Incorporation is still “the best way to govern communities” says Elliott N. Zack, a 58-year resident of Miami-Dade County now serving his second four-year term on East Kendall’s Zoning Appeals Board.
“The principle of democratic government rests with the people,” he emphasizes.
As Community Council 12’s reelected chair, Zack misses the ZAB/Community Council’s non-zoning sessions formerly conducted quarterly when residents could discuss local matters with their representatives, including county officials. The meetings were dropped as an unneeded council expense when county commissioners slashed budgets in 2009-10 to save an estimated $440,000 in clerical and miscellaneous expenses for all county councils.
Asked if non-zoning meetings should be restored, Zack replies, “Absolutely. They’re what brings county government closest to the people it represents in any area. One of our council members said non-zoning issues were the primary reason for seeking election in the first place.”
Similar emphasis on keeping governments local also causes Zack to heartedly support recent incorporations that have created communities such as Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay out of Miami-Dade’s sprawling southwestern suburbs, a move only massive Kendall still resists.
When commissioners discouraged further incorporations by requiring petitions signed by at least 25 percent of registered voters in any area under consideration, “it became that much more difficult to develop an in incorporation movement,” Zack continued.
“Kendall is such a big area that it should consider incorporation of smaller areas, such as the effort two years ago in East Kendall,” he said. “The boundaries enclosed about 20,000 or more people living from US1 west to the Shula Expressway [SR 874] between Snapper Creek Expressway [SR 878] and SW 112th Streets, about the right size. But the petition movement never got off the ground because of the enhanced requirements for signatures and the time frame to obtain them.
“Even so, it only stands to reason that the more localized government services are, the better they will be,” he said. “A city zoning board is better than what the county has now, because barring an appeal, the matter stops there. Like Broward County’s cities and county government, Miami-Dade needs to devote its time to countywide matters, not localized services that municipalities can better provide.”
Service on the Council 12 zoning board also has led Zack to question a process in which community councils serve as the local board of appeals for zoning applications but are subject to an appeal and revocation by a second legislative body — the county commission.
“It’s the one thing that has always puzzled me about the process. Our civil judicial system provides a process of appeal from circuit court to an appellate court, and finally to the Supreme Court, with limitations, to appeal any government action of that kind,” Zack explained.
“The way our system works, the commission can change a zoning decision made by the local board, which to me as an attorney always seemed wrong. There doesn’t seem to be any logical reason why the commission as a legislative body should have additional judicial authority. But then, I look at things through an attorney’s vision.”
A native of Detroit, MI, he moved to Miami with his parents at age 9, attended all Miami public schools, graduating from Coral Gables Senior High (Class of ’61) and the University of Miami (Class of ’66) before receiving his law degree from the University of Florida in 1969.
His wife, Gloria, a teacher at Gilbert Porter Elementary School, has a 29-year teaching career in Miami-Dade, certified to teach from kindergarten to grade 12, as well as gifted children. The couple’s daughter, Kristin Zack-Bowen of Orlando has an educational background in psychology, and a sister, Sharee Mosk, lives in Pinecrest.
A Kendall resident for 39 years, Zack has a private law practice, primarily in areas of probate, real estate and commercial and civic litigation. His law firm is located in North Miami Beach where he served as both a public defender and prosecutor for the city. He additionally spent 10 years as an adjunct professor at Florida International University.
His extensive background of civic and community service includes two terms as president of the North Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, president of the North Dade Bar Association, and director of a free public mediation service in North Miami Beach. With all that, he still found time to serve as judge/problem captain and director for the Miami-Dade and the State of Florida “Odyssey of the Mind” program.
He said he would support future Kendall incorporations of homogenous areas of up to 40,000 base population, but he believes there may be a better way to reach such a goal.
“The MAC Committees set up as study groups had too many members who used their membership to oppose the issue, as well as attract others against incorporation,” he said. “Why couldn’t there be a much simpler process by holding a referendum vote within a given area to decide whether or not to begin incorporation? Isn’t that the whole point of democratic government?
“Let the people decide.”