Describing Beach voters’ approval last week of the 1% hotel bed surcharge as a “mandate for action,” local citizen-activist Frank Del Vecchio says that City Hall’s plans to redevelop its convention center “can and should move forward.”
Del Vecchio, president of the South Pointe Residents Association and who spearheaded anti-casino and City Hall corruption demonstrations in recent months, had long been a skeptic of both the city’s designs on the center and how it proposed to pay for its upgrade.
But last Tuesday’s results, he said this week, are a green light from voters that City Hall ought to proceed on the project:
“I urge the mayor and City Commission to now proceed expeditiously to engage an architectural and engineering firm to prepare specifications for the upgrade. After community review of the plans, the Commission should proceed with a contract for [the center's] modernization and enact the required ordinance to implement the tax and apply its proceeds to capital bonding for the facility.”
The upgrade, Del Vecchio said, “now can and should move forward independent of grandiose plans which may prove unnecessary or infeasible.”
“[Last week's] vote demonstrated community support. The Commission should take this as a mandate for action.”
Sliver of Votes Forces Barreiro-Garcia Runoff
County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro has been forced into a Nov. 6 runoff with State Rep. and former Beach commissioner Luis Garcia, after Miami-Dade elections officials determined late last week that Barreiro narrowly missed winning a majority of votes in the Aug. 14 primary by a mere nine votes.
Barreiro, a 14-year incumbent, garnered 49.95% of the vote to Garcia’s 33%. Two other candidates, Calixto Garcia and Carlos Munoz-Fontanills took the remainder. Slightly more than 15,600 votes were cast in the race.
Barreiro needed a 50%-plus-one-vote majority in order to avoid a runoff.
The county elections department conducted a special canvassing meeting Friday to resolve disputed ballots. Both Barreiro and Garcia appeared for the three-hour session, with Barreiro bringing along his two attorneys.
In the end, only one of the nine disputed absentee ballots that Barreiro wanted counted was accepted by the panel.
Barreiro won in 15 Miami Beach precincts; Garcia won in 7. Calixto Garcia and Carlos Fontanills won no Beach precincts.
County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro deployed dubious tactics in last week’s primary, alleges the man who will now go head-to-head with him in November’s runoff.
But those tactics, says Luis Garcia, couldn’t help Barreiro avoid a runoff.
“I’m still standing,” Garcia told the audience he addressed at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club this week.
“They did everything they could” to defeat him, he said of his opponent’s campaign. “They ‘mis-obtained,’ for lack of a better word, absentee ballots,” Garcia charged, referring to the recent absentee ballot imbroglio that snared one Hialeah ballot broker and tainted some of the local candidates with whom she was associated.
Garcia said he heard reports that some of Barreiro’s people were “loading up most of the people from Rebecca Tower” early last Tuesday, “escorted by either his staff or friends,” who then followed the elderly voters into voting booths and “told them how to vote.”
“I thought this was America, folks, but it’s actually legal in Dade County,” Garcia conceded.
Despite “all these shenanigans that took place,” he noted, “[Barreiro] couldn’t get over 50%” of the vote.
Garcia noted that while he enjoyed the support of local auto magnate and citizen-activist Norman Braman, “lo and behold, all of a sudden, it comes to light that the Marlins, the Dolphins, Mr. [Jorge] Pérez, who wants his say whenever you see him downtown, the union workers – they were all pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars” into the effort to defeat him.
“So who was really beholden?” Garcia asked rhetorically.
He decried the fact that Beach residents last week had to vote to raise the “bed tax” on guests at the city’s hotels when revenue that should have been allocated to the redevelopment of the Beach’s convention center went instead to build the Marlins stadium.
“That money was for our convention center,” Garcia declared.
The current state representative for District 107 said he expects a favorable outcome for himself on Nov. 6, when a higher voter turnout is likely: “We feel real good. When the people vote, we win.”
Barreiro’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
David Richardson, who won last week’s four-way Democratic primary for the Florida House District 113 seat, acknowledged his victory in a message posted on his campaign website.
“Our message was simple. Let’s eliminate waste and fraud in our system so we can invest in our children’s education, our local businesses, and our local communities,” the South Beach resident and CPA said.
“This campaign was powered by the people of District 113 and our work in Tallahassee will be no different.”
Richardson attended this week’s Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club at David’s Cafe, where he briefly thanked supporters.
“We totally pulled it off,” he told the audience. “Wish me well in Tallahassee. I’m going to be doing my very best to support this community.”
Bed Tax Passed Resoundingly
The 1% increase to the so-called “bed tax” that is charged to tourists in city lodgings – and which is intended to bankroll the city’s redevelopment of its convention center – passed in all of the city’s 36 precincts in last week’s primary election.
A companion referendum on last week’s ballot, one permitting city commissioners to call special meetings, also succeeded in all precincts.
Apt. Floor Collapse Prompts Evacuations
City officials declared a North Beach apartment complex unsafe after the floor in one unit collapsed Sunday.
Residents of the Ocean Bay complex at 8260 Byron Ave. were evacuated from the complex after the collapse, which occurred in a first-floor unit. It happened about 11:30 p.m. Sunday night.
One pregnant resident and her 6-month-old baby barely escaped injury as their floor caved in.
By late Monday, the city had declared five units uninhabitable and evacuated the entire building. The city planned to put tenants up in local hotels for three days.
One resident told CBS 4 that she had just paid $845 in rent days earlier but that her landlord was “not going to give me any of my money back.”
In the aftermath of the collapse, the city cited the building’s owner for a violation.
Interim City Manager Kathie Brooks will be the guest speaker of the Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club on Aug. 28, addressing the group for the first time since assuming office in July.
The Club meets at a new location, David’s Café One, at the corner of Collins Ave. and 11 St., at 8:30 a.m. There is no charge and all are welcome.
Fifty Shades Credited with Boosting Women’s Turnout at Sex Expo
Organizers of this year’s Exxxotica Expo in Miami Beach say there was a “significant increase” in overall attendance, especially among women and couples – and the success of a popular erotic novel is credited with luring them there.
The annual expo at the Miami Beach Convention Center – which next year moves to Fort Lauderdale – was one leg of what its promoters label “the nation’s largest event dedicated to love and sex.” Other expo sites include Chicago and New Jersey.
The Miami Beach show, in May, reported a 25% increase in attendance on the opening day of the 3-day expo.
That, and record ticket sales at last month’s event in Chicago, are a “direct effect” of the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy of erotic novels, say expo organizers.
Author E.L. James’ first novel in the trilogy has sold 20 million copies, becoming the fastest-selling paperback in history, surpassing Harry Potter.
“We think Fifty Shades has brought a lot of what was either completely unknown or considered taboo to the average adult right out into mainstream dialogue,” said J. Handy, the expo’s director. “Wives, girlfriends, and mothers are all reading the series, discussing it with friends and family, then heading out to explore items talked about in the books.”
Media reports have discussed the economic stimulus that the Fifty Shades phenomenon has brought about. Hardware stores have reported increased sales of rope, with some even creating “Fifty Shades aisles.” Sex toy stores and manufacturers are also boasting a windfall.
A web survey conducted by the expo revealed that –
- 50% of men and/or women have read or are reading the book(s)
– 83% of women found the idea of being dominated like Anastasia Steele a turn-on – 69% of men found the idea of being dominating like Christian Grey a turn-on
– 84% of women said they are more willing to experiment in BDSM since reading the book(s)
– 70% of men said that their mates are more open in the bedroom since reading the book(s)
Special Election Tuesday; Swearing-In to Follow
Surfside voters go to the polls next Tuesday to fill an open commission seat to replace Sheldon “Shelly” Lisbon.
Eli Tourgeman, Joseph “Joe” Graubart, and Meredith Beattie, are the three declared candidates.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The following day, Wednesday, Aug. 29, a reception for the newly-elected commissioner will be held in the second floor Commission chambers at 7 p.m. with the swearing-in to follow an hour later.
Lisbon, who resigned from the Town Commission, was defeated by Joseph “Joe” Gibbons in last week’s Democratic primary for the Florida House District 100 seat, 52% to 48%.
Candidate Forum for Open Seat Tonight
The three candidates for the town’s open commission seat will answer audience questions at a forum tonight.
Conducted by the Miami-Dade League of Women Voters, the forum will give the public the opportunity to hear from Eli Tourgeman, Joseph “Joe” Graubart, and Meredith Beattie, the three declared candidates for the open commission seat that will be decided in next Tuesday’s special town election.
Questions, which will be reviewed by the League, must be submitted in advance between 6 and 6:30 p.m.
The forum will take place in the 2nd floor Commission chambers of Town Hall (9293 Harding Ave.) and will be televised on Channel 77.
Bike with the Chief
The Surfside Police Department is again offering residents the opportunity to bike with their town’s police chief.
Participants will ride around the residential neighborhood with Chief Allen and the neighborhood resource team. The ride begins Wed., Aug. 29, at 5:30 p.m. from Town Hall.
For more information, contact Dina Goldstein or Sgt. Jay Matelis at (305) 861-4862.
SUNNY ISLES BEACH
School Drop Off Route to Change
The normal drop off location for students attending Sunny Isles Beach Community School will change.
Beginning in the early part of this new school year, an alternative traffic plan will be implemented, SIB’s interim police chief, Dwight Snyder, announced this week.
The new traffic pattern will require vehicular traffic dropping off and picking up at the school to approach the area from 178th St. and Atlantic Ave. Once on Atlantic, vehicles will be routed along 181st Dr. and around North Bay Rd. and onto southbound Atlantic into the school’s drop-off/pick-up curbside lane on the school’s east side. Vehicles can then continue south on Atlantic.
The detour is necessary due to a school expansion project and the construction equipment that will be present.
Beach Rocks Saturday Night
Local artists battle it out for first place in “Rock the Beach,” an evening of live entertainment at Heritage Park (19200 Collins Ave.). The event is Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m.
Entries are currently being accepted. Call Cultural & Community Services at (305) 792-1706 for more information.
Disney Movie Tonight
The movie “Tangled,” a 2010 Disney telling of the Rapunzel fable, will be shown tonight at 7:30 p.m. at South Park (292 Golden Beach Dr.).
Biscayne Improvements Start Monday
Decorative street lighting improvements along Biscayne Blvd. will begin on Monday, causing minor temporary lane closures.
The work will affect the east side of Biscayne from south of the Lehman Causeway to the main entrance of Loehmann’s Plaza and is expected to be completed in late November.
Temporary closures of the outside through lane for northbound traffic will occur at times, but no road closure is required and all remaining northbound lanes will remain open, according to the city.
Seven to Run for Commission
Seven candidates have qualified for Aventura’s Nov. 6 municipal election, the city announced this week.
Sergio Vuguin will challenge incumbent Commissioner Teri Holzberg for Seat 1.
Rosa Naccarato and Howard Weinberg will vie for Seat 3, replacing Commissioner Bob Diamond.
Running to replace Seat 5 Commissioner Zev Auerbach are Enbar Cohen, Ian Llobregat, and Gary Pyott.
Voter Turnout Last Week: 20%
One of every 5 registered voters participated in last week’s county-wide primary election, according to Miami-Dade Elections.
The last time the entire county turned out to vote was in the Nov. 2010 gubernatorial election, which saw a 41% turnout.
Last November’s mayoral and commission election in Miami Beach drew 22%.
This November’s general election is expected to draw a larger turnout what with the presidential race topping the ballot. In 2008′s Obama-McCain race, county turnout peaked at 70%.
Pit Bull Ban Overturn Failed Massively
Results from last week’s county-wide referendum on whether to repeal the ban on pit bull dogs show that the move to reverse the ban passed in only 40 of the county’s 829 precincts and, often when it did, only by the slimmest of margins.
The overall vote was 63% to 37% to keep the ban – a nearly 3-to-2 margin.
The only areas of the county where overturning the ban did well were pockets of unincorporated southwest Miami-Dade and some precincts in Homestead, Florida City, Sweetwater, and scattered ones in Miami.
Exceptional Night for Female Judges
Women came up winners in nearly all of last week’s judiciary races in Miami-Dade.
County voters decided a dozen circuit and county judgeships. In all of the six races contested by a man versus a woman, the woman won.
In another race where there were two women and a man competing, a woman won; the man finished last.
Three races featured 2 women challenging each other. Only one race lacked a female candidate at all. And in only one race did a woman lose to the man running against her.
All in all, ten women and 2 men won their respective races.
School District Gets New “Green” Buses
This week’s new and returning Miami-Dade public school students were greeted with 255 new school buses, among other improvements announced by the school district this week.
The buses, whose fuel consumption is nearly half that of the vehicles they replace and produce near-zero emissions, come equipped with air conditioning and seat belts.
Other developments announced this week:
– Through “innovative, efficient routing strategies,” the district has reduced an additional 29 routes for the new school year. This brings the total route reduction over the past five years to 270 routes, a reduction that the district says has been achieved “while maintaining all transportation services” provided to students.
– Notebook computers will be provided to eligible 9th grade students at all county high schools through the LINK (Learn Ideas, Navigate Knowledge) program, which promotes computer usage to economically-distressed students.
For $25, participating students and their families can receive both equipment and training from the federally-funded grant program that has already distributed more than 5,100 computers since July.
– A new accident-tracking system is implemented this school year, a pilot program in eight schools – expanding to more later in the year – that will record all student accidents and injuries in a uniform method.
Additionally, the School Board, at its Aug. 15 meeting, approved placing a $1.2 billion bond referendum on November’s election ballot. Revenue would be used to modernize and construct schools throughout the district, including upgrading technology at all schools.
The proposed bond issue will have “minimal impact” on the typical homeowner, says the school system, costing a projected $10 levy in its first year.
Pet Adoptions are Half-Price
Wednesdays are half-price adoption days at Miami-Dade Animal Services. The county agency, in collaboration with the ASPCA, is offering the deal on its pets-in-search-of-homes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day.
Animal Services is at 7401 NW 74 St. in Miami. For more information, call 3-1-1.
Scott: No More Teaching to the Test
Gov. Rick Scott announced that state schools will move to a “common core” system of student testing next year that emphasizes analytical problem solving over memorization and simple recitation of facts, a prime criticism of the current FCAT test.
“I’ve heard the frustrations teachers and parents have with the current FCAT system. I share their concerns,” the governor announced on Monday. “We need our testing system to evolve so there’s no more teaching to the test.”
“Common core” testing has been adopted by 46 states. Unlike the FCAT, it will allow education performance to be compared nationwide, providing a “consistent, clear understanding of what students need to learn to succeed in college and careers,” according to the governor’s office. Florida teachers have been involved in developing the new system.
“The goal of this new testing system is to eliminate ‘teaching to the test’ and instead will accurately measure whether our students are learning the skills they need to succeed in college and their careers,” Scott said. “I remain a staunch advocate of student testing. There is no question that testing works and it is needed to hold the system accountable and to measure the progress of our students. But just as our students must learn and evolve, so should the testing system used to measure their progress.”
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a consortium of states working to develop a common set of K-12 assessments for English and mathematics, based on the common core standards. PARCC testing will be fully implemented beginning in the 2014-15 school year for certain grade levels, including high school.
Upcoming Commission & Council Meetings in Our Area
(Special meeting to consider charter reform items)
Thurs., Aug. 23, 9:30 a.m.
Second Floor Commission Chambers
Thurs., Aug. 23, 4 p.m.
Second Floor Commission Chambers