NOT DIGGING IT: Exactly how the county will pay for a proposed $1.2 billion Port of Miami tunnel is up in the air. But one thing seems certain — Miami-Dade residents don't want to dig into their own pockets to pay for the gigantic hole in the ground. A decidedly unscientific poll on county commission Chairman Joe A. Martinez' Web site indicates four out of five respondents oppose creation of a countywide tax to finance a tunnel. About 250 people have participated in the online survey, which asks, "Should a countywide tax be levied to build a tunnel from the Port of Miami to the mainland?" County officials figure they'll use tolls to pay for the big dig.
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BI-COASTAL FRIENDSHIP: Michael Aller, tourism and convention director and chief of protocol for Miami Beach, is to present a proclamation to city officials in West Hollywood, CA, Dec. 18 establishing that city and Miami Beach as Friendship Cities, paving the way for tourism and business development. "West Hollywood is similar to our city," said Mr. Aller, in that the West Coast destination is also home of world-class hotels, nightlife and art deco architecture and is a popular gay tourism location. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are also sponsoring the initiative.
HEALTH INITIATIVE LEADER: Robert Schwartz, chairman of the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine's department of family medicine, will head the South Florida Health Information Initiative, which works to adopt electronic health information in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Other board members include Steven E. Marcus, president and CEO of the Health Foundation of South Florida, vice chairman; Sandra Gonzalez-Levy, senior vice president of corporate communications, Terrermark Worldwide Inc, treasurer; and Sandra Greenblatt, a local health law attorney, secretary. Details: (305) 374-7200, www.southfloridahealthinfo.org.
STRONG-MAYOR FORUM: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez will address the hotly contested issue of whether the county should convert to a strong-mayor form of government during a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce forum Dec. 5 at the Radisson Hotel Miami, 1601 Biscayne Blvd. The discussion will begin at 8:30 a.m. and costs $35 for members, $45 for others. Chamber officials are organizing a second forum to give opponents of a strong-mayor government a chance to respond. Details: www.miamichamber.com
PENTAGON SALUTE: Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will honor Miami native Col. Lettie Bien in a retirement ceremony Dec. 6. at the Pentagon. Col. Bien, former president of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, joined the Army in 1976 and has served on active and reserve duty. Most recently, she worked in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, and she spent 2004 in Baghdad as US senior advisor/senior consultant to the Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals. "I think Peter is making a statement of how important the reserves is," Col. Bien said of her ceremony, generally reserved for those retiring from active duty. "I'm honored he's doing it." Col. Bien served as relocation director for the US Southern Command's move from Panama City, Panama, to Miami in the mid 1990s.
EXPANDING EDUCATION: Millennia Atlantic University will open its first campus Jan. 9 at 10395 NW 41st St., Doral, to offer bachelor and master degrees in business administration and human resource management. The curriculum is designed to "help undergraduate and graduate students seize the demand for managers who are sensitive to international cultures," according to a press release. "We chose Doral because there is a demand for a career-focused education that is accessible and that gives students the tools and confidence to jump-start their careers," said Aristides Maza Duerto, school president, in the release. Details: (786) 331-1000 or www.mau-university.net
IMMIGRATION BASE: US Citizenship and Immigration Services will establish a Southeast headquarters in Orlando to manage district and field offices in the region. Florida's southern district office will be based in Miami, its northern district in Tampa. The agency realigned to "better balance workload and personnel among USCIS field offices," according to a press release. "Realigning our regional, district and field offices represents the continued progress USCIS is making to increase efficiency, to provide our customers with the timely service they deserve and to transform business and management systems to meet the immigration and citizenship challenges of the 21st century," said national director Emilio Gonzalez. The structure is intended to improve performance, the agency said, and not to affect locations or services at local district offices.
MIAMI COMMISSION SETTLES: To avoid a long court battle, Miami commissioners approved a $750,000 settlement with Wisconsin-based Hammes Company by a 3-2 vote. Hammes sued the city this summer for $2 million after commissioners voted to rescind a $150 million contract the project management firm and city signed in 2005 to renovate the Orange Bowl. The commission eventually awarded the project to Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle.
DEMOLITION: Miami will to pay up to $170,000 for the demolishment and clearing of buildings at 1601 NW Seventh Ave. as part of the city's development agreement with non-profit Camillus House. The city and Camillus reached a land-swap deal in August that lets Camillus build a homeless shelter on that site. Both sides revised the agreement in October to give the city responsibility to demolish the buildings on the property. Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the arrangement.
VENETIAN HIGH-RISE: Miami commissioners voted last week to approve plans for a 63-story condominium and hotel on a 1-acre site near the Venetian Causeway. The commission voted 4-1 to let developers led by Pedro Martin of Terra Group build a 649-foot residential tower with a public bay-walk. Tomás Regalado cast the only vote against the project.
TEE IT UP: A number of National Football League Hall of Fame inductees will be in Miami Jan. 29-31 for the Jim Brown Celebrity Golf Classic at the Blue Monster golf course in Doral. The tournament is sponsored by The Blue, a luxury resort hotel condominium being built adjacent to the course, and Floyd Sports Marketing. Tournament proceeds go to Mr. Brown's Amer-I-can Foundation, dedicated to steering youths away from violence.
CALLING ON SHANGHAI: Continuing its effort to build awareness in China of Miami as a top tourist destination, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau sales team was to be in Shanghai this week at the Chinese International Travel Mart. The show will provide contact with travel professionals from all over China and consumers from the wealthy Shanghai community. "We are continuing to build awareness of the Miami brand," said David Whitaker, bureau senior vice president of marketing.
WEBCAM RECOGNITION: The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau's webcam program has been selected by EarthCam.com, a global webcam portal, as having one of the Top 10 webcams (http://www.earthcam.com/topten.php). Of the 10, Miami's was one of only two in the US. To view it, visit www.seemiamilive.com.
SENATOR SPEAKS: State Sen. Gwen Margolis will address potential legislative initiatives and current issues facing the state in an address to the Brickell Area Association on Nov. 29. The Importance of Brickell luncheon, co-presented by Miami Today, is one of a series featuring speakers offering perspective on issues affecting life and business in the Brickell area. The luncheon will be held at noon at the Conrad Miami, 1395 Brickell Ave. Prepaid reservations, $50 for members and $55 for others, are required. Details: (305) 375-0080.
GLOBAL TRADE HUB: The Miami Chapter of the Organization of Women in International Trade is to host the organization's World Conference here Oct. 24-26. "This will be an amazing opportunity for us to host delegates from around the world," Helen Picard, the group's Miami's president, said at the organization's sixth annual International Businesswoman of the Year Awards program last week. Established in 1993, the international organization has more than 5,200 members worldwide. Details: www.wit-miami.com.
DOWN & OUCH: Politics often boil down to twisting the right arm at the right time. But Miami-Dade power players would be well-advised to not try those tactics with county commissioners Natacha Seijas and Rebeca Sosa anytime soon. Ms. Seijas' left arm is in a cast from a nasty fall last week, and Ms. Sosa is battling an agonizing pinched nerve in her neck that required a trip to the emergency room a few days ago. Both officials are hanging tough, though they did cut short their appearances at government meetings last week. Ms. Seijas' cast is expected to be removed in about six weeks. Ms. Sosa says she's facing surgery this summer if rehab doesn't ease the pain.
PAPER CHASE: Miami-Dade County's Team Metro West is making it easier for working people to get passports, dog tags, transit passes, tokens and parking permits by opening its offices at 3800 SW 137th Ave. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. the third Saturday of every month. Team special projects coordinator Maria De La Milera says the new hours are the result of a two-month test that showed government's traditional 8 a.m.-5 p.m. business day "makes it hard for people who work to get things done, so there's a demand for the service." Other agency offices are considering a similar move, she said. Details: (305) 375-5886.