Written by Miami Today on November 27, 2008
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LIFTING THE CONE: A move to kill the cone of silence, Miami-Dade’s lobbyist-control measure, dodged its first bullet last week, garnering enough votes at a commission meeting to move forward. It’s to be heard at the Budget and Finance Committee Dec. 9 and from there could head to the full commission for a final vote. Commissioners created the cone in 1998 to reduce outside influence on procurement. Bruno Barreiro, who co-sponsored the measure 10 years ago, is leading the charge to remove it. As is customary for preliminary votes, initial approval last week came with no discussion. Rebeca Sosa, Audrey Edmonson, Sally Heyman and Javier Souto voted against. Joe Martinez and Dennis Moss were absent.
FIU OUTGROWING MACY’S: Florida International University’s downtown campus is outgrowing its classroom space, Joyce Elam, executive dean of business administration, told the Downtown Development Authority board. The authority made a donation to market the program, which proves to be working. This year more than 200 students enrolled in business classes at the center on the sixth floor of Macy’s, 22 E. Flagler St. But Ms. Elam said enrollment for 2009-2010 could grow 28%, which the space might not accommodate. She said the program faces a size challenge that leaves FIU with two options: squeeze another classroom onto Macy’s sixth floor or cut enrollment. In August, FIU extended its lease with Macy’s for two more years.
PAPER PRESERVATION: Saving your Election Day newspapers, buttons or bumper stickers to show the grandkids? Don’t keep them in plastic bags, advises Becky Smith, curator of research materials for the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. "The problem with plastic in this climate is it creates a [moist, humid] microclimate" inside the bag, she said. "The last thing you want to do is put it in plastic." Instead, store in an acid-free paper folder or box in a dark, air-conditioned atmosphere. "Newspapers are made to literally last one day, so you don’t want to keep it in the Florida room where it’s going to get direct sunlight," she said. "If you keep it out of the light and don’t handle it too much — we’ve got newspapers in the collection that are 100 years old."
BAGGAGE BOOST: The Miami-Dade Aviation Department is to get $54.4 million from the Transportation Security Administration for the in-line baggage screening Explosive Detection System at Miami International Airport’s new North Terminal. The reimbursement should cover about 75% of system costs, Aviation Director José Abreu said. He expected $30 million to $35 million, perhaps a maximum of $50 million, so $54.4 million is "a major award, and absolutely critical for us to proceed," he said. The reimbursement — which wasn’t guaranteed — means $54.4 million less for aviation to borrow, he said. "Every time you get money for this project and you don’t have to move your borrowing approved limit, it’s a win." The system’s first phase — which will include nearly 10 miles of conveyors — is to be done in July 2009. Then, it should be able to screen and transport 4,600 bags an hour. Once finished in 2011, capacity is to jump to 6,700.
REGALADO, SANCHEZ FOR MAYOR: It’s official. Longtime Miami commissioners Tomás Regalado and Joe Sanchez will vie for mayor next November. The two, frequent opponents on the dais, have filed to run. Mr. Regalado announced in April and Mr. Sanchez confirmed candidacy this month. "We can both run with our record, we don’t have to make promises," Mr. Regalado said, adding he’s committed to running a strong campaign and said he’s confident he can win. There’s a third, less-known candidate, Juan Miguel Alfonso. Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Alfonso did not return calls.
MAYOR REPLACEMENT: In another plot twist, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said in other media this month that he’s in the mix for a job in the Barack Obama administration — but now he’s taking a step back. "I have not received any formal communications from President-Elect Barack Obama’s team regarding a position in his administration," he said. "The rumors are just that, rumors and speculation." If he accepts a post in the new administration, Miami commissioners would have 10 days to find someone to fill his seat through the end of his term. If a fellow commissioner is chosen who happens to be one of the mayoral candidates, Mr. Regalado or Mr. Sanchez, some question if he’d have an unfair advantage in November’s election.
NO MORE ALIMONY: Continuing moves to end incorporation payments from new cities to Miami-Dade County, commissioners last week unanimously allowed Doral to amend its charter to phase out the payments, eliminating them by fiscal 2011, and agreed to allow Palmetto Bay to amend its charter to eliminate the payments after this fiscal year. Commissioners agreed in September to allow Miami Lakes to remove the payments from its charter. The payments, which Miami Lakes Mayor Wayne Slaton referred to as "alimony" in September, have caused friction for years, even sparking lawsuits. Commissioner Katy Sorenson, whose district includes Palmetto Bay, said last week that "I’ll be glad to have all this behind us."
MURALS MAY LIVE ON: A pilot program allowing some mural advertisements in the City of Miami that was set to sunset next year may live on. County commissioners voted with no discussion last week to remove the pre-set, county-imposed repeal date, led by sponsor Bruno Barreiro. Sally Heyman, Rebeca Sosa, Katy Sorenson and Javier Souto voted against. The measure is set for hearing at the Governmental Operations and Environment Committee Jan. 13.
WEIGH IN ON COUNTY NEEDS: Miami-Dade County is to host a "Strategic Planning Interactive Forum" at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 to seek input on what residents see as county needs. The idea is to provide time for the public to share ideas and priorities for the county’s five-year plan. Moderators will accept questions online or by phone. The forum is to be in the county commission chambers at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center downtown, 111 NW First St. Parking is free at the county’s north lot, 111 NW Third St. Details: www.miamidade.gov or call 311.
NEW CHAIR: Veteran Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss is to take over as chairman of the county commission in January, following Bruno Barreiro’s two years as chair. It will be Mr. Moss first chairmanship in his nearly 16 years in county office. He assumes the post brimming with new ideas, he said at a meeting last week, including requiring monthly financial position reports, expanding the role of the commission’s vice chair and using text messages and robo-calls to communicate with residents. "Today in our country we are facing tremendous challenges, some known, some unknown," he reminded commissioners in a short speech before the chairman vote. "With challenges come opportunities, and I believe that I have shown that I have the ability to lead the commission through the challenges and to the opportunities." He edged out José "Pepe" Diaz, who was elected vice chair.
ANTI-PANHANDLING HURDLE: Miami’s anti-panhandling ordinance is in effect, with about 90% of signs warning against panhandling already up. First-time violators get a warning. After that they can face up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $100. City police are working on a system to track who has received warnings, but for now they’re working from memory, said Mark Spanioli, Downtown Development Authority senior manager of capital improvements and development. Authority Chairman Joe Sanchez asked for an identification system right away. "I want to make clear that we worked hard on this ordinance not to see it enforced," he said. Mr. Spanioli said he’d ask police for more accountability but he’s hopeful the ordinance will prove effective. "In the next few months, we’ll actually see people get arrested."
INSISTING ON MOVER FARE: The Downtown Development Authority’s transportation committee may craft a resolution asking Miami-Dade County to reinstate a 25 cent-or-more Metromover fare. Alyce Robertson, executive director, attended the Transportation Summit Nov. 15 to plead for repairs and improvements to transportation in downtown. She said she told county leaders the authority would support restoring a Metromover fare if it helped pay for improvements. County Commissioner Audrey Edmondson, county representative to the authority’s board, said she’d look into it and agreed that many transportation issues stem from lack of revenue.
MOBILE METERS: Miami Beach has begun selling iPark, a calculator-sized device with preloaded parking time that can be activated and displayed on a dashboard in lieu of carrying change for meters. The system, being used in cities throughout the Eastern US and Europe, is sold by ePark Systems. iPark, sold for $20 with an additional $20 of complimentary parking time for Miami Beach residents, can be purchased at the Miami Beach Parking Department, 309 23rd St., suite 200.
UP, UP AND AWAY: The Miami Beach’s Parking Department, with approval of the mayor and city commission, has raised hourly rates to $1.25 from $1 at all meters south of 23rd Street. Meters north of 23rd will remain 50 cents or $1 an hour.
STICKING AROUND: Frost Art Museum Interim Director Carol Damian will remain director and chief curator after the Nov. 29 grand opening. As she was working to fill the museum’s 46,000 square feet with its six inaugural exhibits, Ms. Damian said the museum’s goal is distinctly different from that of other Miami museums. "Our focus is education," she said. "I want somebody to come in and look at art and know what they’re looking at and why it’s important." During her first year, she said, one of her priorities will be to integrate technology into the museum, making all artwork available online.