Downtown agency re-elects three to board, one seat open
By Catherine Lackner
When directors of Miami's Downtown Development Authority elected people to serve on the 14-member board, three of the four were very familiar.
From a slate of eight, directors Friday chose Jeffrey Bercow, current vice chairman; current board members Matthew Gorson and Megan Kelly, and newcomer Jerome Hollo to join a new board.
Other nominees included retailer and bank executive Antonio "Tony" Alonso, Michael Bedzow, former authority chairman and former city commissioner Willy Gort and architect Ron Frazier.
The board appointments go to the Miami City Commission for confirmation. One seat, reserved in the past for a state representative, remains unfilled.
Board member Carlos Migoya, president of First Union National Bank, recommended retaining the incumbents.
"I'd like to speak in favor of Jeffrey Bercow," he said. Because Mr. Bercow is in the midst of steering a complicated Development of Regional Impact application through state bureaucracy, "it would be a problem if he leaves," Mr. Migoya said. He praised Mr. Bercow's dedication to the authority.
With regard to Mr. Gorson, "I don't want to you to take it against him that he's a friend of mine," Mr. Migoya told fellow directors. He said Mr. Gorson's work on the authority's developing charter school during the past six months has been outstanding.
"Besides coming from Swire, which has been so active in developing Brickell and downtown," he said, Ms. Kelly "brings added value to this board. I recommend we vote for the three incumbents."
Director Phil Yaffa, who said he will retire shortly and will be leaving Miami, recommended Mr. Hollo, who was represented by his father, Tibor Hollo, to fill his seat.
"Mr. Yaffa has loyally served this board and his attendance has been impeccable," Tibor Hollo said. He thanked the board for considering him but recommended his son. The younger Hollo is working for the Dade County Bar Association now.
"I ask that you consider him instead of me," Tibor Hollo said, adding that his company is now "the largest property owner downtown." Mr. Yaffa has long been a senior executive with that company.
"I feel that Tibor Hollo has been a leader in development in Dade County," board member and fellow developer Jorge Perez said. "He's always had a vision of the way downtown could be. He and his company deserve to be represented on this board."
Directors gave Ms. Kelly 14 votes, Mr. Bercow and Mr. Gorson 13 each and Mr. Hollo 11. Mr. Gort received three votes.
One more appointment is in the offing: one seat has traditionally been held for the governor to fill. But Gov. Jeb Bush told authority officials he has no desire to make an appointment. Instead, the board will select a downtown businessperson of African descent for the seat.
For nine years, the "state" seat was filled by attorney Jack Peeples, who has retired from the board.
"Jeb Bush has put us on notice that we can appoint someone in the next 30 days," said Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, who is authority chairman. "That gives us 30 days to look around and do some recruitment."
The deadline is not firm, he said. "If it takes 90 days, it takes 90 days. Let's get a list of top-notch people."
To serve on the 14-member board, a nominee must own property, own a business or work or live in downtown Miami. Eight of the 14 must be property owners or representatives of property owners.
The exception is the "state" seat, said Assistant City Attorney Olga Ramirez-Seijas. "The code says only that the person has to be able to represent the state. That seat is not bound by the other requirements."
"That's even broader," Mr. Winton said.
Mr. Yaffa spoke in favor of having someone with Tallahassee connections fill the seat.
"There's an inherent benefit for downtown," he said. "That person could do a lot of lobbying." Former Florida Secretary of State George Firestone, one of the early holders of the "state" seat, "was a tremendous advocate for downtown," Mr. Yaffa said.
Mr. Winton argued that someone whose business life revolves around the state capital would probably not attend many meetings. "If they're not going to come, they're not going to come."
Said Mr. Migoya, "I'd rather see that seat filled by an African-American."