activities you will participate in.
Saturday, October 31, 2020
activities you will participate in.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Reason to Run - 2020 pandemic version. The need remains critical, so the event goes on as best it can. Please read, donate and participate.
People have been asking me if I plan to run. I do. Join me. I may no longer hold public office, but I continue to strongly support this event. The Cancerfree Kids Reason To Run has traditionally been held the first Saturday after Halloween as a live 5K run. Members of the Palmetto Bay Village Policing Unit have traditionally volunteered their time and assisted in logistics. Alex & I are fortunate to have been involved with the very first race and have run it often. You don't have to run it to participate in the online auction event or donate. This year is different. It is a virtual event. See details:
My personal plea: Just do it! Run as your schedule permits. Run at your own pace. So many activities and events have been slowed, rescheduled, or cancelled due to the Pandemic. Do you know what hasn't slowed? Medical issues, diseases like childhood cancer. Charities such as https://www.sofiashope.org/ continue to need our help.
I have posted the details provided in an e-mail update (below) that I received on 10/28/2020. Read up for details or follow the links provided to view the official website.
A Democrat, a Republican, and a Libertarian walk into a bar, and in an unanticipated moment of unity they agree on three things:
- Nickelback is maligned more than is warranted
- Pringles are inexplicably satisfying
- Kids with cancer should have safe and effective treatments available to them
Despite all the challenges that 2020 has delivered, Sofia’s Hope remains committed to providing support to families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer and to researchers trying to discover better ways to treat them. If those are goals you want to support, we have three ways for you to do it:
Join us for the Wine & Cheese: An Online Auction THIS WEEKEND. If you register now (for free), you’ll be entered in the drawing for a $250 Visa Gift Card! We’ve got great stuff in every price range, so get a jump on your holiday shopping and have some socially-distanced fun!
If you’d like to enjoy libations and snacks while you bid, take advantage of the Hope sponsorship and we’ll deliver the Wine and Cheese experience to your home before the bidding starts.
After you shop and imbibe, register for the virtual Reason to Run 5K or Half-Marathon at https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/Miami/ReasontoRun. You don’t have to walk/run it all at once (or at all – we won’t tell). Just signing up will entitle you to a custom medal and mask. We love you that much!
Hoping you affiliate with one of our parties,
Reason to Run 5K
ABOUT SOFIA'S HOPE (from the event website)
Our mission is to
Raise childhood cancer awareness and the fact that children are dying every day waiting for promising new treatments;
Fund childhood cancer research and advances in treatment, especially as it relates to their long-term effects (including prevention, detection and treatment); and
Offer programs that enhance the quality of life of children with cancer and their families.
Sofia’s Hope, Inc. recognizes that in the fight against childhood cancer there have to be two simultaneous approaches. Research funding which will have a long term impact and the development of patient and family programs that support those going through the journey TODAY.
Monday, October 26, 2020
Public Records Enforcement Order rendered against Defendants Village of Palmetto Bay and Mayor Cunningham, but no harm to the Defendants, after all, it was all fought with Other People’s Money.
I wonder if these recent "first-evers" will be added to the Village timeline post on the Village website:
First time ever: Palmetto Bay is taken to court on a claim of violation of a Public Records Request.
First time ever: A Judge renders a Public Records Enforcement Order (VIEW HERE) against the Village of Palmetto Bay, as well as against a Palmetto Bay elected official.
Add this to the ongoing downturn in the history of Palmetto Bay. Perhaps we should entitle this latest drama “Other People’s Money”.
It took a lawsuit. It should not have come to this, but at least Village Taxpayers should be pleased with the efficiency of the suit filed by past Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi as he moved this case with a minimum of litigation. The Public Records law provides for attorney’s fees and costs for successful enforcement. This case was moved swiftly before the Honorable Martin Zilber, Judge of the Circuit Court. This hearing took place on October 14, at 3:30 PM. The order was rendered on Sunday, October 25, 2020. It should be over, but for payment of the attorney’s fees and costs.
This was a hotly contested case. The Public Records Request was DENIED by Mayor Cunningham and the village. The attorneys working for the village chose to fight rather than comply. Remember, a very detailed Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Motion to Dismiss was filed, this document denying responsibility and alleging many reasons why Mayor Cunningham and Palmetto Bay (in their minds) did not have to and should not be required to provide the documents requested in the complaint? Well, those arguments were soundly rejected by the Court.
What is left? While it was the actions (and inactions) of Mayor Cunningham and Palmetto Bay officials that refused to comply and who lost the suit; it will be the taxpayers who will be paying the bills. Assuming that the Mayor and Palmetto Bay have fully and completely complied, all that remains is how much this will cost the Village Taxpayers in the form of attorney's fees and costs to (1) the prevailing party attorney for the Plaintiff; and (2) to the attorneys hired to unsuccessfully defend Mayor Cunningham and the Village of Palmetto Bay.
Don't engage in victim shaming. I can hear the Mayor and her supporters now, victim shaming the Plaintiff. Let's address that once again. The Mayor and Palmetto Bay had many chances to provide the requested records. This was the first time ever that a lawsuit was filed against Palmetto Bay for failure to comply with a Public Records Request. An independent official, Judge Martin Zilber reviewed the pleadings filed in the case, heard argument from each side and ordered compliance, rendering the Public Records Enforcement Order.
Sometimes the good guys win. The Court obviously was not going to the lawyers drag this matter out. The Taxpayers are fortunate that this was resolved quickly or the fees and costs could have really escalated.
TAX ALERT: I personally find it unfortunate that Palmetto Bay used the taxpayer money to avoid the obligations of Mayor Cunningham and Palmetto Bay to comply with a legitimate public records request. We will follow and report on the fees and costs - ultimately paid by the taxpayers, though no taxpayer had any fault or involvement in the withholding of these records. The fees may be resolved ‘quietly’ or it may take more hearings. We shall see.
PRIOR RELATED POSTS:
October 19, 2020, It took a lawsuit to obtain records. Notice of Compliance filed. It is over for now, but for the fees and costs assessed against the Village
Saturday, October 24, 2020
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Cully Waggoner's open letter to Anyone Who Cares, Note: NOT the Mayor or Commissioners of Miami-Dade County, We Know YOU Don’t Care.
EBC riding the levees along/near the Tamiami Trail. Join us and ride. Gravel or Road options available.
October 12, 2020, Just for fun. Mask up. Ride Gravel. EBC "Get Back" weekend. Join and ride. Ride safe.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Tune in and Participate. Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces is performing a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study for the 5.6-mile-long Ludlam Trail Corridor.
Note that I am proud to have sponsored Palmetto Bay Resolution 2015-05 (CLICK HERE), wherein the Village of Palmetto Bay officially expressed support for the development of the Ludlum Trail as a lineal park. This was a publicly discussed agenda item and received full support, a unanimous 5-0 vote of support.
The following information is taken verbatim from the official Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces website:
(CLICK HERE) to view the official page where more information is available as well as registering to participate in the virtual meeting.
Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces is performing a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study for the 5.6-mile-long Ludlam Trail Corridor from SW 80th Street to 400 feet north of NW 7th Street, generally following the north-south alignment of what would be NW/SW 69th Avenue, within the former Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway right-of-way. The project is located in unincorporated Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami, Florida.
The purpose of the Ludlam Trail is to provide a new shared-use trail in Miami-Dade County that will include safe, dedicated, direct pathways for walking, running, and cycling; to encourage active lifestyles and the use of green, non-motorized modes of transportation; and to enhance overall connectivity and accessibility between schools, parks, transit stops and residences, workplaces and shopping.
The proposed project supports the vision to provide an interconnected trail system offering transportation alternatives and reducing traffic congestion for a livable, sustainable County. Ludlam Trail will be a vital component of a seamless network of future greenway trails and water trails connecting to the Metrorail Dadeland North Station to the south and to other planned trails including The Underline/East Coast Greenway, South Dade Trail, Snapper Creek Trail, East/West Trail and Merrick Trail. It will enhance mobility and strengthen connections to neighboring communities, providing increased opportunities for economic development.
Join our PD&E Virtual Public Information Meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Ludlam Trail PD&E Fact Sheet
Ludlam Trail PD&E Virtual Meeting invitation
Prior related posts - Ludlum Trail:
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
4 Quarter Budget report is in. The news is not good: documenting a $800,000.00 shortfall. Just as important, I am looking into a possible violation of the Village Charter.
The Fourth Quarter Budget (2019/2020) to Actuals report is in (Note: requested and received through a public records request).
So what is the status? Bottom line: A year-to-date shortfall stated as of October 16, 2020 of ($1,792,263). Per the interim manger, the Fourth Quarter Budget (2019/2020) to Actuals. There are revenues that remain outstanding. The final projection is that once all revenues are accounted for it, Palmetto Bay will come in just under the Interim Manager's estimated $800,000.00 shortfall.
Year to date the Village collected $13,381,476, which is 85.59% of the annual budget
Expenditures (unreduced, apparently) were $15,173,739, which is 96.82% of the annual budget.
Red Tide? This is an unprecedented tide of red ink. Palmetto Bay has weathered the storm before numerous disasters in the form of hurricanes. The issue is how you react, of if there is any reaction at all – there appears to be only blank stares from most of the council.
Note that there was never any emergency (or regular village council) meeting where the Village officials attempted to cut back on expenditures.
The lowlights from the fourth quarter department budget report lowlights are presented here:
· The Village Council was
under budget $1,952, due to travel and supplies.
· The Village Manager was under budget $58,509, mainly due to Manager transition.
· The Village Clerk was over budget $4,231, due to election costs.
· Finance was under budget $16,131, mainly due to auditing and travel.
· Human Resources was over budget $694, mainly due to village broadcasting.
· The Village Attorney was over budget $98,255, due to litigation.
· Community and Economic Development was transferred from the Building department in the fourth quarter which does allow for a true quarterly comparison, but the Planning consultant is running above budget.
· The General Government operating was over budget $345,310, mainly due to time of bond payments.
· Facilities Maintenance was under budget $53,171, mainly due to the closer of most departments due to COVID-19
· The Policing Unit was over budget $2,232,190, mainly due to two quarterly payments posted to the fourth quarter.
· The Parks department was under budget a total of $58,619, mainly due to COVID-19.
More disturbing is the question: HAVE PALMETTO BAY OFFICIALS VIOLATED THE VILLAGE CHARTER? This question must be asked as I can find no indication that there have been any public presentations regarding these quarterly financial reports for budget year 2019-2020, as required by the Village Charter, Citizens' Bill of Rights, Section (A)
The Village Manager shall make public a quarterly report showing the actual expenditures during the quarter just ended against one quarter of the proposed annual expenditures set forth in the budget. Such report shall also reflect the same cumulative information for whatever portion of the fiscal year that has elapsed.
Past administrations set the precedent where Palmetto Bay's Finance Director presented these reports live at council meetings, on the record, before the public, where the village council could discuss and ask questions in full view of the our fellow residents. This procedure is no longer being followed under the new direction, under the current administration. It appears that these quarterly reports were merely e-mailed during this 2020 year to the individual members of the village council. There are no meeting minutes posted that demonstrate any public presentation. COVID is not at fault, as council meetings have been ongoing virtually, and it would be just as easy to have the Finance Director present at the virtual meetings. There is no indication that any of these quarterly reports were even provided in an Agenda, where it is arguable that the public may stumble onto them. Hence, this is where I fear that there may have been a violation of the Village Charter, Citizens' Bill of Rights, Section (A)(12)Quarterly Budget Comparisons. I remain interested in any additional information that I may come into. My research continues.
There is a sound reason for requiring public presentations of quarterly reports. Perhaps these officials could have ‘righted this listing ship’ had there been public presentations of these quarterly reports. But then again, this current mayor and some of the village council have shown little regard in transparency. I base this opinion both on a total lack of any items of substance being posted to the village website (including the 2019-2020 quarterly financial reports), no resolutions for most of 2019 and any resolutions approved in 2020 as well as the recent loss (at taxpayer expense) of a lawsuit over public records.
The buck stops with the Mayor as the meeting leader, not staff, who work under the direction and control of the Mayor and Village Council. I have been advised that much of this information has been included in the Financial Monthly reports for FY2019-20 which are included in the Manager’s Report distributed to Council prior to each Regular Council meeting. It is claimed that this information is posted on the Village website, but that posting has not been obvious to me, so I am unsure, who, if anyone has access to this information. After all, when was the last time you, yourself, decided to browse through the website to see what new has been posted? This appears be a substitution, not compliance with the Charter. All I can tell my readers is that the Finance Directory made a public presentation at applicable Village Council meetings under the Flinn and even the Stanczyk administrations. There were robust public discussions of budget trends. This appears not to be the case for this current administration which appears to allege that discrete postings of monthly reports online, somewhere, is the same as a public discussion of the quarterly reports showing the actual expenditures during the quarter just ended against one quarter of the proposed annual expenditures set forth in the budget. I respectfully disagree. My reading of the Village Charter, Citizens' Bill of Rights, Section (A)(12)Quarterly Budget Comparisons, requires a much more specific and more robust presentation. I do not fault the interim manager. The buck stops with the Mayor as the meeting leader, not staff, who work under the direction and control of the Mayor and Village Council.
The new manager will have his hands full keeping the current mayor and village council on task and to follow the budget, our procedure ordinances and even the Village Charter. A year to date shortfall of ($1,792,263) or even (+/- $800,000) is unprecedented. Returning to the prior process of presenting quarterly reports before the public (as required by Charter) is the proper place to start.
Stealth meeting regarding the MEGA sidewalk? Interested residents should attend. Monday, Oct 26, 2020, 8:30 - 10:00 AM. The site location by Howard Drive Elementary
Word on the street is that the current mayor has a private meeting set up with select County officials to review the SW 136 Street MEGA Sidewalk project. This meeting is currently set for Monday, October 26, 2020. Time scheduled is 8:30 AM and the present location indicated is by Howard Drive School. That is unless the meeting is moved now that it has been made public.
Other fair questions: Is there a change, or an explanation, proposed exclusively for the benefit of Howard Drive Elementary? If so, then why not the other areas, or are some areas of SW 136 Street more entitled to special attention than others? Other questions, listed below the meeting e-mail include:
From: Soria, Miguel (DTPW) <Miguel.Soria@miamidade.gov>
Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2020 4:35 PM
To: Soria, Miguel (DTPW); email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Maturo, Donna; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Levrant, Maria Elena (DIST8); Mesa Valdes, Barbara (DTPW); Ona, Leandro (DTPW)
Subject: Face to Face SITE VISIT w/Mayor Karyn Cunningham, Village of Palmetto Bay
When: Monday, October 26, 2020 8:30 AM-10:00 AM (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada).
Where: Site Location by Howard Drive School - 7800 SW 136 Street
Please confirm your attendance.
Miguel Soria, P.E.
Assistant Director, Highway Engineering
Department of Transportation and Public Works
- What pre-selected insiders will be invited to participate in this meeting?
- Is the current mayor entitled to make changes to this project on her own or will the discussion come before the entire council?
- What changes or re-design options are available for this MEGA sidewalk?
- Why wasn’t the entire council notified (or were some, but not all)?
- Who is paying for the cost of staff or consultant time to participate in this meeting?
- Is there an agenda or any materials available that provides any clues as to the purpose of this meeting?
- Will members of Palmetto Bay’s Education Advisory Board or the Howard Drive PTA be participating in this meeting?
- When will the affected residents be brought into the loop?
My current concerns is why have this meeting now? This project has gone through numerous votes and went through design. It went from bike lanes on both sides of SW 136 Street to a change to a sole ‘shared path’, aka, the MEGA sidewalk outside public view. So then why the meeting? Is another change in the works, and if so shouldn’t affected residents be brought into the loop and involved?
The ‘shared path’ slated for SW 136 Street is far from an exclusive project of Miami-Dade County. It is a Joint Participation Project done under a contract known as a Joint Participation Agreement (JPA). This means:
You can't blame Miami-Dade County for the change from a bike lane to the MEGA (8-10 foot) shared path. The current Mayor and Village Council of Palmetto Bay had control over the project design. (* see last paragraph below for an explanation of a JPA). The original plan: (Prior administration) The Palmetto Bay Village Council adopted Resolution No. 2017-47 approving the Joint Participation Agreement (JPA) with Miami-Dade County to construct a bicycle lane along SW 136 Street from US1 to Old Cutler Road.
This same Resolution, (2017-47) allocated a total of $500,000 in Village funds toward the project.
It was the Village of Palmetto Bay that negotiated a contract with RJ Behar as the design team.
This is how the Village website once sold this project to the residents (as of 10:00 AM, Sunday, 12/29/2019):
136th St. Improvement Project
This project is currently under design. Improvements include minor widening of the roadway to add bike lanes on both sides of the road and milling & resurfacing the existing roadway. We are looking to replace the existing 5’ sidewalk on the South side of SW 136TH Street (Village of Palmetto Bay Side) with a new 7’ wide sidewalk. Other improvements will include pavement markings, ADA Compliant pedestrian ramps, and landscape improvements. This is a LAP Project between Miami Dade County and FDOT, and Village of Pinecrest and Village of Palmetto Bay are also stakeholders.
We shall see what eventually gets poured in terms of asphalt and concrete.
The Tool Box: CLICK HERE to view prior related posts on this SW 136th Street project.
Monday, October 19, 2020
It took a lawsuit to obtain records. Notice of Compliance filed. It is over for now, but for the fees and costs assessed against the Village
It took a lawsuit. It took a full hearing before the Honorable Martin Zilber, Judge of the Circuit Court. This hearing took place on October 14, at 3:30 PM.
Remember that very detailed Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Motion to Dismiss? The document alleging all the reasons why Mayor Cunningham and Palmetto Bay (in their minds) did not have to and should not be required to provide the documents requested in the complaint? Well, that appears to have gone bye, bye.
The Judge must have ruled without hesitation or without ambiguity. The Defendants, Mayor Karyn Cunningham and the Village of Palmetto Bay filed their Notice of Compliance in less than 48 hours of the hearing, notifying the "... Court and all parties of the production of supplemental public records to the plaintiff." (CLICK HERE to view this very simple notice to the court).
What is left? The Mayor and Palmetto Bay lost the suit, but it will be the taxpayers who are left holding the bill. Assuming that the Mayor and Palmetto Bay have fully and completely complied, all that remains is how much this will cost the Village Taxpayers in the form of attorney's fees and costs to both the attorney for the Plaintiff as well as to the attorneys hired to unsuccessfully defend Mayor Cunningham and the Village of Palmetto Bay.
Don't engage in victim shaming. I can hear the Mayor and her supporters now, victim shaming the Plaintiff. Let's nip that in the bud right here, right now. The Mayor and Palmetto Bay had so many chances to provide the requested records - records that they waited nearly 48 hours after a full blown hearing before the Circuit Court Judge. The case was not dismissed, in fact, it had merit. The Plaintiff prevailed against the Mayor and Palmetto Bay who were required to comply with the ruling of the court (or agreement they were forced to make before the Judge) on October 14, hence the filing of their Notice of Compliance, again, notifying the "... Court and all parties of the production of supplemental public records to the plaintiff."
Sometimes the good guys win. The Court obviously was not going to the lawyers drag this matter out. The Taxpayers are fortunate that this was resolved quickly or the fees and costs could have really escalated.
TAX ALERT: we will follow and report on the fees and costs - ultimately paid by the taxpayers, though no taxpayer had any fault or involvement in the withholding of these records.
PRIOR RELATED POSTS / The tool box:
October 18, 2020, Transparency is important. Florida has strict disclosure laws relating to Public Records – Citizens have the right to access. The burden is on the government to demonstrate any exception.
A Palmetto Bay first (or worst!). A lawsuit had to be filed to obtain public records. It required a judge. The Palmetto Bay Follies (and not something to be proud of).
Should our public officials use our tax dollars to attempt to avoid their public records obligations? I previously provided a short primer on the requirements of government and government officials maintaining and being responsive to public records requests. Responding to public records requests is not at the whim of the government, it is the law (Chapter 119, Florida Statutes) and Palmetto Bay cannot impose delays, conditions or restrictions on those requesting public records.
Inglorious history - A first for Palmetto Bay. A lawsuit was filed on September 24, 2020, for Public Records Enforcement, alleging violations of Florida Statutes Chapter 119. This complaint sought a court order compelling the Mayor and Palmetto Bay to turn over the documents requested in the public records request.So what happened? Did the Village provide the records? Heck, no; not without a taxpayer funded fight. From my review of the record, it appears that the Defendants did not voluntarily give up these records. In fact, the Village ‘doubled down’ by filing their "ANSWER AND AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES TO COMPLAINT AND MOTION TO DISMISS", e-filed 10/14/2020 at 11:45 AM. It is important to remember that the ANSWER was filed less than 4 hours prior to the hearing, so the ANSWER does accurately represent the position of the Defendants, Karyn Cunningham and the Village of Palmetto Bay. The court held a hearing on this issue later that same day, at 3:30 PM. I will cover what occurred at this hearing in a future update.
List below are a few of my favorite affirmative defenses asserted by the current mayor and Palmetto Bay (I am trying to find humor here, as I think the defenses are actually quite chilling to those who seek compliance with the Public Records Law). (CLICK HERE to view the complete document)
22. Affirmative Defense 4. Defendants complied in a timely manner to the alleged public records request.
23. Affirmative Defense 5. Defendants complied in full with the alleged public records request.
24. Affirmative Defense 6. Defendants did not unlawfully refuse to comply with an alleged public records request of the plaintiff
*** *** ***
27. Affirmative Defense 9. Plaintiff did not comply with the Village’s posted policy and requirements for submission of a public records request.
28. Affirmative Defense 10. The plaintiff has not complied with the preconditions for seeking an award of attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to §119.12, Florida Statutes.
29. Affirmative Defense 11. Plaintiff did not file the complaint or submit his alleged public records request for a valid public purpose
Please carefully read the alleged defenses. And then compare the statements such as "Plaintiff did not comply with the Village’s posted policy and requirements for submission of a public records request" or better yet, "Plaintiff did not file the complaint or submit his alleged public records request for a valid public purpose" What? Go back and read the prior post. A person does not need to provide a reason for requesting records, they don’t need to explain their purpose, they don’t need to give a justification. The agency cannot require a person requesting records to explain why they want them. The agency must cite the specific statute or law that requires the record to be withheld from disclosure. Add yet, the exact opposite appears to be asserted by the mayor and Palmetto Bay as defenses.
The above ‘defenses’ are better phrased as ‘avoidance and deflection’ rather than valid defenses in my opinion. I could go on for days, in my opinion, this filing demonstrates the arrogance of certain village officials who incorrectly believe that they set the rules. The Village doesn't set the rules. The rules are set by our National, State, County and Local Constitutions (and Charters) as well as State Law. This is why we have the courts and an independent judiciary.
BOTTOM LINE (in my opinion): The Village Taxpayers will be charged significant attorney’s fees to support a local government interested more in avoiding rather than meeting legal obligations. Maybe this is yet another reason why our local taxes have been increased – foolish spending, but hey it is not their personal money, they are misspending our money.
The new motto of Palmetto Bay? “Residents, hire a lawyer if you want transparency.”
Also see a prior related post of April 25, 2019, Palmetto Bay - Transparency - on sale to those who can afford it
It is becoming apparent to many that we need to take back our Palmetto Bay government. It belongs to all the people, not a select privileged few.