Kupując szambo ekologiczne nie przywiązujmy wagi do jego ceny, ale należy skupić się na jakości i jego funkcjach. Wybierzmy dobrze, gdyż ma ono nam służyć do końca życia. Jeżeli okaże się, że nie będzie ono trwałe to czeka nas seria niepotrzebnych wydatków. Duża ilość firm oferujących oczyszczalnie przydomowe daje bardzo długą gwarancje na swój produkt, w związku z czym w przypadku każdej awarii problem zostanie szybko jak również łatwo rozwiązany ekoprzyjaciel.pl. Pamiętajmy o tym, iż decydując się na takowe szambo przyczyniamy się do ochrony środowiska naturalnego. Jest to naprawdę niezwykle ważny aspekt w dzisiejszym świecie. Tego rodzaju oczyszczalnie ścieków są stosowane od lat w Niemczech czy też Belgii. U nas są jeszcze mało znane, dlatego że ich ceny nie należą do tanich. Niewiele jednak osób zdaje sobie sprawę z tego, iż tego typu zakup zwróci się w ciągu paru lat, przez co warto go rozważyć. Ponadto takie oczyszczalnie bardzo często podlegają dofinansowaniu z środków unijnych czy gminnych, wystarczy tylko i wyłącznie dobrze poszukać. Po dokładnym przeanalizowaniu kosztów zakupu można dojść do wniosku, że taka inwestycja jest bardzo opłacalna.
Kupując szambo ekologiczne nie zwracajmy uwagi na jego cenę, lecz trzeba skupić się na jakości oraz jego funkcjach. Wybierzmy z głową, bowiem ma ono nam służyć przez długi czas. Jeżeli okaże się, iż nie będzie ono trwałe to czeka nas seria niepotrzebnych wydatków. Duża ilość przedsiębiorstw oferujących oczyszczalnie przydomowe daje bardzo długą gwarancje na swój produkt, w związku z czym w przypadku jakiejkolwiek awarii problem zostanie szybko jak również łatwo rozwiązany ekoprzyjaciel.pl. Pamiętajmy o tym, że decydując się na takowe szambo przyczyniamy się do ochrony naszego środowiska. Jest to naprawdę bardzo istotny aspekt w dzisiejszym świecie. Takowe oczyszczalnie ścieków są stosowane od lat w Niemczech czy też Holandii. U nas są jeszcze mało popularne, dlatego że ich ceny nie należą do najniższych. Mało jednak osób zdaje sobie sprawę z tego, iż taki zakup zwróci się w ciągu paru lat, w związku z czym warto go rozważyć. Ponadto takie oczyszczalnie bardzo często podlegają dofinansowaniu z środków unijnych lub gminnych, wystarczy tylko i wyłącznie dobrze poszukać. Po perfekcyjnie przeanalizowaniu kosztów zakupu można dojść do wniosku, iż taka inwestycja jest bardzo opłacalna.
It is hard to overstate the effect that our sports teams have on the lives of ordinary people in Miami.
A case in point is the way our basketball franchise, and its ups and downs during the last few weeks, has filled our conversations, our electronic messages, and our mind-psyches.
The phenomenon is not limited to youngsters or to those who are particularly sports-minded. Yesterday, the mayor of Florida City (Otis Wallace) was telling me the story of an 84-year old female constituent, who is so affected by the Heat’s performances that she cannot watch the actual games. Or at least not continuously. She relies on others in the family to report back during the scoring droughts.
The same is true of my wife: She can’t stand to watch the drama as it unfolds.
Similarly for her cousin, who loves sports but cannot endure the painful low points in the Heat’s roller-coaster ride through the play-offs.
I am sure some scholars consider the emotional trauma engendered by the success of our city’s sports teams to be a sign of immaturity. After all, in sports, one team must lose and another prevail. Only one city in thirty-some that have NBA teams will be able to revel in the ultimate victory. Only one metropolis will have bragging rights for the next twelve months.
Surely, we cannot let a relatively trivial sports outcome dictate our outlook and modulate our moods.
Miami is a sophisticated city, after all. We have cultural cross-currents not experienced outside the Middle East and the coasts of the Mediterranean sea, where civilizations have been commingling for a hundred centuries.
How can we expect a frail, eighty-four year old woman and a spry seven year old boy who aspires to be the next Lebron James, to share feelings of elation or despair about something that does not impact their common human desire for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Well, the amazing thing is that they do.
We all do – with very few exceptions.
It is all the more remarkable because basketball is not the most popular sport in Miami. It’s probably football. Or baseball. Or even soccer.
And that may be precisely the reason we love to connect on the fate of our basketball franchise.
It adds to our sense of belonging to share emotions with those who don’t look like us and who don’t have our particular accent.
A similar thing happens, but on a much lesser scale, when Brazil or Argentina or Spain wins the World Cup. We rush to South Beach and find the colors of the world champ to wear or display in little flags. We, too, are Brazilians, Argentinians, and Spaniards.
But it’s not the same. In rooting for the Heat, we are all Miamians.
The national media, with a substantial assist from the local media, tends to portray us as a city plagued by many ills. A city with a low quality of life. A city that you visit in the winter, but not a city where you want to live.
But teams like the Heat dispel that notion entirely. LeBron not only wants to play in Miami with his two companions in the golden trio, but he will probably stay here after his basketball career is over, as Rony Seikaly, Alonzo Mourning, Mike Lowell, Jimmy Cefalo, Dan Marino and Don Shula have done.
Seikaly was the Heat’s first draft choice. He is part Greek and part Lebanese. He speaks a bunch of languages. He was, before being drafted by the Heat, a world citizen.
Now he is a Miamian. By choice and by affinity.
The same is true for me and my four kids and their spouses (who are Brazilian, Irish, Puerto Rican, and Cuban-Lebanese.)
Is it a coincidence that we have in Miami the two people who are the best coaches in the history of football and basketball?
That we have arguably the best trio of basketball players who ever played together in their prime?
I don’t think so.
It is what makes Miami exceptional.
And it is not a trivial quality.
Mayors, commissioners, Senator Flores, representatives, school board members, retired members of the military, police chiefs and majors, captains and lieutenants, sergeants and officers, union leaders, civic leaders, former Ambassador Ferro and former officials from every part of the county, the first lady of District 7, Rita Suarez, reverends Reid and Richardson and Dunn, ladies and gentlemen:
Tonight is no ordinary night in our county. This is no ordinary event. This is the beginning of something very special.
Before I tell you how special it is, in strength and purpose, let me review for a couple of minutes what we have accomplished.
I have been a county commissioner for about eleven months now. In that short span, I have proposed rail initiatives in two major arteries, designed and promoted two large public spaces reclaimed by burying major thoroughfares, revived three capital projects totaling over $100 million in my own district and proposed no less than five other infrastructure improvements outside my district, analyzed the entire budget and proposed over $400 million in cuts, held ten “Sunshine Meetings” with fellow commissioners to discuss various issues in public as required by law, attended about fifty commission and committee meetings, held and participated in workshops on bike safety and airport refurbishing, written more than a dozen articles in two languages and done my best to protect the environment in what is arguably the most fragile and most beautiful seashore region next to a major downtown in the entire country – if not the world.
I commend, in that vein, Commissioner Dennis Moss for his steadfast support in protecting the wetlands and the aquifer that gives us the necessary water for our increasing, urban population.
In a broader sense, I have tried to comment on societal issues that affect us. In that effort, I try to read about, and watch depictions of, inspirational leaders. Recently it was Rosa Parks.
And what an inspiration she is! Fighting against all odds for a bit of dignity. Not money, not power, just a bit more dignity, as she rides the bus to work.
An old man, pondering her difficult movement which has turned into a boycott of the city buses, proclaims: “Lord, my feet are sore, but my soul is rested.”
So it is for me. My electoral feet are sore. I have run for public office twelve times: in 1979, 81, 83, 85, 87, 89, 96, 97, 01, 04, 06 and 2011, before this election in 012.
But my soul is rested. You cannot imagine how rested it is. The Lord knows (and my wife worries…).
As I said before, in a month, I will have completed a year as commissioner. Beyond fulfilling my duties as a county commissioner, I allocated a total of $10.5 million dollars in housing funds to two projects in the West Grove, worked with Commissioner Frank Quesada and Mayor Cason in a spectacular public square concept for Ponce de Leon Circle, with Mayor Cindy Lerner in various projects related to Pinecrest, and with City Manager Hector Mirabile on various initiatives in his fine city, which has generously bestowed on us free space for a satellite office.
In case it isn’t evident by now, Francis and as well as our allies on our respective commissions, have originated a highly unusual alliance of fiscal conservatives with rank-and-file labor. It calls to mind the Winston Churchill quote to the effect that “competition should be upwards, not downwards.” The guarantee of a decent standard of living to all, while allowing competition to thrive, unshackled by excessive government regulation and bureaucratic red tape, is the objective of government.
And don’t let anyone tell you that these are lean times; they’re certainly not for government!
Hell, our county has a fleet of cars numbering over 7,000. Take out 2,500 police cruisers and detective cars and you still have 4,500. Doesn’t sound to me like lean times; sounds to me like we did not listen to Commissioners Souto and Sosa, who have been battling this issue since at least 2010.
Ladies and gentlemen, with a budget the size of ours, in a region as affluent as ours, in a nation as prosperous as ours, it makes no sense to have a costly, inefficient, user-unfriendly system of mass transportation. It makes no sense to have more than 70,000 people desperate for affordable housing. With all the foreclosures, abandoned properties, empty facilities that could be converted into housing and given the hundreds of millions in general obligation bond monies approved in 2004 and the federal housing and economic development funds reaching us every year, we could and should have done much better than what we have done in the last decade.
When I took office, less than a year ago, the unemployment rate in our county was close to 14%. Now it is close to 10%. Economists tell us that 4% are always going to be unemployed. That leaves 60,000 who are desperate for a job, who will pound the pavements, stand in endless lines in front of a new stadium, retool resumes and patch up their best suits to prepare for job interviews, use their last few dollars to ride an inefficient and costly mass transportation system to get to that one job opportunity, and often end up back on the street without the ability to work for their own survival.
In a nation of fifteen trillion dollars in gross domestic product, which works out to $50,000 per American man, woman and child, are we saying that we cannot find a job for those unemployed who have the discipline to get up early and get to work on time, obey instructions and keep themselves drug-free?
That is unacceptable. And it is particularly counterproductive to not provide a first job, at least a summer job, to our youth as they reach the age of adulthood. In some parts of the inner city (for example, in areas represented by County Commissioner Barbara Jordan and Jean Monestime), the unemployment rate among young adults is close to 50%. As mon ami Monestime likes to say (to which Barbara and I nod every time), a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.
I want to take $25 million dollars from our general revenues, no more than about half of one percent of our county budget, to employ 5,000 young people each summer, at $5,000 each (as we did in my office last summer with two interns) and have them clean our waterfront areas, paint our highway underpasses, coach kids in various sports, and share their knowledge with those who are struggling with the three “R’s.” The program should be run by the private sector, such that administrative costs are absorbed by their existing workforce.
This idea is not far-fetched. It is part of the American tradition.
In fact, there was once a time when a national coalition set out to balance the budget and stimulate the economy, using conservative (market) means to achieve liberal ends. President Clinton referred to that bipartisan coalition with a famous phrase, when he said that the “era of big government is over,” but that doesn’t mean that “we will leave our citizens to fend for themselves…” The other side of that coalition was led by Speaker Gingrich, who at the time was part of what Time Magazine referred to as “empowerment Republicans.”
That magic combination, by which we provide essential services as a society using private means for delivery of the services, is being done today by charter schools and community based affordable-housing entities, Both of those important elements in what political scientists call the “civil society” (the sector of American life to which the legendary Alexis de Tocqueville attributed this nation’s unequalled success in democracy), are amply represented here today. I commend you and remind you that my phone lines are available to you any time, with little or no prior notice. The same is true for the builders, who risk their capital and their sweat equity to build up our county – not so we can tax you more, but hopefully so we can reduce the millage rate more, as Commissioners Bell and Bovo, our commission budget-busting “Twin-B’s” are busily doing.
I am not afraid of labels. I am not afraid to say that I am a fiscal conservative. I am also not afraid to say that I am pro rank-and-file labor.
Aren’t we all fiscal conservatives? Aren’t we all in favor of just wages and working conditions for those who protect us from criminals, pick up our garbage, maintain our parks, rescue our elderly, teach our children, operate our water and sewer system, drive our buses, process and approve plans and pave our streets?
I am also not afraid to say that we need a system of public transportation that is truly public (meaning as close to free as possible) and that truly transports us from where we live to where we work. I commend our regional transportation chairman, Bruno Barreiro, for standing up to those who would charge passengers for the use of the Metromover – the one component in our mass transit system that works well. And, please folks, the solution to our maddening traffic congestion is not what some people (who I am compelled to call elitist) propose – I refer to the people whose solution to the traffic jams we are enduring is to charge us for the use of the fast lanes.
Let the people eat cake on the slow right lanes, while those of us with sunpasses and ready credit use the privileged left lanes!
It reminds me of “A Man for All Seasons,” when Thomas More says that “the nobility of this nation would have slept through the Sermon on the Mount.”
Ladies and gentlemen, public officials, we in the county need to learn from what other municipal governments have done. I commend cities like Coral Gables, and now the City of Miami for implementing free trolley service. Folks, if the City of Miami can roll out a fleet of 28 trolleys, charging zero fare, with a $500 million dollar budget, why can’t we in the county with a six-billion dollar budget?
My friends, my colleagues in public service, who honor me with their presence here, I want to change how this metropolis functions.
I thank you, on behalf of the people of this county. And I pledge to help what I call our “Grand Coalition” to succeed, with election of worthy city officials, and county commissioners and state legislators this coming August. I ask you to join that coalition by supporting those office holders and office seekers whom we will be endorsing in the coming weeks. I assure you all endorsements will be made with close attention to guaranteeing integrity and pursing the common good. If we do it right, our Grand Coalition will overcome the sheer power of money and the entrenched power of a bureaucracy that resists reform. It will overcome the negativism of those in the media who wallow in the muddy failure of societal institutions, when they should be celebrating the triumphs of a people united by the common aspiration to do good and inspired by the words of Martin Luther King, when he said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
I want to end by quoting something I said in Israel, when I led a delegation of Cuban-American Jews and gentiles to establish a forest in honor of Jose Marti.
I said: “I am a Cuban, I am an American. I am a Jew.” I could have added that I have always assumed I have Arab and North African genes.
I ended my speech in Israel by proclaiming the saying that binds us all together – a saying that I am sure the cynics consider a fallacy and worse than wishful thinking, but that I firmly believe applies to this gathering, to this movement, and appeals to the hearts of each and every citizen in my district and each and every citizen of this county, and of this country.
“We are one people.”
Thank you and God bless you.
Now let’s remember the words of the prophet, when he said that there is a time for everything under the sun, including a time to dance.
Now, let’s dance!
By Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez, District 7
I had just been elected to the county commission when we were surprised by a visit from Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson. Her appearance was prompted by an invitation from Commissioner Barbara Jordan and a federal study that placed her congressional district as having just about the lowest “misery index” in the nation – meaning the worst unemployment and poverty statistics in the entire country.
Her testimony coincided with my analysis of capital projects in my own commission district, which happens to be a generally affluent, shoreline region whose residents want mostly two things from their local government: (1) to have lower taxes and (2) to protect the fragile environment in which they live and preserve the historic buildings found there.
My first discovery was that just from the general obligation bonds approved in 2004, my district was the beneficiary of a staggering figure in capital funds: $213 million dollars.
My second discovery was less felicitous: I found that most of the projects in my district had not been started and that in the case of the housing projects (for which we had been allocated $10.6 million), no decision had been made between competing proposals.
I immediately allocated the $10.6 million housing funds and set about monitoring the actual construction of the housing – mindful of a comment made by my son (Miami City Commission Chairman Francis X. Suarez) that there are as many as 70,000 people currently in need of affordable housing in our county. Then I tackled the effort to expedite the completion of three other projects: (1) the $45 million clean-up of 116.5 acres in what we call the Virginia Key Landfill, (2) the $20 million restoration of the Coconut Grove Playhouse and (3) a transit-oriented affordable housing project in South Miami called “Hometown Station,” which had been mired in litigation for 13 years, while its county-owned site stood idle and close to $4 million in funds allocated were nowhere to be found.
For the better part of my nine months in office, I have been meeting, emailing, cajoling, convincing, explaining and seeking to settle disputes on those three important projects, whose built-out value well exceeds $100 million.
By late last year, we were on the cusp of settling all disputes as to all three projects, with settlements involving many, many parties, including in one case, the City of Miami, which is being asked to sign an extension to the solid waste disposal “interlocal agreement” in order to receive the $45 million already approved by the county commission for the clean-up of the Virginia Key Landfill.
The incomprehensible delays in getting that project started have just been the subject of a scathing Inspector General report (dated February 27, 2012), which accuses the administration of neglect of duty in failing to start the clean-up, despite having $28 million in the bank earning paltry amounts of interest while paying higher amounts to the bondholders.
As to the Coconut Grove Playhouse, the abandoned facility is attracting vandals, homeless and environmental deterioration, while the administration fails to approve a plan for settlement of the claims (allowing us to secure the facility) that has been on the mayor’s desk since Thanksgiving of 2011, waiting only for approval from the mayor to take it to the commission for implementation.
Last but not least, the Hometown Station project languishes for another one-year cycle of tax credit housing financing due to Mayor Gimenez’s unilateral decision to reject $3.5 million in total consideration offered by the proposed assignee of the development rights.
All of which can best be characterized by something that Winston Churchill once said, referring to the effect of bringing a bunch of otherwise smart and well-intentioned bureaucrats and putting them into a room hoping that they can make a decision by committee. “What do you get from such a collective exchange of ideas?” asked Churchill; and quickly answered: “The sum of all their fears.”
Nowadays, we simply call it paralysis by analysis.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Quoted at the funeral of Aaron Cohen by his grand-father Ron Esserman
I have only been a county commissioner for about eight months, but already have a deep scar in my heart from a tragedy that seems, in retrospect, so avoidable.
Aaron Cohen has been wrenched from our lives. And the sense of loss is overwhelming, despite the wisdom imparted by rabbis and family members. Because the tragedy happened in my district and because my daughter Annie practices medicine with Jim Esserman (Aaron’s first cousin), the loss hits home in a particularly poignant way.
Was the tragedy avoidable? I don’t rightly know, but I know we didn’t try hard enough to avoid it. We know the Rickenbacker Causeway is a narrow, dangerous, treacherous, alluring, spectacularly located and majestic roadway, rising as it does from the shallows abutting the mainland to bring us all (joggers, bikers, motorists) closer to heaven and then quickly deposit us in an island that is mostly unspoiled – as befits a critical wildlife refuge of some 400 acres.
In between the moments of sorrow, my Annie and I discussed the physics of the problem that led to this tragedy or, rather, the unavoidable elements of the circumstance that make this awful accident likely to happen again in the future.
I refer to the simple variable that physicists call “momentum.” Simply put, a 4,000-pound vehicle, travelling at 45-50 mph, possesses about 100 times the momentum of a biker/bicycle whose combined weight is 150 pounds and who is struggling up the bridge at 12-15 mph. A collision between two objects, one of which has 100 times the momentum of the other, means that the smaller object will suffer, in displacement and consequent damage, 100 times more than the bigger object.
In the short term, there is only one variable we can change in the above equation – and that is the speed limit for cars. I consider that reform a no-brainer that should be instituted without delay. Of course, a reduction in the speed limit needs to be accompanied by traffic management devices (including electronic surveillance) to monitor law-breakers.
The other possible solution is separation. I think, in that context, that we all agree that a simple painted strip (as exists now) is not enough. We will have to consider either rubber cones or well-lit corrugated surfaces which alert and deter the motorist from trespassing on the bike lanes.
Beyond the physics of the problem, beyond the traffic engineering and enforcement, there is the human dimension. And that brings me back to Aaron, whose name technically means, “tower of strength,” but was further interpreted by the rabbi as referring to someone who loves life and who runs for life. Aaron Cohen loved to run more than we can imagine. He loved scuba diving and every kind of water sport; he loved ceramic arts and cycling, and – most of all – he loved his wife and two children.
As described by family and friends, he was special because he found something special to love in everyone he met, regardless of their station in life. He took time, on the way to the airport, to buy M&M’s so that he could pass them out to the flight attendants.
He was, his sister Sabrina told us, like Elijah, the unforeseen guest for whom we keep the door permanently open, with a cup of wine ready, just in case the prophet visits us.
Perhaps the most appropriate analogy was offered by another rabbi who explained that the whole world is like a narrow bridge. We must do our best to co-exist in the narrow space.
We must, as another relative said in her eulogy, think “WWAD.” What Would Aaron Do?
For myself, I will strive to reduce the chances that such a tragedy will happen again on the Rickenbacker Causeway – which just happens to be where I myself jog.
I will do it because it’s my obligation as an elected official and also because of Aaron – in his memory.
I never met him, but I already miss him as if he had been my best friend.
By Xavier L. Suarez
Winston Churchill once described the effect of bringing together all of the best and brightest from the various branches of the military. Instead of creativity, cross-fertilization of concepts, or animated discussion of divergent viewpoints, he concluded that what one obtained from this sort of august gathering of talented people, when forced to share a closed and intimate forum, was “the sum of all their fears.”
After six months in office, I have concluded that the same is happening in Miami-Dade County.
Two major projects illustrate the problem. In each case, despite a great deal of energy and risk-taking on our part, what we have encountered is what someone famously labeled, “paralysis by analysis.”
I will take each project in turn.
FIRST PROJECT: THE COCONUT GROVE PLAYHOUSE
It all went relatively smoothly while we were negotiating with outsiders. It was actually easier than expected, for a project that had been essentially dormant for six years, plagued with debt and dissension and discordant personalities.
The approach we took was classic Game Theory: You analyze the scenarios that may result and calmly explain to each stakeholder what can happen if all the interested parties don’t cooperate. You also use your biggest weakness as your strength: in this case, the fact that the county didn’t even own the reverter rights to the facility and that the State of Florida, led by its youthful majority leader (Representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera) was in the process of taking back the property from the non-profit operator, functioning as an “LLC” (limited liability corporation). Soon, and thanks to the efforts of attorney Jorge Luis Lopez, the LLC had come to understand that to save the baby, the umbilical cord had to be severed, otherwise the state would abort the baby forever.
Working with the various public officials from the city, state and county, plus the LLC leaders, the threat of a reverter suit was never actualized and the property was tendered back to the county, with the State of Florida as midwife in the proposed delivery.
In the meantime, we were engaging in furious negotiations with two entities that had claims to the use of all or part of the actual playhouse property.
Here, again, a little bit of Game Theory was used: Each entity was offered the same alternative pay-outs for their development rights or liens. The alternatives consisted of cash or property exchange. Expectedly, each chose the one best calculated to advance their interests, and that way we minimized the cash component of the proposed pay-out, by maximizing the benefit from a simple property swap that benefited both parties..
The deals were reduced to tentative agreements and presented to the mayor for completion of “due diligence” and presentation to the board of county commissioners.
I mention “due diligence” because that was the term constantly invoked by the mayor in the various meetings.
I assumed, when Mayor Gimenez used that term, that due diligence meant the review of possible liens or other costly consequences of taking over the playhouse property from the State of Florida (once the state had obtained it from the LLC).
In that vein, I had obtained a complete title search by updating (pro bono) the one that the county attorney had done about a year ago.
I had also negotiated with the two potential lienholders, and was ready to present to the county commission agreements that would effectuate a transfer of the property, free and clear, with a minimum outlay of cash compensation to the putative lienholders.
At various meetings with county officials (including the mayor), I had reported on the proposed agreements intended to accomplish that goal.
Everyone was on board as to the terms. All the county attorney needed to do was give it legal form.
That was that status quo on the day before Thanksgiving.
That is still the status quo, more than a month later.
It will be the status quo on January 24, when it is scheduled to be discussed at the commission meeting, with a resolution in line to be approved.
And now my reader will ask: In light of the fact that two months will have elapsed since I negotiated tentative agreements with the putative lienholders, what exactly does the resolution say – what will the county commission approve on January 24, 2012, that might advance the cause of re-opening the theatre?
Well, I am sorry to disappoint all of you who have a lively interest in the Coconut Grove Playhouse.
The resolution prepared by the mayor’s office for discussion on January 24 says nothing beyond the simple, evident, well-known and well-publicized fact that I and my staff (along with various public officials from other jurisdictions and a host of private individuals acting pro bono) have been negotiating to re-start the playhouse and refurbish it with no less than TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS in general obligation bonds approved more than seven years ago.
What good is a resolution that says nothing new? Well, I suppose the simple answer is that it avoids turf wars.
But what turf wars need to be avoided? We have, after all, the city, the state and the county working together with a number of “interested” and “disintested” private parties, all of whom have reached consensus on the basic terms.
Shouldn’t the next step be to discuss publicly those tentative agreements and obtain formal approval for them from the agency with authority?
That’s certainly what I think.
Apparently, that is too aggressive an approach in today’s bureaucratic climate. Here in the county, we need to get permission to seek provisional approval of even the most tentative, non-binding agreements.
Before anything concrete is done, we need to ease the fears of hosts of bureaucrats.
As Winston said, what we see here is “the sum of all their fears.”
And it gets worse, when you see what they have done with a FORTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLAR clean-up effort for the Virginia Key Landfill.
Editor’s Note: This article was written on January 3, 2012. The Miami-Dade County Commission approved a resolution directing the Mayor to negotiate and present agreements to the Board for its approval transferring title of the Coconut Grove Playhouse property to the County and eliminating all liens and encumbrances thereon. http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/matter.asp?matter=112624&file=true&yearFolder=Y2011
SECOND PROJECT: THE VIRGINIA KEY LANDFILL CLEAN-UP.
As far as I can tell, the worst fear that the bureaucrats have in relation to getting this project started is the fear of the unknown. There is no other way to characterize the various unsuccessful attempts I have made to get this project off the ground (if you will excuse the pun).
Let me tell you a little bit about the project.
In what is perhaps the most precious ecological treasure on the Eastern side of our land holdings, we have in Virginia Key (on land owned by the City of Miami) well over 100 acres of contaminated soil that resulted from use as a landfill.
Buttressed by streams of revenues that flow from agreement with over twenty cities (each of which call for the payment to the county of around $60/ton for waste disposal of the various municipalities’ refuse), the county has issued bonds (borrowed money from banks and individuals) adding up to most of the forty-five million dollars needed to complete the clean-up.
The money is in the bank. The need for the clean-up to begin is clear and compelling. So what is the hold-up?
The hold-up is that the county wants the City of Miami to extend its current contract for waste disposal (the “interlocal agreement”) well beyond its current expiration date of 2015.
It wants, before releasing the money, to extend the Miami contract perhaps as far into the future as the ones that bind a couple of other, much smaller cities – some of which end after 2015.
At the beginning of the process, the administration indicated that the county wanted a new contract that would extend a total of twenty years.
That was about three months ago, and I started discussions with city officials on that basis.
At one point, I managed to get the city mayor (Tomas Regalado) to meet with the county mayor for a few precious minutes here at county hall.
In that brief encounter, I mentioned to both that perhaps a ten-year extension, with a renewability provision that allowed another ten-year extension (premised on the county being competitive with surrounding counties – and defining “competitive” as within 10% of their rates).
Before putting my proposed agreement in writing, I discussed it with Mayor Gimenez a second time. This time, he expressed some concern about giving a fixed price to our largest provider of solid waste.
This concern, of course, is well founded. We do not know, twenty years into the future, if we can lock in the price of solid waste disposal that far into the future.
For one thing, we do not know what new federal or state regulations will bind us, and make waste disposal that much more onerous. We don’t know what population trends will change, or what environmental problems will surface.
And we certainly don’t know what new technology will bring.
All the more reason to have some flexibility in the long-term agreement.
So, I asked the administration, what is your minimum number of years? Can we go with ten? Can we go with ten, plus a renewal option that includes some competitive escape clause?
The answer was: Let’s have a meeting with everyone present.
(I should clarify that to the bureaucrats, “everyone” means all of our own people, from deputy mayors to department heads to technical analysts. There is no meeting in this county with less than five or six administrative staff.)
I was not about to have yet another meeting. By that time, about six weeks had elapsed since I had made my recommendations, supported by schedules of bonds outstanding and of municipalities under contract.
The memorandum in question was submitted to the mayor on November 7, 2011.
It was clear to me, as explained in the memorandum, that extending Miami’s contract to ten-plus-ten years, would strengthen the bonds already outstanding and make easier any future bond issues.
Having another ten/twenty years of Miami’s business, instead of just 3.5 more years left in the existing contract should reassure bondholders, rather than worry them.
But I did not count on the raw fact that change is scary to the bureaucracy.
So instead of a green light to move ahead and finalize negotiations, I got a lengthy memo back from the mayor. It did not contradict any of my observations or conclusions. It merely added more verbiage.
Now, it is almost two months since my November 7 memorandum and nothing has happened.
The bureaucrats are still afraid of jeopardizing bonds supported by a contract that ends in a little more than three years.
They don’t seem satisfied with the idea that they can get an extension totaling ten years, with another ten negotiated based on being within 10% of the competition – defined narrowly as Broward and Monroe counties.
Once again, as with the playhouse, what we have is the sum of all their fears.
And we don’t get to apply $65 million dollars that the voters have entrusted to us for improvement of their environment and their arts.
(Not to mention the jobs that go with that massive expenditure, in a community that has seen its construction labor force shrink from 65,000 to 30,000 since the recession began.)
Winston was right.
By Xavier L. Suarez
One of the criticisms of charter schools is that they cater to a specialized class of students who are not representative of the student body of a typical public school. Based on that notion, the argument is often heard that charter schools extract the best and the brightest from the public schools, while leaving at-risk students to fend for themselves and fail for themselves.
A recent visit to North Park High School revealed how wrong that impression is. This jewel of a school is by no means ensconced in a suburban setting. The students are not dropped off by upper-income parents driving BMW’s or Mercedes Benz SUV’s. They are classic, inner-city students. They are almost all minorities.
In the case of North Park High, located in the midst of Opa-locka, the student body is 98% African-American. They are also, by definition, at-risk students, which means basically that they were not performing at the required level in the public school where they were previously enrolled.
In effect, the students at North Park High are there by personal choice. No one forces them to change schools. They are not disciplinary transfers, mandated to attend an alternative school. Instead, they are the beneficiaries of a new, semi-private, semi-public experiment in education that is catching fire throughout the nation.
As soon as one walks into North Park High, there is an ambience of quiet, technological learning. The hallways are so quiet that they resemble something akin to the intensive care unit in a hospital.
But it is more than that. And that becomes evident when we are allowed into a classroom.
What you see on entering a classroom is students at individual work stations, totally absorbed in the learning process. The teacher is not in the front facing an audience of students; this is more like a laboratory, in which each student is individually experimenting in learning, while the teacher walks from work station to work station monitoring, suggesting, correcting, encouraging, mentoring.
Everything is done in whispering tones. Perhaps because of this, there is no evidence of any student being distracted from his or her work. The interaction between teacher and student reminds me of what happens in my household when I myself can’t figure out my personal computer and my wife (herself a public school teacher) or one of my kids stands behind me and coaches me through my difficulty.
While at North Park High, we were introduced to one student who exemplifies extraordinary success. She is scoring well into the 90% range in a battery of exams already taken in her very first semester at North Park.
As she showed us her scores, the pride of being an “A” student was evident in her beaming face. She reminded me of an actress in the movie “Stand and Deliver,” who achieves academic success against all odds, including poverty and the chaos of life in her East L.A. neighborhood.
I am told that each morning the teachers and administrators, led by the principal (who reminds me of Edward James Olmos in the mentioned movie), line up on both sides of the hallway and greet each student by name, as they head to their respective classrooms in what becomes an inspirational parade. The psychological boost thus imparted seems to proclaim: “We are with you; we know you can succeed; we are here to make sure that you do!”
At the end of our impromptu visit, we huddled with the principal and consultants to the school, as well as the director of security. The group was quite representative of the diversity that is our county. And they seem to all be imbued with an entrepreneurial spirit – almost as if the advancement of the school they operate was directly linked to their compensation.
Perhaps it is.
All that I know is that this school is special. It represents the culmination of state-of-the-art technology, combined with the human touch – the teacher as mentor, the Internet as the chosen medium for interactive learning and the student as the center of the academic universe.
As I leave North Park High, it strikes me that I have seen no sign and heard no mention of extra-curricular activities. I cannot help but conclude that in this particular kind of charter school, it is the curriculum that counts.
By Xavier L. Suarez, County Commissioner from District 7
The county and its ten unions have been negotiating now for about five months on contracts that reduce substantially the payroll of the county’s workforce.
About half of the unions are under contract, and the rest are about 75% in agreement.
That was the status quo last Thursday, when, under the collective bargaining laws, the parties (meaning the mayor on one side and the unions on the other) brought to the commission what is called an “impasse” or stalemate in negotiations, meaning in this case that the parties were deadlocked on one issue, but in agreement on the bulk of the agreement.
In the case of the PBA (Police Benevolent Association), the remaining issue was whether the county would force a union that represents almost 7,000 police and corrections officers to accept an additional 5% salary cut (on top of the prior year’s 5% cut and the state-imposed 3% cut for pension contribution) to help defray the cost of health-care insurance. In simple math terms, the PBA was being asked to impose on its members, at all levels, a 13% reduction in compensation over the short span of 18 months.
That was the bad news.
The good news was that the union had accepted a total of $56 million in concessions, when compared to the prior year’s contract. And that agreement had been ratified (signed, sealed and delivered) by the union members in an overwhelmingly favorable vote of the membership.
We were separated from wholesale agreement (and the all-important harmony that is so crucial in labor negotiations – particularly in difficult economic times and particularly as regards the public safety employees) by a mere 18 million dollars, in an operating budget of $4.4 billion.
That is not much more than one-third of one percent of our operating budget.
We agonized over the decision, with the administration saying it could not yield one inch and the union saying that the administration had failed to look for savings and efficiencies in all kinds of other areas, including the fraudulent filing of homestead tax applications. Acting as the body charged by law to resolve the impasse, we took the side of the PBA. In effect, we instructed the mayor to make the cuts in other areas of the budget.
What happened next was a lesson in how not to solve an impasse.
For some reason, Mayor Gimenez felt compelled to attack the motives of the commission, using terms like “disgusting” and “irresponsible.”
The Mayor followed that by threatening to veto the commission vote; this stratagem is of doubtful legal validity, since the county commission is charged by law to resolve the impasse by simple majority. It really makes no sense for one of the parties to a collective bargaining agreement, once they have declared an impasse and left to the commission to rule for one or the other, to then be able to overturn the decision of the body charged by law with resolving the impasse.
In the meantime, the transport workers union, whose leaders had reached agreement with the administration, failed to ratify that agreement. They will now – understandably – want to be exempted at the very least from the imposition of a 5% reduction in salary to pay for health insurance that they have always received gratis.
It is really not a tough nut to crack. Looking at it in perspective, we have managed to reduce taxes in the county back to 2009 levels; we have managed to reduce the budget by over 400 million dollars and to obtain employee concessions for sixty percent of that reduction, or about $240 million, minus only about $60 million in cuts that would create a financial hardship for many employees whose compensation has already been reduced by 8% in the last 18 months.
As one member of the commission, I have submitted memoranda showing how the PBA can be spared the final 5% reductions and how the county, in the long run, can save about 10% of its entire budget by serious streamlining measures, including sale of unneeded facilities and capping compensation at $150,000/year.
Now the mayor is saying he will veto the commission decision. However, using a mayoral veto of doubtful legality to override commission action at this stage is self-defeating. The commission will simply reply in kind and override the mayor.
Therefore, it behooves all of us to ratchet down the rhetoric, stop questioning motives, and simply apply ourselves to the task of finding efficiencies that will complete the process of balancing the budget, reducing taxes, and distributing fairly the pain that comes from imposing some discipline on a process that clearly got out of hand over the last two decades.
Let’s get down to work and finish a job that has been essentially well done up to now by all sides.
By Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez, District 7
The most extreme example of an opaque budget item – one calculated to confound and confuse all but the smallest inner circle – was the Manhattan Project. In that case, President Franklin Roosevelt managed to authorize, appropriate and spend the tidy sum of a billion dollars without so much as a budget code, a budget description or even a footnote in the overall federal budget, which wpas then around eight billion dollars.
No one was heard to complain about the lack of transparency when the billion dollar expenditure was revealed, in all its macabre splendor, as the fund for research and development of an atomic bomb capable of bringing down what was then an evil empire whose monarch truly envisioned himself as being god-like, if not actually divine.
In those times, the issue of transparency took a back seat to the issue of survival.
We live in a “brave new world” in which transparency is as much a priority as survival. We live in a world in which the smallest member of society, the blogger with only a handful of subscribers, the one activist with leisure time to file a Public Records search has the right to know how every government dollar is spent.
But our brave new technological world has been infected by another macabre extreme in the battle for transparency. It is called complexity. Or perhaps, because it is a combination of chaos and complexity, we should call it “chaoplexity.” (That term is applied to natural wonders whose complexity is so rich and diverse, so full of multiple interacting components, that scientists combine the two terms to describe a phenomenon that cannot be fully measured or predicted, such as weather patterns.)
Complexity was bound to come with modernity. But no one would have predicted what would happen when modern systems met the modern bureaucrat. The combination has been truly devastating to any notion of transparency, as the bureaucrats have cranked up the complexity in the budget to the point that it is totally incomprehensible and indigestible by anyone but the budget bureaucrats themselves. You are looking at it through a transparent computer lens, but you cannot understand what the computer is showing you.
You ask: How complex has the budget process been made? Well, would you believe the county budget has more distinct budget categories, more different budget codes, than it has employees? Would you believe 33,000 budget codes, as against merely 27,000 employees?
The consequences of this unnecessary complexity are obvious. There is no transparency because there is no lens readily available to the average citizen (or for that matter, the average commissioner) capable of prying into and making sense of the myriad expenditures listed in the various department budgets, in order to root out the waste and corruption.
The second consequence is just as problematic. This one is the excessively high number of bureaucrats needed for data storage and retrieval, data processing and analysis, data bundling and un-bundling. You ask how big a computer department is needed for all that complexity? Good question.
I asked at the last committee meeting.
Would you believe a department that gobbles up more than sixty million of your tax dollars every year? Would you believe a department with 550 employees?
Give any of us 550 clerical employees, a fresh new start, and the right number of police officers on the beat; firefighters; solid waste employees; building and zoning reviewers of plans presented by the private builders; parks employees; transportation employees of the kind who actually operate buses and fix metrocars; and the county enterprises (airport, seaport, WASA and Jackson Memorial, which are self-sufficient, except for a nice check to JMH for indigent care), and we should be well able to provide the basic county services.
But, of course, we would have to eliminate the great majority of the 33,000 budget codes and (more importantly) the plethora of expenditures that they represent.
And I expect we would begin the task by eliminating all budgetary codes that deal with car allowances. That is what the private sector did about twenty-five years ago.