Written by Miami Today on March 13, 2008
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MIAMI 21 MEETING: The Miami Commission has called a special meeting April 8 to consider Miami 21, its proposed zoning code and growth blueprint. However, the map delineating which zoning designations apply to which properties could take six months. Representatives of the city’s Planning Department did not respond to repeated phone calls and e-mails requesting an explanation of how the city could have a code for months without an accompanying map informing landowners what their property is zoned.
PARK PLAN: Plans for downtown’s proposed Museum Park — now Bicentennial Park — are to be considered by Miami commissioners today (3/13) after a years-long design process. The city recently completed a round of hearings to gather input on the master plan, which includes new art and science museums as features of the park. Commissioners are to be asked to approve the plan "in principle" as a "guiding tool for the future development of Bicentennial Park."
HANDLING IT: An ordinance banning panhandling in certain areas of downtown and Brickell is to go before Miami commissioners today (3/13). Commission and Downtown Development Authority Chairman Joe Sanchez pulled the item from a meeting last month, saying he wanted to double-check its constitutionality and examine its potential financial impacts on the city. The fiscal analysis he requested is not attached to today’s agenda.
TUNNEL BONDS: The Miami-Dade County commission is being asked next week to approve $107 million in bonds for construction of the Port of Miami tunnel. This month the commission agreed to get a $75 million line of credit the state requires as a contingency reserve for the $914 million project. The tunnel is to handle seaport vehicular traffic between Watson Island and the Port of Miami. The state will pay $457 million toward construction, with the county paying $402 and the City of Miami $50 million. The Florida Department of Transportation is expected to award the contract this year. The tunnel would take about four years to build.
ASK THE VOTERS: Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto, who vehemently opposed the now-approved county agreement with the Florida Marlins and the City of Miami to construct a baseball stadium largely at public expense on the site of Miami’s Orange Bowl, has placed an item on the March 18 county commission agenda that would require the approval of county voters for any public improvement contract of more than $25 million.
FUNDING FIRE-RESCUE: Commissioner Rebeca Sosa is asking the Miami-Dade administration to find alternative funding sources for the Fire-Rescue Department. About 88% of the department’s $384 million budget comes from property taxes, according to county documents. Other budget resources come from fire assessment and motor vehicle accident fees, along with charges for medical transport and air rescue fees. The department serves 30 of 35 municipalities. It has lost $14 million from property tax revenue this year, in part because of tax relief initiatives, and future reductions could impact the department, documents state.
NEW TAXI STANDS: Cabbies are in line for new stands in Miami-Dade County. In downtown Miami, a pilot program will begin this month at the Stephen P. Clark Center, where two reserved parking spaces will be set aside for taxis, according to a report to commissioners this week from County Manager George Burgess. Cab stands are also being established at the Coral Gables Courthouse, the Joseph Caleb Center, the Medical Examiner’s Office, the North Dade Justice Center, Overtown Transit Village North, the Elections Department and South Dade Government Center. Miami-Dade Transit will begin taxicab stand pilot programs at Metrorail stations at Hialeah, Okeechobee, Allapattah, Northside, Brownsville, Vizcaya and Dadeland South. Stands are already in place at Metrorail stations at Coconut Grove and Dadeland North.
HAITI HARDSHIPS: Miami River businesses are still feeling effects of issues in Haiti, with months’ worth of cargo idling due to a change in customs collections and inflation. A lack of trade volume has increased prices of goods, said Munir Mourra, president of River Terminal Services. Last week he sent his first ship to Haiti in two months. Most of Miami’s big suppliers’ revenues "have drastically gone down," he said, and both cargo and supply businesses have been forced to lay off staff. Airlines, hotels and restaurants here are likely losing money from a lack of travelers who once came regularly to buy goods to ship to Haiti, he added. "It is a big effect on the economy." And "it is not just shutting down a business or industry — it is affecting the livelihood of people in other countries."
DOUGH OR NO DOUGH? Museum Park designers Cooper Robertson have another reason to attend today’s commission meeting: commissioners are also to be asked again to approve an $82,728 increase to the planners’ contract, bringing the total to nearly $1.6 million. The commission balked at the request in January, refusing to dole out the money staffers say was spent on studying the proposed museums’ effect on views of the nearby performing arts center. City Manager Pete Hernandez told commissioners the company must be paid for its work.
AIR SHOW SOUGHT: Miami-Dade County administration is heeding Commissioner Dennis C. Moss’s call to look into partnering with Homestead Air Reserve Base to stage an air show in November. "An event of this scale would attract thousands of tourists, vendors, government officials and other industry representatives, helping spur the county’s economic development," he said. Fort Lauderdale’s Air & Sea show this year was cancelled because of rising fuel costs and absence of a sponsor for the multi-million-dollar event.
BOOKSTORES TURN PAGE: Host International was awarded an 8-year contract by the Miami-Dade County commission earlier this month to operate a 1,700 square-foot bookstore and café at the South Terminal at Miami International Airport. The commission awarded a second bookstore and café contract to Areas USA and partner Books & Books in the North Terminal. The Books & Books operation will be in a 1,000 square-foot space. Each firm pledged to the county 12% of monthly gross sales, with a guaranteed annual payment of $250,000. In January, the Airport & Tourism Committee endorsed Coral Gables-based Books & Books for the South Terminal contract even though Host International was the bidder recommended by the Aviation Department. The North Terminal award to Books & Books marked a compromise after the administration argued that denying the bookstore café to Host International would harm the county’s bidding process.
TAXI GROUP NEEDS LIFT: Miami-Dade County is seeking members for its Taxicab Advisory Group, which provides the commission with input on issues related to the industry. The terms of the current 13 participants expire in June. Selected members, both from the industry and consumers, serve three years. They also help develop taxicab services and improvements. Deadline to apply is March 15. Details: (305) 375-3677 or www.miamidade.gov/csd
WI-FI WHEN YOU FLY: A five-year contract to provide wireless Internet service at Miami International Airport could go to Miami-based Electronic Media Systems Inc. The Miami-Dade County Commission’s Airport and Tourism Committee was to take up the contract today (3/13). The administration is recommending Electronic Media, which would pay Miami-Dade 65% of its monthly revenue and 50% of advertising revenue. Airport passengers would pay $6.95 for 24 hours’ wireless use or $19.95 per month. The commission must ultimately act on any committee vote.
SPIN-OFF LOBBYISTS: Miami-based law firm Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP has formed a government relations consulting firm, KBS Strategies Group LLC. The group, which will provide lobbying plans, draft legislation and testify before legislative committees, among other things, will be headed by Beth Kigel.