City Manager: Miami Beach services are first-rate, not Third World

08/21/2014 12:06 PM

08/21/2014 12:06 PM

I read with great interest the letter from Miami Beach resident Monica Barshop in which she complains about high taxes, poor services, and third world quality of life ( First World taxes, Third World city, Soapbox, Aug. 21). Admitting my bias due to my position as city manager and this being my hometown, I wish to respectfully point out the following:

First, of the $4,300 in annual property taxes paid by Barshop, only $1,300 goes to the city. The balance goes to the school board, Miami-Dade County and other agencies. For the city portion, the city provides a wide variety of services, including:

• Police and fire.
• Ocean rescue.
• Parks and recreation.
• Free and subsidized cultural offerings.
• Code enforcement.
• Public works and capital improvements.
• Sanitation.
• Programs for the elderly.

Second, I cannot deny that it is cheaper to live in South Carolina. Barshop has chosen to live in an urban neighborhood that is one of the hottest destinations in the world. One cannot compare apples to oranges.

Third, I have visited countries in the Third World, and while Miami Beach certainly faces challenges, it is definitely not the Third World. Some of the problems Barshop highlights (e.g., traffic, parking, homelessness) result from the fact that people enjoy coming here. While our permanent resident population is only 85,000, our average daily population is over 200,000, and even larger during major events and holidays.

And finally, one should not complain that the city has flooding problems, and then criticize the current mayor and commission with the courage to tackle this problem. Sea level rise is a real threat, but we are investing significant resources to tackle it.

We are a city that has challenges, and we work hard daily to address them. But I doubt people would be spending $3,000 a square foot for condos or investing hundreds of millions of dollars in acquiring commercial properties if there wasn’t something special happening here.

I invite Barshop to get involved with the city and together we can make this an even better place to work, play and live.

Jimmy Morales, City Manager, Miami Beach

Say no to new city in North Dade

The Sky Lake / Highland Lakes area is a donor community. Currently we are going through the process of incorporation. The boundaries would be from the Broward County line to Miami Gardens Drive and from Interstate 95 to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. We are 18,000 people. This procedure started back in 2003. There are community meetings about this incorporation (which have been temporarily suspended). The incorporation movement comes not from a citizen petition but rather was sponsored by County Commissioner Sally Heyman and a handful of people from the Highland Lakes / Sky Lake Homeowners Association.

These budget meetings — and they happen every year — are our opportunity to ask for some of the money to stay in our community for necessary repairs. You also can call 311. There are some people who think we should become a city for these repairs to take place. Example: Repairing the wall at 215th Street, Highland Lakes Park, etc. We attended the Budget Meeting at Aventura City Hall on Aug. 14, and I brought about those concerns and others. Mayor Carlos Gimenez was there and the budget director and other officials. They took notes and said they would call me back.

Becoming a city will cost all of us additional money in taxes — we in the unincorporated area have the second lowest property-tax rate in the county — to pay for and maintain this city and its bureaucracy. We have very little commercial property. For example, $250,000 plus for the wannabe city attorney! The U.S. Vice President makes $230,700 and Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve makes $179,900. I guess some people out there thinks we are just sitting ducks.

Alicia Rook, Sky Lake

How to sound off

To submit your letter, e-mail sandron@MiamiHerald.com, or write Soapbox, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, FL 33172. Fax: 305-376-5287. Letters must address a specific LOCAL issue, and must be signed with a name, city or neighborhood, as well as a telephone number for verification purposes. Letters more than 350 words will not be accepted, and writers are limited to one letter every four weeks. Letters will run as space allows, and may be edited for length, style and clarity. The deadline for letters is noon Wednesday.

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