"I know it looks bad. But I can explain everything."
Oscar Rivero, the poster boy for Miami's public housing rip-off, the man who promised to build affordable housing and collected over $3 million in advance from his cronies at the public housing authority with nothing to show for it except the mansion he is currently building outside of Coral Gables, may have been thinking this when he opened today's Miami Herald. The story, led by future Pulitzer Prize winner Debbie Cenziper (you read it here first), features a front page photo (above) by Miami Herald photographer Tim Chapman. It shows Rivero's 11,000-square-foot palatial estate under construction. It has five bedrooms, nine baths, eight walk-in-closets, a four-car garage, a wine cellar, library, billiard room, elevator, pool, spa, fountain-- "plus a grand foyer, three stories high, fixed with Mediterranean columns and a spiral staircase."
MVB believes everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. With that in mind, we decided to call Mr. Rivero to get his side of the story. The following interview may sound like something the MiamiVision Comic might use in one of his stand-up routines and he probably will once he is released from Mercy Hospital (see blog entry "Attack on the MiamiVision Comic") but for those who live in Miami, what may appear highly unbelieveable, is quite the norm in the city's everyday "Surreal Life."
MVB: Mr. Rivero?
Rivero (R): Si.
MVB: This is MiamiVision Blogarama.
MVB: "The Rodney Dangerfield of Blogs."
R: Never heard of it.
MVB: Of course. Would you care to comment about today's Miami Herald story?
R: I know it looks bad, but I can explain everything. That mansion you see on the front page, it's going to be a country club for the homeless.
MVB: "Country Club for the Homeless"?
R: Si. Do you really think I would build something that big just for my wife and me?
MVB: Well, we want to be objective here, but there is so much evidence against you--
R: Evidence-- schmevidence! That house was built with the poor in mind and to suggest otherwise would be politically incorrect.
MVB: "Politically incorrect"?
R: Si. Just because you're poor and living on the streets, does that mean you can't have a place to crash for a little R&R?
MVB: Of course not, Mr. Rivero, but some might suggest that the poor are on the streets in the first place because you never built one building for them in four years.
R: What do you call my "Country Club for the Homeless"?
MVB: A nice try.
The interview was cut short when Mr. Rivero hung up. Despite numerous attempts to call him back, we were unsuccessful in reaching him before this posting.
UpDate (5/9/08): This is the story that started us down the dark and dirty lane of local politics. We had no intention in taking that path. We wanted to focus on the arts and ideas in relation to south Florida. But Oscar Rivero's shameless exploitation of the needy was so over the top that we felt compelled to comment on it. That led to more comments on local politics-- which proved a fertile field in Miami and the Beaches for its over abundance of nincompoops and rip artists of the public trust-- and the rest is history. As of today, Mr. Rivero agreed on a plea agreement with the state attorney's office to spend the next 10 years in jail. If he gives up co-conspirators, that time can be whittled down to 21 months. We suspect he'll drop names like there was no tomorrow and more arrests will be made. Stay tuned.