For the past half-century, I have strived to provide a shopping experience that is second to none. While I am often told by my Bal Harbour neighbors that Bal Harbour Shops is the reason they moved here, I would settle for it just being a place that contributes positively to the uniqueness and the appeal of this wonderful community of ours. That has been the goal of Bal Harbour Shops for the past 50 years and it will be for the next 50.
As you may remember, I made public comments in early 2013 indicating Bal Harbour Shops' interest in acquiring the land underneath Village Hall as part of our enhancement plans. Soon thereafter, a citizen's referendum was initiated and successfully completed and a special election was held in April of that year. The sole purpose of that special election was to determine whether or not the sale or lease of any publicly-owned land in the Village should require a public vote. The Village Hall site was the only property that fit these specific criteria at the time, so the referendum was essentially about whether the potential sale of the Village Hall site should require a public vote.
As it turns out, by an almost 9 to 1 margin, you, the residents of the Bal Harbour Village, felt that the issue should be decided by the voters. Specifically, an overwhelming 88% of Bal Harbour voters cast their ballots back in April 2013 in favor of requiring a public vote. I’m proud to say that I have consistently and unequivocally supported this people-first approach, as well – in fact, you can visit our website at balharbourshopsvision.com/peoplefirst and see copies of the mailers we sent back in 2013 calling for the public to have the chance to weigh in. While we elect our representatives to carry out our interests, there are certain issues that are so consequential that a direct vote of the citizenry is required. This is clearly one of those instances, and Bal Harbour Shops is in total agreement with our neighbors: you, and you alone, should have the chance to vote on the possible sale of Village Hall.
The Bal Harbour Shops enhancement plans that we have submitted for your Village Council to review – and hopefully approve – include the land under the Village Hall site, just as we indicated they would four full years ago. However, it never occurred to us that elected members of your own council would choose to ignore the clear mandate you sent them back in 2013 and seek to deny you the right to vote on this matter. But unbelievably, without action from you, this is exactly what could happen.
Mayor Martin Packer and Vice Mayor Patricia Cohen, the two senior members of your council who should be most sensitive to heeding the public’s wishes, have instead shown a desire to block you from voting on the Village Hall issue. Perhaps they think you're not capable of making such an important decision on your own. Perhaps they think they know better than you what is best for Bal Harbour. Or perhaps they just don't want to cede any of the power you have given to them back to you, the people whose interests they are supposed to represent. I don’t know what motivates them, but I do know that they both work for you. So if you find their stance as offensive as I do, I urge you to let them know how you feel. Tell them that this is your community. Tell them this is your decision. Because no matter how you intend to vote on the Village Hall issue, your voice should be heard.
Stanley F. Whitman