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NUMBER 102 - JULY 10, 2019

WHILE FRANCIS SUAREZ STILL REFUSES TO TELL WHERE HE GOT THE $309,000 DOWN PAYMENT ON HIS NEW HOUSE, WE NOW HAVE NEW QUESTIONS: WHY DIDN'T HE REVEAL HIS SAVINGS ACCOUNT ON ONE FORM, AND THE AMOUNT OF MONEY IN THAT ACCOUNT IN THE OTHER FORM OF HIS ANNUAL PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF FINANCIAL INTERESTS THIS YEAR

July is when the elected officials and constitutional officers of the City of Miami are required to reveal to the public some annual bare bones explanation of their financial standing after another year of handling public money.

Two annual reports are filed, one is called a FORM 1: Statement Of Financial Interests and the other is called the Public Disclosure Of Financial Interest.

These annual reports are actually sorry examples of what passes for transparency when it comes to the public's ability of keeping track of what these people might be up to financially while in public office, but since the reporting  requirements were created by the politicians themselves, it's pretty much an accounting process predicated on the premise that the crooks are honor bound to tell you if they abuse their public trust by cashing in while in office.

Of course, if, and/or when they do the minimum requirements they are required to comply with are sometimes enough to get a peak behind the curtain, and that's what happened last year when I first broke the story that Francis Suarez and his wife had purchased a $1,450,000 house in the South Grove, and had put down $309,000 as a downpayment and closing costs.

As part of my story I relied on Suarez's annual reports that showed that just before the purchase he had $214,750 in a savings account, and $23,795 in a checking account.

My question at the time, which could not be answered until Suarez filed his latest financial reports two weeks ago, was whether he had cashed in the $214,750 in his savings account to cover part of the $309,000 down payment.

Here are first pages Suarez's two financial reports from last year.

Copyrighted:  2011,2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

Below are Suarez's latest financial reports filed on June 26th of this year.

Notice first that unlike last year, he doesn't reveal whether the $15,792.19 is in a savings or checking account like he did the previous year, but only that is in a  City National Bank account.

On first glance, that might leave a casual observer to assume that he no longer had a savings account. That in turn could lead to an inference that the $214,750 from last year's saving's account went towards the $309,000 down payment.

Another bad habit that seems to have started occurring since Colonel Klink has become the City Manager is his use of social media to promote specific businesses, like restaurants he eats at.

If he was doing this as a private citizen, there would be no problem, but he's doing this on what is clearly his City Manager Twitter page, and with the imprimatur of his official position.

Since most folks don't know the existence, or ever see these annual financial reports, the chances are pretty slim that average folks wouldn't know that there are 2 separate reports, and that you have to look closely at both of these reports because the details - what few there are - sometime gets lost between them.

If you look at Suarez's FORM 1 for this year, on the 2nd page under Part D, you will find that Suarez does in fact still have a savings account with US Century Bank.

What he failed to do was to repeat the same format that he used last year in reporting on the amount of money he has in this savings account so as to provide an apples to apples comparison.

I don't think that this failure was either an oversight, or just an innocent difference in the way that he chose to fill out these forms this year.  

A decision to shield the amount of money that he has in his savings account - something he would have had to reveal if he had followed the process he used last year - would probably reveal that he still has a lot of money in this savings account, and therefore would continue to fuel the question of where did he get the $309,000 for the down payment on his new house.

He has no other real reason for shielding the amount in his savings account, because if anything, a sizable reduction in this saving account would support a claim that he didn't take money from questionable sources to finance the purchase of this $1.45 million house.

This year's report is also interesting because Suarez claims that the house that he and his wife originally lived in in Coral Gate went from being his primary home valued at $320,575, to an investment property now valued at $550,000.

It's true that real estate values in Miami sometimes fluctuate, but a $230,000 increase in value of a 1949 house in Coral Gate seems a bit much.  For you real estate folks, here's the address:  1671 SW 32 Place.

The one thing that hasn't changed is that Suarez seems to be skating close to the edge of financial peril because he seems to have tapped an additional $80,000 in equity from this house, and now claims to owe $440,000.  

Last year he claimed he owed $360,000, which, when you also factor in the $131,637 he owes on another investment condo means that he's carrying  a debt load of $1,742, 278.41, on a salary of $97,000 he gets for being Miami's part-time mayor, and whatever compensation he gets from the law firm Greenspoon Marder for being "of counsel."

The last little wrinkle in this year's report is the claim that he got a loan of $40,000 from Daddy Xavier.  There's no way to even begin to assess what this loan represents, but I suspect that Xavier will probably weigh in on Twitter with his version of why he "loaned" his son $40,000.  

The big issue though is Suarez's attempt to play rope-a-dope by failing to account for how much money he has in his saving's account.

At the end of the day, none of the financial numbers provided by Francis Suarez in his latest financial reporting provides an answer to my original question:

WHERE DID FRANCIS SUAREZ GET THE $309,000 FOR THE DOWN PAYMENT AND CLOSING COSTS FOR HIS HOUSE IN THE SOUTH GROVE!

It's Miami, Bitches!

Sec. 54-16. - Prohibition of vehicular access.

Width4920Width3 (a)

The commission shall have the power, after a properly advertised public hearing, to recommend to the Miami-Dade County traffic director that vehicular access to a particular street be prohibited where such prohibition is found to be in the best interest of the public.(b)

The request for prohibited access shall be initiated by the department of resilience and public works or through said department by petition of property owners within 1,000 feet of the affected intersection.(c)

The request for prohibited access shall be subject to all requirements that may be imposed by the Miami-Dade County traffic director, including a traffic study. The decisions of the traffic director shall be final.(d)

Prior to the public hearing, the proposed prohibited access shall be reviewed by the departments of police, fire-rescue, and solid waste, which shall make recommendations to the commisison at said public hearing.(e)

On streets where access is prohibited, a cul-de-sac or other turnaround shall be provided in conformance with the requirements of the department of resilience and public works.(f)

Except for those streets located within the neighborhoods known as Coral Gate and Shorecrest, all expenses resulting from requests for prohibited vehicular access to a particular street shall be borne by the applicant (i.e., property owner(s), homeowner association(s), etc.). Expenses include, but are not limited to, newspaper advertising, posting of notification placards, postal notification to local residents, postal correspondence to the applicant and any traffic studies. Upon approval by the Miami-Dade County traffic director for a request to prohibit vehicular access to a particular street, the applicant shall pay all additional expenses related to the permits, construction of temporary and permanent barriers and other related improvements that may be required by the traffic director and/or the department of resilience and public works.(h)

The commission shall have the power, after a properly advertised public hearing, to require that vehicular and pedestrian access to an unimproved public alley or partially unimproved public alley be prohibited where such prohibition is found to be in the best interest of the public. The request for prohibited access to an unimproved public alley or partially unimproved public alley shall be initiated by the department of resilience and public works or through said department by petition of all property owners abutting the alley, as determined by the director. Prior to the public hearing, the proposed prohibited access shall be reviewed by the departments of police, fire rescue and solid waste, and the departments shall make recommendations to the commission at said public hearing. The proposed vehicular access restriction shall be accomplished by the placement of an approved fence and gate across all entrances to the alley, ensuring no access and no private use thereon unless the property is vacated. All expenses resulting from requests for prohibited access shall be borne by the applicant, (i.e., property owner(s), homeowner association(s), etc.). Expenses include, but are not limited to, newspaper advertising, postal correspondence and, upon approval of the commission, all expenses related to the permits, installation of the fence and gates and other related improvements that may be required by the department of resilience and public works.

TRAFFIC, TRAFFIC, WE DON'T WANT NO TRAFFIC ON OUR STREET! MAKE IT GO TO SOMEBODY ELSE'S STREET

On Wednesday morning, Matthew Street, an attorney who lives in the Silver Bluff District sent a letter to the Mayor and members of the City Commission detailing the problems and concerns he had with PH-9, Resolution 6148,  that will be voted on this week's Commission meeting.

The issues behind the agenda item have been roiling the Silver Bluff, Shenandoah  and Woodside sections of Miami for a while now, and an earlier effort to shut down cross traffic on SW 22nd Avenue between US 1 and Coral Way as a way to stop drivers from using city streets to cut though neighborhoods during rush hours by then Commissioner Francis Suarez met a timely and well-deserved death back in December of 2017.

Commissioners and Mayor,


Please also note that the relevant code subsection (a) permits the Miami City Commission to "recommend" . . . to the Miami-Dade County traffic director that vehicular access to a particular street be prohibited where such prohibition is found to be in the best interest of the public."


One: The petitions to prohibit vehicular access on SW 24th Terrace in District 4 (discussed at 5/9 and 6/27 meetings) and this recent resolution up for a vote tomorrow to prohibit vehicular access on SW 16 Ct, SW 16 Ave, SW 14 Ave, and SW 23 ST in District 3 are plainly NOT in the best interest of the public.  These closures are only **possibly** in the interest of the property owners who would benefit from a government funded manipulation of the real estate market.  


I say possibly since solid waste disapproved of the D3 closures because trash collection would be impossible, and the fire department disapproved after finding that the proposed D3 closures would limit the fire department's access to hydrants and negatively impact emergency response time for residents in the area.


Two: The city commission has the power only to "recommend" a prohibition of vehicular access to the county; the City itself cannot prohibit the vehicular access.


Three: Why was the resident petition for the District 3 closures not included in the agenda packet?  It is a public document, as it was submitted to Commissioner Carollo's office.  As Matthew pointed out, according to code section (f), the property owners who petitioned must bear the costs of this request to prohibit vehicular access, including the the reviews by the departments, notification of this meeting to neighboring property owners (which was not done, also noted below), any traffic studies, and any actual construction to create the restriction, should the County approve.  Was the petition not included in an attempt to insulate the petitioners from these mandated costs?  The City taxpayers should not be forced to pay for street closures that benefit so few while removing the public's ability and right to access public streets.


Four: Let's take a step back and use some common sense.  Traffic is a problem FOR EVERYONE throughout this City.  This merry-go-round of petitions for vehicular prohibition is exhausting and pointless.  To even suggest the "solution" is to close one, two, three, four streets, or even an entire neighborhood while ignoring the obvious reality that the traffic will simply shift elsewhere, is intellectually dishonest and mind-numbingly shortsighted.  


Any way you look at it, supporting Agenda Item 6148 or any similar resolution is weak leadership at best, and cronyism, favoritism, and abuse of the public fisc at worst.


Please do better.  Thank you.


Mary Street

The aftermath of the reversal to block the use of SW 22nd Avenue as a cut through, only intensified the attitude of those residents who felt that they were entitled to have their individual streets protected against this activity, regardless of whether problems that created for their neighbors one or two streets away.

At one contentious meeting last year that included newly elected County Commissioner Eileen "La Gringa" Higgins, she told those in attendance that neither she, nor anyone in the county was in favor of, or would support the more draconian efforts proposed by some that would severely block almost all traffic on some streets.

That didn't sit well with those in favor of pretty much laying down railroad ties and setting up guard gates to insure that only homeowners who lived on those streets would have access to them, and so in the time honored tradition of Miami politics, when the county wouldn't jump to attention when they said jump, this group of homeowners, led by the indomitable Beba Mann, who lives a couple doors from SW 17th Avenue and wants her street blocked so no one can turn in, or go out on the avenue, turned to the more pliable members of the city commission.

And that's where the item coming up for a vote at tomorrow's commission meeting comes in.

Rather than try to re-explain it all to you, I am just copy/pasting Matthew Street's detailed letter as well as a letter that serves as a preamble, written by Mary Street, also an attorney, and Matthew's wife.

Here's Mary's letter.

Agenda Item 6148 (and PH.9) is another procedural failure unnecessarily exposing the City of Miami, and its taxpayers, to risk.  In its own language, this proposed Resolution states “pursuant to Resolution No. 19-0186 adopted on May 9, 2019, the City Commission directed the City Manager to initiate the vehicular access restriction procedure pursuant to Section 54-16 of the Code of the City of Miami . . .” (the May 9 Resolution was sponsored by Joe Carollo and Francis Suarez).  By its own language, the proposed Resolution recognizes that the City Commission directed the City Manager to initiate vehicular access restriction.  Why is this important?  Because it’s NOT ALLOWED BY THE CITY CODE.  Section 54-16 allows ONLY TWO ways to initiate a vehicular restriction: (1) by the Department of Resilience and Public Works OR (2) by petition of property owners within 1,000 feet of the affected intersection. See City Code Section 54-16(b).  THE LANGUAGE DOES NOT PROVIDE A MECHANISM FOR THE CITY COMMISSION TO INITIATE A VEHICULAR RESTRICTION SUA SPONTE.

How these Resolutions are initiated are extremely important; 54-16 requires that if initiated by petition of property owners, ALL costs associated MUST be borne by the petitioners.  At no point did the City Commission attach or include any petition from any property owners within 1,000 feet of the affected intersection AND this resolution does not have a sponsor.  The City Commission is attempting an act of subterfuge of its OWN RULES to block streets AND FORCE THE CITY OF MIAMI TAXPAYERS TO SUBSIDIZE THE STREET CLOSURES.

Inexplicably, in its Inter-Office Memorandum from Alan Dodd of DRPW, he states that his review is required by City Code Section 54-16(h) . . .  Subsection h refers only with “unimproved public alleys” and in no way is relevant to these streets.  (also, of note, the procedure for restricting vehicular access is literally the same for unimproved public alleys as it is for any other street- the same language is merely condensed into one subsection and specific to unimproved public alleys).  The reason that Mr. Dodd inexplicably called these streets “public alleys” is because IT IS ENTIRELY UNFOUNDED BY THE CITY CODE’S DEFINITION OF “PUBLIC ALLEY.”  Section 55-1 states that “Alley is any thoroughfare or passageway (not officially designated as a street) designated as an alley by a recorded plat, deed or recorded instrument, to be a secondary means of vehicular access to the rear or side of properties otherwise abutting on a street.”  CONVERSELY, a “Street includes any primary accessway such as a street, road, lane, highway, avenue, boulevard, parkway, circle, court, terrace, place or cul-de-sac, and also includes all of the land lying between the right-of-way lines as delineated on a plat showing such streets, whether improved or unimproved, but shall not include those accessways such as alleys, easements and rights-of-way intended solely for limited utility purposes, and easements of ingress and egress.”  The only proposed restrictions are on COURTS, STREETS, and TERRACES.  There areno recorded instruments designating any of the streets as alleys.  THE PROPOSED VEHICULAR RESTRICTIONS ARE, BY DEFINITION, CONSIDERED STREETS and it’s not even disputable.


A street map with the closures (in black) is pasted for your reference.  The Green line will be the new route.  Who do these closures actually benefit?  Family and friends of Carollo and Suarez?  A handful of homes while heavily burdening 16th Court south of 23rd street?  Are they aware of the potential taking?  The small business owner, Pekin Chinese Restaurant had no clue- we spoke with them.  Fire department has already given its disapproval, and again, pursuant to the language in the proposed Resolution, “subject to approval by . . . Fire-Rescue . . .”

Vote no to this illegal and unnecessary scheme.

Matthew Street

Here's Matthew's letter.

NUMBER 104 - JULY 11, 2019

PETER EHRLICH SUES THE CITY OVER BEING DENIED ACCESS TO PUBLIC MEETING ORGANIZED BY THE CITY OF MIAMI PARKS & RECREATION DEPARTMENT TO DISCUSS UPGRADE TO PALLOT PARK

Local businessman and community activist Peter Ehrlich, has just filed a lawsuit over his being denied access to a meeting organized by the City of Miami's Park and Recreation Department.

In a statement released by Ehrlich's attorney,  David Winker, he stated that:

As residents, we count on the City of Miami to represent our interests.


Unfortunately, there have been a number of instances lately where city officials have appeared to act more as cheerleaders and PR agents for developers, rather than looking out for the best interests of residents and the future of our City.

 

My client Peter Ehrlich received an invitation from the City to attend a meeting regarding Pallot Park.  The meeting was conducted by Lara Hamwey, City of Miami Parks & Recreation Department Director.  

 

Daniel Prats, district liason for City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, and Hector Badia, Assistant Director of the City of Miami’s Office of Capital Improvements, were also present at the meeting.

 

My client was denied entry to the meeting because of his past comments opposing the changes the developer Joseph Milton was proposing to make to the park as part of a development deal he struck with the City to allow him to build at a greater height than he was otherwise entitled.

 

What happened is blatantly wrong.  But rather than take responsibility and simply acknowledge their error, the City doubled down and Commissioner Ken Russell publicly defended selectively barring residents from the meeting.  It looks like this is going to become the new norm in the City and that is unacceptable.

 

My client Peter Ehrlich is a well-respected property owner and businessman in the City who serves on the boards of the Urban Environment League, Scenic Miami, Citizens for a Scenic Florida, the Lemon City Cemetery Corp, MiMo Historic District, Bayside Historic District and the Virginia Key Advisory Board.  If Mr. Ehrlich is going to be barred entry- imagine what is happening to less prominent residents.

 

Meaningful participation in public debate, fairness, due process, equal treatment, transparency... these are core principals of our democratic society that are worth fighting for.

 

Mr. Ehrlich is bringing this suit to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone again.