Friday, September 17, 2021

Interesting observation – why was an outside contractor used, not village employees? Is this yet another example of misspending in Palmetto Bay necessitating the tax increases being approved by this council?

Interesting observation made yesterday (Thursday, 9-16-21) as fellow residents watched a contractor crew take down the 2 trees Palmetto Bay smothered in Coral Reef Park: the observation/question is: 'why was an outside contractor used, not village employees?' Is this yet another example of squandering our assets and prior expenditures in Palmetto Bay, necessitating the tax increases currently being approved by this council?'

Looking back to 2016: The Village council approved the purchase of a bucket truck in 2016 (see: village resolution 2016-20). The purchase was not to exceed $143,560, $20,000 of which was covered by a US Urban Forestry Grant obtained under my administration.

So what happened to the bucket truck that was funded by the Palmetto Bay taxpayers (and the US Urban Forestry Grant)? Why own it if you are not going to use it?

CLICK HERE to view a 2016 presentation of the (then) Palmetto Bay Council urban forestry and tree addition initiatives 

(note that the policies and activities cited in this presentation reflect a prior, much different council, from those who presently sit on the council – as they say, ‘new council, new direction, new priorities’).


So take a look and ask yourself “What changed?” – SPOILER ALERT – the concern for the environment hasn’t changed within Palmetto Bay. The change has only occurred with the recent elections and the lack of prioritization, if not absolute disdain for our environment expressed through the actions of the current mayor, vice mayor and council.

FAIR QUESTIONS:

  • Why vote to purchase an asset and not use it?
  • Has this current Mayor and Council allowed this expensive asset to become unusable due to neglect or was it surplused and sold off? (Note: I cannot find any evidence that it was sold off).
  • Is the current Mayor and Council not properly funding the training necessary for assets such as the expensive bucket truck to be used instead of hiring outside contractors?
  • How many light bulbs can the current mayor and council change necessitating a $143,560 bucket truck?
  • Is this yet another example of ‘leakage’ leading to the tax increases in consecutive years?

A good (BAD) example of how Palmetto Bay officials are squandering our environmental assets. The affected trees were cut down & removed on 9-16-21

The Council never made a public statement about what was happening with these trees. Nope, not a peep - I'm sure their taxpayer funded PR department was of the opinion that it was better to say nothing than to admit their mistakes. But their actions did speak loudly as a tree removal crew quietly showed up on Thursday, September 16, to remove their mistakes. Two 40 plus year oaks were hacked down and removed from Coral Reef Park. What trees, you may ask? 

Please read to the end of this post. I raise the fair question as to whether this current administration, these current elected officials, can be (should they be?) entrusted with the beautiful 22 acres of  environmentally sensitive land at the Palmetto Bay Village Center.

Palmetto Bay's environmental record is turning to one of warnings ignored and waste of resources. Requests to save the trees ignored. All that is left is the deflection and other spin from our current elected officials who really wanted that third bridge so badly that they couldn't even wait to figure out how to place and build it without adversely affecting Coral Reef Park.


The heart cut into the stump (above # 1, left) speaks volumes. We were told by the current mayor's staff and supporters that the tree would be fine (as it existed in above # 2, right). We aren't hearing anything from any of them now.  I ask once again: Where is/was the Palmetto Bay Tree Board?
Above left another view of all that remains. Look how close the second victim was to the path (plus about 4 feet of earth pushed up against the trunk). The photo to the right is how the dead trees appeared just before the tree removal team showed up to remove the remaining evidence of these trees. 
Remember, these trees had thrived in Coral Reef Park for over 40 years. That is until this current administration took over and demonstrated their preference for asphalt and concrete. Take a look at Coral Reef Park to see how many new paths have been paved over grass. The paving of green space. But it is not just Coral Reef Park. The Palmetto Bay designed 8-10 foot shared path is yet another example of concrete over green.

These photos bring reality and mock the current administration's use of #PalmettoBayProud. Are you? Are they really?

Enough comments. Here are the photos of the day - a small series of photos sent to me by a fellow concerned resident. So many fellow residents are just floored as to how this current administration seems to have little concern for the trees.  I want to thank everyone who has reached out.

Before: the trees at Coral Reef Park - pre-bridge, pre-current council. Note the elevation

Post bridge completion. You can't see it as it happens, but the trees are being smothered -
and at risk of other tree diseases and pests such as beetles.

The toolbox - prior related posts:

September 12, 2021
Why? These trees once thrived in Coral Reef Park. That is until this current mayor and council started their war on trees in Palmetto Bay

September 9, 2021
Remember the trees I warned the Village about in April? Well those trees are now dead. Why it matters.

April 26, 2021
Poor Tree. Who determined where and how to locate the Coral Reef Park Bridge? Regulations ignored. Once again, Palmetto Bay acts say: do as (Palmetto Bay) says, not as Palmetto Bay does.

Parting thoughts:

The environmental track record of this council is very poor. They appear to say what people want to hear, but their actions, their record, demonstrates otherwise. Can we trust this group with the 22 acres at Palmetto Bay Village Center? 

See: 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Why? These trees once thrived in Coral Reef Park. That is until this current mayor and council started their war on trees in Palmetto Bay

Coral Reef Park - losing beautiful specimen oak trees. These trees had thrived in Coral Reef Park for over 40 years. That is until this current administration took over and demonstrated their preference for asphalt and concrete. Take a look at Coral Reef Park to see how many new paths have been paved over grass. The paving of green space. But it is not just Coral Reef Park. The Palmetto Bay designed 8-10 foot shared path is yet another example of concrete over green.

These photos bring reality and mock the current administration's use of #PalmettoBayProud. Are you? Are they really?

Enough comments. Here are the photos of the day - a small series of photos sent to me by a fellow concerned resident. So many fellow residents are just floored as to how this current administration seems to have little concern for the trees.  I want to thank everyone who has reached out. 


I can't decide what stands out more: The two dead trees (any green is from the healthy trees behind the front two) or all that railing that now divides part of the part and has become a visual focus of the East side of the Park. The bridge has brought us more than 2 (for now) dead trees. It also has fenced off anyone from walking along the canal bank. I have yet to hear anyone tell me how all this railing adds beauty to the park.


Could this issue have been avoided if Palmetto Bay had gone through the proper process in pulling a permit?  See March 5, 2020, Palmetto Bay officials – acting as if “permits are for the little guy”: building a bridge without a permit – caught, now on hold, waiting for the permit. WTH (heck)??? Follow up on the issues.

Who designed and determined where to place this new bridge? The design required a significant ramp (also requiring a hard turn, further demonstrating how this current mayor and council shoehorned this bridge project into the park). Both trees had up to 4 feet of earth pushed up around their trunks. Frankly I can't believe the members of Palmetto Bay's Tree Board approved this - or sat quietly once the plans were presented. Where were they? Missing in action.

The current mayor and council succeeded if their goal was to clear the shade from parts of the Coral Reef Park paths as well as the SW 136st Street shared path. I wonder if the dead trees will  be removed from the park, or if they will remain as part of an upcoming Halloween event (scary dead trees) slated for Coral Reef  Park next month. 



The tool box: a link to Prior related Posts:

September 9, 2021, Remember the trees I warned the Village about in April? Well those trees are now dead. Why it matters.

March 5, 2020, Did I touch a nerve? Readers react. Village officials attempt to hide their shame behind a green screen for all to see at our upcoming community picnic. Update of the bridge.

September 9, 2021, Remember the trees I warned the Village about in April? Well those trees are now dead. Why it matters.

April 26, 2021, Poor Tree. Who determined where and how to locate the Coral Reef Park Bridge? Regulations ignored. Once again, Palmetto Bay acts say: do as (Palmetto Bay) says, not as Palmetto Bay does.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Happy 19th Village of Palmetto Bay! September 10, 2002 - September 10, 2021

Palmetto Bay was incorporated on September 10, 2002.

Feel free to search this blog for numerous posts regarding our Palmetto Bay history.

I am wishing everyone a very happy 19th. 

Thank you to everyone for making this the best municipality to live, work and play!

EUGENE FLINN

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Remember the trees I warned the Village about in April? Well those trees are now dead. Why it matters.

Warnings, alarms, requests were issued in April about two oak trees being smothered, surrounded by concrete as part of the 3rd bridge construction in Coral Reef Park. They went unheeded. And now, two stately oaks, well over 30 feet tall appear quite dead, suffocated in just over 5 months time. How old were these trees? We can count the rings when the trees are cut down and removed. What a waste. A squandering of our natural environment.

Palmetto Bay: Tree City USA, are you kidding me?  Palmetto Bay "leadership" should be hanging their heads in shame. Village of Palmetto Bay officials seem to be on a mission to reach record numbers for tree killing in Palmetto Bay. Obviously green is no longer a priority or an official policy for the current mayor, council and staff.

There are several ways to kill trees. The most obvious is to cut down, rip out, like what is now happening along SW 136 Street - remember trees that we paid for in prior tax dollars. But don't worry, our tax dollars will be used to replace some of these mature trees with fewer and much smaller landscaping trees. Our tax dollars at work 3 times: 1. The original planting, 2. Removal,  and 3. New smaller trees representing partial replacement.

Another way to kill a tree to to smother it by raising the ground level around its original base as well as surrounding the root line with asphalt. This is the tactic Palmetto Bay officials employed at Coral Reef Park. The results are documented in the photos posted here.

The alarms were raised back in April of 2021. Alarms that were ignored and instead, village officials mocked those who attempted to bring this issue forward. Another example of official and blatant disrespect for any civil discourse in this community. Of course the deforestation of Palmetto Bay has since moved from Coral Reef Park and continues along SW 136th Street. See PRIOR RELATED POST of April 26, 2021, Poor Tree. Who determined where and how to locate the Coral Reef Park Bridge? Regulations ignored. Once again, Palmetto Bay acts say: do as (Palmetto Bay) says, not as Palmetto Bay does.

I warned. I called out to the public and asked for support, but no one heeded the call. What did we get from Palmetto Bay officials? Crickets. Now look at the trees pictured here. Do they look healthy to you? How about we have mayor Cunningham and each council member reach into their own pockets to pay to have them replaced rather than raise our taxes to pay for the damage going on in this village. 

It is obvious that these trees were expendable as they were in the way of what this current mayor and her administration felt to be more important: more cement, more asphalt and a third bridge that no one from the public asked for in Coral Reef Park.

Why it matters:

  • People go to parks for trees. As mayor, I took pride in this village, I coined and introduced the moniker "Village of Parks". But more importantly, I worked hard to make Palmetto Bay the Village of Parks. The title should have meaning. But with that title comes responsibility.
  • A question of competence. Every child who has ever trapped a lizard in a jar knows that, if a living thing doesn't have enough air, it dies. Yet the mayor and council, a group that includes two supposed educators, didn't realize that pushing up the ground around the trees and then actually pouring an asphalt walkway around them would suffocate them. We were told they would be OK. Obviously they aren't. This current group of officials can't even care for mature trees that only need to be left alone to thrive. 
  • I took pride in leading Palmetto Bay to become a "Tree City USA" community. But let's face it, the village is backsliding under the current leadership. Poinciana Trees have been removed from 184th Street, trees are afterthoughts and are being removed from 136th Street to make way for the unnecessary mega 10 foot sidewalk and now this. Trees that survived Hurricane Andrew and so many other intense storms, named and unnamed, were unable to survive the onslaught brought on by the current administration.
  • Our Budget. Mature specimen trees are expensive, At best, we start over with yearling trees that will take 30 years to reach the size of the two trees that finally succumbed to the asphalt. Can this group be trusted with new plantings when they are obviously so destructive on the well established specimens throughout Palmetto Bay?
  • Responsibility to mange our natural resources
  • Designing public projects. Who designed this bridge? A huge structure which many opine is out of scale with the park, both in its size as well as the lengthy railing seemingly required for this bridge (but somehow that railing is not the other 2 bridges that have served the park well for 40 years). And of course, they could not design the bridge to work in the park without smothering two very large specimen oak trees.
  • Community trust in our government and the officials. We can see a continuing pattern of saying one thing; saying what people want to hear, but either doing the opposing or simply failing to follow through.

Palmetto Bay's Tree Inventory Action Plan. Well, members of the Palmetto Bay's Tree Board, here are two more trees that need to be counted along with all those along SW 136th Street; that you should update and remove from that great tree survey that Palmetto Bay taxpayers funded. Are you keeping score? You should be. You have but one very important job and we have not heard anything from you concerning the issues we have been raising. For a historical reference, I was the prime sponsor of creation of this Tree Board, part of our requirements for becoming a "Tree City USA" Community. the tree Board was created under ordinance 09-02, now codified under Article IV, Sec. 2-108. - Tree board, of our Village Code of Ordinances. It was enacted on 1-12-2009

Additional suggested reading:  July 6, 2021, “Trees are stationary superheroes”. Why not work around the long-time specimen trees that have historically shaded Palmetto Bay? They have much to contribute. They never received a fair hearing. What trees do for our Palmetto Bay community.

Is there still time to call upon Miracle Max? Maybe, just maybe, we can get lucky, and as Miracle Max (a character in The Princess Bride) would say, those trees are only mostly dead. Perhaps there is action that can be taken to bring these trees back that are mostly dead, if not actually dead, but as Miracle Max said: It would take a miracle! 

Below are some photos of how Coral reef Park look with when the trees were healthy, before the mega bridge.

A photo of the trees that thrived before the bridge.

The trees post bridge. Note the new raised elevation that impact their trunks.
Paving over their root lines

Concerned residents were told not to worry, this the tree would be fine - Wrong!

Showdown vote coming for the Urban Development Boundary in South Miami-Dade County. Any opposition or support by any elected officials from Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, Homestead or Florida City?

Thursday, September 9, 2021, may be another watershed moment in defending the UDB. Where do our current elected officials from the South Dade municipalities stand on this project. Are there any resolutions in support or opposition? (I honestly don’t know as Palmetto Bay has not posted any resolutions passed since December 2019) Will any of the South Dade elected officials appear today to either support or oppose this project. Do we stick to developing land within the current UDB?

There is an article in the Miami Herald that provides the background of this project. Miami Herald subscribers can review the article Showdown vote coming for the Urban Development Boundary in SouthMiami-Dade County, by Douglas Hanks, 9/08/2021.

Reporter Doug Hanks advises that the county’s Regulatory and Economic Resources Department states that South Miami-Dade already has enough vacant industrial land to accommodate new projects through 2040; that if the proposed South Dade Logistics and Technology District industrial park gets built, it would take more than 100 years for the market to absorb the new space.

Shouldn’t our local elected officials make the effort to show up and provide testimony, input as to the impact this project may have on our communities (good or bad). This is what representative government is all about, why we vote to elect people - to represent us.

Palmetto Bay was once a charter member of the “Hold the Line” campaign which opposed extending the UDB. See Palmetto Bay resolution 05-43.

We don’t know where the current administration stands. Maybe we will see our Village officials step forward and advocate in public, before the Board of County Commissioners. Or maybe once again it will be off the record, after the fact, targeted sound bites tailored to the specific audience or person they are addressing. I would also add that what each elected official says may be their opinion, but it is not actually the official policy of any government unless it is discussed in public, voted on and passed as a resolution or other official approved action.

Again, we are at yet another watershed moment for South Dade. Which elected officials will rise to provide South Miami-Dade residents a voice on the future of South Miami-Dade?

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Let’s get back to thinking green! We have a 2-year limited window for Palmetto Bay's $12,282,434 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. One very positive idea - let's put that ARPA money to work to save our local environment; assist those without the financial resources to hook up. It benefits all of us – and Biscayne Bay.

History: May 20, 2013, Mayor Stanczyk and the 2013 Village Council petitioned the Miami-Dade County Commission for an administrative waiver - a 10 year extension before requiring the homes located within the Franjo Triangle to hook up to the water and sewer service (section 24-43.1 of the Miami-Dade County Code). View: Palmetto Bay Resolution 2013-47.

So what has happened in that time? How many have hooked up to sewer? Worse yet, are we sure that the aged septic systems are not failing?

Now we have an opportunity, Palmetto Bay's $12,282.434 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. Palmetto Bay officials need to get this right the first time or future expenses will lead to even more tax increases.  This money can properly provide relief for those most in need in our community. Let's use the funding correctly and not on items that may not pass auditing in future by the Federal government, by providing funding sewer hookup fees for those in District 3 that face a huge layout of funding in 18 months

Sewer hook ups may not be sexy, but saving our environment is. My proposal makes better use of Palmetto Bay's limited funding under the American Rescue Plan Act. It gets these homes off septic and onto the sewer system extension that both Commissioners Moss and Sorenson worked with us (Palmetto Bay) to make happen. Save Biscayne Bay. 

This money needs to be invested wisely, not squandered.  So, let’s get people off aged septic systems and hooked up to sewer. Let’s get Palmetto Bay back to thinking green! Let’s actually ‘build back better’! Hook ups are actually a requirement by 2023 and Miami Dade water and Sewer will begin placing liens on these housing units if we don’t help them.

The sewer over septic priority cannot be overstated. Palmetto Bay has another ticking time bomb on its hands. The Miami Herald reported that Sea rise makes septic tanks ‘ticking bombs.’ Why does Miami-Dade still allow them? by Alex Harris, January 15, 2021. For those without a Miami Herald subscription, the Miami Herald reported that:

Miami-Dade’s 120,000-plus septic tanks — an aging, leaky system for disposing of human waste that experts have pointed to as a public health and environmental hazard for bay waters since the 1950s. Yet, despite periodic calls as early as the 1960s for ambitious sewage system upgrades, the Herald found that the county has put only a small dent in the septic mess over the decades — and actually continues to issue permits for new ones.

Money, as usual, is the big stumbling block for a clearly defined problem with straightforward solutions.

Homeowners don’t like paying for it, and neither does the county. The most recent estimate for Miami-Dade was $3.3 billion to get rid of most of them, and the cost per house can balloon far past the average $10,000 price tag. That’s why residents have been granted reprieves from orders to hook into nearby sewage lines for decades.

My proposed solution: Use a substantial portion to go green and complete the sewer system. Homes need hook ups. Here is a one-time gift of money (our Federal tax dollars at work) that may never be repeated.

Photo Credit: Official Pinecrest, published in the Community Newspapers.
It can be done. Pinecrest has been forward thinking: using this money for big ticket items that they have been advocating for. So should Palmetto Bay. Pinecrest was notified that it would receive approximately $8 million of Federal funds that could only be used for very specific matters including water projects. The Village Council and staff worked quickly to take the necessary steps to use most of those dollars to finally resolve the water issue in Pinecrest. See: Community News, Pinecrest Breaks Ground on Water Project, August 22, 2021.

Another positive point - this is a one-time capital expense. Many of the slated uses set by Palmetto Bay officials are just a 2 year bridge, after which the taxpayers will have to pick up the continuing expenses of the employees slated to be hired. Will this lead to even more tax increases in the future?

Let's really build back better! – and smarter. This ARPA money is truly a one-time opportunity.

BACKGROUND - PRIOR RELATED POST: See September 3, 2021, Budget review - my first statement of concern and it is a big one: how the Village plans on spending $12.3 million.

The Palmetto Bay designed shared path. This project will define the differences between Pinecrest (Green) and Palmetto Bay (from Blue to concrete). Let’s take a look (Part 1 of 3 planned)

The SW 136th Street shared path is essentially an inharmonious collection of varying sidewalk sections cobbled together claiming to be a park amenity. It’s not a cycling amenity as even a few of the current’s mayor’s informal project advisers has been honest that the cycling groups will continue to ‘take the lane’ (use the street, not the path – as is their legal right).

SW 136 Street – a Street that bears stark contrasts between the sides – dividing North from South. 

First impressions are important. 136th Street is the gate way to their Palmetto Bay homes for many. Our community has invested in gateway signage (LED/solar powered, BTW) as well as our signature Palmetto Bay blue street signs. Times change with a new direction now taking shape that will define the differences between Palmetto Bay from Pinecrest when driving down SW 136 Street. Previously the only differences appeared to be green signature signage defining Pinecrest while Palmetto Bay has its ‘Palmetto Bay blue’ signature street signs. 

Palmetto Bay residents obviously bear the brunt of the shared path as it is located entirely on the Palmetto Bay side of the road. Some residents of Palmetto Bay have a 10 foot section adjacent to their property while others have 8 feet or less. Surprisingly, there is a section where the 10 foot section abruptly chokes down to the standard 5 foot sidewalk length.  Many hold the opinion that this shared path is shoehorned into an area that is much too small. It is important to note that there was standard 5 foot sidewalk on this side of the road that predated this path project where many differing users had been long able to walk, jog, and, yes, even ride their bicycles for those who choose to ride on the sidewalk. It was removed in order to create this shared path, along with many mature specimen trees.

Pinecrest residents must be breathing a heavy sigh of relief as their council members invested $1.2 million into this path and some feel as it was money well spent – as the money was well spent to ensure this concrete monster would not tear through Pinecrest’s green space by placing it entirely on the Palmetto Bay side. The Pinecrest side of SW 136 Street remains lushly landscaped, not having lost a single mature specimen tree. There is a standard size sidewalk on the Pinecrest side, where many differing users have been long able, as well as remain able, to walk, jog, and, yes, even ride their bicycles for those who choose to ride on the sidewalk. This is the green side of the road as opposed to the concrete found on the opposing side of the municipal border.

Below: the official project rendering that the Village of Palmetto Bay has posted on its official website - something that most rely upon as a true representation of how this project will appear upon completion.

Two important items to take note of: 
1. The rendering makes it appear as if Palmetto Bay may actually end up with larger, more lush trees over what is portrayed for the Pinecrest side (which is FALSE). 
2. Also note that neither tree appears to be close to the end of the road - there are standards as to where trees should/can be planted near roadways.

Based upon the photos immediately above, I fear whether all residents who live alongside SW 136th Street are being treated equal. Some have 8 foot sections while others have the full 10 feet! At least one homeowner had the shared path reduced to the standard size sidewalk in front of the home (many people are interested to hear how that came about).

FAIR QUESTIONS:
  • What difference does the additional 2 feet serve when so many other sections are set at 8 feet or less, including at least one section where the standard 5 foot wide was reinstalled?
  • Where are the trees going to be planted for the sections pictured above? Will they be planted within the 2 - 4 feet between the mega sidewalk and the street?
  • If so, will the tree tear up either the street or mega sidewalk?
  • If so, will the tree obscure safety sightlines?

Photo immediately above - the standard size sidewalk is being replaced on the Pinecrest side. The trees, grass and scrubs will remain, in stark contrast to the Palmetto Bay side. This is a walkway truly worthy of a green, tree friendly community, offering a shady walk or bike ride (for those who choose to ride on the sidewalk).

Sunday, September 5, 2021

This holiday belongs to those who put in the labor to make America Great!

 Happy Labor Day! Take the day off.

I hope everyone who works hard to make America great is enjoying a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.  Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

Read more about Labor Day on History.Com - Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers, and Labor Day 2018 occurs on Monday, September 3 (it’s traditionally observed on the first Monday in September). It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events. (READ MORE)
Enjoy your special day, you've earned it!

Eugene Flinn

Friday, September 3, 2021

Budget review - my first statement of concern and it is a big one: how the Village plans on spending $12.3 million.

Palmetto Bay is eligible to receive $12,282.434 based on its population from the American Rescue Plan, enacted into law in 2021 by the US Congress to provide relief for families and workers impacted by the COVID-19 economic crisis.  Eligible expenses under ARPA must be incurred by December 31, 2024. 

How about some relief to the Palmetto Bay taxpayers? Lower taxes means more more for economic recovery of our families.

How about using it for true one-time capital expenses such as purchasing the 22 acres at the Palmetto Bay Village Center (PBVC); part of the Luxcom property (to bring down the density or create a buffer park); or ????

And don't tell me what the current mayor has been saying, that these properties listed above are not for sale. That's not true. The property for Veterans Park was not for sale. The 10 areas on SW 168th Street Relating to protecting the land considered to be a wildlife sanctuary at SW 168th Street and 88th was not 'for sale'- see resolution t2007-049 But the Manager and I did negotiate and gain these properties for public use and enjoyment. The 22 acres at the PBVC remains on the EELs B list - meaning that the seller remains interested in selling - one way or another - cash or TDRs.  Using this money could result in the 22 acres along with the developmental density, meaning no additional units ever get build anywhere on the PBVC.

But it takes focus, commitment, and long term preservation. This is one time money. We have to spend it wisely. 

My first review concerns me; will the positions 're-hired' for need to raise taxes due when this stimulus money runs out? This is a finite source of money. I see a significant amount of regular maintenance in this spreadsheet. 

Village officials need to go through the 'how and why to spend' very carefully and obviously they can't even list it without an error - "PRJOECT ALLOATION" (sic, sic). Perhaps this is what happens when you throw budgets together just days prior to the first budget hearings.

Here is a link to the details spreadsheet posted on the Village website:
file:///C:/Users/eflinn/Downloads/2fa36f9cad64486d9f74.pdf

Or its available on my Google Drive:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/10ZnUfA6rIVeoI8LAFriv6M8Y37YY6ReD/view?usp=sharing

It should be identical to what is posted below or it has been modified.



Budget released to public 9/2/21 - 11 days prior to first budget hearing. A new record - for tardiness.

Better late than ever. Palmetto Bay officials posted the proposed budget online late yesterday evening. I was notified at 7:00 PM that it was available. The budget was not released as a comprehensive document, but broken out into may links to sub parts. And not all the links appear to work, at least as of 8:00 AM on Friday, 9/3/21.

I trust that this is not the same format as provided to the staff  and members of the village council.

Several people have contacted me to vent their frustration with this release tactic. I will put the various documents together into a single documents to make it easier to follow and will post it here later on.

Thank you for your patience. I assure you that the budget has never been presented in such a splintered manner at any time prior in Palmetto Bay's history. 



Thursday, September 2, 2021

A penny for your thoughts. Wrapping up with the ‘realized mileage rate’. What is Palmetto Bay’s comparative property tax rate compared to the unincorporated area (UMSA) – it may surprise you: the functional total could be equivalent to 2.74 – 3.14 versus the UMSA rate of 1.9283

Here is my two cents on the millage rate issue. Taxes must be looked at on the whole. We have reviewed how the FPL franchise tax impacts the budget, but this tax goes largely unnoticed by most taxpayers.

This is an important analysis – the UMSA tax is set for 1.9283 with ZERO FPL Franchise Tax. Palmetto Bay collects both property tax and a FPL Franchise fee which, when the revenue is totaled, Palmetto Bay would have to set the property tax rate between 2.7400 to 3.1400. This impacts actual money and cost to live here. This is not theoretical numbers.

I have been attempting to discuss our Palmetto Bay taxes in a way that truly compares apples to apples which is difficult to do when so many governments at different taxes and fees and different levels. You watch your tax rate, but lose focus on items like user and franchise fees. Note that Palmetto Bay was once the 4th lowest property tax rate in Miami-Dade County, lower than UMSA. Now? We will have to wait and see.

And this is not about who is the highest, or who is the lowest. Winning is based upon efficiently delivering the level of service that the community deems appropriate. This should not be a behind the scenes decision imposed upon a community not consulted.

So I have come up with what I am calling the realized property tax millage rate – this takes into account what is actually collected by Miami-Dade County against Palmetto Bay in the two biggest taxes – property taxes as the FPL Franchise Fees.

The UMSA realized rate is a flat. Palmetto Bay’s is trending up with no analysis by the current decision makers.

The starting point for this analysis is 2019 when Palmetto Bay assessed a property tax rate of 2.2000. The proposed for this coming tax year is 2.400. Note that the rate was raised to 2.235 for last year (2020).

Property Tax Rate                UMSA                        Palmetto Bay

2021-22 budget (prop)        1.9283 Flat               2.4000 (prop add increase)

2020-2021 budget year       1.9283 Flat               2.2350  (increase)

2019-2020 budget                1.9283                       2.2000

Now, apples to apples – adding the franchise fee receipts to determine what Palmetto Bay is actually collecting if it did not employ the stealth tax of the franchise fee.

Realized Millage Rate        UMSA                         Palmetto Bay

Proposed 2021-22               1.9283                        2.4 plus the FPL Tax: 2.74 – 3.14

I see a trend here - a trend for increased taxing and spending.

I have to make assumptions as the budget is still not posted online for us, the general community, Assuming the increase is $950,000, last year's property tax was $6,894,470 the 950,000 is equal to 13.8%

The realized mileage rate: 2.40 increased to meet equals 2.74 approx. But if it was the full amount collected is raised t0 2.1 million would equal a rate of 3.14

The totals change based upon the numbers that are used. That is why transparency and communication is important.

A proper analysis requires a detailed look at the numbers – so again I raise the issue of transparency. Why isn’t this proposed budget posted on line so we can see (there are many talented numbers people who live in the village)/ Why don’t the members of the village council have a budget to review – and if they do, then why don’t we have access to these same materials?

This may be just my two cents, but I believe I offer some solid institutional knowledge concerning this government and our community that adds value to both the discussion as well as the decision. That is why enacting budgets require public hearings. But the public needs full access to the same materials that the government relies upon..

FAIR QUESTION: Is this the mayor and council that take our taxes t0 150% or more above what we would be paying as members of a greater unincorporated area? Again, I am still not included the stormwater fees that were increased by 25%.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A quick break for something very light and entertaining: Today is September 1st - Ginger Cat Appreciation Day

Pumpkin says hello and welcome to Ginger Cat Appreciation Day


Pumpkin (foreground) hanging with his BFF (best friend feline) Fiyero.

Ginger Cat Appreciation Day is one of those 'are you serious?!' special days. It is observed annually on September 1st.

For what it's worth, Happy Ginger Cat Appreciation Day.

Read more: https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/ginger-cat-appreciation-day/


Increasing taxes in Palmetto Bay (another in this series). We are now up to 55,049 in pennies and I haven’t even discussed the 20% increase in stormwater assessments! $606.46 for those living in Palmetto Bay versus a mere $ 55.97 for those living in Unincorporated Miami-Dade County (but they also lose the Franchise Tax). When is enough, enough?

What would you do with $550.49? Would you donate it to the local government to do what they want, or do you want a choice in how your money is spent? This is not pennies a day. This is real money.

I am measuring just how Palmetto Bay is going above and beyond in upping the tax burden on residents since 2019:

Since 2019, assuming the proposed tax increase for 2021, taxes will have increased through 2022, as follows:

$ 606.46 for those living in Palmetto Bay
$   55.97 for those living in Unincorporated Miami-Dade County*

*NOTE: The $55.97 property tax increase is actually an annual $70.03 net reduction (money back into the wallets of residents) in overall taxes when you consider the elimination of the FPL Franchise Fee for those who own property in UMSA (unfortunately not for Palmetto Bay as discussed and as demonstrated below)

I am showing my math work below for those who are interested:

Comparing actual tax burdens on a $400,000 tax assessed home and an average power bill of $300.00 per month:

Palmetto Bay property taxes:                   

2019      $400,000 at 2.2000 (2019 rate) =  $    880.00 (Palmetto Bay only)  Starting point
2020      $412,000 at 2.2350 (2020 rate)=   $    920.82 (Palmetto Bay only)  $40.82 increase
2021      $424,360 at 2.4000 (Proposed)=   $ 1,018.46 (Palmetto Bay only)  $97.64 proposed 

                                                                        Palmetto Bay:    $138.46 total prop tax increase

Unincorporated Miami-Dade County (UMSA) property taxes:

2019      $400,000 at 1.9283 (2019 rate) =  $    771.32 (UMSA only)  Starting point
2020      $412,000 at 1.9283 (2020 rate)=   $    794.46 (UMSA only)  $32.14 increase
2021      $424,360 at 1.9283 (Proposed)=   $    818.29 (UMSA only)  $23.83 proposed

                                                                        UMSA                  $  55.97 total prop tax increase*

 *NOTE: The $55.97 property tax increase is actually an annual $70.03 net reduction in overall taxes when you consider the elimination of the FPL Franchise Fee for those who own property in UMSA (not for Palmetto Bay as demonstrated below)

Palmetto Bay Franchise fee:

2019      3.5% of power bill (assuming average of $300.00 per month)        $126.00
2020      3.5% of power bill (assuming average of $300.00 per month)        $126.00
2021      3.5% of power bill (assuming average of $300.00 per month)        $126.00
2022      6.0% of power bill (assuming average of $300.00 per month)        $216.00

Unincorporated Miami-Dade County (UMSA) Franchise fee:

2019      3.5%  of power bill (assuming average of $300.00 per month)        $126.00
2020      ZERO – Franchise fee expired, not renewed for UMSA                    ZERO
2021      ZERO – Franchise fee expired, not renewed for UMSA                    ZERO
2022      ZERO – Franchise fee expired, not renewed for UMSA                    ZERO

MORE TAXES –  YET WE ARE NOT FINISHED. Stormwater and private garbage.

But wait – there is more! This same mayor has overseen other fee (tax) increases, including stormwater fees that increased by 25% (twenty percent) (Previous rate was equal to the Miami-Dade County rate for the Unincorporated area).

And of course the other new tax the Garbage Franchise Fee - taxing private garbage service which was passed in 2019. This tax was voted down under two prior administrations - it was turned down under both Flinn and Stanczyk, but adopted under Cunningham.



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Unincorporated area taxes drop while Palmetto Bay taxes continue to rise. Separating fact from fiction in the Palmetto Bay tax, tax and more tax form of governance. Examining the FPL Franchise fee (update, part of a series).

Something is wrong, very wrong here. We incorporated Palmetto Bay on the promise that a Palmetto Bay municipality could do more with the amount of taxes paid to Unincorporated Area (UMSA) without raising taxes, yet in an ironic twist, it is the County, as administrator of UMSA, that is showing tax restraint. Now, the current Palmetto Bay elected officials are set to raise taxes yet again - in consecutive years no less.

There are many ways to collect taxes. Previously, we have looked at the property taxes – that which show on your tax bill (TRIM notice). Those taxes are obvious - listed on a specific tax bill mailed to the taxpayer. But this post is to look at the sneaky side of taxes - those you may not know you are paying such as the portion collected by FPL on your electric bill and paid over to the Palmetto Bay government – what I have talked about previously as the FPL Franchise Fee (CLICK HERE to view past relevant posts).

BRIEF HISTORY: The FPL Franchise Fee (tax) was part of Palmetto Bay taxes originally collected through unincorporated Miami-Dade County and was paid at the same rate  by FPL customers located in both Palmetto Bay and Unincorporated Miami-Dade. This special Tax was approved by the voters in a 1992 referendum for a specified period and was set to expire in 2020. The FPL Tax did expire for UMSA residents in 2020, so we would no longer be paying this tax had Palmetto Bay remained unincorporated. Rather than keep pace with UMSA, the current Palmetto Bay mayor brought forward a 30 year extension of this FPL tax that was not put to the voters. Instead, it was approved by the Village Council by a mere 3-2 vote. And, compounding the bad news, the FPL Tax actually set to increase from the current 3.5% to a full 6%.

This money is too easy for the current mayor and council to pass up. I have posted below a recent FPL bill from a valued reader for review. Note that the current FPL Franchise Tax collected on behalf of Palmetto Bay is $9.63 for the month (would be $115.56 annually) at 3.5%. It is important to remember that all of us here in Palmetto Bay would now being paying ZERO had we remained unincorporated. It is important to note that when the tax goes to 6%, all of us will pay more and by example, this tax payer’s bill will go from $9.63 to $16.10 ($193.20 annually) - another $77.64 in tax increase for those keeping track - but remember, those in Unincorporated Miami-Dade are now paying ZERO. Not the former 3.5% and certainly not the new, soon to be inflated 6%. 

Members of the Village Council consider these tax increases “Pennies per day”. Hardly. The "pennies per day' has become a sick joke foist upon the taxpaying residents of Palmetto Bay.

BREAKING THE PROMISES MADE REGARDING INCORPORATING PALMETTO BAY: The current mayor and council are violating the original promise of incorporation by increasing the tax burden of living in Palmetto Bay versus unincorporated Miami-Dade. Look at the FPL bill for this Palmetto Bay taxpayer. Assuming the usage to be constant, the overall tax will go from $115.56 at 3.5% per year to a whopping $193.20 when it increases to the full 6%. This is for the FPL franchise fee alone. And note, FPL has sought a recent rate increase. Your Franchise Fee obligation increases as rates increase. Our local government has no control over any future rate hikes as well as a disincentive to oppose any hikes in your electric service rate as higher power rates equals more money for the local politicians to spend. 

Will Palmetto Bay officials explain to me again how this is all “pennies per day”? The pennies are adding up and beginning to overwhelm the livability of Palmetto Bay when compared to unincorporated Miami-Dade.

Why were the voters excluded from the decision on this tax? FAIR QUESTION: Why were the residents of Palmetto Bay disenfranchised, deprived of their right to vote on this new tax? We were allowed to vote to approve to initiate the franchise tax and we granted ourselves the assurances that it would not be extended without another voter referendum. But that right apparently did not transfer to us when we incorporated (I actually think it did, but I personally did not get a vote on that consideration).

BOTTOM LINE: 3 out of 5 members of the village council have placed a 30 year encumbrance on all electric service in Palmetto Bay, first at 3.5% and then increasing to 6%. Your money. Love the tax or hate it, where's your voice?

I warned you about this on September 9, 2019, see: FPL Franchise Fee Reboot. Once again, first attempt rendered invalid. Will a 5 year phase out become a 30 new encumbrance?