Let's Create a School Focused on Civics and Community Service

In January, I watched the incredibly inspirational movie, "Hidden Figures," about three brilliant African-American women at NASA who helped get astronaut John Glenn into space in 1962.

Make sure you go see it! The film captures so well a time when Americans rose to face challenges. In this case, it was both the challenge of civil rights and the challenge from the Soviets at the start of the Space Age.

In the case of that Soviet challenge, Americans greatly feared falling behind our rival. Our schools doubled-down on teaching science and math as a result. Soon, President John F. Kennedy was promising that man would walk on the moon. In 1969, we did just that.

America and its school system has shown before that we are equal to meeting challenges we face. We did it again in the 1990s when the Internet changed everything. Like the '60s, we renewed our focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

In 2017, that time has come again. A stark new challenge stands before us.

STARK NEW CHALLENGE

Last year's US Presidential election was ugly on so many levels. When it comes to politics and training future leaders of our nation, we must do more if we expect something better. .

A good place to start would be the creation by Miami-Dade County Public Schools of the first ever magnet program focusing on civics and community service.

The 2016 presidential mess is a result of American schools reducing focus on civics and democracy. By minimizing civics, we've raised too many adults who are absolutely blind to the principles upon which this county was built. Adults of voting age don't know the difference between political parties and ideologies. They don't know much of the Constitution outside having memorized a couple of the Bill of Rights. They have zero idea of what it takes to get involved in their communities, whether that be joining a community board or actually running for office. Too many American adults have become incredibly ignorant of the foundations of a working democracy. We must fix that.

SO WHAT CAN BE DONE?

The Miami-Dade County School system should start a magnet school with a focus on civics and community service. (OK, for those of you reading this from other areas, like Broward, feel free to start one, too). Magnet schools, according to the MDCPS website, "offer unique courses of study focusing on students' special interests, talents, and abilities." Their curricula go above and beyond traditional classroom learning. They are designed for kids who have a strong proclivity toward a particular subject or interest. There are over 100 magnet schools in Dade which focus on topics like STEM, Visual & Performing Arts, Hospitality & Tourism, and more.

We need at least one focused on civics.

There are hundreds of kids across the county who are interested in becoming tomorrow's leaders. Perhaps they aspire to a career in government, whether that be as an elected official or someone who works behind the scenes crafting policy which makes life better. Perhaps they want to lead a non-profit, or organize activists in their community. We need to do more to give students the knowledge to reach such goals...and rescue our nation.

A civics magnet school could focus on topics like these:

  • The democratic process - Students need to be taught why their vote is important. They need to know how legislation is written and what it takes to get it passed in a democratic body. They need to be taught that discussion and negotiation are acceptable. Washington, DC in particular has become ineffective because Congress treats everything like blood sport. In truth, progress often only comes when middle ground is found between opposing sides. America is lost if we can't get that back.


  • Political parties and ideologies - The 2016 presidential campaign by Sen. Bernie Sanders took Millennials by storm. In Sanders, they saw someone who spoke to their inner idyllic feelings. Never mind that Sanders had never been a Democrat. Never mind that many of his ideas were socialist. They didn't know nor care the difference between a Democrat or a Democratic Socialist. (The Federalist: Millennials Don't Know What Socialism Is) Students need to know more about the difference between the ideologies of the political parties which govern our country, as well as those like Communism, Fascism, Green, and more.


  • Community activism - Kids don't know what it takes to actually be involved in the democratic system. They think "taking a stand" means sending a Tweet or posting on Facebook. They need to know that there are dozens of community organizations in which they need to become involved as adults. Community Boards and Councils. PTAs. Homeowner groups. Organizations like the Jaycees, Lions, and Elks. Becoming a part of these groups build within one a sense of community. And that plays directly into one wanting to make their community better. It is often said that democracy is not a spectator sport. We can't continue to churn out students who don't go on to be involved in their cities and schools.


  • Getting Elected to Office - I believe that every American should run for office once in their lives (while we're at it, I wish they could all serve as well). It would open their eyes about everything that's involved. Fundraising. Financial reports. Producing fliers and websites. Knocking on doors. Lists of registered voters. Phone banks. Honk n' Waves. Debates. Position papers. From colors to layout, students should know what makes an effective yard sign. Students should know what it takes to run for office. And they must be encouraged to run.


  • Social Media & Marketing - President-elect Trump's election is historic. He has changed the rules. He Tweeted his way to the Oval Office. Going forward, future candidates are going to be more like him. I don't mean that from an ideological perspective. I mean that celebrity and social media presence will now play a major role in determining our leaders. Until now, there was a traditional "ladder" which one climbed. Perhaps one started as a city council member, then became a state legislator, then became a Senator or Governor before seeking the White House. That concept is now outdated. Starting now, it will be important that one is effective on social media and know how to maintain an online presence. Your number of Twitter followers will perhaps be more important than any experience you have in elected office. Let's teach kids how to use social media to do something other than posting photos of food (or, if one does, being sure to tag the restaurant and network with other customers who dine there...make constructive use of it).


  • Volunteerism - Giving of your time and talents is critical. It's not enough to simply require community service for graduation. Dade schools already do that. But most kids don't know where to fulfill their hours and look at the requirement as unpleasant. We should help them identify volunteer opportunities in line with their interests. Then, we should help them set up those opportunities, even affording time during the school day to go. Afterward, there should be conversations about their experience.


  • Traveling the Country - It has become clear that we are a nation divided between urban and rural areas. Traditionally, students travel to Washington, DC or Tallahassee to learn more about our country. But we need to widen that view. Our students should also be visiting Midwestern areas like Mississippi, Nebraska, and Kentucky. Let's get to know students who might be of different political opinions. We should learn what their lives and their areas are like. Only when we get to know each other can we hope to eventually govern together.


  • Types of Jobs in Government and Non-Profit fields - Yes, there are actual jobs in government! You don't have to be an elected official to make a difference. We should provide students the chance to visit their local city halls. Attend council meetings. Meet the people who run the day-to-day operations of a city. Let them know there are so many fields in which they might pursue a career.


  • Spotting Fake News & Reading a Newspaper - Much has been made lately of "fake news." A report last year from Stanford University showed 82% of middle school students couldn't tell the difference between fake stories and real ones.The Internet is where most people (yes, you...raise your hand) now get their news. But so much is click bait; juicy headlines and stories thrown together without research or sources. At this theoretical magnet school, each student would be taught how to tell true news from fake. And they would have their own newspaper subscription. Print media is much more reliable than much of what is online. And holding a newspaper forces one to notice stories that they otherwise would have missed online. This would broaden students' exposure to news.


  • Protest - Political protest can take on many forms. We've seen that all over America in the last couple of years, including right here in North Miami. But what makes a protest effective? What steps are sometimes needed to carry one out? At what risk? And though we might not always agree with another's method of protest, we should remain respectful of it.


I could go on and on. There are so many facets to life in public service.

President Kennedy's words served to inspire Americans during the Space Age. We can still find pertinence in them today. Weeks before he was assassinated in 1963, Kennedy said, "This is a great country and requires a good deal of all of us, so I can imagine nothing more important than for all of you to continue to work in public affairs and be interested in them, not only to bring up a family, but also give part of your time to your community, your state, and your country."

Let's meet the challenge now facing America by starting Dade County's first magnet school focused on civics and community service.


Save the Date - Dade's First LGBTQ Sculpture!

On Saturday, March 4, 2017, at 11 am, the city of North Miami will unveil Miami-Dade's first public installation celebrating the county's rich legacy of LGBTQ accomplishments. You are invited!

Located in North Miami's Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park, 1725 NE 135 Street, the sculpture will also memorialize watershed historic moments in Miami-Dade County's LGBTQ history. In addition to unveiling the piece, we'll also be honoring several LGBTQ pioneers who have lead the charge. Exciting details on the honorees, as well as entertainment, are soon to follow! For more info or to RSVP, please reply to this email at scott@scott-galvin.com


Konata's: Small Space with a Big Heart

Story courtesy North Miami Economic Development) Konata's restaurant is only 700 square feet, and its tiny package diminishes the big surprise inside. "When you eat smart, you think smart." That was the answer I got when I asked Joseph, a long-time customer, why he enjoyed visiting the restaurant.

According to its owner, Samuel, Konata is Swahili for "A Noble Man." Konata's is a vegan health food restaurant located on NW 7th Avenue in North Miami. It's front facade isn't more than 20 feet across, and the entire building is less than 700 square feet. While the outside may look modest, the interior is a fascinating exploration of culture, health, and consciousness.

Describing Konata's simply as just a restaurant may be selling it a bit short. The walls are filled with various cultural and religious symbols. On one wall there are paintings of African kings next to a holy cross, the wall next to it features portraits of stoic Native Americans and pictures of Buddhist gurus. The space conjures up a sense of mindfulness and contemplation usually reserved for a church or temple.

Samuel, a native of Jamaica, is the namesake and owner of the restaurant, and while Konata's has only been open on NW 7th Avenue for the last six years, Samuel has been in the vegan restaurant business since 1989. He and his son Jahmichael are Konatas' only two employees. One of the exciting discoveries is the announcement of the menu of the day. You will not find a menu in Konatas because they have one wholesome menu that changes daily. The day I visited, my plate consisted of lentil patties, green bananas, quinoa with spices, beans, and an assortment of vegetables. Needless to say, it was delicious and filling.

Konata's is located at 13343 NW 7th Avenue North Miami, FL 33168 and is open 11am-7pm Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, please contact the restaurant at (305) 688-7400.


Mardi Gras Coming to North Miami in January

December 15, 2016 - At our city council meeting this week, it was approved that the city will spend upwards of $250,000 to host a Mardi Gras festival on Sunday, January 29, 2017, just over six weeks from now. The parade and music festival will run along NE 125 Street, between NE 12 Avenue and NE 6 Avenue. A contract with Fahrenheit Music Festival LLC will be entered into and that organization will be tasked with making all of the related arrangements. The measure passed the council by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Joseph and Councilmen Bien-Aime and Desulme carrying the day. I voted against the measure.

In a general sense, I totally favor a Mardi Gras festival in North Miami. Who doesn't love a great party with great music?! It makes sense to highlight and celebrate North Miami's cultural diversity.

But this proposal is flawed. Six weeks is too short a period in which to organize such a major event. Musical acts need to be booked. Corporate sponsors need to be lined up. As of the night of our vote, however, we didn't have confirmation from FDOT that we will be allowed to shut down NE 125 Street for the event. That process itself could take up to one month. I worry that we could spend time and money lining up acts, but then FDOT approval is not received, leading to confusion and higher costs. Six weeks is too short a period to organize this.

As for the costs, we do have some buffer. Fahrenheit itself will only receive $5,000 from us for their efforts (but I did point out our contract with them should give us a cut of any corporate sponsorships, booking fees, or other income they might receive from others). The remaining budget will only be spent after the city receives invoices and documentation from outside vendors. That's good, as it will allow us some control over spending. But Fahrenheit will be selecting which vendors get which awards. That, too, leaves much room for confusion. Fahrenheit was just established as an LLC on December 5, 2016. I am concerned they may not have the experience to pull this off.


Sasso Pool Getting Epic Makeover!


December 13, 2016 - Sasso Pool has been open to swimmers of all ages for over 50 years. In the coming months, it's getting a well-needed makeover and you won't believe the changes!

Currently, the pool is closed for the winter, as it normally is. But wait! Renovations include pool heaters and covers to make future winter closings unnecessary. New pool lane lines are also being installed. We're also completely re-doing the restrooms and locker rooms.

Perhaps the Piece de Resistance will be the new front facade of the pool facility, pictured here. It will feature a brightly colored, wave-like pattern, making the whole building POP!You will hardly recognize Sasso Pool after these major changes. Look for the pool to reopen in Spring 2017.


Keystone Tot Lot Temporarily Closed, But Getting Better!

December 12, 2016 - The Keystone Tot Lot is closed for renovations and will reopen in May 2017. The city is installing new playground equipment and a new, softer surface. Because the ground under the current equipment is sinking, we have also undertaken soil testing. Terracon Consulting was hired on November 1, 2016, to determine the reasons for the sinking. Their work will take approximately 90 days. Once the ground is stabilized, we will install "Playground Turf." It's a soft, durable, grass-like surface that doesn't need to be cut or watered. The overall cost of the project is $100,000.

Thanks for your patience as we work to bring you a new and improved Keystone Tot Lot!


New Speed Humps Approved for Keystone

November 7, 2016 - Residents in Keystone Point have complained about speeding in their neighborhood for several years. Following a ballot signed by neighbors and a request by the homeowners association, the city initiated traffic studies for Keystone Boulevard and North Bayshore Drive. After the results of those traffic studies were attained, it was determined that those two roads meet the County's strict criteria for the installation of speed humps.

Thus, the city council has approved spending $15,000 of transportation surtax funds to install six speed humps before the fiscal end of 2016-17. Two of those humps will be on North Bayshore Drive, and four will be on Keystone Boulevard.


Luna Star Cafe Celebrates 20 Years!

From the outside it looks like any other downtown business on NE 125th Street, but one step inside Luna Star Cafe is like pulling back the curtain on a piece of North Miami's cultural identity. For a city that prides itself on its art, entertainment, and eclectic culture, Luna Star Cafe embodies all three.

In a metropolitan hot spot like Miami known for its big clubs and loud bars, Luna Star Cafe's intimate setting gives guests the alternative opportunity to ease into a cozy eclectic space and have a drink while listening to a variety of live folk and acoustic musical talent. On any given night, the cafe showcases world renowned artists such as Kinky Friedman, Diane Ward, and Joel Zoss.

Through hard work and perseverance, owner and operator Alexis Sanfield has made Luna Star Cafe into an international cultural destination. "Luna", the Italian word for moon, is an example of the cafe's international brand and Alexis' global way of thinking. She features over 180 beers from all over the world, 12 flavors of sake, dozens of wines from Europe and South America, and serves a variety of international cuisines and delicacies such as elk and ostrich. Alexis models her cafe and business after the European-style cafe where "you go to a cafe, and you get food, beer, and wine, but in America it's usually only coffee," Alexis explained.

Alexis is a fiercely independent person, who says she started the cafe because she didn't want to work for anyone else. When talking about her cafe, Alexis smiles glowingly, "this cafe is my blood," she says. Alexis chose the location in 1996 because it was across the street from the then newly-opening Museum of Contemporary Art.

Alexis recently celebrated Luna Star Cafe's 20th anniversary, having opened on August 26th, 1996. "20 years is a very long time to be anywhere. To stay in one spot and to see what happens on a street and the ever-changing events and people is an interesting experience," she reflected. Through the years, she has had a variety of musical guests play at the cafe. In February of this year, Luna Star Cafe hosted Kinky Friedman, who reached out to Alexis one afternoon out of the blue. Alexis has had bands from all over the world come and play from places like England, Ireland, and France. Luna Star Cafe's house bands are "Box of Light" and "Diane Ward Band" who are folk bands that regularly play at the cafe.

Luna Star Cafe is more than just a bar or a coffee shop. It is an experience, and it feels as though its culture and atmosphere are from another era. The tiny facade on NE 125th Street can be easily overlooked, but what awaits inside is what some often describe as a timeless charm and magnetic energy. "Everyone should come in and experience the cafe. Everyone should come in and feel this. It's very unique." Alexis concluded.

The Luna Star Cafe, 775 NE 125 St., North Miami; 305-799-7123 www.lunastarcafe.com


Cafe Creme Opens in Downtown NoMi

Years before Midtown, Wynwood, and the Design District were transformed into the thriving social and commercial corridors that they are today, French chef Claude Postel saw the potential of what was then a humble neighborhood on the northern outskirts of downtown Miami. Postel opened Buena Vista Bistro at 46th street nine years ago, and in 2010 he and his business partner Cory Finot opened Buena Vista Deli next door. Finot and Postel would never admit it, but their deliciously authentic French cuisine in the casual cafe setting helped launch the once quiet neighborhood into one of the hottest commercial spots in Miami-Dade County. Now, Cory Finot hopes to bring that success to North Miami's downtown corridor.

Cory Finot is the owner of Cafe Creme, and has been in the restaurant business for many years. Claude Postel is a seventh generation French chef, and serves as head chef at Cafe Creme. Like Postel who chose the then quiet Midtown for his original cafe, Finot sees the potential of North Miami's booming market. "North Miami is perfectly located between Midtown and Aventura. We truly believe in the potential of downtown North Miami," says Finot. It wasn't just the promise of the future that drew Finot to open Cafe Creme in downtown North Miami, but the current artistic and cultural attractions that the downtown has to offer. Finot explained,"we are surrounded by wonderful mid-century galleries, the world renowned Museum of Contemporary Art and North Miami City Hall. We truly believe that this neighborhood is the place to be!"

Cafe Creme will seek to offer affordable and authentic French cuisine, and Finot and his team hope to recreate the typical French cafe ambiance. Whether someone wishes to stop by for a coffee and breakfast in the morning, a salad at lunch, a drink at happy hour, or a meal at dinner, Cafe Creme offers a variety of options. "It's a neighborhood place where you can always feel at home," Finot said.

Cafe Creme opened for business on Wednesday October 5th serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week.

Cafe Creme, its owners, and their history in Miami, please visit fecrememiami.com a and follow Cafe Creme on Instagram @CafeCremeMiami.


Virtual Town Hall in Response to Police Shooting

On Sunday night, July 31st, at 7:30pm, I will be holding a LIVE Town Hall meeting - via telephone and social media - to discuss the recent shooting involving our Police Department. Your opinion is important and I will be taking your questions and opinions. I can assure you, the City is listening.

If you'd like to participate, you don't have to come to City Hall. City Hall will be calling you. All you have to do is answer the call at 7:30pm on Sunday night. If you want to dial in directly. The number is toll free.
1-888-409-5380. I'll also be live-streaming the discussion on my Facebook page.

Please take time to participate Sunday night. Tell your family, friends and neighbors that North Miami IS LISTENING to the community in the aftermath of what happened. We have to get this right.


State Audit Enters Second Year

Quietly, a State audit of city finances, which began in March 2016, has stretched into its second year. Investigators from Tallahassee continue their examination of city finances, especially in the departments of Public Works, Finance, Public Works, and Building & Zoning. The audit began after the city council had voted to ask the State to look at some worrisome spending practices. I first contacted Tallahassee on my own in September 2013 when I noticed irregularities in North Miami's finances. In fact, as they began their work last year, I gave investigators a three-ring binder documenting specific issues with which I had concern. I also provided them with copies of documents backing up the situations.

It is hoped investigators will soon wrap-up their work. Their findings will then be transmitted to Tallahassee. I don't know what, if any, corrections North Miami might need to take. But I will certainly share them with you when I learn.

Downtown Survey Seeks Your Input

In an ongoing effort to improve the business climate and your shopping and dining experiences in Downtown North Miami, the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (NMCRA) is requesting your help by asking you to complete a questionnaire. The information collected will be used in the development of the Downtown Strategic Marketing Plan. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about this project, please contact Sharon McCormick sharon@rma.us.com 954 -695-0754, or the NMCRA Director, Rasha Soray-Cameau rsoraycameau@northmiamifl.gov 305-895-9839.

North Miami Business Owners: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/northmiami

North Miami Residents: North Miami CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) Community Survey

City Manager and City Attorney Take Helm at Same Time

After several unsettled months, North Miami has finally chosen new administrative leadership. Larry Spring, formerly of the city of Miami, has been chosen as City Manager. Concurrently coming on board as City Attorney is Jeff Cazeau, who most recently worked for the Becker Poliakoff law firm. I'm very excited to have both gentlemen at the helm. They are real professionals and have the capabilities to move our city forward. North Miami has a bright future with upcoming projects like SoLe Mia and the redevelopment of our downtown. Congratulations and welcome to Spring and Cazeau!

New Publix on Biscayne Boulevard

As many of you know, Publix will soon build a new, state-of-the-art supermarket on Biscayne Boulevard at 127 Street. The store will replace their existing one. The project has been in the works for months. Earlier this week, city building officials met with their construction team and learned they hope to break ground in August 2016. From there, they expect the project to take nine months to finish. In addition to the new Publix, their project will include a brand new US1 Fitness gym which is already under construction on the north end of the site.

Galvin Uses Funds to Buy Movie Equipment

With money received from the sale of Sole Mia land last year, each member of the North Miami city council was given $100,000 to use on discretionary projects in his or her district. By not hiring a council aide, Councilman Galvin's total rose to $120,000. This month, Galvin used approximately $10,000 to purchase portable movie equipment. The large screen and sound system will allow the city to host movie nights, not just in District 1, but across the city.

Said Galvin, "Our city is one, and I'm happy that this equipment will be used to entertain and educate families across North Miami."

The city is now in the process of getting licensing rights to show a variety of family friendly films and is targeting the start of a quarterly program this March. Evening showings with popcorn and hot dogs is envisioned. Galvin also hopes the city will show educational documentaries and similar fare at our schools.




Val Screen Chosen as New City Attorney

The North Miami City Council has chosen Valria Screen as the new North Miami Attorney. She replaces Interim Attorney Roland Galdos, who has served since July. Screen's employment package will be approved at a future Council meeting.

Screen, 49, is a North Miami native, graduating from North Miami High in 1983. Professionally, she has been a member of the Florida Bar since 2000 and is a graduate of the University of Miami's School of Law. She served nearly five years as a Senior Associate at Steel, Hector, and Davis and has extensive municipal experience. Her resume' lists as her areas of expertise such specialties as Regulatory Affairs and Government Policy, Municipal Securities, and Land Use. To top it off, Screen is also a city resident.

The vote to hire Screen was narrow, with Council members Galvin and Desulme joining Mayor Joseph for the majority. But the whole city now welcomes Val Screen to her new position!

Galvin Tells Corruption Secrets

For years, you've always known there was more to what was being told in North Miami. Now, in a Wire Magazine exclusive, Councilman Scott Galvin reveals what it was like to wear a wire for the state while doing battle behind the scenes to keep his hometown on the straight and narrow.

Click here to read the full story!

North Miami Launches Its Own App

The city of North Miami is pleased to launch myNoMi, the official platform for residents to access their government in a single location. With this new tool, North Miami residents can submit, track, and view nearby service requests online through their smartphones or desktop computer. Residents can also use the in-app widgets to find information about City events, public facilities, trash pickup, and more.

myNoMi is a free service and is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play for immediate use.
Search "myNoMi" in the stores or go to these URLs to access; Android  iOS

Windows Phones and Desktop Users click here to register

Click here to watch a fun video that describes how it all works.

Town Hall Enjoys Robust Showing

A robust crowd of residents turned out on Monday, October 19th for my Town Hall meeting at the Margolis Center. I told attendees that North Miami needs to start looking excitedly to our future. We must be bold and we must have vision.

The first half of the event featured a Power Point presentation of goals I think we should work toward. Below are some details on the ideas that I shared. I also fielded some thoughtful questions from the audience. You can read about those below, too!

My Vision for the Future

Constituent Services
This is where I've always spent the most energy. Whenever a resident calls or emails me with a problem, I won't let it go until I've done all I can to solve it. I dutifully keep a chart of each person and problem, sending it to city hall every week in hopes of resolution. At one point, my "open case" list topped 130 issues. With the help of staff, that list is now down to 90, and shrinking. And I'm very excited to announce that on November 10th, the city will launch the "MyNoMi" constituent app! You'll now be able to report problems via your mobile device, and the city will be able to track and respond even quicker!

Supporting our Police Department
North Miami will soon receive from the developers of SoLe Mia a check for approximately $4.4 million. It's part of the proceeds we are receiving for selling them about 50 acres of land on their site (formerly known as Biscayne Landing). I would like us to allocate to our Police Department $1 million of that windfall. I've already spoken to Chief Burgess and some of his command staff. They say they desperately need 25 new squad cars for officers on the street. Their current autos are used shift after shift and the newest of those date to 2010. Many are older! But however NMPD decides it would best be spent, I think we need to better serve those who are sworn to protect and serve us.

Arch Creek East Environmental Preserve
It is my goal this year to see the city plant over 1,000 native species and shade trees in our precious 13 acre preserve. Along the creeks, we should plant Coastal and Hammock habitats. And we should continue removing exotic species in an effort to further restore and improve this important parcel of natural beauty.

Sea Level Rise
We also need to do all we can to address sea level rise. Our Comp Plan encourages environmentally friendly building initiatives. We also have recycling and E-Waste programs. But I'm interesting in learning more about the Miami-Dade County Sea Level Rise Task Force report. And County Clerk Harvey Ruvin has asked the federal government to create a Federal Resiliency Superfund. North Miami should support these efforts.

Art in Public Places
Thanks to MOCA, North Miami for decades has been a force in the art world. I think we should expand on that by kicking off an Art in Public Places program. In fact, legislation providing guidelines for such a program already exist. We're just not doing anything with them. So I say we dust them off, appoint a committee to oversee a program, and start installing works of art across the city! Some pieces already exist near MOCA and along Griffing Boulevard. Imagine if we had other pieces at our library, on college campuses, at community centers, and other places the public gathers.

$15 per hour Minimum Wage
Cities across the country have increased their local minimum wages to $15 per hour. Legislation pending in Tallahassee would do the same across Florida if enacted. I have asked our budget department to envision a plan for North Miami if this were to become a reality. North Miami's employees deserve to earn a living wage. And we need to have a plan in place for the day minimum wages increase. Want a little more controversy? I've also asked staff to envision the day medicinal marijuana becomes legal in Florida. Our commercial zoning codes need to be ready for what is surely coming.

An Honor Code for Officials AND Employees
Joe Centerino is the Executive Director of the Dade Commission on Ethics. He has initiated something I want North Miami to copy. Centerino advocates for an Honor Code for municipal officials AND their employees. Corruption and unethical behavior can not be tolerated. The Honor Code would continue to hold elected officials to a high standard, but it would also apply to employees, who are too often knowing of, or complicit with, unethical actions. I'm sponsoring a North Miami Honor Code for a vote by our Council on Tuesday, October 27th at our next Council meeting.

AUDIENCE QUESTIONS

A lot of smart questions were asked by the audience. Because this email is already long enough, I won't try to cover each of them here.

But particularly astute questions focused on North Miami's attention to our infrastructure, including our water and sewer lines, as well as our lift stations. Because so many of them are decades old, I was asked what we are doing to keep them from eroding.

I didn't have solid answers, so I asked the next morning for a report from staff about what we have done...including money spent...to address this important issue. In addition, I asked for staff's plan going forward.

I'll share all of that as soon as I have it!

RecycleBank Programs Return!

The city of North Miami is pleased to announce the return of RecycleBank programs for its residents. North Miami was the first community in the Southeastern United States to deploy the RecycleBank program back in 2009. RecycleBank is a rewards program that gives residents points for their everyday green actions, like bringing recyclables to the curb for pickup. Residents can redeem those points for deals and discounts from hundreds of local and national businesses. Reward points in North Miami are distributed based on the community's recycling weight. The program is available to all single family homes in North Miami that have curbside recycling service. For more information, please visit www.northmiamifl.gov/recyclebank

HOW TO REGISTER
North Miami households that receive curbside recycling service must activate or re-activate an existing account, either online or by phone, in order to start earning reward points. For more information and to sign up for RecycleRewards, residents can visit www.recyclebank.com or call 1.888.727.2978.

BUSINESSES CAN STILL REGISTER AS REWARD PARTNERS
If a business is interested in being a reward partner to offer great discounts and rewards to local residents who participate in the RecycleBank program, they can contact Venessa Santos-Garza, Senior Account Manager and Community Representative at vsantos-garza@recyclebank.com.

GREEN SCHOOLS GRANT OPPORTUNITY
Schools located in RecycleBank home recycling communities like North Miami are eligible to submit an application that creates, continues or expands sustainable practices. RecycleBank selects the top 50 proposals and give those accepted schools the opportunity to raise up to $2,500 for their projects. Deadline for application submission is December 4, 2015. For more information, visit https://www.recyclebank.com/about-us/green-schools.

Community Based Organizations Can Get Money

North Miami is now accepting Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for public service activities from not-for-profit Community Based Organizations (CBOs) for the 2015-16 fiscal year. The money comes from the Federal Community Block Grant (CDBG) program. This year, the city has a total allocation of $88,500 to distribute.

The deadline to submit proposals is Thursday, October, 28, 2015 at 4:00 pm. RFPs must be submitted on forms issued by the City of North Miami and are available at the North Miami Community Planning & Development Department, located at 12400 NE 8 Avenue. Forms can be picked up Monday through Friday, between 8 am - 5 pm. They are also available on the Housing website at www.northmiamifl.gov.

A workshop to provide technical assistance for proposal submission will be conducted on Wednesday, October 14th, from 11 am - 1 pm in the North Miami Police Conference Room.

Art in Public Places - Let's Unite the City!

Recent discussion on where to place a single piece of art in a public location set off a light bulb for me tonight. Let's think bigger! Let's make a real statement.

North Miami over the last twenty years has made a reputation for great art. Our Museum of Contemporary Art remains a destination for art enthusiasts around the globe. I think it's time we reinforce that reputation. Let's make a statement to South Florida that we are the premiere location for seeing art in public places.

The Library. Arch Creek East. College campuses. North Miami Senior High. All across the city, let's allow ourselves to think big. Let's put art in public places throughout our town, opening the door for artists everywhere to submit works for consideration.

As a councilman, I was allocated $100,000 for projects I think would make an impact. I am willing to dedicate those funds toward art work that not only will be appreciated by North Miamians, but which will also cement our reputation as the art home in South Florida. Let's unite our city behind a forum for which we're already known: art. Residents will love it. Kids will learn from it. And art lovers will thank us.

City Manager Aleem Ghany Resigns

North Miami City Manager Aleem Ghany told me last night, and announced to staff earlier today, that he has resigned his position, effective October 16, 2015.

Click here to read his resignation letter.

Ghany explained his decision to me face-to-face. After 19 years with North Miami, he wants to go out with his head held high in search of other endeavors. I told him I was terribly disappointed, but that I respect his decision.

Aleem Ghany has worked tirelessly for our city for two decades. He retires with an amazing record of service, having risen through the ranks in our Public Works Department. He was the Director of Public Works before assuming the mantle of North Miami Manager last year.

We should always hope for a leader with Aleem's honesty and intelligence. Our city is lesser without him, but I know he will continue to accomplish much in his future efforts.

The City Council meets again this coming Monday, September 21st at 7:00 pm. An agenda already heavy with our first Budget Hearing and votes on the Comprehensive Plan will now also likely feature discussion on Ghany's successor.

Blue Ribbon Committee Appointed in City Attorney Search

Several weeks ago, the city council decided to search for a new city attorney. The council wanted to move in a new direction from former attorney Regine Monestime. The period for potential applicants has just ended. To vet the applicants and make recommendations to council, a blue ribbon committee has been appointed. The committee is as follows:
  • Councilman Bien-Aime - Hans Ottinot, Sunny Isles Beach City Attorney
  • Mayor Smith Joseph - Dr. Rudy Moise, U.S. Air Force Colonel (Ret.)
  • Councilman Desulme - Mark Lapointe, Boies, Schiller, & Flexner, LLP
  • Councilman Galvin - Jose Smith, North Miami Beach City Attorney
  • Councilwoman Keys - Ron Wasson, Bay Harbor Islands City Manager
  • Mayor Smith Joseph - Clarel Cyriaque (Chairman of Committee)
  • The Law Offices of Clarel Cyriaque
  • At-Large - Kenneth Each, resident and former North Miami Police Chief
The blue ribbon committee will meet in the coming weeks, though those meetings have yet to be scheduled. They will look though the list of all applicants, whether they be individuals or firms. The committee will then make recommendations to the council in September. In the end, however, the new attorney will be chosen at the sole discretion of the city council.

Action on Illegal Short Term Rentals

The city and our police department are being very proactive in addressing illegal short term rentals of single family homes. Allow me to tell you about actions taken at a home on Magnolia Drive, for instance.

Earlier this week, the owner of the Magnolia home was found guilty by our Special Magistrate of illegally renting and fined $2,200, plus $100 in costs. In addition, the owner was issued a $550 fine for an illegal online ad which advertised said rentals. If that ad is not removed within 20 days, a running fine of up to $1,000 per day can be instituted until the ad is taken down.

Two other fines at that home have also recently been written. One for $1,500 is owed immediately. After the ticket was written, the owner did not appeal, so they must now pay.

Another fine for $2,000 was appealed and will be heard by our Special Magistrate on October 21st at 10:00 am.

As you can see, if the owner doesn't wish to abide by our rules, North Miami Police will continue to write tickets. Thanks to all the residents who have provided information about illegal rentals as they are happening. With diligent enforcement, let's hope we can end illegal short term rentals in North Miami.

Cafe Creme to Launch in Downtown NoMi

The owners of the Buena Vista Deli in Miami's Design District are about to bring their stellar reputation to downtown North Miami. Their new restaurant, Cafe Creme, is on target to open by the beginning of December 2015. Cafe Creme will be located at 750 NE 125 Street where a Starbucks existed several years ago.

Cafe Creme will be a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. Their menu features affordable sandwiches and other delectable fare. They will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition to the restaurant, Cafe Creme will make pastries and other baked goods.

The entire project will cost over $700,000. The North Miami CRA will be kicking in $250,000 toward that total. This is similar to another grant the CRA made toward the completion of a Pollo Tropical on NW 7 Avenue. You can learn more about the existing Buena Vista Deli at www. buenavistadeli.com. We are very excited to see this great restaurant coming to North Miami.

Action on Illegal Short Term Rentals

The city and our police department are being very proactive in addressing illegal short term rentals of single family homes. Allow me to tell you about actions taken at a home on Magnolia Drive, for instance.

Earlier this week, the owner of the Magnolia home was found guilty by our Special Magistrate of illegally renting and fined $2,200, plus $100 in costs. In addition, the owner was issued a $550 fine for an illegal online ad which advertised said rentals. If that ad is not removed within 20 days, a running fine of up to $1,000 per day can be instituted until the ad is taken down.

Two other fines at that home have also recently been written. One for $1,500 is owed immediately. After the ticket was written, the owner did not appeal, so they must now pay.

Another fine for $2,000 was appealed and will be heard by our Special Magistrate on October 21st at 10:00 am.

As you can see, if the owner doesn't wish to abide by our rules, North Miami Police will continue to write tickets. Thanks to all the residents who have provided information about illegal rentals as they are happening. With diligent enforcement, let's hope we can end illegal short term rentals in North Miami.

Cafe Creme to Launch in Downtown NoMi

The owners of the Buena Vista Deli in Miami's Design District are about to bring their stellar reputation to downtown North Miami. Their new restaurant, Cafe Creme, is on target to open by the beginning of December 2015. Cafe Creme will be located at 750 NE 125 Street where a Starbucks existed several years ago.

Cafe Creme will be a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. Their menu features affordable sandwiches and other delectable fare. They will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition to the restaurant, Cafe Creme will make pastries and other baked goods.

The entire project will cost over $700,000. The North Miami CRA will be kicking in $250,000 toward that total. This is similar to another grant the CRA made toward the completion of a Pollo Tropical on NW 7 Avenue. You can learn more about the existing Buena Vista Deli at www. buenavistadeli.com. We are very excited to see this great restaurant coming to North Miami.
Action on Illegal Short Term Rentals

The city and our police department are being very proactive in addressing illegal short term rentals of single family homes. Allow me to tell you about actions taken at a home on Magnolia Drive, for instance.

Earlier this week, the owner of the Magnolia home was found guilty by our Special Magistrate of illegally renting and fined $2,200, plus $100 in costs. In addition, the owner was issued a $550 fine for an illegal online ad which advertised said rentals. If that ad is not removed within 20 days, a running fine of up to $1,000 per day can be instituted until the ad is taken down.

Two other fines at that home have also recently been written. One for $1,500 is owed immediately. After the ticket was written, the owner did not appeal, so they must now pay.

Another fine for $2,000 was appealed and will be heard by our Special Magistrate on October 21st at 10:00 am.

As you can see, if the owner doesn't wish to abide by our rules, North Miami Police will continue to write tickets. Thanks to all the residents who have provided information about illegal rentals as they are happening. With diligent enforcement, let's hope we can end illegal short term rentals in North Miami.

Cafe Creme to Launch in Downtown NoMi

The owners of the Buena Vista Deli in Miami's Design District are about to bring their stellar reputation to downtown North Miami. Their new restaurant, Cafe Creme, is on target to open by the beginning of December 2015. Cafe Creme will be located at 750 NE 125 Street where a Starbucks existed several years ago.

Cafe Creme will be a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. Their menu features affordable sandwiches and other delectable fare. They will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition to the restaurant, Cafe Creme will make pastries and other baked goods.

The entire project will cost over $700,000. The North Miami CRA will be kicking in $250,000 toward that total. This is similar to another grant the CRA made toward the completion of a Pollo Tropical on NW 7 Avenue. You can learn more about the existing Buena Vista Deli at www. buenavistadeli.com. We are very excited to see this great restaurant coming to North Miami.

Blue Ribbon Committee to Select New Attorney

The city council decided at our July meeting that we will appoint a seven-member blue ribbon committee to advise us in choosing a new city attorney. With the council now on summer recess, the committee will be appointed at our next meeting on August 25th.

Comprising the seven member committee will be two individuals appointed by Mayor Joseph, and one each by the four city council members. In addition, an at-large member will be added by the council as a whole.

While the council is on summer recess, city administrators have been directed to advertise the position to any individual or firm who might wish to hold it. After the blue ribbon committee is appointed on August 25th, they will vet all applicants and make recommendations to council. In the end, the new city attorney will be hired at the sole discretion of council.

North Miami Halts Red Light Camera Program

The North Miami City Council has voted 4-1 to cease our red light camera program. Councilwoman Keys was the singular vote against. The program began at six intersections several years ago. The program fell out of favor, however, as time passed. Many residents in recent months have made their voices heard on the matter.

I became critical of the program in 2013, when then-City Manager Steve Johnson expanded the program from the original five cameras to approximately 25. He did that without Council's knowledge or approval. And that year alone, the cameras brought our city over $3.6 million. That showed me that the program had become about money, not about safety.

Public Records to be More Easily Accessed

I get many complaints from residents and media about North Miami being slow to provide documents requested via Public Records rules. Even the simplest of things can take over a month to be handed over. Earlier this week, the Council helped me change that by unanimously passing a Resolution I sponsored that incorporates the following practices:
  • requests for documents numbering fewer than 15 pages must be provided to the requester within 48 hours
  • requests for documents numbering over 15 pages must be provided to the requester within one week unless the City Manager demonstrates more time is needed no fees will be charged for document requests fewer than 15 pages
  • each department will assign a staff member to coordinate compliance with all public records requests
In today's modern, technological society, it shouldn't take weeks and weeks to provide basic documents. And the idea of charging fees for basic information is as outdated as asking someone to pay 5 cents per page to use your Xerox machine. I have copied my share of documents in recent years. It takes but a moment to copy or scan something, attach it to an email, and hit 'send.' North Miami must quit hiding behind process and paperwork when folks want to see what we are doing. Transparency and promptness are needed

City to Get New Attorney

Earlier this week, the city council voted 4-1 not to renew the services of City Attorney Regine Monestime, who had been working on a month-to-month basis. Councilman Bien-Aime was the lone dissenter. Monestime first began work for North Miami in 2012 with a contract that ran out earlier this year. At the time, the Council did not finalize a new contract for her, so her status reverted to a month-to-month one. At this stage, however, with newly elected leadership, it seems the Council simply wanted to go in a different direction.

Monestime handled the end of her tenure with dignity, thanking the Council for the opportunity to serve. She also bid adieu to her friends within the staff and thanked the community for her support. It is likely the Council will now have an open bid process to select a replacement. In the meantime, Deputy Attorney Roland Galdos will serve as Interim.

Volvo Showroom Approved

By a 4-1 vote, the council has approved a "text amendment" to North Miami codes allowing a "Rental Showroom, Automobile" for a potential Volvo showroom at 12550 Biscayne Boulevard. When finished, their 7,000 square foot facility would include an interior showroom for Volvo autos. It would also allow an interior area for minor repairs, which include changing oil and wipers, and rotating tires. It would not allow body or engine repairs.

Volvo will still need to conduct traffic studies and other approvals before they can actually open. But this text amendment change allows them to move further toward reality.

Galvin Asks for Ways to Recover IRS Fines from Responsible Parties

June 17, 2015 - Last month, the Internal Revenue Service fined North Miami nearly $35,000 for inappropriate financial practices. The taxpayers were on the hook when we paid that money to the federal government. But those who should be on the hook are those who were responsible for inappropriate travel, hotel bookings, cash advances, and more. At our June 23rd City Council meeting, I will ask the Council to direct staff to take any and all possible legal steps to recover from responsible individuals any money we had to pay the IRS. That would include current and/or former city employees.

I'm tired of city officials acting irresponsibly and taxpayers having to pay the price. It has happened time after time over the years. It's time for the Council to send a message that if one acts without regard to rules and regulations, they will individually pay a price. Literally. It's time for taxpayers to get their money back.

Galvin Aims to Speed Up Public Records Requests

June 16, 2015 - I get many complaints from residents and media about North Miami being slow to provide documents requested via Public Records rules. Even the simplest of things can take over a month to be handed over. At our June 23rd Council meeting, I'm hoping the Council joins me in changing that. I am proposing a Resolution that would incorporate the following practices:

  • requests for documents numbering fewer than 100 pages must be provided to the requester within 48 hours
  • requests for documents numbering over 100 pages must be provided to the requester within one week unless the City Manager demonstrates more time is needed no fees will be charged for document requests fewer than 100 pages
  • each department will assign a staff member to coordinate compliance with all public records requests
In today's modern, technological society, it shouldn't take weeks and weeks to provide basic documents. And the idea of charging fees for basic information is as outdated as asking someone to pay 5 cents per page to use your Xerox machine. I have copied my share of documents in recent years. It takes but a moment to copy or scan something, attach it to an email, and hit 'send.' North Miami must quit hiding behind process and paperwork when folks want to see what we are doing. Transparency and promptness are needed.

Alix Desulme Wins District 4 Council Seat

June 15, 2015 - Long-time North Miami resident Alix Desulme has been sworn into office as Councilman in District 4. Councilman Desulme handily defeated his opponent in a June 2nd run-off election. His term runs until May 2019.

Desulme replaces Marie Steril who served for a decade, but who's tenure was rocked by repeated ethical scandals. Her actions cost North Miami taxpayers nearly $175,000 in fines, including over $150,000 for illegally obtaining a HUD house for her mother without disclosing their relationship. Steril was also penalized for getting upgraded amenities at that house and for traveling overseas without receipts. In October 2014, Steril plead no contest to Ethics charges and agreed to pay a fine.

I am thrilled to welcome Desulme as Steril's replacement. With a background in education, he genuinely cares about all North Miamians. He will be a hardworking advocate for improving North Miami.

SoLe Mia Relaunches North Miami Project

June 15, 2015 - Gone is the name "Biscayne Landing." From here forward, the land at Biscayne Boulevard and NE 151 Street will carry the name "SoLe Mia." The new moniker combines the names of the two principle families who will develop the 183 acre project: the Soffers and the Lefraks. SoLe Mia will be a community featuring residential units as well as first-rate shopping opportunities. Work is already underway and the first phase is expected to open in late 2016. When completed, the site will feature two 10-acre swimming lagoons, a main street shopping area, a hotel, condos, and 1 million square feet of office and retail space. It will cost SoLe Mia nearly $4 billion to develop.

One by one, North Miami leaders spoke excitedly about the project's future during a June 4th re-branding event. Said Councilman Galvin, "when you hire people with real ability, you get real results." Everyone is looking forward to the benefits SoLe Mia will bring our city.

Muscle Given to Address Short Term Home Rentals

June 9, 2015 - The city council unanimously approved on First Reading two items I proposed to stem illegal short term rentals of homes throughout North Miami. For those unaware, some homeowners have been renting to tourists their homes on weekends. Neighbors are stuck with resulting loud parties, congestion, and interference with their qualify of life.

For clarification, short term rentals mean those rented for a period of three months or less.

Both items will need a second approval at our June 23rd meeting.

The first item I put forward addresses how a home rental is advertised. Once finalized, North Miami will allow only the advertisement or marketing of properties for rental periods of more than three months. This means any advertisement, whether online or in print, which touts short-term rentals will be illegal and can be removed. The second item I sponsored raises the ceiling on fines we are allowed to levy on violators caught in the act. Currently, we can only fine a maximum of $250 daily for a first time violator, and $500 for a repeat violator. For someone making thousands per month by illegally renting their home, that is chump change. Our new rules allow for a maximum of $1,000 for a first time violator, $5,000 for a repeat violator, and up to $15,000 daily for egregious violations as deemed by the Code Enforcement Special Magistrate Judge.

We don't have a magic wand to fix all problems with short term rentals. State of Florida "preemption" rules limit our powers. But these items are certainly steps in the right direction.

Volvo Showroom Gets Preliminary Approval

June 9, 2015 - By a 4-1 vote, the council has approved on First Reading a "text amendment" to North Miami codes allowing a "Rental Showroom, Automobile" for a potential Volvo showroom at 12550 Biscayne Boulevard. When finished, their 7,000 square foot facility would include an interior showroom for Volvo autos. It would also allow an interior area for minor repairs, which include changing oil and wipers, and rotating tires. It would not allow body or engine repairs.

By amending our codes, we limited the area where such a use is allowed to NE 135 Street south to Whole Foods Market, and from Biscayne Boulevard west to NE 16 Avenue (except JWU land). And because any potential site must be at least one acre, like the potential Volvo site, it eliminates any current land from also being used for this purpose.

This preliminary approval is just the first step. Future hearings will need to be held and independent traffic studies must be conducted. However, it's exciting to see a multi-million dollar development potentially improving North Miami.


Galvin Now Longest-Serving North Miami Councilman

June 9, 2015 - With his re-election to the North Miami City Council last month, Scott Galvin has cemented his spot as the longest-tenured councilman in city history. Galvin, first elected in 1999, had already achieved the mark two years ago, but it went unnoticed until recently. Currently, Galvin has served North Miami for 16 years. His new term will take him through a full two decades in office.

There are others in North Miami who have served longer in city office than Galvin. E. May Avil, for whom the North Miami Public Library is named, served as city clerk for 42 years, from 1932-1974. Also elected in 1932, J. Houston Gribble served as Tax Assessor, a position which no longer exists, for approximately 34 years. Gribble's name graces the former and soon-to-be-rebuilt "Gribble Pool" in central North Miami.

Galvin is currently eligible to seek one more term in 2019, after which newly-established term limits will keep him from running after 2023.

Home Values Rise in North Miami

June 9, 2015 - The Miami-Dade Property Appraiser's Office has released the 2015 property value estimates. It's exciting to see that North Miami's values have increased 8.9%! Our current millage rates is 7.9. Thus, our new values mean the city will see an additional $1.4 million with which to work with in the 2015-16 budget year.

After years of stagnant growth, this jump in values is very encouraging. This reflects the general economic turnaround that the entire county is realizing. Things are looking up!

Short Term Rentals Wreak Havoc

May 29, 2015 - For those unaware, some homeowners have been renting out their homes on weekends to tourists. Neighbors are stuck with resulting loud parties, congestion, and interference with their quality of life. The problem is especially pronounced in our waterfront communities of Keystone and Sans Souci. Though the problem has existed for years, short term rentals of residential homes in North Miami have suddenly become increasingly common. North Miami has rules limiting them, and I will attempt to make them stronger in June. But ultimately, the State of Florida...and crafty rental owners...make the practice hard to address.

The story is a little convoluted, so bear with me.

In 2008, the City of North Miami adopted a Vacation Rental Ordinance banning short term rentals in most homes. But prior to 2008, it was legal to rent one's home on a short term basis. Thus, there were six homes already doing this and "grandfathered," which allowed them to continue their short term rentals. Click here for a list of those six homes ( https://www.scribd.com/doc/266289802/Short-Term-Rental-Grandfatherd-Properties-1)

Our rules prohibiting short term rentals have not stopped many from doing it anyway. Owners can make many thousands of dollars each weekend and are happy to pay the $500 fine if caught.

Making things very difficult is a law passed in 2011 by State Legislators creating "preemption." Preemption refers to rules passed in Tallahassee which override any city or county rules. And, according to their 2011 preemption rule, "A local law, ordinance or regulation may not prohibit vacation rentals or regulate the duration or frequency of rental of vacation rentals." Click here for a recent Miami Herald story which goes into more detail: (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/broward/article20527179.html) Only because North Miami had a Vacation Rental Ordinances that was adopted prior to 2011 were we allowed to continue to regulate/prohibit short term rental properties.

But the 2011 preemption rule means North Miami must be very careful. Any attempt to amend our Vacation Rental Ordinance will void it in entirety. Overnight, short term rentals would become legal across the city. At every house. Every weekend.

City Attorney Regine Monestime has advised that we can adjust our fee structure for violations without amending our ordinance. Thus, I'm putting forward two pieces of legislation for consideration at our June 23rd Council meeting, which is our next full meeting:
  • an item increasing the fine for violating our short term rental rules from $500 to $5,000 (this will take a 4/5 vote of the Council)
  • an ordinance like that prohibits the advertisement of short term rentals via the internet and/or websites. It's based upon one already adopted in Miami Beach in 2014.
This won't immediately fix all our problems. Our Code and Police Departments will have to be aggressive in enforcement. And we'll need the help of you, the residents, to report suspected short term rentals. Even then, it can be hard to prove. Without a lease in hand, it's easy for "renters" to claim they are simply relatives of the person who own the home. But I'm hopeful that new steps can effectively bring an end to a disruptive practice.

Ricardo Brutus Pleads Guilty to Bribery

May 21, 2015 - Over four years after his arrest, Ricardo Brutus, the nephew of former Mayor Andre Pierre, pleaded guilty to unlawful compensation. Brutus received a 90 day prison sentence, four years of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a $21,000 fine.

Brutus' arrest in 2011 came after I took information to authorities and began working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and State Attorney's Office to root out illegal activity in North Miami. I feel Brutus' penalty is fair. And though it took a long time to be handed down, it serves as additional notice that there is a price to pay for anyone breaking the law in our city.

Brutus' penalty wasn't the first related to public corruption in North Miami, and it sadly won't be the last. But after years of scandal, we are finally putting things like this behind us. Justice has been served.

IRS FINES NORTH MIAMI NEARLY $35,000

North Miami taxpayers are again on the hook for inappropriate financial practices. This time, it's the Internal Revenue Service that has exacted its price.

You and I have just paid penalties totaling nearly $35,000, more than a third of which were penalties on unsubstantiated expenses related to overseas travel , cash advances, hotel bookings, and more.

The reason? The city could not demonstrate any benefit whatsoever to the taxpayers who paid the bills.

The City Manager has told me he will dock the pay of existing employees to repay the city for their travel amounts.

But former employees and elected officials? You and I will have to eat the cost for them.

We learned in September 2014, that the IRS was coming to look at our finances for the year 2012. The next month, they expanded their look.

Last week, the IRS handed down their decision. The city has already cut them a check for $34,762.80. In addition to the travel penalties, North Miami was also fined for not filing appropriate paperwork when paying 73 vendors, as well as a handful of retiring employees.

I am happy that there is finally a price to pay for bending and breaking our city regulations. But I think the City Council should take action against councilmembers and past employees to recoup their travel costs.

This likely will not be the last time our fair city has to pay the piper. A State audit into our Finance, Public Works, Purchasing, and Building Departments begins in earnest this Friday.

Party Like James Bond!

You're invited to the Scott Galvin Campaign Kick-Off party! Join your neighbors on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 from 6 pm - 8 pm. The fun will be at the Miami Auto Museum in the JAMES BOND ROOM! Located at 2000 NE 146 Street in North Miami, the James Bond Room is not to be missed!

This is a fun way to get the Galvin Campaign started with a bang. You'll get to see some of the actual cars, guns, and gadgets used in Bond films throughout the years. Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP to scott@scott-galvin.com

Galvin Announces Re-Election Bid

February 19, 2015 - It's been a rocky few years in North Miami. But you know that. Even with the recent problems and distractions, I'm convinced our best days are ahead. I'm also sure that our community needs leadership and stability now more than ever.

That's why I have decided to seek re-election to the North Miami City Council.

This is my hometown and I love doing this job. You know that I answer every email and letter. I answer every phone call, too. It's my passion and privilege. It is the highest honor to serve my neighbors and community. I would be humbled to continue representing North Miami.

I pledge to maintain the level of openness, ethics, and good government that I have championed...and that we all deserve. Please visit www.galvin2015.com to learn more and to donate. Checks made payable to the "Scott Galvin Campaign" can also be mailed to 1755 NE 137 Terrace, North Miami, FL 33181. Election Day in North Miami is Tuesday, May 12, 2015.

Also on the ballot will races for Mayor, District 4 City Council, and City Clerk.

Florida Auditor General to Audit North Miami

February 17, 2015 - Yesterday, the Florida Joint Legislative Auditing Committee (JLAC) voted 10-0 to authorize the State's Auditor General to audit the City of North Miami. Made up of members of both Florida's House and Senate, the JLAC approved an "operational audit" of the city's Finance, Public Works, Purchasing, and Building & Zoning Departments.

Click here to read the JLAC report presented to Committee members. It lays out many of the reasons the Council voted 3-1 last year to request the audit.

The State audit will come at the same time an earlier-announced IRS audit of North Miami's finances is continuing.

I first contacted JLAC on my own in September 2013 when I noticed irregularities in North Miami's finances. I'm happy and relieved the State yesterday authorized this action.

Details regarding when State auditors will begin their work have yet to be set.

Please visit www.scott-galvin.com for updates on the State audit, IRS audit, and Councilwoman Steril's retirement.

Councilwoman Marie Steril Won't Seek New Term

February 17, 2015 - North Miami Councilwoman Marie Erlande Steril will not be seeking re-election during the upcoming May 2015 North Miami Municipal election. After serving as the City's District 4 representative, including several terms as Vice Mayor, since 2005, Councilwoman Steril has decided to return to the private sector to pursue other endeavors.

Councilwoman Steril has served three terms on the Council representing the interest of residents of North Miami's District 4. Reflecting on her experience, Councilwoman stated, "I have tirelessly worked to address concerns that impair residents' well-being. I have embraced District 4's many challenges and transformed them into opportunities for the betterment of the community."

In fact, Councilwoman Steril was the driving force behind the restoration of Clyde W. Judson Center and Kiwanis Park, the Joe Celestin Center, and the tennis center at Claude Pepper Park. Over the years, she has earned the reputation for championing streetscape projects throughout her district, including swale improvements, sidewalk replacements, and street resurfacing, ultimately producing the streetscape transformation of NW 131 Street that is now a prototype street for North Miami. She also established the NW 7th Ave Facade Improvement Program, funded from Progress 2013 funds, to concentrate on renovating businesses along one of the City's most historic corridors.

Steril also experienced her share of ethics lapses during her time in office, having received censure from the Dade Ethics Commission. According to the Miami Herald, "She settled a Miami-Dade County ethics commission case last October after the commission found probable cause that she exploited her position when she requested more than $8,000 in upgrades to her mother's city-subsidized home renovation.Steril was ordered to pay about $5,000 in fines to North Miami and plead no contest to charges that she violated the county conflict of interest and code of ethics ordinance.

In 2011 her mother, Marie Charles-Brutus, received renovations on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse that she had moved into through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The ethics investigation found that Steril asked city staff to give her mother high-end countertops and appliances that were worth more than $7,700. Other residents in North Miami's program, who offered to pay for similar renovations themselves, were told that was not possible.

The city also had to pay HUD $154,800 in 2012 for Steril's mother's receiving the home through the program because the city didn't disclose that Charles-Brutus had family ties to an elected official or get an opinion from the city attorney, according to HUD rules. Before the ethics case, in 2012, Steril faced scrutiny from a former city employee who said Steril helped a friend, Martine Saint-Aime, move into a NSP house, where she lived rent-free for about six months. Steril defended the action, saying she was simply helping a constituent."

Read more here

The decision to return to private life has not been made overnight by Steril, it has been the result of a deep reflection into her tenure as an elected official. She admits it was a difficult decision to step off the dais in North Miami. In her own words, she is confident for having "taken responsibility for the job that I was entrusted: to care for North Miami residents and be their voice, eyes, and ears in government."

Consequently, she thanks all her constituents in District 4 for entrusting her to represent the district for ten years and is thankful for the support of North Miami residents and her colleagues on the Council for their support.

Traffic Improvements Coming to Biscayne Boulevard Corridor

January 1, 2015 - The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is scheduled to begin a roadway construction project the week of January 5, 2015. The project area extends along SR 5/Biscayne Boulevard from NE 121 Street to NE 151 Street in the City of North Miami, the City of North Miami Beach and the Village of Biscayne Park. The project will cost an estimated $3.1 million. The work will last roughly eight months and includes the following:

  • Reconstructing and updating sidewalks
  • Reconstructing and updating ramps and turning lanes
  • Repaving and restriping the roadway
  • Upgrading signage and pavement markings
  • Updating pedestrian signals and crossings at the intersection of Biscayne Boulevard and NE 135 Street, and Biscayne Boulevard and NE 151 Street
To complete this work safely, it will be necessary to close travel lanes at times. Tasks will be done in stages and lane closures will be scheduled to keep traffic moving and avoid special community events.

Please note that this schedule may change due to bad weather or other unexpected conditions.

For more information, please call FDOT's Public Information Office at (305) 470-5349 or Construction Public Information Specialist Cari Mesa at (305) 640-7441 or go to the website at www.fdotmiamidade.com.

Drivers are encouraged to call 511 before they travel or log on to www.fl511.com to get real-time traffic and lane closure information. FDOT would like to remind drivers that wearing a safety belt is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Please drive cautiously in construction zones.

2014 Year-End Recap

December 30, 2014 - We had Festivals and bike rides, celebrated patriotic events and broke ground on new projects.

But we also grabbed a huge number of headlines. For North Miami, 2014 has been a year unlike any other.

February 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014
  • Lenny Burgess named new North Miami Police Chief
  • Citywide property values increase over 7%, according to Dade Property Appraiser
  • Community Redevelopment Agency reorganized with all staff members eliminated
  • For the first time, North Miami allows for online Utility Bill payments
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
  • Lucie Tondreau is found guilty by a federal jury
  • City Council unanimously votes to eliminate irrigation water bill base charges and commits to finding other ways to lower utility bills

It's been a year of highs and lows, but 2014 ends on the upswing!

FORMER MAYOR TONDREAU FOUND GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS

Remains in Custody Until March 20th Sentencing

December 16, 2014 - Former North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau has just been found guilty on all charges in her trial on conspiracy and wire-fraud charges. The jury deliberated for only two hours.

Saying she used her standing in the community to "hoodwink" straw buyers, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola has ordered she remain in prison until her sentencing in March 2015. The Miami Herald reports Judge Scola said, "I'm going to treat her like ... a common criminal."

Tondreau faces up to 30 years in prison.

SECOND METER CHARGE ELIMINATED!

December 11, 2014 - I'm thrilled to let you know the Council this week voted to eliminate the base charge for all second (irrigation) water meters across the city!

It's something that many of you have fought with me for almost three years.

Instituted in 2012, the charge caused water rates on said meters to triple.

Thank you to all of you who persevered until the political winds changed and we could reverse this unfair charge.


TONDREAU TRIAL CONTINUES

December 11, 2014 - The felony trial of former North Miami mayor Lucie Tondreau began on December 1st and is nearing the end of its second week. The Miami Times reported yesterday of testimony that Tondreau's signature allegedly appeared on critical documents.

The Miami Herald covered opening arguments where Tondreau's attorneys argued she was simply duped by her "business partner and former lover." I'll let you know when a verdict is reached


NORTH MIAMI GETS $100 MILLION BOOST FROM LAND SALE

October 30, 2014: In a momentous vote, the City Council this week voted 4-0 to approve a Memo of Understanding with Oleta Partners for the sale of 50 acres of land at the Biscayne Lading site. The sale and related percentages will be worth approximately $100 million to the city over the next 15 years.

And it will be worth millions more in the years afterward.

Click here to read the Memo of Understanding.

What does this mean for North Miami? $20 million paid to the city over the next ten years. $4 million will be paid up front upon closing of the sale (approximately December 2014). The remaining $16 million will be paid annually, with the city also making 3.5% interest on the balance.

2% of the gross sales on all condos eventually built. City staff estimates that will be at least $30 million over the next 15 years.

A huge boost in ad valorem taxes. By allowing condos to be built on the 50 acres, in the very first year they are occupied (approximately 2017), North Miami will receive $3 million more in tax revenue. The second year, that amount jumps to $6 million. By year ten, it's an additional $39 million.

Oleta Partners assumes the costs for Groundwater Operations, for which the city annually pays over $1 million out of our General Fund. That will amount to a savings to the city of over $20 million.

We will also continue to annually receive nearly $1 million per year in lease payments on the remainder of the Biscayne Landing site.

And, not to be overlooked, the contaminated soil brought on site several months ago will finally be removed.

Now, the onus will be on us to find ways to effectively invest that money. We should lower taxes. We should explore taking out loans against our large levels of revenue streams. We should rehabilitate our outdated facilities and expand MOCA.

This a seminal moment in North Miami history. If we act responsibly, we have the chance to vastly improve our city.

Suddenly, North Miami's future looks very bright.

IRS' NORTH MIAMI INVESTIGATION EXPANDS

October 22, 2014: The City of North Miami learned last month that the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the city's 2012 federal tax returns.

This week, we learned they have broadened their investigation to include expenses related to overseas travel, cash advances, hotel bookings, and more.

Click here to read their entire request.

Because the documents requested are so voluminous, I'm told city administrators have asked for, and been granted, an extension until November 20th to comply with the IRS requests.

Notably, the IRS asks for documents and explanations related to former Police Chief Marc Elias' overseas travels, as well as cash advances made to Councilwoman Marie Steril and Deputy Manager Lumane Claude, a matter I first reported via email in late 2013. Even though city regulations require receipts related to such travel be submitted within 5 working days after return, said receipts weren't submitted until I learned of the trip and complained 16 months later.

Here are some highlights from the IRS request for documentation. They ask for detail about:
30 city employees (and elected officials) who traveled
18 payments to travel agencies and hotels (including Disney and Marco Island)
Various payments to rental car companies and restaurants
89 city vendors who did not receive a Form 1099 from the City
15 separate credit card payments
Also requested is documentation on various payments for Insurance Reimbursement and Board Remunerations.

This examination of city records is separate from the forensic audit of other city finances that the City Council is exploring.

Please visit www.scott-galvin.com for updates on the forensic audit and, of course, the IRS examination.

Dog Park Coming to North Bayshore!

After listening to the voice of several residents, North Miami has plans to establish our very own dog-friendly section at North Bayshore Park, located at 12220 North Bayshore Drive, just south of NE 123 Street. By late December, a section of the park will be fenced off.

There, dog owners can bring their best friends to let them run around and have a good time! Staff will take the ensuing weeks to plot out the location and establish rules for users. We're sure to have a grand opening, so keep checking for updates!

IRS LAUNCHES NORTH MIAMI INVESTIGATION

September 4, 2014 - North Miami City Council members learned this week that the Internal Revenue Service has begun an investigation of the city's federal tax returns. Their current focus is the year of 2012.

City employees have days to compile extensive documentation requested by the IRS. Their examiners will be at city hall on September 18th. Named in their records search are 20 current-and-former city employees, as well as eight vendors with whom we've done business.

Click here to read the full letter from the IRS to the city of North Miami.

Though the focus of the IRS examination will start with 2012, I was told by the city manager that IRS has authority to go back to previous years, or forward to current habits, depending on what they find.

This examination of city records is separate from the forensic audit of other city finances that the City Council is exploring.

Please visit www.scott-galvin.com for updates on the forensic audit and, of course, the IRS examination.

Mayoral Election Heads for Nov. 4th Run Off

Voters cast their ballots earlier this week for a new mayor of North Miami. With three candidates to choose from, some mused that we would be headed for a runoff.

Those prognosticators were correct. On Tuesday, November 4th, former mayor Kevin Burns will face off against local doctor Smith Joseph for the right to represent us at city hall.

Burns led the pack in the first round of voting with 45% of ballots cast. Smith was in second with 38%. Former councilman Jean Marcellus, who has now been eliminated, rounded things out with 17%.

Click here for unofficial results from all precincts.

Click here for Election Day coverage from WLRN.

Click here for coverage from the Miami Herald.

Volunteer for the Guardian Ad Litem Program!

August 30, 2014 - The Guardian Ad Litem Program advocates for abused, neglected, and abandoned children who are involved in court proceedings and are meant to function as the �eyes and ears� of the court. Guardian ad Litem�s also make recommendations to the judge concerning the child�s social, physical, emotional, educational and legal status. In Miami-Dade County alone, over 4,000 children are in foster care or protective services. Florida statutes require the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem in every case of child abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, not every child has a Guardian volunteer.

The Guardian Ad Litem Program is always in critical need of volunteers. Out of the 4,000 children in foster care of protective services, approximately 1,300 children are without representation. No special experience or legal background is necessary, just a commitment to improving the lives of children. If you are interested in making a difference in a child�s life, please contact Victoria Harris at (786)469-3813 or email victoria.harris@gal.fl.gov.

North Miami Library Closing for $1.5 Million in Renovations

August 22, 2014 - The North Miami Public Library will soon be closing to undergo a $1.5 million renovation. To accommodate the extensive work involved in the renovation, the Library will close on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 and will remain closed for approximately five months, until the work is done.

Plans are in place for the temporary relocation of the library to a trailer unit that will be installed adjacent to the north side of the library building, which is located at 835 NE 132 Street. Library services at the temporary location will include computer access, copying and printing, E-books, reference, and returning of materials. Hours of operation at the temporary site will remain the same: Monday - Thursday 11:30 am - 8:00 pm; Friday & Saturday 9:30 am - 5:00 pm; and closed Sundays. Books and other materials will be placed in storage during the renovation. They will be returned to the Library, along with the addition of new materials, when the library re-opens.

The City of North Miami is part of a Reciprocal Borrowing Agreement that includes the Miami Dade Public Library System, the North Miami Beach Public Library, and the Hialeah Public Library. North Miami residents are eligible to apply for a free library card and access library services at all these locations.

Keep checking www.northmiamifl.gov/library for photos and updates. We look forward to an exciting new library!

Strong New Background Checks Implemented

August 21, 2014 - After the arrest last month of North Miami's Purchasing Manager, it was also revealed in the media that he had a previous arrest for Battery. Mayor Phillipe Bien-Aime was so concerned with that news that he directed the City Manager to take a look at all recent city hires. Specifically, Bien-Aime suggested a stronger look at anyone hired in the last two years.

As a result, City Manager Aleem Ghany has now instituted strong new background check policies for all future employees. Sweeping in their scope, the checks will be done "prior to an individual's appointment as a full time, part time (on contract) employee, intern, or volunteer."

Click here to read the full policy: Background Hiring Policy 2014

In addition, every person hired in the last two years is being re-screened through the North Miami Police Department to assure nothing was overlooked.

State Audit Committee to Consider North Miami Inquiry

At the request of the North Miami City Council, the Florida Joint Legislative Auditing Committee (JLAC) in Tallahassee will consider initiating an audit of North Miami's finances. However, because State-wide elections are on-going, their decision likely won't come until the new year when the JLAC again meets.

Click here to read an email JLAC sent to North Miami

In the meantime, the city's request for bids for auditing services continues. In June, the city council directed staff to put out such a bid, and the window in which to submit proposals is open until September 2nd.

Click here to read the bid parameters

Purchasing Manager Arrested on Felony Charges

August 5, 2014 - It's happened again. On July 24th, North Miami Purchasing Manager Marcanthony Tulloch was arrested on felony charges of Grand Theft and Official Misconduct. Amazingly, however, North Miami leaders didn't learn of the arrest until yesterday and Tulloch continued to come to work until this morning, when the City Manager suspended him.

WLRN broke the story today. Click here to read it.

Tulloch has a scheduled court hearing on August 25th...the day before voters head to the polls to replace arrested mayor Lucie Tondreau.

But wait! There's more!

Tulloch, who only began working for North Miami a few months ago, has another arrest from 2008 for Battery. That case was dismissed after he apparently completed a diversion program. Tulloch's recent felony arrest stems from his tenure as Purchasing Manager for the City of Sunny Isles Beach. Further details are not yet available.

I have several questions: Was a background check done on Tulloch before we hired him. If so, why didn't his Battery arrest preclude him?

Are we certain Tulloch wasn't repeating his alleged criminal actions in our city?

Are there other recently hired city employees with arrest records?

Please keep checking www.scott-galvin.com for new details as they develop.

North Miami Library to Close Soon for Renovations

August 5, 2014 - Details are being finalized on the library's new renovation project, including the timeline for construction. The E. May Avil North Miami Public Library, located at 835 NE 132 ST, was built in the 1960's and was last renovated in 1985. This newest project, funded by Progress 2013 funds and a grant from the State of Florida, will reconfigure the library's internal space to make it more user-friendly and accommodating to the technological needs of library patrons.

While the timeline for construction is being worked out, Library Director, Lucia Gonzalez, and her staff have been working on the relocation plan to keep library services alive in your neighborhood while the building is not accessible. Pardon our dust while we work to transform your library experience!

Details will be posted at northmiamifl.gov/nomilibrary and future NoMi News editions.

La Gran Fiesta! September 13th...

August 5, 2014 - North Miami's 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month festivities will kick off with our signature event, La Gran Fiesta Block Party - a free event featuring live music featuring Lisett Morales and Marlow Rosado at the MOCA Plaza, 770 NE 125 ST, on Saturday, September 13th, 7 - 11 p.m. Make plans to join us for a night of dancing, local latin flavors, live music and family fun!

Check out our promo video with Lisett Morales and Marlow Rosado!

A full listing of Hispanic Heritage Month events will be posted on our Celebrate page soon.

Sponsors, volunteers and vendors are all welcome! Contact our Special Events office at 305-895-9840, ext. 12227 or contact us via E-mail at aramos@northmiamifl.gov.

NATIONAL NIGHT OUT AGAINST CRIME - COMMUNITY EVENTS

Tuesday, August 5TH
Celebrate America's Night Out Against Crime at two events in North Miami:
Hosted by Councilwoman Marie Erlande Steril
Sunkist Grove Community Center - 12500 NW 13 AVE
Time: TBD

Councilwoman Marie Erlande Steril invites residents of District 4 to join your neighbors and the North Miami Police Department at this fun-filled event, which will include a community bike ride. For more information, contact the Office of the Mayor and Council at 305-895-9818.

Hosted by Gateway Family Foursquare Church Johnson & Wales University -
1701 NE 127 ST 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Meet your neighbors at this fun-filled family event! This event will promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back. Enjoy Food Trucks, Bounce houses, contests, raffles, entertainment and more! For more information contact North Miami Community Services Section at 305-891-0294, ext. 23200.


North Miami Police Win Awards

Congratulations to the North Miami Police Department's Traffic Motor Unit, who were recipients of several State of Florida Law Enforcement Liaison (LEL) awards presented on June 26 - 27, 2014.

The traffic unit won the following awards:
First Place DUI Enforcement
First Place Click it or Ticket Seatbelt Wave
First Place Champions Division

The Champions Division winner must have been a recipient of a previous "Traffic Unit of the Year" award and is considered to be the "best of the best" among traffic units in the State.

The NMPD was also recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving at the annual MADD Awards on June 11, 2014.

Department's Commitment to zero tolerance for impaired drivers
Officer Miguel Pineda awarded as NMPD's top DUI enforcer
Officers Stuart and Chery and the North Miami Junior Police Cadets for their assistance and support of MADD programs
Traffic Homicide Unit for DUI enforcement
Officer Duhamel Jeanite for his efforts in DUI Enforcement

Utility Billing Account Info Now Online

The City of North Miami is now offering online access to utility billing(water services) accounts to all water utility customers. This will provide quick access to account information, such as payment history and account summaries.

Water service customers can also track water consumption and set up paperless summaries. These services can be accessed at northmiamifl.gov, under the E-Services tab. Customers will create an online account in Citizen Services, which can be found under Citizen E-Portal.


Oleta Partners to Remove Biscayne Landing Soil

Months ago, Oleta Partners, the entity which manages the Biscayne Landing project, brought on-site some soil from a development location in downtown Miami. The soil, which totaled about 194,000 cubic yards, had levels of aluminum that were higher than County environmental standards. When the soil was discovered by city officials, our City Council repeatedly and vehemently demanded the soil be removed. Now, after standing our ground, the developer has agreed to remove the soil.

The same agreement approved last week also authorizes City Staff to begin the process of appraising about fifty acres of the Biscayne Landing site for possible sale to Oleta Partners. The developer wishes to build condominiums and believes they'll have an easier time of securing construction financing if they own the land, as opposed to renting it from the City. But before we can have any type of public discussions about whether a sale is viable, we first need to know what the land is worth. Oleta Partners will pay for said appraisals.

I'm excited that there is once again some positive activity at Biscayne Landing. I'm proud of the City Council for hanging tough on the soil removal. And, invested correctly, money potentially earned from the sale of land might really improve our infrastructure.

Financial Audit a Step Closer

At its last meeting before a regular summer recess, the North Miami City Council voted 3-1 to direct staff to move further toward an outside audit of city finances. Councilwoman Steril was the lone vote in opposition. The departments we might audit include Finance, Purchasing, Public Works, and Building & Zoning.

Staff has been directed to put out a bid for services to see what the exact cost of an audit would be. Early estimates show it would cost us approximately $30,000 for each department we audit, per each year we go back. Some speakers at the Council meeting want us to go back ten years in the audit. That could be quite costly. Thus, we asked Staff to come back with specific figures and facts.

In addition to the request for bids, we also authorized Staff to contact the State of Florida about the possibility of them conducting an audit. With the City Council having voted, Florida's Joint Legislative Auditing Committee can now consider whether they will conduct the audit. But they won't meet again until after the November elections and, if approved, their audit would also come at a cost to North Miamians. Stay tuned for details as they unfold.


CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY BY THE BAY IN NORTH MIAMI

Featuring Live Music by Karina Iglesias of The Voice Celebrate Independence Day by the Bay in North Miami

America turns 238 years old on July 4th and the perfect place to celebrate is at the annual NORTH MIAMI INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION BY THE BAY on the grounds of the Kovens Center at Florida International University - Biscayne Bay Campus, 3000 NE 151 Street. Enjoy a fun-filled evening with the family on Friday, July 4, 2014. The fun begins at 7 p.m. with children's activities, live entertainment by Karina Iglesias of NBC's hit show The Voice, and a spectacular fireworks finale over the bay at sundown (approximately 9 p.m.)

Bring a blanket or lawn chairs to enjoy a special evening with your family and friends celebrating our nation's independence. Admission to the festivities (and parking) is FREE! Food will be available for purchase. No personal fireworks or alcoholic beverages will be allowed. Bug spray is also recommended. The event will take place rain or shine.

Refunds on Some Red Light Camera Tickets Possible

June 19, 2014 - The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that municipal ordinances adopted before 2010, were preempted by state law, and therefore invalid. As you may recall, the City was sued by individuals in 2009, styled as Sierra v. City of North Miami 09-62226, who challenged our city ordinance which established the use of red light cameras to issue traffic tickets. That action was stayed pending the Supreme Court decision.

Now that a Supreme Court decision has been rendered, we will need to determine next steps and advise whether any, and, if so, how much money, may be required to be refunded to those who received red light tickets prior to 2010. If you recall, when the state statute was amended in 2010, tickets issued under the the new ordinance were permissible under state law. The city council will soon meet to discuss the matter.

Community Redevelopment Agency is Reorganized

June 19, 2014 - New City Manager Aleem Ghany, who also serves as our CRA Executive Director, has taken steps to reorganize ourCommunity Redevelopment Agency. The North Miami CRA exists to revitalize the city's physical, economic, educational, and social resources.

The following changes have been implemented: Effective immediately, budget and accounting responsibilities have been shifted from the CRA accountant and consultants to the City of North Miami financial staff.

Effective October 1st, when our lease runs out, the CRA office will move from its leased location to a permanent office at City Hall.

Ghany told the city council that the "expected results (of the reorganization) include an improved long-term financial footprint and ability to produce immediate redevelopment projects.

Miami New Times Chooses Several "Best of" North Miami Spots

This year's Miami New Times "Best of" edition is on the stands! As usual, several North Miami locations were selected as among the best Dade County has to offer.

Here are those they named:
Best Park - Oleta River State Park, 3400 NE 163 Street

Best Chili - Vega's Burger Bar, 1699 NE 123 Street

Best Restaurant in North Miami-Dade - Ricky Thai Bistro, 1617 NE 123 Street

Best Bagels - Bagel Bar East, 1990 NE 123 Street

Best Jukebox - Point Lounge, 2204 NE 123 Street

Congratulations to these establishments! If you haven't visited each one, put them on your 'must see' list today!

Leonard Burgess Named North Miami Police Chief

June 4, 2014 - Leonard Burgess has been selected to fill the position of Chief of Police of the North Miami Police Department. North Miami City Manager Aleem A. Ghany made the decision to appoint Burgess as Chief effective Sunday, June 8, 2014. Burgess was appointed Interim Chief of Police by former City Manager Stephen Johnson on February 11, 2014.

Chief Burgess has dedicated 29 years of service in law enforcement, which has allowed him to gain expertise in fiscal management, as well as strategic planning and implementation skills, in the various roles he has held within the field. He joined the North Miami Police Department (NMPD) in October 2010, as a Police Major, and was subsequently appointed to Assistant Chief of the Field Operations Division in December 2011.

Prior to joining the North Miami Police Department, Burgess served as the Deputy Director for the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department (MDCRD) for two years, which is the sixth largest jail system in the United States, with over 2,500 employees. Additionally, he dedicated twenty years of service to the largest law enforcement agency in the Southeastern United States, the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), from November 1988 until October 2008, where he last held the rank of Division Chief of the Special Investigations Division. Interim Chief Burgess holds a Bachelor's Degree in Behavioral Sciences from Barry University and a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Florida International University. He has honorably served in the United States Marine Corps, and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute Command Officers Course at the University of Louisville, and of the Senior Management Institute for Police Executives at Harvard's Kennedy School. He currently serves as President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) South Florida Chapter.

Property Values Rise Significantly

June 4, 2014 - The Dade County Property Appraiser's office has release the 2014 property value estimates and North Miami's have risen 7.1% over last year's values. Overall, property values are now estimated to be $2.2 billion.

If we keep the current millage rate of 7.9, the estimated ad valorem taxes for the 2014-15 budget year is $15,836,662. That's an increase of over $1,400,000 from this year's budget. Our budget hearings will be scheduled sometime during the month of September.

It All Ends Now.

The corruption. The backroom deals. Special privileges for friends and family. Nepotism. All of that ends now.

We, the people of North Miami, are ready to demand better. We're tired of the string of negative headlines casting a shadow on a city where we live, work, and play. We're sick of a government that is more preoccupied with self-service than it is with community service.

With new elections coming, we are going to demand better from our candidates. And we're going to demand better from city employees, too, because their complicity with the inappropriate directions of elected officials so often allow these things to happen.

Do you agree with me? Click here to sign an online petition! Show that you are one of the residents, business owners, and activists who are ready to stand for government in the sunshine.

The principles of democracy are alive and well in North Miami. Our government shall be of the people, by the people, and for the people. With liberty and justice for all.

Students and Educators Honored by Youth Opportunity Board

June 4, 2014 - At last week's North Miami Council meeting, students and educators were recognized for their accomplishments in several categories. The Educator Recognition Program was established to recognize educators that share the Youth Opportunity Board's vision by providing opportunity, knowledge, and encouragement to young people in our community. Winners receive an Office Max Gift Certificate and an award certificate from the North Miami City Council.

The Youth Opportunity Board's Bill Carr Youth Recognition Program recognizes students who reside in North Miami or attend North Miami schools for their good citizenship at all grade levels (K-12). Winners receive an Office Max Gift Certificate and an award certificate from the North Miami City Council. The Lou Schick Scholarship Program provides cash scholarship awards for North Miami students who have maintained at least a 3.0 high school GPA, plan to attend a college or university, and have demonstrated leadership and academic excellence. The student honored received a scholarship in the amount of $1,400 from the City of North Miami and the Youth Opportunity Board.

Educators honored include: Kadienne Gomez - Natural Bridge Elementary; Rebeca Valverde - North Miami Elementary; and Sara Telefort -Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School.

Students honored were: Hymler Lagou - North Miami Elementary; Lillian Garconnette - Natural Bridge Elementary; and Sabrina Severe - North Miami Senior High.

Refunds to be Processed for Aqua Backflow Program

June 3, 2014 - From June 2012 until October 2013, the city used the services of a company called Aqua Backflow to conduct inspections on Residential and Commercial backflow devices. As part of that program, the city collected a fee of about $20 per customer per inspection. We rescinded our agreement with Aqua Backflow when it was discovered it had not been properly bid. As a result, I've been asking for about eight months that the city refund the $20 fee to any customer who was billed during those sixteen months.

I'm happy to announce that, after a meeting yesterday with new City Manager Aleem Ghany, he agreed to process those refunds. In total, Ghany told me the amount collected was just over $3,000. Though that amount is not huge, it's the principal of the thing. The city collected funds we shouldn't have....and now we are going to return them.

New City Manager Chosen, Solidifying Leadership

May 27, 2014 - Dozens of residents showed up at tonight's Council meeting to urge the selection of Aleem Ghany as our permanent City Manager. The North Miami City Council heard their voices and voted 4-0 to select him. Ghany has been with the city for nearly 20 years and was previously our Public Works Director. He had also served as Interim City Manager for the past several weeks after past Manager Steve Johnson left to become Police Chief in Miami Gardens.

Ghany's selection solidifies leadership at the top level of our government. Last week's arrest of ex-Mayor Lucie Tondreau created a unique void at city hall. Coupled with other resignations and retirements, North Miami was simultaneously without a permanent Mayor, City Manager, Police Chief, or Public Works Director. Ghany is now empowered to choose new leaders for the Police and Public Works Departments. By choosing Ghany, the Council has ended the open application process that we had previously commenced. Originally, I had supported a wide search. But when Tondreau was arrested, too much was left in the lurch. We have important issues in front of us, including the MOCA lawsuit, police union negotiations, and preparing the next budget. It is in the city's best interest to quickly stabilize things as best we can. Aleem Ghany will do that. I congratulate him on his new position and look forward to working with him.

Lucie Tondreau Arrested on Fraud Charges

Update, May 23, 2014 - The City Council will consider an Ordinance next Tuesday setting August 26th as the date for the special election to replace Lucie Tondreau. A run-off, if necessary, will be Nov. 4th. Here's the letter from the Dade Elections Dep't explaining why they want those dates: http://www.scribd.com/doc/225830739/Response-to-City-of-North-Miami-Request-for-Special-Election

May 20, 2014 - North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau today turned herself into the FBI at their Miami headquarters. Media reports she was handcuffed by agents and led away. It is expected that Governor Rick Scott will soon officially remove Tondreau from office. She will appear before a federal judge for a bond hearing at 1:30 pm today. Federal authorities yesterday charged Tondreau and three others for their roles in fraudulently obtaining home loans on behalf of phantom buyers. Prosecutors allege the cost to lenders surpassed $8 million. If found guilty, each defendant faces up to 30 years in prison.

The North Miami City Charter dictates that a special election to replace Tondreau now be held. We have already been in contact with the Dade Elections Department and have been told the earliest they can pull one together is Tuesday, August 26th, when a countywide election is already scheduled. In the interim, Vice-Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime will handle the duties of mayor. Paperwork for those wishing to run will be available through the City Clerk's office.

City Council to Vote for New Manager on June 10

North Miami's city council is slated to vote on June 10th for a new city manager, replacing Steve Johnson, who stepped down in April. Aleem Ghany, Public Works Director, is currently serving as the Interim Manager. A search firm has been hired to streamline the process, but the Council hopes to have a replacement in place sooner rather than later. With the budget season quickly approaching, we want to have stability at the helm. Job requirements for the manager will soon be announced and applications accepted.

Keep checking this website and www.northmiamifl.gov for information.

Galvin Urges City Social Media Presence

At our May 13th Council meeting, I asked city staff to expedite efforts to establish a social media presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Many other local cities have such sites to publicize local events. North Miami, however, has lagged behind. The city council joined me in urging our staff to fast-forward efforts to, in my estimation, bring the city into the 21st Century. It was agreed that North Miami will target the end of June for the launch of new social media sites.

City Finances at Issue

For the last couple of years, auditors hired by North Miami to examine our finances have suggested, among other things, that the Council be provided detailed monthly financial statements. Said their reports, "Presenting financial statements to the Council will ensure they are informed of the City finances during the course of the fiscal year which will also allow for proper decision making regarding the City�s finances and assist in the budgeting process for the next fiscal year." Over the last year, I've been pressing without success to get such information.

At the May 27th City Council meeting, North Miami's Budget and Finance departments will finally make a detailed budget presentation. I have significant concerns, as early projections indicate eight separate departments will come in over budget by the end of the fiscal year. The main culprit for the overruns is stated to be our Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP), enacted last Fall. I vocally opposed the ERIP at the time, noting that city administrators didn't provide us with details on the positions affected, nor the financial impacts. It appears now my ERIP fears were warranted. The financial presentation will be part of the May 27th agenda, starting at 7:00 pm that evening at city hall.

Work is expected to be completed by June 30, 2014.

City Leaders Unify Behind MOCA

Update: June 19, 2014 - On June 16th, I joined the North Miami legal team as we discussed a settlement with lawyers representing the North Miami MOCA Board. The mediation hearing lasted eleven hours that day, continued into a second day, and is still on-going at press time for this article. The good news is, as a result of the mediation, the two sides have come together and are diligently working to resolve the dispute. We hope to have a mutually beneficial resolution soon.

UPDATE: May 30, 2014 - The court ordered mediation will be scheduled for June 16, 2014 and June 17, 2014 (if necessary). Former Chief Judge Joseph Farina will be the mediator.

UPDATE: May 29, 2014 - A judge has ordered both sides in the MOCA dispute to desist from any further official actions until mediation can be held. In the meantime, be sure you've read the latest media stories about what's happening:
New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/19/arts/design/north-miami-fights-to-keep-its-art-museum.html?_r=0Miami New Times:
http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/cultist/2014/05/at_moca_north_miami_a_battle_over_race.php
Miami Herald:
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/28/4143033/city-of-north-miamis-nominee-for.html

UPDATE: May 1, 2014- The city this week announced several new steps in its fight to keep the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) North Miami and its celebrated permanent art collection of more than 600 pieces.

First, the City of North Miami has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the MOCA Board of Trustees in April calling it "legally deficient." Further, the City has taken other actions to secure all of the art and funds donated to MOCA and to ensure that none of it can be removed from MOCA until a judge has ruled on the case. Finally, the City of North Miami maintains that the Board has breached its legal obligations to the City and MOCA that are outlined in a Management Agreement between the City and the Board of Trustees. A default letter has been sent to the Board. The letter also warns the Board that any removal of the art or property belonging to MOCA will be considered theft and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The mission statement of MOCA North Miami is "making contemporary art accessible to diverse audiences, especially underserved populations, through the collection, preservation and exhibition of the best of contemporary art and its art historical influences." Click here for a Miami Herald story: Click Here

March 12, 2014 - Since early December 2013, rumor has circulated that North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) would be relocating an joining the Bass Museum on Miami Beach. The chatter reached a peak in recent days when some MOCA Board members confirmed that such discussions are
on-going.

In response, at the March 11, 2014 City Council meeting, city leadership spanning several decades joined in a strong and unified call to keep North Miami's MOCA in North Miami. Seven former North Miami Mayors joined current Mayor Lucie Tondreau at the front of Council chambers to declare we will take whatever steps necessary to keep our museum ours. The mayors who attended were Frank Wolland, John Stembridge, Howard Premer, Mike Colodny, Andre Pierre, Kevin Burns, and Joe Celestin. Their historic gathering showed just how important MOCA is to North Miami.

The current Council heard their call and agreed. We told staff to take any step necessary to keep MOCA
as-is. We unanimously agreed, in a 5-0 vote, that we stand 100% behind MOCA, are fully committed to its preservation and expansion, and believe it to be an integral backbone to our community. It was overwhelming to see so many people come together to show support for MOCA. Often, politics can divide our city. Not this time. We will fight to keep our diamond in North Miami!

Work Begins on ACENA Footbridges

April 16, 2014 - On April 11th, work began in the Arch Creek East Preserve on two pedestrian foot bridges that span each of the canals that connect the mangrove to Biscayne Bay. The bridges will replace the two outdated ones currently being used.

They are being installed as a "shared use" path to accommodate only pedestrian traffic, including wheelchairs and bicycles. They will not be strong enough to bear the weight of vehicles or trucks.

The bridges are being paid for by a State Grant won by North Miami in about 2010. That grant was tied to the bike paths we've recently laid through the Preserve. These bridges will be much more aesthetically pleasing and allow room for runners/cyclists to cross in each direction at the same time.

And don't worry! The entire area will be returned to its original condition by the time the project is finished. Bollards will be replaced and landscaping will be restored. City planners and our environmental partner, Urban Paradise Guild, even planned ahead with our recent mangrove plantings to assure that none of them will be harmed in the process.

Work is expected to be completed by June 30, 2014.

City Manager Steve Johnson Steps Down

North Miami City Manager Steve Johnson surprised many by announcing his retirement, effective April 11th. This month, he celebrates 30 years with the city, having started as a police officer and rising through the ranks.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to move on...to pursue other opportunities," he wrote in an April 7th letter to the City Council. In fact, upon leaving, Johnson will become the Chief of Police in Miami Gardens. Click here to read a Miami Herald story on Johnson's move.

In the interim, the Council voted 4-1 to appoint Public Works Director Aleem Ghany as Interim City Manager. And the Council voted 3-2 to give Johnson three months severance pay, which totals about $60,000. Councilwoman Keys and I voted against the severance.

Johnson becomes the second high-level administrator to leave the city in the last two months. In early February, then-Police Chief Marc Elias resigned. His position has not yet been permanently filled.

MOCA Board Sues City

In an on-going dispute, the Board of Directors of North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) have sued the city as they try to break away from North Miami and move the permanent collection to Miami Beach's Bass Museum. Their suit was filed against the city, administrators, and Council members.

Since this matter is now a legal one, I'll refrain from any comments which might be misconstrued by attorneys. But please keep up to speed with the matter.

Click here for a Miami Herald story.

Click here for a Miami New Times story.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

On behalf of Commissioner Adam H. Putnam and the Florida Department Agriculture and Consumer Services, I share with you this information.

As part of their outreach efforts, they would like you to visit:
http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Consumer-Services/Consumer-Services.

In 2013, as a result of the department's efforts, more than $3,477,000 was recovered on behalf of Florida consumers. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state's clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. The consumer assistance center is staffed with trained analysts who are able to file complaints on behalf of the consumer, respond to questions about programs and regulations under the department's purview, provide information on a wide variety of topics or direct callers to the appropriate government agency.

The department's consumer assistance center answered nearly 200,000 calls and more than 7,300 emails in 2013. In addition, the consumer assistance center analysts responded to nearly 7,000 online chats through the department's online chat option available online.

Temple Flies Rainbow Flag

March 13, 2014 - Earlier this month, North Miami's Temple Beth Moshe raised the rainbow flag in front of their shul, becoming one of the first, if not THE first, institutions in the city to do so.

Rabbi Jory Lang tells me he wants the community to know his temple is open to everyone. He is dismayed to see some in religious circles using the Bible to demean and belittle.

Click here for a story in the Miami Herald.

You'll perhaps remember Rabbi Lang allowing us to host a GLBT Inclusion Forum at Beth Moshe in 2012.

They've even dedicated a page of their website to resources available to our LGBT Youth and Families.

I applaud Temple Beth Moshe, Rabbi Lang, and all of their congregants for their bold, inspiring, and loving stand. I am so proud they are here in North Miami!

You Can Throw Things at Me!

March 13, 2014 - I've joined an exciting effort to address the AIDS crisis in my community. I signed up for Florida AIDS Walk, a 5K walk in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, March 30.

Continuing my tradition of doing something silly to raise funds, this year, if you help me reach my $5,000 fundraising goal, I'll sit in a dunk tank, allowing thousands of attendees to knock me into cold water!

Please support my effort to stop the spread of HIV by becoming one of my sponsors. Whatever you can give will make a profound difference.

Please click here to sponsor me and I'll get in the dunk tank!!

Funds raised by Florida AIDS Walk will enable the expansion of free HIV testing and prevention education in Florida's Broward and Miami Dade counties, and provide healthcare and support for HIV-positive individuals throughout the state. With your help, AHF Pharmacy, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Out of the Closet, and each of our 2014 Florida AIDS Walk Beneficiaries will be empowered to carry out this mission.

An added bonus: our musical act this year is the legendary female rock band, the Go-Go's!

Council Reverses Course; Trash Fees Back to Utility Bill

March 12, 2014 - On March 11th, the Council reversed a vote we took just six weeks ago that would have moved trash and sanitation fees off of utility bills and onto property tax rolls. Now, the Council has now decided to keep said charges on utility bills. The vote to do so was 4-1, with Mayor Tondreau opposed.

I had opposed the switch all along. Yes, it would have allowed quarterly utility bills to decrease. But the "savings" would be illusionary. Instead, the costs, when transferred to the property tax bill, would have caused the mortgages of most residents to go up. We'd still be paying the same fees, just in a different place. It was Councilwoman Steril who changed her mind about her January vote and brought the matter back for our consideration. She said further study showed her mortgage bills would be negatively affected. Thus, she, Councilpersons Bien-Aime and Keys, and I formed the new majority to keep things as-is. You'll continue paying trash and sanitation fees on your utility bill.

Community Leaders Tour FIU Road Options

March 12, 2014 - Florida International University remains committed to getting a second entrance to their campus...and North Miami remains as committed to keep NE 135 Street closed.

To get a good look at our options, County Commissioner Sally Heyman invited several to attend a walk-thru of the area on March 10th. In attendance were representatives of FIU, including campus VP Steve Saul, Herb Tillman of Oleta Partners (Biscayne Landing), and myself.

We drove vans back into the Biscayne Landing site and walked the 143 Street path which connects that project to FIU's main entrance. We also explored a perimeter road that could theoretically be connected to the traffic light on Biscayne Boulevard at 139 Street (near Kentucky Fried Chicken). And we went north to 163 Street and drove in the Oleta Park entrance, following it back to the college campus.

The 143 Street route is quite viable, in my opinion, as is the 163 Street route. 143 Street would require remediation (replacement) of some mangroves. But the section on the north of the route, which we would need to remove, is landlocked and not environmentally pristine. That means it is not as vital to the future health of the larger mangrove areas of the Oleta Preserve.

Coming south off of 163 Street, there are exotic Australian pine trees which might also be removed to create a nice road to FIU. I believe we would have to create an entrance bypassing the "paid parking" gate of Oleta Park, but it's certainly possible.

Right now, there's no money for any of the options. But lots of people remain focused on finding a route which will be tenable for the majority of residents. I'll keep you informed about what happens next!

Water Rates Examined for Condos

March 12, 2014 - On the evening of March 10th, North Miami city staff, including City Manager Steve Johnson, met with leaders of Arch Creek East's Dorset House condominium to discuss their water rates. Back in October, Dorset residents pointed out a perceived billing discrepancy related to new rates the city recently instituted.

It took several months to get everyone in the same room, but the March 10th meeting saw good dialogue. No final resolutions were arrived at, but city staff will crunch some numbers and decide how they might be applied. Of course, any relief that Dorset would realize would also be applied to others in ACENA and across the city.

In addition, I've already asked city staff to provide me with a comprehensive look at ways we might lower other water rates.

The story is very fluid, no pun intended, so stay tuned!

Apartment Inspection Yields Dozens of Violations

March 12, 2014 - In February, I took a tour of two North Miami apartment buildings. A North Miami Housing Task Force, consisting of Police, Fire, Code, and Building officials has started looking into the conditions in which thousands of our residents live. As a result, in one of the buildings, 32 minimum housing violations and 7 fire code violations were cited.

What I had seen on that tour was horrid and left me at a loss for words. Garbage spilled everywhere. Hallways that smelled of sewage. Broken elevators. Darkened stairwells. One tenant told me he's lived in his unit for two years with an inoperable bathroom sink. Repeated requests to Management for repair have gone unheeded. The city is now taking organized and deliberate steps to reverse housing decay that has been allowed to become too prevalent across North Miami.

Apartment Buildings Tour Reveals Horrid Conditions

On February 18th, I took a tour of two North Miami apartment buildings. A North Miami Housing Task Force, consisting of Police, Fire, Code, and Building officials has started looking into the conditions in which thousands of our residents live.

What I saw was horrid and left me at a loss for words. Garbage spilled everywhere. Hallways that smelled of sewage. Broken elevators. Darkened stairwells. One tenant told me he's lived in his unit for two years with an inoperable bathroom sink. Repeated requests to Management for repair have gone unheeded.

Police told me they can show me buildings which are worse.

North Miami must take action to fix all of this. Landlords must be forced to reinvest rental income to fix their buildings. Tenants must be instilled with pride to take care of their homes.

The answers won't be easy. The work ahead is hard. But I'm confident our city council will start to protect the quality of life all North Miamians deserve.

Galvin Asks for Changes in Water Rates

In 2012, North Miami made changes to our water billing rates. As a result, the rates for those who have second water meters, usually for Sprinklers and Irrigation, saw their costs skyrocket. Upset, over 75 residents turned out in October 2013 for a Town Hall meeting I hosted to focus on the situation.

It took me several months to get from City Hall information needed to research things (believe it or not, I'm also STILL trying to resolve individual billing problems that were brought to me that night. City Hall needs to learn how to expedite constituent needs).

Finally, as of Feb. 25, 2014, I have asked for an analysis of the following:
  • Cost and ramifications of fully privatizing our Water programs
  • Elimination and/or reduction of the Base Charge for all of those who have second water meters (perhaps showing the impact of 25%, 50% 75% reductions, as well as full elimination).
  • Reduction of the Sprinkler Usage Block fee from its current $3.34 to $2.00.
In addition, the city used the services of a company called Aqua Backflow from June 2012 until October 2013. The guise of their work was to conduct inspections on Residential and Commercial backflow devices. As part of that program, I believe the city collected a fee of $20 per customer per inspection. As you'll remember, we rescinded our agreement with Aqua Backflow when it was discovered said agreement had not been properly bid. As a result, I would like the city to refund the $20 fee to any customer who was billed during those sixteen months.

Of course, any changes will have to be approved by the City Council. Stay tuned to www.scott-galvin.com for news on how this all plays out!

Roadway Project Begins February 21

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is scheduled to begin a roadway construction project on Friday, February 21, 2014. The project area extends along NW 135 Street from NW 27 Avenue to NW 6 Avenue, in the City of North Miami and the City of Opa-locka. The project will cost an estimated $1.6 million. The work will last roughly seven months and includes the following:

  • Repaving and restriping the roadway
  • Improving signalization
  • Reconstructing curb and gutter
  • Installing curb ramps
  • Reconstructing sidewalks
To complete this work safely, it will be necessary to close travel lanes at times. Tasks will be done in stages and lane closures will be scheduled to keep traffic moving and avoid special community events.

Please note that this schedule may change due to bad weather or other unexpected conditions.

For more information, please call FDOT�s Public Information Office at (305) 470-5349 or Construction Public Information Specialist Cari Mesa at (305) 640-7441 or go to the website at www.fdotmiamidade.com.

Drivers are encouraged to call 511 before they travel or log on to www.fl511.com to get real-time traffic and lane closure information. FDOT would like to remind drivers that wearing a safety belt is the single most effective way to protect people and reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Please drive cautiously in construction zones.

Coming Out of the Closet

Certainly you have read the story of Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who came out as gay over the weekend. With the NFL draft only weeks away, it is quite likely he will become the first active, openly gay athlete in any of America's four major sports leagues.

Congratulations, Michael Sam!

As I read his story, it really resonated with me. Sam said he wanted to come out on his own terms and not be outed by someone else. "No one else should tell my story but me," he is quoted as saying in various media outlets.

February 12, 2014, marked exactly one decade since I made the same decision as Sam. Ten years ago, I became one of the first legislators in Dade County to announce I am gay.

Like Sam, I decided to come out so that I would control my own story. Had a political opponent used it against me, it would have seemed I was hiding and ashamed. I wasn't. And I wanted the community to know.

Some worry that Sam's announcement will hurt his draft status. If my experience is any indication, however, I think he will be just fine. When I came out, I didn't know how my electorate would take it. I was the first openly gay official in North Miami and our city wasn't known as a bastion for the gay community. I risked my political future simply to be honest about who I am.

Luckily, it didn't matter. I've been re-elected twice since then. Sometimes, folks are more tolerant than you expect.

As a whole, the gay community still has work to do. By coincidence, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will be in North Miami this weekend. I intend to let her know how much I hate the federal law that prohibits gay men from donating blood. This is just one of the topics on which we must fight to make progress.

But for Michael Sam, I couldn't be happier. His life just became immeasurably better because he chose to be honest. He chose to be happy. And as a season ticket holder of the Miami Dolphins, I hope he's wearing aqua-and-orange very soon.


Lenny Burgess named Interim Police Chief

After Marc Elias suddenly resigned his position of Police Chief in early February, Assistant Chief Lenny Burgess has been named to serve as Interim Chief. Burgess, who has more than 29 years of management experience, will serve as Interim Chief until a permanent appointment has been made.

He joined the North Miami Police Department in October 2010 as a police major and was promote to Assistant Chief in December 2011. Previously, Burgess has served as the Deputy Director for the Miami-Dade Corrections Department, which is the sixth-largest jail system in America. He also served for two decades with the Miami-Dade Police Department, where he last held the ranks of Division Chief.

Among other accomplishments, Burgess holds Bachelor's and Masters Degrees from Barry and Florida International Universities respectively. He also served honorably in the United State Marine Corps. Best of luck, Interim Chief Burgess!


Housing Inspections Begin

In January 2013, after several housing problems transpired in previous weeks, I asked the City Council to give direction to City Staff to put together a task force to inspect multi-family buildings to assure minimum housing standards are met. As a result, the North Miami Police Department�s Community Policing Service Unit and Code Compliance Unit, , Minimum Housing, , Sanitation, Parks, and Miami-Dade Fire Department launched the first bi-monthly Building Inspection Sweep on February 6th, 2014.

The buildings inspected on the aforementioned date are located at 12401 NE 16th Avenue and 12890 NE 6th Avenue. Both failed inspection. The collective effort resulted in the following outcomes:

12401 NE 6 Avenue
MHO Code Violations: 16
Fire Code Violations: 7

12890 NE 6 Avenue
MHO Code Violations: 9
Fire Code Violations: 2

The compliance timeframe for owners to fix problems is being condensed to achieve swifter compliance rates and immediate appearance before the Special Magistrate for adjudication. Life and health safety concerns are reported to the building official to ensure additional protection measures are executed and require continuous follow up until complete mitigation is accomplished. The next Building Inspection Sweep is scheduled on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 and the same major departments will be involved in the initiative.


Who's in Charge? WSVN Reports No Elias Resignation Letter

Who's in Charge? WSVN-TV is reporting that Chief Elias never turned in a letter of resignation, though the City put out a press release and has appointed an Interim Chief. Click here to view the story they ran on their February 6th noon broadcast: http://www.wsvn.com/story/24654488/debate-surrounding-north-miami-police-chiefs-alleged-resignation

Earlier this week, the city distributed a press release stating that Marc Elias had suddenly resigned. Almost simultaneously, Elias experienced chest pains and was taken to a local hospital. He has since been released. Within hours of the city's announcement, Asst. Chief Lenny Burgess was named the Interim Chief. But WSVN's report leaves things unclear. Did Elias resign? Do we have two police chiefs? I have a call into the Manager's office and have asked for a copy tonight of Elias' resignation letter, if there is one. Stay tuned.


North Miami Police Chief Resigns

In a surprise turn of events, North Miami Police Chief Marc Elias resigned on Tuesday, February 4th. A very brief press release issued by City Hall said, in part, "North Miami City Manager, Stephen Johnson, and North Miami Chief of Police, Marc Elias, Jr., have agreed to an amicable conclusion to his service at the North Miami Police Department by way of his resignation."

Elias joined the North Miami force in 2010 and became Chief in September 2011.

Elias made waves in late 2013, when it was revealed he traveled to Haiti at least seven times using over $14,000 in Law Enforcement Trust Fund money. The City Manager directed in November that Elias repay $3,000 of those costs when it was determined the Chief had not submitted required travel documents. It is not clear at press time what role, if any, these trips might have paid in Elias' resignation. Nor is it clear whether the full $3,000 has been paid back to the city.

I was originally told by City Manager Steve Johnson that Elias would resign yesterday, February 3rd. But before Elias could do so, he complained of chest pains and was taken to a local hospital by Fire Rescue. From what I currently know, he is now resting, though I don't know which hospital he is at or when he will be released.

Click here to read an unfolding Miami Herald story.

And please keep checking this website for updated information.

North Miami Police Chief Resigning

Update: 4:26 pm - Witnesses report Chief Elias has been taken away by Fire Rescue after suffering chest pains. No further update yet.

In a surprising turn of events, North Miami Police Chief Marc Elias is said to be resigning today, February 3rd. City Manager Steve Johnson tells me he expects Elias' resignation letter by the end of business today, though he does not yet have it in-hand. Elias joined the North Miami force in 2010 and became Chief in September 2011.

Elias made waves in late 2013, when it was revealed he had traveled to Haiti at least seven times using over $14,000 in Law Enforcement Trust Fund money. The City Manager directed in November that Elias repay $3,000 of those costs when it was determined the Chief had not submitted required travel documents. It is not clear at press time what role, if any, these trips might have paid in Elias' resignation. Nor is it clear whether the full $3,000 has been paid back to the city.

Please check back with this website as the story will be updated as details become known.

City to Collect Trash Fees on Property Tax Bills

The City Council has voted 3-2 to move stormwater and trash fees from your quarterly Utility Bill to your annual Property Tax Bill. Councilwoman Keys and I voted against it. The move mirrors something we tried a few years ago, but reversed in the face of angry pushback from residents. Moving the fees will cause your quarterly Utility Bill to drop slightly. This will certainly be popular for most residents. But later in the year, when your Property Tax Bill arrives, it will be higher than it previously was. In the past, that's when residents got angry with our move...and when the Council reversed itself.

Will that happen again? I guess we'll find out.
Click here to read a Miami Herald story on the matter.


Credit Cards Now Accepted at City Hall - Central Cashier

The City of North Miami's Central Cashier window, located on the first floor of North Miami City Hall, 776 NE 125 ST, now accepts credit and debit cards for payments. Visa, MasterCard and Discover are accepted.
A photo ID is required to pay by credit card. Debit cards require your PIN number; therefore, a photo ID is not necessary for debit transactions.

The Central Cashier window is open Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Health Insurance Marketplace Open Through March 31st

The Health Insurance Marketplace opened to the public on October 1, 2013, offering millions of Americans a whole new way to shop for health insurance coverage that fits their budgets and meets their needs. Open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. VisitHealthcare.gov to shop for, and enroll in, a plan that fits your needs. Enroll by January 15th for coverage to begin on February 1st. To speak to someone about the Health Insurance Marketplace, call 1-800-318-2596.

Tax Season is Here! Free Tax Assistance Programs Begin in February

The City of North Miami will offer two programs that provide free tax assistance qualifying individuals and families starting the week of February 3rd:

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program offers free tax assistance to those who earn $51,000 or less. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing. Volunteers speak English, Haitian-Creole and Spanish. Volunteers will assist with tax basic tax preparation, e-filing and will also help you determine if you qualify for valuable federal tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The VITA program is offered at the Sunkist Grove Community Center, 12500 NW 13 Avenue. Call Maurice LaGuerre at the center at 305-685-5461 for details.

The AARP Tax Aide Program will be offered once again at the North Miami Public Library, 835 NE 132 ST. Volunteers will assist tax payers with low to moderate income, with special attention to those age 60 and over, with tax preparation and e-filing services. Call the library at 305-891-5535 for details.
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