MEETING MINUTES FROM SEPTEMBER 7, 2011 GENERAL MEETING
General Meeting was held Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011 at the Shelborne Hotel, 1801 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.
To discuss economic, social and governmental issues of importance to the citizens and taxpayers of the City of Miami Beach.
President Jared Galbut called meeting to order at 8:54 a.m. An attendance of some 150 people, including Miami Beach Mayor Mattie Bower and four city commissioners were on hand.
President Galbut read the mission statement of the Miami Beach Taxpayers Association.
David Kelsey, chairman of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, reported on the subcommittee which studies the Miami Beach Convention Center, including potential expansion and competition.
He said his committee studied existing data calling for expansion of the M.B. Convention Center. It then looked at additional uses for the Convention Center. It then studied the development of a new City of Miami Convention Center on the site of The Miami Herald and development of other convention centers in South Florida.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County was welcomed by Russell Galbut.
Distinguished Guest, Mayor Carlos Gimenez
Mayor Gimenez said that in the eight weeks that he has assumed office. He’s been trying to do everything he possibly can to streamline government.
He said he fulfilled a campaign promise by leading the effort to roll back the county mileage to the 2009-2010 level.
He reduced 42 county departments to 25, saving $5 million annually.
He said that the county mayor is mission driven, and that he and his commission are making it easier for new businesses to open up in Miami-Dade.
“I am determined to look at regulations which don’t make sense, and get rid of them. We will have a balanced budget, “Mayor Gimenez said.
He said the county needs $135 million in concessions from labor unions. Negotiations with some of the unions are “getting close, others are still far away.”
Mayor Gimenez said the county will reduce personnel by 1,300 persons even if the unions make the requested concessions.
He said his goal is to regain public confidence in county government, and that his central effort is for job creation.
He said, “I will go throughout South America to help increase trade with the United States, and Miami-Dade can be the center of Latin America.”
He announced that there are several big companies which are looking at opening business in Miami-Dade, and that he is committed to Miami Beach having a first-class Convention Center.
“We will look at other industries, because we need more than tourism and construction,” he asserted.
He defended hiring four deputy mayors, and said a fifth will come on board next week.
He said he also eliminated 11 positions in the office of the mayor, saving $1,000,000.
“We no longer have a county manager, and I will make the final decisions,” he concluded.
Questions & Answers
He was asked how to get unions to come to the table. “I have given instructions to the personnel office to institute layoffs. There is no wiggle room. The county commission can’t back away. I’m optimistic they will come to the table. We will be balanced. There is no choice.”
Russell Galbut asked “How do we get people from the mainland to Miami Beach. Traffic on Interstate I-395 is at capacity and I 95 speed lanes do not allow existing onto 195 to Beach.”
Mayor Gimenez said “The tunnel project will start very soon. I think we will have to hook up Miami and Miami Beach with a mass-transit facility. There simply is no other choice.
Miami Beach Mayor Bower asked how the use of 300 trucks on the tunnel project will impact traffic. Mayor Gimenez offered to get together with Mattie and meet with the “tunnel folks.”
He was asked how Miami Beach can keep up with Miami developing convention center competition.
“We must have two viable convention centers. It depends on Miami Beach leadership.”
Mayor Gimenez said “The group which bought the Herald site has serious money, and plans on building a destination casino. This project must compliment Miami Beach if Miami Beach leadership will engage.”
Russell Galbut asked “How do we solve the problem of the local building departments being so impossible to deal with, (with only the State of Florida functioning properly).
Mayor Gimenez said “We are putting everything into one department so you don’t have to stand in line to get permits with 4 different agencies. And we are looking in to opening satellite offices to expedite the process.”
He was asked if we can eliminate the use of trailers at public schools, and whether a mass transit link would be required before allowing a casino to open at The Miami Herald site.
The mayor said schools are not in his area, but that mass transit must precede a casino.
He was asked about “some bus lines run only once an hour during the night,” and said “we need a critical mass of population to permit expanding service, and don’t have the funding to underwrite more frequent services without riders.”
Gabriella Redfern, chairperson of the Fiscal Responsibility subcommittee, reported that the city must address the future of pensions, and must open a one-shop venue for opening businesses.
A city employee asked if he can serve on committees of the Taxpayers and was told that everyone is invited to participate but no commissioner or city employee can serve as a director.
President Jared Galbut closed the meeting after an open forum period at 10:31 am