DEEP FREEZE: Clerk of the Courts Harvey Ruvin, who doubles as Miami-Dade County's top environmental guru, says the newly created Climate Change Advisory Task Force is on ice until all 25 members' appointments clear the county commission next month. Original plans called for the task force chaired by Mr. Ruvin to start work two weeks ago. The panel is charged with finding solutions to local problems caused by global warming.
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WHEELER DEALERS: After 6 years of bitter in-fighting, 16 rival companies are closing in on a deal to divide space at Miami International Airport's planned $340 million car-rental center, Miami-Dade County aviation director José Abreu said last week. But Commissioner Carlos Gimenez wants to make sure talks don't stall again. He is set to offer a resolution at today's (1/25) commission meeting formally embracing Mr. Abreu's proposed deal, rejected last year by a dozen small local companies demanding a combined 25% of rental-center space. Mr. Abreu's plan gives small fleets 16% of the facility. National companies want space split based on market share, which would give local firms a combined 1% total allocation. Commissioner Dorrin Rolle has been supporting local companies' demands. But last week, he yanked his own legislation that would have given them what they wanted.
EASY STREET: South Miami road builder DeMoya Group Inc. has offered the state a buy-now, pay-later plan to build the $60 million western side of the 25th Street viaduct that will service Miami International Airport's cargo area, Florida Department of Transportation officials say. But officials won't respond to the offer until construction on the $115 million eastern side begins in October. DeMoya is doing that work, too. The eastern half creates a dedicated ramp to take airport-bound truck traffic off Northwest 25th Street between Palmetto Park Expressway and State Road 826. The western slice gives truckers a special route from the Palmetto to Northwest 82nd Avenue. That section isn't scheduled to be built until 2013. But the state could get the work done early by accepting DeMoya's offer to build the road now in return for being paid 2013 prices, which are bound to be higher.
STOP SIGN: A county communications department request to amend the voter-approved People's Transportation Plan so $350,000 in transit surtax money could be spent on driver's education was shot down by a Citizens Independent Transportation Trust committee last week. Although members of the trust's project review panel supported the proposed campaign to encourage drivers not to block intersections, they said it wasn't important enough to force a change in the plan, which dictates how money can be spent. The committee passed a resolution urging the county commission to cough up the cash.
TAX TUTORIAL: The Prosperity Campaign, a project of the Human Services Coalition, and Miami-Dade County will sponsor Super Tax Day 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW First St. IRS-certified tax preparers will help file taxes. The event will feature financial seminars and a prosperity fair with credit counselors, bankers, home-buying advisers and health-care providers. Individuals and families with a combined income of $39,000 or less qualify for free tax prep. Details: (305) 576-5001, Ext. 17.
NO BLUES HERE: BlueCross BlueShield of Florida last year had "the best year in the history of the company," said George Foyo, South Florida market president. The company reached membership of 4 million in December and will focus heavily on the multicultural market this year in hopes of reaching 5 million in the next two to three years, he said.
DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT: Miami firm ICE Development Group announced that Soares Da Costa Construction Services, a Portuguese construction and engineering company, is in the pre-construction phase of Logik I, a 134,000-square-foot Class A office-condo tower at 530 NW First Court to be completed in winter 2008. There will be 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and 136 office-condo units with prices beginning around $350,000.
MEDICAL MONIES: Cook Medical, which manufactures medical devices, donated $2 million to the Baptist Cardiac & Vascular Institute Foundation to establish the Barry T. Katzen Medical Director Endowment Fund. The fund's namesake, founder and medical director of the institute, will be chairman.
SUMMIT SPACE: The Conrad Miami hotel in Brickell added 3,000 square feet to its meeting facilities, expanding space to 18,000 square feet on the second and third floors. The new 1,892-square-foot ballroom can accommodate up to 200 people, and the new 1,276-square-foot room can hold about up to 140. Business and conference space is equipped with high-speed Internet access and telecommunications equipment.
BANK BIGSHOTS: Three South Florida executives have been named to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Miami branch. Leonard Abess, chairman, president and CEO of City National Bank of Florida in Miami; Marvin O'Quinn, president of the Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County and CEO of Jackson Health System; and Walter Banks, president of Lago Mar Resort and Club in Fort Lauderdale, will serve two-year terms ending in December 2009. They are to provide information from their industries and area to the district bank's leaders to influence monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is part of the US Central Bank.
DIRECT RESPONSE: More than 700 attendees involved in direct-response marketing and major retailers who use electronic media to sell goods and services are to gather for the Electronic Retailing Association's 15th annual Mid-Winter Leadership Conference & EXPO Jan. 28-30 at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Companies expected include eBay, Google Audio, Discovery Channel Store, LinkedIn, SmartReply, Eluma, Third Screen Media and Webside Direct. Details: www.retailing.org.
HEIGHT FIGHT: A developer's plan to build a 250-foot, 25-story residential and commercial tower on 5 acres next to the Coconut Grove MetroRail station at US 1 and Southwest 27th Avenue is being scaled down by the county's planning and zoning department. County officials were expected to detail their proposal to limit Coconut Grove Station Development's tower to 19 stories and 200 feet at the Rapid Transit Developmental Impact Committee Wednesday (11/24). The county also wants to reduce density and increase parking for the project, which has triggered seven years of debate.
WAITING GAME: Key legislation to expand the county commission's committee system was booted off today's (11/25) agenda after a hearing on the plan was cancelled last week. Commission Chairman Bruno A. Barreiro, who sponsored the measure, has rescheduled the proposed ordinance for a Feb. 6 hearing and final vote. Mr. Barreiro says current law, which limits the commission to six standing committees, isn't flexible enough. He said the commission needs at least eight to properly oversee all areas of county operations.
MERCY HOSPITAL VOTE: For Mercy Hospital to close the sale of its 6.7-acre parking lot for $96 million to allow a developer to build a three-tower condominium complex, Miami's city commission must change zoning on the property today (1/25) from government to high-density residential. Hospital officials have said sale to Ocean Land and The Related Group, pending since 2004, would help cover the $300 million it would cost to replace the 57-year-old hospital's facilities. If commissioners vote down the change, hospital officials say Ocean Land still would buy the site and build an assisted-living facility there. The city's planning advisory and zoning boards denied the zoning change in separate votes last September.
HEIGHT FOR PARKING: Miami commissioners are to revisit today (1/25) a measure to give developers height increases for projects in the central business district but outside of the downtown development of regional impact area that provide more public parking than is required. The ordinance passed on first reading in October, but commissioners delayed casting the final vote Dec. 14 to explore alternative parking solutions. The city's planning advisory board unanimously approved the measure last September.
GRANT FOR UM: The University of Miami has received $3 million from the National Science Foundation to fund a science education program for middle-school students. The program partners 10 graduate fellows from the university with teachers from Miami-Dade County Public Schools to run up to 40 research-based classes a year. The fellows and teachers will attend a two-week workshop this summer to prepare for the unique classes. Details: www.miami.edu.
DIAZ IN D.C.: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz spent this week in the nation's capital for the US Conference of Mayors. He arrived in Washington on Monday to participate in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns National Summit. Mr. Diaz is vice president of the conference.
TAX RELIEF: The City of Miami this week launched its Earned Income Tax Credit Campaign, in which residents can visit more than 30 sites for free tax preparation until April 14. Eligible residents could qualify for federal income tax refunds of up to $4,536 via the Earned Income Tax Credit and up to an added $1,000 per child via the Child Tax Credit. The campaign last year brought more than 9,300 low- to moderate-income residents free or low-cost tax preparation, saving them more than $840,000 in preparation fees and accounting for just over $19 million in Earned Income Tax Credit refunds. Details: www.miamigov.com.
PARKING ANGLES: A study shows Coral Gables' downtown has enough parking, the City Commission was told on Tuesday, but analysts suggested several changes, including the removal of 71 angled spaces and 24 valet spots and substitution of parallel parking to accommodate the widening of Miracle Mile sidewalks. This caused rumblings in the audience, but the commission decided to delay any action, asking City Manager David Brown to come back with concrete short-, mid- and long-term aims based on the study.
SENIOR SHELTER: A lease agreement between Coral Gables and the Palace Management Group detailing development of a senior-living complex on land now occupied by a municipal garage and lot should be executed in mid-March after commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding from the group Tuesday. The facility, to open in August 2010, is to have 210 congregate living units and 43 assisted living units. It's expected to have a total net benefit of more than $9 million to the city 20 years into the lease and, in addition to its financial perks, said Mayor Donald Slesnick, it will "provide a place where seniors can continue to live in Coral Gables and finish their lives in a place that's comfortable, close and convenient to their families."
BUDGET BONUS: Coral Gables closed last year with money to save, adding nearly $2.4 million to its reserves after a net budget increase of almost $4.6 million. Donald Nelson, city finance director, attributes the year's increased revenue to higher investment earnings, construction permits and state sales tax receipts, among other factors. Fire Department wage adjustments, new trolleys and contracted building inspections increased the year's expenditures, but not enough to keep the city from coming out ahead. Mr. Nelson called 2006 "a very, very good, strong financial year" and predicts reserves will reach $6 million by Sept. 30.
ON FIRE: Michael Marks of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue was named Urban Search and Rescue Responder of 2006 by the Florida Fire Chiefs Association. He is canine manager and search-team manager for Florida Task Force One and serves on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Canine Subcommittee. He helped rescue more than 1,000 people after Hurricane Katrina and assisted in the search for a missing Florida firefighter in August.
BARRY HEALTH HUB: Construction is due soon on Barry University's Center for Community Health and Minority Medicine following last month's groundbreaking. Occupancy is set for fall 2008. The $18 million center on the 11300 NE Second Ave. campus will serve more than 400 health-profession students and help develop programs to prevent, treat and manage diseases that disproportionately afflict minorities and underserved groups. The facility, which is to rise in three phases, will house the new division of medicine that includes the schools of podiatric medicine and graduate medical sciences. Details: www.barry.edu.
COASTAL TRAFFIC WOES: Two hearings on Miami Beach's traffic congestion are slated this month. "It is time to hear from the people who live, work and play" in the city's coastal communities, said Nannette Rodriguez, a city spokeswoman. The South Beach session is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at Miami Beach Commission Chambers, 1700 Convention Center Dr. The North Beach session is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 1 at the North Shore Park and Youth Center, 501 72nd St. Communities involved include Aventura, Sunny Isles, Bal Harbour Village, Bay Harbor Islands, Surfside, Golden Beach and North Bay Village. Details: (305) 673.7080 or email@example.com.
CHINA HOPES: Although American Airlines didn't win its bid for a nonstop flight from the US to Beijing, the airline isn't giving up, said Tim Smith, a corporate spokesman. American will apply again next year, when another route is to be granted, he said, and he hopes additional routes will be granted. He said American does serve Shanghai and passengers can go on to Beijing from there or they can fly American to Japan and then on to Beijing.
WARSHIP ALERT: More than 600 hotel rooms are booked by visiting dignitaries and crew members who will be among the 4,000 people expected to welcome the new USS Gridley DDG 101 to the Port of Miami on Feb. 2 and witness Feb. 10 the first commissioning here of a Navy warship. The vessel will stay here a week. Details: www.gridleymiami.org.
WEATHER ALERT: Miami Beach lifeguards and park and recreational staff soon will get wireless GPS-enabled headsets, making them the first city workers in the US to receive real-time severe-weather alerts and relay them through two-way voice and text messaging instead of the traditional one-way service. The system integrates National Weather Service information with live streaming weather data from WeatherBug, a provider of live, local weather information, and then sends alerts over Sprint-Nextel's network. The city bought the 22 devices, which are to go to key parks and ocean rescue locations, with $15,000 from the fire department budget.
MUSEUM FREEBIE: Those who join a Miami-Dade museum participating in the new Museum Reciprocity Month will get a free pass to visit all the others next month. Each institution plans members-only programs including exhibition openings, cocktail hours, family days and lectures. Participants are Art Center/South Florida, Bass Museum of Art, The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum/Florida International University, Haitian Heritage Museum, Historical Museum of Southern Florida, The Jewish Museum of Florida, the Lowe Art Museum/University of Miami, Miami Art Museum, Miami Children's Museum, Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium, Museum of Contemporary Art, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and The Wolfsonian-FIU. Details: (305) 375-1492 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: The Jan. 18 article "Files missing from city commissioner's office" should have reported that Frank Rollason said he saw boxes of files in Commissioner Marc Sarnoff's office after Mr. Sarnoff was sworn in. The timing in Mr. Rollason's statement was reported incorrectly.
CORRECTION: The headline for an item in last week's People column should have referred to Joseph L. Falk as an Akerman Senterfitt consultant.
CORRECTION: A front page headline Jan. 18 should have said the state received a proposal from a contractor to complete work on US 1 in South Miami-Dade and receive payment later.
CORRECTIONS: A Jan. 18 article should have referred to Homestead Hospital's new digital mammography device as a 64-slice CT scanner. Also, the article should have said Homestead Hospital is owned and operated by Baptist Health South Florida.