Miami Dade County Community Forum

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Andrew Dickman Speaks out in Naples News.

Long time friend of the Urban Environment League has written an opinon piece in the Naples News:

Guest commentary: Amendment 4 empowers citizens to vote on their community’s future
Andrew Dickman / Naples
-Monday, March 29, 2010

Florida’s 1985 Growth Management Act was a promise to all Floridians that they would have a fair say in decisions about the future of their communities. That promise has been broken. Big development and politicians control our destiny, while citizens get three minutes to voice their opposition at public hearings in front of their elected officials.

The act promised to manage population growth and direct new development away from sensitive environmental areas and stop urban sprawl. The law promised to stop incompatible developments from damaging the quality of life in your neighborhoods and diminishing your property values. The statute promised that your future comprehensive plan would only be amended under very limited circumstances. All are broken promises.

After 25 years, not one planning study calls Florida’s growth-management system a success. Yet, year after year, despite persistent lobbying, Tallahassee watchdog groups and professional planning associations settle for concessions to important planning laws. Meanwhile, citizen activism and disenchantment grows.

Florida Hometown Democracy was established by citizens who said enough is enough. After more than six years of fighting against the lobbyists and politicians connected to big development who would rather keep the status quo, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Florida Hometown Democracy’s referendum to amend the state constitution will be on the Nov. 2 ballot. “Amendment 4” will require that all city- or county-approved changes to the future land-use plan will not become effective unless a majority of voters in that city or county approve it. In my opinion, this will guarantee that citizens have an equal voice and seat at the table with big development and the government.

The opposition relies on fear and disinformation. They claim that land-use plans are too complicated for the average citizen. They say that too many amendments are approved by local governments every year and that voters will be overwhelmed. They argue annual construction jobs and related industries that rely on uninhibited growth will be destroyed. They falsely claim that Florida Hometown Democracy wants to stop all development, which is completely false.

The truth is, Florida Hometown Democracy was founded on the notion that citizens should not bear the cost of hit-and-run developers and that elected officials must be held accountable when they change future land-use plans. Amendment 4 seeks to inspire disenfranchised citizens who, under the current system, can only watch as the state’s natural resources and infrastructure fall apart.

Those who benefit from keeping growth management complex do not want you to understand it and they fear making the planning process transparent.

I have taught law students, hundreds of trade organizations, homeowner associations and civic groups about the Growth Management Act. What I have learned is that if your intent is to empower rather than confuse, then growth management isn’t that complicated. I believe that all citizens should know more about what their government’s future plans are for their community, and I strongly believe that the public should be allowed to fully participate. Amendment 4 is an opportunity for that to happen.

A fundamental strategy of Amendment 4 is to slow the number of amendments to future land-use plans in order to guide new development into areas already designated for that growth. Future land-use plans around the state already have enough land set aside to accommodate development for decades to come.

Six years ago, the University of Florida concluded that if the current trend of amending future land-use plans continues, the state will become 45 percent urbanized by the year 2060, three times more than it is today. The UF study also concluded that Southwest Florida will become a continuous band of urban development, and that “natural systems and wildlife habitat corridors in the region will be fragmented, if not replaced, by urban development.”

Based on the this study, the University of Central Florida determined that if we don’t select an alternative path, the total cost of urbanizing land would amount to at least $695 billion by 2060 and an additional $85 billion will be needed for additional highways and major roads to serve dispersed, newly urbanized areas. All studies on the topic conclude that we simply cannot afford the current trend.

Population growth and development isn’t necessarily the problem. The real challenge is managing that growth and development. Unfortunately, innovative development patterns realistically will not happen until big development and the government are held accountable by Amendment 4.

To learn more about this, visit

Dickman is a land-use attorney based in Naples. He earned his master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Florida and he is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He previously was policy director for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Dickman currently serves on the Collier County Environmental Advisory Council and he is an adjunct professor at Ave Maria School of Law teaching land-use and environmental law.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Katy Sorenson With Some Good Advice for The Community

In an Op Ed in the Miami Herald yesterday, County Commissioner gave some good advice to the community. Here are some excerpts:

• First, we must listen to voters and we must educate them. Political leaders are elected to do just that, to lead. It is our duty to make responsible decisions and let our citizens know why we are making these decisions.

• Second, we need to have an honest discussion about what kind of community we want to be. Do we want an expansive public transit system? Do we want a safety-net hospital that provides charity care to those who would otherwise go without healthcare? Do we want libraries to be open every day?

• Third, let's have a real discussion about taxes. Government officials need to explain how revenue is generated, where tax money goes and which pots of money can be used for which services. I was a vocal opponent of the baseball stadium, but it would be irresponsible for me to claim that the stadium money should be used for the Public Health Trust. State law does not allow for this. Too often, conversations about taxes contain both vitriol and misinformation.

She takes issue with pollster Dario Moreno's assessment:

While Moreno made some valid points about the need for political courage, he unfortunately reinforces one of the same obfuscations he accuses the county of making. Moreno says that we live in a poor county and that in order to protect our poor residents, we should not increase taxes. He has it backwards.

The poor Moreno talks about have been and will continue to be hurt by budget cuts and service reductions. They are the ones hurt when Jackson reduces it services, when there are fewer domestic violence shelters, when after-school programs in parks for their children are drastically cut. On the other hand, they get no savings from a tax cut, as most of them do not own their own homes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Virginia Key Planning meeting Saturday a Success

About 75 people gathered at the Rusty Pelican Saturday morning to see University of Miami Architecture students' presentations for Virginia Key. Dr. Gregory Bush first set the stage with a powerpoint presentation. There was a lively question and answer period that followed the student presentations. After the initial meeting the group moved on to the Virginia Key Trust to do some drawing of their own. Plans for Virginia Key are now getting public participation and fresh ideas. Anthony Garcia, Architect in attendance said:

"I was impressed with the solutions the students presented for the basin area. They correctly identified access to the waterfront as a major programmatic theme - a challenge that has never been adequately addressed, until now. "

Whether or not you attended this weekend's Virginia Key Design Workshop please feel free to write your feedback on the follow questions provided below. We would love your public input! You can send the answers to or leave them here as comments.

1. Are you satisfied with the 4 general vision for the North Point areas of the VK plan as presented?

2. Do you have any suggestions about further integration of the island's assets-including the role of the Historic Virginia Key Park Trust or such elements as signage, transportation?

3. Are you in favor of a National Park Service presence on Virginia Key for Biscayne National Park?

4. Do you believe a multi-jurisdictional authority over VK should exist with clear principles to preserve the public interest on the island?

5. There has been a proposal for Miami Atlantic Marine Park- with a 50,000 to 150,000 square foot building located next to the Marine Stadium. Included elements might include: green marine demonstration, boat museum, marine exhibition, cultural emporium of the Atlantic world (including eatery and crafts from the Atlantic world), and a welcome center for the island. Your comments on this notion? Other related concepts to add the would adhere to the deed restrictions? How big/small should it be?

Tampa Tribune Editorial: Growth Management and the Florida Legislature

An awful lot of development'

The Tampa Tribune - Published: March 29, 2010

Every legislative session, pro-growth lawmakers try to weaken growth rules. This year the pretext is to restore lost construction jobs, as if a worthy motive validates the false assumption that state and local governments have somehow stopped developers.

It was overbuilding, the collapse of the housing and financial markets and the related recession, not growth restrictions that ended Florida's real-estate boom.

Throughout the painful slowdown, developers have been busy applying for, and winning, permission to build. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, according to the state Department of Community Affairs, local governments approved 1,856 changes to their land-use maps.

Nearly 600,000 new dwelling units were approved. That's more than three times the amount needed to accommodate the state's actual three-year population growth.

The new projects may all have been worthy of approval, but they do add to a large capacity for new houses already available in local growth plans, not to mention the inventory of existing homes on the market. Construction has not begun on most of these newly approved, ready-to-go projects, and is not likely to begin this year.

Nonresidential capacity also has been increasing rapidly, even as the state's unemployment rate has gone up. In the last three years, more than 1.3 billion square feet of floor area has been approved for new or expanded stores, offices and industries.

That much commercial space is equal to about 13,000 Walmarts.

"That's an awful lot of development," says Tom Pelham, head of Community Affairs.

Most of the nonresidential changes were made last year as developers rushed to get projects approved before the possible passage of a state constitutional amendment called Florida Hometown Democracy (Amendment 4).

That cumbersome measure, which will be voted on in the November general election, would require voter approval of any change in local land-use plans.

The unpredictability and expense of running everything past voters would be a significant barrier to growth. But the strong push for the amendment by some environmentalists and civic activists is a reaction to frequent changes made in local growth plans.

The best way for state leaders to convince voters to reject the amendment is to stand firm on existing growth laws designed to balance the need for growth with protections for taxpayers and the environment.

Local leaders can help by being less eager to approve requests for sprawling, poorly designed projects.

It can be argued that the development-approval process should be streamlined, but it can't seriously be argued that state and local rules are to blame for silencing the nail machines, saws and bulldozers.

In addition to the nationwide recession and banking crisis, Florida has its own problems.

Unemployment is rising and is not expected to peak until this summer. Rates for property insurance have gone up. Lawn watering is widely restricted. Many roads are inadequate for the traffic they carry.

Tax reform failed to make the system fair for all homeowners; some still pay much more than their neighbors.

Florida is no longer one of the least expensive states in which to live; it is among the most costly. It is a less desirable destination than it was a decade ago.

No wonder there are rumblings from voters about seizing more control of growth decisions.

Yet Florida remains a special state with enormous appeal. Even a modest neighborhood in an ordinary town offers coveted amenities, including bright winters, swimming pools, palms and live oaks, and year-round cookouts in the back yard.

Florida's economic recovery and future growth depend on how well its leaders deal with the real challenges faced by residents.

The state cannot restart the population boom, even if it rezones every pasture and forest for houses and apartments.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Garden Activist: James G. Broton

The Miami Herald reported today, the passing of a former UEL Board Member James G. Broton. We mourn the loss of Jim, a dedicated community activist from Spring Garden. UEL Vice President Ernie Martin, who lives in Spring Garden, said:

"He was a little eccentric, but we loved him. Jim had a quirky attitude about things, but also had a very good sense of humor.''

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Help our County Park get Fruit Trees!!

The Park has been entered in a grant competition sponsored by Edy’s Fruit Bars and the Fruit Tree Planting foundation. The top vote getter will receive 50 fruit trees. The 50 new trees we could obtain with this grant would be a nice addition for the park. We would like to enlist your help in obtaining the trees. All we ask is that you please go to Communities Take Root and vote for the Fruit and Spice Park. You are able to vote daily so please take a few minutes and go online and vote for the Fruit & Spice Park Project. IF THE LINK DOESN'T WORK TRY THIS ONE:

All of us at the Fruit and Spice Park would like to thank you in advance for your help in this matter.

Green Job Training in Broward County

We hope Miami takes a look at the Broward County great program promoting training for green jobs. This is from their website about the OIC Green Training Initiative:

What is Green? What is a "Green" industry or occupation? The term “green,” is widely applied to a substantial variety of products, services, and even lifestyle or consumer choices. The green economy encompasses the economic activity related to reducing the use of fossil fuels, decreasing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the efficiency of energy usage, recycling materials, and developing and adopting renewable sources of energy. 1, 2, 3, 4 There are many aspects of work that could be considered green, such as new materials, methods, products, and services. However, we do not yet have a common language capturing the broad and varied nature of green industries and jobs. Several states and many local organizations are working collaboratively to better understand and promote the effects of clean and green technology on our economy.

One of the goals of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 “Recover Act” is to create new jobs and save existing ones. An example of this the Act plans investment in the domestic renewable energy industry and the weatherizing of 75 percent of federal buildings as well as more than one million private homes around the country.
The Green Training Initiative provided by Opportunities Industrials Collaborative of Broward County (OICB) will provide training in the areas of:

* Energy Efficiency
Relates to increasing energy efficiency (broadly defined), making energy demand response more effective, constructing "smart grids," and other energy efficient activities.

* Renewable Energy Industries
Relates to developing and using energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. This sector also includes traditional, non-renewable sources of energy undergoing significant green technological changes (e.g., oil, coal, gas, and nuclear).

The Energy Training Partnership Grant and the Pathways Out of Poverty Grant offers training if the above two areas. Employment opportunities for these grants include:

Energy Training Partnership
Solar Thermal System Designer and Installer
Solar PV System Designer and Installer – Skilled
Solar PV System Installer – Entry Level
Weatherization Technician and Installers
LEED Green Associate Pathways Out Of Poverty
Solar PV System Installer – Entry Level
Weatherization Technician and Installers

These grants are part of a larger Recovery Act initiative to fund workforce development projects that promote economic growth by preparing workers for careers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Virginia Key Planning NEEDS PUBLIC INPUT!

Saturday, March 27
Planning for Virginia Key

Rusty Pelican, 3201 Rickenbacker Causeway, Virginia Key
from 9:00 AM-11:00 PM
The event is free and there will be free breakfast munchies and coffee.

email for further Info.

The Urban Environment League invites interested members of the public to the Rusty Pelican for an update on planning for Virginia Key. In addition to efforts undertaken by a coalition of organizations interested in Virginia Key, the group will be joined by students from the University of Miami (UM) who are developing plans for Virginia Key and the Marine Stadium Basin in cooperation with the City of Miami Administration. The Coalition hopes to incorporate the results of the student work in its final recommendations for the Master Plan for Virginia Key, scheduled to be presented to the City Commission in June or July.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The UEL Dinner April 21st: Energy Forum

The UEL'S panel will look specifically at South Florida -- to assess our current energy mix, propose ideal and reachable goals for the future, and offer a road map on how we can best reach the goals proposed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Unnatural Causes: health and the social environment at FIU starting Saturday, March 27. By Santiago Leon

Although we often speak of health and health care as if they were the same thing, in fact health care plays only a small role (not more than 15%) in the over-all health of our population. A much more important role is played by environment and lifestyle.

Breaking it down further, it is apparent that in today's America the physical environment (e.g. air quality) has a smaller influence on most people's health than the power of the social environment (e.g. its impact on stress). Moreover, "lifestyle" (for example, what we eat) is in turn strongly influenced by our social environment (for example, the availability and cost of healthy food as well as the time to prepare it).

So we are led to the conclusion that the single greatest influence on the health of Americans is their social enviroment. In particular, the economic circumstances of our lives affect individuals at all income levels. These effects are compounded for those who are the victims of racial and other prejudice.

The relationship between social inequities and health is now so well documented that it will be the theme of the next annual convention of the American Public Health Association ("Social Justice: A Public Health Imperative"). However, in our community, the relationship is almost never discussed. Thus, it is welcome news when a local institution invites the community to an open discussion about this relationship, drawing on the talents of its faculty and using as a starting point a prize-winning video series, Unnatural Causes.

This series of events will be an outstanding opportunity to explore the relationship between social justice and health with local experts. I hope that you will be able to join me in attending the entire series, or at least a part it (if you must choose, I would strongly recommend the first day). Continuing education credits will be available, and REGISTRATION IS FREE.

The Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade wishes to share with you information about an upcoming educational opportunity. Florida International University, in honor of Public Health Week, is sponsoring an Unnatural Causes Series. “Unnatural Causes” is a documentary series exploring America’s racial and socioeconomic inequities in health. The documentary goes beyond popular conceptions linking health to medical care, lifestyles, and genes to explore evidence of other more powerful determinants: the social conditions in which we are born, live and work.

Program Dates:

· Saturday, March 27, 2010, 9am to 11am
· Saturday, April 3, 2010, 9am to 12:30pm
· Saturday, April 10, 2010, 9am to 12:30pm

Florida International University- South Campus
Paul Cejas Architecture (PCA) Building
Room PCA 135
11200 SW 8th Street
Miami, FL 33199

This training is free for all participants and continuing education units are offered. Attached you will find a brochure with registration information. For questions, call Miami-Dade Area Health Education Center at (305) 597-3642.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The UEL Dinner March 17th.

At the UEL Dinner the question was asked: “Have Women Been the Major Visionaries for Historic Preservation in South Florida?’’ The speakers gave men their due, but it was clear that Miami-Dade women have been a major force in historic preservation. Moderator Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, in such dynamic company, lost control of the microphone early-on.

Sally Jude, Frances "Dolly MacIntyre, Arva Moore Parks

Enid Pinkney and Kathleen Kauffman

Nancy Liebman

Sallye Jude, Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick (Moderator)

The Miami Herald: "Legislators deserve a reckoning for their reckless pursuit of paving over more and more of Florida."

The vision of the UEL for Miami-Dade County begins with:

"A safe, clean, vibrant, sustainable community guided by the public's interest and governed by a Master Plan..."

Editorial for the Miami Herald:


In a rare mood of candor, legislative leaders have admitted that they're forgoing their usual assaults on Florida's growth management laws this session because it's an election year. They're worried that voters will retaliate against how they've managed growth (badly).

Yet knowing that the majority of Florida's residents hate sprawl and support sound growth management principles never stops them from weakening these laws in off-election years.

Consider 2009: The Legislature approved a bill that lets developers off the hook for paying for roads for new subdivisions. Lawmakers used the recession as an excuse, arguing that it would jump-start construction.

It was a false premise then, and it still is. Construction is at a standstill. In the midst of the foreclosure crisis the state has more vacant housing stock than ever.

Lawmakers are also worried about a 2010 ballot question -- called Hometown Democracy -- that would let voters decide land-use decisions. They're being careful not to bad-mouth it, fearing voter backlash.

Remember this cynical double-dealing come November. Legislators deserve a reckoning for their reckless pursuit of paving over more and more of Florida.
The Miami Herald

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Miami Museum of Art Funding in Jeopardy

Miami New Times: Terrance Riley says he resigned when he realized the building on the bay would take longer than he had originally anticipated.

"Under ideal circumstances I would have stayed and seen the project through, but from any objective perspective, it's more complex politically than virtually any other project I'm aware of."

What made the circumstances "not ideal"? Here's part of what the story finds out: For starters, there's the money. The county manager reported two weeks ago that only $30 million have been raised for the construction of the new building, not $45 million like the museum had said before. Half of that is in pledges that may not materialize.

In other cities, trustees might have come to Riley's aid. But, some trustees were dubious of his reputation from the beginning.

Nine trustees left the MAM board in two years.

Enid Pinkney Speaking at UEL Dinner

The picture quality is poor, but her talk on Overtown historical preservation can be heard pretty clearly. She talks about Athalie Range, Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields and gets some laughs at the end.

One thing was clear at the dinner, all of these panelists were swamped with historic candidates for saving.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

UEL Dinner Tonight!

We are taking reservations till noon today!! Email us at

Federal Judge Impatient on Everglades Cleanup

Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, according to the Miami Herald, "made it clear Tuesday that his patience was nearing an end -- both with delays in the controversial land deal and the glacial pace of the cleanup."

And Judge Moreno said:

"When is it ever going to end? I guess `When is it ever going to begin?' is the better question.''
The judge said he would issue rulings later on pending motions, some of which he had put on hold while the South Florida Water Management District pursued a land deal with the U.S. Sugar Corp

The Urban Environment League is a member of the Everglades Coalition, "an alliance of 53 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the greater Everglades ecosystem, from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes into Lake Okeechobee, through the "River of Grass", out to Florida Bay and the Keys. Through consensus the Everglades Coalition is dedicated to:

* Advocating for the restoration, protection and enhancement of the greater Everglades ecosystem;
* Supporting and providing education and public understanding regarding all aspects of the Everglades ecosystem;
* Supporting and sponsoring research in the protection, restoration and enhancement of the Everglades ecosystem;
* Facilitating the coordination of information resources, strategies and efforts among Everglades Coalition members."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Andres Viglucci On UEL St. Patrick's Day Dinner

"Here’s something that had not occurred to me" Andre Viglucci said on his blog Uranista, The Urban Environment League, in the theme for its latest dinner forum, posits this intriguing question: “Have Women Been the Major Visionaries for Historic Preservation in South Florida?’’

"The panelists include: Sallye Jude, Kathleen Kauffman, Nancy Liebman, Dolly MacIntyre, Arva Moore Parks and Enid Pinkney.

Asked and answered, I would say, given that list."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Andres Viglucci writes about Mayor Regalado Appearance at UEL Dinner

Regalado to UEL: Expect no grand plans, but thy will be done – like Miami Marine Stadium restoration

First, the news: Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado told an Urban Environment League forum Wednesday evening to expect an announcement soon about $3 million in seed money for Miami Marine Stadium restoration. Details in three weeks.

Among mostly friends, Regalado was chatty and relaxed, reiterating positions that must have sounded like sweet music to the audience.

I.E,: He still doesn’t think the port tunnel is a good idea; he’s “skeptical’’ the Miami Art Museum and Miami Science Museum have the fundraising muscle to meet their financial commitments towards new homes in Museum Park; the Miami River should be preserved as a working waterway; and he intends to amend the Miami 21 zoning code, approved by the previous commission but frozen by the new administration, to incorporate a laundry list of rejected amendments that had been proposed by neighborhood activists (interesting to see how that comes out since some appeared to be unworkable).

Still no overarching vision and little evidence of an appetite for one, other than a promise for greater transparency and public participation in government decisions and operations – to, as he put it, “reclaim the city for the residents.’’

But what started to emerge, perhaps, was hints of a strategy, if that’s what it is: A piecemeal approach that eschews the sweeping plans and multi-generational vision of his predecessor, Manny Diaz, for building blocks that can set in place in short order. Perhaps the right thing for parlous times and, as Regalado put it, widespread “government fatigue’’ on the part of voters?

That’s what struck me when he was asked if he favored forming a trust to guide master planning and restoration of Virginia Key. Why? he responded. Instead, he said, focus on something achievable – like renovating the landmark Marine Stadium.

“I’m not going to promise the people we are going to have the greatest thing ever on Virginia Key. I don’t know that,’’ he said, in what was perhaps a dig at Diaz, who came in for his share of them during the talk.

“But I know we can do Marine Stadium. This should be our immediate goal. If we do Marine Stadium, then people will believe Virginia Key can be done.’’

Other tidbits:

* The city will drop appeals of court decisions that struck down certain condo projects on the river as incompatible with the city’s comprehensive development plan. The comp plan will be re-amended to restore protections for marine-oriented businesses.

* He and new City Commissioner Richard Dunn will “do something’’ about severe underuse at the new $20 million Little Haiti Cultural Center (see below).

* He will seek to foster economic development in the city through expansion of the city’s film industry and revitalization of industrial zones in Allapattah, Little Haiti and Wynwood.

Posted by Andres Viglucci at 01:23 PM

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reminder: UEL Dinner is March 17th, RSVP Today!

No on the green beer but yes on corned beef. There will also be salmon with an Irish cream sauce.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Virginia Key Planning Meeting on March 27

Several classes from the University of Miami (UM) are developing plans for Virginia Key and the Marine Stadium Basin with the full cooperation of the City of Miami Administration. The City hopes to incorporate the results of the student work in its final recommendations for the Master Plan for Virginia Key, scheduled to be presented to the City Commission in June or July.

Students from UM's School of Architecture, taught by UM Professor and Friends of Marine Stadium Co-Founder Jorge Hernandez, and Hilario Candela, architect of the Stadium, will be presenting their work (in draft form) followed by public input on Saturday, March 27 at the Rusty Pelican, 3201 Rickenbacker Causeway, Virginia Key from 9:00 AM-11:00 PM. The event is free and there will be free breakfast munchies and coffee. Call 305-358-9572.

Don't miss this important opportunity to participate.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Homestead Row-Farmer CEO Speaks Out

The UEL supports our Agriculture industry and preserving what little contiguous farmland we have left in Miami Dade County.

Our County farmers have lost $286 Million due to the cold snap. "Miami Today" conducted an interview with tomato grower, Georgetown Educated, Paul DiMare - CEO of DiMare Fresh. DiMare says that fields dedicated tomato growing has shrunk from 50,000 acres to 2,500 acres today in Miami Dade County. He blames NAFTA for the decline of farming in Florida. He said NAFTA sent 500,000 jobs out the door. He said we had a $5 billion dollar trade surplus. Within a couple of years we are left with a $25 billion trade deficit. DiMare says the main population for pickers is of Mexican heritage. He proposes an immigation policy like other countries have, for workforce people. He says wages for field workers are about $12.50 to $13 per hour but he can't find U.S. residents who want to do that work.

Here is last week's video interview with Mr. DiMare.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Virginia Key Guiding Principles.

Does Virginia Key Need Guiding Principles? From

Alternatives to the 2009 proposed master plan for Virginia Key are now being mulled over by community groups, public officials, editorial writers and even University of Miami Architecture School students in a special design workshop on Virginia Key. The City of Miami Commission is set to reconsider the Virginia Key Master Plan in May 2010.

What will guide decisions about what, where and how the island should be used? Should public land be redeveloped using the same principles as private property? Do private sector rules of highest and best use apply? Does public access trump revenue generation by a cash-strapped city? Should short term goals override sound, long-term planning? Is the fragile environment of Virginia Key going to survive?

Perhaps a lesson from the recent past can help. In 1999, the City of Miami was in the throes of a financial crisis, much like today, and Virginia Key public land was seen as an opportunity to increase revenues, much like today. Sensing a need for some kind of order amid the chaos of competing interests, University of Miami Professor Greg Bush, then president of the Urban Environment League, came up with these guiding “Principles for the Future of Virginia Key.” Here is Here are the principles:

-Free and clear public access to the beach and all public property should be maintained.

-Public participation should be insured throughout the process of re-designing the use of public land with due public notice given in major newspapers. The need for public charrettes, paid for by the city and other sources of funds is paramount. All city and county reports should be completed on schedule and issued in writing.

-Those Virginia Key Advisory Board or Waterfront Board members with personal interest of their own, or by members of their family or close personal friends in future economic benefit from the and in question should consider that this might constitute a conflict of interest and should consider removing themselves from their respective Committees.

-Public bathroom facilities should be made available to all and adequate security should be maintained in all public parks.
-Public access to public land should not be inhibited by parking restrictions or inadequate public transportation.

-Public parkland should be used to enhance the appreciation of nature through walking trails, public campgrounds. It should also provide places of contemplation and relaxation as well as be redesigned for active recreational uses and as entertainment venues. There is a paramount value to keep all activity small scale.

-Public parkland on Virginia Key should be used to memorialize the civil rights struggle of African Americans. A memorial structure should be constructed modeled after the FDR memorial in Washington D.D. that will be a place of contemplation and tell the history of the struggle. It should be developed in cooperation with the Black Archives. The site should be a non-commercial service to the community, act as a tourist destination. All proceeds should benefit underprivileged youth.

-A suitable memorial should be created for all those from Cuba and Haiti who arrived on the shores of Virginia Key in their flight from oppression.

-Commercial eating facilities should be strictly limited to small scale operations.

-Educational programs for youth should be a major objective in redesigning the public parkland - done in conjunction with the Biscayne Nature Center.

-This Committee should be retained during the entire process of the planning for Virginia Key not merely to help with Specification for RFP’s so that there be continuity of knowledge.

-A Wilderness Campground should be created for inner city children, children at risk, and others, similar to the youth camp at Biscayne National Park.

-Any designs should be completed only after full and active consultation with local experts in the fields of environmental science and local history and with due deference to the ecological and historical nature of this island.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dade Heritage Trust Events on Virginia Key

Dade Heritage Days every year, celebrates all Miami has to offer and they have planned events featuring Virginia Key.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dolphin Stadium Improvement Funding Off the Table for Now

The Miami Dolphins are not pursuing funding to renovate Dolphin Stadium. The team owners have decided that with the myriad of economic problems facing Miami Dade County, that this would not be a good time to seek $200 million in tax-backed funds. It is about time they came to this conclusion.

It looks like we have heard the end of the Rodney Barreto pitch for money for the Stadium. The UEL didn't know there was actually a bill set to be filed in Tallahassee that would have set the Miami-Dade hotel taxes "tourist tax" cap 1% higher. We would like to know which legislators were preparing this bill.

The UEL is pleased that this issue is off the table. The priorities of the County and State of Florida should be on more pressing issues.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Most Credible Climate Skeptic Not So Credible After All

From Mother Jones By Kate Sheppard - Feb. 26

Patrick Michaels has more credibility than your average climate skeptic. Unlike some of the kookier characters that populate the small world of climate denialists—like Lord Christopher Monckton, a sometime adviser to Margaret Thatcher who claims that "We are a carbon-starved planet," or H. Leighton Steward, a retired oil executive and author of a best-selling diet book who argues that carbon dioxide is "green"—Michaels is actually a bona fide climate scientist. As such, he's often quoted by reporters as a reasonable expert who argues that global warming has been overhyped. But what Michaels doesn't mention in his frequent media appearances is his history of receiving money from big polluters.

For example:

As it turned out, Michaels' attempt to keep his client list secret wasn't entirely successful. The court documents reveal that lawyers for the defense saw records revealing that Michaels had received money from at least one very large energy company.

In addition, Greenpeace recently obtained an older copy of Michaels' curriculum vitae via a Freedom of Information Act request that shows that the Western Fuels Association, a coal and fuel-transportation business group, gave him a $63,000 grant in the early 1990s for "research on global climatic change." He also received $25,000 from the Edison Electric Institute, an association of electric utilities, from 1992-95 for "literature review of climate change and updates." And a 2006 leaked industry memo revealed that he received $100,000 in funding from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association to fund climate denial campaigning around the time of the release of An Inconvenient Truth. Reporter Ross Gelbspan wrote in his 1998 book The Heat is On, one of the earliest works documenting industry funding for climate change skepticism, that Michaels also received $49,000 came from the German Coal Mining Association and $40,000 from the western mining company Cyprus Minerals.