Miami Dade County Community Forum

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:

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.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 12th Candidate's Forum Report

(photo: candidate's forum at Pinecrest library, Danny Marmorstein standing)

A huge thanks to everyone who came out and heard from the District 8 candidate's for Katy's seat. We had a full house, and the candidates did an excellent job. Our moderator Matthew Haggman, assisted by Laura Reynolds, kept everything running smoothly and made his best effort to make sure everyone's questions were addressed.

Some of the hot issues of the forum were:
-Would you ever move the Urban Development Boundary?
-How do you feel about the new proposal to have advertising in the parks?
-Do you support the expansion of the Turkey Point nuclear plant? What about other alternative energy sources?
-How will you as a Commissioner support green development?
-Can we trust our commissioners to keep their promises? And how do we know we can trust that you'll keep yours?

Feel free to comment with your opinions on the forum

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Check out our Forum Videos!

August 3rd Forum Videos Now Online! (District 107 and 36)

We have the entire forum in 8 parts, and short highlight clips too! Check it out at: TheUELeague Youtube Page

My View on the Media Towers. By Frank Rollason

Most of the opposition I hear to the towers revolves around the process – not enough public input/debate, developed in backroom deal, pushed through too fast, does not comply with County ordinance. While there may be some validity in these points, let’s look at the project on its merits rather than the process.

It is in the 24-hour Entertainment District – where this type of installation should take place if it is to take place at all. It is being funded by private funds from a guy who arguably is looking for a way to salvage an investment that went south with the market – no different than you or I would do with our own personal investments. The community gets a parking garage for the PAC – parking that was overtly omitted due to funding constraints by the County to ‘resolve later’ – you try to do that with any private mom and pop business or restaurant that requires parking – good luck!

Should the towers become non-marketable or unprofitable; the parking garage will long survive after the towers are removed. The investor/developer (Mark Siffin) gave up the approved MUSP for two much taller residential towers which would have increased the traffic on the Boulevard and the surrounding streets; he also gave up the Walmart big box project. So, all in all, I look at it and say, why not?

Why not let a private developer construct an idea with his own money which he contends will bring some life and security to a slum and blighted area (don’t forget, this is located within the Omni CRA – a CRA that has done nothing to eliminate slum and blight since its inception in 1986 – now being used as a piggy bank to pay off the PAC construction bonds and fund the City’s portion of the Port Tunnel project). Think about it, we have much worse issues on the horizon than to fight a battle that is basically over – the market will control it and who knows, maybe, just maybe the idea will work and we will see some people on the streets who will generate a base for some businesses/restaurants to flourish!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

BP downsizes Miami oil spill operations center- Miami Herald

Excerpt from the Miami Herald:

"With no oil to fight in South Florida, BP has begun downsizing its Miami operations center. It's giving up one high-rise office near Brickell Avenue and isn't sure how long it will keep a lease on another.

For one measure of oil worries in South Florida, take the elevator up 21 floors at the Brickell Bay office tower and flip on the lights.

The vacant space once housed part of a command center that BP and the Coast Guard established to combat oil that found its way to Florida shores as far away as Miami and Fort Lauderdale. That never happened, and now BP and Washington consider the possibility so remote they're unwinding their joint Miami post.

``We have what I'll call `right-sized' our presence,'' said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Moorlag, a Coast Guard spokesman assigned to the Miami center. ``We're still here. But we're just here at a reduced capacity.''

In June, BP rented the space and other offices on the 15th floor as oil from the underwater BP well spread to the Florida Panhandle and threatened to follow sea currents to Key West and up the state's eastern coast.

Last month, roughly 120 people worked at the Florida Peninsula Command Post -- a mix of BP staffers and contractors, government meteorologists and scientists, Coast Guard officers, state officials and others.

But with the BP well capped since July 15 and now sealed with cement, downsizing has begun. BP spokesman Phil Cochrane said only about 45 people work in the center, which has been condensed to a 15th floor office in the gleaming waterfront tower, with marble floors and a fountain in the lobby.

``This is a big space with a whole lot less people than we are accustomed to,'' Cochrane wrote in an e-mail Tuesday night.
The hollowed-out Miami outpost at 1001 Brickell Bay Dr. captures the step back from crisis-mode happening across Florida.

But health advisories remain on Panhandle beaches and Florida's latest daily report on the crisis said that scattered tar balls continue to wash in with the surf on the Panhandle."

Read more:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Candidate's Forum Two Days Away!



County Commissioner District 8 Candidate’s Forum

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

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

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

Monday, August 9, 2010

PAB public hearing annoucement

Please be advised that the Planning Advisory Board (PAB) voted for a continuance of the public hearing on the Draft 2010 Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR), to formulate its recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC). The continuance of the PAB public hearing will be held on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 9:30 AM in the Miami Art Museum, at 101 West Flagler Street, Miami Florida 33130. The Miami Art Museum is located across the street from the Stephen P. Clark Center and adjacent to the County’s Main Library.

The draft 2010 EAR is available on the EAR website at

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.

Oil Spill update from the Miami Herald

Excerpt from the Miami Herald:

"Cement sealing the oil well has hardened. Meanwhile, Obama officials promise to remain focused on the problem.

BP announced Sunday that cement sealing the busted oil well in the Gulf of Mexico had hardened, clearing the path for the final phase of drilling a relief well.

Meanwhile, Obama administration officials promised Sunday to remain focused on the Gulf Coast -- punishing BP for the worst oil spill in U.S. history, and cleaning up what remains of the mess.

BP said that pressure tests on the cement plug poured down the throat of the blown-out well show the seal is solidly in place.
That means BP engineers can begin drilling the final 100 feet of a relief well meant to permanently seal the blowout.

Crews will carefully drill about 30 feet at a time, and BP says it will likely be next weekend before the two wells meet. BP didn't make it clear Sunday if workers had begun drilling.

Engineers will use the relief well for a ``bottom kill,'' pumping more mud and cement into the busted well in what is expected to completely seal the well for good.

On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, White House climate and energy czar Carol Browner defended the administration's finding that three-quarters of the 4.9 million barrels (205.8 million gallons) of oil has either disappeared or is in the process of disappearing. Asked if BP had concurred with that calculation of the total oil that escaped -- a key number, since the oil company's punishment might depend on the size of the spill -- Browner said: ``I think BP has been silent. But that doesn't matter. We will hold them accountable.''

Browner said she wouldn't speculate about whether the six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling might be lifted early.
She also said Obama would be serving gulf seafood to guests attending his birthday party Sunday at the White House.

Meanwhile, along the Gulf Coast, such news has not stopped the rumors and suspicions that have multiplied as the oil's sheen has faded.

Those who rely on the Gulf of Mexico's rich fishing grounds say there's a new crisis brewing -- convincing skeptical consumers that the seafood they harvest and sell is safe to eat.

The Gulf's fisheries are beginning to reopen more than three months after the oil began gushing from the sea floor, but those in the seafood industry say that doesn't mean everything has returned to normal.

``We have a huge perception problem,'' said Ewell Smith, director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. ``We have lost markets across the country, and some of them may be lost for good.''

More fishing grounds have reopened since BP's blown-out well was corked July 15, and engineers made important progress last week by forcing heavy mud and cement into the well to push the crude back underground.

Even with the progress that has been made, safety suspicions abound. The Gulf accounts for a majority of the domestic shrimp and oysters eaten by Americans and about 2 percent of overall U.S. seafood consumption. But consumers are turning up their noses and some wary suppliers appear to be turning to imports."

Read more:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Towering hurdles await giant billboards in Miami - The Miami Herald

Excerpt from the Miami HErald regarding the new media towers:

"Even after city commissioners approved giant advertising billboards that would change the downtown skyline forever, more complications must be overcome before construction can begin.

The towering electronic billboards that Miami city commissioners approved last week are so unprecedented, the city had to write a new law just to get them approved.

And that's probably just the start of a process that, in itself, might prove unprecedented. Miami-Dade County, the state and the federal government are all studying whether the skycraping media towers fall under their jurisdiction.

Before developer Mark Siffin gets final clearance from the city, Miami officials say, city planners must revisit the issue, and the county and state need to green-light the project. The county said it is waiting on the plans before weighing in.

And the state? Florida says the scope of the plan probably defies the federal Highway Beautification Act, a half-century-old law created to remove clutter from the nation's largest transportation corridors.

Yet Siffin's attorney is confident that last week's commission vote cemented his client's plan to begin construction within 18 months, and that no other permits are needed.

The differing perspectives are not entirely surprising.

Never before has Miami, the county or state had to grapple with procedures involving the creation of triangular signs that soar 496 feet, filled with hundreds of thousands of light-emitting diodes, sitting atop a parking garage surrounded by retail stores and condominiums.

Siffin crafted a plan that could change the face of Miami and permanently alter its skyline. His City Square includes giant light-emitting towers as tall as any of downtown's condos, on top of an 11-story garage with outdoor cafes at ground level, next to retail centers and restaurants in parking lots now owned by The Miami Herald.

The complex would be built adjacent to, and east of, the historic Boulevard Shops and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts at Northeast 14th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.

There is confusion over whether the cloud-touching towers are murals or billboards -- which, in turn, would affect the approval process required.

``These will definitely not fall under the law I created,'' said Miami's Pieter Bockweg, who helped craft the city's mural ordinance.

There's even confusion about what Siffin is building. In Miami, his attorney Jeffrey Bercow has represented the advertising signs as media towers, which required new legislation. To state officials, Bercow calls them murals, which require little or no oversight.

Lobbyist Eston ``Dusty'' Melton, who helped craft the county's billboard ordinance more than two decades ago, said county law does not permit billboards atop standing structures."

Read more:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Candidate's Forum Last Tuesday

The UEL would like to thank the participants in our forum on August 3rd; our moderator Roger Carlton worked hard to make sure everyone’s questions were addressed, and the candidates who participated, Luis Garcia, Julio Robaina and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, did a great job answering questions. Keep checking back for some short clips we received from a citizen at the event. If you’ve got any pictures or videos you’d like to submit, please send them in!

(note: the picture is of Grace Solares, the UEL co-sponsor and head of Neighborhoods United, and Luis Garcia, candidate for DIstrict 107 Representative)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Settlement Over “Port of Miami River” Policies Approved.

Since 2004, the Miami River Marine Group, a non-profit trade organization that advocates for the Port of Miami River working waterfront, along with the Durham Park Neighborhood Association, has battled the City’s relentless pursuit to replace marine and shipping businesses with high-end condominium towers. Attorney Andrew Dickman, successfully filed suits against the City in 2004 and 2006 to stop three massive condo projects that would have eliminated nearly 25 acres of critical marine industrial lands on the River. The City responded by rewriting its policies, and again the Miami Group appealed.

In 2009, the Florida Department of Community Affairs agreed with the Marine Group, and rejected the City’s new pro-condo friendly policies for the River, and subsequently filed its own law suit against the City. The Marine Group intervened on the side of the state.

Yesterday, the new City Commission made known its commitment to embrace the working waterfront on the River, working in concert with the Marine Group and other stakeholders to promote the Port of 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.

Three suites, however, remain pending in the Third District Court of Appeal related to the Hurricane Cove, Coastal on the River, and Brisas del Rio condominium projects from 2004 and 2006. The Court issued harsh opinions against the City’s prior policies and its decisions regarding land use and zoning on the River. Those opinions are not final because the developers filed motions for rehearings. The prior leadership joined in with the developers on this delay tactic, but the new leadership withdrew its support of that motion and notified the Court it no longer opposes the opinions.

The settlement, and a favorable decision by the District Court, will drop all legal roadblocks from a public and private collaboration to stimulate economic growth on the Miami River. We are pleased that the Mayor and City Commission are now focused on marine economic development on the Miami River rather than condominium developments that disrupt the continuity of the Port of Miami River.

Press Contacts:

Fran Bohnsack
3033 NW North River Drive, 2nd FL
Miami, Florida 33142
T: 305-637-7977 ~ C: 305- 345-1011

Andrew Dickman, Esq.
P.O. Box 771390
Naples, FL 34107
T: 305-758-3621 ~ C: 305-335-1303

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tomorrow Night! Candidate's Forum at Simpson Park



FL State Senate District 36 & FL House District 107
Candidate’s Forum

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

Moderator: Roger Carlton - Former City Manager of Miami Beach, Former Acting City Manager of South Miami and Current UEL Board Member

At 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