A large group of enthusiastic and supportive citizens gathered this week at the Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club to hear Roger Craver and Stephen Herbits deliver a progress report on the battle to stop the Watson Island Flagstone project.
Craver, who heads the Coalition fighting the Flagstone project announced that by week’s end we would once again be back in court. This time with a motion requiring the City of Miami to show cause why it should not be held in contempt for violating a September, 2014 court order requiring officials to turn over all relevant information about their secretive decision-making process illegally favoring the developer—information that gives citizens effective legal arguments for stopping the project.
Herbits, the principal litigant challenging the City’s behavior and its all-too-cozy relationship with the private developer, indicated that the major legal hurdle at this stage is having a court grant “standing”. With standing Miami officials, staff and consultants will be compelled to testify under oath and under penalty of perjury.
“Right now, the City and the developer are fighting us tooth and nail on standing. They’ve deployed an army of lawyers at heaven only knows what cost to taxpayers. The last time in court they showed up with eight –count ‘em—eight lawyers to our one.” said Craver.
“Their strategy is clear: delay and delay while running up our legal bills. All in hopes that we private citizens will go bankrupt and quit. However, we’re not about to quit. Instead, we’re asking, again and again, what are they hiding?” Herbits noted.
Praise for Mayor Levine and Commissioners
Both speakers praised Mayor Levine for his leadership and help in building public and neighborhood support and thanked both the Mayor and Miami Beach Commissioners for their unanimous vote to approve a “legitimate” traffic study on the true effects of the proposed Flagstone project in light of all the development that as taken place in Miami’s downtown since the project was first approved in 2001.
“Miami’s first traffic study in 2004 was badly flawed. And the second one they ordered and then hid from the Commissioners before their May 8 hearing, was equally flawed and misleading", Herbits noted.
Frank DelVecchio, Miami Beach activist who led the charge in support of the Mayor’s and Commission’s vote for a new traffic study, gave an impassioned plea for citizen support and involvement in this battle. “No more Marlin Stadiums. This time we have a Coalition that is gaining momentum from residents and businesses who are fed up with corrupt government. Let’s everyone get behind it.”
The audience was both attentive and full of great questions. Although neither Herbits nor Craver would speculate on the motivations behind the cozy and secretive relationship between City officials and the private developers, they specifically answered questions about violations of the public records laws…what the negative effect of increased traffic would be on residents and visitors, and on events like Art Basel.
Among those attending were candidates for the Miami Beach Commission Scott Diffenderfer, President of the Belle Isle Residents Association and Mark Samuelian, Community Affairs Director for the Alton Road Business Association. Both expressed their opposition to the Watson Island project and expressed their concern over its effects on traffic.
Voicing opposition to the project from the Miami side of the Bay was Grace Solares, long-time citizen activist who is also challenging the City of Miami in court over other development projects. Solares is a candidate for Miami’s City Commission representing District 2 which includes Watson Island.