Written by Miami Today on October 23, 2008
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
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BEGGING FOR TIME: A Miami anti-panhandling ordinance approved in May still awaits enforcement. It’s to take effect in November in a slice of downtown and in Mary Brickell Village in Brickell, said Mark Spanioli, Downtown Development Authority senior manager of capital improvements and development. Police asked the authority to make and post signs throughout the targeted area. He said the Miami Parking Authority is to install 250 signs; once that’s done, enforcement begins. First-time violators face up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $100.
PRIVATIZATION HESITATION: A move to look at privatizing all or parts of Miami-Dade Transit is facing opposition. Commissioner Barbara Jordan at a Transit Committee meeting last week moved to reject legislation that would have asked county officials to study the idea. Commissioner Katy Sorenson said she has "some real concerns about the issue of privatization" but asked that the legislation be deferred rather than killed to give the sponsoring commissioner, Javier Souto, who was absent, a chance to explain it. Ms. Jordan agreed to "acquiesce — but for now."
SUNNY SONESTA: Sonesta Sole Miami is to open this winter in Sunny Isles as the newest hotel in the Sonesta International Hotels Corp. collection. The 23-story, 249-room resort at 17315 Collins Ave. is developed by Wavestone Properties. It will feature 5,000 square feet of meeting and event space, while 147 of the guest rooms are two rooms with full kitchens. A soft opening is planned in January, according to Hotel Newswire.
TRUCKING TO MEXICO: South Carolina-based Southeastern Freight Lines, which has a service center at 5875 NW 72nd Ave., has expanded operations, allowing customers to transport goods to and from Mexico. Southeastern, a less-than-truckload transportation provider, operates 76 service centers in 12 states and Puerto Rico and has a network of service providers in the remaining 38 states, Canada, the Virgin Islands and now Mexico.
RISKY BUSINESS: As Miami-Dade County navigates the credit crisis, converting some bonds and making other adjustments to protect its financial portfolio, Commissioner Carlos Gimenez is taking action in hopes of treading carefully and conservatively in the future. At Tuesday’s commission meeting, he asked the county attorney’s office to prepare legislation requiring staff to provide detailed information about risks involved in future financial decisions. "In plain English," he added, "because sometimes a lot of this stuff is a little bit hard to understand."
GRANTS MAN: Dan Wall, a nearly two-decade veteran of Miami-Dade County government, is to lead the county’s new Office of Grants Coordination. Mayor Carlos Alvarez announced his appointment at a commission meeting Tuesday. Mr. Wall was most recently assistant director of the county’s Office of Strategic Business Management. Commission Chair Bruno Barreiro advised Mr. Wall in his new role to "bring the money home."
GIVE ‘EM A BREAK: Miami-Dade building-permit holders facing economic hardships cleared the first hurdle on the path to being allowed stop-work orders that would grant project pauses for up to six months. Commissioners Tuesday — with no discussion — gave initial approval. The break is being proposed by Katy Sorenson. Without the measure, permits expire after work is abandoned for certain periods.
BARRY BONDS: Fitch Ratings affirmed the BBB- rating of Barry University’s $24.2 million Pinellas County Educational Facility Authority revenue bonds. Proceeds were used to build the student union on the Miami Shores campus, to complete a residence hall and to acquire its law school in Orlando. While Fitch, a rating agency, reported that the school’s enrollment had declined 3% in 2007, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Edwards said things have improved since last year. "We’re in a better financial position than we were a year ago," he said. "Our liquidity position is better than it was last year and we’ve seen an uptick in enrollment." While Barry administrators remain concerned about the economy, he said, they hope ratings agencies will take consider recent improvements when reviewing Barry’s fiscal obligations.
ON TIME OR NOT AT ALL: Frustrated at not getting a report in a timely manner, Miami-Dade Commissioner and Transit Committee Chairman Dorrin Rolle deferred his own legislation that would have allowed food and beverages be consumed at transit station platforms, which would have opened the door for vending machines there. He asked staffers to "spell out the gap for me" as to why the report was delayed but did not get an answer. "Mum is the word?" Mr. Rolle asked, then pushing the legislation aside. "OK, next item."
PERSONAL PROBLEM?: Later, when another legislative item appeared before the committee "at the eleventh hour," a frustrated Mr. Rolle alluded to strains with county staffers, suggesting they might get things to the committee on time if someone else were chair. "What’s disturbing to me is that I think it’s being done because it’s me, and if that’s the case, I’d rather just go on and step aside and let somebody else be the chair of the committee so things can flow a little bit differently… if it means me talking to the chairman of the commission to get somebody in there, Madame [Assistant County] Manager [Ysela Llort], that you can deal with a little bit more favorably, that’s fine with me." He later left the meeting. Vice Chair Barbara Jordan then defended the commissioner, saying she understands his frustration. "There has to be much more time given when we’re spending the people’s money in order to make sure that we’re doing the right thing"
NEW LEADER: Tim Nardi, general manager of The Shore Club, took over as chairman of the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association at the group’s annual meeting Monday at Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay. He replaces outgoing chair Marriott Area General Manager Kimberly Wilson. Mr. Nardi said in his remarks that he will work to "re-energize committees" and "work closely with chambers of commerce." He said the area has the tools to weather the economic storm: "I’m very proud of our product."
GRAHAM SPEAKS: Bob Graham, former Florida governor and senator, was keynote speaker at the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association’s annual meeting. Mr. Graham, chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation & Terrorism, spoke of the nuclear arms race, calling Pakistan — the sixth largest nuclear state in the world — the "Wal-Mart" for nuclear weapons. He also spoke of the importance of voting and about the economy. Said Mr. Graham: "We don’t just look north and south, but we look east and west. We are truly a global community."
ROC ‘N’ ROLL: The Eden Roc Renaissance Beach Resort & Spa is to have a soft opening Friday to mark the re-opening of the hotel’s original Resort Tower to guests. In December, the new 21-story Ocean Tower is set for completion as part of the resort’s 18-month, $200 million renovation and expansion. Details: www.boldnewedenroc.com.
STORE OWNERS CITED: A 45-day window to get merchants to clean up downtown storefronts is over and dozens of citations are rolling in. The Downtown Development Authority designed a 26-page brochure to inform storeowners of common violations in a bid to clean up downtown Miami. It also participated in the 45-day campaign to get merchants to keep up façades and avoid sidewalk obstructions, excessive window coverage and illegal dumping of trash.
SOME DIDN’T LISTEN: Since Sept. 15, when signage enforcement began, inspectors found that more than 50 downtown businesses had violations. Of the close to 80 that city workers have inspected, about 90% had signs violations as of Oct. 17, said Code Enforcement Director Mariano Loret de Mola, and 22 cited owners have complied. "For the ones out of compliance, we will go forward with our procedures," he said. Property owners are handed a notice of violation and up to 10 days to comply. Those who don’t go in front of a code enforcement board that decides if a violation exists. If so, they’re slapped with a daily fine of up to $500 until the problem is fixed.
MAKIN’ MONEY: The Leisure and Hospitality industry in Greater Miami continued its uptick in employment levels with a 0.9% increase in September compared to September 2007. This plays out to an average of 103,100people employed in the month, compared to 102,200 last year.
ROAD DESIGNATION: State Rep. Julio Robaina and other elected officials joined Miami Commissioner Tomás Regalado at a street-naming ceremony honoring his wife, Raquel Regalado, who died at 60 in February of heart failure. On Monday, Southwest 27th Avenue from Flagler Street to Southwest Fifth Street was named "Raquel Regalado Way" in honor of her 36-year career as radio host and her active presence in the community.
FIGHTING FRAUD: The success of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force has drawn national attention. US Rep. Kendrick Meek has introduced legislation to establish a nationwide task force that would operate under the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI would provide staff and other resources. Miami-Dade’s task force has made 71 arrests for mortgage fraud, Chairman Glenn Theobald said. He said he hoped to see the fraud-fighting model take off outside of Miami-Dade. "It’s a state problem, it’s a national problem."
HOMEOWNERSHIP FAIR: Miami’s Department of Community Development is hosting an affordable homeownership fair 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at Villas Godoy, 1475 W Flagler St. The fair is to inform prospective homebuyers of affordable single-family homes and condo developments for sale in the city at a price range of $112,350 to $236,000. Local banks are to attend to discuss financing and non-profit housing agencies are to be there to assist with homebuying.
HIGH TECH H20: The Florida Israel Business Forum and Consulate General of Israel to Florida are to present an Israel Water Technology Seminar 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today (10/23) at One SE 3rd Ave., 25th Floor. Israeli companies in the water management sector — from production, to management, to security, to recycling — are to attend.
PET HOTELS CHECKING IN: Pet stores and veterinary clinics in Miami could soon run pet hotels. The city commission passed a measure that, if given a second okay today (10/23), would amend the zoning code to allow pet stores and clinics bigger than 10,000 square feet to include the "accessory use" of pet hotel. The proposed ordinance defines hotel as "temporary boarding accommodation for pets." The buildings could not, however, put up signs advertising the hotel.
LIMOUSINE LICENSES: Miami-Dade County is accepting applications for its lottery for the county’s 42 luxury sedan licenses, with an Oct. 27 deadline. Of the 42 licenses, 28 are reserved for those who hold for-hire limousine licenses. The others are available to the public.Applicants pay a $170 processing fee, then can submit up to 10 entries at $100 each.Those qualified for the 2006 taxicab lottery or last year’s limousine lottery can waive the $170 fee by submitting their 2007 luxury sedan limousine application reactivation affidavit. Applications are at www.miamidade.gov/csd. Forms must be submitted in person at 140 W Flagler St., Suite 904. Details: Steven Bobes, (305) 375-2481.
GOVERNMENT WIZ: Miami-Dade County is introducing a new online tool — the "Portal Wizard," a Web site concierge designed to provide timely and accurate responses to questions, usually within one business day. The aim is to allow residents to connect with local government. Details: www.miamidade.gov.