Once a month on Saturday mornings Patrick Fiore plans on taking up to three guests around the Village in his truck to help them understand what a Councilperson does... and in particular what he does in Palmetto Bay. When I saw the opportunity promoted on the Village website, I signed up. Turns out, I was the only one who took him up on the initial outing (April 30).
Fiore is a self described community activist, fiscal conservative and pothole freak. Patrick told me he won the District 1 Council seat by performing 3000 door knocks. A Palmetto Bay resident for just about four years now, Fiore got his public service start by being on the West Kendall Community council. According to Fiore, "Joe Martines put me there." I won't get political here, but simply run you through my Saturday experience.
As we left Village Hall, we headed straight to US-1 and SW 136 where Fiore proudly showed off the newly paved and painted intersection. He was careful to point out that he worked and cooperated well with Linda Bell and that together they got this project done. He also said extra dollars were found in the budget to pave several blocks into SW 136th Street that would otherwise not have been included.
We drove the major roads of the 1st District, but spoke about how 136th, 152nd, 168th, and 184th Streets were serviced by the County and that SW 144th was the only East/West major road under Palmetto Bay's budgetary control.
"SW 144th Street is torn up," Fiore said. "Compared to other roads, this one is beat up and needs resurfacing." He showed me where many hot patches were put down at his direction and where other potholes and road decay still remained. The Councilman blamed the FPL electrical pole project that placed 100-foot poles along the road for the road condition. "The trucks really tore this place up. We need to fix it and there's money in the budget to do it."
He also showed at SW 144th Street and 87th Ave (Galloway) that there was a proposed traffic circle. He weighed in saying that didn't make sense to him because it was so close to a major intersection and that there really wasn't enough room to do it.
At 152nd Street (Coral Reef Drive), Fiore mentioned that the light timing had changed recently, giving drivers more time to either cross or turn onto US-1.
Patrick also spoke about ordering and installing 'Slow deaf children' signs where appropriate if they could be purchased inexpensively.
We also spoke about the County bike path project on Old Cutler Road. When I asked when it would be completed, he said he wasn't sure but that he'd find out for me if I emailed him.
When asked about the South Florida Water Management Re-Hydration Project on Old Cutler and SW 158th Street, Fiore has basic knowledge of the reasoning and stated that he had recently met with Eddie Hernandez but "forgot to ask him about the details."
Fiore says he'd love to see the old town of Cutler become the "downtown of East Palmetto Bay". He was not fully aware of what was historically there, but said he is pro, pro business and would like to see it developed soon.
As we drove by the campus, Councilman Fiore carefully side stepped the Palmer Trinity issue by reminding me that State law supersedes County law which supersedes Village law. DERM provided approval to clear the lot of vegetation and therefore it didn't matter what the Village thought, it was a done deal from there.
In general, Fiore feels people are misinformed about the topic and the Jennings rule that precludes the Village Council from talking about the issue. He feels the Palmer Trinity issue has "torn the city apart" and created "extremely raw emotion". Patrick never saw anything like this in West Kendall and says it just has to end.
As we returned to Village Hall, he pointed out a few more potholes that he wanted to have fixed. It was clear that 'pothole freak' was a aptly self-chosen moniker.
I asked Patrick if he had any goals he had in mind for his tenure as Councilman. His reply was "I campaigned with no agenda, no personal agenda, no anti-anything agenda. The biggest problem we have today is putting people to work. I will do everything I can do to bring businesses to the [Village]." He also mentioned he'd like to get a boat launch for Palmetto Bay and said there is a beautiful one within the FPL power plant grounds that he has toured. "I'm trying to get that done," he said.
Fiore's final words were about Jane Foreman and her Tennis Program at Coral Reef Park. He was the lone vote to have the contract renewed. He says he got around 200 for emails and about 5 against emails. Based on that, he voted not to change things.
When asked if he was having fun as Councilman, he said "only when I am doing things with the people (like this morning with you)...I don't like the politics and the personal attacks."
All in all, I think the idea of Councilman Fiore taking residents around to play "Councilperson for a Day" is a good one. There was no doubt both of us learned things during my 90-minute Village tour. The next day for this recurring event is on May 21, 2011 @ 10:30a - 12n, please contact him through the Village website.