL HIGH: From January through September, local lodging establishments saw a 1% increase in occupancy, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Average daily room rates through September stood at $157.53, up 8.8% from last year’s $144.81. Greater Miami and the Beaches was ranked number one in the state for occupancy and third in average daily room rates.
SAWYER’S WALK, ONCE AGAIN: Miami commissioners are to be asked Friday to approve a major use special permit for the proposed Sawyer’s Walk project in Overtown. The project had been OK’d previously, but a lawsuit by a local activist group overturned the approval. Both city and Miami-Dade County commissioners have asked it include more housing for low- and moderate-income buyers this time around. The developer, Crosswinds, in August promised — in addition to offering 160 units at 80%-140% of the local area median income and giving 50 units to the city’s community redevelopment agency to be sold also as low-income housing — that both the city and the county may now each buy an additional 62 units to sell as they please.
HIGH SCHOOL HULLABALOO: Miami commissioners and activists are abuzz over the idea of establishing high schools in Bicentennial Park and on the Orange Bowl site, concepts that arose when Mayor Manny Diaz and Superintendent Rudy Crew recently unveiled the Elevate Miami program, designed to facilitate access to affordable technology and economic opportunities. However, the idea to build high schools on the two hot-button sites is not new: it’s included in a 2005 compact between the city and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The compact calls for "incorporating a high school for sports-related careers in future planning for the Orange Bowl" and "incorporating a specialized science high school and fine arts high school on the grounds of Museum Park, where the city’s science and art museums will be relocated."
AUDITING THE AUDITOR: Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson wants the county to hire a private company to assess the role of the commission auditor and how the auditor’s office can help the commission "in its governing, policymaking and budgetary functions." Her resolution cites the Jan. 26 charter amendment that created a strong mayor who controls most county staff and says that during the preparation of this fiscal year’s budget, "it became apparent that the role of the commission auditor had changed" as a result. Her request is on the Nov. 13 agenda of the commission’s Budget and Finance Committee.
BUT MEANWHILE…: Even before the auditor’s office is studied, Commissioner Javier Souto wants the office to assign a budget analyst/auditor to each county department and to entities "that receive substantial amounts of funding from the county" to work in parallel with the corresponding budget analyst who reports to the mayor. He wants those analysts to meet with administrators under the mayor’s control to begin developing next year’s budget. His proposal, too, is on the Nov. 13 Budget and Finance Committee agenda.
DOUBLE TIME: Robert G. Beatty, publisher and CEO of the African-American and Caribbean newspaper Broward Times, has joined law firm Adorno & Yoss as partner in charge of Florida operations and co-chair of the National Business and Corporate Law Group. He is to also maintain his position at the paper. The law firm’s managing partner has discussed the ethical implications of holding both jobs, according to a spokesperson. Mr. Beatty was the former general counsel for BellSouth Florida and The Miami Herald.
COMMERCE COMING: New Jersey-based Commerce Bank, which recently entered South Florida, is building two new stores in Miami-Dade County, one in North Miami at Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 127th Street and one in Doral at 3885 NW 107th Ave. Both are to open before year’s end. The bank is to be acquired by Toronto-based TD Bank Financial Group in the spring, which was announced shortly after Coral Gables-based Commercebank made known it would be changing its name to Mercantil Commercebank after its owner Mercantil Servicios Financieros, a Venezuela-based international financial services company.
PARK TALK: The City of Miami is to host a Bicentennial Park design meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at City Hall Commission Chambers, 3500 Pan American Drive. The meeting is to run jointly with a Waterfront Advisory Board meeting. At the first of this series of park design meetings last month, City Manager Pete Hernandez said residents are to see a modified design for the park at this month’s meeting based on public input so far. Friday, city commissioners are to be asked to authorize an increase of $85,405 to planner Cooper Robertson and Partners’ contract to design the park for the added time needed. The total contract is not to exceed $1.48 million.
MEDICAL MOVEMENT: Though it has yet to announce its primary hospital partner, the Florida International University College of Medicine announced last week it is to establish teaching programs for medical students at Jackson North Medical Center, a 382-bed acute care in North Miami-Dade. Medical faculty members are to begin providing care there immediately, and students are to follow in 2011, when the inaugural class is to begin its third year.
GOVERNMENT GURUS: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is to host Nov. 15 "Transforming Downtown Miami," during which a panel of mayors is to discuss how to create a vibrant downtown. The panel is to include Glenda Hood, former Florida secretary of state and Orlando’s former mayor; Bill Hudnut, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute and Indianapolis’ former mayor; Jaime Lerner, former governor of Paraná, Brazil, and former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil; and Anthony Williams, former Washington, DC, mayor. Details: (305) 577-5469.
SMALL BUSINESS CHIEF: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez has appointed Penelope "Penny" Townsley director of small business development. Since May, she’s been overseeing day-to-day operations of Small Business Affairs, while performing a "top-to-bottom" review of the agency and its programs. She began her career with the county in 1980, spending 11 years in the Department of Business Development (now SBD) serving as assistant to the director and acting deputy director. In 2003, she was appointed deputy supervisor of elections and three years later rose to chief deputy supervisor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Barry University.
KNIGHTLY DEED: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation granted $5.7 million to four educational programs and initiatives. The aim is to "increase parental involvement, graduation rates, technology accessibility, and entrepreneurial thinking among high school students in Miami-Dade County." The Parent Academy will receive $1.8 million, Breakthrough Miami (formerly Summerbridge Miami) $3.25 million, The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship $600,000 and Elevate Miami $250,000.
GM FUELS UP: Group vice president and president of General Motors North America Troy A. Clarke is to speak today (11/8) at a luncheon hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. He’ll discuss GM’s goal to switch from gas-friendly to gas-free automobiles and the benefits and myths of alternative fuels. The luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. at Radisson Hotel Miami, 1601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Details: (305) 577-5477 or www.greatermiami.com.
WOMAN AWARD: Businesswoman Natalie Boden of BodenPR was awarded a slot in the Make Mine a Million $ Business program, a program of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence, a national not-for-profit that gives women entrepreneurs financing for small loans and business education. Ms. Boden sent in her "slightly grueling" application, one of 800, three months ago and attended, as a finalist, the competition and awards ceremony in New York two weeks ago. After a three-minute competition speech before 600 audience members, she was chosen as one of 10 participants.
THE PERKS: As a participant, Ms. Boden receives mentoring, marketing, financing, technological equipment for her business and a series of prizes such as a new computer and free hotel stays. She said the biggest benefit of the program is the "coaching and mentoring and the community we become a part of." She will receive one-on-one professional executive coaching, along with legal and financial coaching. She hopes the award will "propel us to grow much faster."
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce presents the first International Business Leadership Awards to companies and individuals that have promoted international business in Florida. Dozens of local and foreign companies and more than 10 individuals have been nominated. The presentation is at noon Nov. 15 at Radisson Hotel Miami, 1601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Details: (305) 577-5477 or www.greatermiami.com.