Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Our Environment - Interesting & important read – CNN BUSINESS - Coke and Pepsi abandon the plastics lobby, by Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business, Tue July 30, 2019

When is participating in a plastic lobby part of recycling effort versus protecting the market for producers and distributors of single use plastics? 

This is important as there is a huge difference between ‘can be recycled’ versus the percentage actually recycled. It could be more than fair to say that recycling has been a well-intentioned, but documented as a failure to date, as  a "whopping 91% of plastic isn't recycled." (the National Geographic article source is posted below)

Please read this online article, CNN BUSINESS - Coke and Pepsi abandonthe plastics lobby, by Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business, Tue July 30, 2019
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, two major sellers of plastic bottles, have made sweeping sustainability commitments. Now they are stepping away from a plastics lobbying group.
Both soft drink companies are trying to increase the amount of recycled plastic they use in bottles. They want to improve recycling infrastructure and ensure their packages are recyclable.
But the Plastics Industry Association has encouraged states to make plastic bans illegal.

We have seen the impact of such lobbying efforts. Florida municipalities have been at odds with groups such as the Plastics Industry Association, groups that have worked to have our State Legislature preempt and outlaw local municipal rights to pass ordinances on everything from plastic bags as well as plastic straws.

The recent actions of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo should provide pause to everyone concerned with our environment (and this should actually be “everyone”). What are the standards, the established markers or “deliverables” / “measurables” for recycling? Most, but not all, single use plastic bottles are “recyclable”. Miami-Dade County limits plastic recycling to “narrow neck” – specifically:
Plastic containers (bottles only): bottles, milk, water, detergent, soda and shampoo containers (flatten and replace cap) (CLICK HERE).

9 % recycling rate? See National Geographic - PLANET OR PLASTIC? A whopping 91% of plastic isn't recycled - read the article on how "Billions of tons of plastic have been made over the past decades, and much of it is becoming trash and litter, finds the first analysis of the issue."
The CNN article reports that “Coca-Cola (KO) produced 3.3 million tons of plastic in 2017, it disclosed in recent report by the Ellen MacArthur foundation. PepsiCo (PEP) did not disclose how much plastic it sells.”

That is a significant amount of single use plastic that is NOT recycled. Further,
Both companies are trying to figure out ways to reduce their use of virgin plastics and increase recycling. They're also exploring alternatives to plastics, like aluminum, that are easier to recycle.
PepsiCo announced recently that its Aquafina-brand water will be sold in aluminum cans at US fast food and restaurant chains as soon as next year. The company is testing out a broader rollout to retail stores.

BLOG EDITOR'S NOTE: Please review these prior, related Blog Posts, including:

May 22, 2019, FAQ - Accommodations in the Plastic Straw ordinance forADA/Medical necessity - other exemptions. I posted FAQs regarding  Council Member Singer’s ordinance, presenting the facts, responding to rumor and incorrect information, and

May 15, 2019, End the delay, the time is now for Palmetto Bay to debateand take action on Council Member David Singer's proposed ordinance to banplastic straws in Palmetto Bay. The point of this blog post was to advocate for the current mayor and council to cease resistance, to stop bottling up, Council Member David Singer's plastic straw ban and let the debate come to the council floor where council members can finally let the public know why they have not seen fit to hear this item. There are no reasons to continue to avoid the issue of banning plastic straws in Palmetto Bay - as, as Gov. DeSantis opined:
"Citizens who oppose plastic straw ordinances can seek recourse by electing people who share their views."

Monday, July 29, 2019

Photo of the Day - Everglades Racer photographed at Deering Estate on Friday, 7/26/2019

What a great photo. "Peek a boo" - Naturalist Rangel Diaz was able to capture this moment with (as he describes) "... a cooperative Everglades Racer at the park ...."
Photo credit: Rangel Diaz
This is a beautiful native snake, non-venomous, and should not be disturbed, certainly not harmed when found in or near your homes. See online resources: Florida Snake Identification Key, Eastern Racer, Black Racer, Black Snake, Brownchin Racer, Everglades Racer, Racer, Southern Black Racer

Palmetto Bay remains home to may native species that we can enjoy through our outdoor activities. Here is a past post to some of the critters I have personally documented in my own Palmetto Bay backyard: (CLICK HERE).

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Is this any way to treat art? Palmetto Bay - the disposable society. Oh, the irony. And, by the way, when did Coral Reef Park get repurposed as a dump?

The irony. This piece of eco-art, made out of recycled materials, ends up in the trash.

You may have hated it, but this art piece speaks volumes as does the way it has been treated by the current Mayor and Village Council. They decided to trash it. Shame on them. 

[EDITOR'S UPDATE (9:25 PM)]: Palmetto Bay Council Member David Singer has indicated to me that he is not part of any decision to dump this art, that he is "...disgusted by the way it has been handled by the Village.")

By the way, the eco-art was donated.  It should be either properly stored, returned to the donor or given to someone who has an appreciation for this kind of art. Not everyone has the same taste in art.

The discovery of the unceremoniously trashed art has been a subject of several Facebook posts. The art piece had its critics and its fans, but the discussion here is how this current Mayor and Council treat things they no longer have use for - or appreciation for. This is not a very 'green' way to treat art, especially eco-art. 

Comments on the Facebook post thread have included (as of posting of this blog):
(JS) "I liked it. It was perfect for bottleneck circle......It's a Southern custom and it's suppose to ward evil things away"
(SB) "Terrible slap in the face to the artist, why not just burn an author’s book. I’m ashamed of how this village treated the artist."
(WiP) "Whether you loved it or hated it, this was someone’s art piece... terrible"
(MR) "This has to be a joke? We wouldn’t really handle someone’s hard work like that."
(JS -updated) "You know what? ......If no one wants it, I'll take it. I went to a ladies house in Coral Gables & she has a bottle tree at the entrance to her house. I think it I over 100 years old."
JS's comments provide a history and tradition of this type of art, - see a Pinterest Post (CLICK HERE)

Wouldn't it be great to place this in a garden, reminiscent of a bottle tree as mentioned in the classic children's book Because of Winn Dixie, by Florida author, Kate DiCamillo?
 The bottle tree is a Southern tradition. Also see:Wide Open Country, online, Build Your Own Bottle Tree Like the Southerners Do and Make Recycle Yard Decor, by Holly Skaggs

Proper care for donate art by government: A fair question is whether you would donate something you valued to this Village if you thought for even a moment that your donation would be 'dumped' - not displayed, but dumped - in a park akin to garbage waiting to be collected. 

Which also brings me to another question, why are we 'dumping' things at Coral Reef Park? It's a Park for goodness sake, not a dump.
Above - Trashed eco-art at Coral Reef Park - it makes a statement, don't you think?

The eco-art's brief placement at the SW 168th Street / 82nd Ave Traffic Circle
Online references / articles providing background on the art piece:

This eco-art was originally displayed out front of the Palmetto Bay Municipal Center from 2011 to October 2014, See New bronze sculpture installed at Village Hall, by: Gary Alan Ruse |October 29, 2014. It was then stored until it was placed TEMPORARILY at the traffic circle at SW 168th Street and 82nd Avenue, see the article of July 26, 2018, Traffic Circle at 168 Street / 82nd Av has a temporary AIPP piece installed under a permanent art piece is selected and installed.

In the meantime, let's hope this piece is neither stolen or broken as well as it does not cause injury to any child who may be attracted to playing in this area used to store unwanted items in the park.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Village of Palmetto Bay is not legally or morally required to enter into/accept or otherwise continue to entertain this P3 proposal for the Franjo Road area.

The discretion rests with this current Mayor and Village Council – and with no other past, present, or future people or entities.

Would you like additional resources before the decision is made on the pending Public Private Partnership (P3) unsolicited bid presently pending before the Palmetto Bay Village Council? The City of South Miami has published its own guidelines for Public/Private Partnerships, Solicited and Unsolicited Proposals and Evaluation Process.

See the 24 page document created by the City of South Miami:

(Revised 4-10-2017)

*Note – as conspicuously stated within the guidelines promulgated by the City of South Miami;
The City reserves the right at all times to reject any or all bids/proposals at any time before signing a Comprehensive Agreement for any reason and may decline to pursue the Proposed Project. In the latter event, the City may accept new proposals for the Proposed Project should the City choose to restart the process at a later date. Discussions between the City and Private Entities about needed infrastructure, improvements, or services shall not limit the ability of the City to later decide to use standard procurement procedures to meet its infrastructure needs, whether the project will be a public/private partnership or not. 

QUESTION: are the Mayor and Village Council required to enter into the pending P3 proposal?

SHORT ANSWER FOR PALMETTO BAY:  NO. The Village of Palmetto Bay is not legally or morally required to enter into/accept or otherwise continue to entertain this P3 proposal for the downtown/Franjo Road area.

The discretion to move forward with approval or to deny (or anything in between) rests with this current Mayor and Village Council – and with no other past, present, or future people or entities.

CLICK HERE for 12 prior relevant posts providing significant details as to the Palmetto Bay Downtown Unsolicited Bid development issue.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Removing even the bark from Palmetto Bay Tree Board - nothing was said in legislative updates, so apparently the Palmetto Bay Council failed to act to protect our trees.

There is so much here; so many directions to go. No warning from our local officials who spent significant time in Tallahassee. More fall out from the 2019 legislative session. Not only did Palmetto Bay strike out on legislative requests (See June 21, 2019, Governor DeSantis issues his very first budget vetoes. Cutler Bay and Deering Estate budget appropriations appear safe.  as well as May 4, 2019, Legislative asks - Legislature completes budget. Now waiting for Gov DeSantis' line item veto. 2019 score card), was our voice heard in Tallahassee on important policy issues such as protecting our local rights to protect our local environment? It really does appear that the Mayor and Council were either oblivious or complacent (through failure to act) in the enactment of CS / HB 1159.  CLICK HERE to view prior relevant posts relating to the 2019 Legislative session, but be sure not to miss the post of April 26, 2019, Transparency - is the Palmetto Bay Council placing the cart before the horse or is the fix in on the multimodal?

Back to our trees: CS/HB 1159 passed the House on April 25, 2019, and subsequently passed the Senate on April 26, 2019. The bill was approved by the Governor on June 26, 2019, ch. 2019-155, L.O.F., and became effective on July 1, 2019.

In short, CS/HB 1159 - titled "Private Property Rights" - strips the bark off the rights of local government to protect our Trees.

The following is from the State of Florida Summary Analysis (CLICK HERE to read from source - 7 pages):
CS/HB 1159 passed the House on April 25, 2019, and subsequently passed the Senate on April 26, 2019.
Counties and municipalities develop and implement land use comprehensive plans and ordinances to manage growth within their jurisdictions. 
Comprehensive plans must be sensitive to private property rights and not inordinately burden property owners. The “Bert Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act” entitles property owners to relief when government action inordinately burdens their existing use of real property or any vested right to a specific use of real property. 
Local government vegetation and tree maintenance regulations vary but can require property owners to obtain permits before pruning, trimming, or removing any tree. Property owners with native mangrove trees on their property are subject to additional state or, in certain instances, local regulation. Electric utilities are also subject to federal requirements when maintaining vegetation in utility rights-of-way.
The bill prohibits local governments from requiring a permit, application, notice, fee, approval, or mitigation for the pruning, trimming, or removal of a dangerous tree on residential property upon documentation by a certified arborist or licensed landscape architect, and prohibits local governments from requiring a property owner to replant a tree that is maintained under the specified conditions. The bill does not affect authority delegated under the state’s mangrove protection laws. The bill also allows a property owner adjacent to an electric utility right-of-way to request an electric utility perform vegetation maintenance in the right-of-way without approval from the local government.   
The bill requires county property appraisers to post a Property Owner Bill of Rights on their websites, which lists a property owner’s right to acquire, possess, and protect property; use and enjoy property; exclude others from property; dispose of property; due process; just compensation for property taken for a public purpose; and relief when a new state or local government law, rule, regulation, or ordinance unfairly affects property. The website must state the Bill of Rights is not comprehensive and does not represent all property rights under Florida law. 
The bill may have a negative, insignificant fiscal impact to local governments. (Editor's Note - all boldface emphasis added)

FUTURE POST: What is the impact on Palmetto Bay's Tree Board? Can our Tree Board be used to regulate and protect trees in Palmetto Bay or is its power now forever diluted to merely choosing tree types, seeking proper maintenance and care, watching over tree inventory.  I am looking into this issue and I strongly suggest that our current electeds do the same - and communicate about it (substantively, not merely in mention) to our residents.  

Snip of Official Village website as of 11:40 AM 7-12-19
ASIDE - the Village Website (this apparently is not barred by threat of lawsuit*) lists two vacancies for the tree board. Perhaps those interested should contact the two council members who have open appointments (and I suggest that the website be updated to provide correct information if these positions are in fact filled).  My money is that the positions have been filled, but without updating the information that the Village carefully doles out to the masses. You simply can no longer rely upon the accuracy of the website any longer.

Update post release: A FOSDU in the know advises that the Tree Advisory Board positions are filled, that the information posted as of 7/12/2019 is incorrect. This makes my point that incorrect information is far worse than no information at all.

First the Media reaction: See Tampa Bay Times, June 27, 2019: DeSantis signs bill weakening Tampa’s tree ordinance, by Charlie Frago, The state law undercuts many of the protections approved by the City Council after years of conflicts, then hard-won compromises between builders and advocates.
TAMPA--The word spread through Tampa’s tree loving community quickly Thursday: The city’s tree ordinance had been buzzed way back by the stroke of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pen.
The governor signed a new law that bans cities from regulating the removal, replanting, pruning or trimming of a tree on private property if a licensed arborist determines the tree poses a danger. Tampa city attorneys said the legislation removes the city’s arborists from the role of verifying dangerous trees and being involved in the pruning of trees through the permitting process.
They also fear that trees will be allowed to be cut down without any recourse from the city. 
READ MORE: Tampa’s tree ordinance in peril


I went to look for the 2019 legislative agenda for Palmetto Bay, which passed on February 4, 2019, but surprise - all the resolutions remain down (note that the posting of the official executed resolutions were up to date on the Village website, up to October 15, 2019, when I left office). Palmetto Bay's sudden and fear of transparency continues to strike - the resolutions, posted online for well over 15 years are now taken down the excuse of "violation of ADA/risk of lawsuit" needs to be called out for what it is "poppycock" or one of my personal favs, "balderdash", as the website isn't restrained from posting all the self-promoting news and photo ops, more than ever before. 

It appears that you will have to take time and effort to make an official public records request if you want to see the actual legislative agenda, Resolution 2019-019. (And no wonder the Village is overwhelmed with public records request; the information is no longer freely accessible on our website.)

Policy failure.  Money is one thing, but protecting Home Rule and advocating on policy initiatives are important.  All that money spent in travel to Tallahassee, nothing to show for it.  I recall no record from the Village Facebook photo op page or any e-blasts mentioning anything regarding opposing CS / HB 1159 particularly in the legislative agenda or at any meetings in Tallahassee relating to our locals.  FOSDUs may feel free to direct me to any such confirmation of our Village Mayor and Council focusing any attention on CS / HB 1159.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The BBV - the Better Bat Videos - additional higher quality videos of Singer's Bats

I am posting 2 new higher quality videos of the Bats who have set up neighborhood pest control at the home of Council Member David Singer.

PRIOR RELATED POSTS: (CLICK HERE) to review prior posts relating to these bats.

The above is one of a series of videos recorded on Monday, July 8, 2019, by Hal Feldman with equipment supplied by David Singer. The equipment used included a wireless Endoscope Inspection Camera Borescope for iPhone.  

Stay tuned for more events at this home - requests have been made and there will be an open event soon.  

Watch this blog for more information.

One more video:

Monday, July 8, 2019

Update on the Palmetto Bay Bats - here is a view of inside the 'bat cave'

The bat video in in and I am posting it here for all to enjoy. Some voyeuristic views of nature and what is going on in Council Member David Singer's "belfry". 

Please review my PRIOR RELATED POST of Friday, June 7, 2019, "June 6, 2019 - Looking in on a colony of Mexican / Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats who call Palmetto Bay their home."

Nature is certainly interesting and we see these guys trying to make a go of it here in Palmetto Bay.  Be pleased that these bats are here as they are a big part of Nature's natural method of controlling parasitic pests such as mosquitoes. 

They can fly as high as 10,000 feet and forage on tons of harmful pest insects daily.

These bats are communal. They are known to form mega colonies that number in the hundreds of thousands, with the largest known maternity colony reaching nearly 20 million bats.

We are fortunate to have a colony of the Mexican / Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat here in Palmetto Bay - we welcome their evening feasts on pests such as mosquitoes.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Mexican / Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat on the National Park Service Everglades website.

Here is the link to the page of Bat Conservation International, specific to this Mexican / Free-Tailed Bat subspecies:

Please visit the respective web sites posted above - support our local environment including preserving the 22 acres on Old Cutler Road.

SPECIAL NOTE: Thank you Palmetto Bay Council Member David Singer and family for being great hosts, both on Thursday, June 6, as well hosts to our Bat-friends who are trying to make a go of it here in suburban Palmetto Bay - I can check Bats off my list of the wide range of creatures that call Palmetto Bay home.

I promised this video. It is in and uploaded.  Enjoy.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Lost pet? Act now. Time is of the essence. Please assist friends and neighbors reunite with their companion.

Pets are important. For some, their pet is everything. Pets depend upon their human companion.

Unfortunately, Business Is A-Boomin this time of year for animal shelters. This is no joke.

UPDATE (from reader Craig Merwitzer): 
If a pet is not microchipped, get it done.  Any vet can do it. The microchip is useless unless registered.  The website used by most vets is  
Also register with the information found on the tag issued by the county

CLICK HERE to view the Miami-Dade Animal Services lost pet page. As posted today, July 5, 2019, by Miami-Dade Animal Services:
Today is one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters. If you lost your pet during yesterday’s festivities, here’s what you should do.
- Visit our adoption center on a daily basis. We receive about 80-100 dogs and cats every day. Our Lost and Found office will try to reunite you with your pet and will help you search for your pet in all areas of our facility.
- Use the Finding Rover app to upload a photo of your pet. This site uses facial recognition to reunite lost pets with their families.
- Register your lost pet on and search through the photos of pets we have at our shelter.
- Post photos of your pet to Facebook, Nextdoor or other social media groups.
- Make flyers and post them around your neighborhood and at our adoption center.
- Check with other South Florida shelters, veterinarians and pet stores.
Please pass this information on to anyone who may have become separated from their pet. And please, keep an eye out and assist in reuniting any stray you may find. Not everyone has the same resources, the same ability to search for their lost pet. They may even not yet recognize that it is missing.  

Thank you,

Eugene Flinn

Palmetto Bay resident Mike Estevez and his fellow cyclist - first reported the bear sighting.

The Bear sightings have increased and some are worried. Palmetto Bay resident Mike Estevez and his fellow cyclists broke the bear sighting Sunday, June 30, 2019, see my post of same date: Why I bike - local nature seen via cycling South Miami-Dade County. Bears, tortoises, fish and Iguanas

In the meantime, please take precautions to avoid enticing bears into your neighborhood, where it becomes at risk for an encounter with humans. Some bear advocates recommend the following:

  • Properly store garbage and recycling.
  • Properly maintain bird feeders
  • Avoid smelly compost, and other enticing non-natural attractants
It is mango season, so please, 
  • Pick ripe fruit from your trees

More information is available about The Florida Black Bear on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website (CLICK HERE).

Please, please - do not molest or entice the bear. Hopefully it will go back into obscurity at its earliest opportunity never to be heard from again. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

TAX ALERT - Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia issues July 1, 2019, 2019 Taxable Values by Taxing Authority. What this means for Palmetto Bay and surrounding communities.

The July 1st tax roll was released today, Monday, July 1. The numbers represent a slight change for local taxing authorities such as Palmetto Bay.

For more information and a comparison of the June 1, Estimate, see my prior related post of Sunday, June 2, 2019, Property Taxes will increase in the next budget year. The question is how much. Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia issues June 1, 2019, Estimates of Taxable Value.

The numbers listed in the July 1st roll (photo left) and as listed below demonstrate why it was smart to lower taxes in Palmetto Bay in 2016 and again in 2018: future taxes will be going up and not everyone is able to simply reach deeper into their pockets and pay an increased bill. 

CURRENT TAX INCREASES under the Current Mayor and Council (initiated 2019).

The current mayor and council have acted to increase taxes since the latest terms of office began December 5, 2018.  This current Mayor and Council have moved to increase Park User Fees as well as voted to institute Palmetto Bay's first ever franchise fee to replace the one that we voted on in 1992 under Miami-Dade County. The voters of Unincorporated Miami-Dade County (this was years prior to Palmetto Bay) approved a 30 year limited agreement, with an expiration. The rules and rights differ for the Current Palmetto Bay Mayor and Council as there was no such referendum put to Palmetto Bay voters.  Here in Palmetto Bay, this Franchise Fee, this 30 year tax collected through your electric bill, was initiated and passed by Ordinance without voter approval.

For complete information, see my PRIOR RELATED POST of Thursday, April 25, 2019, Palmetto Bay - Transparency - on sale to those who can afford it: which noted, among other issues, Tax, Tax, Tax. This current Village Council has recently conspired to raise park user fees and now the Village Council is churning its way to enacting a 30 year tax on our electric bills - just in time to take over for the expiration of the 30 year County agreement (can we never let a tax expire??).

Budget time is ongoing in the Village of Palmetto Bay and the bill will be coming soon for so many of those campaign promises of government entitlement. So make sure you are not left out of the promised gravy. The new taxes, and increased taxes that come on line for the 2019/2020 fiscal year will certainly amount to much more than a dinner out for many people, hitting those on a fixed income the hardest.

Here are the revised numbers from the July 1, 2019 update:


I have posted the final July numbers, followed by the June 1 preliminary tax roll numbers for Palmetto Bay as well as some of our comparable municipalities. Palmetto Bay Council members may feel free to review my numbers and provide their own assessments or advisement.


Released July 1, 2019

(CLICK HERE) to view the full document, available on the M-D Property Appraiser web page.

July          June
FINAL     ESTIMATE   Taxing Authority 
5.7%         5.0%                 Coral Gables
5.3%         5.6%                 Cutler Bay
10.0%      9.0%                 Homestead
4.7%        4.6%                 Miami Lakes
4.5%        4.4%                 Pinecrest
4.2%        4.2%                 Palmetto Bay
3.6%        3.9%                 South Miami
7.3%        6.4%                 Unincorporated Miami-Dade (UMSA)

6.4%        5.9%                 Countywide (will affect your countywide portion of your tax bill)
5.4%        4.8%                 School Board (will affect your School Board portion of your tax bill)

Here are the facts for the upcoming property taxes:

1. Your tax bill will go up (at least) 3%, the maximum allowable under the Save Our Homes Amendment (SOH) protection, unless the applicable property tax mileage rates are reduced in order to adjust for the increase in revenue. This is due to the fact that each and every taxing district, each municipality as well as unincorporated Miami-Dade County saw an increase in value above 3.0.

2. All property tax payers will see an increase in their property tax bills in 2019/2020 as approved by the voters in November 2018: #362. This tax is known in part as “Secure Our Future” – and will be collected from your property tax bills for the next 4 years. This is a new tax and is not covered by the Save Our Homes protection. Property owners will soon see a tax increase of $75 for every $100,000 in assessed taxable value, regardless of residential or commercial. About $232 million stands to be collected in Miami-Dade County, by July 2019 for the referendum’s first year.

This means that a home with an assessed taxable value of $400,000 will pay an additional $300.00 in property taxes for the upcoming property tax year. You can review your tax bill to locate your own assessed taxable value.

More information will follow as it becomes available.