Written by Miami Today on February 14, 2008
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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SHINY NEW METRORAIL: Miami-Dade County commissioners are being asked this week to replace every one of the county’s 136 Metrorail cars with brand-new cars. A recommendation from County Manager George Burgess says the county should buy new instead of accepting a bid of $258.4 million — $1.9 million per car — to revitalize the present fleet of 1984-era cars. His memo to commissioners says the county was short of money when it came time to give the cars a 15-year service overhaul that would have made the cars last at least until 2014 — so the county skipped the maintenance program. When it got estimates of $354 million to $408 million to replace the rail cars, the county sought bids to revitalize the entire rail fleet — bids Mr. Burgess is recommending the county now reject and instead buy new.
ELECTING A PROPERTY APPRAISER: Work will begin soon on establishing the property appraiser as a constitutional office, Commissioner Natacha Seijas said. She said she will soon be meeting with the county attorney’s office to draft an ordinance outlining a qualifying fee, salary for the office, personnel for the office and the specific functions of the office. The hope, she said, is to have an ordinance ready for consideration for commissioners at their first meeting in March. County voters last month approved a charter change to make the long-appointive position an elective job. Commissioner Seijas sponsored the county resolution that put the issue on the ballot.
PLAYHOUSE PROGRESS: Having repaid a $125,000 debt to the state, the Coconut Grove Playhouse will be eligible for state funding once it reopens, said Shelly Spivack, board chair — "and we hope that that will be soon." The Playhouse, closed since April 2006 after debt made insurance unaffordable, has paid its employees overdue wages, vacation and severance and has brought utilities up to date, she told the Miami-Dade County Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee on Monday. Playhouse officials plan to hold an open charrette process beginning in March to gather input as to what the site should look like in the future.
DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS: The Miami-Dade County commission is to give initial consideration Tuesday to a proposed ordinance to provide domestic partners of county employees with an array of benefits. If approved, the proposal would go to committee for discussion and hearing before returning to the full commission for a final vote. The proposal would allow for registration of domestic partnerships and rights to insurance benefits and require health care facilities in Miami-Dade to provide domestic partners with the same rights as patients’ spouses.
MORE PARKING: The Miami Parking Authority is to re-stripe its garage at 190 NE Third St. to provide for more parking. "We have been looking at opportunities to increase capacity," Executive Director Arthur Noriega said. The project, to cost about $73,000, is to add 85 spaces. The garage largely serves students and downtown residents.
BYE-BYE HANDBILLS: Ordinances controlling handbills and banning signs in Miami’s public right-of-way are to come before city commissioners today (2/14) for a final vote. They gave their first OK last month with residents’ quality of life in mind. Under the proposed ordinance, first-time offenders would pay a $100 fine plus $50 per handbill. The fine would jump to $250 for a second offense within a year and $500 for a third. The $50-per-handbill fee would also apply in all cases. Fines would go to Miami’s general fund.
COMPLEX COMPLETE: Florida International University this month opened its business building complex, designed in part by BEA International of Coral Gables. The new 81,000-square-foot complex consists of three buildings at the heart of the University Park campus. It includes a special events center, offices for executive and professional education MBA programs, an auditorium and classrooms, among other facilities.
LAST CALL FOR ALCOHOL: After heated discussion last month, Miami commissioners are to see again today (2/14) an ordinance restricting alcohol sales in Coconut Grove, allowing alcoholic beverages to be sold only until 3 a.m. Existing laws allow until 5 a.m. Club owners have said the new rule, approved on first reading in January, would be detrimental to business. Residents, however, have come out in favor.
BANHANDLING: An anti-panhandling ordinance crafted by the Downtown Development Authority is to come before Miami commissioners today (2/14) for a first look. The zone affected, in which neither aggressive nor passive panhandling would be permitted, encompasses a parcel from Northwest First Avenue on the west to Biscayne Boulevard on the east, and with north and south First streets as the north and south boundaries. The zone also includes South Miami Avenue from downtown to Southeast 10th Street, Brickell Avenue from the Miami River to Southeast Eighth Street, Biscayne Boulevard from Southeast First to Northeast Ninth streets, and the blocks immediately surrounding the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
INCREASING INCREASES: After recently upping payments to firms hired to do consulting work on the Orange Bowl site and Bicentennial Park, Miami commissioners are to consider today (2/14) a resolution calling for $145,000 more toward master planning services for Virginia Key. If passed, it would up design firm EDSA’s contract to $920,000.
NEW CHAIR: Jorge Rossell has replaced Adrienne Arsht as chairman of Miami-based TotalBank. Ms. Arsht now serves as chair emerita. Mr. Rossell, who also serves on the executive committee of Banco Popular Español, TotalBank’s Spain-based parent company, was formerly head of its corporate banking and general manager of its investment division. He was an executive vice president and in charge of the bank’s corporate and capital market divisions. As chair of TotalBank, Mr. Rossell is responsible for executive decisions and overall management.
CALL KINKOS? "Why can’t we have color maps?" Miami-Dade commissioners asked at last Thursday’s meeting after having to navigate a black-and-white map of Miami-Dade’s brownfields. Current brownfields — areas blighted by industrial contamination or dilapidation after the departure of industrial operations — were supposed to be depicted in red and newly designated brownfield areas in pink. County staff had the color maps; commissioners had the black-and-white ones. "We can’t figure them out," Commissioner Natacha Seijas said and called for a boycott of black-and-white maps. "Whenever we get a backup that shows black and white, we should just send it back and say, "We’re not going to discuss it.’" Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said bad maps of various shades of black are more the rule than the exception. "It’s every time we get maps," he said.
WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR: Mr. Gimenez was delighted by a color copy of the new brownfield map handed to him by staff. "What a difference!" he said. Staff members said they would ask the Office of Agenda Coordination to see that maps are in color from now on. But the requests will have to go further, according to the agenda office. The department from which the map originated must provide the color, said Joanne Myers, executive secretary in the agenda office. The good news, she said, is that she’s started seeing some maps arrive in color in the last few weeks.
STATE OF COUNTY: The State of the County Address by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday (2/20) at Westland Hialeah Senior High School, 4000 W 18th Ave., Hialeah, and not at Milander Auditorium.