Miami Dade County Community Forum

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hear Mayor Regalado & Commissioner Sarnoff on January 8th. By Barbara Bisno

Mayor Tomas Regalado and District 2 Commissioner and Commission Chairman Marc Sarnoff as featured guests of Miami on the Move on January 8th at 8AM.

This is a unique opportunity to hear from our  City leaders about their vision for Miami, the challenges and issues we face in 2010, and what we can do as progressive, concerned citizens to help them make our city a better place to live.

Come learn about now things are done inside City Hall, the political realities they face every day, the budget crisis and how it will affect local programs, the future of development in a post-crash environment, and what, in the opinion of those at the helm of city government, we can do to forward a progressive agenda in these difficult times.

RSVP now!

Where:       Out of the Blue Cafe
                      2426 NE 2nd Ave.
                      Miami, FL
                       (305) 573-3800
When:        Friday, January 8th, 8AM-9:30AM

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dear Friends of Hialeah Park. By Milly Herrara

The race to save Hialeah Park is not over. Although the clubhouse and parts of the park have been partially restored in order to reopen it for the public with quarter horse races, a massive development is planned for Hialeah Park. Although they are trying to make it seem as a "historic preservation" project, it is not. The proposed development plan will barely leave anything of Hialeah Park's 210+ acres. In fact, the track, clubhouse and gardens will be surrounded by development that includes two hotel towers, a convention center and lots of retail shopping areas.

According to the site plan drawings, even the historic, Jim "Sunny" Fitzsimmons tree lined path appears vanished. The 350 to 400 flamingoes that make Hialeah their home will be probalby be shocked and scared off by the massive construction work, dust and debris. The ones that survive will find that their open space and free flights have been replaced and impaired by concrete buildings all around them. The first mayor of the city of Hialeah (James Bright) donated public land for the people. Hialeah Park was public land owned by the city of Hialeah. How our city official handed this park over to the Brunetti family should be investigated by a federal agency. This is OUR park, rightfully so, and no one had the right to give it away. Please help in any way you can on getting the word out about this. Please help stop this massive development plan and let us reconquer our historic park.

Sincerely yours,

Milly Herrera
Hialeah, Florida

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays. by Fran Bohnsack

The Board of Directors of the Urban Environment League, wishes all our friends and neighbors in the community a very happy holiday season!

We hope to see you in the new year at our forum on State Amendment 4 on January 20th!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Bob Graham Pep Talk to Activists At UEL Dinner December 1st. by Barbara Falsey

Talk about timing! Just as I was about to give up on good government – locally, nationally and around the world – I attended the UEL dinner December 1st. Not only is it always great to see friends and fellow concerned Miamians over a good meal and a glass (or two) of wine – but this time we all got a little shot in the arm from Senator Graham.

Soft spoken, kind and very persistent, he encouraged us all to keep up the good fight. His new book, America’s Owners Manual, Making Government Work for You, calls for a renewed emphasis on teaching – and practicing – basic civics.

I bet that lots of UEL members can remember their student government days and the classes that taught us things like how a bill becomes a law. I can see in my mind’s eye the teachers who spoke encouragingly about making the system work and the role we could play in that. I would also bet that I am not alone in having scars on my forehead from banging my head up against the system and struggling to maintain an attitude of skeptical optimism when I watched “the system” fail and learned to “follow the money” to understand why.

Senator Graham’s point is that if citizens don’t have a clue about the system (who governs what decisions, how legislation works, and how to influence the system) things will only get worse. He described the origins of this book as a high school class he co-taught years ago and recently revisited while at the Kennedy School.

He reminded us of individuals (Barbara Capitan for one) who kept up the good fight even in the face of lost battles. He also stood before us as someone who, after a long career in the “system,” has managed to keep his optimism, keep his temper, and keep on – as we used to say – keeping on in spite of disappointments and conflicts we can only imagine.

I was struck again by a sense of his core decency and decided that I won’t give up – just yet. Good government is a worthy goal; honorable leadership, decency and optimism are worth fighting for. And good friends and a glass (or two) of wine was just what I needed to remind me that it is up to all of us to encourage and support the generations who are just entering the fray. Thanks UEL.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Do Off Road Vehicles Belong in Big Cypress National Preserve?

The Miami-Dade Parks Department is pursuing a proposal to build a visitor center, 80 car/trailer parking lot as well as 15 miles of off road vehicle trails in the middle of the Big Cypress National Preserve at the old jetport site. While the site is located within the boundaries of the Preserve in Collier County, the land is owned by the Dade Aviation Department.

The proposal, which also includes an archery range, hiking trails and fishing ponds, is pending for approval before the Collier County Commission on January 19. If approved by Collier, the proposal will be transmitted to the state's Department of Community Affairs for further review. Existing trails at the site will be hardened for usage while others will be eliminated.

The ORV trails will be limited to an area south of the existing runway in a wetland area inhabited by wading birds. In fact, the entire site is wetland with the exception of 7% which consists of fill areas and borrow pits. The borrow pits presently hold fish and are used for fishing. They also hold alligators.

Environmental and financial objections to the plan are numerous. Some are noted below:

               1) The site lies within primary habitat of the endangered Florida panther as well as within primary and secondary bear habitat.
               2)  Almost the entire site consists of wetlands that provide habitat for wading birds including the endangered wood stork.
               3)  The drainage plan indicates the perimeter of the property would be bermed thereby limiting sheet flow across the site.
               4)  Existing borrow pits, presently used for fishing, would be used for stormwater management requiring infrastructure that will cause additional impact to the wetlands.
               5) The site is flooded for at least six months of the year and will not be available to ORV users during that time limiting the park's operation to 5-6 months since it will not be used during the very dry season either.
               6) The site lies at least an hour's drive from Dade's populated areas increasing fuel consumption as well as adding to the stress on the Tamiami Trail.
               7) The anticipated ORV usage will result in soil erosion and loss of wildlife habitat.
               8) Fishing and hiking are already permitted at the site.
               9)The site is presently designated for conservation purposes by Collier County and is an environmentally sensitive area of critical state concern.     
              10)Unauthorized riders(those without permits issued by Big Cypress)will be able to access the existing ORV trail system within the national preserve.
              11) No management plan has been formulated. That means that the parks department has no idea what a daily ridership quota will be nor whether a permit system will be required. Parks does not even have an idea of the number of riders that the site can tolerate. Big Cypress issues 2000 yearly permits for 400 miles of ORV trails. This site, which lies within the preserve, will have 15 miles of trails. Do the math!
              12) Pursuant to agreement between Dade and Collier, Collier will be entitled to half the ORV drivers allowed at the site despite not being obligated to contribute to the costs. Consequently, Dade taxpayers may face a significant investment without significant ridership at the site.
              13) Unfunded costs associated with the application process amount to almost $900,000. This includes approximately $750,000 for an environmental impact statement that must be submitted and approved by the Corps of Engineers before a permit to fill wetlands can be granted. This means that taxpayers will have to hand over almost one million dollars before a permit will even be considered. These costs will be incurred prior to any construction costs and the permit may not even be issued.
              14) Parks has no idea how much it will cost to operate a completed park nor whether the park will be financially sustainable. 

Does this sound like a good idea?     

Monday, December 21, 2009

County Commissioner Javier Souto wants County Reform

The Urban Environment League is looking at County Commissioner Souto's proposals for more transparency in County Government. Michael Lewis, Publisher of Miami Today, has challenged Civic Groups to come to Souto's support:

In this instance there is a natural alliance between a commissioner seeking county hall openness and groups that claim they want it too. He won't be asking them for help, but they should reach out and offer aid. Mr. Souto has shown courage by blowing the whistle. Let's see who has the civic guts to hear the call and respond.

According to Lewis:

Mr. Souto is anxious to shine the light of day into hidden county matters for voters and taxpayers to see. He says he feels the public clamoring for that.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Merrill-Stevens Drydock & Repair Co. Will Be Closing Its Doors Today

The company was incorporated in 1885 in Jacksonville, Florida by James Eugene Merrill. The company is closing operation by the end of today according to reports.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Watson Island Developer Wants More Time

Flagstone developer Mehmet Bayraktar is asking the City of Miami for more time to finance the project on Watson Island. He offered the City $500,000 to cover back rent. It will be discussed today by the City of Miami Commission.

Years back, the Urban Environment League protested the development as it was slated for public land. A citizen referendum approved the project. After the vote, the UEL was able to get some concessions. An agreement between UEL and Flagstone was signed, sanctioned by the County Commission, to allow UEL to monitor and report on their public access commitments, based on progress during implementation.

The Miami Herald said, referring to Bayraktar's letter:

The letter does not say how much more time Bayraktar wants. It says the developer has all the permits needed to start building but still lacks construction dollars for the effort. As part of an extension deal, according to the letter, Bayraktar would open Flagstone's books to show the company spent $46 million on the project, which Miami voters approved in a November 2001 referendum.

Would it be to the advantage of the City to deny the extension and reclaim the land for public use, and get rid of the development altogether? Commissioner Sarnoff doesn't think so, according to the Herald:

Marc Sarnoff, chairman of the City Commission, said he's skeptical of giving Bayraktar a lengthy extension but wants wants Miami to consider his offer. The project owes more than $400,000 in rent, Sarnoff said, and pays about $90,000 a month -- making the lease particularly valuable given Miami's dire budget squeeze.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dinner to Honor William Cary, Head of the Department of Preservation of Miami Beach

A group of Miami Beach preservationists have organized a dinner to honor William Cary to be held on January 19. Details are in the invitation below. Please join us!

William's most recent significant accomplishment is providing leadership for the recently approved Morris Lapidus Historic District, which includes the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc Hotels. The story needs to be told:without William's dedication, persistence, and courage, these iconic landmarks would have been demolished or severely altered.

Since William's arrival in Miami Beach, he has definitely been the most important "preservationist" in town. Through his efforts-and the efforts of the members of the very excellent Planning Department of Miami Beach, such as Jorge Gomez, Tom Mooney, Joyce Meyers, Deborah Tackett, Katia Hirsh and Gary Held, numerous other historic districts such as the North Shore Resort District, the Collins Avenue Waterfront District have been created.

Most recently, the City of Miami Beach Planning Department got approval for two new Federal Register Historic Districts-the North Shore Historic District and Normandy Isles Historic District. These districts, which are both in North Beach, predominantly feature MiMo residential architecture. The Districts collectively include 676 structures, and rival in size the Deco District of South Beach.

It is sometimes easy to criticize government. But when good things are done by hard working people, we should recognize that. Please join us to celebrate William's outstanding achievements.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

City of Miami Community Relations Board Now Accepting Applications to Serve on Board

City of Miami Community Relations Board
Now Accepting Applications to Serve on Board
-Deadline to submit an application is December 31, 2009-
(Miami, Florida)- The City of Miami Community Relations Board (CRB) is accepting applications from City of Miami residents who are interested in serving on this voluntary board.  Deadline to submit application is Thursday, December 31, 2009.
Each member must be a resident of the City of Miami.  Each member is expected to serve a minimum of 10 hours a month. Board terms are for three years.
Individuals interested in applying may send their application and resume to: 
Office of City Manager
3500 Pan American Drive, 2nd Floor
Miami, FL 33133
Or call at (305)250-5305
Attn.: Ada Rojas or
For additional information, please contact Ada Rojas at 305-250-5305 or email

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looking for Organic Produce? By Patricia Harris

Local organic produce has been a rarity at local farmer's markets. That is about to change this season with the introduction of two local organic farms at area farmers' markets:

1. Paradise Farms at 405 Biltmore Way, Coral Gables Farmers' Market (Sat, 8am-1 pm); and

2. Bee Heaven Farm/Redland Organics at Pinecrest Gardens Green Market (Sun,9-2) Pinecrest Gardens (the former Parrot Jungle), on the corner of Red Road (SW 57th Avenue) and Killian Drive (SW 112/111th Street).

Here are two other farmers' markets where you can buy organic, but not necessarily local, produce:

1. Glaser Organic Farms at 3300 Grand Avenue, Coconut Grove Organic Market (Sat, 10am-7pm); and

2. Josh's Organic Garden at Harrison Street and South Boardwalk in Hollywood.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What is Rodney Barreto Saying? By Urban Legend

During a kickoff luncheon for the Superbowl on Monday, host committee chairman Rodney Barreto hinted that public funds should be used to revamp Land Shark Stadium:

This game's awarded to the community, not the Dolphins, the community needs to come together and ask, Is this important to us?"

Some of us in the community think that money to prop up sports stadiums has gotten out of hand and that enough is enough! For instance, we need to focus on putting money towards unfunded infrastructure and long lasting job creation. Tourist tax money can be used for transportation. It also can be used for creating/renovating a convention center that would bring us more tourists and year-round business. However, the tourist tax money might be tapped out after the Marlin's Stadium sucks it dry. Tourist taxes have dwindled because of the tough economy, yet the County has based withdrawals from it on the forecasts of better years.

The question is, how many stadiums does this community have to subsidize before the people yell "Foul"?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sarasota Herald-Tribune examination found that the promises made by oil drilling proponents are largely empty

The oil industry makes its case for drilling within a few miles of Florida’s coast by trumpeting a new kind of drilling that is “virtually invisible” on the coast. By Jeremy Wallace

The promise of subsea systems swayed some legislators to support opening Florida’s waters to drilling. But a Herald-Tribune examination found that the promises made by drilling proponents are largely empty:

• One of the subsea systems being touted is almost exclusively used in water that is thousands of feet deeper than Florida’s coastal waters.

• Even the American Petroleum Institute concedes that subsea systems are intended for water more than 5,000 feet deep. Florida’s coastline, within the 10 miles the state controls, runs no deeper than 100 feet.

• Another system being promoted, a floating drilling system that uses large vessels tied to subsea drilling wells instead of fixed drilling platforms, has never been used anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico.

• The only way subsea systems would be viable off Florida’s coast is if large traditional drilling platforms were built nearby or the state allowed refineries and miles of pipelines to shore. History shows that is not likely to happen. A new oil refinery has not been built in the United States since the 1970s.

Absent such changes, drilling off Florida’s coast would likely be done with traditional fixed drilling platforms rising hundreds of feet above the water. These platforms, which dot the Louisiana and Texas coastlines, have for years symbolized Florida’s opposition to drilling.

To read more...hit on the link above. The UEL has taken a position AGAINST further oil drilling. See our resolution.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Go to The Everglades Coalition Meeting January 8th or 9th

The UEL is a member of the Everglades Coalition. Although the conference goes from January 7 - 10, one day will suit most tastes. Take a ride to attend their conference in Palm Beach Gardens. It is $100 for the day if you register early (before Dec. 10th). You will learn a lot and meet some fascinating people. Here is a brief description of the event:

The Coalition's Annual Conference seeks to raise critical, timely issues for in-depth debates in an open, accessible forum. Attended by decision-makers from federal, state, local and tribal governments, agency representatives, stakeholders and a vast array of public and private interests, the conference is the largest annual forum for debate of Everglades conservation and restoration.

Here is Friday and Saturday's program so you can choose a day for the trip to Palm Beach Gardens (hit on the image and it will enlarge):