The people have spoken – time to quit stalling on city hall

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Grant Miller, Publisher

On November 8, 2016, the people of America went to the polls. Nationally, they made a choice. We won’t get into the wisdom of that today. The voters in the City of South Miami went to the polls on that day, too, and expressed themselves on a local issue that has been simmering for years.

They were asked, “What should we do about the City Hall and the Police Station?” The City Hall complex, built in the 1950s, was looking dowdy and has all the visual appeal of a muumuu on a bargain rack at Walmart.

The vote was 72 percent in favor of getting a new City Hall and Police Station. The voters didn’t just approve the referendum, they handed the Mayor and Commission a mandate. The people voted for the proposition on the promise that the new construction would not cost the city anything. The present site would be sold for development and the funds used to build the new facilities.

Politicians are creatures who can be spooked by two people wearing the same t-shirt speaking at the podium. So, you would think that a proposal garnering 72 percent of the vote would put them into high gear.

Not this Mayor and not this Commission. The City is letting an opportunity slip by. If the value of the City Hall property is, as expected, more than what it would take to build a new City Hall and Police Station, then it would be a HUGE win for South Miami.

If handled the right way, the City would get a new City Hall and Police Station and the excess revenue could be used to fund programs or put into the capital fund to be used to renovate other outdated city properties. Correctly managed, the sale could lead to the beautification of the area. It would also put the property on the tax rolls, meaning that the City could reap more than $800,000 in property taxes each year.

What happened? To characterize what the city is doing as “stalling” would be pulling our punches.

The City put out not one, but two Requests for Proposals. One for a straight sale and one answering an unsolicited proposal submitted by one interested party. There were six qualified proposals submitted in answer to the RFP. The value of the City Hall complex was estimated to be around $24 million. To put that in perspective, our City’s budget this year is about $18 million. The City could realize more than enough to build a new City Hall and Police Station.

Rather than act on the responses to that RFP, the City put out a second RFP, asking interested entities if they wanted to redevelop the property as a public-private partnership to see if that route would be better for the City.

Then, the inexplicable happened. The City Manager withdrew the RFPs, canceling the entire process. The Manager offers no explanation or justification. Since that time, the Mayor has offered no comment.

The City Commission, with the exception of Commissioner Josh Liebman, has stayed mum about this. And City staff are like ostriches with their heads in the sand. None of them will speak on the record as to what is really going on.

Although the City leadership may be hoping that people’s memories will fade, the vote was clear. South Miamians want a new City Hall and Police Station and they want it to be paid for by the sale of the property on Sunset Drive. It’s time to quit stalling and get to work.

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5 Comments on "The people have spoken – time to quit stalling on city hall"

  1. Unfortunately the Community Newspaper doesn’t report the facts, fake news, just like the man they have been behind from the start, Comm. Josh Lieman. The cohorts, city attorney Mr. Pepe, city manager, Steve Alexander, Mayor Stoddard, Welsh, Liebman, purposely mislead the public with the verbage. Let’s start from the beginning those cohorts DID NOT WANT A REGULAR BALLOT QUESTION, THEY THOUGHT THEY WOULD COME THRU THE BACK DOOR AND TITLED IT A STRAW BALLOT. NOW WE ALL KNOW A STRAW BALLOT IS JUST THAT AN OPINION, WHY DIDN’T PEPE AND COMPANY PUT A REGULAR BALLOT QUESTION WITH PROPER VERBAGE? THE REASON IS THAT THEY WERE AFRAID OF THE OUTCOME. Grant brothers, kindly look at the verbage the sneaks put in the ballot it states, “may” go to infrastructure improvements. If you know how Stoddard and cohorts work, May mean no.

    Not only that, they could have put a “real ballot question” with truthful content in yesterdays election, but they didn’t.

    They are not trustworthy in any sense of the word. The public has not spoken, a straw ballot is a straw ballot, and not being forthright with technical verbage even in a straw ballot is deceiving, but than again, that is what the residents have on the dais. Crooks in my opinion and those of others BTW Grant brothers, why is you “boy” Comm. Liebman so hell bend on the sale of city hall? LOL, LOL, anyone who really knows what is going on behind the scenes already knows. BTW is Comm. Liebman still sponging off the taxpayers having them pay his personal health insurance or did the 40 something get a job yet, or perhaps he doesn’t need one???????????????????????/

  2. David Scott Trautman | February 14, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Reply

    Good article and I couldn’t agree more. Time to get the sunset place and city hall projects done. These projects would help get some population back onto Sunset Drive helping small businesses. The additional revenue could then be used to finance public works project like sewer connections and parks. It all starts on Sunset.

  3. Marie D. Valenti | February 19, 2018 at 8:58 pm | Reply

    It is surprising that as a professional writer you misuse the intent of the words mandate, referendum, voted for, proposition. You neglected to state that the sale of City Hall was a non-binding ballot question, basically a survey. A MANDATE by dictionary definition is the authority granted by a constituency to act as its representative. An example of a legitimate mandate is given in winning a fair democratic election. Then you go on to question why the fictitious “mandate” was not followed. The obvious answer is that there is no legal grounds to sell the City Hall/ residents property without going through the required process. If that is done, the issue should be put before the voters with a clearly worded binding ballot question, not the mumbo-jumbo that was worded to mislead and hide the true intent of what they were voting for. The excuse given was being limited by word count. Nonsense.

  4. So you want our city to spend tens of millions of dollars on a new City Hall because you think the current one looks “dowdy” and has low “visual appeal?” You cannot be serious. There are many higher priorities in this city than wasting my tax money in a new building to benefit politicians and bureaucrats.

  5. A new city hall will benefit the City of South Miami in several ways. Perhaps the most important is that it will be built to specifications that insure it will not be damp. Currently the dampness that invades that building makes people sick from the mold it supports. In addition plaster and paint need to be repaired and re-applied frequently. Both of these reasons are on-going expenses to the City. Adequate work space for City employees is another good reason. It seems to me that the team of City employees that are in place is a team worth keeping. The better the work conditions, the better the workers and the better the work outcome.

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