A symbolic resolution to endorse the Miami-Dade School Board’s legislative agenda died on the Palmetto Bay dais Monday night, but council members ultimately decided — after more than an hour-long discussion — to fold one of the board’s priorities into its own legislative agenda.
At issue for some members of the council: the School Board’s request to the state that it reform the county’s value adjustment board —which hears property tax appeals —and reform the new test-based accountability system, which the board argues is being implemented too quickly and without proper accommodations for students who don’t speak English.
“Some [parents] feel the bar is pulled down for those that have not been in this country for too long,” Palmetto Bay Councilman Tim Schaffer said of testing reform.
But with the council voicing unanimous support for one of the School Board’s initiatives — to increase student funding — councilwoman Larissa Siegel Lara suggested putting actual village lobbying dollars behind the effort.
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“It’s a stronger way of showing support because it actually puts our resources in alignment with it,” she said.
Councilwoman Karyn Cunningham, who sponsored the item to endorse the School Board’s agenda, lent grudging support to Siegel Lara’s suggestion.
“I am amenable to putting the funding part in our legislative agenda, I am disappointed in the accountability piece, because I think it’s not going to bode well for schools across Dade County,” Cunningham said.
The council also jettisoned plans to lobby for the League of Cities legislative agenda, with some members arguing it was too far outside the village’s purview, and also killed plans to weaken historic preservation designations along Old Cutler Road to allow for traffic improvements.
Ultimately, council members voted unanimously to lobby this year for:
▪ Public works and stormwater funding.
▪ Transit and bicycle/pedestrian safety improvement funding.
▪ Amendment 1 funds to help purchase and protect environmentally sensitive land in the village.
▪ Historic preservation funding.
▪ Funding for more bicycle paths and walking trails.
▪ Restrictions on increases to windstorm insurance.
▪ Restoring the state’s K-12 education spending to pre-recession levels, with at least $7,307.9 allocated per student.
▪ The Deering Estate’s request for $5 million in Amendment 1 funds for improvements to the 450-acre state-owned park.
The council also scrapped plans to hire the Corradino Group for a $32,000 transit study aimed at expanding bus routes to boost ridership, although council members indicated they would bring up the matter later, once they had more information on downtown redevelopment efforts in the Franjo Triangle area.
“To do a study now — we’re going to spend another 32,000 when the downtown is built to do another study. To rationalize it by saying this is [Citizens Independent Transportation Trust] money— I’m not good with that,” Councilman John DuBois said.
The council set a special meeting for Feb. 17 to discuss in more detail the process for selecting a new village manager and the village committee structure. In a special meeting held last week, the council appointed building director Ed Silva to be village manager on an interim basis starting March 31. Silva will not be allowed to apply to keep the position.
The confidentiality of candidates to the village manager’s position will likely be a big topic, with some council members expressing concern at last week’s Jan. 28 special meeting that managers in other municipalities might be loath to apply for fear that the Sunshine Laws would out them to their current employers.
Village Attorney Dexter Lehtinen promised to look into the problem, but warned council members the endeavor was unlikely to be successful.
“If you’ll recall, very recently, the University of Florida was picking a president and complaining substantially about the public meetings law, and Florida State was picking one and complaining substantially about that. They could not figure out a way around [it],” he said last week.
The council also set a special meeting for Feb. 23 to receive four reports on the downtown initiative.