Written by Miami Today on September 4, 2008
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POWER PUSH KAPUT: Miami-Dade commissioners Tuesday swiftly quashed a move by Chairman Bruno Barreiro to expand the powers of his job. He moved to approve his proposal to end term limits for the chair and shift some powers from heads of committees to the chairman, among other changes — but none of the other 12 commissioners seconded the motion, effectively killing it. His two-year term as chair ends in January. Commissioners are to nominate and vote on his successor this year. Seven must approve the appointment. Commissioners also balked when Mayor Carlos Alvarez championed a bid to expand the mayor’s powers, but voters approved the move last year, creating a strong-mayor system.
VESSEL CLEANUP GO-AHEAD: Miami’s vessel cleanup began this week with the removal of eight boats Monday (9/2) from the Dinner Key Marina area, said Daniel Newhoff, city assistant director of public facilities. The five-day cleanup to rid waters of sunken or abandoned boats is to continue as 30 more vessels are to be plucked from the Dinner Key Marina, five others from Marine Stadium and another five from the Watson Island area. Operation Bay Wash began three years ago with cleanups once a year. But to permanently solve the hazardous problem, the city plans to construct a mooring field at Dinner Key Marina to be completed by February.
RECORD RECRUITMENT: Miami, hoping to add to its police force, has received more than 700 applications in three weeks. The recruitment reached the airwaves with radio announcements and TV spots, plus newspaper ads and internet postings. Typically, its takes more than a month to get 600 applicants. The next step is for applicants to take the civil service exam, followed by a physical ability test.
RECORD INTAKE: Miami-Dade Convention Development Tax collection for July was a record $3.2 million compared to $3 million last July, up 6.2%. The revenue generated by hotel taxes such as the 3% tax is used in part to support and maintain public facilities such as existing convention centers, arenas and auditoriums.
ARTS CENTER SUBSIDY FALLS: The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County expects to end its fiscal year Sept. 30 needing a $7.565 million county subsidy, $1.287 million less than it budgeted, county commissioners are to be told at a committee meeting Monday. The center presented 69 more shows in the past year than the year before, according to a report by interim President and CEO Lawrence J. Wilker, and it sold 33,000 more tickets this year. Operating costs are coming in $1.5 million below budget, his report says.
NAMESAKE: The Metromover station serving downtown’s Arsht Center is soon to take its new name. Miami-Dade commissioners voted Tuesday to rename the station in honor of Ms. Arsht’s $30 million donation to the center, once called the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. Her gift changed the name and "now it’s time for the Metromover station to reflect this change," said Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who proposed the station name change. Ms. Arsht, who appeared before commissioners to thank them, shared some of the center’s recent successes, such as this summer’s attendance: 80,000, she said. The center closed for the bulk of last summer, before Ms. Arsht’s donation.
ANOTHER ARTS CENTER DELAY: It’s another delay for opening the two-building South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, which was originally due to be completed in August 2007. New completion date is Dec. 4, county commissioners will be told in a committee meeting Monday. After problems with the county’s main performing arts center, the Arsht Center downtown, the county turned management of construction of the south county center over to its Department of Cultural Affairs to avoid similar delays. The center was approved in July 2005 to rise on Southwest 211th Street in Cutler Bay.
CENTER DIRECTOR NAMED: When the new South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center does finally open, it has a director. The county has hired Eric Fliss to run the center, county commissioners will be told Monday. He has been cultural facilities manager for the City of Miami Beach, responsible for operating the Colony and Byron Carlyle theaters. He was also resident lighting designer for Maximum Dance Ballet Gamonet here and the Florida Dance Festival. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from the School of Theater at Florida State University.
ASIAN ALLIANCE: The Port of Miami this week formed its first alliance of cooperation with an Asian port. The port and Shanghai International Port Group Co. are now to share information on cruise and cargo business, planned infrastructure, marketing research and potential business ties to promote the teamed ports. This is the port’s 48th "sister port" agreement in 10 years. Commissioners approved the item with little discussion, but Javier Souto voted against the alliance, citing what he called heavy Chinese influence at the port.
OFFICIAL INDEPENDENCE: It’s official — Miami-Dade County’s Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust has gained some independence. Commissioners Tuesday put their final stamp of approval on measures that give more autonomy to the body, charged with overseeing projects funded by the voter-approved half-penny transit surtax. The 15-member board can now hire and fire its director — current Executive Director Nan Markowitz works under the county manager — and can also retain consultants without commission approval. Director Miles Moss has said the trust is likely to retain Ms. Markowitz. A measure to give trust members fiduciary duty is still pending.
FIGHTING FOR FIRE: Miami-Dade commissioners are to today (9/4) discuss whether to consolidate fire services in the county. The five municipalities that currently operate fire departments — Miami, Coral Gables, Hialeah, Miami Beach and Key Biscayne — would not be affected. But no other cities would be allowed to establish independent departments. Residents would have to vote on this change to the county’s charter. If commissioners agree today, the proposal would likely appear on the November ballot. They originally considered eliminating all municipal fire services but decided Tuesday to revise the plan, arranging for today’s discussion.
LOOKING INWARD: County employees will be asked to approve direct deductions from their paychecks to a foundation to support county parks if a proposal by Commissioner Katy Sorenson makes it through the legislative process. It’s to be heard at Monday’s Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee meeting. Citing the flattening of property tax receipts and the resultant move by parks to base their services on fees, freezing out poorer county residents, she’s asking that the four-year-old Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade Inc. receive donations direct from county employees’ paychecks to help fill the gap. She’s offering as a starter $10,000 from her office’s discretionary fund to spur that fundraising campaign.
CHANGING COURSE: All-Med Services of Florida, based in Miami Lakes, has named Ruben King-Shaw Jr. CEO of its operations as well as of Clinical Medical Services, the medical supply company’s Caribbean arm. From 2001 to 2003 he served in the George W. Bush administration as deputy administrator and chief operating officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Health Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. Earlier, he was executive director of the JMH Health Plan, an integrated delivery system operated by the Public Health Trust of Dade County and the University of Miami’s School of Medicine. He received master’s degrees in international business at the Center for International Studies in Madrid and in health services administration for Florida International University.
ADVERTISING THE AMERICAS: La Cumbre, a marketing and sales tourism industry conference for the Americas, takes place through Friday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The three-day summit is to bring in more than 600 buyers, 230 suppliers/exhibitors and more than 70 media affiliates from North, South and Central America’s travel and tourism industry. Exhibitors include hotels, malls, attractions, major airlines and members of the Latin America Visit USA committees.
PARKING PACT: Airport Parking Associates, which provides parking services at Miami International Airport, is to continue for five more years after commissioners approved a new contract Tuesday. The deal comes despite past issues revealed in a report by the county’s inspector general, such as the company overcharging for some services. An arbiter in June said the company did nothing illegal or unethical but did take advantage of the county, according to county documents. Besides that, "APA has been satisfactorily providing services," the documents say. The five-year deal is expected to generate more than $180 million.
IN-HOUSE STUDY: To find economy boosters that could help secure Miami-Dade’s future during uncertain economic times, county Commissioner Joe Martinez wants a study of what industries used to thrive in Miami, where they went and why, and how to get them back. Rather than set aside $150,000 for Florida International University experts to do it as planned in a resolution proposed for Tuesday’s commission meeting, he pulled the measure from the agenda, asking instead that county economists conduct the study. County staffers have said they can handle the job.
NEW RITZ CHIEF: Timur U. Senturk has been named general manager of the 375-room Ritz-Carlton South Beach. Mr. Senturk, who received his degree in hotel management from Hotelberufsfachschule in Calw, Germany, has held executive positions with The Oriental Bangkok, The Oberoi New Delhi and Claridge’s London. He was most recently general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Washington, DC.