Written by Miami Today on December 27, 2007
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CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT: The City of Miami’s Department of Capital Improvements has begun recruiting new staff to "facilitate the projects funded by the city’s bond program," according to an e-mail to elected officials from City Manager Pete Hernandez. The city is to add 27 staffers "as demanded by the program’s needs by this time next year," he wrote. The new staffers are to bill their time to specific projects, "resulting in no impact to the city’s general fund." Capital projects are to total $121 million this fiscal year, with an anticipated $177 million in additional funding "from the issuance of additional bonds and other revenue sources," the letter says. Mr. Hernandez expects this to yield more than 600 projects over four years, "requiring well-trained professional staff."
ATTORNEY APOLOGY: Barry Wax, the attorney representing Miami’s City Attorney Jorge Fernandez as he’s investigated by the State Attorney’s office over the use of his expense allowance, wrote an e-mail to city officials explaining his recent request for records relating to their own spending. "Please be assured that neither Mr. Fernandez nor I have any intentions of using this public records request to determine whether any of you have engaged in improprieties with respect to your expense allowances and reimbursements," he wrote. "In point of fact, I do not expect to discover anything of the sort, nor do I suggest that it exists." He insisted "Mr. Fernandez is not attempting to "obtain leverage’ over any elected officials, nor shift blame to others for his actions." Mr. Wax said he needed the records as part of his research but did not say what part they would play in his defense of Mr. Fernandez.
LOBBYING DOLLARS: The City of Miami in 2007 spent $580,000 on lobbyists: $330,000 on those who provided state lobbying and $250,000 on those who provided federal. Mega-lobbyist Ron Book boasts an $80,000 contract, equal to that of law firm Akerman Senterfitt, for state lobbying. The firm has a $160,000 contract for federal lobbying. Other city lobbyists include Corcoran and Associates, Pittman Law Group and Dutko, Poole McKinley.
HANDBILL HALT: As the City of Miami prepares to vote on companion ordinances cracking down on illegally posted signs and littered handbills, Miami Beach has had a "much better situation since we passed our handbill ordinance," said Hilda Fernandez, assistant city manager. She noted "less use of that (distributing handbills) as an option for getting the word out" in the city’s nightclub district. The city has also been "much more aggressive in enforcing" laws to keep litter down, she said.
ILLEGAL TOWS REFUNDS: Some 1,222 auto owners have received refunds totaling $88,741, revealed by a year-long probe into illegal towing in Miami-Dade County, the county’s Consumer Services Department said. The county conducted 10 audits of towing companies and found illegal activities ranging from overcharging to vehicles being towed without authorization. Citations totaling $85,481 in fines were issued. The county anticipates distributing another $88,258 to 2,066 drivers. "These towing investigations were a major success for consumers," said Consumer Services Department Director Cathy Grimes Peel.
SOUTHHCOM HQ FUNDING: US Rep Lincoln Diaz-Balart said he has secured $100 million toward construction of the new Southern Command headquarters in Doral. A decision on who will build the 709,000-square-foot headquarters could come as early as March, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The new headquarters will be built next to the one at 3511 NW 91st Ave. SouthCom is one of five unified commands in the Department of Defense and is responsible for Central and South America and the Caribbean.
PORT INFLUENCE: A report released this month by the Coral Gables-based Washington Economics group entitled "the economic impact of the Port of Miami-Dade on the City of Miami and its commission districts" shows that port operations directly and indirectly support 17,294 jobs. The port generates $2.2 billion in total economic impact, $583 million in labor compensation for area residents and $684 million in personal income for local households, according to the report.
NOW OPEN: U.S. Century Bank had opened its newest branch in Merrick Park, 4201 South Le Jeune Road in Coral Gables. The Doral-based bank has 18 South Florida locations. The new branch offers a full range of personal and business banking services, a drive-through teller and ATM services. It’s open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. Friday. The drive-thru is open 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. Friday. The bank has assets of $1.17 billion.
WATCHDOG ON DUTY: The Miami-Dade County School Board and county Inspector General Christopher Mazzella have hammered out an agreement months in the works after county commissioners last week agreed to allow the inspector to work also for the board. Mr. Mazzella is to get separate funding from the school district, with $75,000 allotted initially. The move to work with the county office comes after a more-than-year-long, $200,000 search to replace former school board inspector general Herb Cousins, whose contract the board did not renew and who is now suing because of it. A candidate declined the job in April because he felt the board wasn’t allowing enough independence. Mr. Mazzella said in June that he "would not accept anything less than what the county’s ordinance currently mandates, which is independence and autonomy."
MARLINS PARK TIMEOUT: A Miami-Dade County resolution that would allow County Manager George Burgess to oversee a new $525 million stadium deal with the Florida Marlins will come before commissioners Jan. 10. Commission Chairman Bruno A. Barreiro deferred the item from the Dec. 20 meeting. He said the delay would give the county, the City of Miami and Major League Baseball a chance to finalize negotiations on an agreement. It will "give us ample to time to review and be briefed on the baseball stadium agreement before taking final action," he said. The county is expected to contribute $249 million toward the new park, with Miami paying $121 million and the Marlins $155 million. Who will pay $10 million toward demolition of the Orange Bowl and infrastructure improvements there has not been determined.
TURKEY POINT PLAN TO STATE: FPL’s proposal to build two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point goes to the Florida Public Service Commission early next year for a public hearing and the agency’s determination on the project. FPL won Miami-Dade County approval Dec. 20 when commissioners by a vote of 11-1 signed off on zoning changes for the project at the Turkey Point site. FPL must still come back to the county for a final OK on the $12 billion to $18 billion project and must get other state and federal agency approvals. FPL hopes to have the first of the two new reactors online by 2018, and the second by 2020, FPL spokesman Michael Williams said.
VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Monday, Dec. 31, is the last day to register for the Jan. 29 presidential primary election. Residents can register at public libraries, most city, town and village halls, Florida drivers license bureaus and Miami-Dade County Election Department offices, at 2700 NW 87th Ave., or 111 NW1st St. To register, you must be a US citizen, 18 years old or older and a permanent resident of the county. Details: www.miamidade.gov/elections, or call 3-1-1 to have a voter registration application mailed to you.