Miami Dade County Community Forum

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Great Debate: July 29th

The Tropical Audubon Society and the Urban Environment League hosted a debate for Florida State Senate District 36 and Florida State Representative District 117 at South Miami City Hall. Oscar Musibay, Reporter for the South Florida Business Journal was the Moderator. We want to thank all the candidates that came. They answered some very tough questions.

Oscar Musibay prepares for the moderating job.

Marcus Rivchin and Ernie Martinez, Republican candidates for District 117.

Julio Robaina, the only State Senate District 36 candidate to show up out of a field of 5 candidates.

Lisa Lesperance, Democratic candidate for State Representative District 117.

Jose Pazos is also a Republican Candidate for District 117.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jim Morin's opinion on the proposed media towers in the Miami Herald

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Candidate's Forum This Thursday!!

Come out on thursday for this important forum! Almost every candidate has agreed to come, and this forum promises a big turnout. See you there!

Thursday, July 29th

Candidates Forum

FL State Senate District 36
FL State Representative District 117

Moderator: Oscar Musibay, Award Winning Reporter for the Florida Business Journal

South Miami City Hall
6130 Sunset Drive
Miami, FL 33143
7:00—9:00 Free Program
Doors open at 6:30

Invited Candidates:
State Senate District 36: Luisa Artiles, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Alberto E. Fortes, J. Nillo, Julio Robaina
State Represenatative District 117: Ana Alliegro, Michael Bileca, Lisa Lesperance, Ernie Martinez, Jose
Pazos, Marcus Rivchin, Juan Carlos Robaina, Ralph Rosado

Monday, July 26, 2010

American Institute of Architects on the Miami River. By Ernie Martin

The American Institute of Architects team called this waterway to be the Authentic Miami: Their major conclusion was that this incredible resource lacks public access.

One of the most prestigious urban environmental professional organizations in America recently convened their annual meeting in Miami: the American Institute of Architects (AIA). As is their practice, they precede their annual conference with a public service project, which focuses on both the profession and the host City. This year’s conference, held in June, focused the profession on the Miami River.

The AIA convened a panel of experts to take a long and detailed look at one of Miami’s least know resources, and they came away with a number of surprises. First, they recognized that the Miami River is the birthplace of this metropolis, with historic landmarks dating back 2000 years to Tequesta settlements; to the origin of Miami as a tourist venue at Flagler’s Royal Palm Hotel at the River’s mouth; to the Miami River as one of the most vibrant economic engines of this region; and to the Miami River as home to a fast growing population in both historic neighborhoods and new high rise condos. The AIA team called this waterway to be the Authentic Miami.

Their major conclusion was that this incredible resource lacks public access. The Miami River is the waterfront for Overtown, Little Havana, and Allapattah. It is also the waterfront for thousands of new downtown rental and condo units along its edge. It is the waterfront for historic villages like the Miami River Inn, Spring Garden, Historic Overtown, Grove Park and Durham Park. It is the waterfront for a vibrant marine industry, from shipping terminals to boat repair and maintenance facilities. Further, it is the waterfront for a huge drainage basin, including Wagner Creek, one of the most polluted waterways in Florida that feeds into Biscayne Bay, and deserves environmental improvements.

With so much at stake, and so many populations affected, the AIA concluded that the Miami River Greenway and River walks needed renewed attention from the Miami River Commission, the State, City and County, as well as the private property owners along the River. In particular, they called for strengthened governance to keep all the parties working together for the shared vision as already promulgated and endorsed by the Miami River Commission, and the approved Greenways Action Plan of the City and County. It calls for a continuous public walkway and bike path from the mouth of the River to the new Miami Intermodal Center at Miami International Airport. When possible on public land, it will be a River Walk, and when it needs to go around private water dependent property it will be an on-road landscaped walk on North or South River Drive paralleling the River. The AIA endorsed the plan but pointed out that enforcement of its provisions has been often lacking by the City, and implementation is slow. They called for renewed commitment for public access and utilization of the Miami River, pointing out its potential as an urban destination similar to revitalized urban rivers across the nation and planet, with fisherman wharf type amenities, as well as healthful opportunities for walking, jogging and biking. The AIA’s findings are worthy of UEL’s support and ongoing public education efforts.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Virginia Key Master Plan gets a favorable unanimous vote from the City of Miami Commission. By Jennifer Garcia

Yesterday was a very special day for Virginia Key. More than 10 civic and environmental groups created one realistic and environmentally conscious master plan over a span of only eight months and was presented to the City of Miami‘s Commissioners, where it was unanimously approved.

How we all were able to work together and form one coalition is incredible! It truly shows how one common interest is enough to set aside all of our personal issues and just work as one.

When I first began to get involved with the issues of Virginia Key I was very optimistic, I thought EDSA was going to listen to us and incorporate our ideas into their master plan. I was a junior in high school; I was not familiar with public planning, master plans, civic groups and politics. I am blessed they actually did not listen and I was able to learn throughout these four years more than I ever expected and would ever learn at school. The main reason I am even an environmental studies major today always begins with my passion for Virginia Key. I am so grateful for the hard work that everyone has put in, especially Professor Jorge Hernandez, Architect Hilario Candela, University of Miami School Of Architecture Students, and fellow UEL Board Member Dr. Gregory Bush.

We are one step closer my friends and I hope we continue to work together for that one common goal.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Virginia Key Plan Makes the Rounds of City Boards

George Hernandez, of the University of Miami, presenting the Virginia Key Plan to the City of Miami Zoning Board Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Candidates Night by The Kendal Federation

Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations Town Hall Meeting
Sponsored by The Village Diner Monday
August 2, 2010 - 7:00 P.M.
Kendall Village Center
8625 SW 124 Ave

Candidates Night
Two Candidates for the following offices have been invited:
1. County Commission Districts 8 and 10
2. School Board Districts 6 and 7
3. Community Council Districts 11 and 12
4. Florida Amendments 1 – 6 Will be discussed if time permits

Come meet the candidates, ask questions, and decide who you want to vote for
Primary Elections 8/24/10-11/2/10

Monday, July 19, 2010

Miami Herald on the Virginia Key Master Plan

In an article today, Miami Herald Reporter Andres Viglucci reviewed the City of Miami Waterfront Advisory Board meeting (held Tuesday) where the new Virginia Key Master Plan was presented:

City of Miami planners have markedly scaled back a proposed makeover of ecologically sensitive Virginia Key, winning plaudits from critics who complained previous versions of the plan favored concrete over nature.

UEL President Fran Bohnsack was quoted in the article:

Since then, planners held public meetings with the participation of more than 100 people, including members of the Urban Environment League, a leading critic of the EDSA plans.

The result, League chairwoman Fran Bohnsack told the waterfront board, ``has something for everyone, and it's much better than the original EDSA plan.''

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mango[flavored] Festival - by the UEL intern

I’ve had a mango craving all summer. The ones I’ve eaten so far were not quite ripe, or not quite as flavorful as what I wanted, and I was delighted to recall that Fairchild was holding their Mango Festival this past weekend. Finally, I could eat some real mangos, without resorting to buying them off the side of the road.

I headed out the Mango Festival on Sunday, and because I was running a bit late, I didn’t ride a bike, as they had strongly suggested. However, I realized once I got there that having ridden would have gotten me $5 off my admission price. Oh well.

I had simple goals for the day: one, take a couple shots of the pretty Fairchild plants; two, watch the Indian dance show; three stuff my face with mangos.

Goal number one was easy, when I arrived around one-thirty the grounds were practically sizzling with the heat, and I was glad to escape the tents and ineffective mist-fans and wander along the paths through the fauna, shaded by the trees on every side. My thirteen-year-old brother begrudgingly agreed to be my model, posing on rocks and leaning against a tree.

However, I was intent on the mango eating. But the $1 mango sampling event had run out of mangos, and the ones being sold were not cut up. Should’ve brought a knife to buy one and cut it open right there. I tried a Mango smoothie, but it was terribly watered down. The mango ice cream being sold was delicious, but still not hitting the spot—I wanted to eat REAL mango.

At 2:30, I went to see the Indian dance show. From what I could see, it seemed neat, but the room was packed and we didn’t get seats. As the room filled up even more, my view became almost entirely blocked, and I went out for fresh air before they performed “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire. Well, Goal number two was mostly accomplished.

I wandered around some more, checking out the tents selling everything from boba tea to seagrass hats, and then headed inside a little later for the mango auction. I was shocked to see a basket of four or five mangos being sold for almost a hundred dollars! Apparently, the mango auction was not going to be the place for me to finally eat some mango.

After finding that all of the mango trees being sold were gone, I decided to leave. Was it a good day? Yes, but mostly because Fairchild is too lovely to leave you feeling down. But I was shocked that I never found anywhere to eat mango. Guess that goal would have been better accomplished buying some off the side of the road for fifty cents, after all.

(note: the photo is from the mango auction, where the lovely dancers displayed the mangos for the buyers)

Virginia Key Master Plan

Tuesday, July 13:

The Waterfront Advisory Board at 6:30 regarding Virginia Key Master Plan. The Waterfront Advisory Board is the first opportunity to see the completed PowerPoint by the UEL coalition made to present to the various boards.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Register to Vote Today so you can Vote in the Primary.

If you want to vote in the Primary, Registration closing is July 26th. Contact the elections department. Remember, most County Commission races are decided in the primary election. However, with so many candidates in the district 8 open seat, we expect the decision will be made in the regular election. You need 50% plus one to win in the primary and with 6 candidates this will be nearly impossible to achieve. The top two voter getters will face a runoff.

We have set up three candidates forums for the dog days of summer. We specifically chose locations near/or in the districts so people in the neighborhood would get a chance to meet the candidates. Please try to attend (see last post on Friday).

Friday, July 9, 2010




FL State Senate District 36
FL State Representative District 117

Moderator: Oscar Pedro Musibay, Award Winning Reporter for the South Florida Business Journal

South Miami City Hall
6130 Sunset Drive
Miami, FL 33143
7:00—9:00 Free Program
Doors open at 6:30

Invited Candidates:
State Senate District 36: Luisa Artiles, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Alberto E. Fortes, J. Nillo,
Julio Robaina
State Represenatative District 117: Ana Alliegro, Michael Bileca, Lisa Lesperance, Ernie Martinez, Jose Pazos, Marcus Rivchin, Juan Carlos Robaina, Ralph Rosado




FL State Senate District 36
FL State Representative District 107

Moderator: Roger Carlton - Former City Manager of Miami Beach, Former Acting
City Manager of South Miami

Simpson Park
55 SW 17th Road
Miami, Florida 33129
7:00—9:00 Free Program
Light refreshments will be served
Doors open at 6:30

Invited Candidates:
State Senate District 36: Luisa Artiles, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Alberto E. Fortes, J. Nillo,
Julio Robaina
State Repesentative District 107: Gustavo Barriero, Tony Japour, Luis Garcia




County Commissioner District 8 Candidate’s Forum

Moderator: Invited Matthew Haggman, Award Winning Reporter for the Miami

Thursday, August 12th
At Pinecrest Library Meeting Room
5835 SW 111th St
Miami, FL 33156
7:00—9:00 Free Program
Doors open at 6:30

Invited Candidates in District 8 Election: Lynda G. Bell, Eugene Flinn, Albert Harum-Alvarez,
Danny Marmorstein, Obdulio Piedra, Annette Taddeo

Know your candidates when you vote on August 24th in the Primary Election!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

UEL and Neighborhoods United Invite You to a Candidates Forum

Please Join Us
FL Senate District 36 Candidate’s Forum and Florida Representative District 107

Senate Candidates Invited Include: Luisa Artiles, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Alberto E.
Fortes, J. Nillo and Julio Robaina
Moderator: Former Miami Beach City Manager Roger Carlton

Tuesday, August 3rd
Simpson Park

Know your candidates when you vote in the primary on August 24th!

Friday, July 2, 2010

South Florida Business Journal report on Billboards

South Florida Business Journal:

South Florida Business Journal - by Oscar Pedro Musibay

The city of Miami’s decision to opt out of county rules prohibiting new billboards along the highway may open the door to more signs, if a federal lawsuit succeeds.

The Miami-Dade County code gives municipalities like Miami the ability to opt out of a county lockdown on new billboards along the highway. The opt-out clause has come under scrutiny as a result of a federal lawsuit budding billboard entrepreneur Santiago Echemendia filed against the city, alleging discrimination. In addition to the lawsuit, the topics of billboards, murals and other forms of outdoor advertising have become hot as prominent developer Mark Siffin seeks city approval for a pair of large electronic billboards proposed near a downtown Miami highway.

Echemendia’s attorney, Tom Julin, a partner at Hunton & Williams , claims that the city is discriminating against his client by selling permits to the highest and most powerful bidders, specifically CBS, Clear Channel and Carter. The three companies have had a monopoly on new billboards and control many of the signs that have transformed the visual landscape near highways and their adjacent neighborhoods.

But, a proliferation of new signs is unlikely, even if Echemendia succeeds, most sign experts agree, because of state restrictions including a minimum distance requirement between signs.

The foundation for Julin’s argument is based on the fact that the city negotiated settlements with each of the companies that required them to take billboards down before getting new permits. In addition to removing billboards, CBS and others also paid, and are paying, the city millions of dollars for the right.

The Miami City Commission tried to tie up years of piecemeal regulation by opting out of the county prohibition in September 2009, making some illegal signs legal. But, that didn’t change the city’s rule that new permits had to be approved through settlements.

When Echemendia and his company, South Florida Equitable Fund, approached the city to play by the same rules as the large companies with settlements, he was rejected. South Florida Equitable Fund v. City of Miami was filed April 1 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. South Florida Equitable’s managing partners are Echemendia, chairman of the Local Government Law Group in the Miami office of Tew Cardenas LLP , and Orlando-based Thornton Harkley.

Waiting for the judge’s interpretation
Julin said it’s unlikely that a bunch of billboards will crop up if his client wins.

He added there are a few possible results under this scenario. These include the judge directing the city to treat South Florida Equitable the same as the other companies with settlements, directing the city to change its rules because it doesn’t allow for a level playing field or declaring the restrictions unconstitutional.

“We are not simply here to remove all the restrictions on signs,” he explained. What Echemendia is seeking is to have the rules “interpreted and applied in a way that will treat all sign companies the same way.”

Judge Ursula Ungaro directed the parties to file summary judgment motions, which they did on June 11.

Deputy City Attorney Warren Bittner said the city has a policy of not commenting about ongoing litigation. However, Miami’s motion for summary judgment makes clear that the city is relying mainly on procedural issues, in part tied to standing, to defend itself.

Lobbyist Dusty Melton, who has worked on sign regulations at both the city and county, insists that the county, which is the overriding authority on the sign code, has rules that still govern new billboards, despite the city’s opting out. He said the city’s history of piecemeal approval of billboards and its indifference to illegal signs has fueled Echemendia’s case.

“I believe Mr. Echemendia makes a strong argument in seeking equal treatment by the city of Miami,” Melton said. | (954) 949-7567

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Candidate's Forum

The UEL is working on setting up a Candidate's Forum for upcoming elections in different neighborhoods. We'll keep you informed. We're also trying to get young people involved in local voting. Some of our ideas are to see what local issues young people care about, so let us know if there's something on your mind!