Talk to merchants around town and you will hear a host of sad stories describing how bad service from the staff at South Miami City Hall has cost them lots of money and time. After hearing so many complaints, I decided to attend a South Miami commission meeting and use the five-minute public remarks portion of the meeting to ask the City Hall staff to be better partners with the merchant community.
In my short plea, I requested professional and efficient service from the city.
After I left, Commissioners Valerie Newman and Brian Beasley announced that they are frequent patrons of downtown businesses and thus, supportive. That is wonderful, really, and I love bumping into you around town, but it is hardly the point.
What I said, and was hoping would be understood, was that the merchants need better cooperation from the staff at City Hall. Calls go unanswered, explanations are incomplete and information is always changing. It seems as if the staff does not understand their own policies and ordinances. What gets approved by one person is not approved by the next.
It is difficult for merchants who play by the rules to navigate the way forward in this town, and no one is willing to help.
Many of our merchants have locations in other parts of town, so comparisons are easy to make. Hands down, South Miami City Hall is not a user friendly organization. I wonder if our city leaders think that by being difficult we will slow growth and stay charming. We would be more charming and maintain our small town atmosphere if we were simply more helpful to one another.
The group at City Hall does deserve much of the credit for the rebirth of our downtown. But now they seem to think that its success is guaranteed. It is not, and a simple thing like being too difficult to work with can ruin what has been built. A vibrant downtown keeps residential taxes low. We must never lose sight of that.
It’s interesting to note that most of the current players at City Hall are new, so why does the old culture remain? A new mayor and commissioners come into office and change staff. They do so because they believe we deserve better, but what we end up with is anything but better. The commission did turn down two ordinances presented by staff whose sole purpose was to thwart business. And for that, we thank you.
The solution to this problem is quite simple: demand normal business practices. Zero tolerance for staff not returning calls the same day; zero tolerance for missed appointments; zero tolerance for a staff member carelessly providing misleading information that is subsequently overturned by another staff member.
The next meeting of the Red Sunset Merchants Association will be held March 15th in the Players’ Lounge at Game Time (formerly GameWorks) in Sunset Place, and will feature special guest speaker Bruce Turkel. For more information or to register, visit RSMASM.com.