Wednesday , 23 July 2014
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Sweetwater responds to charges made by Commissioner Souto

The City of Sweetwater proposal to annex Florida International University’s Engineering and Computing campus along with Flagler Street between 102nd and 110th avenues and Eighth Street between 102nd Avenue and Snapper Creek Canal has become the catalyst for misconceptions by Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto.

Souto has made many claims to the media stating that he was not informed about Sweetwater’s intention to annex the above-mentioned areas. And that he only learned about the intention to annex areas in his district after reading a Miami Herald Neighbor’s story published June 11 that was written after the City of Sweetwater Commission unanimously approved a resolution to submit the annexation application to the county.

It would have been premature to bring the intention to annex these areas to Souto before receiving approval from the Sweetwater City Commission. Also there is no Miami-Dade County statute that requires a municipality to give notice to the commissioner of the district where the municipality is looking to annex.

As a courtesy, months before sending out notice to property owners within 600 feet of the proposed annexation areas May 21, Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño and chief of staff Robert Herrada briefed District 12 County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz. Because of area redistricting at the time, Diaz was under the impression that FIU’s Engineering and Computing campus was in his district.

It is important to note that the areas in the annexation application have no taxable value.

Souto has released misinformation about the annexation through the following outlets:

June 8 District 10 Newsletter: Commissioner Souto sent out a newsletter to his constituents with bold letters stating: SWEETWATER CONTINUES EFFORTS TO TAKE PARTS OF WESTCHESTER AND FOUNTAINBLEU AS IT LOOKS TO EXPAND ITS BORDERS AND TAXBASE. It goes on to state that Sweetwater is looking to incorporate the main FIU campus and Tamiami Park. “Their greed continues to grow after last year’s annexation of Dolphin Mall. Voracious, rapacious appetite that they have!”

Sweetwater has no intention of incorporating any of the above-mentioned areas.

Aug. 23 Miami Dade County Commission Meeting starting at 4:17: Souto proposed a new ordinance where Miami-Dade district commissioners would be the gatekeepers of their district and decide whether or not another city can annex into his/her district. He went on to say: It is my district… No way Mr. Mayor (Maroño). You are listening to what I am telling you? I am telling everybody… Maybe you did not know. Now you know. I am telling you this is not Kosher this is not American. This is mafia-style and mafia-style doesn’t work with me, my friend, OK?

Sweetwater has done everything by the book and Souto’s statements insinuate the city has somehow broken the rules, which is not true.

Sept. 23 Kendall Gazette: Here Souto states: “We have been reporting for months about the city’s ambitious plans to expand its borders to take important and valuable areas of the communities of Fountainbleu and Westchester… Legislation is moving forward to prevent that.” These statements are not true. Sweetwater has no intention of incorporating any of the above-mentioned areas. And the areas that Sweetwater has applied to annex have no taxable value.

Oct. 3 Diario de Las Americas: Here Souto states that at no time was he informed of Sweetwater’s intention to annex the FIU Engineering and Computing campus along with parts of Flagler and Eighth streets. Herrada sent two emails to Souto’s chief of staff, Bernado Escobar, which remain unanswered. Maroño has called Souto several times and received no answer. On other occasions Souto answers the call and hangs up on Maroño when he realizes it is he. Also, Commissioner Diaz has been kept fully informed of the annexation process.

Following is the true and documented sequence of events regarding the City of Sweetwater annexation application for the FIU Engineering and Computing campus, Flagler Street between 102nd and 110th avenues and Eighth Street between 102nd Avenue and Snapper Creek Canal.

May 21 — Notice sent out to approximately 2,986 property owners within a 600-foot radius from annexation area.

June 4 — City of Sweetwater regular commission meeting where the resolution to submit the annexation application was unanimously approved.

July 13 — Sweetwater chief of staff Robert Herrada sent Souto’s chief of staff an email to open dialogue. This email was not replied to.

Aug. 3 — Sweetwater chief of staff Robert Herrada sent another email to Souto’s chief of staff to open dialogue before submitting the annexation application to the county. This email was not replied to

Aug. 4 — The City of Sweetwater submitted the application for annexation to Miami-Dade County.

Sept. 6 — The Miami-Dade County Commission recommended the annexation application be reviewed by the Miami- Dade County Planning and Zoning Board.

Sept. 17 — Maroño spoke to Humberto Cortina on Radio Mambi about the annexation. Maroño expressed his interest to talk to Souto to clear the air.

Editors Note: Michelle Hammontree- Garcia is a Public Affairs Specialist for the City of Sweetwater.