Written by Miami Today on March 19, 2009
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PARING DOWN PRIORITIES: If Miami-Dade wants a shot during the current state legislative session, the county commission must narrow its priorities and requests, county lobbyists and capital-based staffers say. Mayor Carlos Alvarez, Commission Chair Dennis Moss and State Intergovernmental Affairs Subcommittee Chair Rebeca Sosa met with players in Tallahassee last week and "some realities came out of that meeting," Mr. Moss said, "namely that we need to be more focused and more targeted as it relates to our legislative package." Ms. Sosa said she was advised to focus on priorities such as maintaining current funding levels to the county, securing a dedicated source of support for Jackson Health System and reviving the Port of Miami tunnel project, now in limbo as state leaders consider whether to move forward. Said Ms. Sosa, "We need to really congregate efforts toward the big goals this year."
TOURISM PATROL: Miami-Dade should be able to tap tourist taxes for tourism-related law enforcement, county commissioners agreed Tuesday. Commissioner Javier Souto suggested the county urge the Legislature to expand permissible uses of tourist-related taxes to include funding "a county tourism-related law enforcement unit." The taxes now can fund tourism-related facilities and market the community to visitors. Expanding parameters to include law enforcement "is a wonderful idea," said Commissioner Sally Heyman, an attorney with a law-enforcement background. "That is what usually is cost-prohibitive for events." Carlos Gimenez warned that, "While this may sound good, it’s a slippery slope" that could drain funds from tourism projects. Bruno Barreiro added that it could also reduce marketing Miami-Dade, a bad move in a climate that’s "getting more competitive every day." In the end, all nine commissioners present supported the measure, appeased after amending it to say that the commission would get to approve expenditures.
CALL TO ACTION: Miami City Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez is urging the Legislature to support the film industry with at least $10 million in tax incentives. He announced last week he’s backing the Florida Film Production Coalition’s request for the millions. The last legislative session slashed the budget for film incentives from $25 million to $5 million. The coalition says Florida is losing business to states such as Louisiana, New Mexico and Michigan, which offer more incentives.
MORE STUDIO SPACE: Mr. Sanchez asked the city to work with the film and entertainment industry to add more studio space and film distribution firms. Industry supporters recently criticized the city for asking Miami-filmed USA Network series "Burn Notice" to abandon makeshift studios at the Coconut Grove Convention Center. The city plans to raze the center when the show finishes filming its third season, forcing producers to relocate — possible outside of Miami.
PADRÓN’S NEW HAT: Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón is soon to wear one more hat — as board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Miami branch. He was appointed to the seven-member board last week by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington. Directors provide the bank with regional economic information that can be useful when creating monetary policy and making discount rate recommendations. Dr. Padrón, who has degrees in economics, for more than 10 years has headed the college — considered the largest two-year college in the country, with eight campuses in Miami-Dade.
JOB WEB SITE GROWS: With the state reporting that Florida unemployment soared to 8.6% in January, it’s no surprise the traffic of a city-funded job hunting Web site is growing. Close to 30,000 persons visit Access Miami’s Web site monthly looking for jobs. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz launched Access Miami in 2001 to offer financial tools and education opportunities such as financial seminars, workforce programs and small business loans. Company executives looking to fill positions can post them online free. The site’s 8,000-plus-job database is updated daily. Details: www.accessmiamijobs.com.
FOCUS ON FLAGLER: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s New World Center Committee is to discuss a vision for Flagler Street’s future March 25. The agenda includes a presentation by Paul Zamek, vice president of Kirksey Architecture, who headed a team that looked at Flagler Street developments within the Downtown Development Authority’s master plan. Other speakers are Andrew Frey, an associate at Akerman Senterfitt, and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of University of Miami’s School of Architecture. The $30 luncheon is at 1601 Biscayne Blvd., ballroom level.
FUEL CHARGES SHIFT?: Miami-Dade County commissioners may consider restoring two cents to the 1993 five-cent local option gas tax levied on motor fuel — an idea they’ve toyed with on and off as they’ve dealt with transit funding shortfalls. Commissioner Barbara Jordan sponsored the measure but withdrew it from the agenda before a commission meeting Tuesday. It’s tentatively to be taken up May 12 at a Budget, Planning and Sustainability Committee meeting. She did the same in proposing the move in September, when fellow commissioners showed little support during an informal vote.
LOCAL CONTROL: Because it’s an issue of "local control," the Miami-Dade commission is opposing a move by two state legislators to have the county reimburse three municipalities that have not been getting proceeds from the county’s half-cent transportation surtax. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, chair of the State Intergovernmental Affairs Subcommittee, said Tuesday the money would come not from the 20% dedicated already to other municipalities but from the county’s share. "That will create a bigger deficit in the projects that the county has," she worried. She asked the commission to take a position on the issue so she could bring it to Tallahassee. The commission has indirectly already taken a position, Commissioner Katy Sorenson said, in that it has a policy of opposing any outside moves to make decisions local commissioners should make. The surtax is an "issue of local control" that should be decided here, not in the Legislature, she said. Other commissioners agreed. Ms. Sosa later left the meeting to head to the capital.
CRA EXPANSION OK: Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones got colleagues last week to approve 5-0 expansion of Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency boundaries and extension of its lifespan to 2030 in order to bond up to $100 million to redevelop in the area. At the meeting, city CFO Larry Spring estimated that over $100 million could be issued within a year, double his projection a week earlier that the agency could initially afford to bond about $50 million. The next step is for the Miami-Dade County Commission to approve those measures.
POUNDING THE PAVEMENT: Coral Gables has named Michael Pounds chief procurement officer to oversee city purchasing and bids. He has served as a city administrator in the St. Louis area and most recently directed and oversaw procurement of goods and services for Coral Gables.
MONITOR THE RECOVERY: To allow the public to keep tabs as Miami-Dade spends its $90.5 million in federal economic stimulus aid, the county has created its own version of President Barack Obama’s recovery.gov. The county’s site, www.miamidade.gov/recovery, offers updates on the $787 billion federal stimulus and allows surfers to view county grant opportunities, monitor the status of projects and stay updated on local economic stimulus activities. The site offers free subscriptions for weekly grant e-mail notifications.
SMALL BUSINESS SUMMIT: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is to host a half-day small business summit March 23 at Jungle Island’s Treetop Ballroom to inform local businesses of funding streams, new markets, marketing strategies and low-cost workforce training opportunities. Following panel discussions, US Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii is to speak on challenges and opportunities created by the recently passed stimulus bill. Details: www.miamichamber.com.
GREEN VENDOR FAIR: The City of Miami, which late last year passed legislation to push sustainable initiatives, is holding its first Green Vendor Fair April 7-8 at Jungle Island to connect professionals in green building with information and resources about green building products and services. Scheduled keynote speaker is US Green Building Council President Rick Fedrizzi. Vendors, community leaders and environmental certification organizations are expected. Fair tickets are $35.