he intention to form the petitioners committee and its purpose, to prohibit the property at 530 Crandon Boulevard to be used as a dog park and allow for a dog park elsewhere, was communicated to the Village Council at their meeting on June 10.
At that meeting we reached out to the Council for their assistance in getting the issue on the November ballot as a referendum where the voters of Key Biscayne would let their preference be known. The hurdle was that the Charter gives the Council up to 45 days to consider a petition for an ordinance, accept it or not, in which case it would be automatically set up for the next election as a referendum.
We knew that our chances to meet that deadline were slim when Council members Michael Kelly and Mike Davey said that first it would not be proper to reconsider a decision of the Council, although the petition was filed respectfully and orderly under the provisions of the Charter; and second basically that the Council was not there to help residents with their petitions.
Even though they are certainly allowed their opinions, Council members are elected to represent the electorate and should consider their views in the exercise of their powers.
We proceeded to form a committee and file the required paperwork. With the assistance of the Village Attorney and Clerk, the committee was officially recognized June 18, at which time the referendum proceedings formally commenced, allowing 60 days to gather the required 667 signatures.
We knew the sentiment of the voters was in our favor, but we did not know how to go about gathering that many signatures given the time limitations.
By reaching out to friends and neighbors, by July 7 we had gathered 788 signatures that were submitted to the Village Clerk.
On July 15 only 654 signatures were deemed valid due to a variety of reasons, leaving us short by 11 signatures. On July 17 we filed 67 additional signatures, and on July 23 the Clerk accepted the petition as valid and ready for consideration by the Council.
Mayor Caplan then tried to call a special meeting any time before August 5, technically the last day for inclusion of referendum language allowed by the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, but could not get four Council members to agree. Magically, a special Council meeting was agreed to for the 6th, but any discussion of the dog park was not allowed.
It is our opinion, especially since there were several attempts to call a special meeting, that two agenda items could easily have been added to that meeting to deal with setting a date to accept or reject the initiative ordinance, and also to formally ask the County to grant the Village an extension to get them the ballot language. Of course they had no legal obligation to do so, but we would have expected a moral obligation to consider the request of over 800 voters whose will was ignored by the Council’s majority.
It is unfortunate this was not done while there was still time to do the right thing, by having a special meeting to formally request a deadline extension to include the ordinance on the ballot, since County ballots will not be ready for weeks.
Nevertheless, the voters of Key Biscayne will have the opportunity to alter the Council’s balance of power in the upcoming election: Mayra Pena Lindsay is unopposed for the Mayor’s seat and thus automatically elected. Jim Taintor, a strong supporter of our initiative, will be running; and Mayor Caplan, who has shown a balanced and impartial stance on issues critical to our community, including the dog park, is known to be actively considering running for a Council seat. All three are considered likely to win reelection. Thus one more candidate can alter the balance of power toward a more balanced, understanding and impartial Council.
Despite all the obstructionist efforts by some Council members, the initiative against the Council’s decision by a majority of one to make the property at 530 Crandon Boulevard a permanent dog park is alive, thriving and closer to accomplishing our objectives.
Please be involved.