It was dark outside, but when the lights went on Thursday night at the Banyan Bowl amphitheater, the tall trees at Pinecrest Gardens and the deep blue sky created a background that looked like a Vincent van Gogh painting.
It is precisely that beauty that Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner said she wants to protect. During her State of the Village address, she said she was proud that the village had maintained the Tree City USA designation for its efforts in forestry. And in a firm tone, she said that the villages opposition to Florida Power & Lights monstrosity expansion of two nuclear reactors and transmission lines will continue.
We in coalition with South Miami, Coral Gables and the City of Miami are preparing to fight that battle, said Lerner, a former state legislator.
A few dozen residents were at the 500-seat amphitheater for her speech.
While housing prices are expected to increase modestly through 2013 and stabilize by 2015, Lerner believes the village has to be conservative in its spending and continue looking for sources of revenue for Pinecrest Gardens. Opening a restaurant and offering a catering service at the gardens are part of that effort, she said. Some residents who oppose the plan were in the audience.
Lerner said a popular restaurateur the village is negotiating with will be a perfect fit for the village. Cypress Hall, where Lerner hopes the restaurant will be, has been gutted and dormant all this time and for the past two years, the village has been moving cautiously ahead with the plan and said that it is in the best interest of the community.
Lerner listed Pinecrests People Mover, as one of the villages accomplishments last year. The villages free transit bus service helps to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion, she said.
The ridership has grown over the past year to a daily average to 30 to 40 students a day, per route, Lerner said. In our strategic planning process 56 percent of the residents wanted more sidewalk and 54 percent wanted more bike lines.
The bus stops at Palmetto Middle and Palmetto High school. Palmetto Highs student council president Chris Fisk Kolychkine, who is part of the mayors Youth Advisory council, was at the event and said the students are making great use of it since it started last year. He said he was proud that students were able to contribute to the event.
With the help of Baptist Hospital, which contributed about $700 for the food, a catering team of 18 Palmetto High students served a variety of hors doeuvres and desserts after the mayors speech. For Mechell Salmon, 18, one of the cooking students, the event had a special meaning.
I enjoyed listening to her speech. My mom died of a drug overdose and I grew up in foster care. Now Im going to get financial aid for college, and I want to study pre-law so that I can help others, Salmon said. Im grateful that there are people in government who care. Its inspiring to be here.
In tone with Lerners effort to offer more cultural events in the garden, Palmetto Elementary students showcased their musical talents and put the Banyan Bowls new audio system to the test. After Lerners favorite jazz ensemble played their saxophones and clarinets, the kids got a standing ovation. Some residents in the audience shouted Bravo! and Terrific! as they stepped off the stage.
I feel honored to be here for the mayors speech. I practiced for a month for an hour [a day] to play here today, said Michelle Guan, 9, after playing the violin. Her grandfather from China and parents were there to watch her play Part of Your World from Walt Disneys The Little Mermaid .
The Pinecrest Gardens gallery exhibited artwork from the Artistic Realization Technologies program, which encourages people with disabilities to convey their emotions through art, Veronica Perez, the exhibits curator, said.
Pinecrest resident Christiane Flank, born in France, purchased three paintings for about $400.
The colors are vibrant and the composition is beautiful, said Flank. We are very happy to live in this neighborhood. We moved here from Sao Paulo such an unfriendly city it is nice to live here and be able to wear your jewelry and walk at night and not worry.
Finally, Lerner said the security in the village can improve. She said Pinecrest police are working on increasing security to track a recent trail of burglaries, and encouraged residents to join the neighborhoods crime watch.
Her speech in this beautiful garden setting made me want to get more involved, Flank said. "We dont take living here for granted.