City Manager Martinez said after the measure passed, he, Chief Orosa and the now-retired head of code enforcement agreed to continue targeting the maquinitas through criminal statutes enforced by police — just as Exposito had been doing — rather than through the civil permitting process. That’s why no tickets were issued to machine owners who failed to buy permits.
Orosa said since he took over from Exposito in December 2011, his officers have made four arrests and confiscated 51 gaming machines, all of which have been destroyed after being labeled “contraband’’ by the courts. The city continues to warehouse 105 machines seized during Exposito’s tenure that are still tied up in legal challenges.
Orosa said his immediate concern about seizing the costly gaming machines is how and where to store them. He said former Chief John Timoney confiscated some of them and stashed them under an Interstate 95 overpass. Later, after the courts ruled they had to be returned to their owners, the city discovered the machines were destroyed by the weather and was on the hook for the cost.
“If it’s the will of the commission to pick up all the machines, we’ll pick up all the machines,” Orosa said.
Also Thursday, commissioners gave developer Swires Properties the go-ahead for large increases in retail and parking space, and to build more condo units, in a $1.05-billion development planned for three blocks just west of Brickell Avenue and below the Miami River. It’s one of the most ambitious projects in city history. They also said Brickell CitiCentre could change its name to Brickell CityCentre.
With the approval for more space, the urban shopping and mixed-use development will add 772 parking spaces, for a total of 5,519. It will increase the number of condos by 350, to a total of 1,174. And it will increase its retail/entertainment component by more than 80,000 square feet, for a total of 636,271.
Commissioners also unanimously passed another resolution asking the U.S. Department of Justice to allow the city to hire 50 certified police officers. The administration has proposed hiring 33, though that number could increase depending on budget negotiations.Miami is required to get DOJ approval when hiring certified officers due to a 1977 finding that the city discriminated against blacks and Hispanics in its hiring practices. The city can hire non-certified officers — who have to undergo training — without Justice clearance.
Even with a quick decision from DOJ, the process is expected to take three or four months. The city manager said he doesn’t expect the hires to take place until the new budget year begins in October. Miami is currently understaffed with 1,087 officers, though the city has budgeted for 1,144. Martinez said it should reach that number by June.
Commissioners also gave preliminary approval to holding the mayoral election on Nov. 5, with a runoff if necessary two weeks later. Elections for commission Districts Three and Five also are set for Nov. 5.
Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.