These questions were sent to all Key Biscayne Village Council candidates on Monday, Oct. 5th.
As If the candidates reply, The Tropical Rag will publish the responses. The replies are as they were received with some minor edits for spelling and grammar.
Interview with Oscar Sardiñas
Official filing: PDF
Property rights and development
General obligation bond and associated projects
Hindsight is 20/20
I’ve heard that on the Key the best way to get elected is to know a lot of people and not go into much detail about policy. What do you think?
Lol well I hope that’s not the case, but sincerely I have always loved a good old debate of the facts. I have always felt I take much more away from detailed discussion with my peers and especially those of different perspectives than just a good time, although I do love a good friend, family, supporter PARADE!
How long have you lived in Key Biscayne?
My family and I moved here in the glorious summer of ’85. I have called KB my home ever since.
And you think that’s enough time to be on the council?
More than time living here, I think it important to participate, collaborate, serve and really enjoy this way of life which I certainly have done. I’ve learned about community, respect and service and am now compelled as a result to give back. I think gratitude may be the single most important reason to sit on council and so here I am to show gratitude and to serve.
Alright, let’s get to it.
Property rights & development
The entrance block property is back up for sale. How do you feel about how the council handled the fight with Commodore Realty (CR) over building a Walgreens at the entrance block? You would be hard pressed to find a resident who was happy with the proposal, and yet there were also property rights at play. After many delays, the Village Council approved the project but cited traffic studies to close access to the property, thus making it infeasible. CR eventually sold the property at a profit, but not nearly as much as the value of the Walgreens deal, and not before running ads in the paper comparing the Council to Venezuela and Cuba.
Do you feel the spirit of property rights was violated using legal technicalities or is this just the name of the game when it comes to large development?
In my opinion this was a happening that occurred due to a rushed attempt to appease the obvious opportunity to do something but with very little vision. In most cases, organizations, governments and even small villages fail to start their endeavors really understanding and defining their ‘WHY” effectively; the act of defining a vision. Our “WHY” to develop this parcel was unclear and we rushed to act on the how, when, and for how much, all important in their right time but none vehicles that people can feel connected to. We need to be less audacious in thinking we know best, rather find common ground with a vision that your friends, neighbors, contemporaries, and yes even competition can rally around. We need to begin from our similarities, define our “WHY”, discuss ideas and come together for a common vision before we embark on future projects.
Regarding property rights and whether or not they were violated, I hope there was not any malintent and if that was part of the game, then I say LET’S ALL WORK TO CHANGE THE GAME!
A few years ago the Silver Sands Hotel tried to develop their site into a hotel/condo. The village had just passed a new zoning rule only allowing for hotels, and the owners of the Silver Sands were contesting that they were being unfairly targeted as the last property to not redevelop. Eventually their redevelopment deal fell through and they quit pursuing the development of the property and its legal implications, but still claimed the right to build apartments. Do you feel the Silver Sands property should be grandfathered into the old zoning rules; would you give them a variance?
Although precedent and past rulings are important to look at, they are not always in line with the present. That said, and given the unique location and potential function of this property I think it would only be fair that it is included in any discussion around what the future vision of the island is. I would welcome input from our neighbors and colleagues and ensure that we the council take a holistic approach in considering several options while defining our “WHY” and our islands future vision plan.
The topic of an assisted living facility was raised briefly at a council meeting recently. While most voters might be ambivalent to the general idea, it was proposed for the Crossbridge Church property with a developer expressing interest. How do you feel about an assisted living facility being built specifically at the church property? Would you vote to put the referendum to voters (as I think would be legally required as it increases density) to up-zone that specific property?
What are we wanting to accomplish? What are the needs of our neighbors? What is it we want to evolve into as a community? All questions that will come up when defining our “WHY” and our vision for the future of our island. That said, I remember a time when seniors were hard pressed to remain on the island citing cost of living as a major reason for mass exodus. I dream of a day when all Key Rats can live out their days in the peaceful, harmonious island we call home. As for the location at Crossbridge, sure maybe, but will that be the best use of that location and one that would benefit the largest number of our population? I don’t know and so without looking at the island as a whole and better understanding of what our short, middle, and long term goals are, I think it premature to endorse a specific location, rather, let’s first look at the needs and how best to accommodate and empathize with all parts of our community. Maybe revival and refurbishment of an already established property makes more sense. Our community deserves a clear vision we can all rally around, let’s give them that and then define the how.
There’s no doubt the budget has increased quite a bit in the last ten years. I’m looking at the 2010 budget at ~$24m and the 2020 at ~$36m. Still, the tax rate has remained mostly the same. I can think of some reasons for this (more people, new buildings online, new schools, new parks, etc) but what do you make of it?
Undoubtedly these are some of the reasons for the increase along with, inflation and cost of goods and services, human resources and all that encompasses having a competitive workforce with higher skill sets and the opportunity for professional growth. There are many reasons we can delve into but I believe the real question is not the growth necessarily but rather what is the value of what we are getting in return. The fact of the matter is that the village runs an incredibly efficient government when compared to other municipalities and although a nice benchmark to compare us with, I say we hold ourselves to an even higher standard and we simply take a close look to ensure we cannot find economies of scale and even efficiencies that may save us money and ensure the same or better quality of services. Accountabilities and ROI need to be measured and revisited with trust but verification. The idea that the council simply come in and slash costs seems more of a political whim than a well measured attempt to create a government that is incentivized by efficiencies and that creates inclusion in the running of the same. Inclusion that will certainly motivate and empower the very human resources that will drive our services to greater heights all while empowering them all to be vigilant stewards of our tax dollars.
I’m sure you’ve read every line of the current budget, as all of us have. How do you feel about it? Are there any concrete changes you would make?
No concrete changes at the moment but certainly a deep dive with department heads to discuss and TOGETHER define plausible efficiencies.
I can’t help but think that if you really want to make any dent in the budget you’ve gotta cut staff, including Fire and Police. This is politically very unpopular right now. Thoughts?
Amazing Police and Fire Departments with the highest national ratings. Why would cutting be the first thought? Why would we not be looking at how to add value to their wishes to remain a central point of our community? Cutting staff, although many times the most effective way to cut costs, is a one dimensional attempt to appease shareholders in many organizations. In government it can be the demise of morals and pride in what people do. We have so many opportunities to show our appreciation to these fine folks and they are not always tied to remuneration. Let us ask ourselves, what do we want and need from these fine heroes and let’s find a way to make them part of the solution. Can we better earmark KPI’s, how about we ask them what we can do to ensure our tax dollars are working for us all. At the end of the day this question is more for the manager to define along with input from the council as to where we aspire to be financially as a community and a clearly defined level of service we require.
There was lots of talk during this year’s budget sessions about the funding of community groups, a relatively minor part of the budget. Why do you think that happened, and what are your thoughts?
Not sure why but can imagine a tough year required a tough look at reducing expenses.
In my opinion community groups while attended in collaboration represent the best of our community from a standpoint of activating our residents to basic ROI. The village receives service at pennies on the dollar that effectively improve the quality of life for all residents.
Currently the council gives money to the Education Advisory Board which disperses it to fund initiatives at local public schools. What role should the council play in education?
Education is the bedrock of our evolution. The EAB has helped to forge relationships that will allow our community to be represented and included in the MDCPS system. Through their work and collaboration we remain relevant and are able to share best practices and even supplement current programs that will benefit our children.
Should we have made the addition to MAST bigger?
Would have, could have, should have. We are part of a very small minority that has been able to break into the magnet school ecosystem and afford another incredible educational program to our Key Biscayne children. Could we have done better, possibly, but let’s not for a minute dismiss how blessed we are.
General obligation bond and associated projects
General obligation bond: yes or no?
By the time you’re elected the bond issue will have been decided. What do you do if it doesn’t go your way?
And if it does go your way?
Either way we get to work to ensure the future resiliency of our island through proper planning, inclusion of ideas, oversight, project management and execution of best in class initiatives to ensure the future of this island for generations to come. Let’s set an example we can all be proud of and work together.
The former plan to bury the power lines involved an assessment where property owners would pay according to the perceived individual benefit to their property, to be decided by a company that specializes in deciding these things. Do you prefer this to a general obligation bond?
The question is not one or the other necessarily, rather let’s secure all the options and get to work.
Do you think such an assessment method could work for the other resiliency projects outlined by the Village (complete streets, beach rehab)?
I’m not sure that special assessment is the way to go or at least I have not heard compelling evidence to show how this may play out in a positive light and may even set a dangerous precedent for future island projects. The way I see it we are all in this together and together is the manner in which we will accomplish what is needed as a community.
The causeway is the only way in and out of Key Biscayne, and yet we have no jurisdiction over the area. With Miami-Dade County seemingly waiting to act until it’s absolutely necessary (eg. the bear cut bridge maintenance), do we have any hand to play? Please consider the little we’ve accomplished in this fight in the past.
Do you have an ideal outcome for the causeway?
Hindsight is 20/20
In hindsight, considering its location, its usage, and its price:
would you have voted for the dog park?
would you have voted for Hampton park?
would you have voted for the park on Harbor Drive?
What’s your favorite infrastructure/building/parks project the Village has done?
I think the community center is a jewel of an idea that may have unfortunately been reduced in a manner not best suited for all residents and now that we are facing a possible expansion, the reduction would seem as a lack of vision or an unfortunate last ditch attempt to appease those with little vision. It is acclaimed for its use and serves as a place that adds to the quality of life we get to enjoy.
The lost opportunity for a bayfront park. That would have been AWESOME!
How do you feel about the cultural center / library the council is exploring? What is your ideal location for the cultural center?
History will show that a cultural/library center would be a favorite of many and a place residents of all ages can enjoy. It would reduce the wear and tear on our community center but should be planned as a multi-purpose and flexible center to allow for many options for our residents. As for the location, besides the current location of the library we would require further input as the uses and location.
There’s been some talk about leaving the Miami-Dade Public Library System and funding the library ourselves directly. Knowing what you know today, would you make the switch?
A few months ago, the mayor had a private talk with the manager and asked for it to be in confidence. Hours later political allies of the manager were calling council members, including the mayor, referencing said conversation. Any thoughts on this situation, and how would you react if it happened to a fellow councilmember or to yourself?
During the 2018 election traffic concerns on Crandon were high on the list of priorities, as polling in a village survey had reflected. A kid had been hit by a motorcycle and sent to the hospital at one of the crandon crosswalks which really kicked it off. Yet since then, I couldn’t list one thing that has been done in response. The crosswalks work the same way today, and annoyingly-strict enforcement of traffic laws never happened. Are we good to go on pedestrian safety?
Does anyone really care that fishing is banned at Mashta bridge?
Not sure but if indeed people were being disrespectful and leaving messes behind I might assume so.
Does anyone really care that there isn’t public access to the bay, even just a small spot to drop a paddle board?
I believe some may be disappointed and long for bay access especially given the aquatic nature of our island and those who live in it. I for one would love to see a bayfront park with water access.
Does anyone really care that there’s only one public cold water fountain on the whole island?
I would personally like to see more and think that may be an easy fix.
I can’t believe this has to be asked but it’s come up enough times in public comments: should renters be allowed to vote in KB?
Yes, of course renters should have a right to vote.
How about non-citizen owners?
Possibly a discourse to have and weigh-in both sides but for now it seems the law is clear with regards to citizenship and voting rights.
That’s it. Anything you think is important that I didn’t touch on?
Please get informed, reach out to us all, get to know us, and remember this is much more than a one issue election and one that deserves your utmost attention, and diligence.
Thank you for the opportunity. Take care, Neighbors! ☺
Island politics depot
Links to information about the upcoming KB election. This section will be updated as new information comes along.
Islander News candidate introductions
Tropical Rag interviews
Franklin H. Caplan
Candidate forum 2020-09-21
Anti-Social podcast w/Allison McCormick
Anti-Social podcast w/Oscar Sardiñas and Matt Bramson
Anti-Social podcast w/Frank Caplan
Anti-Social podcast w/Brett Moss and Michael Kelly
Anti-Social podcast w/Reynaldo Figueredo
General obligation bond referendum
Tropical Rag bond FAQ
Village of KB official bond website
Village bond workshop 2020-08-06
Village bond workshop 2020-08-20
Village bond workshop 2020-09-03
If you liked this, sign up!
The Tropical Rag goes out every Thursday and has all you need to know about the going-ons of Key Biscayne. Sign up below and never miss an issue.