INCORPORATIONS FROZEN: The Miami-Dade County Commission on Tuesday voted 6-4 to halt municipal incorporations pending the outcome of disputes with three recently incorporated communities that seek a state change to a stipulation made when they incorporated that they pay fees to the county so that it can adequately serve poorer areas. "I feel that this is unjust," said JosČ "Pepe" Diaz, saying that an incorporation agreement "is an agreement and a contract." "If you make a deal, you make a deal," Commissioner Sally Heyman agreed. "This is, for all intents and purposes, a home-rule challenge."
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RE-CYCLE HELMETS: Florida should require motorcycle riders to wear helmets, county commissioners said in a 6-4 vote Tuesday to urge the Legislature to repeal a law that voided the requirement. Since the change, they said, motorcycle fatalities and the cost to public health have risen. "It's inexplicable that the Legislature can require seatbelts and not require motorcycle riders over the age of 21 to wear helmets," said Audrey Edmonson. "I've seen the results of motorcycle accidents first-hand," Carlos Gimenez agreed. "I can't understand why the Legislature went the other way on this." However, JosČ "Pepe" Diaz, noting that a lot of states have eliminated helmet laws, said, "I'm not against the measure, but I would like to see a study on it."
TOURISM TEAM: County commissioners Tuesday named eight members to the Tourist Development Council - Miami Beach Commissioner Matti Herrera Bower; Miami Commissioner Angel Gonz·lez; Stuart Blumberg, president and CEO of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association; Gino Caliendo, general manager of Hyatt Hotels and Resorts; George Cozonis, general manager of Sonesta Hotel & Suites in Coconut Grove; Ada Llerandi, chairwoman of the Miami Beach Cultural Arts Council; William Perry III, partner/owner of Knight-Perry International; and Mary Kim Sovia, station manager at Clear Channel Communications. County Commissioner Bruno Barriero was appointed to head the council.
NAILING DOWN HOUSING: Fifty-two single-family homes for low- and very-low-income families are to rise following county approval Tuesday of an agreement with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami, which agreed to hire 50% to 70% of the labor locally. But Commissioner Dorrin Rolle expressed displeasure that the plan still lacks US Department of Housing and Urban Development approval. "We started this way back in 1998 and here were are in 2006, almost 10 years later, and we are still dealing with the infrastructure," he said. "I would hope that no other project in Dade County gets messed up this way."
RAIL ADVANCES: The state on Tuesday committed to fund 25% of a proposed 9.5-mile extension of Metrorail along Northwest 27th Avenue to the Broward County line, county officials said. That commitment followed Tuesday's release of the Federal Transit Administration's fiscal 2007 new starts rating of "medium" for the project, which county officials hailed as a key step to getting federal funding for half the project. The remaining 25% is to come from the county's half percent transportation surtax approved in 2002. The extension is projected for completion in 2012.
RIVER FUNDING: Ongoing dredging of the Miami River could be completed with $3.5 million that US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she has been told is included in President Bush's fiscal 2007 budget that was sent to Congress on Monday. "I will work to confirm that this funding has been requested," she said in a statement released Tuesday. At present, 40% of the dredging has been completed, clearing out years' accumulation of sediment and debris and allowing easier navigation of the channel by merchant ships.
AIRPORT FACELIFT: Miami-Dade County commissioners have told County Manager George Burgess to create a plan within 90 days to spruce up Miami International Airport's Central Terminal, including providing a funding plan "without great financial cost." They included carpeting and tile, furnishings, signage, outside walkways, exterior painting, resurfacing of the roadway including landscaping, parking lot and lighting in their order, which passed 10-0. Commissioners noted that the North and South terminals are being redone - though they refrained from noting the multibillion-dollar price tags in their request for a low-cost makeover.
LOOKING GOOD: After Mr. Burgess figures out how to make the airport look good on a shoestring, he can turn to the rest of the county. Commissioners voted 9-0 to require him to come up with a "county aesthetics master plan" within six months to improve the county's landscaping and then to require each county department to develop a specific aesthetics plan for its own facilities and make it part of its annual business plan.
FEELINGS: Because a survey of county residents on how they feel about county government isn't complete, the county commission has extended the life of its Task Force on Governmental Structure for another six months. Besides reporting on opinions it gathers, the task force is developing data on how often commissioners have rejected the county's manager's procurement recommendations and how much money was involved when it handed contracts to non-recommended vendors. The resolution creating the task force requires the county's communications department to disseminate those findings.
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: Local contractors won't get preference in bidding for Miami projects for at least another year if city commissioners vote today (2/9) to extend a suspension of a city ordinance. The one-year suspension of preferential treatment began last February. Before that, the ordinance let local contractors whose bids came within 10% of the lowest bid match that bid.
GRAND OPENING: Tuscan Place, 600 NW Sixth St., is having its grand opening Feb. 15. The affordable rental housing project with 199 units of one- two- and three-bedroom apartments was developed as a joint venture of The Gatehouse Group Inc. and BAME Development of South Florida. Construction cost was estimated at $32 million, with $1.5 million coming from City of Miami funds. Rents range from $449 to $749 for families or persons within 50% to 60% of the community's median income.
THE PLATTERS: Resolutions are to go before Miami commissioners today (2/9) to accept three separate plats. Padron Estates, along Southwest Seventh Avenue between Southwest 20th and 21st roads, has about 23,227 square feet suitable for two single-family lots. Brickell First, along Southwest First Court between Southwest 12th and 13th streets, has 38,169 square feet and is recommended to hold a 25-story, 115-unit structure. The Crawford Grove Estates plat along the north side of Crawford Avenue opposite Kent Road is available for two single-family lots with about 14,701 square feet.
SURF AND PARK: The Miami Parking Authority is making it easier to find parking. By using a new link on the authority's Web site, commuters can find parking around government buildings, sports and entertainment venues and commercial shopping destinations such as Bayside and CocoWalk. Details: www.miamiparking.com.
GUSMAN ACTIVE: The Gusman Center for the Performing Arts is getting ready to host the Miami International Film Festival, scheduled for March 3-12. The downtown arts center started the year with the South Beach Comedy Festival, hosted by Comedy Central, performances by the New World School of the Arts and Maximum Dance and a performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." The Gusman is to celebrate its 80th anniversary this summer. Details: www.gusmancenter.org.
SHOULDER SEPARATION: When traffic slows to 25 miles per hour or less on four local expressways, express-bus passengers can still zip alone at a blazing 35 miles per hour under a just-approved pilot program between the county and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. The county commission approved allowing certain express buses to use the right shoulder of the highway during slowdowns to maintain their schedules. County Manager George Burgess told commissioners the program could save five minutes per trip.
TAX BREAKS: As tourism continues to swell, another record falls. This one is for the highest Convention Development Tax collection on record, according to William D. Talbert III, president & CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. He said visitors in 2005 generated nearly $40 million in Convention Development Tax, up nearly 17% from $34 million in 2004.
BIG SPLASH: Mr. Talbert is to join other officials today (2/9) in donning wetsuits and swimming with the dolphins to celebrate the re-opening of the Miami Seaquarium. Also to take the plunge are Barry Johnson, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce; Stuart Blumberg, president of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association; and Key Biscayne Mayor Bob Oldakowski.
HONEYMOON HOTELS: Miami's reputation as the City of L'amore continues to grow abroad as the crew of Italian magazine Sposa Belle (Beautiful Bride) is to be in Miami this week doing a fashion shoot and research for a travel feature. Look for the resulting four- to six-page article and 12- to 16-page fashion spread highlighting Miami romantic destinations in the April edition of the popular magazine.
SAVE ME A SEAT: In case you're wondering, only 359 days remain until Super Bowl XLI comes to Pro Player Stadium on Feb. 4. Get your tickets and buy your chips now. Okay, maybe later for the chips.
JUDGE-MENT DAY: "I feel like Judge Judy," said Jason Loeb, chairman of the Miami Beach zoning board of adjustment as he presided over a hearing for variances for the Fontainebleau's renovation. As part of the testimony, he called Jordanna Rubin, the city's environmental manager, and environmental expert Paul Lin of Paul Lin & Associates, who debated the pros and cons of allowing the hotel's reconstruction to be closer to the ocean than current regulations allow. The hotel's request was granted.
LATIN AMERICA TRADE: Miami Today's International Roundtable will focus on Miami's Role in Latin American Trade at 5 p.m. today (2/9) in the Merrick Room of the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. Experts will examine opportunities and the organizations involved. Panelists are Jorge L. Arrizurieta, president of Florida FTAA Inc.; Marcy Grossman, Canada's consul general in Miami; Harold E. Patricoff, partner at law firm Shutts & Bowen; and Joseph R. Smith, vice president of the Florida Foreign Trade Association. Sponsors are Florida FTAA Inc. and the Biltmore. Reservations: Jannina Roman, (305) 358-2663.
CORRECTION: Thomas H. Shea, who heads the Florida/Caribbean Region of Right career-transition firm, is a director of Florida State University's Center for Human Resource Management, not the director, as we reported in the Feb. 2 People column.
CORRECTION: The project being built at the site of the old Dupont Plaza on the north bank of the Miami River is the Epic Residences & Hotel.