From Ernesto Cuesta: Stay the Course and Move Forward

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Ernesto Cuesta

Although I will not be too far away, this column marks my final message to you as president. I am pleased to be turning over the BHA reigns to Gail Feldman, who has been an advocate and leader for our neighborhood for several years. I know BHA is in excellent hands.

She will be aided by an outstanding Executive Committee elected at our annual meeting February 19. Many of them, and certainly Gail, have not been afraid to speak up, vocally and often, as it seems it takes many attempts, ongoing vigilance and persistence to see issues get resolved and completed.

In fact, it often seems like the proverbial two steps forward and one back. Major issues covered in the last BHA News are examples, as described in the lead article of this issue.

The first concerned shifting authority for Brickell Avenue to local authorities instead of the State highway folks, FDOT. The neighbors were heard, Commissioner Sarnoff and Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla crafted a deal accepted by FDOT last summer and the switch was to be made.

Victory was short-lived however. Senator Gwen Margolis has delayed the plan, citing no problems on Brickell and being quoted as saying there’s no way to slow down the traffic on Brickell. She disagreed with what those of us living here on Brickell thought and advocated for, and stalled the State agency on finalizing the deal. At the public hearing in January, nearly everyone filling the First Presbyterian Church Hall was in favor of turning authority over to the City of Miami, and many spoke on record to take Brickell Avenue out of the hands of FDOT. The public commentary period ended in mid-February, so we await the slow-turning wheels of government to finalize this important change.

The Brickell Avenue Beautification Plan has been stalled since September, I’m sorry to report, after an ill-fated start with tree cutting in some medians sparked a public outcry. We’re still hoping the City can move forward, replant the medians that were started and continue with the addition of some 200 trees and thousands of plants. Equally important, the City’s plan includes a much-needed sidewalk overhaul, making the sidewalk wider, safer and improved for all who traverse Brickell Avenue every day.

We know Commissioner Sarnoff has been trying to satisfy all concerned and find compromises, and we support his efforts. We hope together we can achieve a beautiful and functional Brickell Avenue.

On the positive side, another big topic discussed in our last issue—that of increasing the police force in the City of Miami—finally saw victory with the City finding funding in the budget to add 95 more uniformed officers by April. Hat’s off to Mayor Regalado, Chief Orosa and Commissioner Sarnoff.

My thanks to many of you who responded and signed the petition urging the addition of officers on the street. Most accounts tribute the public outcry as key to this victory.

As I have said many times before, “Let’s move forward.” Let’s create a more beautiful and safer Brickell Avenue. That’s the goal.

Finally, I want to thank all the BHA Board members for their work and support in moving forward our Legislative Agenda while growing our organization to represent the many, varied needs of our community.

It’s been a privilege to serve this organization. Thank you for the progress we have seen, and the promise of more good things to come to us in the future.

From BHA News Vol. XXIV No. 1, Winter/Spring 2014