“The administration is calling a timeout,” said Mike Hernández,"
Me: GREAT IDEA!!
|Lynda Bell at Yesterday's Meeting - It is clear she blames the Mayor for Her Loss.|
Lynda Bell looking tired and defeated, calls the mayor's action Schizophrenic, but she didn't hesitate to get a grant for her biggest contributor for a crummy garage complex (Jobs?). I think not. Xavier Suarez why are you voting for this crap to insiders? If you were smart you would be on the same page as Juan Zapata, who is the lone person with any sense on this committee. Carrie Meek is dragged into county hall to get money for her defunct company in OpaLocka (reporter Hanks said it doesn't have a phone number).
Yes, if you read Douglas Hank's reports over the past few months you would know what is going on WITH YOUR MONEY - $75 Million of your tax dollars. Why do I have to write over again what a reporter already wrote extremely well? Do you know about Miami Dade County? Do you know that they get most of your tax money? This $75 Million is being given as perks. The intent of jobs jobs jobs is not part of these projects. You all have to stop this. Pepe Diaz and Barbara Jordan are complete idiots. Xavier Suarez: You have to start getting independent of these bad bad votes and start helping Juan defend his position with your gift of high intelligence. You can't sit by and remain on the fence and let things happen around you. I want you to lead if you want to run for Mayor. You have to shape policy. This was bad policy. Juan Zapata was right this should be delayed and looked at again now that Josh Gelfman is gone. This appears to be all his doing.
I have to give Mayor Gimenez credit for trying to change lanes, even though it was last minute. He was right. The commissioners are up to their old tricks of taking a pot of money and giving it to their pals, getting no jobs from the money or just a few.
I am going to print 3 Doug Hanks articles in "read more" and I hope the Miami Herald doesn't get mad at me. My advice is order the damn newspaper or don't EVER complain about your tax money. I don't know why you complain anyway, you vote for bonds don't you? NOW READ SO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS ISSUE. AND AFTER YOU READ LEAVE COMMENTS.
3 Douglas Hanks Articles:
Yes, this is a lot of reading but you have to understand the underhanded stuff going on...WITH YOUR MONEY.
Miami-Dade commissioners balk at plan for business grants July 1014
(read the 43 comments on Eye on Miami)
By DOUGLAS HANKS (this is the July Hanks column)
Miami-Dade commissioners on Thursday stalled an effort to use property taxes to fund about about $40 million in business grants for projects that included a private-jet hangar, charter school complex and production facility.
After harsh questioning by Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, the commission’s economic-development committee voted to delay considering a request by Mayor Carlos Gimenez to rewrite the rules of a dormant program aimed at recruiting large business ventures. The Gimenez administration wants to allow smaller businesses to use $75 million set aside from a 2004 ballot initiative that gave Miami-Dade authority to use property taxes to borrow $3 billion over several decades for a long list of infrastructure and construction projects.
“I think we had a really good idea that turned into something it wasn’t supposed to become,’’ Zapata said. “If we scream ‘jobs’ loud enough, this will somehow make this a good idea.’’
The current rules tied to the 2004 Building Better Communities bond program limited economic-development grants to $10 million a piece, a restriction aimed at reserving the borrowed funds to businesses and projects large enough to be “game-changing” for the economy, according to a 2010 memo setting rules for the program.
By waiving those rules, Gimenez’s staff want to give $5 million infrastructure grants to six businesses, including Miami Ocean Studios, a planned studio and production campus in northwest Miami-Dade and a for-profit medical school planned by Larkin Health in southern Miami-Dade. The money would reimburse businesses for costs tied to roadwork, sewage hookups and other infrastructure expenses, as well as for public parking facilities, according to presentation documents.
“We are trying to deal with the economy now, rather than the economy they were dealing with in 2004,’’ Jack Osterholt, the deputy mayor overseeing economic-development, said after the meeting. “We wanted projects that were sustainable, and would keep people working.”
The proposed grants, along with money tied to a similar BBC program without a $10 million threshold, include backing for projects tied to several influential people.
Improvements in Miami’s Design District, a popular retail destination controlled by Craig Robins, a top art collector, would get $1 million. Miami-Dade would earmark $5 million for a commercial project backed by the foundation of former congresswoman Carrie Meek.
Another $5 million would go to the Orion private-jet terminal, an Opa-locka business partially owned by Leonard Abess, who famously sold City National Bank of Florida in 2008 for $945 million and then gave $60 million of the profits to employees. A charter-school complex in Palmetto Bay backed Wayne Rosen, one of the top contributors to Miami-Dade commissioners’ reelection efforts, would get $5 million.
After the meeting, Rosen said his Parkside at Palmetto Bay project, which includes retail and housing, would bring jobs to the heart of the village. (GENIUS: Councilman Schaffer spoke for the Village of Palmetto Bay with no authorization to do so and gave inaccurate information to the Committee. The project was rejected at least twice but Rosen sued or threatened to sue to get the project. It is near the Perrine Enterprise zone not in a Palmetto Bay enterprise zone. An expert was brought in and did not see it as a viable money making project, that is for starters, Schaffer never mentioned any of that he said the village was behind the project all the way. Also the city submitted a different project and it was turned down).
“We are the catalyst to get that downtown district started,” he said. “I believe in the redevelopment of their downtown district, and I’m willing to stay the course to get this project under construction, to create jobs and create a downtown district that I can be very proud of.”
Rosen’s venture sparked one of several tense moments during the hearing, with speakers noting he was the top contributor to Commissioner Lynda Bell, who chairs the committee and was running the meeting.
“We have a county commissioner sponsoring this project who is running for reelection and the project would benefit her largest campaign contributor,” Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner said shortly after Bell called her up for a requested speaking slot. Bell said she sponsored the resolution needed to fund the Rosen project only because she represents Palmetto Bay, and that the mayor’s office approved the applicants. “This under the purview of the mayor,’’ she said.
Rosen also dismissed the suggestion that the grant would be related to his campaign contributions to Bell. “My projects are approved on their merits, and there’s no outsiders pushing it,” he said. (ME: right, Lynda Bell didn't push it at all for her largest campaign countributor Wayne Rosen who gave her campaign and ECO over $23,000.)
The motion to defer voting on the grant proposals passed 3 to 1, with Commissioner Barbara Jordan objecting to the delay. “We have timelines tied to this list,’’ she said.
Thursday’s debate centered on a tiny portion of the 2004 Building Better Communities program, which passed overwhelmingly when voters endorsed eight ballot questions. The words “economic development” didn’t appear on the ballot, but an appendix approved projects tied to the planned bond sales earmarked $75 million for business-grant program.
Despite having 10 years of economic boom and bust, Miami-Dade has yet to tap the borrowing authority tied to the proposed business grants. The Beacon Council, the county’s economic-development arm, hoped to use about $15 million for a major air show near the Homestead air base, but the project failed to win needed backing from the Pentagon.
Frank Nero, head of the Beacon Council from 1996 to 2013, said the new guidelines abandon the original plan’s intent.
“One of the reasons we put in the $10-million threshold was to keep it from being divvied up by commission district,’’ said Nero, who was ousted by the Beacon Council board last year in part over scrapes with Gimenez. “You’re borrowing the money. It better be a significant project because you’re going to be paying off the bonds for 20 or 30 years.”
Along with the business grants, the Gimenez plan would use $18.5 million from the economic-development allocation for beach re nourishment along Miami-Dade’s coast. Thursday’s vote defers taking up the entire recommendation for 30 days.
Dollars for the BBC program come from a countywide property tax reserved solely for debt payments on voter-approved bonds. Commissioners decide when to borrow more money for the BBC program, and Miami-Dade next year will pay about $75 million in debt service tied to the $2.9 billion initiative, according to the latest budget proposal. Projects funded including the Miami Port Tunnel, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, bridge repairs and library construction.
Osterholt said the administration planned to stagger payouts from the proposed business-grant program so that Miami-Dade could avoid increasing debt service tied to the property tax. That would mean the program would have no impact on the tax rate. Either way, the program would have no impact on next year’s budget.
Larry Williams, the current Beacon Council chief, cautioned against dismissing an effort to help smaller businesses grow.
“These are the type of things that lay the foundation for economic development,’’ he said. “These investments can be game changers.”
THIS IS WHY I TELL YOU: DON'T VOTE FOR BONDS.
Miami-Dade mayor scraps grant plan in favor of money for SkyRise, Miami Wilds
By Douglas Hanks
10/15/2014 5:14 PM
Miami-Dade residents could pay more property taxes to help build the new SkyRise Miami observation tower on Biscayne Bay and a 20th Century Fox theme park at Zoo Miami under a new proposal by Mayor Carlos Gimenez that marks a sharp change in course on economic-development grants.
The mayor revealed his bid to subsidize the high-profile, for-profit projects Wednesday afternoon while announcing he was abandoning a controversial push to give $5 million economic-development grants to a string of more modest projects. Those include an existing private-jet complex backed by wealthy banker Leonard Abess Jr., a proposed industrial park sought by a group led by former congresswoman Carrie Meek, and a commercial complex by Wayne Rosen, a top donor in county commission races.
“What prompted the change is we need to go back to the original intent,” Gimenez said Wednesday. “These projects we have right now ... they’re good projects, but they’re not really game-changing projects.”
The public dollars in question come from 2004’s Building Better Communities ballot initiative, in which voters authorized Miami-Dade to borrow nearly $3 billion for dozens of projects. A special property tax is used to pay back the bond debt, and the rate goes up as county commissioners approve more borrowing.
While the phrase “economic development” did not appear on the 2004 ballot, a $75 million grant program was included in a long list of expenditures that commissioners created in establishing the bond program. Despite 10 years of boom-and-bust conditions, commissioners have yet to approve a project that would require any of the $75 million to be borrowed. Earlier this year, the Gimenez administration began pushing to get projects approved for grants.
The grant money can only be used for “public infrastructure” costs that most developers pay for, including sewage-system extensions, new roadways and sidewalks, and parking facilities. New debt tied to the economic-development project would likely amount to only pennies on a typical tax bill, given the amounts involved, and a surge in property values could let Miami-Dade make payments without a higher tax rate.
Gimenez declined to say how much money he wanted to send to the 1,000-foot SkyRise at Bayside or 20th Century Fox’s proposed Miami Wilds park, a Hollywood-themed attraction to rise next to Zoo Miami. But a proposal circulated by Commissioner Bruno Barreiro Wednesday called for SkyRise to receive $9 million, and a Gimenez spokesman said that figure represented the maximum the mayor would recommend for the tower that won approval by Miami voters in an August referendum.
Gimenez said Miami Wilds would receive significantly more than SkyRise under his plan, but he would not provide an amount. A county report said the theme park’s plans include about $130 million in infrastructure work eligible for county funding, but that “state and federal sources” would be needed to reach that amount.
Commissioners can still move forward with the original grants Gimenez proposed.
“We’re trying to redevelop the entire Opa-locka airport,” said County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, whose district includes the county-owned airport that is home to Abess’ Orion Jet Center and the development site controlled by the Carrie Meek Foundation. “It’s going to make Opa-locka probably one of the most popular general aviation airports in the country once these projects are completed.” GENIUS SAID: (OPA-LOCKA IS SURROUNDED BY HOMES OF MIAMI LAKES, DO WE REALLY WANT A MAJOR AIRPORT IS THIS AREA?)
With a direct link to property-tax bills, Gimenez’s original grant plan was bound to draw extra scrutiny. But the combination of prominent names and an election year had the proposal roiling political waters.
Commissioner Lynda Bell, facing a tough reelection fight, dropped her sponsorship of Rosen’s project just before the election. Rosen was her top contributor and critics pounced on the connection. After losing to newcomer Daniella Levine Cava in August, Bell is once again listed as the sponsor of Rosen’s project in Palmetto Bay.
Bell, whose term expires after Election Day, serves as chair of the commission economic-development committee, which is scheduled to consider the original grant proposals at its meeting Thursday afternoon. A for-profit medical school in southern Miami-Dade and another commercial complex at Opa-locka were also recommended for $5 million grants. All the original grant items remain on the committee’s agenda.
The new tack by Gimenez comes on the heels of a shake-up in his economic-development team. The official he hired from New York to spearhead economic development, Josh Gelfman, announced he was taking a job with a Miami developer two weeks ago and scheduled his last day for Wednesday. Robert Cruz, the Miami-Dade chief economist charged with screening the grants for job creation, lost his job in Gimenez’s 2015 budget plan and is set to leave by December.
When Gimenez’s team first proposed the grant recipients, critics pounced on the plan, questioning how the projects were selected without first issuing a formal request for applicants.
“Of all the egregious things I’ve seen, this is about at the top of the list,” Commissioner Juan C. Zapata said of the original grant proposals.
Abess is the primary investor of the parent company for Orion, which runs private-jet hangars and a terminal at Opa-locka airport. He gained national fame when he sold his family’s bank for $945 million in 2008 and then quietly shared millions in profits with his employees.
The new terminal and hangars outlined in Orion’s 2013 grant application opened earlier this year. Cruz, the economist, said completed projects are still eligible for new grant dollars for a limited window of time. An airport official said Orion also was pursuing a new expansion plan that could be added to the grant application. Orion executives and Abess could not be reached for comment.
The Meek foundation was given development rights to 124 acres of vacant Opa-locka land in 2008 under the condition that it begin building a new commercial complex by 2015. Next year, rent kicks in if the project doesn’t begin. The nonprofit is counting on the project for a revival. Its website appears defunct (it now redirects to a page filled with Japanese characters), and the foundation no longer employs any paid staff, said Lucia Davis-Raiford, an Gimenez deputy and a volunteer board member of the Meek foundation who is also Meek’s daughter.
“We had to do some housecleaning,” said Davis-Raiford, the county’s social-services director who is also serving as a point person for the foundation’s airport effort. She said the nonprofit has signed a major national developer to partner in the project. “We hope to be really game-changing in our approach,” she said.
While commissioners are set to consider the original grant proposals Thursday, administration officials said they would ask the panel to delay a debate until the mayor can refine how he wants Miami-Dade to spend the economic-development money.
“The administration is calling a timeout,” said Mike Hernández, Gimenez’s communications chief.
The online version of this article was updated to correct an error in the quote from Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who said the expansion at Opa-locka airport would probably make it one of the most popular general-aviation airports in the country (not the county).
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article2824695.html#storylink=cpy
SkyRise tower gets early OK for $9 million from Miami-Dade
By Douglas Hanks
10/16/2014 7:53 PM
Miami-Dade County commissioners on Thursday endorsed using property taxes to fund about $30 million in development subsidies for a series of for-profit projects, including $9 million for the planned SkyRise Miami observation tower on the city waterfront.
With heated words for Mayor Carlos Gimenez, members of the commission’s economic-development committee rejected Gimenez’s last-minute request to scrap his administration’s initial plan to fund projects at Opa-locka airport, a new for-profit medical school and a commercial complex in Homestead. With those proposals drawing fire, Gimenez on Wednesday announced he wanted to fund a smaller batch of more ambitious ventures, including SkyRise.
The four-member committee ended up endorsing almost all of the grant proposals before it Thursday, and members chastised Gimenez for wanting to change course.
“I cannot say how disappointed I am in the mayor’s position. And what he came up with in the 11th hour,” said Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who backed a trio of projects that she said could make Opa-locka one of the most popular small airports in the country. “It gave me a flashback to the budget process. I’m tired of it.”
SkyRise Miami, a proposed 1,000-foot observation tower, would feature thrill rides, nightclubs, shops and event space.
SkyRise Miami, a proposed 1,000-foot observation tower, would feature thrill rides, nightclubs, shops and event space.
Miami-Dade mayor scraps grant plan in favor of money for SkyRise, Miami Wilds
Gimenez did not attend the committee hearing, but sent his deputy in charge of economic programs, Jack Osterholt. Lynda Bell, the outgoing commissioner who chairs the committee, declined to let him speak. As Bell delivered closing remarks critical of the administration, Osterholt exited the chambers as other senior staff followed him to the door.
The full commission still must vote on the grants, which would tap into $75 million worth of county debt authorized by the 2004 Building Better Communities ballot initiative.
A special countywide property tax funds the debt payments, and the rate can increase as commissioners authorize more borrowing. Administration officials have not offered an estimate on whether the tax rate would go up because of the economic-development program, but the relatively small chunk of debt would likely only account for pennies on a typical tax bill.
The money under discussion must be used for developer expenses that fall under the category of “public infrastructure,” such as parking facilities, sewage and utility work, road extensions and sidewalks.
Another project that won Gimenez’s recent endorsement, the proposed Miami Wilds theme park in South Dade, was not on Thursday’s agenda. A grant application lists the 20th Century Fox attraction seeking $13.5 million from the county’s economic-development pool, and a total of $130 million from government at all levels. Gimenez has not said how much money he thinks the park should receive from Miami-Dade.
On Thursday, the only consistent ‘no’ vote on the grants was Juan C. Zapata, who represents western Miami-Dade. But the full committee did reject two proposals: using the economic-development money for $18 million of beach renourishment, and a $5 million grant submission from an Opa-locka venture that wanted to recruit a terminal operator from the Fort Lauderdale area.
SkyRise left the committee chambers with the largest potential payout, with other applicants each winning approval for $5 million grants. SkyRise asked for a $15 million subsidy in February, but the administration said it held off putting the request in the approval pipeline until after August’s city referendum on whether to build the 1,000-foot tower.
The other grants were discussed at a July meeting, well before Miami voters overwhelmingly endorsed the project, which sits on city land. SkyRise used the slogan “No Cost to the City” in the campaign, and the bid for county dollars did not become public until Gimenez announced his endorsement of the grant Wednesday afternoon.
“We decided it didn’t make any sense to ask for money for a project that may never happen because it wasn’t approved by voters,” SkyRise developer Jeff Berkowitz said in an interview.
SkyRise aims to become the most popular tourist attraction in South Florida, drawing about 3 million visitors a year to what would be the city’s highest point, with plunge rides, catering halls, restaurants and nightclubs. Berkowitz, a top campaign donor for Gimenez, sees SkyRise as a signature icon for Miami, in the way Seattle has the Space Needle and Paris the Eiffel Tower.
“Most of these towers around the world have been built with government assistance,” he said. “I’m of the opinion that something this important should have some level of government participation.”
He hopes to raise 60 percent of his $430 million development tab from more than 500 foreign investors under the federal EB-5 visa program, which trades investor dollars for green cards.
Investor materials describe a lucrative venture, with Berkowitz projecting SkyRise would soar in value to $630 million within five years. “Cash flow from the operation of the SkyRise Miami Tower may be sufficient to return all, or a significant portion, of the EB-5 investors’ capital after year 5,” read the brochure.
“That’s the projection,” said Berkowitz, who wore a brass Skyrise lapel pin for Thursday’s meeting. “All I can do is hope they’re right.”