Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Green Gene trounced Shelley in Palmetto Bay. By Geniusofdespair

Once again Eugene Flinn is the mayor of Palmetto Bay. Congratulations, we hope that the turmoil in Palmetto Bay is finally at an end with some strong leadership and that all the bad boys behave and are kept at bay by Eugene. Especially that blowhard, bully. Flinn won 65% to 34%.

Commission Chair Jean Monestime: make us proud. By geniusofdespair

No more Joe Celestin and removed from office Lucie Tondreau. This is a time to make the Haitian community proud. There has been enough corruption. The last Mayor of North Miami was no bargain either Andre (Pierre?) who drove a Porsche he forgot who owned it, whose cousin was caught on tape taking a bribe saying he could deliver Andre's vote. I haven't liked some of Commissioner Monestime's county votes.  He also is born out of the North Miami machine. I am afraid he has become a lobbyist's tool. He is beholden to Ron Book for his win. Prove me wrong Jean. Prove to us that you care about the community, that you care about us all. Show us you can buck the system. That golf course redevelopment did nothing for your constituents. That was a lapse as big as the Grand Canyon: Commercial and industrial in the middle of an established residential community.  Would this zoning change have had a chance in a White or Hispanic community? I wonder. Remember: A lobbyist driven Chair is just a stool to be stepped on.

I am still waiting for that great Haitian leader to emerge. Let's see if Monestime can relieve the poverty and improve his district.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferocious Traffic: what comes next? … by gimleteye

In Miami during the summer, traffic is a breeze compared to what comes next. As schools return and the fall weather improves, traffic turns titanic.

What is happening downtown, these days, at rush hour and beyond defies elaboration. There is only one word for the blaring horns, lane restrictions, the gridlock at successive street lights: ferocious.

The traffic is ferocious for a reason.
image at 8:21 AM

When you are stuck in Miami traffic this December, remember: you voted for the elected officials -- in the city of Miami, the city of Miami Beach, in Miami-Dade county, the state legislature and Governor's Mansion who made this happen.

Many of these public officials are still in office. Many are looking for a way back in.

Will voters ever hold them accountable for the destruction of quality of life that goes along with community-stifling, business-deadening traffic? Not yet.

There is every indication (Ludlam Trail, anyone?) that our elected officials will continue to vote for "compromises" that impose even greater traffic burdens on taxpayers and residents.

Massive construction and development of downtown corridors preceded any response by elected officials to estimate, plan and build infrastructure adequate to the need.

Sure every zoning and permitting hearing is clogged with expert consultants, using charts and graphs to show how their client's project will not increase traffic.

Complainers -- civic activists for better transit, for public parks and the environment -- are derided, dismissed, marginalized or otherwise politely pushed away by technicalities.

Builders during the boom and even after the bust are glorified. Their names get put on buildings, while the mess they helped created is absorbed as the natural order of things. Jorge Perez, for example. Mayor Manny Diaz, for example.

When you want "growth at any cost", the way the Chamber of Commerce or Club for Growth or Associated Industries or the South Florida Builders do, taxpayers are left with exactly this: ferocious traffic.

These days one begins to hear voices from the business sector in advertiser-sponsored media, lamenting we "could" kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Ex-cuse me?

For distant investors -- that describes the vast majority of owners in downtown Miami -- all that matters is that their assets are safe and secure. The rest of us -- the commuters, the downtown residents imagining they are moving into a sophisticated city -- are fuel pellets for growth.

You could ask, wouldn't it be a good idea to make traffic improvements concurrent at the same time or in advance of construction and development?

At the state level, the idea of comprehensive land use planning was destroyed by the Republican legislature after more than thirty years of work and bipartisan consensus. Was Gov. Scott held accountable for putting the Florida DCA, the agency once charged with reviewing traffic concurrency, into a capital broom closet?

As all the Miami condo canyons were being created and making mortgage investors, insurers, banks and their shareholders very wealthy on Brickell and downtown, of course they knew that the roadways would not be able to hold the traffic.

We've been planning badly for transit to accommodate growth for so long that, now, there is no elasticity whatsoever in car movement along Miami's roadways and interstates. At rush hour, any -- and I mean, ANY -- glitch in traffic flow causes a massive logjam that can easily double or triple normal transit times.

The other evening, trying to find the fastest route downtown -- imagining to be on the far side of rush hour -- I looked at my Google map and every road and artery downtown was a solid red line. It was a representation of cardiac arrest.

Ferocious traffic is not destiny. It is what we chose at the ballot box. 

Board of County Commission Zoning Meeting November 20th. By Geniusofdespair

To Daniella Levine Cava from a constituent:
"I watched you on our Gov Channel. We're very proud of you and the way you handled the zoning matter. It was very professional and fair to allparties---applicant and neighbors. We are deep rooted in Agriculture and know you feel the same for the future of Miami Dade County. The buffering of Ag land inside the UDB with a policy for all residents and farmers will benefit the future generations of our county."
Wayne Rosen didn't get this one by Daniella Levine Cava in her first zoning meeting. Some of the other commissioners bent themselves over to try to get her to take back her request for a denial. Sosa got her to defer instead. Wayne wanted the vote in December and Levine Cava insisted on February.  Watch the videos. The first one is her discussion. The second one is the discussion on the vote. You will get a good idea on how Levine Cava is going to conduct herself. Goofy Wayne Rosen must have not been too happy. He was in the audience with Juan Mayol and some other lawyer I do not know.  There was much constituent testimony on the zoning change.  It was an appeal of the CZAB denial.

Zoning Hearing Part 1:

(Watch on YouTube)

Zoning Hearing Part 2 - the vote:

(Watch on YouTube)

If you want to watch the WHOLE MEETING YOU CAN DO SO HERE.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Miami Dade County Courthouse Jury-rigged Repairs. By Geniusofdespair

Yes, jury-rigged also happens to mean makeshift repairs.

I was in the courthouse the other day and took just two photos because I was busy with the swearing in of Daniella Levine Cava.

If you have a beautiful building you have to take pride in how you make repairs. You don't just stick a  screw in (that doesn't match and strip it) and put/leave a piece of hardware in that is butt ugly. Come on. Make believe this is Vizcaya. Treat it like that, you fixing folks. Don't just go to a box of hardware and choose something. Mayor Gimenez, go in and look at the building. Make Jennifer Glazer Moon do a survey of the repairs. This is unacceptable.

Bathroom Door Fastener
Needs a cleaning...both floors. Look at that beautiful under layer tile.
Who approves these fixes? Start floor by floor. This is Harvey Ruvin's floor (2). Damn Harvey. Do you think this looks good? Someone must take pride in the repairs. It looks like everyone had the notion that it was going to be torn down so they just slapped things together.

FSU President John Thrasher is a liar … by gimleteye

Don't take it from me. Here is Politifact on the assertion by new FSU president John Thrasher to students who protested his appointment on the basis of taking money from the Koch Brothers, which he denied. Why does this matter? Truth matters.

For one, the Koch's made their contributions through one of the state's largest polluters, Georgia Pacific. The corporation's vice president for sustainability is the former chief state environmental officer under Jeb Bush, David Struhs.

Struhs lied on federal courthouse steps in 2003 about Bush changes to the Everglades Forever Act that resulted in more than a decade of federal litigation before plaintiffs prevailed. (I am board president of one of the co-plaintiffs in that Clean Water Act litigation, (Friends of the Everglades.)

Lying on the courthouse steps? WHO DOES THAT? These interests believe they can get away with anything.

Thrasher, a main lobbyists against Florida Hometown Democracy, the citizens'  ballot referendum initiative that caused special interests to pass the supermajority requirement for ALL Florida ballot initiatives, is a serial liar.

A letter he signed to all Florida voters before the election in 2010 was filled with outrageous lies. How could someone who would do that qualify to be president of a major Florida university? Maybe a readiness to lie backed by proof is the qualification to advance to the top of Florida politics.

Last week Thrasher received a rousing send-off from colleagues in the state legislature. Hail fellow, well met and all that ("Florida Senate bids John Thrasher a fond farewell") except for one fact: the truth.

Thrasher says he has 'never received any contributions from the Koch brothers'

By Joshua Gillin on Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 at 5:27 p.m.

Former state Sen. John Thrasher was formerly speaker of the House and chairman of Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How to increase voter turnout? No Vote, No Light … by gimleteye

If you voted, you get a tax credit.

If you register a car, you pay a penalty if you fail to vote. Finding the people who vote or don't vote is not a problem in this age of data collection.

In the Miami Herald, Maurice Ferre urges civics classes to educate children and increase voter turnout from the abysmal rates that plague elections.

I remember civics in grade school. What I remember is how many Americans died in wars to protect our democratic freedoms. Voting honors those sacrifices, I learned. I vote.

But it's not enough to save our democracy. Such is the peril today from an apathetic public.

In visits to India, one is amazed to see voting days declared as national holidays. Nearly everyone votes.

Why not, here? Shut down the stores. Turn off the traffic lights.

We have to try something. We have to change low voter turnout and the dynamic of American elections.

Watch Congress do nothing.

Perhaps the Miami-Dade County Commission and League of Cities should take up the issue.

I'd favor turning off everyone's electricity on election day UNTIL people vote. Tie it to the phone number on your electric bill. No Vote, No Light.

That's how strongly I feel about low voter turnout.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hatred wins elections … by gimleteye

Hatred isn't the first cause of political instability. Fear and anxiety is.

We live in a time when there is plenty of fear and anxiety. People retreat to their own silos, clans, and families and blame "the other".

Now there is a mainstream media more than willing to earn huge profits by scraping at the scabs: Fox News and its local versions, the small timers like Sunshine State News for example.

Fear and anxiety pulls viewers in, Rubert Murdoch learned in Great Britain a long time ago. It's a formula with sure fire success with corporate advertisers. Why? Because the end game is a business goal that few ordinary voters understand: the elimination of regulations that inhibit profits even if they do protect people.

The best example are environmental rules and regulations. Although the environment turns up at the bottom of list of voters' priorities, it is at the very top of the list of the dominant industries that now contribute unregulated sums of cash to political campaigns. The Koch Brothers multi-billionaire private empire, for example, is 100 percent dependent on the use of regulated chemicals that are petroleum based and disease-causing.

As a result of the mid-term elections, Congress is poised to do to the US Environmental Protection Agency what the GOP legislature did in the state of Florida: turn the agency into a business-friendly adjunct. It's happening already, with Republicans complaining that industry paid scientists are not permitted on the science supervisory boards that guide EPA policy.

The new head of the Senate Environment Committee is, again, GOP Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) whose status within his own party is anchored by his fierce denial of climate change.

The Democrats are out-gunned -- not because the GOP has arguments the appeal to Americans more than they do -- but because their job is to "explain" while all the Republicans have to do is stir "hatred". Which is the easier course?

Explaining presumes your audience is listening, but American audiences aren't listening. Americans aren't listening because their main source of news, Fox, is stirring the pot of fear and anxiety.

Some critics have proposed that Democrats lost the last election because they didn't "hear" what voters want. That's not the problem. Votters can't articulate what they want because they are hypnotized by fear and anxieties stirred up by the GOP message machinery (visible nearly every night on the Daily Show with John Stewart).

Last night a Republican friend objected, saying that Democrats hated George W. Bush. Bush was an incurious president who lead us into trillion dollar wars without clear objectives: wars we are only beginning to pay for. Today, the proponents for war -- mainly the fossil fuel industries that have their own trillion dollar agenda in keeping oil flowing from the Mideast to America -- are even more solidly entrenched in Congress.

They won by hating President Obama for being black. He's their "other": a perfect foil to stir up the necessary fear and anxiety that makes it so hard for voters to listen to reason.

No question, Democrats have a hard road. Whether Republicans can actually lead Congress will take some time to sort out. The recipe for gridlock is in motion. The champions of the status quo are cheering.

America is a sad place because when hatred wins elections, even worse behaviors are not far behind. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Beating a Dead Horse: More on the wellfield protection zone for dopey people with short attention spans. By Geniusofdespair

Well you might be over the wellfield protection zone reduction plan, on to your Khardasian double wedding news. To me this story is very much alive.

This is post number 3, I assume you think you have had enough of the wellfield protection zone --thinking let the government take care of me. Well the government is taking care of the DEVELOPERS not you. They see a lawsuit or an injunction and they get scared as shit. And extending 836 what could be more important? Your water supply maybe. The government is saying they are pulling less water from the wells so they don't need such big zones. That is what the developers are saying too. WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE? As we have more salt water intrusion we will have less water and might not be able to use other wells. We could pollute this water very easily and once done, it is gone.

Well you haven't seen an end to this subject, not here on this blog. Maybe in the Herald. Oops, it hasn't been there. I bet you didn't even read post number 2.  Go back and read it damn it so you understand this article.

This is the most important issue in Miami Dade County in our view. Forget libraries, Ludlam Trail, stupid Miami Wild and the Nail Clipper building. Focus. This is the hot story. I can't emphasize it enough. They want to shrink the wellfields. This is insanity.

How did this suddenly get less important? DEVELOPMENT PRESSURE.

Link to document

A second document:

From a letter from Environmental groups:
This is one of the water supply for Miami-Dade county residents. The consequences of getting this outcome wrong are enormous. Yet, the current reassessment of the wellfield protection areas fails to consider these additional contamination risks posed by new land uses.

For example, the USGS MODFLOW model shows that with expansion of mining, the wellfields preferentially pull water from mining pits, from which the USGS report contends “it is possible that contamination could reach the well fields quickly, within 10 days in some cases.” Renken et al. (2005) conclude from the 2003 tracer tests that “demonstrated potential contamination risks in the Northwest well field that are far greater than previously considered, indicating the need for reassessment of existing rock-mine setback distances”. The protection areas should take into account the implications of additional rock mining, and other land uses that pose contamination risks, which poses potential high risk to human health and safety.

Sincerely, Kathy Aterno Florida Director Clean Water Action / Clean Water Fund
Sara Fain, Esq. Executive Director Everglades Law Center
Manley Fuller President Florida Wildlife Federation
John Adornato Regional Director National Parks Conservation Association
Stephen Mahoney Conservation Chair Sierra Club Miami
Laura Reynolds Executive Director Tropical Audubon Society

One last paper....

Link on Scrib

You might ask yourself why is Miami Dade County ignoring all these scientific papers and the environmental community. Very good question.  I think they don't care about the water at all. They are just going to give up on it and use a water treatment method, desalination perhaps -- like Tampa.

Why not pay big bucks for our water?

Picture of the day: Buckminster Fuller, Bernard Zyscovich and Harvey Ruvin. By Geniuofdespair

Inventor Buckminster Fuller, Architect Bernard Zyscovich and County Clerk Harvey Ruvin. Taken of a picture in Harvey Ruvin's office.

The Ludlam Trail needs an angel: Armando Codina … by gimleteye

Yesterday's public hearing at the county commission on the request by Flagler Development (alternately, Florida East Coast Industries) to rezone the former rail line to what the public would like to create from its property, a linear public park, was cut short by travel schedules of commissioners.

For advocates of Ludlam Trail, that was a bit of good news if not a ray of hope.

The well-attended meeting happened on the same day as a hedge fund billionaire, John Paulson, announced a gift of $100 million to New York City's Central Park; the largest in the nation's history for an urban park.

Advocates for turning the entire Flagler property into a community asset hope Armando Codina was paying attention.

Codina's life story, from a poor Cuban immigrant to an acclaimed, successful developer and board member at the highest ranks of corporate America, parallels the rise of Miami from an insular southern city to a sprawling megalopolis. He charted his own financial course through the tangle of local developers who created great wealth from condos (ie. Jorge Perez) or zero lot line housing (ie. Latin Builders Association) to a position of unparalleled influence. Codina is a top shareholder of Flagler Development and FECI.

In the case of the future of Ludlam Trail, he is also the most influential.

Listening to yesterday's testimony by Flagler's lobbyist team, what emerged was a very complicated -- too complicated -- plan to develop its linear 67 acre property stretching from Blue Lagoon near Miami International Airport all the way southeast to US 1.

The 6.2 mile stretch is unique in Miami-Dade county, and partly in various municipalities along the way. In addition to nodes for intense development, there is a plan for secondary construction, and despite its claim that traffic won't be an issue because the development is matched to existing infrastructure, no one should believe it.

The net effect of the plan would be to increase its development potential from 1345 units to more than double that number while retaining some 25% of the property, or about 18 acres, for a "trail". The 1345 units is calculated by the Miami Dade planning department from the current zoning category for the former rail line right-of-way, as narrow as fifty feet in some spots.

Flagler and the county counter claims that neither evinced any interest in developing the property until neighborhood residents and leaders began discussing the great value of this unique vacant parcel as connector, in the form of a community path, in one of the areas of the county least served by public parks.

Whatever the case, the fact remains that elected officials who are inclined to do what their contributors want do not like being pushed to change their minds and usually come up with many arguments -- supplied in advance of public meetings by lobbyists -- to point away from the public interest and toward  private profit.

But all is not lost with Ludlam Trail.

First of all, it is clear from the position of local community councils that the public does not want more development in this area. The Planning Advisory Board -- always more friendly to developers -- is predictably on the other side (isn't it time to clean house and have a PAB more representative of the public interest?).

Although the Flagler lobbyists and county both note that there is no funding for outright purchase of the property, this is a negotiating position.

If Flagler, the county, and neighbors came together to petition the state of Florida, the Ludlam Trail acquisition could be a top candidate for Amendment 1 funding, newly available through a percentage of the documentary tax stamp in real estate transfers.

The main obstacle is the weight of bad past precedents with right-of-ways to benefit the public; namely, the Miami River.

In the 1990's, Miami insiders, property owners, and their lobbyists (ie. Greenberg Traurig) spurned the opportunity to create the kind of park space that would have defined a vibrant commercial and residential center by allowing condos to dominate the landscape. (I recall trying to talk to Art Teele, at the time the county mayor, about this and he just shook his head. "Marty Fine would never agree.")

The thinking that prevailed treated public access as an orphan who could be starved because he was too little to complain effectively. The result was tragic for Miami, notwithstanding the bulging net worth of its creators through the boom, bust, then boom again.

Now Ludlam Trail and its environs are different. Residences and taxpayers are solidly middle class. You can't gild that lilly like Perez, a board member of FECI, did at the Miami River.

The logic of buying out Flagler's entire property for the benefit of the community is just too powerful.

But it won't happen if, on December 4th -- when the CDMP hearing continues -- should the county commission fold and simply votes to "transmit" the Flagler development/zoning request to the state.

By denying the application, the commission would point Flagler to work with the advocates for moving the state legislature and Gov. Scott to appropriate funds. It would take a couple of years, but the former rail line has been sitting idle and unused for nearly 30 years. Plus, securing the needed approvals from various municipalities along the route is uncertain and would also take years and even more lobbyist and planning expense.

If the commission votes to "transmit" the application, the burden moves onto the shoulders of Ludlam Trail advocates who probably lack the resources to mount an effective campaign in Tallahassee without Flagler's support.

That is why the involvement of Armando Codina is decisive. He understands perfectly well the community's need. He has made a fortune enough for one lifetime. Will he take the dismal course of past precedent and use a "public access trail" as a fig leaf for shoe-horning a development plan that has many obstacles of its own to surmount, or will he consider lasting legacy of an "Armando Codina Trail", support full acquisition or at least give it a fighting chance, and still come out right for Flagler shareholders?

It is something for Codina to consider, because after all is said and done, you can't take it with you.