Letter to the Editor

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard

Politifact doesn’t reach down to small municipal elections, so here in South Miami, I find myself in the awkward position of doing my own fact-checking.  Here’s my fact-check on the piece by citizen Marie Valenti last week in response to my candidate’s statement published in this paper a few weeks ago.

Valenti answers in the negative each of the questions I posed: First, Are we safer? Valenti says “If you look at all of the crime statistics and isolate those that seriously protect us: no.” However, I don’t know which statistics she is referring to.  FDLE data show that citizens in South Miami are significantly safer today than six years ago: Total crime is down 32%, robberies down 100%.  That’s not to say crime does not happen here – it does, just less of it.  Our Community Policing program is making a difference, and our cops keep getting better at catching the bad guys.  Recently they caught the guys who have been breaking into cars.

In answer to my question, “Is the city a good place to live and work?”, Ms. Valenti writes, “The small hometown aura has been under siege by developers getting approval to split lots, build more than is in character with the surrounding area, and in the process, razing lots, annihilating our trees and landscape.”  She is partially right here: the recession ended, and people are building again in South Miami.  Some of the new projects did split lots and take out old trees, offending our sensibilities, particularly the development at Miller Road and 65th Avenue.  The Commission responded by tightening our tree-protection ordinance and developing new rules for lot-splitting.  However Ms Valenti is mistaken in asserting that the City is allowing specimen trees to be cut.  Our tree ordinance is now being finalized to align with the language of the county ordinance, and in many aspects is more stringent.

She complains that “The wealthier developers get gifted with a parking bonus….”

Maybe she means the senior affordable apartment building going up across from City Hall, which had less parking required than other residential apartments.  Studies show that low-income seniors own fewer cars than younger families and more affluent retirees.  It’s a reasonable “gift” to low income seniors not to make them pay for parking spaces they won’t use.  Speaking of affordable housing, most South Miamians value the diversity of our city and want to make it possible for young families to live here without a trust fund, even as real estate prices rise.  The Commission hopes to finally build Madison Square to allow families of modest means to get started in South Miami and enrich our community.

Ms Valenti disparages “The relentless pursuit of this administration to purchase land owned by the FECI for dubious purposes, and the possible commitment of the city taxpayer’s money is unacceptable.”  This “dubious purpose” is the creation of the Ludlam Trail, an amazing opportunity to improve the quality of life for thousands of our residents.  One of the most common requests I hear when I walk the city is that we build the Ludlam Trail ASAP.

“The sweetheart deals with FPL continue, along with using FPL to install lighting for a privileged few.”  This on is Pants-on-fire absurd.  FPL has never gotten a sweetheart deal from me, and they did not send me a birthday card this year either.  Streetlights are not for the “privileged few” but are available for any street where the residents get together and ask for them.

In answer to my question, “Are we getting a good deal for our taxes?”, she picks at the Murray Park pool and the City’s legal expenses.  Here are the facts: by popular demand the pool is now open 6 months of the year rather than the 10 weeks originally budgeted, so the kids get to enjoy it 3 times longer.  The cost is proportional.  On legal expenses: yes, the City incurred significant legal expenses resolving the SEC and IRS violations committed by a former mayor’s administration.  That work is done now.  Recently, the City hired outside council with special expertise in land use to help reform antiquated parts of the land development code, such as sections to regulate the flood of requests for lot splits and tree removals.  We want to be sure that new development is managed so that it improves our quality of life, and does not erode it.

Finally she quibbles that the City is rebuilding reserve funds rather than ‘giving the budget surplus back to the residents.’  Where do I begin…?  First, the fact that we have a surplus even as the tax rate was slightly reduced this year is a sign that our City Manager is doing an excellent job.  Second, The Government Finance Officers Association recommended the City increase its reserves, which had been depleted by previous administrations.  We don’t know what the future will bring, but the City is and must be well-prepared.

In summary, I am proud of the good work that our Commission and City Staff have done over the last 6 years and I look forward to the opportunity to serve as South Miami’s mayor for the next two.


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6 Comments on "Letter to the Editor"

  1. The Mayor has a spin on everything, he actually believes his tall tales.The City is still not in compliance with the Miami-Dade Landscape Ordinance even though they’ve been officially notified. He knows exactly what parking bonus I’m referring to, so don’t be miss-led with his diversionary tactics, as usual. Our taxes should have been reduced more than they were. Residents have marched on City hall to protest police shootings of unarmed residents in traffic stops, so are we safe? NO !! Yes, specimen trees are still being cut down after the City’s uncertified “arborist” declares them to be in poor condition. There were many articles written in anticipation of the Murray Park swimming pool.that stated the pool would be heated. It is not, therefore the months of operation are limited but the maintenance expense continues.. The few that use it have to get out for the lifeguards “breaks” and sit around in the hot sun until he comes back. Sad. Awning have been purchased to cover the pool equipment,, guess that’s more important than the pool users getting any shade..The additional legal expenses have nothing to do with an administration from 6 years ago, what a cheap shot when we know exactly why this bevy of attorneys is needed. It’s to handle the unprecedented number of lawsuits against THIS administration. Yes, our small town aura is fast disappearing, just drive up 80th Street from 57th Avenue to Dixie.It’s one green construction fence after another of lot splits and homes that are totally incompatible with the surrounding houses.As to the Ludlam Trail issue, maybe if there had been any transparency and truth, the residents might have had a different opinion. It was all hidden as the Mayor was on the original steering committee of the Friends of Ludlam Trail FOLT, along with Victor and Maria Cecelia Chael, yes she’s the same person who is President of the South Miami Neighbor’s Association and hosted the candidates forum. A total conflict of interest.that the Mayor sees nothing wrong with.but fortunately the other two candidates would not participate in the charade.So, it’s good to know that anyone can now request lighting on their street, residents should certainly take advantage of that offer The promotion of installing solar panels with the “good deal” that the City negotiated fails to explain the entire process.The mayor can certainly give that information using the solar installation on his house as an example,He brags about the money he’s saving on his electric bill., but is a permit required and if so does the property appraiser use the added value to raise the property tax ?. I’d like to have all the information to get a true cost benefit.Maybe he can share that with us..

    • Excellent rebuttal, factual, as well as exposing mayor Stoddard. If your not a kool aid drinker he rebuts but doesn’t answer the question. I really feel sorry for the 20 somethings in his class at fiu’ that is why I feel background checks including financial, criminal, and psychological testing is a number one priority. South miam has become a communist state. And who thought Isis was bad?

  2. I’m with Ms. Valenti. Why the need to spend taxpayer dollars on the Ludlam Trail? Isn’t this a county project? If the city needs more green space, why not put the money into extant city parks? I have concerns about how users of the trail will safely cross streets that intersect with the trail (Sunset, Miller, e.g.). The best answer I could get on this is that the issue was still being studied even though Commissioner Welsh delivered a flyer claiming that there will be pedestrian bridges built over these high-use roadways (remember all you home owners, tractor trailer trucks will have to safely pass under these bridges that require a height of at least 13′ 6″). I like the idea of a trail for cyclists and walkers, but the reality of the situation is that will impact traffic on the city’s streets and create parking clusters at entry and exit points. I haven’t seen a plan that fully addresses this and the project’s true cost to the taxpayers of the City of South Miami.

  3. Antoinette B. Fischer | February 2, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Reply

    Ms. Valenti is correct about sweetheart deals with FPL. The Mayor voted to approve of a 30 year franchise agreement. Any of us may wind up with some huge, ugly infrastructure in front of our home because of this. Also, why should the city give contracts for street light s to FPL when the “green Mayor” believes in solar power. Why not solar powered street lights?
    As for Ludlam Trail, let the County purchase it. Funds are not there, and there is no reason for South Miami taxpayers to take on any additional debt. To say that we can use defunct grants and Amendment One funds is ludicrous! Let the County handle this. We will have the right to full use of the Trail without addition expense piled on by City ownership.
    Wait ’til the taxpayers see what current, pending lawsuits are going to cost, courtesy of Mayor Stoddard and his minions on the Commission This is hidden now, due to the fact that a big case is under appeal, and the numbers won’t come out ’till after elections. Stoddard blames past administrations, and fails to mention the lawsuits that are that are ongoing.

  4. Yvonne Beckman | February 4, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Reply

    Anyone who lives in South Miami should take heed when reading the above four comments.
    There is an election and you can vote on Saturday 2/6/16 and Tuesday 2/9/16. The residents are trampled on by their own government in this city and change is needed.
    PS Mayor Stoddard did away with spraying for mosquitos…but he did not make a new policy. As a nurse, may I suggest that you are very careful. Use Deet. when trying to get pregnant please postpone or be extremely careful. When pregnant, please be extra careful.

  5. Antoinette B. Fischer | February 4, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Reply

    How does everyone like the way that concrete behemoth is coming along right across from City Hall? This is the result of a settlement made to the Metro South developer, because of a lawsuit which never should have happened. This is 15 lbs. of potatoes in a 5 lb. sack. Concrete out to the sidewalk, no courtyard open to the street in exchange for bonuses, and less parking than what the city’s Land Development Code requires.
    Do you like this? Does a low income project like this belong right across the street from City Hall? It should have been done within the parameters of our Land Development Code. That way it wouldn’t have been a structure that dominates that stretch of Sunset Drive.
    During the entire process of application before the Commission, Mayor Stoddard consistently voted for everything the developer wanted, as is his pattern. Isn’t it remarkable that a mayor who is always talking “green” loves concrete so much? Talk is cheap, and what we get stuck with is what really counts!
    If you want more of the same, then vote Stoddard for Mayor. If this is not the direction that you want for our city, then don’t just sit at home and complain about living in what is fast becoming a concrete jungle.
    Let’s have a great turnout at the polls!

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