By Mayor Larisa Svechin
I am honored to deliver our State of the City report, as required by our City Charter.
Going into our 26th year, 2023 was an exciting time for progress and new initiatives happening in our vibrant community. However, it was also a year that shook us to the core. The unprovoked massacre of innocent civilians in Israel by the terrorist group Hamas touched every soul in our community. In the face of such tragedy, we stood strong. We maintained our support for Israel and the Jewish community of Sunny Isles Beach.
Following the horrific events of October 7, our Commission sent a heartfelt letter of support to our sister city, Netanya, Israel. In a gesture of solidarity, we provided blue candles to households in the city, illuminating our nights in hope that those kidnapped would be safely returned to their families.
Through these challenging times we’ve grown closer, demonstrating that in unity, we find strength. We’ll continue to uplift each other and together, we’ll continue to stand with Israel.
2023 was a year that our city achieved significant milestones in public safety. Our Police Department attained accreditation from the Florida Commission for Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA). This reinforces our commitment to preventing and managing crime while enhancing the efficiency of our law enforcement services. The results of the assessment were outstanding, without any non-compliance issues.
A technological upgrade at our police headquarters introduced the Hiperwall, seamlessly integrating systems like license plate readers and CCTV cameras into a unified platform. We embraced innovation with the adoption of Carbyne – a cutting-edge dispatch software. This enables our operators to provide detailed information by sending a link to your phone after a dispatch call.
Ensuring the safety of our children remains a top priority. We have dedicated a full-time School Resource Officer at Norman S. Edelcup Sunny Isles Beach K-8.
Our commitment to traffic safety included the implementation of speed readers on Collins Avenue and we also saw the Commission approve the implementation of a red-light camera program. Moreover, we saw a 27% increase in traffic citations compared to the previous year. Our officers issued nearly 11,000 traffic citations during this period.
With the rise of scooters in our community, we launched Scoot-Safe! Sunny Isles Beach – a program encouraging registration and scooter safety for both residents and visitors. We organized a Safety Night at the school in December, focusing on educating parents and their kids and ensuring compliance with our city ordinance.
Following the retirement of our last canine unit, we added two new canine officers to our team – Echo and Nitro. One will be specially trained in explosives detection while the other will be trained in narcotics detection.
As we continue our legacy of community policing, this year we started the process to add a Police Athletic League program for our younger residents. Partnering with Aventura, Intracoastal Police Athletic League, easily known as IPAL, will provide the ability to offer more programming to both of our communities.
When it comes to fiscal stability, our tax base experienced a significant increase in value of $2.2 billion. For an unprecedented 11th year, we successfully lowered the operating millage rate to 1.9 mils. This is a true testament of the hardworking dedication of the city commission and staff.
Continuing the streak, our Finance Department was awarded the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the 15th consecutive year. They also secured the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 13th straight year. These are high standards to meet, and our Finance Department not only met them, but exceeded expectations. This reflects the transparency and efficiency of our budgeting process.
Capital improvements in 2023 focused on quality-of-life projects. We’ve prioritized pedestrian safety and accessibility. We completed a noteworthy sidewalk widening project on Collins Avenue, spanning from 172nd to 174th street. Our dedication to improving sidewalks citywide remains unwavering, with a focus on elevating aesthetics and accessibility while addressing essential underground projects.
For our young sports enthusiasts, we celebrated the completion of a significant park renovation at Senator Gwen Margolis Park. To ensure a secure sports facility, a state-of-the-art LED lighting system was installed around the field perimeter, complemented by the renovation of the field fence.
The Bill Lone beach access bathroom underwent a substantial renovation, enhancing the overall experience for our valued beachgoers.
At Town Center Park, the Meditation Garden is nearing completion. This will be an oasis designed for reflection, meditation, and appreciation of art.
The Golden Shores Undergrounding Project met a milestone with the repaving of all the streets. We thank the residents of that community for bearing with us while that work was in progress. The actual conversion and removal of the existing lines and poles will be completed this year.
When it comes to transportation, our city conducted a Transit Study to improve the SIBshuttle service and strengthen connectivity to regional destinations. We will continue to advocate for the best transit service possible for our residents.
In the realm of technology, our IT department achieved a monumental milestone with the completion of a fiber optic network project. This network now seamlessly connects every city facility and park, facilitating efficient communication and accessibility.
The city completed the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, developing a vision for our parks and recreation services over the next ten years. We’ll also soon be upgrading signage at our city parks. This will aid our code enforcement and police officers as we elevate the quality of our parks and open spaces
We rang in the new year with our Building Department making some changes. We transitioned the building permit process to a fully digital platform. We said goodbye to paperwork, making it more efficient for contractors and residents.
We also teamed up with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to talk to condo owners, board members and managers. They shared useful information about condo owner rights and responsibilities.
Commission & Elections
The city charter gets reviewed every 10 years by the Charter Revision Commission. Our residents went to the polls for a special election in early 2023 as there were 14 proposed amendments on the ballot, and they were approved and adopted.
To make our monthly commission meetings smoother and more open for everyone, we implemented a new meeting structure. Regular commission meetings continue the third Thursday of each month starting at 6:30 p.m., but now we dive into discussions and presentations at our 3 p.m. workshops.
Another addition, an agenda workshop on the Tuesday before Commission meetings. It’s a time when our staff and commissioners can openly talk about what’s on the agenda. All these meetings are open to the public, and we extend an invitation for your participation.
In November, I nominated Alex Lama as the new Vice-Mayor, and he was unanimously confirmed by the Commission.
Also in 2023, our calendar was packed with events for everyone to enjoy. Our Cultural and Community Services team worked hard to make our quality of life better by organizing events for residents of all ages.
The 26th Anniversary Celebration was a big hit, featuring our first-ever drone show and drawing a great turnout. It highlights how events like this create a special community space, bringing our residents together.
Our city is also buzzing with exciting initiatives. Our staff is working on shining a light on local artists through a new art installation – Sunny Spaces. It will feature the remarkable work of 25 artists at Gateway Center and throughout other parts of the city. This project embodies our commitment to the arts and celebrating the amazing talent in our community.
At Sunny Isles Beach, open communication is key. Our Media team is diligently working on finalizing a modern and accessible website, ensuring residents can easily access vital information.
In our pursuit of streamlined communications, we’re introducing My Sunny Isles Beach. This user-friendly app facilitates service requests and provides easy access to information. We encourage you to download the app and connect with us on social media and visit our website – sibfl.net – for all the city-related information you need.
These are indeed exciting times in Sunny Isles Beach. 2024 is off to a great start, and I look forward to the progress and accomplishments we will make together.