The G.O. Bond: What's Next?

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

The G.O. Bond: What's Next?:

Prioritization, oversight, go to market

City Commissioners this week discussed next steps for the General Obligation Bond offering approved by Miami Beach voters earlier this month including the naming of a citizens’ oversight committee, prioritization of projects, those that can be done immediately with little disruption, and timing for going to market.
By an overwhelming margin of support, $439 million in bonds were approved for public safety, parks, and infrastructure. Unofficial results indicate 69.4% voted in favor of spending $169 million to improve the City’s parks and recreational and cultural facilities; 73% supported $198 million for improving the City’s neighborhoods and infrastructure; and 70% said yes to improving public safety.
At this week’s Commission meeting, Mayor Dan Gelber said, “There was a very strong vote on the General Obligation Bond, obviously, and now our job is to make sure we animate the will of the people and we do it the right way.” He is proposing a Citizens' Oversight Committee to include seven at-large members, six of whom would be voted on by the Commission and one chair appointed by him. The item was referred to the Finance Committee to flesh out but Gelber said his vision was for a group that was geographically diverse with two members each from South, Mid, and North Beach and two non-voting member representatives from the Audit Committee and the Parks Committee. 
Gelber said he was also looking for diverse skill sets among the members including banking and finance, construction, recreation, architecture, public safety, public works, urban planning, resiliency, etc. Members would need to have “at least one or more of those” skills, he said. He is likely to appoint Karen Rivo, who chaired the G.O. Bond Advisory Committee, to serve as chair of the Oversight Committee if she is willing to take on the role. Gelber said he would like to have some continuity among the two groups and Rivo’s appointment would ensure that happened and he thought she did a good job leading the group.
He noted he did not want the Oversight Committee to be “another planning committee or design review committee but simply to help and work with the staff to queue up the projects, to be a place where if there are issues generally people can come to them but not to be another layer of approval for a specific project.” It will be, he envisions, “a place to make sure that the promise of the G.O. Bond is delivered."
In an interview with RE:MiamiBeach, Gelber said, “The template for the City is very much established at least in some respects in that we now have 57 new capital projects and a Convention Center hotel… the City now needs to make sure it implements that efficiently and thoughtfully and with the least amount of disruption to our residents.” Nearly 64% of voters approved the City’s leasing land to developers – and local residents – David Martin, Jackie Soffer, and Craig Robins for the construction of an attached Construction Center hotel. Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales “has already begun the process of figuring out how to queue these projects out in a way that makes sense and is thoughtful,” Gelber said.
Morales told Gelber and the Commissioners this week that the Florida election recount will delay the City’s bond offering as the official certification of election results is being held up. Once the results are certified, there is a 60-day window for any legal challenges to the bonds.
CFO John Woodruff said the original timeframe was mid-March but with the delay caused by the recount, he estimated it would be closer to early April for the bond offering.
In the meantime, Morales said City staff is working on a proposed schedule that will take into account the 6 to 8 year phasing of the offering and the status of the projects approved by voters. Some are shovel ready and some are still in the early design phases, he said. 
Between now and the bond offering, Morales said staff is considering projects that can be done as soon as the 60-day challenge period closes, such as roof and other repairs. He gave Commissioners a list of projects in the $9-10 million range including the generator and window replacement at the Scott Rakow Youth Center and roof repairs at the Bass, Miami City Ballet, the Fillmore, and the Colony Theatre. Those repairs might be able to get started by using the City’s line of credit which would then be paid off with bond money.
Larger neighborhood improvement projects will go through the normal process of public input, design review board approval, etc. but Morales said other items funded through the G.O. Bond including the License Plate Readers for the Police Department, lighting, and the general repairs could be done now.

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