MERGER MANIA: A cost-reduction strategy that would consolidate Miami-Dade county government departments and administrative functions is to get a look this week from the Budget and Finance Committee. County Manager George Burgess is being asked to look into the idea's feasibility in the wake of state property tax rollbacks and an anticipated loss of revenue, including a 9% reduction in county-wide property tax collections. Mr. Burgess's report would be due at the commission's July 24 meeting.
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PAPERS, PLEASE: The committee also is expected to take up Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto's proposal requiring that photographs, salaries and resumes of newly hired or promoted county employees be published on the county's Web site, an idea that refuses to go away quietly. Beyond privacy and fiscal concerns, critics of the plan have pointed out that the county does not have a central process for photographing employees and some commissioners worried that the plan would create divisiveness between new hires and veteran employees.
BOWL PLANS DOWNSIZED: Miami has scaled down its latest proposal to renovate the Orange Bowl with hopes of keeping the University of Miami's football team in the 70-year-old stadium, City Manager Pete Hernandez told WAXY-AM sports-talk host Joe Rose on Monday. Under the new plan, the city would improve only the south side of the stadium with new concession stands and skyboxes among structural improvements, Mr. Hernandez said. If the university accepts the revised proposal, he said, the city would cover the $170 million price — down from $206 million, and about $35 million of the funding would come from historic tax credits. Mr. Hernandez said he expects university officials to decide "within a month or so." UM is also weighing a move to Dolphin Stadium once its lease expires after the 2009 season.
RIVER DREDGING DELAY? Dredging companies contracted by the US Army Corps of Engineers are asking the corps to delay restarting the $74 million Miami River dredging until November, river officials say. If the corps denies the request, the partnership of Bean Environmental and Weston Solutions will resume work by July 24. The corps completed six of 15 dredging phases before stopping in late 2005 as funds ran out. The Miami River is the state's fourth-busiest seaport in terms of cargo value.
NEW CENTER MARKETER: Andrew Goldberg is to become chief marketing officer for Carnival Center for the Performing Arts Aug. 6. He'd spent four years as director of audience development for Florida Grand Opera and moves to the Carnival Center from being assistant director of marketing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Mr. Goldberg, who replaces Nancy Cooper, is the center's third marketing chief in the past year.
TOURISM TAX TAKE: Miami tourism generated $24.8 million in convention development taxes for January-May, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, up 7.8% from $23 million in the same five-month period last year. The 3% countywide hotel tax helps keep up public convention centers, arenas and auditoriums.
ANOTHER SIBLING: County commissioners Tuesday named Cape Town, South Africa, a Miami-Dade Sister City, the 23rd international city to be so named since the county founded its chapter in 1981. The Sister Cities program develops innovative projects furthering international cooperation and understanding between the two communities. The 22 Sister Cities committees serve on the Coordinating Council, which assists the mayor in developing international trade and commerce agendas. Among Miami-Dade's other sister cities are Sao Paulo, Brazil; Kingston, Jamaica; Mendoza, Argentina; and Stockholm County, Sweden.
SISTER ACT: The Sister Cities International Annual Conference is to be held in Fort Lauderdale July 18-21. Delegates from 28 countries, as well as 1,000 expected participants, will attend conference events and workshops ranging from technology and tourism to the environment and youth involvement. The event, themed "Next 50 Years of Sister Cities," is central to improving sister city programs by encouraging nations to get to know each other on a micro-level. "With evidence of anti-Americanism deepening around the globe, now is the time for us to redouble our efforts," said Patrick Madden, executive director of Sister Cities International. "Our speakers and workshops during this event are designed to help us build capacity to confront these global issues." Sister Cities International is a nonprofit organization that links 2,500 communities in 134 countries.
DORAL CASHES IN: Premier American Bank has moved its main office to a two-story, 16,000-square-foot Doral facility at 5301 Blue Lagoon Dr. in the Waterford Business Park. The added space consolidates financial operations including loans, accounting, compliance and asset-based lending previously at 5900 Bird Rd. The new site is part of a long-term growth strategy to add more branches in Miami-Dade County. "The Blue Lagoon office is centrally located and equally accessible from all areas of the county. It will help us to better service existing customers and new customers as well," said Rolando Bichara, chairman, president and CEO. The new office gives Premier American four locations in the county. Details: (305) 669-6315.
SINGING A NEW SONG: All up and down the whole creation, the state of Florida is looking for a song to replace Stephen Foster's "Swanee River," also known as "Old Folks at Home," as its official song. Miami-Dade County resident Abraham Thomas is submitting a song he wrote that tells of a land of dreams and opportunities and bridges to the future. "From Pensacola to Key West, we all know you're the best," goes Mr. Thomas' song. "Swanee River," written by Foster in 1851 and adopted as Florida's official song in 1935, is no longer representative of the state, critics say. The song, with melancholy lyrics about a former slave longing for a return to the plantation, "really is offensive to the black community," said Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan in introducing Mr. Thomas and his song to commissioners Tuesday.
SUNSHINE STATE SONG: Got a catchy song about Florida you want to share? The Florida Music Educator Association's Just Sing Florida project is accepting entries through Oct. 1 and will announce three finalists in December. Legislators are expected to pick from the finalists in next year's session. According to its Web site, here's what the association wants: a song approximately three minutes long; a vocal range that does not exceed a ninth (one octave + Major 2nd); suitable for group singing, as well as for a soloist; appropriate lyrics for a state song that are inclusive; written in music notation. Details: www.justsingflorida.org.
IT'S ZYSCOVICH: If Miami commissioners need to negotiate with an architect for city projects, their first choice would be Miami firm Zyscovich Inc. Commissioners voted 4-0 Tuesday to put Zyscovich at the top of the list for qualified architectural firms, with Asterino and Wolfberg Alvarez & Partners ranking second and third, respectively. The city's Department of Capital Improvements Program formed a committee with several Parks Department staffers to evaluate a pool of 16 applicants.
CUTTING COSTS: Affordable-housing developers in Miami will not be on the hook for impact fees anymore. Miami commissioners unanimously passed a measure Tuesday to waive impact fees for qualified affordable-housing developers. Affordable-housing builders also will not have to contribute to the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
CORRECTION: David Landsberg, president and publisher of The Miami Herald, holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration and a master's degree in finance from the University of Florida.
CORRECTION: A July 5 article should have reported that an event must have $1 million in economic impact a day in order for Miami-Dade County to consider granting additional temporary limousine permits. The article also should have reported that under the current county ordinance, the Consumer Services Department determines whether a request for additional limousines meets the rules for issuance of temporary licenses, and then issues them if the conditions are met.
TOWER HITS LANDMARK: A downtown Miami commercial tower has reached record occupancy, leasing officials say. The Bank of America Tower at International Place, a 600,000-square-foot Class A office tower at 100 SE Second St. with 21,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, is 97% occupied, highest in its 20-year existence. Newest tenants include Starbucks Coffee, insurance firm AXA Assistance of Florida, American International Investors and international money transmitter Money Express. Details: www.intlplacemiami.com.
CASH CONVENIENCE: All BankAtlantic stores in Broward and Miami-Dade counties have extended the cutoff time for deposits until 8 p.m., allowing transactions to be processed the same day with access to the money the next morning. The extended-day program began in Tampa, then Palm Beach, and the bank plans to take it statewide beginning with a launch in Central Florida this summer.
EYE TO EYE: The University of Miami's Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology have agreed to an ongoing collaboration developing research activities. The British consulate general's UK Trade and Investment Team in Miami brought the two institutions together and sponsored Bascom Palmer's trip to London in early May. Bascom Palmer has expressed interest in benefiting from the institute's experience in clinical trial development and research, stem cells and psychophysics. The institute would like to pursue exchange programs for graduate students.
PACKAGE DELIVERY: The Brickell branch of FedEx Kinko's has moved. After closing its 600 Brickell Ave. store four months ago, a new 2,000-square-foot Kinko's opened at 901 S. Miami Ave. late last month in Mary Brickell Village, store manager Lyle Ferguson said. The old building was destroyed to make way for Brickell Financial Centre. The new location offers all regular Kinko's services including shipping, printing, notary services and graphics as well as FedEx drop-off services. Hours are 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and noon-6 p.m. Sundays. Details (305) 445-2208.
WHOPPER OF AN AWARD: Miami marketing communications company Original Impressions was one of two recipients of the Burger King Corp. and Restaurant Services' Supplier of the Year Award after creating a new informational resource, The Restaurant Daily Planner. This program enables all Burger King restaurants in the US and Canada to improve communication on marketing information, training and new products. "It gives us a lot of satisfaction to be honored and recognized as an integral and important Burger King supplier," said founder and CEO Roland Garcia. The Burger King account was Original Impressions' first. Mr. Garcia spent 14 years working for Burger King before he left and founded the company in 1982. Original Impressions now manages between about 350 accounts, Burger King being among the largest.
LIGHTHOUSE GUIDES HEIKEN: Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired has acquired the Heiken Children's Vision Program, a countywide health outreach organization established in 1992 that provided free comprehensive eye care for needy schoolchildren. The Heiken Children's Vision Program will transfer its assets, which include a small endowment and a vision care bus and van, to the Miami Lighthouse and then dissolve its corporation.
SINGLE INFRASTURCURE: According to Lighthouse CEO Virginia A. Jacko, the Health Foundation of South Florida and the Children's Trust were catalysts for joining the two not-for-profits. "It's a new trend so you end up having one infrastructure rather than funding many small not-for-profits," she said. This is the first eye-wellness program at the Miami Lighthouse, which previously aided and rehabilitated those with little or no vision.
NO PAIN, BIG GAIN: The American Pain Society named Rosomoff Comprehensive Pain Center, an affiliate of the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital at Douglas Gardens, as a "Clinical Center of Excellence in Pain Management" in the society's first national awards program. The Rosomoff center was one of six pain-treatment facilities in the nation to receive the honor from among 90 nominees.
READY FOR CUBA: The governor's office is going to use one of the closed Homestead Air Force Base hangars for a processing center in case of a mass migration from Cuba or other Caribbean nations, according to Diana Gonzalez, coordinator for the Miami-Dade Defense Alliance. She also said the county wants to market some of the land for Homeland Security and other military purposes. Michael Richardson, president and CEO of the Vision Council, the area's economic development organization, said it would not be surprising if the Federal Emergency Management Agency established a distribution center to store hurricane supplies on the former military installation.
CHECKING OUT: The landmark Sheraton Bal Harbour, which opened its doors in 1956 as the Americana and closed them for good to guests July 1, is opening them again today (7/12) one last time, for liquidation. The 645-room hotel at 9701 Collins Ave. will be selling everything, including pool deck and room furniture, fitness equipment, color televisions, local artwork, bathroom fixtures, cutlery, china, carpets and drapes until everything is gone. National Content Liquidators, an Ohio company, is handling the checkout lines. The hotel is being razed to make way for the new St. Regis Resort & Residences, Bal Harbour. The hotel will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.