APRIL 18 - APRIL 22

RETURN TO FRONT PAGEWEBSITE.html

APRIL 18, 2011


CLICK HERE TO READ STORYSIFFIN_II.html

CLICK HERE TO READ STORYhttp://web.me.com/alcrespo1/Site_6/SFEF_DEAL.html


CLICK ON VIDEO TO PLAY

POSTED SUNDAY: 2:54 PM

READ ABOUT BERT BERLIN

Bert Berlin has become known after his visit to the Fire Union Hall as Mark Siffin’s James Boswell, writing his letters and memos. 


In all honesty, he’s much more than that.  After you read the above articles, clock over to Investigation Miami, and read up on Bert, and look at the photos.


The internet is not kind.



CLICK

http://investigationmiami.blogspot.com/

APRIL 20, 2011

A CRESPO-GRAM EXCLUSIVE
COPYRIGHT 2011(C)
THIS STORY CAN BE REPRINTED AND CITED BY OTHER 
NEWS ORGANIZATIONS ONLY WITH ATTRIBUTION TO 
THE CRESPO-GRAM REPORT
OUT OF SIGHT,
OUT OF MIND
PART VII

On March 25th, I wrote about the charade engineered by Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff and Art Noriega, Director of the Miami Parking Authority, over Noriega’s agreement to serve as a one man HR Committee to review the grievance letter filed against BID Executive Director, David Collins by former employee Kristi McCarthy.


In support of my contention that it was all a put up, I posted the video tape portion of the BID Executive Committee meeting and my reference to Noriega’s claim that he:


     “had already reviewed the charges in the letter towards

     the end of the tape concedes that he “could make a

    recommendation tomorrow.””


Well, tomorrow came and went, and on April 4th, the BID held their quarterly board meeting and not so much as a peep was uttered by anyone about the letter from McCarthy, nor a 2nd letter subsequently filed after my March 25th article by another former employee, Richard Issa.


For a group who’s membership whines about the decreases in business in an almost incessant fashion, you would have thought that at least one BID member would have spoken up at that meeting and said, “ Yo, what’s up with Collins?”


But of course no one did. 


THE SCREWING YOU GET...


I’ve always been blunt about calling out whiny people who are quick to bend over and grab their ankles when confronted with a choice of standing up for themselves or allowing some scummy weasel to screw them. When it comes to the Coconut Grove BID, I’ve also written how a sizable number of the supposed leadership of that group believe that if they can’t screw their friends and neighbors, then who can they screw.


So, in many respects, David Collins is exactly the Executive Director the Coconut Grove BID deserves, because at almost very level he is grossly incompetent, embarrassingly unpresentable, and obsequy attached to the ass of Sarnoff and Noriega.


Nothing’s going to happen with Collins.  At best/worst he’ll be patted on the wrist and told to shape up, and the grievance letters will be brushed aside as the complaints of disgruntled former employees who the BID is better off for their leaving.


As I previously wrote, Collins knows where the bodies are buried, and with a gang who specializes in doing litle more than planting bodies left and right, Collins has almost lifetime job security as long as Sarnoff remains a City Commissoner.


But none of that removes the continuing problems facing the Coconut Grove business community.


WHY GO TO COCONUT GROVE WHEN MARY BRICKELL VILLAGE AND SOUTH MIAMI ARE SO MUCH MORE DYNAMIC AND FUN?


Coconut Grove has real problems.  Last week’s Taste Of The Grove was panned on a respected local blog:


    “I was pretty disappointed in the lack of variety at the

     Taste of the Grove. Most of the food sold at each

    booth was stuff you could find at any carnival, fair, or

    average outdoor festival. There were sliders, greek

    gyros, barbecue, and pizza. Wow, big deal. It all

    amounted to a bunch of overpriced, underwhelming

    food. Popular Grove spots like Le Bouchon,

    Greenstreet, and Lulu didn't even take a booth at

    the festival.”


When one of your signature events gets panned like this, it just gives more reasons for folks to go elsewhere to spend their entertainment dollar, and both Mary Brickell Village and South Miami have been drawing a lot more people to their restaurants and streets than Coconut Grove.


Never a strong group to begin with, in the last several months the BID Marketing Committee was essentially neutered when projects that they rejected on strong procedural grounds chose to go straight to Commissioner Sarnoff, who overrode those decisions, sending the indisputable message that at the end of the day the BID is his personal fiefdom, and anything else resembling a viable organization of business people is just for show.


HOW’S THAT RE-BRANDING COMING ALONG


For an organization that has a limited budget, the BID manages to piss away a lot of money on consultants and studies that somehow never translate into any changes of a positive nature.


Earlier this year the BID gave a $40,000 contract to Bruce Turkel to come up with a plan to “Re-Brand” the Grove.  As one person who attended the meeting confided to me, his presentation seemed to be little more than some ideas he had written on the back on an envelope on the way to the meeting.


But the way to measure the expenditure of this money is to ask, “ How’s that $40,000 rebranding coming along?”


Then there’s the $48,180, plus expenses, contract that the BID gave to out an out-of-town company for a “Parking Study last fall.”

Mind you, this isn’t the first parking study that the BID’s paid for in it’s short life.  So the question is, why did they need a 2nd study?


If you consider that Art Noriega is the Director of the Miami Parking Authority, and these studies might just be a way to funnel money to a couple of his pals for a bullshit study, full of the obligatory gobble-gook bureaucratic prattle, then it makes a lot of sense to piss away money on parking studies.


Or how about the $5000 the BID gave to a couple former City of Miami employees to help the BID identify possible funding sources to apply for grants?

Or how about the deal to promote Sarnoff’s campaign manager, Steve Marin’s client, Fuel Outdoor Advertising, until they decided that they didn’t want to have their advertising on fancy garbage cans.  For more about that check out the story Investigation Miami did last January.

And then of course there are the other studies, and the almost knock-down fight over Sarnoff’s efforts to block off Virginia Street against the wishes of almost everyone in the Center Grove.


The latest use of BID money as a $200,000 BID “loan” to upgrade the Coconut Grove Theater parking lot is little more than an effort at pandering to those who for the last 4 years have bemoaned the shutting of the Theater and the negative impact it’s had on the business community.


People should never forget that the Coconut Grove Theater has been empty the entire 4 years of Sarnoff’s term.


ASSESSMENTS FOR WHAT?


The real measure of the financial health of a business community like Coconut Grove is not whether a cable TV series uses portions of the Village as a location backdrop, or the hosting of events such as Taste Of The Grove, as much as it is the business community’s ability and willingness to pay their bills.


Although several months old, the below unpaid BID assessments, along with another list of unpaid parking waiver assessments are far more revealing of what’s been happening in Coconut Grove for a while.


(To view a larger version, click on any page.)

OVERDUE PARKING ASSESSMENTS

In recent weeks, a poison pen email was circulated about one of Sarnoff’s principal supporters on the BID.


There are some who believe that it was a not too subtle effort by Sarnoff or Collins to flex their muscle as a way to show what can happen when folks even think about stepping out of line.


In the real world there’s no characters like the ones on Burn Notice to come and take on the bad guys for you, you need to join forces and do it on your own.


My experience and observation of what’s going on in Coconut Grove is that’s not going to happen.  The folks who are intent on screwing their friends and neighbors will continue to do so, and the screwees will continue to bitch and whine and bemoan how bad things have become in Coconut Grove.


So, he’s my solution.  Since you’re not going to do anything to stand up for yourselves, and since you seem to be willing to bend over and get screwed by Sarnoff, Collins, Noriega and the rest of that clique, then I suggest that at least you go out and buy one of the products below.


It might make the tone of your whining less irritating.

WHAT’S UP WITH THIS
GOOD WORKS DESERVE RECOGNITION

The effervescent Sue McConnell and Trina Collins, the wife of David, seem to have been operating a not-for-profit foundation in the Center Grove for a number of years.


Like all good folks who wish to let their work speak for them, no one associated with this foundation has been willing to provide any information about what kinds of activities they’ve been doing to benefit the community, or to explain where they’ve gotten the money to do so.


The Crespo-Gram Report always believes in shinning lights under baskets, so if anyone in the community has information on the good works being done by these ladies, please feel free to pass it along.


I’m sure that a lot of folks would love to know just what these ladies have been up to, and especially who’s been kind and generous enough to finance their efforts.


So, if you have any hard info, pass it along.

A CRESPO-GRAM EXCLUSIVE
COPYRIGHT 2011(C)
THIS STORY CAN BE REPRINTED AND CITED BY OTHER 
NEWS ORGANIZATIONS ONLY WITH ATTRIBUTION TO 
THE CRESPO-GRAM REPORT
SCREWING THE LOCALS:
RFP SELECTION PROCESS IS CHALLENGED
PART VI

CRESPO NOTE:  I finished working on the 2 stories below before I got the information for this story.  Although it fits in with the next story, I figured it deserved to be a stand alone piece because it represents the latest questionable example of just how the BID operates.

Recently, the BID put out RFP’s for security and sanitation services for the Center Grove.  Nine companies responded for the security services, and six companies reponded to the sanitation RFP.


A company called Block By Block was awarded the contracts for both.


Below is a letter challenging the process, and below that is the list identifying the companies that responded, and their quotes.


Block By Block, is not only part of a national conglomorate, but as the letter reveals, their price quotes made them the highest bidder for security services, and the second highest for sanitation.


Now, price is often not the only consideration in such a process, but when you consider that an out-of-state company was selected by a group who’s only rationale for existence is to convince folks to support local merchants, you got to wonder what else might be behind this deal?


I’m sure that Block By Block is a very good company, but since we’re talking about street sweeping and unarmed security/ambassadors, one has to question why the BID selection committee felt the need to leave the State of Florida to find a company to do this work.


Given the skullduggery of some of the folks on the BID, I have no doubt that sooner or later an interesting back story will be revealed as to why Block By Block was chosen, and it probably won’t have anything to do with how well their “local hires” sweep the streets.

APRIL 20, 2011

APRIL 20, 2011

APRIL 22, 2011

LIKE RATS LEAVING A SHIP
SO FAR, OVER HALF OF THE VACATION MONEY CASHED OUT THIS YEAR WENT TO THE MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT

So far this year the City of Miami has paid out $403,652.56 to 118 city employees who cashed in vacation time for money.  On that amount, $206,252.50, went to members of the Miami Police Department, with Major Al Alvarez, the head of Internal Affairs cashing out the most:  $19,618.56.


To his credit, Chief of Police Miguel Exposito did not cash out a day of his time, but for some of his top staff, including Alvarez and Assistant Chief Seigle, $14,386.95, it looks like they anticipated the Chief getting fired, and, like Colonels in any Banana Republic, they moved to get their money out before the shit hit the fan.


At $400 thousand in cash outs for the first 4 months of the year, this becomes another potential problem for the city if these figures carry forward for the rest of the year. 


A million here, and a million there, and before you know it Larry Spring is going to have to cook the books again with another illegal transfer of restricted money to play hide the deficit.


But then again, I’m sure that Mayor Tomas “Free City Services For My Friends” Regalado has probably already dreamed how to use part of those millions Mark Siffin is waving at him to stick in this budget hole.


(To see a larger version of this print out, and see if you know anyone who cashed in vacation time, click on the document.)

VACATION_BUYOUTS.html
QUEEN OF SWAG

When she’s not partying, it turns out that the Queen is a tweeter.  She’s also a twit, but that’s another story.


The tweets are only one way, you can’t tweet her back, and they’re devoted to self-promotion and ass smooching.  Two particular tweets caught our interest.


First, The Queen has her own radio show on Tuesday nights on Radio Mambi, and secondly, things are going so swimmingly here in Miami-Dade that she can devote some time to hanging out in St. Augustine helping to plan their 450th birthday party.


I kinda like the photo too.  It pretty much captures her party girl persona don’t you think? Maybe the folks that did that reality show pitch on the Miami Police Department might consider a new reality show starring the Queen Of Swag.


The entertainment possibilities are endless, especially if they plant a couple hidden cameras in her office and car, where I hear she let’s loose with the most unladylike comments.


Oh well, at least we have the FORM 9’s to entertain us.

The Queen Of Swag had another profitable quarter on the gift front, racking up tickets, flowers for her birthday and even an annual membership to the Key Biscayne Grand Bay Club - which she reportedly returned.  The latest report shows that she received $2275.00, keeping her on track to maintain her average of $7000 - $8000 a year in swag.

COMMISSION BACKS OFF 
FROM SETTLEMENT WITH BLACKMAILERS: CITIZENS 
WIN PARTIAL VICTORY

The Miami City Commission on Thursday backed off the proposed settlement with South Florida Equitable Fund (SFEF), by agreeing to reject the administration request to pass a series of emergency measures, including revisions to the current billboard ordinance, and after agreeing to make some necessary changes to just the billboard ordinance, passed it as a a regular item, which will bring the ordinance back on May 12th for final approval.


This move set the basis for discussion about the settlement agreement itself, which at around 4 PM, ended without any kind of a vote when the Commissioners finally accepted Commissioner Carollo’s contention that the agreement was a “bad deal” and directed the city administration to go back to the drawing board.


An important part of the discussion, revolved around the demand by the Commissioners, that while agreeing on principle to consider an agreement, the City was willing to act in good faith, as long as SFEF did so to, and that centered on having the poison pill against the city removed from the FDOT bill.


The poison pill, which would limit the ability of the city to collect more than $500 per billboard in fees, was inserted by Florida Speaker of the House Dean Cannon, a friend of Harkley Thornton.


The most revealing part of the meeting however, were the revelations of how poorly the negotiations with SFEF were handled by the city’s administration.  The evidence point the the city all but willingly attempting to give away the store to this company, and raises again the question of the impact of gross ill equipped political appointments being placed in critical city positions by the Regalado administration.


Pressure had been building since Commissioner Carollo invoked the 5 Day Rule at last week’s regular commission meeting, and a number of individuals and community groups working behind the scenes put pressure on the Commissioners to treat this as a serious issue that merited real discussion and debate, versus the usual shuck and jive that passes for most discussions of sensitive political issues before the commission.


There are those who will view anything other than a complete rejection of a settlement with SFEF as a loss - and that might very well still happen - but given the reality of the current makeup of the Commission and the kind of deal making that has gone on in the past, the ability to just put the brakes on this train is something to applaud.


There should be no doubt that this was Commissioner Carollo’s finest hour to date as a Miami City Commissioner. 


First, he invoked the 5 Day Rule last week in the face of real pressure to force this settlement through, and then he marshaled the facts and arguments at critical moments during this meeting to cut off the efforts to push this settlement forward.  Without Carollo’s efforts this “bad deal” would have been rushed through under the guidance of Commissioner Sarnoff, who more than any other commissioner kept up his efforts to find language that would make the deal acceptable till the end.


For a commission that has on more than one occasion shown its ignorance of issues before it, this meeting had welcome flashes of light bulbs going on as commissioners tried working through the information, as well as real expressions of concern about public policy. Thanks to Carollo’s efforts, everyone was provided a seldom understood look behind the curtain regarding negotiations between the city and private businesses looking to get over on the city and taxpayers, often with the help of city employees.


Now we will have to wait and see whether Echemendia and Thornton decide to call on their pal House Speaker Canon to withdraw the poison pill, or whether they decide to play the thug card to the end.


No matter the financial cost, no city, and especially Miami can allow itself to be bullied into a unfair settlement, and at least at this meeting, victory of sorts was snatched out of the mouth of defeat.

A CRESPO-GRAM EXCLUSIVE
COPYRIGHT 2011(C)
THIS STORY CAN BE REPRINTED AND CITED BY OTHER 
NEWS ORGANIZATIONS ONLY WITH ATTRIBUTION TO 
THE CRESPO-GRAM REPORT

APRIL 22, 2011

APRIL 22, 2011


    VISIThttp://politicalcortadito.blogspot.com/2011/04/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html

APRIL 22, 2011

Given the odds, one can never have enough voices standing up against the weasels and scumbags passing themselves off as “ethical” politicians.


It is therefore my pleasure to recommend to you a new blog that has joined the fight.


The lady brings years of experience and skill, and stole my heart when I spent time on her site.  Alas, even though I immediately proposed - :-) - I suspect that like the FBI, she probably thinks i’m too crazy, but then, I’ve always been a sucker for good writing, and her blog, besides being insightful and smart, is enjoyable reading.


I am pleased to introduce you to Elaine de Valle.  Please bookmark her site.

SCORES AGAIN AND
SHE TWEETS TOO
 
A CRESPO-GRAM EXCLUSIVE
COPYRIGHT 2011(C)
THIS STORY CAN BE REPRINTED AND CITED BY OTHER 
NEWS ORGANIZATIONS ONLY WITH ATTRIBUTION TO 
THE CRESPO-GRAM REPORT

The Boardworks billboard at 555 NW 79th Street.

WHY WOULD THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE STICK A GUN IN THE MOUTH OF THE CITY OF MIAMI?

479.075 Sign permit fee limitations.—

(1) As used in this section, the term:  

(a) "Sign" means any sign, wall mural, or media tower as defined in s. 479.01 or as defined by a local government agreement, resolution, or ordinance.

(b) "Sign permit fee" means any payment required as a condition for building, erecting, inspecting, renewing, maintaining, operating, relocating, or reconstructing a sign or required pursuant to any agreement, ordinance, or resolution that includes any provision relating to the issuance of a sign permit or otherwise authorizing the building, erection, inspection, renewal, maintenance, operation, relocation, or  reconstruction of a sign.

(2) A local government may establish by agreement, resolution, or ordinance a sign permit fee schedule and may assess fees for sign permits. The fee schedule must be based on the actual costs of administering its sign permitting program, but may not exceed $500 per sign per year.

(3) This section does not affect the validity of any other aspect of any agreement, resolution, or ordinance regarding signs or require the removal of any sign or repayment of any fees already paid. A local government that requires the removal of a sign as the result of the adoption of this section must adhere to the provision of s. 70.20(2).

On April 11, 2011, a metaphorical poison pill found its way into a Florida Department of Transportation bill in the Florida House, entitled HB 1353.


The dangerous part of the poison pill is highlighted in Yellow. 

The poison pill language is considered both a payback, and an attempt to force the City to negotiate a settlement with them,because the language planted in the Transportation Bill would effectively remove the ability of the City to collect more than $500 per billboard permit for the City, thereby tossing another monkey wrench into the City’s already precarious financial situation.


At last Thursday’s Commission meeting, Commissioner “Ethics” Sarnoff put the amount that the City would lose if this legislation passed at $4.1 million dollars, an amount that was challenged by Commissioner Carollo.


The Commission meeting was one of those rare occurrences where everyone could see there was a pile of elephant shit in the  middle of the floor, and yet everyone did their best to pretend it either wasn’t there, or refused to talk about why it got there, and what it would take to get it removed, choosing instead to fall back on nonsense, mis-statements and just flat out lies to further their own political agenda.


Commissioner Sarnoff and the Mayor portrayed the threat of the poison pill in the most apocalyptic terms, followed closely behind by Commissioners Suarez and Gort, with Commissioner Dunn at one point asking for an opinion from the City Attorney as to what the 5 Day Rule that Commissioner Carollo had invoked meant, because he acknowledged, “I voted on something I didn’t know what it meant.”


WHO ARE SANTIAGO ECHEMENDIA AND HARKLEY THORNTON, AND HOW DID A GUN GET STUCK IN THE MOUTH OF THE CITY FOR THEIR BENEFIT?


The story of SFEF and this proposed settlement agreement has been bubbling below the surface now for several years, and from court records it would seem that the guys behind SFEF are little more than a couple wannabe lawyers with big balls, and a unique friend in high places.


Here’s the down and dirty version of what these guys have been up to as extracted from SOUTH FLORIDA EQUITABLE FUND, LLC v. THE CITY OF MIAMI, Case Number 10-21032-CIV-UNGARO, and other documents, as well as video recordings of several City Commission meetings.  


A copy of the Summary Judgment in this case, as well as the proposed settlement document, and other billboard related documents can be read in their entirety by clicking HERE.


HOW IT ALL BEGAN


In 2008, two lawyers, Santiago Echemendia from Miami, and Harkley Thornton from Orlando, decided they wanted to get into the outdoor advertising business. 


   

At the time, CBS Outdoor Advertising, was in the process of trying to negotiate a settlement with the City of Miami over a challenge it, and Clear Channel had made to the city’s zoning ordinance after they had been cited for code violations related to a number of their billboards.


The entry of SFEF - then known as Outdoor Advertising Media of South Florida - into the billboard business is described in the March 11, 2011 Summary Judgment Order issued by U. S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro in this way:


    “On May 1, 2001, CBS and Outlook Media of South    

    Florida” - (the company that Echemendia and Thornton

    had formed, entered into a letter of understanding with

    CBS) - “that if Outlook assisted CBS in securing a

    settlemeny agreement with the city for seven “amended

    permits” as defined in the settlement agreement, and

    acquired four additional “commercially viable” sites for

    outdoor advertising signs, CBS would pay Outlook a

    development fee and certain rents for each of the four

    sites and assign Outlook the rights to one of its

    “amended permits” under the settlement agreement

    with the City that granted CBS new billboard permits.”


CBS supposedly got their settlement with the City, and while they admitted that Outlook assisted in helping them finalize their agreement with the City, they disputed that Outlook came up with four “commercially viable” sites, and ended up not assigning Outlook the rights to any of the billboard permit they got from the City.


In November 2008, the record indicates that Echemendia and Thornton formed SFEF, “for purposes of obtaining their own settlement agreement with the City, but before they could do that, they needed to obtain billboards.”


On or about January 8,2009, the court record also states that SFEF contracted to purchase the “Boardworks Sign” from the Boardworks Advertising Company.(D.E. 1|32) In February 2010, SFEF acquired the rights to the “Hampton Inn Sign,” located at 299 S.W. 17th Road.”

Now, it’s never the best choice to take any kind of legal dispute before a Judge, no matter how strong your case, but at the same time, the City’s expose in this particular case was limited. If they lost, they would have had to negotiate a settlement with Echemendia and Thornton. If they won, they could essentially tell them to go screw.


The City’s liability didn’t get worse by waiting for the judge’s ruling.


So, when Julie Bru talks about “the settlement would resolve the case,” what she means is that it would resolve it in favor of Echemendia and Thornton, and not the City.


One of the problems with lawyers like Bru is that although she takes the $379,000 a year she collects in salary very personal, she obviously doesn’t show the same degree of personal concern in standing up and fighting off people who are trying to screw the City.


OKAY, SO WE WON THE LAWSUIT. NOW WE NEED TO SETTLE BECAUSE WE’RE BEING STUCK UP BY GUYS WHO DON’T WEAR MASKS?


Having essentially won the lawsuit that should have been the end of this saga.  But days after the judge’s ruling, the poison pill was secretly dropped into Department Of Transportation Bill 1353. 


Since then, as to be expected, it’s induced a panic in the offices of City Hall.


COMMISSIONER CAROLLO COMES OUT FIGHTING FOR THE CITIZENS WHILE SARNOFF LIES AND ENGAGES IN SCARE TACTICS


To Commissioner Carollo’s credit - and yes I have been rough on the Commissioner lately - but of all the Commissioners, even with his faults, Carollo demonstrates the consistent and most reasoned and rational efforts in trying to deal with this and a number of other important issues impacting the financial interests of the City that the other Commissioners are either ignorant of, or use to further their own personal agendas.


Among his efforts at the meeting last week, Carollo forced  a  city official to admit, that contrary to Commissioner’s Sarnoff scare tactics, no Senate version of this poison pill had been  introduced. 


SARNOFF’S LIES ABOUT BILL’S STATUS

This poison pill is widely believed at City Hall to have been inserted by Florida Speaker of the House, Dean Cannon on behalf of his friend Harkley Thornton, who along with his partner Santiago Echemendia, last month been handed their heads on a platter by U.S. Federal District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro, when she ruled against them decisively in a lawsuit that they had brought against the City for allegedly violating their constitutional rights in a scheme to try and force the City to enter into a settlement that would have given them the legal rights to own several billboards in the city.


Here is the last page of the Court Order, with the relevant part highlighted.

So, these guys went from trying to do a hookup with CBS, to forming SFEF as a company in order to demand a settlement from the City over their failure to get a permit from their deal with CBS.


But before they could even start these guys needed to go out and buy  a couple billboards, because up until then they had been operating on shuck and jive.


The size of their balls in trying to pull this off is best described in the footnote that the judge inserted to address the manner in which these guys attempted to phrase the language of their proposed settlement with the City.


   “SFEF refers to its proposed settlement agreements

    under section 10.4.5. of the Old Zoning ordinance

    as a proposal for a “permit by settlement.”  sfef

    implies that the City Commission’s approval or denial

    of the agreement is an ipso facto approval or denial

    of an outdoor advertising sign permit.  Section 10.4.5.

    states that “permits for outdoor advertising signs may

    be issued pursuant to a Settlement Agreement.”

    (Emphasis added).  Thus, the plain language of the

    section indicates that the Settlement Agreement itself

    does not guarantee a permit and that the City issues

    permits in accordance with the terms set forth in each

    Settlement Agreement.  Accordingly SFEF’s use of

    the term “permit by settlement” reflects an

    overstatement of it’s rights under section 10.4.5.”


The last sentence is legalize for, “You’re full of shit.”


THE CITY OF MIAMI ACTS LIKE THEY FINALLY GOT SOME BALLS TOO


From the beginning, these guys were snake bit. Even before they could close on the Boardworks sign deal the City stepped in and served the original owners a Notice of Violation on the grounds that the sign had “been erected without a billboard permit.”


The SFEF solution to all of this was to send the City a proposed settlement agreement telling the City that they would “remove the Boardwalk Sign and surrender the Hampton Inn Sign - a location inside Commissioner Carollo’s District that is also the location of the Roads Homeowners Association, chaired by Grace Solares - in exchange for the City granting SFEF a permit to construct a new outdoor advertising sign.”


In a moment of rare rationality, “Deputy City Attorney Warren Bitner and Assistant City Attorney Veronica Xiques of the City Attorney’s office informed Echemendia that upon the direction of the City Manager, they would no longer “review” SFEF’s settlement proposal.”


Again, this was legalize for,” Take your bullshit proposal and shove it.”


This should have been the end of this story, but Echemendia and Thornton obviously figured that they had gotten this far on bullshit they might as well keep trying their luck.


LAWSUITS ARE CHEAP WHEN YOU ARE A LAWYER


Instead of walking away, Echemendia and Thornton turned around, and on April 1, 2010 sued the City of Federal Court for violation of their constitutional rights to try and force the City to give them a settlement agreement. Yes, they actually filed this lawsuit on April Fools Day.


After the requisite legal motions and documents were filed, both SFEF and the City moved for a Summary Judgement.


At this point, you would think that the City of Miami would sit back and let the wheels of justice take their course.  They had an excellent case, and it was being heard in Federal - not State - Court, where the possibility of judge tampering was almost non-existent.


But this is Miami, Bitches!, and when you have a collection of sleazy City Commissioners and a City Attorney who is both a moron and subject to the whims of political pressure,  the City decided they needed to settle this case PDQ,.


TRYING TO SNATCH DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY


City Attorney Julie Bru showed up at the February 24th Commission meeting with a settlement agreement in tow.


After almost 2 years of aggravation and grief from the antics of Echemendia  and Thornton, and having for once having a quality defense against the lawsuit filed by these guys, Julie Bru, acts like the City has to settle this lawsuit or face a calamity.


You would think she was trying to plead out a Catholic priest before the jury came back with a guilty verdict.

Sarnoff made this claim after stating that he had been briefed 5 separate times about what was going on in Tallahassee.


CAROLLO GET’S CITY OFFICIAL TO ADMIT THERE IS

NO SENATE VERSION

SARNOFF FALLS BACK ON SCARE TACTICS

It shouldn’t be surprising that the first item that Sarnoff would turn to in trying to use scare tactics about the possible loss of revenue to the General Fund would be “Elderly Services,” followed by “After School Programs,” “Summer Programs,” “Homeless Programs: and “Day Care.”


Only a scumbag would use these programs to try and scare people into believing that this settlement agreement MUST be approved.


Here are some other programs that could just as easily accommodate a little budget slashing.


  1. 1. The Sgt-At-Arms and SUV’s provided to the City Commissioners.  That would cover about $500,000.


  1. 2. The $200,000 given to the Coconut Grove BID.  If this is a business owner’s organization, then let them fund it.


  1. 3. A 20% reduction in the salaries of the Mayor and City Commissioners.  That would account for $150,000/


  1. 4. $354,037 in the “Reserve For Emergency” NDA Fund.  This is little more than a slush fund to hide the hiring of ass kissers to grease the Mayor and Commissioners political connections.


  1. 5. $2,000,000 that the City pays in outside legal costs. 


  1. 6. Make all the people who’ve received over payments as a result of the Oracle payroll system pay the money back.  That’s probably worth $500.000 - $750,000 at least.


IN CONCLUSION


The video of the last Commission meeting is chock full of examples of Sarnoff and others pushing for this settlement, and the changes in the ordinances that are accompanying this settlement deal are little more than a rigging of the game for those coming down the road, including none other than Mark Siffin.  (See the other story in today’s Report.)


I will concede that the poison pill is indeed a serious issue, but there’s a political saying that goes, “Never let a good disaster go to waste.”


So, within this opportunity, there are any number of secret, and not so secret agendas looking for a way to cash in, not the least are the changes being created by the settlement agreement that is being offered to Echemendia and Thornton that weakens the overall restrictions on the controlling billboard ordinance by reducing the trade-in from 2 old billboards for 1 new billboard, to a 1 for 1 trade, and expands the areas where billboards can be placed by changing the zoning classification where they are allowed from the more restrictive T6-8  to T5.


This backdoor move is essentially being lost in the drama being generated over the poison pill.


Another issue lost amid the wailings at City Hall about the impact of this legislation, is that no one has stopped to consider that the City of Miami cannot be the only city and/or municipality in the entire state that collects payments and fees to license billboards, and that if the other cities and municipalities that are affected haven’t found out about this poison pill yet, then Miami’s lobbyists need to start doing their job and reach out to all of their counterparts across the state to rally them to join in the fight.


Lastly, there is the reality that on an issue of such importance, the local news media has once again shown it’s ass in stepping up to the plate to provide the citizens any knowledge of what is happening in both City Hall and Tallahassee.


The Miami Herald has Chuck Rabin sitting in the press section for every Commission meeting, often with another reporter.  Bloomberg News has a reporter who covers City Hall.  The local TV news station show up once in a while.


Yet, no one, other than this blog has written anything about this issue since the Commission meeting last Thursday.  Here is Commissioner Carollo asking where the news media is?

The biggest crisis to our democracy today is the failure of the news media to do their job. That failure allows the scammers, schemers and scumbags to run rampant with an insolence based on the knowledge that at best, a few folks like me are watching, and no matter any of our efforts, we’ll never reach the kind of mass audience needed to reign this assholes in.


Shame on you Miami Herald!  That I can scoop you on this story is just a measure of how sorry you’ve become when it comes to trying to protect the citizens of this community against a move like that being pulled with this poison pill bullshit.


The citizens of this community should boycott that rag you call a paper for not reporting on this story!

TO WATCH CITY COMMISSION MEETING CLICK HERE, AND SCROLL DOWN VIDEO UNTIL YOU REACH EM -1.  THE PORTION RUNS FOR ABOUT 1HOUR AND 20 MINUTES

APRIL 23, 2011