January Commission Digest
February 12, 2019
It’s a new year and we’ve got a newly arranged County Commission; Commissioner Bovo stepped down as chair, while Commissioner Audrey Edmonson was appointed Chair along with Rebecca Sosa as Vice-Chair. Commission chairs change over every two years as do the makeup of committees. The new Chair retires the present committees and then announces their own committee structure and committee Chair appointments.
In January the main committees Building Safer Neighborhoods Subcommittee, Chairman’s Policy Council, Economic Development and Tourism Committee, Government Operations Committee, Housing and Social Services Committee, Infrastructure and Utilities Committee, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee, Public Safety and Health Committee, and Transportation and Public Works Committee were rendered inactive, then Edmonston established new committees and assignments that became active in February (Read Edmonson’s memo for a full review of the new committee structure).
On Naked Politics, Doug Hanks reports that “Dennis Moss will lead the Housing and Social Services Committee, with jurisdiction over public housing, homeless services, programs for the elderly, etc. Edmonson’s predecessor as board chairman, Esteban “Steve’ Bovo, will lead Transportation and Finance, which will mostly focus on transit but also includes areas dealing with county borrowing and budgeting. Rebeca Sosa, a former board chairwoman who is now vice-chair under Edmonson, will lead Tourism & Ports, a committee overseeing Miami International Airport and Port Miami. Barbara Jordan will lead Infrastructure and Capital Improvements, a committee that will oversee water and sewer projects and the county’s resiliency programs. Sally Heyman will lead Health Care and County Operations, which includes emergency management, elections, purchasing and construction. Joe Martinez, a former county police officer seen as a possible candidate for Miami-Dade sheriff in 2024, will lead the committee overseeing police and jails: Public Safety and Rehabilitation. Javier Souto will lead the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs committee.”
Now on to what the commission actually did in January!
Sea Level Rise and Our Environment
A topic that’s gotten a lot of play in the Herald, septic tank vulnerability and failure from sea level rise disrupting filtration, came up for discussion during the January 15th Infrastructure and Utilities Committee. Commissioner Monestime made reference to the news coverage and the commission heard from the director of the Water and Sewer Department on the cost and scope of a solution. The Director, Kevin Lynskey, noted that replacing the more than 100,000 septic tanks and connecting those properties to the county sewer system would cost at least $3.3 billion dollars. Committee members spent more time debating how to best tackle the issue and where funding could come from, with Commissioner Diaz suggesting that phasing in the switchover to the county system and prioritizing the most vulnerable properties first as a tactic.
If you’re following any local environmental organizations on twitter, like Miami Waterkeeper, you’ve probably seen talk about the seagrass die-off in the bay, On January 15 Commissioner Sosa sponsored a resolution in the Government Operations Committee to create a Biscayne Bay Task Force authorized to examine environmental issues in the bay. The Herald reports that the task force will assemble a detailed report due in 6 months to address these issues and point toward solutions.
Public Housing and Security
The Housing and Social Services Committee on January 14th approved the Public Housing Community Development Department’s request to spend more money on security guards to handle an increase in crime that’s been observed since last year. An emergency was declared in November by the department because funds for security guards had be exhausted.
Since service cuts to bus routes began in 2017 to cut costs, the commission has heard from a steady stream of riders and transit critics about the impact it has on rider ability to get where they need to go in a reasonable amount of time, not to mention the potential cascade effect of lower ridership as the bus system is weakened. Now the public may have more say before cuts are made if Commissioner Cava’s Ordinance goes through. At the January 23rd Regular Commission meeting it passed through the first reading 10-2, with Commissioner’s Sosa and Bovo registering a no vote. Now it will go before the Transportation and Finance Committee, on February 13 for a public hearing and committee vote, so check back for our February digest (published in March) for an update.
Remember when Uber and Lyft weren’t legal in Miami? It seems a little unreal, but back in 2014 when they launched, rideshare services hadn’t been approved by the County and they racked up almost $5 million in fines. And now those fines will finally be paid because the Commission (in a 10-1 vote) on the 23rd approved a settlement agreement with both companies, for a payout of around $2.6 million dollars. The Herald reports that the money will be parceled out to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (over $1 million), the Miami Children’s Museum ($500,000), and the Miami-Dade Veterans Court ($100,000), plus $500,000 will be allocated for planning a black history museum.