Fred Grimm’s Feb. 2 column, Sleazy isn’t unlawful for developers, states that Judge Daryl Trawick tossed the jury verdict of $3.1 million against Jose Perez of the Related Group.
It’s a very sad decision, but that decision doesn’t let our elected leaders off the hook from protecting the public from sleazy deals, which they fail at miserably.
In the lead-up to the recent condo boom and bust, the Miami City Commission and then-Mayor Manny Diaz passed higher impact fees that mainly affected mid-rise and high-rise residential developers.
Here’s where our public officials have failed to protect the public from sleaze. Diaz and the commission delayed the fees from taking effect long enough for the Related Group and other developers/campaign contributors to pull their building permits under the older, practically non-existent fees.
The result has been that Miami collected practically nothing in impact fees during our greatest building boom. I estimate that Perez alone saved at least $5 million on his buildings. Other developers collectively saved millions more.
The bulk of the uncollected impact fees could have benefited Miami residents with more parks.
To rub salt in the wound of Miami’s lack of parks, a third of Bicentennial Park is disappearing under two museums from another sleazy back-room deal masterminded by Diaz and approved by a commission deaf to the results of a well-attended public charette. Then the Miami Art Museum board accepted a few million from Perez — funds he should have paid in impact fees!
The commission-driven sleaze continues as Perez is now building affordable housing and such housing pays no impact fees.
Similarly the commission has recently arranged that Miami will get no new parks because now parks only need to be built where new population is added and if that area already has a park every half-mile, there’s no written need for any new ones.
I could cite a half-dozen other sleazy decisions by the commission on parks alone that benefited developers over residents.
I suppose every jurisdiction has its share of private and public sleaze, but Miami’s public share is perfected because the leaders know a poor, uneducated electorate is on their side.
Steve Hagen, Miami