RESOLUTION: A more-than decade-long debate over economic development funding may be coming to an end. The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's economic development arm, is likely to receive the $350,000 in annual business tax receipt revenue that has long been allocated to the Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust. Commissioner Barbara Jordan at a meeting with Commissioner Carlos Gimenez last week agreed to support Mr. Gimenez in the effort to return the funds, Beacon President and CEO Frank Nero said. Ms. Jordan previously proposed a measure that would send the money to the trust but said she plans now to work with county staffers to identify alternate funding. The trust may also be required to return $1.2 million in past payments to the Beacon Council. But some of the money could still leave the development organization. Mayor Carlos Alvarez in his budget proposal called for using the percentage of business tax receipts to back a new Office of Economic Development Coordination. The Beacon is "not necessarily supportive," Mr. Nero said. "It raises some of the same issues" as diverting the funds to the action plan trust, such as "potential duplication."
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STATE STEPS IN: Echoing mounting support from local entities for Miami River marine industries, the Florida Department of Community Affairs has come out against the City of Miami's move to remove port protections from its comprehensive land-use plan. The city's proposed amendments "generally de-emphasize economic development objectives along the river in favor of mixed-use neighborhoods," the department's report says. "The city should provide specific strategies to preserve recreational and commercial working waterfronts… the strategies must be based on meaningful and predictable standards." The city has a chance to address these objections before resubmitting the proposed amendments for state compliance review. The state also ruled Miami-Dade County's plan to build outside of its urban development boundary is not in compliance.
HOSPITALITY HIRING: The Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., which will fully reopen this fall after a billion-dollar makeover, has launched a recruitment campaign to hire 2,000 employees. The new hires will range from nightclub mixologists to housekeepers and VIP coordinators.
TRANSIT TIMEOUT: Metrorail and Metrobus fares are to stay where they are for now. Miami-Dade commissioners last week again pushed back a vote on whether to raise fares to make up for transit funding shortages. They say they'd like more time to analyze a newly released pro-forma detailing current and future transit projects and their funding plans. "This is a really sobering report," Commissioner Katy Sorenson said, lamenting an estimated more-than $9 billion funding gap over the next 30 years. "Transit is such a critical issue. I think it's time we get real. We're hemorrhaging money." Commissioner Dennis Moss suggested holding a public summit to explain issues to residents, "take our licks" and "decide where to go from here." A workshop with the Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust was scheduled for Wednesday. Though plans remain in flux, the county is to send an application in hopes of receiving receive federal funds for a planned Metrorail extension. The feds withdrew funding once before, doubting the county could afford to maintain service and operate new projects.
MAXIMUM MILLAGE: Leaving room to adjust Miami-Dade's budget, commissioners last week voted to set the ceiling for next-year's combined millage rate at the maximum allowed: 9.8328. During budget hearings in September, they'll have the option to lower it and say they expect to. The move went against Mayor Carlos Alvarez's proposal to lower most millages but raise the countywide rate, which city leaders fear would cut property tax reductions for their residents. The mayors of Hialeah, Opa-Locka and Miami Beach turned up to protest, as did Miami's commission chairman. The county commission's move to instead advertise the highest rate for each allows for "the most flexibility" moving forward, Miami-Dade Chairman Bruno Barreiro said.
AVIATION ASCENSION: Miguel Southwell, a Miami-Dade Aviation Department employee of seven years, has been named deputy director for business retention and development. He joins Max Fajardo, deputy director of operations and maintenance, as one of the department's two deputy directors. Mr. Southwell, most recently assistant director of business development, is to be responsible now for building revenue for the department through initiatives such as public-private investment partnerships and rock-mining at the former Opa-locka West Airport location.
GROWING TIES: A delegation of South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry is to visit Miami-Dade County this week to expand trade and commercial relations here. The Jay Malina International Trade Consortium reports that South African political and business leaders are interested in establishing a trade office in Miami-Dade. The delegation is to tour local trade and business sites. This is the second South African delegation to visit Miami-Dade this month. Richard Mdakane, speaker of the Gauteng Legislature, his wife and two other members of the legislature, along with legislative aides, visited July 15-21. The local trade consortium led a mission to South Africa last year. The country does about $136 million in trade here, making it the county's 55th-largest trade partner.
THIRSTY?: Restaurant patrons who want water with their meals will likely have to ask for it should a new Miami-Dade initiative receive a final OK. Commissioners last week gave initial approval to the water-conservation measure prohibiting restaurants from serving water without a specific request from a customer. A committee is to review it in September. The restriction would be permanent, unlike some conservation measures, which apply only during water shortages.
MIAMI MEANS BUSINESS: The city is using bus ads to reach out to local businesses and let them know it wants to do business with them. The news comes just days after city commissioners abolished a pro-women-and-minority business program and established a new race-and-gender neutral policy that gives contract preferences to small businesses located in the city. Glenn Marcos, Miami's purchasing director, said in an e-mail to commissioners that the purchasing department is placing ads on 11 Miami-Dade County metrobuses that cover all city districts through Aug. 10. The advertisements include the city's Web site to encourage vendors' registration and attendance at the Purchasing Information Exchange, an annual workshop that assists local vendors on how to do business with the city.
MAYOR'S ACTION FORUM: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, president of the US Conference of Mayors, is embarking on a national tour to five cities where Mr. Diaz and other US mayors are to craft an action agenda for cities and metro areas to be presented to the next US president during his first 100 days in office. The tour gets rolling August 5-6 with a visit to Philadelphia followed by forums in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and the last one in Miami Oct. 4. The four subject areas in the mayors' agenda are: crime, poverty, arts-culture-tourism, and environment.
CITY'S NEW ATTORNEYS: The Office of Miami's City Attorney hired three new assistant city attorneys to join the city's legal team. Attorney Diana Vizcaino is to focus her practice on employment litigation, arbitrations and is to represent the city before the Civil Service Board. John A. Greco is to assist on court appeals and Barnaby Min is to handle code enforcement, foreclosure and other land-use matters. Ms. Vizcaino and Mr. Min served as assistant state attorneys for Miami-Dade County before taking on the new city positions. Mr. Greco worked as an assistant attorney for the Miami-Dade County School Board.
WEIGHING DDA BOARD CHOICES: Downtown Development Agency received a record 26 applications to fill four vacant board-of-directors seats. The Foram Group's Loretta Cockrum, head of the authority's nominating committee, said the applicant pool was reduced to the 13 "best-qualified" applicants, out of which nine voiced a preference to represent the Brickell area. Ms. Cockrum said the candidates are positive individuals who are forward thinkers with broad-based interests. "We are looking at people who can contribute and not just show up to a board meeting." The final candidates are to be approved by the authority's current board members and then confirmed by the City of Miami commission.
DDA SEEKS .5 MILL: Miami's Downtown Development Authority is to ask the city commission today (7/24) to approve its millage rate at .5 for the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2009. The mill is the rate at which the authority taxes properties within its districts: central business district, media entertainment district, Brickell and Park West, said Meredith J. Nation, the authority's interim deputy director. "We are optimistic the commission will see that the DDA is committed to getting money out to the streets and making positive changes. We are hopeful they will maintain the current millage rate."
MIAMI MILL HIKE: The city's budget department is to present the millage rate for next fiscal year today (7/24). The tentative millage rate cap is set at 7.6740, about a 5% increase from last year's rate, said Michael J. Boudreaux, director of strategic planning, budgeting, and Performance. The millage rate represents property tax revenues to be collected from City of Miami property owners.
MAM BACK FOR $2M: The Miami Art Museum is to request today (7/24) a $2 million grant from the City of Miami to support the development of a new fine arts museum to be located at the Miami-owned Bicentennial Park. The grant was first approved by voters in a November 2001 referendum as one of the listed projects included in the Homeland Defense/Neighborhood Improvement Bond monies, but experienced some setbacks as the commission determined the museum needed to fulfill certain financial requirements. The museum is returning to show its compliance with requirements to get the promised funds.
GROVE VILLAGE BACK: Grove Village on Grand is set to receive final OK at today's City Commission meeting. The $300 million Bahamian-themed project, which promises to change the facade of the historic West Grove community, is to revitalize six blocks of Grand Avenue, a street that has languished for years, with new apartments, houses, offices and shops. Last week, Miami's planning board approved changing the city's code to allow for the construction of a grocery store of up to 40,000 square feet in Village West to be OK'd by commissioners. The commission will also decide whether to let project developer Peter Gardner, president of Pointe Group Advisors, build an underground parking garage in Grove Village.
MIDTOWN MONEY: Developers of Midtown Miami are to cash in early on redevelopment agency funds earmarked for payments on the $73.6 million bond used to finance the project's garage. The project hasn't quite hit its required 90% completion, but county commissioners last week — following city commissioners in May — agreed that, in light of the faltering realty market, as well as the complex's success to date, it could access the money early. At the county Economic Development and Human Services Committee meeting recently, Commissioner Dennis Moss asked for a full report on Midtown's progress, observing, "it really seems to be going quite well."
KEEP IT CLEAN: Big box stores need to be more conscientious to their communities, Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss says. Noting a trend of poorly-kept properties — including litter and "gritty and dirty" sidewalks — he's proposing the county's code compliance team reach out to the big boxes to enhance awareness of cleanliness regulations. "They may not see the need to ensure that their surroundings are well maintained," he said. He wants to "make sure their properties are well-maintained and contribute to the aesthetics of the community."
ANOTHER COMMITTEE: Though Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones recently said time constraints and district commitments will keep her from serving on several city boards, she joined the Miami-Dade County's Tourist Development Council after the county commissioners approved her appointment Thursday (7/17).
FUNDS AWARDED: Miami granted $50,000 to the Coconut Grove Woman's Club for infrastructure improvements to make its facility handicap accessible. It was the subject of a lawsuit.
ARSHT GETS PERMITS: Miami commissioners increased the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County's number of Class I permits to showcase its events. The zoning code allows for only 10 permits annually, but the Arsht Center is going to get 10 more special permits, each valid for a two-week period, to promote onsite events. "They (the center) would like the opportunity to promote events all year around," said Peiter Bockweg, project manager of building, planning and zoning, "The only way to do that is by increasing the Class I permits."
VENEZUELAN VISIT: A Venezuelan trade mission is to stop in Miami for a business luncheon July 28. Sixteen Venezuelan companies led by the US Commercial Service at the US Embassy in Caracas are to attend the 2008 Trade-USA Venezuela-Florida event.