FEBRUARY 27, 2013

March 29, 2013

Dear CrespoGram Readers,

On April 11th, I will celebrate the end of the 3rd year of writing The CrespoGram Report. This effort of Fighting City Hall has lasted a lot longer than I ever thought it would when I did my first story about Film “Ambassador” Harry Gottlieb taking a city car home every night.  How long ago that seems now.

In the last three years I’m proud of the stories, scoops and exposes that I was able to break, thanks to the support and courage of many folks in and out of Miami City Hall who trusted me with the inside information that allowed me to reveal stories that the Miami Herald, New Times, and the local TV stations wouldn’t report.

Starting next Monday, I will expand on those efforts by publishing a series of stories that will deal with Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, her support and funding of the American Black Film Festival and the recent “City of Miami Community Film Initiative,” that led to almost $400,000.00 of SEOPW and OMNI CRA monies going to fund the production of a low budget feature film written, produced, directed and starring Robert Townsend.

This is the first series I’ve ever done, and it involved three months of public record searches, interviews, research and most importantly, a lot of rewriting to make sure that I got it as right as I could.  As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts.

I’ve worked very hard to get THE facts right!

Because this story deals with Commissioner Spence-Jones, a Black Film Festival and a movie produced by a well-known Black actor and director, just this news alone will no doubt start the accusations flying that my series is little more than a racist attack on the Commissioner and everyone else involved.

I don’t think that anyone who has read more than a few of my stories will claim or believe that I pick and choose who I go after because of race, ethnicity, or sexual preference.  I’ve gone after just about everybody at Miami City Hall, whether they were White, Black, Cuban, Man, Woman, Gay, Straight, Republican of Democrat.  I go after people who abuse their public trust, misuse public money and generally act like pigs and assholes, regardless of their skin color.

Those people who claim that my series is about color will be right however, but it is not about the skin colors  Black or White that I cared about, it was about the color Green. 

It’s all about the money.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money that was supposed to be spent to help eliminate “slum and blight” in Overtown, and how that money was really spent. 

By now, those of you who are regular readers know that unlike the style used by newspapers, I don’t necessarily start out a story by writing the most explosive facts and information in the first three paragraphs. 

This series will be no different.  My effort was not just to write one or two explosive stories, although the series will provide enough in the way of explosive information to make you say WTF more than a few times, especially when we get into the money spent on the Townsend film, but rather to take the time and really do the best job I could to provide real context with the content in providing some overview of what CRA’s are supposed to do, as well as explaining the behind the scenes world of film production, and how CRA tax dollars ended up being spent on a low budget feature film, that left town owing money.

I believe that my almost 29 years of experience as a member of South Florida’s film industry provided me with a unique view and knowledge of how things really work in the film business, and it was that knowledge that initially made me suspicious of what the Commissioner was up to.

The series starts on Monday April 1st – a propitious day to start a series like this - and I will post a new story every day of next week, and then start the following Monday with more stories until I reach the end.  During the time that new stories are being posted, I will not post any other stories unless it’s so explosive that it needs to be published immediately.

I make no apologies for this series being long, or wordy. Serious stories require and demand serious treatment. Musically, think of it like a prose version of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. It’s long, but it moves along and the fireworks will only get better as we get closer to the end when a few rockets start going off like the 4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall.

The only thing I ask is that if you think the stories have merit, pass the word on to your family, friends and colleagues and ask them to visit the site to read the stories too.  At the end of the day, these stories are about public policy and the expenditure of public money, issues that should concern everyone in Miami. 

One last word. In the course of my investigation word of my activities reached folks at City Hall.  On more than one occasion, I know that some folks at City Hall attempted to reach out to various members of the news media, and to others as well, telling them that they too should start looking into Spence-Jones, because I was doing so.

I have no way of knowing whether anyone in the news media decided to follow up on these not-to-subtle suggestions, but when it comes to the kind of in-depth investigative reporting that will tell you things you’ll never learn anywhere else, go buy some popcorn and settle in, because this story is better than the old Saturday Serials at the movies, and you’ll only get the whole story on The CrespoGram Report!

See you on Monday morning, with Part I,

Al Crespo