Community protest of an impending weekend and holiday fee to park at five major Kendall parks began to swell following a 7-6 vote of the Miami-Dade County Commission to reject a fee repeal proposed by District 10 Commissioner Javier D. Souto.
In a lengthy press release issued one day after the Oct. 5 action, Souto harshly criticized the vote, declaring “voters who supported billions of dollars of capital projects through property tax supported bonds find themselves excluded from the very facilities that they paid property taxes to build.
“Once again, the administration is lying to us,” he concluded, terming parking fees “triple taxation” based on paying for bonds to build parks, maintain them and then finally pay for their use.”
Quick to support Souto’s stand was Miles E. Moss, president of Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations (KFHA), representing more than 30 communities in Kendall, who proposed the petition idea.
“I think most people believed such a fee simply wouldn’t come to pass, when first disclosed,” Moss stated. “Now that the fee repeal is rejected, I think you’ll hear a good deal more protest.” He noted that, “a petition of this sort would require the commissioners to act without delay.”
By Oct. 7, Moss had drawn proposed wording and forwarded it to Souto’s office to force a second vote by the commission by having one commissioner who voted against the resolution offer a motion to reconsider, rather than Souto.
The action also calls for Parks Department director Jack Kardys to “identify other budget reductions” that do not cause the loss of jobs, such as reduced advertising, park operating hours during weekdays. (The $5 fee applies only to weekends).
Slated to go into effect Oct. 1, expansion of parking fees was delayed by Souto’s call for repeal after Park officials said revenue projections were needed to offset further reductions in maintenance hours and employees that follow cuts already made during the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Souto pointed out that repeal of the $5 fee would only reduce an existing $813,200 advertising budget by $500,000, an amount that would “substitute for projected revenues by the controversial fee and still leave the Parks Department with $312,200, and amount Souto termed “more than adequate to advertise park programs.
“It is unacceptable to charge the poor and lower middle class families this $5 fee to use the parks on top of the excessive property taxes the county has already taken from them,” he declared.
“The repeal of the fee at county parks should have been passed,” was the reaction of East Kendall Community Council 12 chair Elliott N. Zack. “The original imposition of the fee should not have been.
“A reduction in the Parks Department advertising budget will not adversely impact our citizens. Unfortunately, the imposition of the parking fee does adversely impact many citizens, often those who can least afford it.”
West Kendall Council 11 chair Patricia “Shannen” Davis said, “While I understand the county’s need to look for creative ways to fund our much-needed park system, this is one more indicator that those in charge of our budget are terribly out of touch, and willing to impose ever-increasing small hardships on those who benefit the most from free services.
“I would support full disclosure of every penny the county spends,” she added. “I also support reduction of any salary over $100,000, eliminate all vehicle budgets and compensate at the same [rate] per mile of most state employees.”
Kendall area parks directly affected include A.D. Barnes, Tropical, Indian Hammocks, Kendall Soccer Complex, and Larry and Penny Thompson Park, all of which offer extensive free programming and activities, including popular weekend youth and adult soccer.
Toll booths and pay machines, each at an average $14,000 to $15,000 cost, would generate an estimated first-year revenue of $300,000, followed by $750,000 in the subsequent year, according to a Parks Department estimate. Officials defend the fees, saying county parking fees already are charged at Crandon, Haulover and Greynolds parks. The new fees are only applicable on weekends and holidays.
Comment by Parks Department officials was sought but not available in time for publication.
Five commissioners joining Souto to vote for repeal last week were Joe Martinez, Carlos Gimenez, Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, and Rebecca Sosa; the sevenmember majority to retain the fees included Natacha Seijas, Dorin Rolle, Audrey Edmondson, Barbara Jordan, Sally Heyman, Katy Sorenson and chair Dennis Moss.