Editor’s note: This is an edited version of letter to Village Manager Andrea Agha.
After (Hurricane) Irma, you did the right thing in Miami Lakes when as Assistant Manager you removed storm debris from homeowner private roads and then successfully reached out to FEMA for reimbursement. In Key Biscayne, the manager, legal counsel and the Village Council unfortunately ignored the full-page ads in the Miami Herald by Miami-Dade County explaining how FEMA could provide debris removal assistance to condos on private roads in the aftermath of Irma.
All tax-payers are deserving of municipal services no matter where they happen to live. Miami-Dade and Miami Lakes did the right thing. The Village of Key Biscayne dropped the ball, but thankfully going forward this has been rectified. Nevertheless, Key Biscayne condos have yet to be compensated for this mistaken policy as they had to pay to remove their own debris to free up blocked roads.
Regarding stormwater infrastructure, there are apparently those who want to do what they believe is ‘legal’ rather than doing what is right. It is wrong to tax people for a service they are denied. Despite possible legal arguments to the contrary, the right thing to do is to include all roads where tax-payers live in our stormwater improvement and maintenance program. We have no problem providing police and fire-rescue door to door on private roads when needed. Even FEMA now approves debris removal. This can be done legally and we have many fine minds who can figure this out. But there has to be the will to do so.
It is unconscionable to now raise the stormwater tax and not include services to all taxpayers, including those on private roads. From a resiliency point of view, this is good policy because water knows no ‘legal’ boundaries and during storms, flooding can quickly become a life-safety issue. After our dunes, condos are the Village’s first line of defense against ocean storm surge. A robust well-maintained condo stormwater system is in everyone’s best interest.
But there is perhaps an even more important reason. If we are to be in practice, and not just in name only, truly one Village, we must provide equitable services to all tax-payers and residents.