Miami’s Community Newspapers: “Palmetto Bay receives new state-of-the-art fire engine”

Palmetto Bay’s Fire Station 50 inaugurated service for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s new Engine 50 on Monday, Apr. 8, with a traditional “push-in” ceremony.

Dozens of Miami-Dade Fire Department personnel and Policing Unit officers were joined by village officials, VIP guests and local residents to welcome the new state of the art fire engine on a day with perfect weather.

The push-in tradition goes back to the days when fire engines were horse drawn wagons that had to be manually backed into a fire station’s garage bay since there was no “reverse gear.”

Mayor Karyn Cunningham made the introductions and Vice Mayor John DuBois, Councilmembers Patrick Fiore and Marsha Matson were there on behalf of the village. Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey and more than a dozen firefighters participated as did members of the village police department. Miami-Dade County District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava spoke, and Omar Blanco, president of Metro-Dade Firefighters IAFF Local 1403, represented union firefighters.

“We are super excited to be here,” Mayor Cunningham said. “I want to say a big thank you to [Miami-Dade] County Mayor [Carlos] Giminez and the commissioners for putting this in the budget.”

She introduced the firefighters as very special people there because they are all about saving lives. She then presented a large key to the village to the fire station and crew. Engine 50 will be staffed by four personnel, an officer, driver/operator and two firefighters.

Fire Chief Dave Downey accepted and also expressed gratitude to the county.

“I am pleased that our mayor and the Board of County Commissioners have recognized the need for this new service and approved the necessary budget to make this a reality,” Chief Downey said. “In order to continue to provide the highest level of life-saving care to this community, we must keep pace with growth and this new service is an example of just that.”

Blanco said that a fire engine at that location had been needed for some time and that this new one was a big step forward.

“Engine 50 is designed with the newest technology,” Blanco said. “It has a clean cab design with a separate storage area for the gear that the firefighters wear so that the toxic chemicals that accumulate while fighting a fire don’t contaminate the crew.”

Levine Cava came to the microphone to share her thoughts about the event, and to say thank you to station personnel.

“When I look at this beautiful truck I see the men and women who ride it fearlessly to save everybody’s lives and help everybody in need, so my special commendation, honor, applause and respect to all of you, each and every day.”

Everyone from fire crews to officials, residents, adults and children gathered at the front of the engine and along the sides to push the gleaming new engine into the garage.

Fire Station No. 50 is located at 9798 E. Hibiscus St., directly across the street from Village Hall.

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Miami Herald: “Miami-Dade says affordable housing isn’t what it used to be, wants to raise prices”

Miami-Dade would increase the cap on prices that affordable-housing developers can charge for homes built using county money or land, with administrators saying current price limits are outdated for the market.

Legislation before county commissioners Tuesday would lift the current cap of $205,000 for homes built on county land, and allow developers to sell them for up to $235,000. Changes to a related program would let projects with low-interest county loans sell for as much as $310,000, more than a 50 percent increase from the existing $205,000 cap.

Miami-Dade’s affordable-housing program provides loans and land for developers who agree to price caps and sales to buyers who earn below a threshold set by the county. The new $310,000 cap would apply to projects built with cash subsidies and would be lower for buyers who earn less.

“It expands opportunity,” said Clarence Brown, director of the county’s Community Development division. “It doesn’t limit opportunity.”

The county’s Housing Department recently backed off higher cap increases after meeting resistance from commissioners leery of raising prices on buyers. Improving access to affordable housing is already a campaign plank for the one commissioner running for mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, and has been a main issue for others planning a run to succeed Carlos Gimenez when he leaves office in 2020.

“We’re concerned about doing it all at once,” Levine Cava said. She said the higher price caps will help open up the program to families who make more than the typical affordable-housing buyer but still struggle in the Miami market. But she said the current proposal includes too many price increases, and that she would propose a longer schedule that would let the county boost caps as real estate prices increase.

She said the county could make it easier for developers by speeding the time it takes to get an affordable-housing project approved. “Time is money,” she said.

In justifying the community development department’s plan in a memo to commissioners, Gimenez cited new tariffs on building materials that are pushing up costs as well as rising real estate prices in Miami. “The housing market has changed significantly,” Gimenez wrote, “and the cost of construction has increased.”

Miami-Dade set the $205,000 caps in 2007 and 2008. The Miami area routinely tops studies showing large gaps between real estate prices and what residents can afford. A 2017 study found that, among all major metropolitan areas, Miami-Dade had the largest portion of renters — nearly two-thirds — paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.

The county’s affordable-housing programs have also been criticized for not doing much to address the problem. The Miami-Dade program offering developers free land to build houses for buyers making up to 140 percent of the area’s median income produced only 27 homes in 2017, according to a report submitted last year.

The Housing Department contends that current price caps are too divorced from land and development costs to encourage developers to participate in the affordable-housing program. That’s particularly true when it comes to property outside of extremely low-income neighborhoods, said Arden Shank, interim director of the South Florida Community Development Foundation.

“They tend to be pretty small houses. And they tend to be in the most problematic neighborhoods where property values are lowest,” Shank said.

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The New Tropic: “Pay Equity Day is A Call to Action”

Imagine a world where a calendar year for a working woman lasted 457 days while a calendar year for a working man remained at 365 days. Even if the woman and man were given the same pay, one could imagine the financial struggles that the woman would face if she were forced to stretch her annual salary over an additional three months.

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