Written by Miami Today on February 21, 2008
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MURALS MUTINY: An hour-long debate over dueling ordinances that would regulate mural advertisements in Miami’s urban core — one proposed by Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, the other by the City Manager’s Office — ended in a draw last week. Though they met about eight times in an attempt to reach a compromise before the recent meeting, the commissioner and administration agreed to meet again in hopes of drafting a unified piece of legislation. The commissioner made it clear he is open to compromises such as allowing 25 murals rather than his proposed 15 — the administration hoped for 35 — and expanding his limited area in which the signs would be allowed. All parties stressed a time constraint to pass a law, as Miami-Dade County has agreed to allow murals in the city only through June 2009. However, the city has had since May to enact its own legislation that would enable the county’s pilot-program law.
PROMOTERS’ PROTEST: Though the city administration worked with industry players to craft their ordinance, advertisers came before the commission to speak out against proposed murals fees. The commissioner and administrators proposed charging about $8,000-$10,000 a month for murals permits. Advertisers say they couldn’t afford that, though they’ve been paying hundreds of dollars in daily fines to hang illegal murals. City officials insisted industry players show proof they can’t handle the cost, though Mr. Sarnoff said they so far refuse to disclose numbers.
STILL HANDLING IT: An ordinance that would have banned panhandling in certain areas of downtown Miami was pulled from last week’s Miami commission agenda. Chairman Joe Sanchez, also chair of the Downtown Development Authority, which proposed the law, said "we’re going to take it back and fine tune it a little bit." The proposed boundaries have already been tweaked in fear the law could be deemed unconstitutional, but the authority wants to continue to work "to make sure it meets constitutional challenges," he said. Passive panhandling has First Amendment protection. Mr. Sanchez said he’d also like to look more at the potential fiscal impact of implementing the ordinance. He called for detailed fiscal reports on all future proposed laws.
WATCH OUT: In an acknowledgement of an epidemic of requests to increase previously approved city contracts to accommodate for cost overruns, Miami commissioners warned city administrators to keep an eye on a new deal. They agreed to hire V.I.P. Painting to re-caulk the exterior windows and walls of the city’s downtown administration building for about $76,300. But the fact that the company’s bid was about 80% less than others’ was cause for concern. "This is one that we need to look for change orders," Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. "I want to know that this is going to be finished at $76,300." Commissioner Angel Gonzalez chimed in that "my concern is the same." Purchasing Director Glenn Marcos assured them that he made the company’s representative "reaffirm the fact that he will stick to the low bid. I made it very clear the city will not be allowing any change orders on the project." The company, he said, got "positive reviews" from references and is known to do projects "on and under budget."
DOWNTOWN ENHANCEMENTS: Areas of downtown Miami could one day offer free wireless Internet service courtesy of the Downtown Development Authority. The board is looking into the cost of providing the service, with Flagler Street and Bayfront Park in mind. Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro is also seeking funding to help expand the authority’s Downtown Enhancement Team and ambassador program, board member Jose Goyanes said. Also in the works: a $1 million landscaping and pedestrian improvement project on Brickell Avenue and new trashcans for the downtown streets.
ATTORNEY PLEAS, LEAVES: Miami City Attorney Jorge Fernandez has left his post after agreeing to a plea deal with the State Attorney’s office over his misuse of his expense account. Now, Miami officials are faced with deciding his severance package, which they said last week could be $15,000. Commissioners are supposed to re-instate both the attorney and city clerk after municipal elections and recently approved clerk Priscilla Thompson’s position. They had not yet voted on Mr. Fernandez before the plea deal was set.
LEADING MAYORAL HOST: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz has named local lobbyist Rodney Barreto chairman of Miami’s Host Committee for the 76th meeting of the US Conference of Mayors. The conference is to take place June 20-24 at the InterContinental Miami Hotel. Last year, Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Mr. Barreto chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Mr. Barreto also chaired the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee in 2007, Sister Cities International Convention in 1999, and City of Miami’s Centennial celebration. Mr. Barreto is also a partner at Floridian Partners, a public affairs consulting firm in Coral Gables.
EXPANSION: Adorno & Yoss, an international law firm with offices in South Florida, has partnered with Seattle-based law firm Caley, Dehkhoda & Qadri. The joint venture is to be known as Adorno Yoss Caley, Dehkhoda & Qadri. The Seattle group is known as a minority-owned firm with expertise in international, employment law, corporate and litigation.
NAME CHANGE: The Fowler Rodriguez law firm has changed its name to Fowler Rodriguez Valdes-Fauli. Raul J. Valdes-Fauli is managing partner in the firm’s Miami office. Mr. Valdes-Fauli is a former mayor of Coral Gables and a current chairman of BBU Bank. He specializes in corporate, securities and finance law, as well as banking, litigation and international litigation and arbitration.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH: In celebration of Black History Month, the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is to host a reception with the Arts Business Council of Miami honoring three African-American community leaders of South Florida: Aletha Player, area manager of external affairs for Florida Power and Light, Karl Wright, president of Florida Memorial University, and Eric Knowles, senior director of community relations and governmental affairs at Dolphin Stadium and chairman of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce. They are all to receive the "Outstanding Leadership Award" presented by both organizations. The reception is to be held 5:30-8 p.m. Feb. 27, 2008 at Palm Restaurant, 4425 Ponce de Leon Blvd. in Coral Gables. Reservations: (305) 534-1903.
STATE OF THE PORTS: The 21st annual State-of-the-Ports Briefing is to be held noon Feb. 25 at the Hilton Miami Airport Hotel, 5101 Blue Lagoon Drive. More than 400 executives are expected to attend the briefing, hosted by the World Trade Center Miami, the Port of Miami-Dade and the Miami-Dade Aviation Department. Aviation Director José Abreu and Port Director Bill Johnson are to share the economic impact of the ports in 2007 and forecast Miami’s trade growth for 2008. Both are to also give updates on construction projects. Details: (305) 871-7910.
MUSICAL CHAIRS: After partner Jami Reyes recently left Gordon Reyes & Company to start her own firm, Jami Reyes & Co., public relations specialist Seth Gordon has also started a new company with Tia Diaz-Balart. Gordon Diaz-Balart represents clients such as Florida Power & Light, Cabi Developers, Argent Ventures and the Shops at Midtown, among others. Jami Reyes & Co. focuses on government relations and corporate communications.
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