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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

JANUARY 11, 2011

WHAT KATHERINE WANTS

A year ago, almost to the day, the City of Miami was embroiled in the beginnings of what would become an almost 9 month street fight between Mayor Tomas Regalado and Police Chief Miguel Exposito.


While there were probably several underlying reasons that contributed to the fight, the one reason that everyone came to accept was that they were fighting over the Mayor’s efforts to stop the Chief from conducting raids to seize the video gaming machines known as maquinitas. 


The maquinitas were owned by long-time Regalado supporters, and Regalado had been the one to push for a new ordinance in 2010 as an attempt to provide legal protection for the owners by licensing the machines, claiming that the licenses would be a new source of revenue for the city. 


Exposito claimed that Regalado, when he was informed of a pending series of raids in late October of 2010 that became known as the “Lucky 7,” raids, tried to get him to hold back from carrying them out.


This charge became part of a letter that Exposito sent to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle in December, which then became part of the Miami Herald’s coverage from that point on.


During these very days, when one would have expected the State Attorney’s Office to be focusing on whether or not to investigate Exposito’s claims that the Mayor had attempted to interfere in these raids, the email below was written by the Mayor to Assistant City Manager Johnny Martinez, informing him that the State Attorney’s office had contacted him about the renaming a portion of SW/NW 12 Avenue to Katherine Fernandez-Rundle Boulevard.

As it turns out, this was not the first time that the City of Miami had been asked to rename this street, but at a time when the State Attorney was being thrust into a street fight between the Mayor and the Chief of Police over claims of abuse of power, the timing of this request from the State Attorney’s Office was at best tone deaf, or worse, an indication that Fernandez-Rundle was seizing an opportunity to get what she wanted and using that effort as a signal that she would repay the favor by taking the Mayor’s side.


Fernandez-Rundle has always been known for her vanity and her heavy-handed political calculations when it comes to who her office prosecutes, and although the street naming had initially been approved by the Florida Legislature in 2008, the process requiring city approval had never been completed. Here is an email written by Nzeribe Ihekwaba, the City’s Public Works Director who became the point man to get the Resolution into shape and onto the City Commission agenda.

The effort to fast track the resolution onto the February 24th agenda did not succeed, and it was eventually placed on the March 10th City Commission agenda.


On March 9th, the Miami Herald came out with a story that the Resolution would be introduced the next day, and revealing some play-by-play going on behind the scenes .


NOTE:  I go to great lengths to always link to the original source when I quote from the Herald and other publications, but the Herald took this story offline - a lousy way for the city’s Paper of Record to maintain a digital historical record in the 21st century - so I was only able to get a copy that someone had downloaded at the time.

Not only had everyone played dumb on how the proposed Resolution wound up on the agenda, but more alarming was the fact that unless, and until the City approved naming the street in Fernandez-Rundle’s honor, the state wasn’t supposed to erect any signs along the right-a-ways.


THE FDOT ILLEGALLY PUT THE SIGNS ON THE STREET


Not withstanding the the Miami Herald reference to a FDOT letter that they “may not” put any signs up without the city commission enacting a resolution supporting the designation, the FDOT had erected the signs in early 2009,  as evidenced by this Work Order, and took photos - one of which is included further down this story.

The response that I finally got from the City Attorney’s office revealed that the 4/5th’s vote provisions HAD NOT been sunsetted, and worse, even if it had been, other provisions in the ordinance had also been violated.

From coke heads and drug dealers, to bank fraudsters, to Cuban Generals and to the family members of local politicians, the renaming of streets in Miami have been a favorite way that these folks or their friends and families have considered a worthy way  of remembrance.


When it comes to maintaining a 5 block separation between these renaming efforts, the practice has been to ignore this provision as evidenced by the photos below.


KATHERINE FERNANDEZ-
RUNDLE SIGN


ANGEL MANUEL DE LA PORTILLA WAY

The day after the Herald article came out, the City Commission voted 3 to zip to rename 12th Avenue in Fernandez-Rundle’s honor. Two of the Commissioners were absent from the Dias when the vote was taken.


THE CITY COMMISSION FAILS TO SUPPORT THE RENAMING BY A 4/5TH VOTE, MAKING THE APPROVAL ILLEGAL


The renaming of the street in Fernandez-Rundle’s honor was one of the more flagrantly illegal actions that the Commission took in 2011. Flagrant, because the Ordinance that allows street to be renamed specifically requires a 4/5 vote to rename a street after a living person, and shortly before the issue came up for a vote 2 Commissioners conspicuously disappeared from the dais.


Commissioner Francis Suarez even went so far as to question whether what they had done was legal shortly after the vote was taken.  City Attorney Julie Bru assured him that it was, and that the provision in the Ordinance that called for a 4/5 vote had sunsetted.


On May 5, 2011, I began what would turn out to be a 4 month effort to try and get City Attorney Julie Bru to provide me with the evidence to support the claim she made the day that the portion of the Ordinance calling for a 4/5th vote had sunsetted.


Here is a copy of that first email, that includes the relevant portion of the City Commission transcript.

The process also violated the provision that, “Numbered street  codesignations shall not exceed five blocks in length,” as evidenced by the FDOT photograph below of the sign they posted on NW 63rd Street and 12th Avenue.

What’s an additional 66 blocks among friends?


The above sign has disappeared from NW 63rd Street, perhaps an expression of no confidence in the the quality of law enforcement and application of equal justice that the residents of Pork ‘n Beans experience daily.


WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS INCIDENT


The first thing that everyone should take away from this tale is that whenever you ask the Mayor of Miami a question, you should expect that the first answer he gives you is a lie.


The second thing you should take away is that City Attorney Julie Bru is pretty much an ass-kisser who will come up with whatever answer she figures is politically expedient, even though the odds are it will be legally useless.


The third thing you should take away is that whether it’s the City of Miami or the FDOT, or any other governmental body, they all work in cahoots with each other at the expense of the taxpayers. 


The FDOT had no authority to put up the signs, but they did.  The City Commission didn’t have enough votes to legally rename the street, but the City Attorney gave them a bogus out, and they were all too happy to take it and not look back.


And what about Katherine Fernandez-Rundle. The letter that Exposito sent her about the Mayor’s actions in trying to stop the raids ended up being ignored, and worse got swept up in the whole argument about the police shootings, missing files, etc., that  turned all of these issues into a big mudpie that most folks soon grew tired of.


The really big question though is whether Regalado’s efforts in getting Fernandez-Rundle her precious street renaming - albeit illegally - was the Quid, that has now gotten her to sit on the FDLE file as her, Pro Quo?


The law, the facts, and obviously the FDLE investigative report all say that Regalado broke the law, yet Fernandez-Rundle refuses to do anything about it.


Maybe new signs should go up at the State Attorney’s Office that read:  ALL POLITICIANS WHO DO KATHY FAVORS NEED NOT FEAR JUSTICE HERE!

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HOW THE STATE ATTORNEY GOT A STREET ILLEGALLY NAMED IN HER HONOR