Last night’s City of Miami bike summit was a great success. Mike Lydon made an excellent presentation about the future of cycling in Miami, and the different facilities we have to look forward to in the future. He spoke to a packed house of cycling advocates and government officials who helped make the plan possible. I’ll let Mike and Felipe talk about the plan and some of the comments made by the audience (most of which related to getting the word out that bikes have a right to share the road), but I want to mention a few words about the underlying conversation related to Miami 21. The opening remarks were made by City Commission Chair Joe Sanchez, a cycling advocate and longtime supporter of Bike Miami and the Bicycle Action Plan. His remarks were noteworthy because he spoke mostly about Miami 21, and his decision to vote against it.
Stressing his support of the plan, he said his ‘no’ vote came from concerns that the height restrictions on Biscayne and Coral Way proffered by Commissioners Regalado and Sarnoff were bad planning (very true) and could open the city up to unnecessary litigation (also true). He went on to say that the plan was not dead and negotiations on these issues were moving forward, and he hoped to reconsider the matter soon. He was vague about when the vote would happen, but I was pleased to hear him hopeful that it would happen in the near future. (My guess is that he will want the vote to happen before the election.) While I still think that he could have procedurally handled the matter in another way, I am glad that he is working on fixing the problem.
It didn’t go unnoticed that once Joe left (about 5 minutes into the presentation) Mayor Manny arrived and also gave a few words on the plan (and Miami 21). He assured us that he is not giving up on Miami 21, and will continue to be an advocate even once he leaves office. We are all lucky to have had him as Mayor. (PS. He stayed through the entire presentation!)
City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff sent out a newsletter to his constituents today responding to public outcry over the recent 2-2 vote on Miami 21. He hints that another vote could be held before the election. Check out what the Commissioner had to say about the future of Miami 21 and his thoughts on potential property rights litigation:
There is a strong possibility Commissioners may get a second chance to make a decision at an upcoming meeting, where hopefully all five Commissioners will be present to vote. The plan, while not perfect, offers a unique opportunity to redesign Miami into the pedestrian friendly community with wide walkways, and large green spaces that so many of our residents desire….
I do not simply accept what Development lawyers claim the law to be, that any change in the code which lessens their client’s development rights, results in an effective taking of property by the City. This is commonly referred to as a Bert Harris property compensation. The recent 3rd District Court of Appeals decision in Monroe County versus Ambrose, holds: “the mere purchase of land did not create a right (by the owner or developer) to rely upon existing zoning”. Equally, our City Attorney has opined there is no Bert Harris issue for height limitations. I have performed my due diligence. The threat of litigation and being sued is an omni present threat in Miami. Most importantly I understand that we are no longer in the building craze and land values are depressed. The Bert Harris argument is least effective during these times. We have more lawyers per square foot than anywhere in the United States. I will never govern nor cast my vote because of a threat. I stood my ground when personally sued by the Mercy Developer for my vote against its massive 36 story, 3 tower project in the Grove, despite 2 other Commissioners and the Chairman voting over the District Commissioner.
We hope that he is right and that Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez brings the code back for a vote. The Chairman has a big opportunity to redeem himself with potential voters. He needs to do this soon, or lose any chance of becoming Mayor. I’m sure by now he has realized how big a mistake he made, and what it might cost him. It’s not too late Joe, do the right thing.
Politics won out over reason Thursday night as City of Miami Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez pulled a political kamakazi with his ‘no’ vote on Miami 21. The vote was surprising because only moments before the vote he described the items that would have to be changed before second reading. Most observers have been scratching their head over this bizarre turn of events. The Chairman cited his concerns over potential property rights litigation, but he did not offer an alternative motion to consider the item without including the questionable properties (as chair of the commission we assume that he knows he can do that). I think the Commissioner has to think quick at this point if he is going to salvage any bit of his campaign.
Later he issued the following brief press release (I’ve added my comments in blue):
|Office of Chairman Joe Sanchez
3500 Pan American Drive
Miami, Florida 33133
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
For Immediate Release
August 7, 2009
CHAIRMAN JOE SANCHEZ SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
ON MIAMI 21 VOTE
(Miami, FL) – Chairman Joe Sanchez issued the following statement regarding his no vote on the version of Miami 21 considered by the Miami City Commission on Aug. 6:
- It was painful to vote against a concept I believe in.
Mr. Chairman, as Mayor you will be faced with a variety of tough decisions. Part of being Mayor is setting priorities and sticking to them. This was one of the initiatives you supported. What happened? Is this the sort of flimsy leadership you will display once elected? I might not agree with Commissioner Regalado, but he sticks to what he says.
- For more than a decade, I have supported smart growth principals such as pedestrian-friendly development, public transit, bicycle lanes, neighborhood preservation, shade trees, parkland, green space and sustainability.
What good is all that work and leadership if you are going to play politics with one of the most important pieces of legislation you have been confronted with? Should you really be at the helm of organizations such as the DDA and Green Commission considering their strong support for the plan, and your apparent disregard for their opinion?
- Tragically, the version of Miami 21 that came up for a vote yesterday was tainted by restrictions that placed our residents in harm’s way by exposing us to tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits from loss of property value.
If you were really concerned about the budget then why not defer this meeting from the get go? As Chairman, I’m sure that you know the advertisement alone cost $50,000 (the cost of 2 Bike Miami Days). As with the Miami River properties that were not being included in the vote because they are under litigation, you could have simply removed questionable properties from the vote and moved forward.
- We are in a budget crisis that threatens to bankrupt the City, so I could not uphold my fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers if I approved that version of Miami 21.
See my previous comment. $50k = 2 Bike Miami Days. I hope you don’t cut Bike Miami Days from the budget now as a result of the money you wasted on advertising this meeting.
- However, I am extremely hopeful that this is a temporary setback to a common goal that is within our reach. Miami 21 must be revisited immediately after we have cut the bloated salaries and pensions that threaten our current budget.
- We now have a golden opportunity to resolve key issues and craft a pure version of Miami 21 that truly protects our neighborhoods and our City revenues.
- With all five Commissioners on the dais, we must reconsider Miami 21. We must adopt a final version of Miami 21 that truly is the people’s plan.
All five Commissioners would have been great, but don’t use that as a copout. You should have voted to approve. You still have time to correct this misstep. Let’s be honest: your campaign is dead as a doornail. Any voting constituency that you were previously courting you lost, and you definitely didn’t pick up any Regalado voters. As soon as Tomasito is elected he is going to put Miami 21 on the agenda (not subsatntially different) and it will get approved. Your ‘no’ vote will have been in vain. I can’t vouch that it will make a lot of difference for your campaign, but at least you can leave public office knowing that you contributed in a positive way to the future of our city. You have a chance at redeeming yourself, I hope you take it. Don’t delay, put Miami 21 back on the agenda, and vote to approve.
A large standing room only crowd of 80 100 people gathered tonight at Jose Marti Park for the city’s first Bicycle Summit. While it certainly was great to see so many familiar faces in the crowd — many of who have had a critical role in pushing Miami to become more bicycle friendly - it was even more heartening to see dozens of new faces participating.
After all of the presentations and neccessary speeches, attendees were able to track routes, danger areas, and opportunities for increased bicycle parking by covering maps with notes, dots, and hand-drawn routes. Thanks to all who participated and thanks to Commissioner Joe Sanchez and Suzanna Valdez of the Mayor’s office for their great support. We look forward to showing you detailed plan proposals in August at the second summit. More details to come on that in the coming weeks.
Commissioner Joe Sanchez has officially entered the race for Manny Diaz’s mayoral seat. His sole opponent will likely be Commissioner Tomas Regalado. Sanchez is known for aligning with Mayor Diaz on most issues, especially as they relate to the physical development of the city. He is also a very large supporter of Bike Miami Days and alternative transportation. Regalado on the other hand has not demonstrated such progressive tendencies, typically offering a ‘no’ vote for those issues we at Transit Miami champion. However, we do recognize Regalado for voting ‘yes’ on the Bicycle Action Plan back in October of 2008.
Mayor Diaz has provided excellent leadership in his tenure, pushing for projects like the Streetcar, Miami 21 and making the city more bicycle friendly. Either candidate will have to demonstrate they can be equally effective at moving Miami into the 21st century, while balancing the ongoing challenges presented to cities and regions in this economic climate.
Let the race begin.
“It was very important for us to go out, talk to merchants, find out what’s going on downtown,” said Miami Commissioner Joe Sanchez, chairman of the DDA. “When you’re up on the 29th floor, you don’t see what’s happening in the streets. You don’t see the cracks in the sidewalks, you don’t see the lights out on a streetlight.”
You also can’t see much if your eyes are closed, but I thought that too was common sense… I’m sorry, but is anyone else taken aback by the fact that commissioners likely haven’t walked around our downtown (barring special occasions such as these,) taken a ride in anything other than a private car, or heck, been at least somewhat conscious of the decay that has blighted the CBD, Parkwest, and Overtown neighborhoods for the better part of the last few decades? Taking a stroll along Flagler seems to me like the best place to start before making any decisions to spend our $10 Million on “streetscape enhancements” or voting to make the thoroughfare more pedestrian friendly by switching it to a two-way street…
While he and authority officials were quick to note Flagler Street’s potted and hanging plants and the uniformed maintenance crew pressure-cleaning the sidewalk [Strategically Placed, I presume], Mr. Sanchez did not hesitate to gesture to graffiti, unleveled sewer covers and stagnant water in the streets.
What’s he going to do, ignore it? Given the media circumstances I’m surprised he didn’t call over Sherwin Williams…
“These are the things we don’t see from an office or a board meeting,” he said. “People want beautification, people want cleanup. That’s what the people deserve.”
To attract more upscale retailers, vital in elevating the status of downtown, “we need to look perfect,” he said. “We need to look sharp.” Marketing is also crucial, he said. “The DDA needs to help get these tenants. Let’s romance it. Bring out all the guns. When they come, seven other merchants come.” Improving the landmark Macy’s store would be a start, Mr. Alonso said. “I think we need to persuade Macy’s to invest $10 million to $20 million and refurbish their store.”
We need to look like any other city outside of the “developing world?” Macy’s has played a great hand thus far, we know they’re bluffing but we still need to come to the realization that a large sum of money needs to be invested in this area. The downtown retail industry should be giving ole Simon a run for its money. The city has the ultimate “lifestyle center” at its fingertips; hey, it could actually emulate real life elsewhere by becoming an actual city center. Who knows? Bob has some thoughts…
Also in the works are plans to improve area transportation. Because bus service on
Flagler Streetwas eliminated when it became two-way, the county will offer a new shuttle bus on Flagler Streetbeginning May 21 that will connect to Metrorail, the and Bayside, said Bob Pearsall, manager of service planning for Miami-Dade County Transit. Portof Miami
That kind of convenience along with cleanliness and safety will revitalize downtown, Mr. Sanchez said.
You remember that plan to make the area more pedestrian friendly and was endorsed by the same people who later complain about downtown congestion? Well had they known that the conversion to a two-way facility would actually inhibit traffic flow and make congestion worse I think the vote would have come out a little bit different- In any case, I’m not complaining…
“The whole downtown experience, the whole success for downtown, is people need to feel safe, keep coming back,” he said. “They need to have a pleasant experience.”
Pure genius. And all this time we were thinking that allowing homeless individuals to run amuck with our downtown was the right way to go…What were we thinking?
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