Rebuttal to Commissioner Sarnoff's Newsletter
One of the main reasons I have decided to become a Commissioner is to put an end to the misleading half-truths that have plagued the current administration. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff gives new examples of this in his email newsletter today regarding the cleanup and reopening of Merrie Christmas Park. This issue is very important to me as I've worked to help get the best possible cleanup. I'm hosting a picnic there this Saturday April 4 at noon for all neighbors, and it will be a happy time without rhetoric or accusations. But before then, I'd like to make sure the truth is told -- not twisted.
What I have found is that unless you are armed with research and knowledge of an issue, Marc will bluff you into submission. In the case of today's newsletter from the Commissioner, he is clearly preparing to attend the picnic I am hosting in the park this Saturday, and he would like to re-write history to put him in the best light of the situation.
The fact is that Commissioner Sarnoff promised the City and the press that he had procured $175k from a secret donor. He did this to convince the City to conduct the better remediation that the neighbors requested. But the fact is that there is no secret donor. The City did conduct that additional remediation and spend that money. See the attached letter from the city's Mark Spanioli below and See this New Times article: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/commissioner-sarnoff-toxic-soil-at-merrie-christmas-park-will-be-removed-soon-6546637
Based on his promise of funding, the City did the better remediation, removing the 2500 tons of contaminated soil and adding a compacted lime rock cap. It is documented that this will cost the additional $175k. But the fact is that there is NO secret donor. It has been revealed that the donation never happened and it never will. So where will the money come from? Commissioner Sarnoff's newsletter today is a fabrication meant to distract from the fact that the City did reverse their plan and conduct a better remediation that he promised to pay for. He is trying to say that the City stayed with its original plan so that no additional money was needed. Will Commissioner Sarnoff be held accountable for his promise of the additional funds that will now be charged to the City? Please read on and try to keep count of his other fabrications in this same newsletter.
1) False Statement by Sarnoff: "The City of Miami on March 27, 2015 reopened Merrie Christmas Park"
TRUTH: The City actually opened it two days earlier on March 25 -- not March 27. Why is this relevant? By opening it before work was done, they allowed children to play while heavy machinery still operated around them. The result? A large machine flipped near several children on March 26, crushed the playground fence, and could have killed a child. Of course, Sarnoff gives the later date in his newsletter and doesn't mention the accident. See New Times Article with photos of the children and the flipped bulldozer: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/after-toxic-cleanup-runaway-equipment-spoils-merrie-christmas-park-reopening-7560245
2) False Statement by Sarnoff: "First, DERM and the EPA had already recommended and approved a plan which would cap the park with two feet of clean fill to create a barrier protecting all users of the park. Second, the proposed plan necessitated the disruption and transportation of the contaminated soil and ash which is contrary to every best practice and was discouraged by DERM and the EPA"
TRUTH: While they did approve it, DERM did not recommend the plan to the City. DERM did not discourage the removal of contaminants. DERM is a county department, and Marc has used them as a scape goat several times to deflect attention from his decisions and responsibilities. DERM presented the city with a full menu of all the possible cleanup options. The City simply chose the cheapest one.
3) False Statement by Sarnoff: "It was suggested that if we were to go against the wishes of DERM and the EPA that there needed to be “skin in the game” since neither the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida, nor the Federal Government would fund the difference."
TRUTH: Again, a better remediation as requested by the residents did not go against the wishes of DERM or the EPA. Wilbur Mayorga of DERM clearly stated that he could not recommend or influence which option the City chose. The term, "Skin in the Game" is a phrase first used by Sarnoff to me when he explained why, even though he could raise the money for the cleanup on his own, he wanted the neighbors to pitch in.
4) False Statement by Sarnoff: "Once the neighbors realized that advocating for the total removal of the contamination also meant the total removal of trees from the affected area, they began to rethink. With the added cost and time involved with the total excavation plan, it became clear that the City’s plan to cap was the right way to go."
TRUTH: The City's plan was not the right way to go, and in fact they did reverse their plan, removing more than 2500 tons of contaminated soil. This was the original request of the neighbors, and this was what Sarnoff wanted to charge the neighbors to remove -- not a total removal with trees. He is mixing two solutions and trying to make it seem as though the City's original plan was correct and prevailed in the end. He is trying to make it seem that the neighbors request was unreasonable and that we eventually saw the light, allowing the city to go forward with their original plan. This would let him off the hook for the additional cost which he promised to fundraise and cover.
TRUTH about trees: Sarnoff used a false statement during our meeting in the park to scare neighbors out of asking for a proper cleanup by threatening to kill EVERY tree in the park. He'll say that he never said that, or he'll temper it by referring to select trees in the affected area, but that's not what he said to the neighbors at decision time. watch 10 seconds of this video here in which Sarnoff stated: "Let's just be clear on the trees. Every tree you see has to come out. There's NO tree that stays 100%…"
5) False Statement by Sarnoff: "Before the community meeting I received a letter from one of the attorneys purportedly representing the neighbors...That attorney’s communication suggested that our office requested $5,000 from each of abutting the residents and that we had requested a total of $50,000"
TRUTH: In Attorneys Michelle Niemeyer and Jason Kellogg's letter to Sarnoff, they did not state that Sarnoff had requested $5k from EACH neighbor abutting the park. They specifically wrote: "It is my understanding…that you would be willing to accept $5,000 from the residents instead of the $50,000 you suggested at last week's meeting." This was documented at the meeting, and in the press. The bigger story should be that he haggled over getting money directly from the neighbors at all. One neighbor with health problems actually sent Marc some money apologizing that she couldn't send more.
6) False Statement by Sarnoff: "at that meeting it was announced there would be no need for anyone to put “skin in the game” since we would not be attempting the removal of all contaminated soil and ash from the park."
TRUTH: When we left that meeting at City Hall, Sarnoff was STILL requesting $50k from the neighbors. If there is a transcript of that meeting, it will show. Sarnoff called me the following Monday and lowered his request from $50k down to $5k. It was only after I let the press know about this smaller offer that Sarnoff told the New Times that the City would proceed with our requested removal of the 2500 tons of unearthed contaminated soil, and that he had procured an "anonymous donor" to pay for the ENTIRE $175k. This is the amount that Marc promised the City that he had procured, and it was under this promise that the City went forward with the removal. So it's an untrue statement -- no such announcement was made at the city meeting.
So now that the City did conduct a greater remediation at an additional cost that Commissioner Sarnoff promised that he had procured, let's ask him where that money should come from. His office called me to let me know that he will be attending the picnic I'm hosting in the park on Saturday at noon. If you see him, you can ask him as well. If he tells you the donation wasn't necessary because there was no additional cost, ask him how 2500 tons was hauled away at no additional cost. And then you can ask him if he will give the same quality cleanup, removing any unearthed contaminants that they dig up at the other six toxic parks in his district.
My point is that you shouldn't have to try this hard to see the truth. You shouldn't have to be armed with research and videos and emails. Your elected officials should simply be honest. Too much to ask?
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Below is the entire newsletter from Commissioner Sarnoff today: