Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
PORT PLUSES: Despite earlier negative forecasts, both passenger and cargo traffic at the Port of Miami increased by more than 5% in the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2001. The port's office attributed the increase in passenger traffic to Norwegian Cruise Line's redeployment of ships from Mediterranean to Caribbean waters to home-port in Miami while a spike in imports from the Far East and Europe fueled cargo traffic growth despite weakened trade with Latin America. Port Director Charles Towsley said he expects the growth levels to continue throughout the second half of 2002.
WHITNEY BRANCH: After meeting with the directors of the New York-based Whitney Museum, Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton said the museum would like to open a branch in downtown Miami within a year. The group will need to invest about $4 million over three years to do it, he said, with funds from both the private and public sector. Mr. Winton, who traveled to New York last week with Mayor Manny Diaz, said the Whitney has an offer from a Park West property owner for a rent-free building. The museum would need to pay for building improvements, he said.
PORT FESTIVAL: The Port of Miami is holding the first annual "International Port Fest" Sept. 28-29 to showcase its role in international trade and tourism in the region. Trenae Floyd, public affairs officer for the port, said events being planned include a Ports-of-Call International Pavilion Village, a "Shipmate's Corner" for children and parents, and the Port of Miami Job Fair, which is scheduled on the second day of the program. Details: Angela Simons, (305) 371-7678.
CITY RATING: Standard & Poor's has upgraded the City of Miami's financial outlook from stable to positive. The rating service reported that Miami's General Obligation Refunding bond rating has the potential to rise in contrast to a previous affirmation that ratings would remain unchanged in years to come. Standard & Poor's analysts attribute the bump to the city's improved financial reserve and a diversified economy, which they say has also been critical to the drop in property tax rates. Miami's property tax rates are at nine mills, their lowest level in 52 years. Robin Prunty, analyst for Standard & Poor's, said "an upgrade to the single-A category within the next three years would be warranted if the local economy performs well and budget and management improvements continue."
RECENT UPGRADES: The new status would allow the city to identify and fund capital and operating requirements as part of a multi-year financial plan, Ms. Prunty said. The news adds to positive momentum that Miami's economy has been experiencing recently. In March, Moody's Investors Services upgraded the City of Miami's GO bond rating from Baa2 to Baa1 only four months after Moody's upgraded the city's rating from a Baa3 to a Baa2. That upgrade was made two weeks after Mayor Manny Diaz traveled to New York to speak with executives from several bond ratings companies, including Moody's and Standard & Poor's, although it is not known if his visit was a factor.
PARK DIRECTOR: Miami commissioners today (7/25) are expected to discuss appointing Timothy Schmand, now acting executive director of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, as executive director. A trust subcommittee received more than 70 resumes three months ago from candidates nationwide. After a selection process, the group is recommending commissioners appoint Mr. Schmand. After a two-year tenure, Jay Constanz, former executive director, resigned in March to accept a management job at the Robert First Center for the Arts Hall at Georgia Tech University in downtown Atlanta.
FINGER COMPLEX: A Miami representative for Houston developer Finger Cos. said plans to build a 437-residential complex on Biscayne Boulevard between Northeast 19th Street and 20th Terrace are moving forward. Carl Maynard said his firm hopes to get all the permits in a month. The developer submitted a building permit application last year and planned to start construction early this year. But changes to the interior design of the project caused delay, Mr. Maynard said. Bayshore Village Apartments, he said, will have about 20,000 square feet of ground retail.
PARK PARK: Designating Bicentennial Park a cultural or museum park is on the Miami commission agenda today (7/25). If the vision for the waterfront is accepted, commissioners could direct the city manager to hire landscape architects to complete a master plan for the park.
WATSON JOB: Miami commissioners today (7/25) are also expected to discuss signing a contract with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau to oversee and manage construction of a Watson Island Regional Aviation & Visitors Center. If so, the bureau would hire a construction manager at risk for the project.
AIRPORT WEST LEASE: DSR Shipping Co. has signed a lease to use 30,992 square feet at 8861 NW 18th Terrace in Americas Gateway Center, said Ron Berger, managing director of Insignia ESG, which handled the transaction for landlord ADA Properties No. 4 Ltd. The five-year lease was valued at more than $1.215 million. Wayne Ramoski with Cushman & Wakefield represented freight-forwarder DSR in the deal.
BLACK PARTNER: The Miami law firm Black Srebnick & Kornspan named Larry A. Stumpf a name partner. The appointment becomes effective in August, when the firm will become Black Srebnick Kornspan & Stumpf. Mr. Stumpf is former head of the Miami litigation department for the law firm Akerman Senterfitt. Roy Black, Black Srebnick senior partner and one of the nation's premier criminal defense lawyers, said the appointment results from requests from corporate clients to have his firm represent them on the civil side of cases. "Larry Stumpf," he said, "has represented some of our clients in civil matters over the past eight years." Mr. Stumpf, a civil trial lawyer for 30 years in Florida and New York, focuses on what he calls "fight of their life" cases that are often "quasi-criminal" in nature.
PASSPORT FEES: The US Department of State announced fees for passports will increase to $55 starting Aug. 19, a $15 hike. First-time applicants will pay $85, a $25 rise, and persons under 16 years of age pay $70, a $30 increase. The increases, said Nellie L. Bacon, customer services manager for the Miami Passport Agency, resulted from "an independent fee study done to ensure that the true costs of providing consular services to Americans are covered." Details: (305) 539-3600.
EXPRESSWAY CHAIR: The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority elected Allen Harper chairman. Mr. Harper, an original member of the authority's board, is chairman & CEO of the Miami real estate firm Esslinger Wooten Maxwell and serves as a director for the Tri-County Rail Authority including as chairman of its board for two terms. He also is a member of the executive committee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, CEO of American Heritage Railways and former director of Florida East Coast Industries Inc. The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority is an independent agency of the state that oversees operating, maintaining and improving five of the most heavily traveled expressways in Miami-Dade. Other newly elected officers for the authority include Darryl Sharpton, president of the accounting firm Sharpton Brunson & Co., vice chairman; Gene Prescott, president of Biltmore Hotel Ltd. Partnership and principal shareholder of Seaway Hotels Corp., treasurer, and Oscar Rivero, principal of Rivers Development Group, property acquisitions committee chair.
ADDING SPAIN: The law firm Baker & McKenzie announced a merger with Garcia Trevijano in Spain, effective Sept. 1. Donald J. Hayden, managing partner and head of the litigation practice for the firm in Miami, said the merger maintains Baker's status as the largest international firm in Spain. Baker & McKenzie had offices in Madrid and Barcelona before the merge. After joining forces with Briones Alonso & Martin in January 2001, it had 150 lawyers in Spain specializing in tax, mergers & acquisitions, finance, labor and commercial law.
BEACON TRIO: The Florida Economic Development Council gave the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County's economic development organization, three awards to recognize advertising and promotional efforts in attracting new business and industry here. The council was cited for efforts in advertising campaign, advertising and Internet categories. "We are very pleased," said Frank Nero, Beacon Council president & CEO, "to have received these recognitions, especially from our peers in economic development."
FIU NURSING TRACK: Florida International University School of Nursing announced it has launched a program for licensed nurses that results in their earning a bachelor's degree. Known as the "LPN/LVN to BSN" program, it was recently approved by the Florida Board of Nursing and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. FIU reports it got a request from Mercy Hospital's School of Practical Nursing for the program. Divina Grossman, director of the FIU school, said that chief nursing offices at hospitals around the country are now "indicating a clear preference for baccalaureate-prepared nurses."
SISTER CITIES TURNABOUT: A recent visit by 20 members of Coral Gables' Sister Cities team to Antigua, Guatemala, drew immediate results, Mayor Don Slesnick told the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Goals Conference on Sunday. Now, he said, the Antigua chamber wants to visit Coral Gables. And an Antigua shopowner who usually goes to Fort Lauderdale on buying trips says she's coming to the Gables instead. "We're trying to look like a player in the Sister Cities world," the mayor said.
SEND HER TO CONGRESS: Who's campaigning for Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris in her run for the US House from her West Coast district? Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick sounds like it. Noting that Ms. Harris had talked the city into the paying the rent at its Biltmore Hotel for not only her offices but also offices of the group seeking to Bring the Free Trade Area of the Americas here and now the offices of the World Olympians Association, he told the Gables Chamber Sunday that "Katherine Harris is going to be much safer for us in Congress."
GOOD DEAL: Mayor Slesnick even complimented his predecessor, Raul Valdes-Fauli, whose city administration spearheaded a purchase intended to tie the US military's regional operation, SouthCom, to Coral Gables. "One of the best investments our city ever made," Mr. Slesnick said, "was buying the house on Granada for the commander in chief." While the SouthCom commander's home has been empty eight months because the job has been vacant, he said, the value of the real estate has been soaring.
PUBLIC OUTCRY: Coral Gables officials listen closely to the cries of their constituents. Take the 44 flamingos, each individually and creatively decorated, that stand on city street corners until the end of October, when they will be auctioned to benefit Charlee homes for abused children. "They represent an arts project, a feel-good thing," Mayor Slesnick said. But he noted a complaint that the flamingos themselves represent child abuse. "A woman called me the other day to say they made her children cry."