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Regalado says “hell no” to island homeless camp, threatens lawsuit

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County Commissioner Raquel Regalado said Thursday she’d support legal action to revoke a property deed and reassert control of a barrier island if the City of Miami doesn’t back off a plan to put a homeless camp on Virginia Key. 

“I want to be on the record as a ‘hell no’ for this,” Regalado said at a town hall with more than 200 participants. “I will push for litigation. If that’s the case, it’s not the first time I sued the city of Miami.”

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Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she also opposes a homeless camp on the Virginia Key site adjacent to a sewage treatment plant. She outlined many practical problems with the site in a memo earlier Thursday, and told the meeting that Virginia Key is just not an acceptable place. 

“The intentions of creating more housing are very laudatory. That being said, we have some serious questions and concerns about this particular proposal, and certainly about the location,” the mayor said.

Miami city commissioners advanced the temporary housing concept in a 3-2 vote last week. Virginia Key, which is home to parks, a high school, research labs, and the Miami Seaquarium, is one of several possible locations. 

But the move has caused an uproar, drawing criticism from advocates for the homeless, cyclists, environmental groups, and residents of neighboring Key Biscayne.

More than 13,000 people have signed a petition asking City Mayor Francis Suarez to veto the measure. He has until Sunday to decide on a veto, according to a spokeswoman.

Regalado’s legal threat, if carried out, could have profound ramifications. The county deeded part of Virginia Key to the city in 1982, but under a deed restriction, ownership of the parcel can revert to the county if the deed is violated. The city has big plans for other parcels on Virginia Key, such as the moribund Marine Stadium and commercial development that could be connected to a renovation of the Rickenbacker Causeway. All of that could be disrupted if the county were to take legal action. 

In her memo, county Mayor Levine Cava said she had directed staff to see if a homeless camp would violate the deed. 

In addition to deed restrictions, Levine Cava said a homeless camp would cause “significant friction” with Miami’s black community because of the impact to Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Virginia Key is not zoned for the residential units that an encampment would require, and any permanent structure would require the city to rezone the land, both Levine Cava and Regalado said. They also noted a 2010 Master Plan for Virginia Key focuses on recreation and environmental education. 

The town hall, organized by Regalado, did not include any representatives from the city of Miami. City Commissioner Joe Carollo defended the plan this week, saying critics were “inhumane” because “they don’t want them in their neighborhoods.” He said opposition from Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey and other residents was “elitist,” in an interview with WPLG-TV. 

City staff has said the location is “optimal” because it is secluded and far from residential areas. But several county department heads ticked off problems with the location: 

  • A county regulatory official, Josenrique Cueto, said there was no viable  transportation for a homeless encampment, with the site being two miles from the nearest bus stop at MAST Academy.
  • Pete Gomez, director of the Office of Emergency Management, said the site is classified as Zone A for hurricane evacuation purposes, with up to six feet of flooding with even a minor storm. He said fire hydrant coverage is inadequate if the encampment contains homes with kitchens.
  • Water and Sewer Director Roy Coley said bathroom sewer lines don’t exist on site and would require up to $3 million of work for 2,400 feet of piping and a pumping station.

And then there’s the central issue: the homeless themselves. 

The Homeless Trust, the county agency charged with caring for the homeless, gets $41 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Trust Chairman Ron Book. He repeated earlier statements that the concept falls short of federal guidelines. 

“If we lose that money, we don’t have the money to replace it. That means you have to start closing programs and putting people back out on the streets. We’re in the business of ending homelessness, not creating. We cannot afford to take those risks,” Book said. 

The Virginia Key site had already been under discussion as a spot for playing fields that the Village of Key Biscayne would contribute to, according to Village officials. The status of those discussions, which have been going on for months, was not clear. 

The homeless camp issue took a bizarre political twist Sunday when Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey said in an Instagram video that the plan was “staged to support people who are running for office in Key Biscayne who are supported by people on the dais in the city of Miami.” Davey refused to provide any specifics or evidence for his claim. 

In the WPLG interview, Carollo denied knowing anything about the island’s mayoral race and said opposition to a homeless camp from elected officials “should be toned down a little bit.” 

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Tony Winton contributed to this report.

Petros stands apart as mayoral debate turns nasty between former lobbyists

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NEWS ANALYSIS

Trading jibes over past lobbying jobs and ethics investigations, Fausto Gomez and Joe Rasco threw body blocks at each other at last week’s first mayoral debate, while the third candidate, Katie Petros, sought to project herself as a calm consensus-builder. 

There were only a few policy disagreements at Thursday night’s debate. The candidates agreed sea level rise and the fate of the Rickenbacker Causeway are prime threats. They all said they were fiscally conservative, and supported highly-ranked village services. In other words, anodyne statements that are the political equivalent of love for motherhood and apple pie.

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But there were profound differences in tone and style. And it seemed clear, even to some supporters of other candidates, that Petros won the night with measured, middle-of-the-road positions. She used the Gomez/Rasco sparring to portray herself as a civil peacemaker. 

“Nice does not mean weak and cooperation does not mean capitulation,” Petros said in her closing. 

From the first question, Gomez signaled a break from years of status quo, attacking Village Manager Steve Williamson’s initial budget that raises taxes 13%, which he said was “a signal to the community of a lack of respect to try to take more money out of our pockets when that is not necessary.”  But Gomez offered few budget cuts, despite his criticism.

All Miami-Dade municipalities plan raising taxes this year, however, a consequence of double-digit increase in property values. Key Biscayne, with one of the lowest tax rates, is no exception.   

Rasco offered himself as a continuation of the Mike Davey era, vowing progress on sea level rise projects he said were “existential.” But at times he seemed to struggle to articulate his points and appeared defensive about a decision by the island’s firefighters union to endorse Gomez. 

“I’m disappointed in that. It really is not something that has happened in Key Biscayne,” Rasco said. “It’s something that usually happens in cities like the city of Miami. It serves to divide us and I’m extremely disappointed that a candidate would go after an endorsement like that.” 

The exchanges over attack mailers from supporters of Rasco and Gomez can’t be ignored. Neither of the two experienced pols came off well. While it’s true Rasco’s campaign didn’t pay for a mailer raising Gomez’ multiple ethics complaints, Rasco didn’t disagree with the theme of its messaging, saying that they were “heated issues” and that the reputation of the community was a very important issue.

Gomez’s strategy on his long history of serial ethics complaints attempts to turn the narrative around. He says they are not liabilities, they are assets — proof of his skills or savvy. It’s a risky strategy, and a departure from a more typical  “mistakes were made” framing that includes asking forgiveness. 

One debate exchange did little credit to both men. That’s because Rasco, in effect, was Gomez’s supervisor while both had jobs lobbying on behalf of Miami-Dade County. 

“You signed my contract,” Gomez said. 

“We all make mistakes,” Rasco retorted. 

There are two traditional measuring sticks for debates. Did a candidate lessen negative perceptions about themselves? And did a candidate cement existing positive perceptions? 

By this standard, Petros gained the most while doing the least self-harm, demonstrating knowledge of the pressing issues with a likable persona. Rasco’s performance may not have changed perceptions much, which could spell trouble since his prior service as mayor came 20 years ago and is not front of mind. And Gomez may have set himself backward, and was actually apologizing for his own conduct by the close of the session. 

There were many unanswered questions, and the labor and spending issues may come back, even in wealthy Key Biscayne. Police and fire contracts are big drivers of  government spending, but cutting costs for those services in Key Biscayne is hard — they consistently rank high in public opinion polling

The last contract bargaining was acrimonious, and only was settled after Petros and former Manager Andrea Agha both left government. With inflation running at over 10% it’s a safe bet unions will be demanding more than a 4% cost-of-living boost when talks reopen. 

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Should a homeless camp go on an island? Miami says yes.

In an eleventh hour reversal, City of Miami commissioners voted to move forward with a homeless camp, possibly on a plot of land on the barrier island of Virginia Key — a location home to a park, a sewage plant, federal research labs, and the MAST Academy magnet high school. 

Village of Key Biscayne and county leaders panned the idea, and noted a camp on the otherwise uninhabited island faces huge logistical and practical challenges and months of regulatory approvals, if legally possible at all. 

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The idea – first raised by Commissioner Joe Carollo last September – was initially defeated, 2-3. But hours later in a marathon meeting, Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla revived it, even though he had criticized research by the city’s human services director, William Porro. Commissioners Manolo Reyes and Ken Russell both voted no.  

The motion adopted Thursday night directs city staff to come back with a list of sites, including Virginia Key, with a proviso that the administration could build some small temporary homes on the island as pilot program. There is no announced start date for the project. 

The plan identified five locations as potential sites for temporary shelters or shack housing that homeless individuals could voluntarily check into, provided they abide by a code of conduct that includes a zero tolerance for drinking, violence, or drugs. The sites would be managed by private subcontractors. 

People who opted to reside in the encampment would be free to leave at any time and would not be in custody under the concept presented Thursday. 

The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and the Virginia Key Advisory Board were not consulted during the preparation of the proposal. According to the Trust’s latest homeless census in January, there were 591 unsheltered homeless persons within Miami city limits out of 892 homeless county wide. 

Key Biscayne mayoral candidates Fausto Gomez and Joe Rasco spoke against the idea during public comment.

“This proposed use of land is not consistent with the Virginia Key Master Plan adopted by the city in 2010,” said Rasco, who chairs the Virgina Key Advisory Board, which he said was not consulted. Gomez agreed. “I urge you to be good neighbors with Key Biscayne, and the rest of Miami-Dade county.” 

Joe Rasco, a candidate for Key Biscayne mayor and chair of the Virginia Key Advisory Board, speaks against idea of homeless camp on Virginia Key before the Miami City Commission, Thurs. July 28, 2022 (KBI Photo/Theo Miller)
Fausto Gomez, a candidate for Key Biscayne mayor, speaks out against homeless camp concept on Virginia Key before Miami City Commission, Thurs. July 2022 (KBI Photo/Theo Miller)

The Homeless Trust, the county agency tasked with reducing homelessness, said it would not be able to support or staff a camp on Virginia Key without endangering the U.S. Housing and Urban Development grants. Chair Ron Book said temporary encampments violate HUD rules. But Carollo rejected the warning, saying the city pays into the Trust and the agency is not dealing with homeless issues to his satisfaction.

But Christine King, a commissioner who also sits on the board of homeless housing provider Camillus House, praised the Virginia Key location as “ideal.” King bristled at references to the Virginia Key Master Plan, saying homelessness is not part of any person’s master plan. 

The specific area depicted in Porro’s presentation is currently home to the north bike path trailhead, the Virginia Key Outdoor Center, and shares a property line with the county sewage plant.

The proposal continues to receive fierce opposition if not ridicule from environmentalists and cycling groups. The Miami Herald editorial board called the concept a “sick joke.” 

“This is an ecological treasure,” said Diana Perez, operations director at the Virginia Key Outdoor Center. She, and other environmentalists, argue that the area is an sensitive area, and that placing an encampment next to protected waters will lead to new pollution in an already distressed Biscayne Bay.

Key Biscayne Village Manager Steve Williamson, who often built temporary housing for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the location has none of the required services in place to help homeless persons who often have multiple medical needs. He said the site would face a challenging permitting process.

According to Google Maps, the site is nearly two miles from the nearest bus stop, more than five from the nearest grocery store. It’s even further from employment, healthcare, or other rehabilitation services. Carollo suggested that trolleys could ferry homeless volunteers and even take them on shopping runs in Key Biscayne. 

“Virginia Key does not strike me as a good place for such a program,” said Key Biscayne Mayor Mike Davey in a statement. “While I understand the importance of finding a way to assist people who are chronically homeless, Virginia Key does not strike me as a good place for such a program.” 

Also opposed was Raquel Regalado, a county commissioner whose district includes Virginia Key.

 “Creating an encampment on a barrier island is not the best long-term solution. We are meeting with city officials and the Homeless Trust to find other options,” she said in a statement. 

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City of Miami asks to revive Plan Z for Rickenbacker Causeway

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The City of Miami officially went on record Thursday supporting the Plan Z concept for renovating the Rickenbacker Causeway, asking Miami-Dade County to revive the bidding process for the project. 

The move, while nonbinding, puts the city at odds with the Village of Key Biscayne, which officially opposed the RFP process. The Miami-Dade County Commission later spiked the RFP, with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava saying a new plan should involve consensus from stakeholders. Since then, however, support for reviving the privatization concept has grown.

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The city resolution passed unanimously without debate. No members of the public commented on it. 

Commissioner Ken Russell, who is trying to woo Key Biscayne voters in the Democratic primary for Congress, said after the vote that cycling safety and access to Alice Wainwright Park were important factors in his decision. 

 “We always work together on issues, sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t agree,” he said after the vote. “We’re at the table with Key Biscayne always, but right now we’re with the County plan and hope that it does move forward.” 

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the city believes architect Bernard Zyscovich’s proposal has the best shot of addressing safety issues. 

“Plan Z for me has been the only comprehensive solution that I see,” Suarez said. “We have to do something. We can’t sit back and keep watching death after death of our bikers without doing anything.”

Suarez said, however, that he wants to continue discussions with Key Biscayne officials. “I’m open to whatever solves a problem.” 

Meanwhile, village officials are developing their own set of concept drawings for the Causeway  that are nearing completion, said Village Manager Steve Williamson. The goals were set in sessions earlier this year with island residents. After input from council members, Williamson said the concept could be ready for a public meeting in mid-August.

Roadmap for Key Biscayne’s ambitious sea level rise projects advances

The Village Council approved more than $625,000 in contracts Tuesday to start the design process for major resilience projects on the island, a major step in planning the details of storm water, shoreline, and utility undergrounding projects that could cost $250 million over the next decade. 

The full amount of the spending commitment was not known, because the largest of the three contracts –creating the overall roadmap– is based on future work orders. But the Village had previously budgeted $1 million for that item in 2022, said Chief Financial Officer Benjamin Nussbaum.  

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The trio of votes are a follow-up to a critical decision last February, where the council set targets for keeping roads passable as sea levels rise. The goal is to remove flood waters swiftly enough to ensure there is a maximum ponding depth of less than six inches, for a duration of not more than 12 hours, based on a storm dropping eight inches of rain in a 24 hour period. 

For the first time in the village’s history, the system is being designed with sea level rise factored in. 

First up: a 9-block area around the island’s elementary school, dubbed the K-8 basin, which previous studies identified as the most flood-prone section of the village. A $265,000 contract with AECOM Technical Services, the island’s environmental engineering firm, will lead to a “30% design,” allowing officials to put the contract out to bid. 

The proposed pumping station would be placed in a new park on Harbor Drive, between W. McIntyre St. and W. Enid Drive. AECOM is required to deliver plans within nine months. 

The second AECOM contract, valued at $359,000, will evaluate the scope of the stormwater project in the remainder of the island to the same goals – but will produce three separate scenarios with varying cost and performance levels. 

The votes were not all unanimous. 

Council Member Ed London voted no on the second contract, but only after hitting Roland Samimy, the village’s chief resilience official, with multiple and sometimes pointed questions. London wanted to know if probabilities had been calculated for future flooding, whether the village would be getting drawings it could actually bid out to contractors, and whether swales and one-way streets would be needed.

Key Biscayne Chief Resiliency Officer Roland Samimy and Public Works Director Jake Ozyman brief council on upcoming projects to combat sea level rise, Tuesday July 26, 2022 (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

Samimy said the Village was already experiencing severe flood events, and that previous studies did not account for sea level rise in computer models of street flooding and how to move water.  

“We’ve already got a problem, and it’s a recurring problem that needs to be dealt with,” Samimy said. Swales and one-way streets could be part of the solution, he added.

The K-8 basin project, in effect, is a testbed, said Public Works Director Jake Ozyman. “Do one, address the worst condition, which is K-8, and have lessons learned and move on,” he said. 

Village officials said they are focusing on a “dig once” strategy that will minimize disruptions caused by stormwater, shoreline protection, utility undergrounding, and possible road change projects that could include one-way streets to construct swales. 

“The reality is we can’t shut down the village for two years in order to build it all out all at once, added Samimy. “We have to do it incrementally.” 

The integration plan, the most expensive contract approved Tuesday, will create the roadmap for all of the drainage, beach, and utility projects. The Black & Veatch firm will prioritize the projects, determine construction phases, set up program management, and sequence borrowing, grants, and other funding.  

“The reason that we want to do this is specifically to be able to only dig once, to the extent that we can do that perfectly, then we’re heroes,” Samimy said. 

“That is the most important thing you can do,” said Council Member Luis Lauredo. “This is a great step forward.” 

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Council sets cap on tax increase, vows cuts before final votes

The Village Council on Tuesday voted to stay the course — for now — on a possible double-digit property tax increase this fall, but promised to make budget reductions at budget hearings in September. The move came on the same night it voted to spend $625,000 on the next phase of resilience projects contracts. 

“Our goal is to bring this number down, I would say dramatically,” said Mayor Mike Davey. 

As it stands now, Manager Steve Williamson’s draft $39 million budget would increase property taxes an average of 13%. Of that 13%, some 10.1% comes from an increase in the island’s tax base. The remaining 2.8% comes from an increase in the tax rate, or “millage” that is set by the Council in September. 

Residents with Homestead exemptions would see only a 3% increase because of a cap in the Florida constitution, but that limit does not apply to renters and commercial property owners.

Council Member Ignacio Segurola tried, in vain, to get the Council to commit to a smaller increase. 

“We’re basically already in a recession,” he said, saying the least the Council could do was to raise taxes no more than the increase automatically caused by rising property values, which are up 10% from a year ago. 

“We should show some fiscal responsibility and some discipline,” he said, noting that other municipalities in the county had taken similar steps. The county property appraiser has suggested a 3% reduction, and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava included a 1% reduction coupled with programs for renters. 

But no one seconded Segurola’s request. 

Instead, the council, voting 5-1, approved sending out the legally required notice with a millage rate of 3.288 — and a promise to make cuts before the final vote in September. Last year’s millage rate was 3.199. The notice is mailed to each property owner in August and contains a listing of county, village, school and other taxes and fees. The notice is preliminary, and most municipalities start the budget process with higher rates and work downwards.

Segurola cast the lone no vote. Council Member Ed London had left the meeting at the time of the vote.

Williamson said the staff is already looking at various trimming options before budget hearings Sept. 6 and 21st. 

“One of them may be capital heavy, one might be maintenance-and-repair heavy, one might be a hybrid, and one might be looking at potential additional revenues in some way,” Williamson said.

“I owe that to you.”  

Homeless camp on Virginia Key called “optimal location” in Miami report

A 20-page report prepared by the City of Miami lists Virginia Key as an “optimal” location for housing homeless residents and is up for discussion before the City Commission Thursday. Within hours of it becoming public, opposition mounted both in and off Key Biscayne.

Homeless Trust Chairman Ron Book said the idea would endanger millions in federal funding for homeless programs. He said the entire notion of encampments instead of permanent housing would violate Housing and Urban Development guidelines. 

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The report was ordered by the commission earlier in the year, a city spokesperson said. The Virginia Key location was specifically mentioned by Commissioner Joe Carollo last year. 

Ken Russell, another commissioner running for Congress, quickly blasted the idea. 

“We have an incredible support system of partners that need our continued investment. Building our own tent city to criminalize homelessness and put them on an island is not the solution for their future or our city,” he said in a statement. 

Key Biscayne leaders said they had been blindsided.

Joe Rasco, who is running for Key Biscayne mayor, is also the chair of the Virginia Key Advisory Board. He said he first learned of the agenda item yesterday. 

“It’s something that just popped up,” he said, saying he plans to speak before the City Commission. He said it may just be a case of one Miami city department not talking to another. 

“The city works in silos. This is coming from the Department of Human Services, not the parks department.” 

He said a homeless camp does not comply with the master plan for Virginia Key, adding that he’d been in contact with District 7 Commissioner Raquel Regalado, who told him she had concerns about the project. “We are going to aggressively follow it,” Rasco said. 

Robert Vernon, a former mayor who also sits on the city’s Virginia Key Advisory Board, called it a “slap in the face,” adding that it wasn’t the first time the panel had been blindsided by a city project, citing the relocation of the Ultra Music Festival to Virginia Key in 2019. 

In reviewing five locations, city staff said  Virginia Key was one of two optimal spots for a homeless “Transformation & Transition Zone” in a slide deck with photos of locations and various options for tents and temporary structures. 

Virginia Key had high marks for a “secluded location” that was not close to residential buildings. A second optimal location was at NW 71st St. and NW 5th Place, near I-95. Other potential locations included

  • 2451 NW 7th Ave, 
  • NW 6th Ave and NW 6th St.
  • Miami parking lots 15 and 28

It’s not clear which city officials came up with the priority list or how the sites were evaluated. A message for Carollo was not returned. 

Book, the Homeless Trust leader, said Commissioner Carollo should drop the idea. 

“There is no way to make it compliant. It is so opposite of everything we have ever done,” Book said, adding that no one in the city had contacted the Trust for input or best practices.

“It was a parachute, today,” he said. 

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Man pleads guilty in island crime spree, but most serious charge dropped

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The only adult charged in a Key Biscayne crime spree this January entered a guilty plea Monday, but prosecutors dropped the most serious armed robbery charge. Key Biscayne police had accused Levare Holton and four minors of being part of a group that allegedly threatened two island teens with guns. 

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In a plea deal, Holton pleaded guilty to burglarizing cars and an unrelated grand theft. The deal was for 30 days in jail, two years probation, an apology and $500 restitution. He will also have to stay away from the victims.

Circuit Court Judge Milton Hirsch agreed to withhold adjudication on the charges, however, which means Holton will not have a conviction on his record. The special sentence is often used for first offenders who are placed on probation. Levare Holton turns 19 next week. 

In a memo, prosecutors said that while they believed Levare Holton was present when his juvenile codefendants brandished firearms, “this defendant did not participate or aid the codefendants” and therefore the state would not be able to proceed with filing charges.

Two other teens, both minors, earlier took plea deals as part of the juvenile justice system. The cases of two other juvenile defendants remain pending. 

The Key Biscayne Independent is not naming the teens, although it is a matter of public record, because they have not been charged as adults. The State Attorney’s Office makes the decision on whether to charge juvenile defendants as adults, but typically only does so in extreme cases and only after an internal review process. 

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Islander News Publisher ordered to testify in search for mysterious letter writer

A Miami judge on Friday said he would order a Key Biscayne community newspaper publisher to testify under oath about the identity of a person who wrote a letter to the editor last year, and also said that Yahoo! must turn over account information about the user. 

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The case may raise issues of press freedom for both letter writers and publishers, a criminal defense and First Amendment lawyer said. 

Circuit Court Judge Jose Rodriguez said he would order Justo Rey, the publisher of the Islander News, to testify about the identity of a mysterious letter writer named “Paul Nichols,” who penned a letter critical of former Village Council Candidate Jennifer Allegra last July 15. 

In court papers, Allegra said she wants to investigate a defamation claim, but needs to know who Paul Nichols is. Rey submitted a sworn statement saying an AOL email address was all that the paper had, but Allegra’s attorney said there are many other questions he wants the Islander publisher to answer under oath. AOL is now part of Yahoo.

“We have some reason to believe that various parts of the Islander News might know who he is,” said attorney Robert O’Donnell. “I would like to know what he knows about a man named Jorge Mendia, who appears in the metadata of Paul Nichols’ emails,” he told the court. 

A message for O’Donnell was not returned. In court, O’Donnell didn’t further clarify who he was referring to. There is a prominent Key Biscayne physician with the same name, but Dr. Jorge Mendia said Friday he has no idea who Paul Nichols is. 

Islander News attorney Rachel Fugate said Allegra’s inquiry should not be allowed to become “a fishing expedition.” 

“We’ve provided everything we have,” she told the judge. “Mr. Rey has never spoken to Mr. Nichols, and he does not have any contact number for him,” she said. 

Judge Rodriguez sided with Allegra, but also limited the questions to the issue of identity only. 

Meanwhile, an attorney for Yahoo, Nury Siekkinen, told the court that it could provide basic account information but was legally prohibited from disclosing content without a user’s consent. She said user information may not be accurate. 

News organizations sometimes resist legal demands on the grounds that such inquiries can interfere with the editorial process, or chill First Amendment rights. 

Oftentimes, the attitude is “anything they get from me, they should have to get tooth and nail,” said Norm Kent, a criminal defense attorney and publisher. 

A date for the deposition was not set, and it’s not clear if Nichols, whomever he or she might be, will attempt to intervene. Some courts have upheld a limited right to anonymity for internet users, but that issue was not discussed at Friday’s hearing. 

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Engineer Fernando Vazquez runs for Key Biscayne Council

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As an engineer, Fernando Vazquez was a contractor who helped put together some of the island’s goals for combating sea level rise. 

Now, he says he’s running for Village Council to help put them in place. 

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“We have to move forward,” he said. “I’m running because I think the manager is going to need my support at the commission.” 

Vazquez, 60, was a regional vice president of AECOM, the village’s environmental consulting firm, which has a $131,000 consulting contract with Key Biscayne. 

In February, along with village officials, he presented overall goals that were adopted unanimously by the Village Council – a set of targets that specify how quickly drainage systems must remove water as sea levels rise. He said he would not accept any industry campaign contributions and left AECOM for a different company in June. 

Vazquez also served on the Undergrounding Task Force, which eventually recommended pursuing a $46 million plan to bury power and telecommunications lines.

He hails from Boston and has worked on many large projects, including that city’s “Big Dig.” He served as city engineer for Miami Beach, overseeing that city’s stormwater master plan. 

On the issue of raising the island’s debt cap, Vazquez said the island needed to proceed cautiously and held off on taking a position. “I don’t think we are in a position now to make those assertions,” he said. 

“We can’t go off and shoot out bonds,” he said. “We need capital money from the federal government, every dollar possible.”

Vazquez is the fourth person to file papers to run for three seats on the council, although the formal qualifying period opens Aug. 15 and closes Aug. 25.

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