Written by Miami Today on January 31, 2008
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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VOTERS IN "YES’ MOOD: Miami-Dade voters on Tuesday approved slot machine gambling at the county’s three pari-mutuel sites, made the property appraiser’s office elective and moved the qualifying period for some elective offices three weeks earlier. Voters had rejected slot machine gambling at Flagler Dog Track, Calder Race Course and Miami Jai-Alai two years earlier. The decision to elect an appraiser opens a new office for term-limited public officials throughout the county.
HOMESTEAD STRIKES OUT: Homestead spring training hopes for the Florida Marlins are about to disappear. Miami-Dade commissioners are to act Tuesday on a resolution rescinding their direction of last June to require in any deal to build the Marlins a stadium that Marlins spring training would be in Homestead. Instead, the resolution by Commissioner Dennis Moss is asking the county administration to consult with the City of Homestead about whether Homestead’s ballpark, part of a $22 million sports complex built in 1991 to house spring training for the Cleveland Indians, could be renovated for use by Miami-Dade Big League Baseball Inc., a non-profit promoting amateur baseball for young adults. The resolution will also ask for study of use of the Homestead complex by some major league team for spring training or for a minor league team — but it’s not connected to the Marlins’ stadium quest.
CROSSWINDS CONUNDRUM CONTINUES: In the dispute between Miami and Miami-Dade County over Overtown land slated for a housing project, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge José Rodriguez has heard Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agency’s plea to order the deeds back to them, according to agency head Jim Villacorta. The county recently took the land back from the city and plans to seek new projects with more affordable components than the original project proposed by developer Crosswinds. "It went pretty well," Mr. Villacorta said, adding that, at the hearing, County Manager George Burgess acknowledged never having read a 2006 proposal from the city asking for county approval on the Crosswinds project. The city is arguing that one reason Crosswinds had yet to get the project started is that the county never ruled in 2006. The judge’s ruling has yet to be released.
AUDIT APPLAUSE: An external audit of the Miami Community Redevelopment Agencies’ fiscal 2007 practices revealed no material or non-compliance issues and no fraud or illegal acts, according to Richie Tandoc, partner at Sanson, Kline, and Jacomino and Co., which was hired to do the agencies’ audit. Miami commissioners, who serve as board members, congratulated agency staffers at a meeting this week for their diligence.
LIVE NATION NEGOTIATION: After Miami commissioners this month authorized the Bayfront Park Management Trust to negotiate with promoter Live Nation to manage the park’s amphitheatre — the company was selected by a committee through a procurement process — "we’re attempting to get our first meeting with them," said trust Executive Director Tim Schmand this week. The deal would garner the city $650,000 a year, and Live Nation has offered also to take on the costs of improvements to the amphitheatre, managed by the trust since 1987, in exchange for all operations revenues. It would replace the amphitheatre’s stage, install new food and beverage locations, replace the bench seating with individual stadium-style seating and build 10 four-person corporate boxes, according to the proposal submitted in response to the trust’s request for letters of interest.
NO 5 A.M. ALCOHOL: Miami city commissioners last week passed on first reading an ordinance to restrict hours alcoholic beverages can be sold in Coconut Grove’s central commercial district. The ordinance is to ban the sale of alcohol at nightclubs, supper clubs, hotels, motels and apartments with 100 or more guest rooms, and special retail centers from 3-5 a.m. seven days a week. Several nightclub owners, including Vision Nightclub owner Shawn Shahnazi, spoke against the measure, saying it would significantly hurt their businesses’ revenue, but even more Coconut Grove residents spoke in support of the Commissioner Marc Sarnoff-sponsored ordinance.
CAN YOU DEFINE UNANIMOUS? Also last week, the city commission passed a resolution to allow the Downtown Development Authority to seek a declaratory judgment on what the word "unanimous" means. This move comes after the Department of Revenue rejected a commission vote to adopt last year’s authority millage rate because one commissioner was not present during the vote in which the four present commissioners voted yes. The authority says unanimous means those present during a vote, and the Department of Revenue maintains unanimous means the entire governing body. Commissioner Tomás Regalado scoffed at the resolution, asking, "Why are we spending money to define a word in the English language?"
PASSPORT OPTION: The US Department of State is issuing an ID-size passport for travel by land and sea from the US to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. Effective Feb. 1, citizens can order a passport card, which contains a radio frequency identification technology chip. Citizens can still use passport books to travel by land or sea. Like the passport book, the card will be valid 10 years for adults, five for children 15 and younger. Passport book holders can apply for the card as a passport renewal for $20. First-time card applicants pay $45 for adults, $35 for children. Details: National Passport Information Center, (877) 487-2778 or http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt’card/ppt’card’3926.html.
HOTEL OCCUPANCIES, RATES UP: The Miami area led the state in hotel occupancy rates in December, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Occupancies were 70%, up 0.9% over the prior December. Fort Lauderdale and Orlando were second and third, at 66.7% and 60.6%, the bureau said. Room rates were also higher in the Miami area in December at $184.04, up 11.6% from December 2006. The Miami area was second in the state, with the Florida Keys tops at $203.70. West Palm Beach was third at $165.79. The lowest rates were in the Fort Myers area, $122.82.
HOLY GREEN: Florida International University President Modesto A. Maidique will team up with FIU professors in a "Spirituality Goes Green: Spiritual Approaches to Global Warming" forum. Part of National Teach-In day by education initiative Focus the Nation, the program invites those on university campuses to brainstorm global warming solutions. FIU will concentrate on scientific and spiritual approaches to global warming and the role of a university in confronting environmental issues at 7:30 tonight (1/31) at the University Park Campus, Graham Center, East Ballroom, 11200 SW Eighth St., Tamiami. It’s free. Details: (305) 348-3909 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FLORIDA MASTERS RANKINGS: The University of Florida’s fulltime MBA program ranked 64th globally and 34th in the US in ratings that British business newspaper Financial Times published Monday. The university was not ranked in last year’s top 100 programs. No other Florida universities were ranked.
HOME PRICE NOSEDIVE: Resale prices of single-family homes in Miami declined 15.1% in the year ended Nov. 30, the largest percentage decline in Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller 10-city Home Price Indices, the company reported Tuesday. The 10 cities as a whole saw an 8.4% decline in the 12-month period, a record low. Figures from the company show Miami’s resale prices for single-family homes declined nine consecutive months through November. Charlotte, NC, actually recorded a 2.9% increase during the 12 months, tops of all metropolitan areas. The only other Florida area reported, Tampa, was down 12.6%.