A two-university partnership based on Virginia Key that collects oceanographic data from cruise and container ships is entering the Pacific Ocean via a brand-new expedition cruise ship for the first time since the University of Miami helped launch it 20 years ago.
Data analysis from the project labeled OceanScope will provide a diagnostic tool on the carbon dioxide and circulation levels to and from Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands.
The University of Miami and University of Rhode Island have collaborated for two decades since establishing OceanScope, which uses commercial ships in regular transit to do what research vessels cannot: collect ocean data over long periods of time. The universities compare ocean water samples to measure the ocean’s vital signs – think structure of currents, sea surface temperatures, carbon dioxide concentrations, and salinity.
OceanScope collects data from seven operating cruise and container ships as well as ocean ferries. OceanScope receives data from the Atlantic Ocean and, for the first time starting this summer, the Pacific too.
Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Celebrity Cruise Lines “Celebrity Flora,” which was delivered to the cruise line in May after being designed specifically for its destination, is sending data daily to the OceanScope research team. It is the first small route that researchers are interested in studying.
“Normally, this would not be of interest to us because we are interested in large-scale phenomena, except that the Galápagos and the eastern Tropical Pacific is such a critical area, an area of international interest now for global climate change and climate dynamics,” said Peter B. Ortner, University of Miami OceanScope lead scientist and research professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Studies on Virginia Key.
“Circling the Galapagos on this weekly to bi-weekly basis and giving us data [that] we freely give to the world will be part of an international Tropical Pacific observing system of 2020 experiment,” Professor Ortner said. “Everybody is very excited about it because of that.”
The main purpose of the data collection on the Pacific Ocean is the long-term monitoring. For one, the long-term data set will help prove to OceanScope and other research teams whether the Gulf Stream, a current that traces the US Atlantic Coast, is experiencing slower movement.
“As that circulation changes over time, the ocean warms further and conditions in the poles change, that temperature difference is what drives it. The details will only come out through our kind of data. That’s one part of it that’s highly relevant,” said Professor Ortner, who is also director emeritus of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies.
Professor Ortner is targeting the international scientific community with the data collection and analysis.
“It’s targeted towards the international scientific community to look at trends and time surveys,” he said. “A ship in regular transit can do what a research vessel can’t do – look at changes over time. That is the core idea.”
Another quality that makes the data collection process unique and intriguing to his audience is the ability instruments have to simultaneously measure the upper water column dioxide concentration and measure circulation.
He is also trying to educate travelers boarding 100-passenger-capacity all-suite “Celebrity Flora.” Royal Caribbean Cruises shows the data in real time on its Channel 14. Professor Ortner is preparing additional informational dissecting the data and data collection process.
“We’re getting some more people interested,” he said. “I’ve got to try to remain optimistic and believe that the more people understand how important the ocean really is to them that we’ll get out of the current situation, we’ll get back to where we were when we used to have tremendous bipartisan support for ocean science.”
Professor Ortner plans to incorporate the data findings into the Tropical Pacific Observing System 2020 report.
As nonprofit Transit Alliance Miami works to redesign Miami-Dade’s Metrobus route system, steps must be taken to ensure that the county doesn’t overlook the needs of its senior citizens, Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins said.
To that end, Ms. Higgins said Monday that she hopes by December to deliver a plan for a pilot program that will provide on-demand transit services to seniors who depend on circuitous routes that may be eliminated by the remapped bus route network.
“The goal for me is – at least in a little microcosm [in my district], where I know we have a ton of seniors living – [to] ask them what their transit needs are in a very different way and then come up with an on-demand pilot project that works for [them],” she said. “They’re not asking for [a bus route to be restored]; they’re asking to get to the grocery store.”
Transit Alliance’s estimated $630,000 project is still in an information-gathering phase, but Director Azhar Chougle said this week that the county will ultimately have to choose between two network concepts.
One, he said, would spread bus services as widely as possible but result in less frequent routes. The other would limit services to high-frequency, high-ridership routes that, “like a business,” would build ridership but be “extremely controversial” because the total area covered would be significantly reduced.
During a short presentation Monday at the county commission’s Transportation and Finance Committee, Mr. Chougle said his group is evaluating the two options based on how many jobs a person can access by way of a 45-minute bus ride.
By that metric, he said, the clear winner of the two choices is the controversial one.
“You can only fix this by ripping off the Band-Aid at one time for the entire county,” he said. “The degree to which this is transformative is exactly correlated to the degree it will be controversial.”
The public, county officials and county personnel will mull over the two route redesigns between September and November, he said. By January, the county is expected to make its final decision.
“If we choose for our transit system to cover as many people as possible, even though maybe it’s less dense of an area [and] won’t attract high ridership, we can choose to do that,” he said. “However… if we choose that, we should never bash our transit department for not growing ridership because we are not asking them to; we are asking them to provide a service to those that are most in need.”
Ms. Higgins said the on-demand pilot would involve “real training” to familiarize seniors with on-demand services – a step she said would help the county in choosing the best of the two proposed options.
She said she’d met with a small portion of her District 5 constituency to examine transit solutions available to older residents in and around senior citizen centers.
Those efforts will expand next month, she continued, when the centers will host focus groups to determine where and when seniors travel most.
“[But] I kind of know the answers,” she said. “They’re not trying to get jobs or FIU. They on a Sunday need to go to mass… and right now, our bus system [is] two hours to get to mass to save your eternal soul [and] two hours on the way home. So they are definitely doing a lot of penance.”
City of Miami Beach corporate sponsor Coca-Cola may face consequences for its plastics use. Commissioner Ricky Arriola plans to rally commissioners this week to terminate the city’s contract with Coca-Cola, all for the sake of reducing plastic waste.
Coca-Cola serves as the City of Miami Beach corporate sponsor. The company pays $325,000 per year for sponsorship rights. Coca-Cola has exclusive jurisdiction over soda vending machines on city-owned property and is the exclusive sponsor for city property for events. Those rights include organizations planning special events within the city – picture the Food and Wine Festival – requesting approval from Coca-Cola before moving forward.
Commissioner Arriola calls the $325,000 deal a bad economic contract. For one thing, the city annually purchases 22,500 cases of plastic bottles filled with beverages from Coca-Cola at an average price around $15 – about $350,000 worth of Coke products.
But he says the most important reason to terminate the contract as soon as possible – ahead of its Dec. 31, 2021, expiration date – is to improve the environment.
“The number-one beneficiary of this is the environment,” Mr. Arriola said. “If you look at just the city contract we have to buy 22,500 cases of Coke product. If that’s 24 bottles per case, that’s hundreds of thousands of bottles that ostensibly will not end up in our storm drains, in our bays and landfills.”
The attempt to terminate the contract with Coca-Cola comes on the heels of a series of steps the city is taking to prioritize the environment.
“The city for the better part of a year or so has really been stepping up its efforts with respect to leadership in environmental causes and awareness,” Mr. Arriola said. “One of the things that we’ve been branding ourselves as is being plastic free. One of our official hashtags is #plasticfreeMB. Not too long ago we passed legislation on plastic straws in city-owned properties and city events.”
Corporate America, by way of Coca-Cola, seems like the logical next step, says Mr. Arriola. The company is one of the largest environmental polluters, producing about 200,000 plastic bottles per minute, he said.
Coca-Cola and the City of Miami Beach may find a way to meet in the middle. Mr. Arriola is open to standing by the contract should Coca-Cola offer a more environmentally-friendly packaging for its products. He is happy to consider fountain drinks, glass bottles, paper products or another biodegradable package.
Mr. Arriola said he hopes his initiative will inspire other cities to follow suit.
“I am well aware that this is a small step in the scheme of things, but you’ve got to start somewhere, and if enough consumers and enough municipalities take similar steps corporate America will wake up and start figuring out different ways of packaging their product that are more environmentally friendly,” Mr. Arriola said. “Miami Beach, while it is a small city, it is a city that has worldwide spotlight. People will take notice through our actions.”
The discussion this week is a first reading but will not return for a second reading since it is a decision and not an ordinance.
The decision to terminate the contract will need to be on the basis of a cause or buyout.
“There is no provision for termination of convenience,” Mr. Arriola said. “If we were to terminate the contract it would either have to be for cause or some kind of buyout. In the event that we terminate for convenience, we would have to figure out what the buyout is and, looking at the economics, I think it’s going to be a wash because, while they wouldn’t have to pay us the annual sponsorship, we wouldn’t have to buy these cases from them every year.”
The discussion will also focus on the immediate next steps forward should the City of Miami Beach decide to cancel its deal. Commissioners would have to decide on the timeframe by which to terminate the contract and notify Coca-Cola. The notification would force commissioners to formulate a reason.
“If we are saying it’s for cause we would have to identify what cause,” Mr. Arriola said. “If we are saying not for cause, then we would have to negotiate what the remedies would be and that would be subject to negotiation.”
To say that Miami-Dade County’s relationship with union members who staff its transportation department is strained would be an understatement.
According to a fiery letter Transport Workers Union Local 291 President Jeffrey Mitchell sent to county lawmakers, transportation officials and Inspector General Mary Cagle, among others, disagreements between the two parities over recent allegations is “adding insult to injury.”
At the center of the dispute is a report delivered last month to the county’s transit tax oversight body, the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust, which cited multiple troubling safety and maintenance issues affecting the county’s Metrorail system.
Among the findings: two-thirds of Metrorail technicians, many of whom are former bus drivers retrained to work on railcars, are unqualified to work or troubleshoot independently; and more than 90% of staff scheduled to work nightly railcar cleaning shifts haven’t shown up to work since August, resulting in dirty railcars and strains on other shifts.
Mr. Mitchell wrote in his July 8 letter that absenteeism by railcar cleaning personnel could be resolved by Transportation Director Alice Bravo, who “by law is [the only one] authorized to remove these employees.”
“[But] Ms. Bravo does nothing about it except complain to the press as if she’s somehow helpless, instead of remedying the problem herself,” he wrote. “Employees who are ‘absentee problems’ are terminated by Ms. Bravo all the time, but why she refused to deal with Rail Car Cleaners is a mystery only she can explain.”
Asked whether that was true, Ms. Bravo said the answer is technically yes, albeit only recently, after a prior policy held over from before she became director was eliminated by county commissioners last year due to an impasse in the county’s negotiations with the union.
Before the change, she said, transit employees could rack up 13 instances of absenteeism before they could be terminated. Each instance could be for an indeterminate amount of time, and after a year’s time, strikes against employees would go away.
“The prior strike system had a rolling 12 months, and basically an incident had no time limit – you could be out a day, five days or 10 days, and that was one incident,” she said. “If it got close to that 14th incident, where [you’d] get terminated, you’d just have to wait a little while until some of your older incidents drop out and you can continue an abuse of power.”
Ms. Bravo said her department has “had some discussion” with the union and is in the process of finalizing a new proposed policy.
Rules in place since 1990, outlined in Section 13(c) of the Federal Transit Act, stipulate that the county must hire unionized Miami-Dade Transit workers who are “qualified or able to become qualified through retraining.”
Those rules extend to railcar technician jobs, which are staffed based on seniority within the union. But training for those positions, Mr. Mitchell wrote, has been “minimal at best and often ‘frozen’ for county budgetary purposes.”
During the June 19 meeting at which Washington, DC, advisory firm IMG Rebel presented its findings to the transportation trust, Ms. Bravo and Deputy Transportation Director Albert Parjus both said that they’d tried for six months to negotiation the terms for minimum qualifications to which railcar technicians would be held to before being hired. But the union had “refused to meet,” Ms. Bravo said.
Mr. Mitchell called that assertion “a blatant lie,” and rebuked any characterization of former bus drivers-turned rail technicians as “‘incapable’ of doing Rail Technician jobs” as prejudiced.
As for IMG Rebel’s findings: “fake news,” he wrote.
“In other words, our members are all just a bunch of ‘stupid’ senior citizens ready to be put out to pasture!” he wrote. “When you combine the ‘age’ factor with the fact that most of our Technicians are African-American or Hispanic, there are elements of illegal discrimination at play here…”
Mr. Mitchell wrote that he and his senior officers meet with Ms. Bravo and her staff to discuss unresolved labor issues on the last Monday of every month, inviting the letter’s addressees to “[just] look at the ‘Sign-In Sheets’ and the County’s own ‘minutes’ for these Labor-Management sessions, and you can see for yourselves how Ms. Bravo distorts and plays fast and loose with the truth.”
Ms. Bravo said that the two groups do indeed meet monthly.But for talks of minimum qualifications – now required through newly codified federal and state rules – the union has yet to come to the table.
“[The Florida Department of Transportation] came back to us with absolute certainty that we had to hire personnel based on minimum qualifications,” she said. “[The union] advised that this type of meeting needs to be scheduled to have the appropriate people on their side.”
She said her department has repeatedly tried to schedule a meeting with the union to discuss the issue.
The union, she said, has either agreed to meet only to pull out later or said it couldn’t meet at the proposed time.
“We schedule a meeting, and then they cancel it,” she said. “So we schedule another meeting, and they cancel it. And we schedule another. Then they cancel it.”
After years of studies, Miami-Dade lawmakers may soon ask the county administration to act fast in securing arrangements and funding for floating transportation services connecting the City of Miami and South Beach across Biscayne Bay.
County commissioners in committee Monday voted 5-0 to advance an item, sponsored by Commissioner Eileen Higgins, that would direct Mayor Carlos Giménez’s office to negotiate terms “on an expedited basis” – and subject to commission approval – for a fixed waterborne transit route between the two cities.
If OK’d Sept. 4, the item would also authorize the Mr. Giménez’s office to apply for related state and federal grant funding.
“The establishment of a waterborne transit route connecting Downtown Miami and South Beach may serve to alleviate some of the traffic congestion between these two areas, which are major residential and commercial neighborhoods, as well as tourist destinations,” Ms. Higgins’ item said.
The county’s transportation planning arm, the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), has recommended the waterborne transit route in its list of programs prioritized for federal and state grant dollars.
If the county can secure external grants, it could speed the process of launching the service.
Ms. Higgins’ item, which cleared the commission’s Transportation and Finance Committee without comment on Monday, referenced several studies that support establishing waterborne transit in the county, including some published on behalf of the TPO in 2003 and 2004.
Miami and Miami Beach each produced “many studies, master plans, letters of support and resolutions” backing waterborne transportation ideas, the item continued, and in 2006, Miami-Dade commissioners directed the county administration to prepare a feasibility study of introducing “various waterborne transit routes” here.
Since then, the item said, the county “has experienced rapid population growth accompanied by massive coastal development,” including reconstruction of I-395 and various causeway bridges that create “even more congestion on already burdened thoroughfares.”
At least one private operator is planning to begin commercial waterborne transportation services on Biscayne Bay, including a private route between the Miami and Miami Beach, the item said.
“[But] any such operator may need infrastructure improvements [and] proprietary authorizations for waterborne transit stops,” the item said. Such infrastructure enhancements to docks and marinas along the water body, it said, “could result in the accommodation and facilitation of waterborne transit services.”
As Miami nears a deal for a soccer stadium and commercial complex beside Miami International Airport, county lawmakers want to know how that will affect the area’s biggest economic engine.
A county commission committee Tuesday advanced a directive to administrators sponsored by Rebeca Sosa to detail in 90 days potential impacts of the project sought at what is now Melreese Golf Course.
“Our airport is too important,” said Ms. Sosa, who asked Aviation Director Lester Sola to expedite the report. “It’s a humongous thing, what they want to do over there.”
Voters in November authorized Miami to negotiate with David Beckham’s Miami Freedom Park LLC, whose principals include brothers Jorge and Jose Mas, for a 99-year lease of roughly 73 city-owned acres near the airport.
On June 5, the company filed a draft lease agreement with the city that included a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium, 58-acre park, hotel, tech hub, office park, commercial campus and restaurants, retail and entertainment space. City Manager Emilio González is to have a lease ready for a city vote by Sept. 12.
“To date, no study has been made of the potential impacts to the airport from the development of Melreese,” Ms. Sosa’s item said. “The county should oppose any development… which is harmful to [the airport].”
The item said significant development adjacent to the airport could further congest the Dolphin Expressway and Central Boulevard, impact airport stormwater runoff and reduce airport commercial opportunities.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may also downgrade some runways, Mr. Sola said, which would limit their ability to handle some flights.
“Your runway may be able to handle X-type of airplane,” he said. “But if there’s an obstruction in front of [it] beyond that runway, the FAA will tell you that particular airstrip is no longer certified for that airplane.”
Jorge Pérez likes to lead by example. “My management style is, ‘Follow me,’” said the reigning condo king of Miami whose real estate firm, The Related Group, has by his estimation built more than 100,000 condo units cumulatively valued at about $50 billion throughout the nation and across the globe.
His competitive spirit, he said, is based on the “immigrant mentality” that everything can be lost at any moment – a personal and professional principle he gleaned witnessing his family struggle as exiles after Fidel Castro’s regime nationalized his father’s business 60 years ago.
“Everybody who’s been with me knows I work harder than anybody else,” he said. “Our [company DNA] is very driven.”
This year marks the company’s 40th anniversary. While Mr. Pérez remains at its helm, he is steadily transferring daily control to two of his sons and grooming a third for the future. And where before business consumed nearly all his working hours, half is now dedicated to giving back through the company’s and his family’s philanthropic efforts.
“I hope I never accomplish everything I hope to because that’s what keeps you going every day – that desire to do better and contribute more,” said the namesake for the Pérez Art Museum Miami and Jorge M. Pérez Architecture Center at the University of Miami, among other local institutions. “From a philanthropic point of view, I don’t think I’ve even touched the surface of what we want to do.”
Mr. Pérez sat down with Miami Today reporter Jesse Scheckner.
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Royal Air Maroc aims to expand from its present three weekly flights to five a week between Miami International Airport and Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport in the coming months.
The airline, Morocco’s national carrier and largest airline, is pursuing growth opportunities at Miami International. The carrier has found success in its current schedule since debuting in April and launching the first direct route between Miami and Casablanca.
Royal Air Maroc wants to expand its current schedule from three roundtrip flights every week to five in coming months. The airline utilizes the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner model to accommodate 18 business class and 256 economy class fliers as well as its latest aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, with 26 business seats and 276 economy-class seats. Flights operate Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Royal Air Maroc Area Director Meryam El Boury told Miami Today that the route has been busy since it started operating. A variety of travelers depart from Miami and head to Casablanca. She wrote by email that immigrants from Africa – Morocco in particular – Europe, and Middle East residents who dwell in Florida are using the route to travel to the region. The carrier also reports the route is popular for domestic business travelers.
Moroccans are also using the route to visit the States. Ms. El Boury said Moroccan tourists are visiting Miami to explore the city, jump on a cruise, and as a connection to Orlando.
The airline aims to operate five weekly roundtrip flights to meet demand. Royal Air Maroc works to establish partnerships with other airlines to increase travel to Morocco from Latin America by way of Miami and other cities in the States to meet its objective.
The long-term goal is to operate from Miami International daily, Ms. El Boury said.
These film permits were issued last week by the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory & Economic Resources’ Office of Film and Entertainment, (305) 375-3288; the Miami Mayor’s Office of Film, Arts & Entertainment, (305) 860-3823; and the Miami Beach Office of Arts, Culture and Entertainment-Film and Print Division, (305) 673-7070.
Protection Films LLC, Los Angeles. Reality television series for Protection Court. Lawson E Thomas Courthouse Center.
Musgrove Music TV, Miramar. Short film for Daniel Musgrove The Movie. Miami-Dade County Courthouse.
Joe2 Production LLC, North Palm Beach. Still photography for Photoshoot. Crandon Park Beach.
Premium Apparel, Hallandale. Still photography for Girls Photo Shoot. Greynolds Park.
Pro One Production Inc., Miami Beach. Still photography for Beach Fashion. Countywide, Miami Beach citywide.