Homestead City Council held a virtual Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday June 9 with all members participating. COW meetings generally consider routine bills for payment or discussion of noncontroversial policy points.
Council held a brief discussion of whether or not to proceed with the traditional Race to the Fourth. The City’s fireworks vendor required notification by Friday June 12 in order to prepare. The local Speedway has been the site of a reception and fireworks display for the last several years.
City Manager Cate McCaffrey read into the record the list of what other municipalities planned for July 4th. Miami Dade County cancelled its event as did the towns of Coral Gables, South Miami, North Miami Beach, Medley, Cutler Bay, and Palmetto Bay. The City of Miami and West Miami were listed as undecided. Miami Shores was holding a virtual event while Miami Lakes planned fireworks at park sites for streaming but the parks would be closed to the public.
Doral had locations for livestreaming but also planned to close any event to the public. Surfside planned fireworks only if they were allowed from the beach.
Councilmember Stephen Shelley expressed concern that with other towns cancelling events, Homestead’s usual crowd of several thousand could grow to tens of thousands.
“Cancelled fireworks are tough to swallow and everyone wants normal events in their lives,” he said. “But it becomes a resource issue to keep everyone socially distanced. The safest perspective is not to have it but have a celebration later in the year when things are safer.”
Councilmember Erica Avila said, “Given the current climate and state of perception of our freedoms, it’s important that we still hold a 4th of July celebration. It’s a good message of community and we’re still able to have gatherings with people wearing their masks.”
Mayor Steve Losner clarified the discussion that the traditional July 4th festival event was not the issue but rather whether to even have fireworks. He said he agreed with the message and symbolism of the event but had concerns about the City coping with large crowds at this time.
The City Manager said staff considered moving the event to Harris Field but with so many parking lots in the area that would encourage tailgating and no social distancing which could not be controlled. “That’s not a good idea,” she added. “There’s no central location where people can see fireworks from their home.”
Councilmember Sean Fletcher thought the town would be remiss to move forward while Councilmember Jenifer Bailey said this was not the right time but it might be rescheduled later. Councilmember Larry Roth agreed that the event should be postponed. Councilmember Patricia Fairclough-Staggers said she was not in favor of moving forward.
The City Manager summed up the sense of Council saying she shared the members’ disappointment and concurred that a future celebration was in everyone’s best interest.
During COW, Council established a committee for selection of an independent auditor to review the City’s accounts as required by state statute. The City Manager, City employees and the City’s chief financial manager are prohibited from serving. The Manager proposed four names to serve on the selection committee that makes a recommendation to Council for an auditor:
Desmond Chin finance director of the Village of Palmetto Bay, Allyson Love from the City of Delray Beach, Holly Hodel from the Miami Shores Village, and Jeannette Smith chief financial officer of the City of North Miami Beach.
Councilmember Shelley asked to see resumes of the individuals to better understand their backgrounds. He also asked about the committee’s role and was told it advertises for an auditor and ranks applicants for recommendation to Council for selection.
State Statute requires a member of City Council to chair the committee. Mayor Losner proposed Councilmember Fletcher who agreed to serve.
Council agreed to extend for five years mutual aid agreements with the Florida City police department and the marine theft mutual aid agreement with Miami-Dade County that extends through the four-county southeast Florida region.
Before adjournment, Councilmember Roth asked if Council would meet in-person in July. The City manager said that was the plan. Mayor Losner added limited attendance was a problem for quasi-judicial actions of Council which are primarily land use issues.
“There’s some failure to mesh capacity rules with quasi-judicial public rules,” said the Mayor. “Someone who doesn’t like the outcome of a vote could use the limited access to object.”