The six candidates for the Palmetto Bay Village Council met recently in a community forum sponsored by the Palmetto Bay Village Voice. The well-attended event in the Palms Room of the Village Center ran just over two hours and was moderated by Rhonda Victor Siblia, community outreach coordinator for the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
After the candidates introduced themselves, questions were selected from the audience on local issues such as community involvement, campaign financing, environmental concerns, police management, charter amendments, and future growth. Each candidate had two minutes to state his or her position.
Beyond the spontaneous outbreak of applause after comments made on some of the more controversial topics like campaign donation origins and the Neighborhood Protection Charter Amendment (NPCA), it was a smoothly run and amicable evening.
Four out of the six candidates did not support the NPCA. District 2 candidate Jim Araiza said it would only bring more litigation to the city and there were plenty of lawsuits to deal with already. Vice mayor candidate Karyn Cunningham said although she supports the protection of neighborhoods, she was against the NPCA because it was “too political.”
District 2 candidate Tim Schaffer supported it to protect “our way of life” and “give residents an opportunity to decide the nature of the village.”
Vice mayor candidate John Dubois vociferously opposed the NPCA goals, agreeing with Araiza that they exposed the village to liability and calling it “an expansion of the principles behind the moratorium that was recently passed.”
District 2 incumbent Howard Tendrich also was opposed to the NPCA because he said it diminishes the strength of the council and elected local government officials’ ability to do their job.
Incumbent Vice Mayor Brian Pariser supported the NPCA. He called the liability concerns “scare tactics” and said the “community has to be protected.”
When asked whether Palmetto Bay should continue contracting with the Miami-Dade Police Department, all seemed to agree the arrangement was working well, however there were different interpretations on how to handle crime. Pariser said Palmetto Bay is a low crime area and 75 percent of calls come from the “Dixie corridor” or commercial district along US1. Cunningham agreed but said neighborhood safety came up often as she was knocking on doors. She used an example of an elderly couple she went to see who just recently had experienced a break-in. They would only speak to her through a window out of fear for their safety “and I’m not really that scary” she added jokingly in one of the few lighter moments of the event.
Dubois said break-ins and vandalism were big worries for residents.
“Everyone I talked to knew someone affected by crime,” he said.
Regarding making changes to Coral Reef Park to provide lighting for evening games on the playing fields all concurred it was a bad idea, however Cunningham supported a neighborhood strategic plan to gauge community sentiment.
Schaffer said more residents were using the facility so lights were unnecessary. Tendrich said for 40 years there have been no lights and the park services provided programs for all. Araiza agreed with the status quo but called the concession stand a “$1.3 million mistake.”
Retired medical social worker Brenda Storch shared her thoughts on the forum afterwards. A resident for over 20 years, she said she was supporting Pariser and Schaffer. Storch’s home borders Palmer-Trinity School and she said although she lost her quality of life when the school expanded; she wants to protect her neighbors from the same fate.
“My house is right next door to the school,” Storch said. “The lights shine in my windows at night, I can’t sleep and the trucks come through at 7 a.m. every morning. I’m on social security and my home is all I have. I don’t want others to go through what I went through.”
Resident Joe Garcia grew up in Cutler Ridge and has been a resident of Palmetto Bay since 1993. He said the forum was informative.
“I have a good understanding now of the candidates and their positions and ideas,” Garcia said.
Although he is not completely decided on who he will vote for, he said he is much closer to a decision.
“I’m not 100 percent sure but very close. I’m a businessman and I think I agree with both businessmen John Dubois and Jim Araiza…but Howard Tendrich is still in the running.”
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