Miami Dade County Community Forum

Friday, December 31, 2010

Lets guarantee the Historical Preservation of Hialeah Park. By Milly Herrera

If John Brunetti and the city of Hialeah are allowed to proceed with plans to mass develop Hialeah Park, putting hotel towers for close to 900 rooms, parking garages, a shopping mall (which would even allow supermarkets) inside Hialeah park, they are going to destroy this beautiful piece of land and divert business from other sectors of our city. There is little creativity for sustainable, on-going projects and events using the existing structures and land to provide a variety of different venues throughout the year that would guarantee Hialeah's financial stability; this is simply not on the agenda because the goal of these men is development of this land for their financial gain.

I hope people could know what is really happening - a few rich guys trying to get richer, taking away this "public land," a case of probable public corruption, and, ultimately, the destruction of Hialeah Park. Brunetti lost the license to race years prior to the end of his lease contract, which gave Hialeah first option to re-purchase the land, the transfer of land to Brunetti did not go through a voter referendum as outlined in the contract, and a political contributor to Julio Robaina's 2005 mayoral race was the one hired to demolish the historic stables. There have also been multiple and different attempts to develop the land in the last few years.

The Miami Herald should do an in-depth investigation and report the other side of this story to help inform the public.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

National Park Service has made a bad decision. By Matt Schwartz

This past Thanksgiving, south Floridians reading their morning paper were greeted by a story in the Sun Sentinel.

The article reported a decision by the National Park Service (NPS) to permit motorized recreation on 146,000 acres of what is likely the most pristine wildlife habitat remaining in south Florida. The NPS plan will create a 130 mile network of primary off-road vehicle (ORV) trails in the Big Cypress National Preserve Addition Lands. Two parking lots, a still to be determined number of secondary trails, and a campground will also be constructed to accommodate the influx of new motorized visitors. The complete NPS decision can be downloaded at the preserve's website here.

South Florida Wildlands Association, along with numerous local, state, and national organizations, is deeply opposed to this decision.

WHAT'S AT STAKE?

The Addition Lands are a national treasure. Added to the 582,000 acres of the original preserve by The Big Cypress National Preserve Addition Act of 1988, the Senate report accompanying this legislation referred to the Addition as "one of the few remaining large parcels of pristine land left in Florida" and noted "its environmental importance and beauty is unquestioned." On the House side, the Addition was referred to as an area of "unique wild beauty," and as "habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the Florida panther, the bald eagle, native orchids and many other species."

This finding is no surprise to the many who regularly visit the Addition on foot. They come to experience south Florida as it existed long before our region became home to 6 million residents and a vacation destination for many millions more. Bird and animal watchers, hikers, nature photographers, native plant enthusiasts and even amateur astronomers all enjoy the tranquil beauty of a piece of land that is also habitat for 31 listed animals (endangered, threatened, or species of special concern) as well as hundreds of native plants (96 of which are listed by the State of Florida as threatened or endangered). See this story from the Miami Herald for an idea of what a 'swampwalk' in the Addition Lands is like.

THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE DECISION

In their own discussion of the ecological impacts expected from their decision, the NPS provides the following summary:

"The key impacts of implementing the preferred alternative would include moderate, long-term, adverse, and mostly localized impacts on surface water flow; long-term, moderate, adverse and potentially Addition-wide impacts on exotic/nonnative plants; long-term, moderate, adverse and mostly localized impacts on (likely to adversely affect) the Florida panther; long term, minor to moderate, adverse and mostly localized impacts on (likely to adversely affect) the red-cockaded woodpecker; long-term, minor to moderate, adverse and mostly localized impacts on major game species."

See photo for a look at what ORV impacts in the Big Cypress look like on the ground.

This photo was taken just before NPS opened an area of the preserve (eastern Bear Island - adjacent to the Addition Lands) to public motorized recreation. After claiming this trail could sustain motor vehicle use, NPS was forced to close it after less than one season of use due to excessive damage to soils and vegetation.

To say the least, this is a strange decision on the part of folks who are supposed to be stewards of one of America's most unique places. Every single piece of legislation, regulation and guidance dealing with the management of National Park Service units, from the Organic Act of 1916 to the 2006 NPS Management Policies, stresses the need to put natural resource protection before recreation. As summed up by former Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne in 2006:

"When there is a conflict between conserving resources unimpaired for future generations and the use of those resources, conservation will be predominant," Kempthorne said. "That is the heart of these policies and the lifeblood of our Nation's commitment to care for these special places and provide for their enjoyment."

What is also strange about this decision is the number of people it will actually benefit. Of the 65,000 registered off-road vehicles in south Florida (nearly 250,000 in the state according the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) NPS intends to cap the number of off-road vehicle permits for the Addition at 650 (the vast majority of the original preserve is already open to motor vehicles and has an annual cap of 2000 permits). In other words, a still largely pristine resource owned by over 300 million Americans is about to be seriously degraded by the NPS for the recreation and enjoyment of far less than 1 percent of Florida's off-road vehicle community. Millions of dollars will be spent on parking lots, trail construction, stabilization, signage, security, law enforcement, maintenance, and (eventually) restoration, for a fragile piece of land that is unsuitable in every way for what the NPS itself refers to as a 'high impact recreational activity'.

A few words about the effects this decision is likely to have on the Florida panther. This year marks a new record in panther mortality with 23 deaths recorded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission - 16 by vehicle collision (four in December alone), 6 by 'intraspecific aggression' (fights to the death between panthers over dwindling territory and food supply), and one from unknown causes. Of the estimated 80 to 100 panthers which still manage to survive in south Florida, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified 29 radio collared panthers known to be using the Addition Lands and closely surrounding areas. A number of uncollared panthers are also known to be present.

In their plan for the Addition, NPS draws on established panther science and accurately describes the panther's needs as follows:

"In general, panther population centers appear to indicate a preference toward large, remote tracts with adequate prey, cover, and reduced levels of human disturbance." They add that the "survival and recovery of the Florida panther is dependent on.protection and enhancement of the extant population, associated habitats, and prey resources" and recommend the reduction of "hunting pressure on panther prey species, especially deer and hogs" and the regulation of "ORV use and other human activities more closely because of potential disturbance to panther habitat".

Unfortunately, the plan being put forward by the NPS goes in a completely different direction from what their own science recommends. It fragments panther habitat, makes it less remote, removes large amounts of prey, reduces cover, and greatly increases levels of human disturbance. In short, it is the exact opposite of the type of management which should occur in one of the Florida panther's last holdouts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the lead agency for protection of the panther, has also weighed in on this plan - and unfortunately have given it their qualified support. In their Biological Opinion, the FWS opinion discounts three previous scientific studies referenced in their own "Panther Recovery Plan" which found decreases in use of habitat by panthers during periods of heightened ORV activity. The full recovery plan is here.

Going back decades, the local office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a near perfect record of approving well over a hundred new residential and commercial developments in panther habitat. Having decided this year not to grant the panther critical habitat protection (the panther itself is protected - it's habit much less so), their response to opening up the Addition Lands to motorized hunting follows the same familiar pattern of concern followed by ultimate approval:

"...it is the Service's biological opinion that implementation of the PA (NPS's preferred alternative) for the Addition Lands, as proposed, is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Florida panther. No critical habitat has been designated for this species; therefore, none will be affected."

With FWS acknowledging that nearly one percent of the panther's remaining habitat is lost each year to development, the long term outlook for Florida's state animal and the only big cat in the eastern United States is not good. A video produced by a colleague several years ago explains the plight of the panther on private lands outside the preserve (and demonstrates why protected public lands and critical habitat designation are so important):

http://m1e.net/c?107293666-.5Lh4XK8XWnMo%406041371-jjQdu2dEnr3MI

And this photo essay of southwest Florida (a bird's eye view of what all this permitted development in panther habitat actually looks like) simply has to be seen to be believed:

http://m1e.net/c?107293666-ZF5zPwm/ShBzE%406041372-PbOw/QCY/5XB6

It should also be noted that while the Addition is bordered to the south and west by the original preserve, it is also bordered to the north by the Seminole and to the east by the Miccosukee tribal lands. Both tribes are deeply opposed to an NPS plan that will bring motorized recreation to their borders. Their concerns include the likelihood of increased incursions and game poaching on tribal lands; disturbance to native American archaeological sites as well as ceremonial sites currently in use in the Addition; spread of invasive plant species on tribal lands; negative impacts to major game species with potentially severe consequences for the panther; and disruption of wildlife migrations between tribal lands and the Addition.

Another group opposing this plan is the Florida Trail Association. They are being removed from a major section of their 1,000 mile trail between Big Cypress and Gulf Islands National Seashore, in use by hikers for at least 30 years, to make way for the new off-road vehicle routes. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has urged that NPS change course and select a plan (Alternative F) which maximizes federal wilderness in the Addition and allows no use of recreational motor vehicles. The EPA's question to the NPS and FWS on how the removal of prey for the Florida panther will impact the species' survival continues to go unanswered.

Apologies for a long email - obviously this is a complex topic. Hopefully the holidays will give you a chance to catch up on some reading. If you've made it this far, please take a moment to send National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis a message. Advise him not to sign this decision on January 4th (the date currently scheduled for formal approval). Instead, ask him to choose a different course of action (Alternative F) which protects a unique and rare wilderness area for people and wildlife, creates maximum federal wilderness in the Addition, and is consistent with the true spirit of the National Park Service. As stated in the Organic Act of 1916, the mission of the National Park Service is:

"to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Director Jarvis can be contacted at:

jon_jarvis@nps.org

While South Florida Wildlands Association is a new Florida 501(c)3 non-profit (April, 2010), our work on this issue goes back years.

If you have the ability to do so, any financial help you can offer to this effort is greatly appreciated and will help South Florida Wildlands Association protect wildlife habitat in Big Cypress and throughout the greater Everglades. This battle will not be an easy one, but protection of what's worth protecting seldom is. Contributions in any amount can be made by check and mailed to:

South Florida Wildlands Association
P.O. Box 30211
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

Best wishes for the holidays and the New Year. Feel free to call or email with any questions or comments. And feel free to pass this email on to others you believe would be interested.

Matt Schwartz
Executive Director
South Florida Wildlands Association
954-634-7173
southfloridawild@yahoo.com

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays. By Fran Bohnsack



On behalf of the Board of Directors and Members of the Urban Environment League, we wish you a very happy holiday season!

We will return after January 1st.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Save the Date: UEL Bus Tour - February 4th


We are finalizing our bus tour but we thought you might want a glimpse at what we are planning so far!

Entry in the prestigious Rubell Gallery, lunch at a trendy Wynwood restaurant, a visit to a farm in Little Haiti. Yes! A farm. A tour of the Zyscovich designed Little Haiti Cultural Center. There will be more galleries/wall murals in Wynwood to satisfy art lovers and other stops for those curious to learn about and see more of the MIMO district and the upper East Side in the City of Miami.

Contact us if you want the invite the first week of January...uelinfo@bellsouth.net

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Celebrating the Life of Emilie Young

It is with great sadness that we announce that Ms. Emilie Young, an Urban Environment League Board Member, passed away this past weekend in South Miami hospital after a brave battle with cancer. As many of you know, Ms. Young was the director of Miami Dade County's Environmentally Endangered Land Program from its creation in 1990 to her retirement in 2008. Ms. Young made an enormous impact on the local environment, and left as her legacy, thousands of acres of protected natural areas. She oversaw the acquisition and maintenance of nearly 18,000 acres of land that celebrate the natural heritage of South Florida. The areas of rockridge pineland, tropical hardwood hammock, freshwater and coastal wetlands that she acquired will forever remind us of her love of the natural world, her commitment to the future of this county, and her incredible skill at negotiating a good deal for the County taxpayers.

Memorial services for Emilie Young will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Wed, Dec. 22, 2010 at St Matthew the Apostle Episcopal Church, 7410 Sunset Drive, Miami, Florida. An additional event, celebrating Emilie’s Life, is being planned for a weekend sometime in the spring at either Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens or the Charles Deering Estate; details will be provided as they become available. Donations in Emilie's name can be made to Free to Breathe (www.freetobreathe.com).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Siffin Proposed Dual Mega-Media Towers by Beatriz Baldanrice

The examples Siffin’s use to justify his sign, well not really himself, he speaks thru others, his willing “supporters”, like Times Square, London, Tokyo, etc; none of these places as well as many other major cities have the intrusive impact that his project has.

In Time’s Square for example the signage is confined in an area that goes from 42nd St to 45th St flanked by 7th Ave on the west and Broadway Ave on the East. With the renovation of 42nd St., the signage has extended along 42nd Avenue between 7th and 8th Avenues. In either case no sign is above any building height.

On the other streets surrounding this area the only other signs are the theater and hotel marquees. And on Broadway Ave as well as 7th Avenue beyond 42ns ST South and 45th St North there are no more illuminated signs. It can be seen in the photos that beyond these limits are dark.


Times Square facing south


Times Square facing north


Tokyo, Same thing happens; the illuminated signage is restricted to a restricted commercial area, and never going above existing structures.


London, Piccadilly Circus-The illuminated signage is restricted to the Piccadilly Circus surrounding buildings and not to all of the building, because no signage is allowed on buildings of historical significance.


Paris at dawn, no visible signage and the tallest structure still is the Eifel Tower


I can go on and on, no mayor cities on the world have the signage Siffin has proposed to do. All these places have their own character and history like we do, Miami is a great place, we have our own character, and we do not need, in my opinion an oversize advertising icon to pollute our city. Miami is not Las Vegas.


And just as a comparison, the Washington Monument with 555 feet high, it is about the same height, once these LED intermittent light structures are in place. These full blast illuminated structures three times and twice wide each than the Washington Monument, is what we will see in the night Miami Skyline if this project gets build.

Flatrion Building, NY, at 287 Feet height is roughly 100 feet shorter than the proposed signs. Now, imagine this full blast and with intermittent lights all night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Listen305 Radio Show Tonight at 7 pm!


Miami From A Distance

Curtis, Jo Ellen and Rob are from here, but they left Miami for greener pastures. Jonathan grew up in New York City, and used to visit his grandparents on Miami Beach. Cari's dad abandoned her mom—and her—for the party life in the 305. Franca visited Miami from Germany once with her mother—fulfilling her mom's dream of traveling to Miami before she died.

What does Miami mean to folks who see it from a distance? We'll find out Monday when we call out to people around the globe. And we'll hear from our Farmers' Market reporter Kristin Jayd, who'll join us live from the inaugural Homestead Farmers' Market on Krome Avenue by the Seminole Theater.

Join us for Listen305 Monday and add your voice to the conversation by calling 305 541-2350, or by tweeting @Listen305. Or leave your comments or questions now, at Listen305.com.

There are THREE WAYS to listen to Listen305:

1. Listen Live to Listen305 Monday night at 7, on The Biz 880 AM Radio.
2. Stream the show live at 880TheBiz.com, at 7 on Monday.
3. Listen to the podcast recording the day after at http://Listen305.com. You can even listen now to last week's show, at the same site: http://Listen305.com.

Friday, December 10, 2010

News on the Miami River: District Court Affirms "Working River" Opinions


After nearly seven years of litigation brought by the marine industry and neighbors together against the City and developers over three high-rise condominium developments on the Miami River, today the District Court affirmed its earlier opinions that the massive condominiums were approved in violation of the City’s comprehensive plan.

Plaintiffs the Miami River Marine Group, Captain Beau Payne, Ann Stetser and the Durham Park Neighborhood Association retained attorney Andrew Dickman in 2004 when the City approved developments “Hurricane Cove,” Coastal of the River,” and “Brisas Del Rio” in the vicinity of the 22nd Ave Bridge. All together, these project would have changed 25 acres of prime marine industrial property to high-rise residential. After disappointing losses at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, the plaintiffs and attorney Andrew Dickman appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal. The District Court, in 2007, struck down the approved projects but the developers quickly motioned the District Court for a rehearing. The opinions rendered today deny the developers’ motions.

The three opinions, collectively 302 pages, including dissents, buttress a recent settlement arising from litigation between the Florida Department of Community Affairs and the Miami River Marine Group against the City. The City, under its prior leadership, had attempted to re-write its comprehensive plan to downgrade the Miami River working waterfront by encouraging more residential development that would displace marine uses. The settlement approved by Mayor Regalado and the new City Commission emphasizes preservation of working waterfront properties, promoting the Port of Miami River to expand the City’s employment base, and progressive collaboration among all the Miami River stakeholders, marine and non-marine alike.

The opinions and the settlement now position the Miami River as a world class destination for shallow draft shipping, mega yacht repairs, local marinas, and the host of related businesses that support a working waterfront of this caliber.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Recall of County Commissioner Natacha Seijas

A group called Miami Voice has delivered petitions to The County Clerk, Harvey Ruvin, asking for a recall of County Commissioner Natacha Seijas from District 13 (Miami Lakes and Hialeah).

Ruvin's office will verify the signatures to determine if the PAC, Miami Voice, has met the threshold of 3,591 (4% of the registered voters in the district). Norman Braman has admitted that he gave $5,000 to the PAC but he is not connected with the effort.

Besides her role as County Commissioner, Ms. Seijas is head of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. OEDIT is the Miami-Dade County government agency that recommends to the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners the County’s economic development and international trade policies.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Launch of Catalyst Miami is December 9th

Catalyst Miami Launch
6-9pm on Thursday, December 9
800 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Food and Catalini Cocktails will be served
________________________________________________________________________

Human Services Coalition Launches new capacity building initiative for non-profits: Catalyst Miami.

The Human Services Coalition (HSC) will officially announce the organization’s new name and a new model for social change: Catalyst Miami. For the past 15 years, this Miami-based non-profit has promoted civic engagement, economic prosperity, and increased access to healthcare for Miami-Dade residents.

HSC accomplishments include founding the Prosperity Campaign, now a statewide effort to link eligible residents in need of economic stability with financial services and healthcare programs that has tapped into more than $100 million in federal funding set aside for Florida; establishing the Civic Life Academy, training more than 500 residents to be advocates for their communities at every level of government; and coordinating the Pennywise Campaign, which this year successfully convinced Miami-Dade County government to preserve funding for social services in the current budget by rolling back the property tax rate to prior levels.

Catalyst Miami recognizes the role of the Human Services Coalition as a catalyst for social change, helping diverse individuals and organizations work together to improve health, education, and economic opportunity in all our communities.

The new name also reflects a new model for social change:

1. Catalyst Miami prepares individuals to serve as community leaders.
2. Catalyst Miami builds stronger organizations through capacity building: incubating new nonprofits; helping established nonprofits innovate; and brokering shared services (from accounting to marketing to IT) that allow nonprofits to focus on their mission.
3. Catalyst Miami provides structures and practices that that make it possible for diverse partners to work together, from grassroots organizers and fellow nonprofits to major foundations, schools, hospitals, and financial institutions.

The launch party for Catalyst Miami, held at ArtCenter/South Florida on Lincoln Road, celebrates HSC’s 15 years of social change by awarding the first annual Catalyst Awards to community leaders in children’s well-being (David Lawrence, The Children’s Trust); civic engagement (Cesar Conde, Univision); economic prosperity (Eduardo Padron, Miami Dade College); education (Isaac Prilletensky, University of Miami); and healthcare (Jacqui Colyer, Department of Children and Families).

The Catalyst Miami launch also recognizes HSC as an innovator by introducing to Miami the BeeTagg, a new communications technology that delivers online messages to smart phone users who swipe a special bar code. Guests at the launch will test this new technology by swiping BeeTaggs that will direct their phones to messages about HSC history and Catalyst Miami’s future.

To help guests grasp the concept of Catalyst Miami, the launch party will feature a collaborative art installation where each guest will add a “particle” to a molecular model that represents coming together for social change. For more information about Catalyst Miami, please visit their website.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Miami Art Museum (MAM) Broke Ground in Bicentennial Park


Andres Viglucci wrote in the Miami Herald that the Miami Art Museum held a ceremonial ground-breaking on their $200,000,000 Herzog & DeMeuron structure on Tuesday. The actual dirt movement will be on or around December 15th. Viglucci says:

If it happens as scheduled, that initial phase would mark a consequential milestone in plans to transform the barely used park into a cultural centerpiece for downtown Miami -- a strategy that has been dogged by some degree of controversy and doubts over its feasibility.

The Urban Environment League has been divided on the use of Bicentennial Park to house museums. As the article states:

But the plan has come under criticism from parks activists who say the buildings would eat up too much open space, while some prominent art-world figures question whether MAM, with a relatively small collection of contemporary art and a low profile, merits a $200 million, taxpayer-financed building. Others have questioned whether the art and science museums can meet ambitious private fundraising goals for construction and subsequent operation of the large, complex new buildings, especially amid the economic collapse of the past couple of years.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't Miss Art Basel on Miami Beach - Today through Sunday



The Art Basel website says:

Art Basel Miami Beach is the most important art show in the United States, a cultural and social highlight for the Americas. As the sister event of Switzerland's Art Basel, the most prestigious art show worldwide for the past 41 years....

We are lucky to have a show of this caliber in Miami. It is open from noon till 8 pm. On Sunday the show is over at 6 pm.

(pictured below: Adel Abdessemed's 'Mappemonde,')

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A UEL bus tour is in the planning stage.


UEL Co-President Fran Bohnsack and Board Member, Nancy Liebman have teamed up to resurrect the UEL bus tour. The tour is scheduled for a Friday in early February and will make stops around the upper-east side of the city, taking in a gallery or two. Our bus tours were one of our most popular events. The people who attended has a great time and friendships were forged among the group, out for a day of exploring.

The UEL monthly dinner schedule will resume in January.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Disappointed with The Side Show at The UEL Dinner By Fran Bohnsack

The UEL Dinner on November 17th on the proposed 25 to 35 story Media Towers (developer Mark Siffin) became a circus in itself.

The forum had a mixed panel to discuss the issue -- With Mr. Siffin himself on it. Nonetheless, the Siffin camp found it necessary to bring protesters to the event, holding signs and chanting in favor of the project. People who were attending simply to learn more about the public policy aspect of the project were made to feel uncomfortable as they walked the guantlet of protestors who seemed determined to inhibit thoughtful dialogue. The developer also filled the room with supporters who did not pay for dinner, but did hiss when something was said against the project. Miami rudeness at its finest!

The UEL has not taken a position for or against the project as our membership is divided. However, an open dialogue should not have been used by the developer's camp as a chance to shut down dissenting opinions. In addition, the developer offered very little of substance to the discussion.

Whereas I am normally very pleased with the quality and substance of UEL's programs,
this one left me with a bad taste -- so much so that I am contemplating asking the UEL Board to
reconsider our policy of free admittance to the program portion of our monthly dinners
I would like to know what others think.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Miami International Book Fair


The Miami International Book Fair came to a close on Sunday. It was a terrific line-up of speakers including George W. Bush. The Fair took place at the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College. It was well attended and considered a success. This was the 27th edition of this event.

Here is a photo history of the event. The Miami International Book Fair is an event that gets people downtown to see that it is a friendly, safe place to go. One disappointment, most of the surrounding shops were closed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The UEL Dinner on the Advertising Towers Near the Arsht Center

About 75 people attended the dinner forum on Economics vs. Visual Pollution: Mega Ad Towers and Public Media in Miami-Dade's Future.



Miami Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez makes a point that media towers might have a place in downtown, the question is where are they appropriate. Gregory Bush, Moderator, looks on.



Mark Siffin listens as Dusty Melton makes a point about Miami Dade County signage law.



Gregory Bush, Mark Siffin and Eston "Dusty" Melton.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

RSVP Today for the UEL Dinner!

Two New Faces on The County Commission.

District 8 and District 2 County Commissioners were sworn in today. Jean Monestime will replace Dorrin Rolle in District 2 and Lynda Bell will replace Katy Sorenson in District 8.

We hope to have a good working relationship with both County Commissioners.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Recall of Mayor Alvarez

The mayor contends that recalls are part of the Democratic process, but the Mayor will not stand by and watch a campaign of misinformation and opportunism unfold without putting up a fight.

The main reason people are clamoring for the recall is that Mayor Alvarez proposed a budget that raised taxes. He did not vote on the budget or approve it, the County Commissioners did that.

Mr. Norman Braman has financed the recall effort and recently submitted the required number of petitions, and then some, to recall the Mayor. The Mayor promptly filed a lawsuit questioning the assistant clerk's approval of the original petition form (the Clerk was required to sign according to the Mayor's attorneys and the Home Rule Charter. Harvey Ruvin, the clerk, said he could appoint someone to sign other than himself).

Alvarez contends that if something was done inappropriately – if the proper process wasn’t followed or if there was fraud involved in the collection of signatures he would like it to be known.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Proposed City of Miami Media Towers, Subject of UEL Dinner November 17th


Don't miss the discussion Wednesday, November 17th. We have a panel on both sides of the issue. Frank Rollason, UEL Board member, thinks the towers have merit to help the financially strapped city and he wrote a blog post here in favor of the towers on August 12th. Others are not so kind saying the light will be too bright from the towers and that they will be a garish addition to the Performing Arts Center area. Our panel will present both sides and let you decide. We have Dusty Melton, a consultant involved with billboards issues for years who will be arguing the legality issues of signage. The Developer Mark Siffin will make his case for the towers. County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez will round out our panel.

Hit on the invite below to enlarge it and reserve for the dinner today!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bill Brinton to Speak on Billboards November 12th

Miami on the Move is holding this event:

Latin Cafe 2000, 2501 Biscayne Blvd (25th Street), Miami, on Friday, November 12th, 8AM-9:30AM

Bill Brinton, Prominent Jacksonville Lawyer, Expert on Zoning and Billboards, and Board Member of Scenic America will discuss the recently approved 40+ story electronic "Media Towers" by developer Mark Siffin.

Bill Brinton, a tireless fighter for sane billboard policy in Florida and around the country, has kindly agreed to talk to us about the two uber giant mega electronic billboards that are slated to be built atop the Adrienne Arsht Center's new garage complex. He will discuss the fine points of billboard law, the appropriate approval process and/or the lack thereof, and his organization Scenic America, founded to limit billboard pollution in our cities and along our highways. For those interested, Bill will stay afterward to discuss how to start a local Scenic America chapter.

Please join us for this important meeting that will take place Friday, November 12th, 8AM-9:30AM.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Michael Lewis of Miami Today says leave well enough alone.

Editor of Miami Today, Michael Lewis says:

We'd be far better off if governments grappled with vital problems and didn't create new ones by sticking fingers where they've no business meddling.

Cases in point are Miami's call to retool a well-oiled Miami Parking Authority, Miami-Dade's bid to be entrepreneur in an untested boxing arena and county officials' push to stage a new Coconut Grove Playhouse.

The parking authority feeds millions each year into city coffers. But the city has put on the Nov. 2 ballot a vote to hand authority jobs, real estate and revenues to elected officials to toy with.

Boxing is dying, but the county sports commission seeks to run a franchise in an untried global league. Prior to any vote or signed contract, a press release made it a done deal.

Outside suitors woo the playhouse, closed four years, but the county wants to grab its home, build a much smaller theater under county control and then hand the whole thing to a small independent theater producer.

Each misbegotten issue could enmesh taxpayers in tangles that don't imperil us now. In business argot, they have very strong downsides and weak upsides.

And while, unlike the others, a strong independent playhouse could help the community, governments have no business stepping into any of these bogs hiding pits of quicksand.

The issues are complex, perhaps befuddling for elected officials, but principles are clear:
Principle One: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Principle Two: If it's too badly broken, don't get bogged down in it.
Principle Three: Leave projects requiring expertise to experts.

The parking authority falls under Principle One. It chugs along smoothly, planning and developing parking under a board and budget approved by the city commission."

read more....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

County Commissioner Carlos A. Gimenez to appear on HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel Tonight!


Commissioner Carlos A. Gimenez will appear on HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 10 p.m. to discuss about his stance against the Florida Marlins Stadium deal and the controversy about the Marlins’ finances in documents released by Deadspin.com this past August.

A clip of the show can be seen at this link and the show will rebroadcast throughout November.

Check with your cable service provider to find the appropriate channel broadcasting HBO. For more information, please contact Commissioner Gimenez’s office at 305-669-4003.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hold the Date: Nov. 17th is our next dinner.

We are planning our next UEL dinner and we have a draft title of:

Public Information vs Visual Pollution: The Value of Signage and Public Media in Miami Dade

The invite will be coming soon but hold the date: November 17th.

Please Get Out The Vote!

The Urban Environment League asks you to vote and bring friends and neighbors to the polls. Call your friends and relatives in Florida and urge them to vote. We must get a good turnout because electing a State Senator and Governor with only 20% of those registered would be a crime. Let the majority put the best candidates in office. Maybe we will be happier with the way our government runs if we actually participate.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dinner Panel: Yes or No on Amendment 4

The UEL dinner on October 20th tackled the question: Is Florida Hometown Democracy (Amendment #4) The Best Answer for Growth Management? Here is the evening in pictures:


Former City of Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre makes a point in favor of Amendment 4.


Co-Presidents of UEL, Sonia Succar Ferre and Fran Bohnsack take a moment for a photo op.


County Commission Katy Sorenson spoke against Amendment 4 and Former City of Miami City Manager spoke for it.


Above: Helen Ferre moderated the Panel. Below: Former Miami Beach Mayor, Neisen Kasdin at the podium speaking against Amendment 4.


UEL Board Member Enid Pinkney and Charlayne Thompkins listen to an audience member asking a question. UEL Board Member Erika Brigman center.


UEL member Beatrix Baldan questions the speakers about the Amendment.


The audience listening to the discussion.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I Am Voting YES on Amendment 4. By Albert Harum-Avarez

We know in our gut that land use in Florida is out of the control of citizens, and so Amendment 4—Hometown Democracy—has a strong attraction for anyone who cares about Florida. Turns out this is one of those cases where you can trust your gut. Here are the main arguments against Hometown Democracy, de-constructed one by one:

1. AMENDMENT 4 (HOMETOWN DEMOCRACY) IS TOO FAR-REACHING.

Here's how the Miami Herald summarized the opponents' argument the other day: "...the amendment amounts to an indiscriminate blast that, by leaving often technically complex decisions to the unpredictability of the ballot box, could make matters worse by inhibiting smart planning while stifling development in a state heavily dependent on it for jobs."

It's a classic scare tactic, evoking lost jobs and recession. But the truth is, overdevelopment is what has made the Great Recession even GREATER in Florida. And that happened under the current rules, not under Amendment 4. What we see today is mostly bad planning, and overbuilding has left us with an economy very vulnerable to downturns. None of that can be blamed on Amendment 4—which hasn't passed yet.

2. THESE DECISIONS SHOULD BE LEFT TO ELECTED OFFICIALS, WHOM WE CAN VOTE OUT OF OFFICE IF THEY DO A POOR JOB.

Some people have swallowed the argument that elected officials should be entrusted with these Comp Plan decisions. Of course, we all know that local democracy is in a coma, induced by truckloads of developer money. County Commission incumbents have turned away challengers 56 times in a row--despite the commission's craven record on land use decisions.

If you count Katy Sorenson's win over sexual abuser Larry Hawkins 16 years ago, and if Jean Monestime is finally able to turn out bought-and-paid-for Commissioner Dorrin Rolle, the score will improve to 56 to 2. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of our democratic process. Elections have not given Florida's voters a shred of confidence in their ability to steer development in this state. That's why the Amendment 4 petition effort was supported so strongly.

3. THE RESULTING BALLOT MEASURES WILL BE NUMEROUS AND COMPLICATED.

This is a complete exaggeration. Complex administrative decisions will never get to the voters. If there is a ruling that minor technical matters have to go to a vote, The Developer Lobby will pull the strings on their legislative marionettes, and the statewide Comp Plan rules will be adjusted. Bank on it!

Please pass the word: YES on 4.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The UEL First Dinner of the Season is Tomorrow!

It is not too late to reserve for the UEL Dinner tomorrow night. The food at the Rusty Pelican is great and a bargain too! You get 3 courses, coffee/tea, tax and tip - All for $25! The cocktail 1/2 hour is friendly and newcomers feel at home quickly. We expect a lively debate on Amendment 4, after dinner.

If you have never been to a UEL dinner, or the Rusty Pelican, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Carl Fisher Story - UEL Screening. By Sonia Succar-Ferre

Our film program on Wednesday was a great success in spite of the bad weather. We hosted it in partnership with The Civic Circle. Over 50+ people attended.

The film on Carl Fisher was excellent and Dr. Gregory Bush, lead a great follow up discussion with questions from the audience.

Corruption. Miami-Style. Listen305 Monday, Oct. 18th, 7 pm, Listen305.com

Two UEL Board Members have a new radio show. They say: Join your hosts Sonia Succar and Albert Harum-Alvarez for YOUR show: YOUR chance to speak out—and LISTEN—on the issues that shape our city! Join us Monday night at 7.

Politicians buy elections. Developers buy politicians. It's an old story in South Florida politics. But this political season gives us a chance to make BIG CHANGES in the state constitution, and even give the boot to some of those corrupt politicos. Listen305 gives YOU a chance to talk it over this week.

We'll start with a primer from Dr. Paul George, on the history of political corruption in the 305. Did immigrants make it worse? Are we improving at all? Reform has been tried before: did it do any good? What do YOU think? And are you ready to CHANGE your mind?

There are THREE WAYS to listen to Listen305:

1. Listen Live to Listen305 Monday night at 7, on The Biz 880 AM Radio.
2. Stream the show live at 880TheBiz.com, at 7 on Monday.
3. Listen to the podcast recording the day after at http://Listen305.com. You can even listen now to last week's show, at the same site: http://Listen305.com.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oct. 20th EAR Meeting is cancelled.

Please be advised that the October 20, 2010 Board of County Commissioners (BCC) public hearing for the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) on the CDMP is cancelled. You will be notified of the new date for the EAR public hearing. In addition the County Calendar and the Department’s EAR website will be updated to reflect the new public hearing date when it is established.

Political Forum Oct.18, Sponsored by NAACP

There is a political forum Monday, October 18th, 6-9 pm to be held at the New Birth Baptist Church at 2300 N.W. 135 Street. They will be presenting issues from your local, state and federal candidates. For more information call 305 685-8694.

Keynote speaker, Rev. Al Sharpton.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Time to RSVP is Now for UEL Dinner October 20th!

hit on image to enlarge it...all info is on the invitation.. .reserve today! Uelinfo@bellsouth.net

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Save the Date: First UEL Dinner is October 20th

Is Florida Hometown Democracy (Amendment #4) The Best Answer for Growth Management?

Speakers: Katy Sorenson, Neisen Kasdin, Maurice Ferre, Frank Rollason

Moderator: Helen Ferre

RUSTY PELICAN on Rickenbacker Causeway, Virginia Key

6 pm: Cocktail Meet-up, Dinner 6:30: $25.00

program only: 7 pm - FREE


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

UEL EVENT: October 13th Film Screening & Discussion

THIS EVENT WAS MOVED FROM SEPTEMBER 29TH TO OCTOBER 13TH BECAUSE OF RAIN --
RSVP TO uelinfo@bellsouth.net if you want to attend this free event in Miami Beach.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Miami Green Seminar - October 9th, 2010

We would like to invite you to attend the first City of Miami Green Seminar initiated by City of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez.

“Tools for Living Green and Saving Green” Seminar

Please join us

October 9th, 2010

10:00AM-12:00PM

Miami-Dade InterAmerican Campus

627 SW 27th Avenue • Miami, FL. 33135

-Learn How Saving Energy can Save YOU Money.

-Learn how YOU can Improve your Energy and Water Efficiency in your Indoor and Outdoor areas!

-Receive a Recyclable Tote with Free Compact Fluorescents Light Bulbs*limited supplies

-SHOWERHEAD EXCHANGE: Bring Your Showerhead to Receive a Water Efficient Showerhead.

Please spread the word to your neighbors....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mr. Norman Braman Has Announced A Recall Effort Against Mayor Carlos Alvarez

Yesterday afternoon Car Dealer/Community Activist Norman Braman announced that he will finance a recall effort against Mayor Carlos Alvarez over the new budget, because, according to Brahman:

"This outrageous tax increase has been enacted while citizens are suffering economically, property values have crumbled, foreclosures are rampant and unemployment has reached almost 13 percent in our county."

Critics believe charter changes would be a better tonic for what ails the county, such as some at-large commissioners (to combat district colonialism) and term limits. For instance, former UEL President Nancy Liebman and others, formed a PAC a few years ago, called Eight in Enough to advance Term Limits on County Commissioners.

The Mayor has about two years left in his term. The Commissioners can serve as long as the voters return them to office. That has turned into a very long time.

Many at the UEL had hoped for long range changes. The Mayor's recall appears to many as a short term fix.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Car Dealer, Norman Braman, Threatens Miami Dade Mayor and Commission with a Recall.


Community activist, Norman Braman has threatened the County Government with a recall today in the Miami Herald. The Miami Herald readers are responding to the idea with gusto, for example, here is one of the 64 comments logged in:

I'm also very eager to join Norman Braman as a volunteer in his fight against the arrogant politicians running our county. Mr. Braman should be commended for his now notorious displays of civic duties. Mr. Braman not only fights city hall, when they are wrong, but he is also well known among his present and former dealerships employees, like myself, for opening the doors to well paying positions to many minorities among them Jewish, hispanics, and blacks, who were never given those opportunities until he opened his dealerships in Miami. GO MR. BRAMAN!!!


If the 64 comments at this moment are any indication, his threat might produce a success on the massive recall because there appears to be a lot of anger in the County at the proposed tax hikes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Krome Avenue: Letter from the UEL's past - October 2002.

Sent to the DCA and Miami Herald:

MAKING KROME AVENUE MORE DANGEROUS

If widening roads made them safer, South Florida would be one of the safest places to drive on the planet. Unfortunately, adding lanes adds danger, by encouraging the most reckless drivers to set the speed. This fact hasn't stopped a group of development interests in the Redland from pushing to four-lane Krome Avenue, ostensibly in the desire to make the road safer.

The Florida Department of Transportation's own statistics show that the opposite will be the case. When Alligator Alley was widened from two lanes to four, adding a substantial grassy median, the road became much more dangerous. From 1992 to 1997, traffic increased 7%, yet deaths shot up 600%. FDOT's figures show that Alligator Alley is not an isolated case. Throughout the state, two-lane highways are consistently safer than four lane highways.

Yet it is true that Krome Avenue is badly in need of improvement. The road has been the scene of several horrible accidents. That's why FDOT initiated the Krome Avenue Action Plan, a sensible consensus plan developed in 1998 with the participation of farmers, residents and commercial interests along the avenue. That plan calls for a new median, wider lanes and shoulders, and new turning lanes and lighting at critical intersections. It also calls for enforcement of speed limits, which only makes sense: reducing vehicle speed is the single most critical factor in decreasing traffic deaths.

The main difference between the consensus plan and the developers' plan is the addition of two extra lanes. Since the extra lanes would only make the road more dangerous, why add them?

It's an old story that upzoning and development follow road-widening. The story has a one-word name: Sprawl. The state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has consistently opposed the widening of Krome, because it's outside of the county's Urban Development Boundary (UDB), and because the widening would have an adverse impact on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

In a July 15th letter we received via a public records request, the state Department of Environmental Protection stated their objections this way: "The County has not provided data to support its proposed four-laning of Krome Avenue."

The DCA has presented two official objections to the widening, which reference over a dozen violations of both the Florida Statutes and the Florida Administrative Code. The first objection states that road improvements must be prioritized for areas within the UDB. The second objection deals with the sensitive environmental resources in the area of the road widening, including wetlands and wellfields.

[see below for exact text of objections]

In its attempt to answer the DCA's objections, the county has assured the state that commercial sprawl will be controlled in the wake of the widening--although residential sprawl will not be directly addressed. And tellingly, neither the county nor anyone else has answered the concerns that widening Krome will cause a greater number of fatal accidents, not fewer.

The Urban Environment League opposes the four-laning of Krome Avenue, and supports the consensus plan that can truly make the road safer. South Florida's urban and natural environment both benefit from careful planning that advocates sustainable urban form over sprawl.
A safer two-lane Krome Avenue will preserve the precious agricultural and natural character that exists at the edge of the developed county.

Let's make Krome Avenue safer for strawberry fields, U-pick stands and wetlands--and safer as well for those of us who will be driving on Krome to get to them.

Thank you for your time,

The Urban Environment League

EXACT TEXT OF DCA OBJECTIONS:

DCA Objection No. 1: Inconsistency with FLUE and
TE Policies and Guidelines:
The amendment does not demonstrate consistency
with CDMP FLUE Policy 2B.
Policy 2B states "Priority in the provision of
services and facilities and
the allocation of financial resources for services
and fucilities in
Miami-Dade County shall be given first to serve
the area within the Urban
Development Boundary (0DB) of the Land Use Plan
(LUP) map. Second priority
shall support the staged development of the Urban
Expansion Area (UEA).
Urban services and facilities which support or
encourage urban development
in Agriculture and Open Land areas shall be
avoided, except for those
improvements necessary to protect public health
and safety and which service
the localized needs of these non-urban areas." The
analysis submitted with
the amendment does not explain why four laning is
necessary to correct
public safety problems or why the previous 1999
Action Plan recommended
improvements would not adequately address the
safety problems. Furthermore,
the supporting analysis does not demonstrate the
proposed four-lane roadway
would serve only localized needs of the non-urban
areas. Rather, if it were
four-laned, Krome Avenue would serve as a regional
facility providing access
beyond the local area. Transportation Element (TB)
Policy 4C reinforces
these provisions, stating that roadways shall
avoid environmental protection
designated areas.

The amendment does not demonstrate consistency
with FLUE Policy 8F which
requires the County to "consider consistency with
the Goals, Objectives and
Policies of all Elements, other timely issues, and
in particular the extent
to which the proposal, if approved, would enhance
or degrade environmental
resources, features or systems (e.g., Everglades
and wellfields) of County
significance." It is clearly stated in the
Agriculture land use category
that in order to protect the agricultural
industry, facilities that support
or encourage urban development are not allowed in
the area. In the absence
of other controlling growth management and land
use policies, the widening
of the segment would support or encourage urban
development in the area that
is outside the UDB.

[Rules 9J-S.005(2)(a), (5) &(8)(J);
9J-5.006(5)(g)2.; 5..; J-5.006(5)(h),
(i)9, (j)6 &19, Florida Administrative Code,
(FAC), and Chapter 163.3 177
(6)(a)-(g), (8) & (l0)(e), Florida Statutes, (F.S)



DCA Objection No.2: The County is proposing new
FLUB Policy 3F as a
safeguard to preserve and protect the
environmental and natural resources,
wellfields, and agricultural lands outside the
UDB. The policy does not
provide predictable and meaningful guidelines to
demonstrate how the
policies will accomplish these outcomes or
expectations and ensure internal
consistency with FLUE Policy 3F and the
Agriculture and Open Land
designations.

[Rules: 9J-S.00S(2)(a), (5), (6) & (8)(j),
9J-5.006(5)(g)2., 5.;
9J-5.006(5)(h), (i)(, (j)6 & !9;
(3-5.019(3)(d)(i), F.A..C., and Chapter
163.3177(6)(a) รณ (g), (8) & (10)(e), F.S.]

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sky Train Operational at Miami-Dade Airport


After many years, a few spent in Japan exercising the train because the tracks were not ready, the Sky Train at Miami-Dade airport is operational. Unfortunately, in the interim no one was trained to operate the train or fix the train that is operating in a one mile loop. An out of town workforce had to be hired to keep the train operational.

According to the Miami Herald:

The light-rail train is part of the 50-year-old airport's $6.4 billion upgrade project that began in 1998 -- years behind schedule, but nearing the end. Completion of the entire project is on target for next year, MIA spokesman Greg Chin said.

The Skytrain's debut was welcome news at the airport, which was ranked North America's least efficient by the University of British Columbia's Air Transport Research Society.


Miami Dade County offers tours of the airport, if you are inclined to go to the airport for a ride on the sky train you can also couple it with a 2 hour free tour (Monday to Friday only).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Campaign Financing.

Campaigns are difficult to run without money. There are things to do to run a good campaign that do require money, unfortunately. It is said that campaign contributions are the mother's milk of any campaign. We urge all of our readers to choose candidates wisely and then to help fund the candidates, even if you can only afford a few dollars. Do your part for good government.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Virginia Key: Bike Trails and More. by Sam Van Leer

In response the the Miami Hearld article: "Bike-trail project a lot tougher than expected" Sept. 12, 2010.

The Virginia Key Master Plan approved by the City of Miami in July 2010 is based largely on the Consensus reached at the Virginia Key Coalition's Charrette of September 2009. On Northpoint it protects the unique Nature Preserves and re-creates lost habitats inland, creating new opportunities for recreation within conservation. The very modest monetary investments are wise considering the stench that sometimes comes from the Sewage Treatment facility next door, and seasonal Mosquito and No-See-Um conditions.

A Public Beach is shared by people during the day, and nesting sea turtles at night. Multi-use paths may be enjoyed by all. North Ridge is planted with native vegetation selected to preserve the stunning views of the Bill Sadowski Wildlife Area, Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve and the City of Miami beyond. A large area is reserved for Mountain Biking. Picnic areas are along the Beach and the North Ridge. Walking paths allow people to explore the different Native Habitats found in coastal and inland areas. The campground is on high ground, with exposure to cooling and bug-abating breezes. Services are near the already-developed Sewage Treatment area.

Buffers between major human uses are absolutely essential to provide visitors with more personal experiences. Quiet nature hikers and wildlife won’t be startled by fast bikers. Campers can enjoy peace without intrusion. Mountain bikers can ride challenging paths free of walking explorers. Mountain Bikers were well represented at the Charrette’s Northpoint planning sessions, and were part of the consensus. The City Planning Department assures me that 30 yard buffers will be in all final plans.

Oleta River State Park is frequently mentioned as an example of great mountain bike trails, and it is true that they are fun to ride. What is less understood is that bikers built trails under Australian Pines, and expect that the big trees that shade their riding will be preserved. These Destructive Exotic trees actually kill Native Habitats, and the wildlife that depend on them. In addition, Oleta trails often wind so tightly that there is very little room for Native Habitat. The land use is so intense that it is a form of development, and is not an example to follow for Virginia Key. Fortunately, there are environmentally sensitive layouts that allow for shared use between bikers and nature.

The 2009 Charrette Plan should be followed, and Northpoint should never be used as a dumping ground again. How many public meetings must we attend to defend it? Listen to the will of the public, and please get on with it!

Sincerely,

Sam Van Leer
Executive Director & Founder -Urban Paradise Guild
sam@urban-paradise.org

Friday, September 10, 2010

Miami Today: Michael Lewis Editorial on The Marlins

Lewis says: Don't blame rich Marlins because we gave them $3 billion:

If building a $3 billion stadium and handing it over for 50 years for pennies didn't faze Miami-Dade commissioners when they OK'd the deal with a wink, they're now horrified that their beneficiary was rich.

Shucks, they say, if they'd known the Florida Marlins had operating profit of $49 million over two years they'd have shaved several million off their $3 billion gift that raised the team's market value at least $250 million.


He says further:

The first rule in a deal is to know fully who's on the other side. That includes character and financial status.

The commission violated that rule by a mile. You have to reveal more to get a wireless phone than the Marlins told commissioners, who then gave away the store.

It wasn't just that most commissioners didn't read the contracts and voted, as they often do, to taxpayers' detriment. It's that they didn't really want to know. After all, if they didn't know they can't be blamed — unless you expect commissioners to open their eyes and ears.

As it was, nine of them — just the right number for baseball — played a game of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The only thing the Marlins' nine asked about the worst county contract in history was "What's in it for me?"


Lewis Concludes:

Commissioners, this disaster isn't the Marlins' fault. Divide the blame equally between the county manager you trusted and the Marlins' nine who didn't want to examine the giveaway they signed off on. The mayor and manager leave in two years. Voters get to decide how to deal with the nine of you. Don't blame the Marlins for your $3 billion gift. It's on your backs.
See the full Editorial.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Amendment 4 Debate, September 28th

The Downtown Bay Forum (www.downtownbaforum.com) is having a luncheon September 28th at 11:30. The subject will be:

Amendment 4: Tonic for over development or barrier to growth?

The speakers will be Tom Connick 'for' and Neisen Kasdin 'against' the amendment. Helen Ferre will be the moderator. To reserve for the luncheon at the Marriott Hotel, 1633 N. Bayshore Drive, call Annette Eisenberg at 305 757-3633.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

County Elections

There will be two run-off elections in November in District 2 and District 8. Commissioner Dorrin Rolle is running against Jean Monestime in District 2 and Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn is running against former Homestead Mayor Lynda Bell in an open seat.

We ask all of our members to vote in these elections if you live in the districts and consider funding the candidate of your choice even if you live out of the district. The County Commission makes important decisions for all of us.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Commissioner Joe Martinez Couldn't get enough signatures to call the ads in parks meeting.



Joe Martinez needed seven signatures of his fellow commissioners to call a special meeting. He only had 4. For now, the plan to place ads in parks is dead as there isn't any time to get it on the ballot for people to vote on changing the charter. The charter forbids ads in parks except during events.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Community Input Needed By the County October 20th!

Every 7 years the county reviews/updates its Comprehensive Development Plan for State approval. This is called the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR). The Board of County Commissioners will hold their public hearing on the EAR on October 20, 2010 at 9:30 AM in the Commission Chambers. Please take an interest and review the document so that you can tell the Commissioners what you think is important to emphasize. Don't complain later.

The EAR 2010 website is now updated to reflect the Planning Advisory Board (PAB) resolution with recommendations, dated August 10, 2010. Recommended changes to the text of the Draft 2010 EAR adopted by the PAB (acting as the Local Planning Agency) on August 10, 2010 are shown in red and strikethrough for deletions and underlining for additions in Chapters 1, 2, and 4. Also posted is the PowerPoint presentation from the August 2, 2010 PAB public hearing, an Errata document dated August 16, 2010, and replacement pages for the Conservation, Aquifer Recharge & Drainage Element Objective CON-2 and for the Port of Miami Master Plan Subelement. These documents are available on the EAR website.

For information about the EAR, the schedule of activities or the EAR process, please contact the Miami-Dade County Department of Planning and Zoning, Metropolitan Planning Section at 111 NW 1st Street, Suite 1220, Miami, Florida 33128-1972; or call (305) 375-2835.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Miami Circle is starting on the road to becoming a park.


The Urban Environment League has been part of the coalition to save the Miami Circle since it all began around 1999, when archeologists examining the site found the 2,000 year old circular remains from might have been an early Tequesta Indian structure. The UEL held candlelight vigils at the site.

Many individual volunteers and groups have been working tirelessly to save the circle, among which were The Sierra Club, The Urban Environmental League, and Dade County Heritage Trust.

The work has begun to transform the 2.2 acre site into a park according to the Miami Herald:

Now, 11 years after taxpayers ponied up $27 million to save the archaeological relic from getting buried under a condo slab, earthmovers are finally at work transforming the 2.2-acre parcel into the city's newest -- and perhaps most resonant -- waterfront park.

Friday, August 27, 2010

County Commissioner endorsement for the District 8 Race


At a press conference yesterday, County Commissioner Katy Sorenson endorsed candidate, Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn for the District 8 race. Also in the runoff is former Mayor of Homestead, Lynda Bell.

We had a chance to hear both these candidates, Eugene Flinn and Lynda Bell, during two UEL debates and we were impressed with their knowledge and commitment to a better Miami Dade County.

We wish them both luck in the race.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The meeting August 26th has been cancelled.

Please be advised that the County Commission meeting regarding changing the Miami Dade Home Rule Charter to allow advertising in parks is cancelled. It may be heard at a later time so please stay on top of this important issue!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Advertising in Parks is A Real Threat.



August 26 at 11 am the County Commission will decide whether to put the Charter Change allowing advertising in parks on the Ballot. Once that Citizen protection is off the parks, the County Commission can legislate more and more advertising, and loosen any rules they promise us without much oversight. Do we really want to start this ball rolling?

They are giving voters an either or scenario: Raise fees or else advertising.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vote Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is election day. Can we surprise everyone in the country and get more than 20% of Miami Dade County voters to vote? We can make a difference if you use your clout by voting. Take a friend or neighbor with you!

Thank you friends and neighbors....THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT LEAGUE.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Purity of Parks. By Fran Bohnsack

It wasn't so long ago that the cities along the ocean wanted to put a school on Haulover Beach to solve over-crowding in Bay Harbor Islands school. The Urban Environment League fought long and hard on this fight and stopped this intrusion on our park land. There will always be a scheme to get open land fro some "good use" and the citizens have to remain vigilant on this subject. At the time the Park Director said something like:

You are asking the people to choose between clean water and clear air.

In other words, in this case, between the equally important Parks and Schools. Now we are being asked to choose between the integrity of our park -- and a few dollars from the pocketbooks of park patrons. It will be a short term solution leaving us with a long term result.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

UEL Candidate's Forum, District 8 County Commissioner

Not all Rap is dirty

From Miami Herald:

"In the past few months, Kelvin Jennings and his buddies have taken their first plane ride, toured the Everglades for the first time and gained local celebrity for writing and recording an eco-conscious rap video in a real-deal Miami recording studio.

Soon the teens' mugs will be recognized statewide, as the newest faces of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Everglades restoration campaign.

And it all started with the Jacksonville teen's knock at Nanciann Regalado's door, peddling homemade CDs of rap music with a positive message.

``She thought I was trying to scam her at first,'' said Jennings, 15. ``She put the CDs on. She liked it and three months later she called the school looking for me.''

It turned out Jennings, a then-eighth grader at Jacksonville's Paxon Middle School, was selling the CDs as part of GEAR UP, a federal mentorship program for disadvantaged kids. He and friends Quinterius Cameron and Shawn Cameron had been working with their mentor, Travis Pinckney, on recording equipment at the school.

Many of the songs deal with drugs, violence and personal experiences of death and jailed family members.

``We created music about their pain, how their pain could actually make them stronger,'' said Pinckney, a senior at the University of North Florida. ``We released a lot of negative energy and refilled it with positive energy about academics.'' Regalado, an outreach coordinator for the Corps of Engineers in Jacksonville, was brought to tears as she listened to the CD. She wanted to reconnect with the young man who had such an effect on her.

As she telephoned schools throughout Jacksonville searching for Jennings, a bigger idea took form. Regalado would use her own free flight credits to send the kids to Miami, let them tour the Everglades, and use their talent to produce an eco-conscious rap for the Everglades restoration campaign.

The three North Florida city kids had never been anywhere remotely like the sprawling, lush river of grass. After a day of hiking and canoeing, they were inspired to stay up until 3 a.m. crafting rhymes. Then they headed to a Miami studio to record the music and video under the group name The Path of Righteousness. When you get there, you'll receive information; Of what you need to do, to enhance conservation; Takes the whole community to cause a transformation; Save the Everglades for the next generation! the boys rap on the final video.

That was back in April, but the idea just keeps growing. The video debuted May 18 at Paxon's Eco Awareness and Career Fair, along with a billboard near the school.

The video gained a nationwide audience June 25 when the National Parks Service posted it on its website. ``It really resonates with the audience, from 7-year-olds jumping around to teenagers,'' Regalado said.

Now the Corps of Engineers has plans to expand the billboard campaign to inner city locations statewide, including Miami. Bernadette Morris, president of Sunshine Communications, the company that runs the Corps of Engineers' outreach campaign, said the billboards could be up by early fall.

Regalado constantly gets e-mails from educators who use the rap to teach about the environment and others who were simply impressed with the video.

She and Jennings have developed a friendship. He often uses ``Ms. Nanciann's'' garage as a recording studio, making more uplifting, cuss-free raps with his friends, and inviting other classmates to join. The members of The Path of Righteousness hope to make it big someday, but for now, they're reveling in the current limelight.

``It's like a huge experience for us to ride each and every day and see us on the billboard,'' Jennings said. ``I had to just do something positive with myself for this to happen.''


Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/17/1778867/teens-rap-on-virtues-of-everglades.html#ixzz0wrx4lftB

Monday, August 16, 2010

Advertising in Parks? Do we want it?

This week we learned that some Miami-Dade county commissioners want to change the county charter so that they can sell advertising in county parks. They have scheduled a meeting to consider this on August 26 at 11:00 a.m.

The UEL thinks that Parks are an important part of Miami-Dade County not only because they provide areas for recreation, but because they are places where residents can escape the pressures of urban life and find some peace. A vibrant, well-supported parks department is a vital part of our community.

Should we open our parks up for advertising in order to raise revenue? Parks are exactly the kinds of amenities that should be supported by the whole community (through property taxes) because we all benefit from their existence. A $20 addition to annual property tax per household would completely make up for the budget deficit in park maintenance. Changing the charter to allow advertising would be a short-term way to raise revenue, but with long-term negative consequences.

The UEL opposes any proposals that would litter our parks with advertising. During the great depression, our government responded by building more parks and creating jobs. We think it does not make any sense now -- during our own economic downturn -- to lease our parks away to advertisers.

Readers, what do you think?

P.S. Dan Paul, who recently passed away, was the father of Amendment 7 in the County Charter, it was called "The Dan Paul Amendment." This is the Amendment that will be threatened on August 26th. The charter change would not only change policy in County Parks, it would change policy for most City parks as well.

We are proud to say that Dan Paul was a longtime member of the Urban Environment League Board of Advisors.