Miami Dade County Community Forum

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sierra Club Legislative Alert

Call your Representative TODAY to vote NO on
HB 991 Environmental Permitting by Rep. Patronis scheduled for a floor vote tomorrow (Friday, April 29)

This bill is a developer’s grab bag of bad ideas that will:
Deprive citizens of due process when they try to challenge permits that will hurt the environment
Shift the burden of proof to citizens in challenges rather than leaving it with the applicant who currently has the burden of showing they are in compliance with all permit requirements
Preempt localities from regulating the environmental impact of mining activity (one of the most disruptive land uses imaginable).

Exempt phosphate mines from the development of regional impact process. There is no question that phosphate mines have regional effects from their sheer size to the downstream consequences, and small counties do not have the ability or incentive to consider impacts on their neighbors.
Reduce the information agencies are allowed to request when processing permit applications
Expedite wetlands permits for an inland port.

Put into statute that groundwater can be contaminated down to the base of the aquifer all the way out to the property line.

HB 991 was supposed to go through two more committees (Appropriations and State Affairs) but House leaders avoided this requirement and put this bad bill on the fast track to passage. Tell your Representative that trashing the environment won’t create jobs but cost them. Our state relies on our landscape and our natural resources to support communities and attract business. Urge them (politely) to vote ‘NO’ on this bad bill.

Miami Dade County Mayoral Debate

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Town Hall Meeting Tonight

 Chairman Martinez and Commissioner Bell
to host town hall meeting on the proposed Charter reform
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Chairman Joe A. Martinez and Commissioner Lynda Bell are inviting Miami-Dade residents to attend a town hall meeting on the proposed Miami-Dade Home Rule Charter amendments. Attendees will be able to share their input on changes they would like to see in the Charter and the proposed amendments that will be on the May 24, 2011 ballot. Representatives from other County departments will also be on hand to assist residents with answering any inquiries.
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at the Palmetto Golf Course Recreation Room, 9300 Coral Reef Drive, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
"The special election is quickly approaching and it is imperative that voters know how the proposed amendments to the charter can affect the Miami-Dade County Home Rule Charter," said Chairman Martinez.  "As their representatives, it is our duty to make sure the residents have as much information available to so they can make an informed decision."
"I'm pleased to be able to bring this important meeting to my district and encourage residents to take an active role in their County government," said Commissioner Bell. "This is an opportunity for residents to take part in a public forum and learn more about the way their vote affects how their government will run."
For more information, please contact the office of Chairman Martinez at 305-375-5511 or Commissioner Bell at 305-378-6677.
WHO:                    Miami-Dade County Chairman Joe A. Martinez
                               Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell
WHAT:                  Town Hall Meeting on Charter Reform
WHEN:                  Tuesday, April 26, 2011
                                6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. 
WHERE:               Palmetto Golf Course Recreation Room
                               9300 Coral Reef Drive, Miami

Monday, April 25, 2011

Save the Date: June 15th

The UEL has scheduled our annual meeting on Wednesday, June 15th. We are planning on having it at the Coconut Grove Sailing club. The UEL gives out its annual Orchids and Onions awards on that date.

We hope you will save the date!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Overhaul of Growth Management Rules

The Miami Herald reported:

The Republican-controlled Florida House handed business interests and Gov. Rick Scott a victory Thursday by passing legislation that would lift most state controls over urban sprawl, leaving it up to local governments to deal with that issue.


"We are taking a step back," acknowledged Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary. "We are saying that we trust the local governments to make those decisions."

House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders of Key West said that trust is misplaced. He cited bribery charges recently filed against local officials in South Florida in connection with development decisions.

"This is not a job creation bill except for one group and that's criminal defense attorneys," Saunders said.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Settlement translates into a windfall for the city?

According to the Miami Herald: Miami commissioners may vote on Thursday to settle a lawsuit with an outdoor advertising company that could prove to be a windfall for the city. Commissioner Carollo called the settlement agreement "Blackmail."

Take Action at City Commission Meeting April 21st.

Take Action Now

The Miami City Commission meets this Thursday, April 21, to consider an emergency billboard ordinance amendment (to be adopted on one reading) and two resolutions which favor more billboards in Miami.

The “emergency” cited is a pending state bill which limits the city to no more than a $500 permit fee for any outdoor advertisement, including billboards, murals and “media towers.”

The resolutions favor one billboard company, allowing it to take down one billboard to get a new one, instead of 4/1 or 2/1 as now required.

Please let the Commissioners know you oppose this ordinance and these resolutions by taking action today, For more information and to take action go to Scenic America.

These matters were originally considered by the Miami City Commission on April 14. Commissioner Frank Carollo stopped the vote on 4/14. For an analysis of the discussion on April 14, please see the attached letter by Grace Solares, long time activist in the Roads neighborhood (slated for a billboard pursuant to the proposed ordinance), president of Miami Neighborhoods United and vice president of the Roads neighborhood association.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

May 2nd Awards for the Floating Stage at Miami Marine Stadium

Friends of Marine Stadium have announced that the awards for the Floating Stage Design will be presented at the Rusty Pelican on Monday May 2nd.

5:30 - 6:30 Cocktail Hour and Entries Displayed
6:30 - 7:30 3 Course Dinner $30
7:30 - 9:00 Award Presentation

Monday, April 18, 2011

Upcoming Mayoral Debates

Democracy for America
IBEW, Union Hall, 1657 NW 17th Avenue
Friday - April 29th:
Miami Voice PAC
Katy Sorenson Moderator
Location: Sugarcane's Raw Bar,
3252 Northeast 1st Avenue
Monday - May 2nd:
Kendall Federation of Homeowners
Kendall Village Center,
8625 SW 124 Avenue
Wednesday - May 4th:
Downtown Bay Forum Luncheon

Friday, April 15, 2011

County Commissioner Lynda Bell in a Dispute

The ACLU has asked the City of Homestead to investigate charges that County Commissioner Lynda Bell stopped the Fuego Cuban Music Festival that was to be held at the racetrack. She said she did not stop the concert but the Miami Herald reported that:

Before the concert in Homestead could take place, Bell told Miami’s Radio Caracol (1260 AM) on Feb. 7 that she would do “everything within my power to stop that,” suggesting the event would be controversial among Cuban exiles.

“We understand free speech and will defend free speech, but not when public facilities and public funds are being utilized,” she said.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Elections Bill being heard today.

In addition to the Miami Herald editorial below, there was a last minute addition:

They added ....the elimination of any recourse to a voter challenge that would allow you to vote at the poll. In other words, they if you’re in line at the polls, and someone challenges your right to vote, you have no choice but to vote by provisional ballot which often go uncounted.
Miami Herald: Another Flori-duh moment?

OUR OPINION: Speaker Cannon’s bill sets up obstacles to voting

A decade after the Sunshine State earned the moniker Flori-duh for those indiscernible hanging chads used in the old punch-card ballots during the 2000 presidential election, some legislators in Tallahassee seem to want to take us back to that confusing and divisive time. As if Florida doesn’t have enough problems already.

On Thursday, the House State Affairs Committee will take up legislation, HB 1355, drafted by the office of House Speaker Dean Cannon and introduced into committee by Rep. Dennis Baxley, that’s supposed to strengthen Florida’s election laws. In fact, the 128-page bill would undo some of the sensible reforms imposed after the 2000 election debacle and adds a plethora of requirements that would tie the hands of independently elected elections supervisors, disenfranchise voters, dissuade volunteers from engaging in voter registration and discourage many voters’ participation on Election Day.

Among the bill’s onerous requirements:

• A newly married woman wanting to vote on Election Day would no longer be allowed to show elections officials at the polls documentation with her name change to vote on that day. Instead, she would be forced to use a provisional ballot, which likely will mean that vote won’t be counted. In 2008, half the provisional ballots in Florida were thrown out, making it hard to contest.

• Voter-registration groups would have to register all their volunteers and paid staff with the state’s Division of Supervisors of Elections, which would create a database. What’s the purpose? Harassment of volunteers or particular organizations?

• Volunteers, who now can help resolve legal issues for individual voters at the polls, would be restricted because the bill lumps “legal advice” into the definition of solicitation and prohibits it within 100 feet of a voting line.

• Any voter who has moved and shows up at a polling site with evidence of the new address would also be forced to use a provisional ballot even though county elections supervisors now have access to a statewide voter database, created back in 2003, that can easily confirm a voter’s change of name or address. This would potentially disenfranchise thousands of college students.

This bill reeks of partisanship. Why?

One theory: Mr. Cannon wants to limit students’ participation in the voting process — as volunteers and as voters. That may be because his district includes the University of Central Florida, and College Democrats at UCF registered almost 11,000 voters in 2008 when Barack Obama won Florida.

The legislation also potentially would restrict the ability of news media and bloggers to take video or audio of voters at polling places, whether during early voting days or on the final Election Day.

As the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jeff Clemens, noted, “The language in this elections bill seems to place a presumption of guilt on the voters.”

Indeed, at a time when technology has made voting easier and more transparent, when databases have been established for easy and exact access to voters’ information to combat fraud, this bill sets up obstacles reminiscent of Jim Crow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

STOP AND TAKE ACTION NOW: Taxpayers Bill of Rights

Opportunity for ACTion
We are ALL Responsible for Florida's Economic Security
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights, aka TABOR (HJR 7221), is moving swiftly through the Florida House and is expected to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee tomorrow, April 12th, at 9 AM. This legislation is identical to SJR 958, which has already been passed by the Senate.  
TABOR has been brought up and defeated in more than twenty states; the only state to pass TABOR is Colorado, where as a result of the harmful effects of TABOR on the state, Colorado citizens voted to suspend TABOR in 2005.
To learn more about TABOR's potential impact in Florida, please see the independent analysis performed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
 1. Click here to view a full listing of the House Appropriations Committee members. 
2. If your state Representative is on the House Appropriations Committee, please call or e-mail and tell him or her not to gamble with Florida's future. Vote NO on HJR 7221!  
Find your State Representative's contact information here.    
3.Send this alert to other concerned citizens: your grassroots network, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Encourage them to contact their state Representative as soon as possible.
~~Thanks to our partner The League of Women Voters  for this Action Alert~~

The Human Services Coalition

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 14th City of Miami Commission Meeting - Call to Action

Dear Friends:

This is a call to action in regard to a new billboard ordinance and two resolutions coming before Miami City Commission this Thursday April 14 either in late morning or early afternoon.

Here’s what we are asking that you do:

1) Go to Scenic Miami Dade and then click “take action.” You can add to the message we have up on the web – we have provided a short message: “stop adding billboards in Miami.” Your message will go to City officials as well as County commissioners because we are also gearing to fight an ordinance proposed by Bruno Barreiro to let cities opt out of the County sign ordinance – which means the city could then do whatever it wants without fear of enforcement of the county ordinance which has many, many limitations on billboards. First hearing before County Commission committee is June 15 at 2:00 pm. More anon on that but please put it on your calendar. Please send this email to everyone in your network, including organizations and friends. We want the public officials flooded with emails.

2) We need people to speak at the Miami City Commission on Thursday, April 14. The ordinance consideration is a public hearing and we should mention resolutions at that time as well. Resolutions do not require public hearings and Chairman Gort may or may not allow public comment. I am leaving for a long ago scheduled trip on Wednesday, April 13. I will be sending an email raising the points below, but we need speakers to put them on the record. Please advise me ASAP if you can speak on Thursday April 14 in late morning or early afternoon.

Barbara K. Bisno
Scenic Miami, Inc.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A call to Action by the UEL Board of Directors!

Florida is a treasure which we have the privilege of enjoying with the responsibility to preserve and enhance that treasure for future generations. - Former Senator Bob Graham


To All Those Interested in Fair Growth and Good Planning in Greater Miami:

The Urban Environment League calls on you to speak out against fast track legislation that will significantly harm the built and natural environment of South Florida. We are facing a major crisis brought on by Governor Rick Scott and the state legislature.

Is Florida prepared for more uncontrolled development? Governor Rick Scott thinks so. He’s working to destroy the growth management laws and gut the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to appease to the interest of developers. The public's interest is being lost and we will pay a high price in years to come. Most of the public does not adequately appreciate the complex nature of the issues involved but hopefully you can help persuade legislators that thousands of voters do care very much.

Under the leadership of Governors Reubin Askew and Bob Graham, Florida was at the forefront of states in creating the Growth Management Act of 1985 - mandating state oversight of local development so that more rational planning could assure fair funding of public infrastructure, calling for contributions by developers. Do we really want to gut this legislation in favor of paying for new development when we have such a glut of unsold properties from the past housing crisis?

What’s at stake for South Florida?

- Our fragile Everglades ecosystem faces new and unplanned for encroachment!

- Our municipal services, already struggling, would be incredibly strained by this legislation.

- Our existing infrastructure and transportation systems need to be upgraded before we can pay for more development & growth! Where would any authority effectively oversee that?

Governor Scott is proposing that the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) be drastically reduced in size and its authority to regulate development emasculated. The citizens, in the past, have been able to call on the DCA for help with issues like enforcing the UDB line rules and requiring water dependent uses for riverside properties. This will end.

The DCA has been instrumental in maintaining the urban boundary line (UDB) in Miami-Dade County as well as other counties that face the threat of decentralized sprawl. That could become history.

The Urban Environment League is in favor of well planned development, infill and encourgaing development around transportation corridors but knows all to well that some politically connected developers in Miami-Dade County can and will easily distort community needs in favor of their narrow interests. Without the oversight of the DCA, uncontrolled growth will prevail.

Now is the time to advocate and fight for smart growth planning in South Florida and throughout our state!

Join the UEL and other groups like Tropical Audubon Society in demanding that growth management laws remain intact and that the DCA remain as a vital government entity, fully funded and fully staffed.

There are a number of ACTION STEPS you can take:

1. Commit to writing a letter to the editor of your newspaper.
2. Send an email to your State Representative or State Senator in support of growth management.
3. Also call their office.
4. Post your concerns and share articles about this issue on Facebook, asking your friends to write emails and make calls to their legislators!

Please contact the UEL with any questions or requests for assistance at

Florida really needs your support at this critical time!

Thank you,

UEL Board of Directors

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bob Graham - The Sad State of our State

Bob Graham column: The sad state of our state (reprinted from the St. Pete Times)

Bob Graham, the former Florida governor who also served in the U.S. Senate, wrote a column for the St. Petersburg Times.

As the Legislature enters its second half, there has emerged a disturbing pattern of ignoring many of Florida's core values. Over the last half-century these values have given Florida government — whether in Republican or Democratic hands — a stability and predictability that is now threatened.

What are some of those at-risk values?

Florida is a treasure which we have the privilege of enjoying with the responsibility to preserve and enhance that treasure for future generations.

For most of Florida's history, up until the mid 1960s, our state was treated like a commodity. If you didn't like it you changed it: land into water; water into land. The business of the state was business, and our enormous natural resources were just another input. The quality and safety of our coasts, fresh waters, open lands and the Everglades were regularly and enthusiastically sacrificed on the altar of growth.

Riding over the horizon were two merging armies. Emerging Democratic leaders, such as Reubin Askew of Pensacola and Lawton Chiles of Lakeland, who were in the vanguard of the recently reapportioned Legislature, joined forces with young Republicans like Nathaniel Reed of Hobe Sound and Warren Henderson of Sarasota, who were appalled at the change they had seen in their newly adopted state.

These armies had a common mission: to reverse the damage commoditization had done to Florida and replace it with a culture of conservation and intergenerational responsibility.

Read the entire column here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Save Growth Management in FL Now!  By Laura Reynolds

Call today - April 7, 2011

Dear Smart Growth/Conservation Advocate:
As you know, Florida's growth management process is in for the fight of its life.  We firmly believe that the only thing that can make a difference this 2011 session is a major public outcry over efforts to dismantle growth management in Florida. The Tropical Audubon Society is reaching out to smart growth and conservation organizations across the state and asking for help. Click here for action steps at a glance.

We are asking our friends to commit to undertake a number of actions to help save growth management:

1.    Commit to arrange for at least five letters to the editor to your local paper in support of growth management.In partnership with the state's leading conservation groups we are planning a press conference for Wednesday, April 6.  We hope you will ask some of your members to write letters to the editor supporting growth management over the week following April 6.  These letters do not need to be loaded with facts, but rather "from the heart" pieces that talk about how important it is to manage growth to protect our quality of life, drinking water, and citizen rights to participate in planning.
2.   Send out an email blast to your members asking them to call their Representative and Senator in support of growth management.  We will send you an email alert that you can forward to your members, or we can assist you with crafting a message of your own.  If you have other groups in your email system, please ask them to forward the message to their members as well.  We need all the calls we can get.
3.   If you are on Facebook, share the message with your Facebook friends, asking them to call their legislators.  Also, please "like" The Tropical Audubon Society on Facebook and we will keep you posted on a regular basis.
4.   If you're not on Facebook, consider signing up for The Tropical Audubon Society's email alerts.  You can sign up at
5.   Consider writing an op ed for your local paper on behalf of growth management. Specific examples about how growth management and citizen participation have made a difference in your community would be best.Conclude your piece by asking readers to contact their State Representative and Senator to oppose damaging proposals and support effective growth management.  Again, we can provide assistance with developing op eds if you wish.

Please contact the Tropical Audubon Society Executive Director Laura Reynolds at with any questions or requests for assistance.

We really need your support at this critical time.  If you have suggestions on other steps we can take in support of growth management, we hope you will share them with us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

SB1570 was voted on yesterday.

SB1570 will end a 15 year old requirement that billboard companies pay for state owned trees destroyed along our roadways. The bill also reduces the current requirement to surrender TWO nonconforming billboard permits for each new billboard view zone created by chopping down our publicly owned trees on our right of way.

Billboard Regulations; Revises requirements for an application for a permit to remove, cut, or trim trees or vegetation around a sign. Requires that the application include a vegetation management plan, a mitigation contribution to a trust fund, or a combination of both. Requires the Department of Transportation to provide notice to the sign owner of beautification projects or vegetation planting. Creates the tourist-oriented commerce signs pilot program. Exempts commercial signs that meet certain criteria from permit requirements, etc.

It passed in committee 3 to 2.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday: Miami River Day 2011.

People line up for free boat rides down the river.

Cara Capp of Clean Water Action shows off her booth.

Horacio Stuart Aguirre, Head of the Miami River Commission.

The function was crowded at lunchtime.

Here is our own President, Fran Bohnsack pictures at the Miami River Marine Group exhibition.

Fort Dallas in Lummus Park...across the street from the festivities -- approximate age 1840's, used as barracks and then slave quarters.