Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pettiness Personified

What's with county commissioner Seijas? A while back, she was so worried the Island Gardens Watson Island project would suck up so much of her precious water that she required the developers to come back a fourth time to prove her wrong*. As a member of "The Seven," she fought tooth and nail Mayor Carlos Alverez's strong mayor referendum which would take much of the commission's power away. After losing three times in the courts over that issue, she yesterday threatened to attach a rider to the January 23rd referendum that would ask voters to drastically cut the mayor's salary by 95%, from $229,083 to $12,000.

Unbelievable. We suspect the "water thing" had something to do with not getting respect and throwing her weight around to show everybody who was boss. This time around it looks like a petty reaction to the mayor getting his way.

In any event, this kind of behavior has sent her to the "Top o' the Heap" with her third MVB Poopy Head hat.

*Commissioners voted unanimously on November 28th to allow the Islands Gardens project to proceed so we guess Ms. Seijas' concerns were answered favorably.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

January 23rd

Remember that date. Everything after it will be forever changed if you live in Miami-Dade County. At least until the next referendum. Until then, give county Mayor Carlos Alverez's government tweaking a chance to work by voting FOR his STRONG MAYOR proposal on JANUARY 23rd.

Despite numerous attempts by the majority of the county commission to block the public's right to vote on it which included paying outside attorneys large amounts of our tax dollars to fight it in the courts, commissioners reluctantly accepted the fact that they can't win and voted yesterday to allow the election to proceed on January 23rd-- one day before the county charter required it be held. For those who can't wait to "clean house," early voting begins January 8th.

Unfortunately, the commission also elected a new chairman whose main objective seems to be campaigning against it. According to the Miami Herald, commissioner Bruno Barreiro said, "We have to go out there and work it," regarding "a campaign to defeat the strong-mayor referendum. 'I've campaigned in the trenches-- some people say I like that better than actually legislating.'"

Beautiful. Instead of performing his sworn duties, this guy is going to focus on convincing the public to vote against the proposal. Worst yet, he is quoted as saying that he is considering putting "resources into it from public funds or raise the dollars privately" to mount the campaign against it.

Using public funds to campaign against a government initiated legally decreed right to vote? Talk about an insensitive public official disconnected from grasping the American concept of fair play. No wonder we're considered by many to be a Third World enclave in the most advanced civilization in the world. For adding to that perception and for refusing to play fair at the public's expense, the new chairman of the county commission gets his second MVB "Poopy Head" hat.

If this kind of "in your face" BS makes you as crazy as it does us, MVB urges you to pull a "Howard Beale" by going to the polls and announcing to the world with your vote that "you are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore!"

For those who would like to thwart chairman Barreiro's efforts by actually working against him, check out Citizens 4 Reform.

UpDate (12/1): Join County Mayor Carlos Alverez and others TOMORROW (Saturday) at the grand opening of the Citizens 4 Reform campaign office in Hialeah. Time: 1pm Address: 3800 West 12th Ave., #3. Phone: 786-282-8333.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Miami Buyers Lining up for $1.3 Million Sports Car

It's called the Bugatti Veyron. Only 300 of the French "super cars" will be built. Out of the 100 orders the company has received, 10 came from Miami. Now for some eye-opening stats:
  • Top speed is 256 miles per hour.
  • Goes from zero to 100 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds and then decelerates to a stop in 2.3 seconds.
  • Guaranteed not to overheat "during summer months in Miami," assures Georges Keller, head of communications for Bugatti.
According to this recent article found in Miami Today, Miami is a "hot bed for elite car owners" and a "good market for the Veyron." Another company spokesman was quick to remind us that the Veyron can also be driven slowly much "like a Bentley or a Lexus."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Carnival Miami Orange Bowl Parade

MVB misses the annual King Orange Bowl Parade down Biscayne Boulevard. It put the world's spotlight on Miami and brought families and the community together for 62-years until it was canned in 2002 because of dwindling numbers disappointed by cut-rate floats and no-name entertainment.

MVB thinks we should bring it back re-dressed (or undressed) as "Carnival Miami Orange Bowl Parade" with the floats and most of the marchers representing Rio's winning samba schools.

If done right, it could pay for itself and maybe make a few bucks that could be channeled back into an affordable housing fund. Realistically, to bring the winning floats and dancers here would require a massive amount of logistical planning which won't be cheap-- but if positioned properly with sponsors picking up the tab and securing TV rights, it would become the only viable sexy alternative to America's more traditional parades which probably is enough for it to find big bucks advertisers. As an example, the dancers from the "Paraiso do Tuiuti" samba school and their float could be flown in and sponsored by Burger King or Bacardi. DHL, with its North American base in Broward, could trade off flying in floats for "free" advertising along the parade route in the form of banners hung from streetlights. Or, for "naming rights:" DHL Carnival Miami Orange Bowl Parade. Hey, it might be a mouthful, but it works for us. This would be the "Americanization" of Carnival-- and there is nothing wrong with that if that's what it takes to bring it here-- especially if it helps fund affordable housing. The many membered schools would get a free vacation in Miami/Orlando-- which is pretty good when you consider this may be the only way some of the impoverished Brazilians might ever get to see America.

And, really, Carnival is so much more reflective of multi-cultural south Florida's youthful, fun-loving, sensuous lifestyle. With just a little effort this could be the most famous exciting parade in north America if not the world with randy earthlings from all over racing to get to Miami to spend their money to cop a seat along the parade route and to participate in other "official" events we're sure the Chamber of Commerce, the county, the city, and the private sector will dream up.

MVB says, let's embrace the girl from Ipanema and never let her go (especially the one in the picture).

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Finding Your Voice By Taking It

When corrupt and inept politicians and bureaucrats forfeit the rights of its citizens to basic housing through mismanagement, indifference, and greed, it is not uncommon to see people take matters into their own hands. Right now a classic text book example of that is going on in Liberty City, the oft forgotten burg of the black and voiceless. Umoja Village, a shantytown by any other name, is rising on an acre of public land at NW 62nd Street and 17th Ave. Ten years earlier, the City of Miami tore down a derelict apartment building and, from looking at the empty lot, forgot to build a new one for the people who live there. If you live in that community, this is the way of the world as you know it. It's something to shrug your shoulders over but nothing to lose sleep over.

Unless you're Max Rameau, activist-at-large. Protected by Pottinger v. City of Miami, a law that prohibits police from arresting homeless people trying to to stay alive on public property when no other space is available, Rameau not only seized the day he also seized the land on October 23rd.

Cool. MVB wishes him and his village people good luck. "Umoja" is Swahili for "unity." We thought it was "irony," since the village is there because local government screwed its poorest citizens. Max, thanks for sticking it to the man for the rest of us. We're sure city and county government didn't expect you to stay this long. You recently celebrated what you call on your website "Thankstaking" and what the rest of us call "Thanksgiving." Happy Thankstaking!

Max, as an aside from the publisher, although my street sig might be O.W.G for "Old White Guy," I hope you might consider that you'll get more of anything with honey than vinegar. Try cutting back on the negative, alienating, angry crap on your website and in your speeches. You already have our sympathy but getting our support in money and in-kind donations is going to take a kinder, gentler approach because, to be honest with you, blaming America and the white man for your troubles won't help your cause one iota when "the man" inevitably comes for you and the villagers in the middle of the night. Hopefully that won't happen. Hopefully they can build public housing quick enough to get you and the villagers a decent place to live. Realistically, that won't happen anytime soon so be prepared. Make sure your media contacts are stored in your cell phone so they can be there when the shit hits the fan. Maybe just knowing you'll phone in the media should the powers-that-be try to bulldoze the village will be enough for them to leave you alone. Simply put, Max, as long as you and your village remain a black eye on the new face of Miami rising downtown with each new chi chi condo only the wealthiest can afford, one way or another, your days are numbered because "they" will find a way around the law to make you and everything you stand for go away.

UpDate (11/30): Today the Miami Herald ran a story on Umoja Village noting that it now has reached a full capacity of 40 residents and has had to turn away 10 people. Miami City Manager Pedro Hernandez visited the community on Wednesday and told Rameau that they share the same objectives, finding affordable housing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How to Turn MIA into a Multi-Billion Dollar Turkey Vulture Landing Strip

Spend money. Lots of it. $6.2 billion worth of it. Spend so much with no end in sight that you get Moody's Investors Service to downgrade MIA bonds. Spend so much a consultant recommends an independent review of the airport's building plans because of a $1 billion overrun. Spend so much airlines are driven away to Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport where the cost of doing business is cheaper.

Right now, MIA is one of the most expensive airports in the US with per passenger charges to airlines more than double the average. When Moody's heard that another $1 billion was going to be requested from the county commission, they opined that if more money is thrown into the money pit, "airline costs will rise significantly enough to potentially erode future traffic and revenue."

Talk about irony. This is the same kind of thing predicted for the $1.2 billion Port of Miami tunnel should it get built. Shippers and truckers will be hit with fees that will drive them to Port Everglades in Broward county. This kind of talk would make most sober individuals pause-- unless, of course, you were the mastermind behind the port tunnel. Before becoming Miami-Dade Aviation Director, Jose Abreu was Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. His response to cost overruns at MIA is to "move forward...on the North Terminal. We're still working on the 'Can we afford it?' part."

And you wonder why our cost of living keeps going up? It's because of bureaucrats and technocrats who don't see dollar signs, only numbers, who aren't held accountable with fines or imprisonment when they lose control of the reins. Instead, the worst that might happen to them is that they would get fired with a "golden parachute" to protect their incompetent asses.

This foreseen exodus to Broward is already happening with your average Dade resident. Many have been driving northward to Ft. Lauderdale for years to fly in and out of south Florida because of significantly cheaper flights.

In the end, after spending billions and billions of dollars, Dade may find it no longer has any commercial air or seaport user problems not because of its bank breaking building programs but because it doesn't have any users-- they've all moved their base of operations to Broward. I'm sure those county commisisoners are sitting back watching this county dig itself into a hole that it can't climb out of, knowing if they remain patient long enough, increased commerce will naturally find its way to less expensive Broward with little effort on their part.

MVB urges the Miami-Dade County commission to put an end to the madness when they are asked to vote on the requested extra billion MIA dollars next year. Enough is enough. Let Abreu and his crew find other ways to "make ends meet," a phrase we're sure he has never heard up until now. According to the Miami Herald, he's been forced to explore cost cutting alternatives that range from no longer watering the plants at the airport to rock mining at the decommissioned Opa-Locka West airport. According to the "experts," selling our rocks should bring in between $200 million to $400 million over ten years.

We are reminded of the words of Sir Manny Mojito, King of Little H, that "Miami is such a silly place," where the solution to digging us out of a hole in the ground is to dig yet another. And where the only thing our new state-of-the-art airport may be able to attract after spending billions and billions of dollars are those big, ugly turkey vultures from Hinkley, Ohio that have come south for the winter looking for empty skies unhindered with air traffic so they can circle lazily, waiting patiently like the Broward county commissioners, for MIA to die before swooping down to dine on obscenely expensive citizen-fed carrion.

UpDate (5/15/08): Today the Miami Dade County Commision will vote on whether or not to increase funding the North Terminal by another $64.3 million in order to finish the baggage handling system ($43.5 million) and the automated people mover ($20.8 million). How can they say no? And so it goes.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Strategic Fat Command: Miami Connection Exclusive Report

By chance after more than a few drinks over a recent curry buffet dinner at Churchill's Pub, Verticus Erectus, publisher of this digital rag, discovered a Miami connection between the proliferation of US fast food chains around the world and our government. As it turned out, the man Erectus was eating and drinking with at the bar that night was more than just your ordinary drunken four star general. In fact, General "Obie" Wanmofries, was the head of a secret government agency called the Strategic Fat Command (SFC) which operates out of the US Southern Command (SouthCom) based in Doral. Although SouthCom officially is concerned with US military operations in South America and the Caribbean, SFC, according to General Wanmofries is based at SouthCom because of Burger King. Once Erectus knew he was onto something big, he turned on his secret micro-tape recorder he carries with him at all times for just these kinds of moments. What follows is the exact conversation, unexcised for human consumption.

MVB: So General Wanmofries, mind--
GW: Call me "Obie."
MVB: "Obie?"
GW: Yeah, it's short for Obese.
MVB: Okay, ...Obie. MindifIrecordthisconversation?
GW: What?
MVB: Okay,wannanotherdrink?
GW: Sure.
MVB (to the lovely Brit barmaid): Alex, we'll have another round. So, Obie, what's with the SFC?
GW: We're out to subdue the world one fast food restaurant at a time. You know, we just opened a KFC in freaking Hanoi, can you believe that? We may have lost that war, but we'll get 'em in the end with clogged arteries and heart attacks. Hmm, don't you just love the deviousness of this plan?
MVB (to Alex as she arrives with the drinks): Thanks, Alex. Love your bracelet (its a black leather wrap with 4" chrome spikes).
Alex: Thanks, dearie. It keeps the creeps from touching my tats (exits).
GW: Her what?
MVB: Her tattoos. It's devious, alright, General, but you're going to have to wait a long time to see any results.
GW (hosting his glass): Salute.
MVB: Salute.
GW: I double-dog guarantee you it won't take no goldarn 30-years.
MVB: You mean since the end of the war?
GW: Damn right. Once they get a taste of that greasy chicken shit and them Whoppers, we'll have them right where we want 'em.
MVB: And where's that?
GW: Hooked on US fast foods, man! Forget "Fast Food Nation," it's a "Fast Food World!" We're growing a whole new generation of customers who will fuel the growth of our US based fast food corporations while at the same time we're killing off the enemy. Don't you just love it?
MVB: It's devious alright. So you still consider North Vietnam the enemy?
GW: Commie bastards.
MVB: How 'bout China?
GW: Double commie bastards. We're hitting them from two fronts: fast foods and cigarettes. One way or the other, they'll either eat themselves to death or smoke themselves to death.
MVB: How 'bout the Arab world?
GW: We got that covered too.
MVB: It must be a little frustrating though when the feds want to reduce trans fats and--
GW: Don't say those words in front of me! They haven't been in my vocabulary since I started working for Burger King.
MVB: "Burger King?"
GW: 30-years at their Miami headquarters.
MVB: Wow.
GW: Yeah, I was in charge of developing their menus.
MVB: So, how did you end up heading up the SFC?
GW: I got recruited. At first I didn't want to leave my cushy job at BK or leave Miami. I don't know, maybe they were desperate or something, but I convinced them working with my old company would have its benefits so they allowed me to run the operation from SouthCom. When they offered to make me a general, how could I say no?
MVB: What were you before?
GW: Nothing. I never was in the military. Had to learn how to salute and everything. (With that, he lifted his glass) Salute!
MVB: Salute!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Calatrava Miami?

MVB doesn't know how it was back in ancient Athens 2,500 years ago when they were building the Parthenon, whether or not the citizens had any input in the design, but for what it's worth, as citizens of Miami, we're suggesting that we go for the "big one" when erecting the next building on the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.

In a rare example of the public sector using a visionary approach in solving a problem, the college recently ran a full page color ad on the back of the Miami Herald's Business Monday tabloid looking for partners to develop "one of the last parcels of undeveloped land on Biscayne Boulevard" which they own. Realizing they need another 250,000 s.f. for an Arts and Humanities Center, they decided it would be a win-win situation for private developers to build the structure in exchange for "air rights."

It's amazing that this property is still available. Just south of the Freedom Tower and the American Airlines Arena, Lot 1 (see map) hopefully will attract an equally visionary deep pockets developer to take them up on the offer with a landmark design that mixes office and living space with the college's needs.

Hopefully, too, the building won't be anything subtle. As a "beacon" to those around the world searching for an education, it should stand out from the crowd-- and not just the buildings around it, but also all the others in all the cities around the globe that claim and will claim to have the tallest buildings. Miami should raise the bar high enough that we, as proud citizens of south Florida, can claim bragging rights that will last at least a century (2,500 years might be asking too much).

To perk the digital ether, we've Photoshopped Santiago Calatrava's proposed world's tallest Chicago tower onto the Miami Dade college site. We think it looks pretty good there. Actually, Calatrava's design would look good anywhere-- especially next to an actual Miami proposal for the world's tallest condos called Empire World Towers.

Hopefully seeing this MVB proposal will start people thinking about the really big picture that speaks to the intangible aspects of the human heart with an architecture that lifts the spirit and sparks the imagination like the Parthenon has done for mankind all these years.

Perhaps a Pericles, the visionary Athenian politician who gave the world the Parthenon, will rise above the pettiness of local politics and take a stand for bold vision by simply requiring that the design will be this new millennium's Parthenon.

Miami is in a unique place in time that probably won't come around for another hundred years before the towers that are being built today are torn down and replaced with newer models. We should leap at this opportunity to snare the skyscraper title. In fact, we should look at it as our civic duty-- just like the ancient Athenians did. Let's make Biscayne Boulevard the "Boulevard of the Giants."

You can read more regarding this proposed partnership on the college's web site.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Omni Center = International Toy Center

Looks like Manhattan based Argent Ventures wants to resuscitate the Omni Mall. Well, at least the south end. It intends to create three floors of offices totaling 240,000 square feet. Cost for the redo: $30 million, a figure they feel is well worth spending even though they only see the remodeling job remaining "untouched for at least 12 years."

It looks like Argent has money to burn, too. In 2005, it spent $100 million to buy out its partner and purchase the Radisson Hotel which is part of the three-block property. Long term plans call for razing the site, carving two streets through the property and building six condo towers starting at the northern end of the megaparcel.

In the meantime, MVB's "Flashlight Forum" through an email today humbly suggests they contact the International Toy Center in Manhattan and see if they can induce it to move in. Before this blog ever saw the light of a pixel, we have been advocating exactly this (see here). When it looked like Argent was going to take the Omni property into another direction, we suggested our community leaders look at 600 Brickell as a possible location. Either one works for us as long as it brings global companies to south Florida.

Athalie Range Remembered

Athalie Range is gone but not forgotten. Having passed at age 91 yesterday, Ms. Range left an enduring legacy of public service. Since we grew up here, I can attest that Ms. Range was the pioneer for civil rights in this community. She was working for change here two years before anyone had heard of Martin Luther King. That 1953 project to rectify conditions at her kid's elementary school in Liberty City set her on a path of social reform that carried itself even as far as just ten days ago where she presided at a cultural arts foundation fundrasier that bears her name. We can also say, that without a doubt, she was the most ethical politician this community has seen in the last fifty-years.

Her firsts include:
  • First African-American on Miami's City Commission
  • First black--and woman-- to serve in a high-ranking state government post as director of the Department of Community Affairs.
You can thank her for MetroRail. In a close election, she was instrumental in getting her constituents to vote in favor of the controversial referendum that was being criticised for its expense.

When Verticus, who was living in North Miami at the time, looked south and saw huge columns of smoke rising off of 79th street during the 1980 riots, Ms. Range was bravely walking the streets where people were being murdered left-and-right, talking to anyone who would listen in order to quell the riots.

Probably her greatest legacy was the way she approached the world: tirelessly, never giving up despite adversity to right wrongs and to give a voice to the voiceless. Public figures like her are rare and even rarer here.

Thanks, Ms. Range, for staying the course over all those years. If it hadn't been for you, we fear our communtiy would be in much worse shape and its government less than salvageable.

Pepe "Two Poop"

Miami Dade County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz wants to eliminate curb side recycling and rose to the "Top O' the Heap" at Club Poop when he referred to the county's recycling efforts as "spending millions and millions on a feel-good."

Whoe, now those are fighting words, right up there with "let them eat cake." It's amazing how out of touch Diaz is with the masses, it's as if he missed the whole recycling movement of the 70's and today's rush to "Save the Planet." With guys like him running governments, global warming really is just around the corner.

MVB turned to Nokosee Osceola, our staff renegade Miccosukee and advocate of returning south Florida to its rightful owners, the Miccosukees, to get his reaction. "We have a name for people like that," he said as he gazed out over the Miccosukee Gaming Resort and Country Club's parking lot through the undulating mirage of the Everglades in the distance. "It's Chitfobraeens."

"Chitfobraeens?" we asked.

"Loosely translated, his Indian name is 'Pepe Two Poop'."

"'Pepe Two Poop'?"

"Si. Because he's joined Commissioners Seijas and Souto as the only commisioners to have earned two Poopy Head hats in Club Poop."


"My mother is Cuban. She met my dad at Hialeah High."

"Is that blood on your knife?"


"Anyone we know?"

"No, Kemasabe."

"What's with the loincloth?"

"For keeping knife clean. And picking up chicks."

"'Picking up chicks'?"

"It's a chick magnet. You should see me work the room at Prive."

"He's kidding," the young woman standing next to him said. "He's never been in a nightclub in his life."

"And you're...?"

"His girlfriend."

"Your name?"

"I can't tell you. I'm on the run with the renegade."

"'On the run'? What'd you do now, Nokosee?"

"Nothing. I'm being framed by developers."

At that point, sirens were heard in the distance and the two excused themselves by hopping on the back of their Indian and racing away in a slip-sliding trail of smoke and burned rubber across the parking lot.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cool Things Made in Miami: First Pneumatic Vacuum Elevator

If you want to live like the Jetsons, you've got to look to Miami to buy the first pneumatic vacuum elevator in the world. Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators LLC, located in south Miami, can put one of these futuristic babies in your home for as little as $20,000. Because it doesn't need any excavated space, it can be installed in existing homes in the stairwell. If you move, you can take it with you. Other selling points:
  • Two /Three stops for residential and special commercial usage.
  • 2-3 hour installation.
  • No excavation, no hoist way, no costly infrastructures.
  • No energy consumption during descent and low when ascending with 110 Volt, or if required 220 Volt turbines.
  • Panoramic 360º visibility.
  • Highest safety during power outages and freefall.
  • Lowest maintenance with no lubrication required.
Installing one of these pneumatic elevators in your home has its practical reasons, of course, especially when climbing up and down stairs gets to be a little too much. But we like it because of its creative, fun solution to solving a problem and its intangible "cool" factor.

Way to go, Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators LLC!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Miami Aerial Photos from a Model Airplane

James Good is on to something. He's the only guy using a model airplane to take some amazing aerial photos of Miami. The Miami Herald, local cities and the county ought to hire him to get aerial photos on the cheap-- hell, the guy even gets around in a Mini for crise sakes. No need to hire at considerable expense a helicopter or an airplane pilot to give people a different slant on a story. How 'bout a bird's eye view of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival? Or the next music bash in Bicentennial Park? Or a below the minimum FAA height restriction view of the latest traffic jam brought on when they shut down Biscayne Blvd for some Carnival Center shindig? Heck, his aerial pics would be a unique addition to a wedding album. How 'bout a whole high school graduation photo, maybe spelling out the year with their bodies on the school's phys ed field? We could go on and on, but the truth is, this Miamian has made aerial photography affordable for the masses. You can see more of his work and contact him at Virtual Aerodrome.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Realtors Confront Plummeting Condo Sales with "In Your Face Safety Masks"

Miami real-estate speculators upon signing their preconstruction contracts are now being issued "safety masks" in case of a continued implosion of the local real-estate market.

"Right now, the condo market is a disaster," says Lewis Goodkin, a respected Miami economist and real-estate analyst. The Miami Herald story also quotes him as saying, "These markets were essentially propped up by speculators."

According to a 2004 study by Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors, "as much as 80 percent of the preconstruction purchases of luxury condos in Miami" were done by speculators.

Although demand has "dried-up" for luxury condos, many are still in the pipeline. For those speculators who still believe in Santa Claus, unicorns, and that demand will catch up with supply quicker than most observers predict, brokers are including free "safety masks" at the sale in case it doesn't.

Reggie Realltor of the real-estate brokerage firm Dewey, Cheatem, & Howe, said the "safety masks," are meant to be an "'in your face' statement to all the naysayers. They've become symbolic of our collective courage in the face of adversity in the local real-estate market where our mantra is 'There is no bubble. There is no bubble,' which, if you say it long enough, becomes the truth. In fact, besides chanting our credo and burying giant St. Joseph statues at condo preconstruction parties, many of us are wearing our implosion safety masks at the parties with the development logo printed on them. Ha-ha, we be laughing all the way to the bank."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mobil Travel Guide Inspectors to South Florida Hotels: No star for you!

"Where's my Lavoris?" the Mobil Travel Guide inspector shouted at the poor, cowering room service attendant.

"Toothbrush, si?"

"Yes I see it's a toothbrush. I know that's what I asked for. But you should have anticipated I'd want mouthwash, too, you nincompoop! No star for you!"

With that pronouncement, the man slammed shut the hotel door.

As reported in the Miami Herald recently, our community must again hang its head in shame: of all the hotels we have, not one is worthy of five stars. Not anticipating the mouthwash with a toothbrush request actually helped keep the ultra-expensive Loews Miami Beach from getting a fifth star. Because a light bulb was out in a room's desk lamp at the swanky Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, it failed to earn a fifth star too. Suggestions about getting that elusive fifth star include TV commercials reminding all of us who live here to be "more hospitable to visitors," and hiring more English speaking workers because "non-English speakers make customer service an uphill fight."

Good luck on both of those initiatives. When we can't even be nice to ourselves, how can you expect us to be cordial and helpful to tourists? As for finding more English speaking workers for the hotel industry, that will probably never happen until wages rise high enough to attract a broader mix of the population. Right now, the hotel industry rests on the shoulders of immigrants willing to work long hours for little money. So, looking at it from that point of view, it will be a long time if ever before we get that fifth star so our advice is to suck up our embarrassment and learn to live with it.

To be honest with you, MVB didn't know it was okay to be anal about this kinda stuff. Since most of the staff have lived here most of their lives, we just expected it to be the norm. Those hard-ass Mobile inspectors must be ex-Marine Drill Instructors. They grade hotels on 750 criteria. But at least we learned one thing, if you don't get offered a second round at a hotel bar within one minute after finishing your drink, by God, it is your duty to be offended. No tip for you!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Free Bose Noise Cancelling headphones with each new home purchase!

Ignoring zoning laws, Miami-Dade County commissioners approved a new housing project next to Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport. Of the 446 houses and town homes planned for Century Gardens, two dozen will be built in the path of an airport runway. Despite the objections of pilots who told commissioners that it would make takeoffs and landings more dangerous, the re-zoning was approved 6 to 1 by the commission. Commissioner Katy Sorenson was the lone vote for common sense.

As part of an incentive to purchase, developer Sergio Pino is throwing in free Bose QuietComfort 2 noise cancelling headphones for every buyer and their family members, a $300.00 value per person.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

First MVB "Worthy Award" Given To Three Public Corruption Fighters

MVB is proud to honor three Miami-Dade County public officials with our first "Worthy Award." These gentlemen are responsible for rooting out public corruption, a daunting job if ever there was one.
  • Christopher Mazzella, the county's Inspector General,
  • Joseph Centorino, Chief of the Public Corruption Unit at the State Attorney's Office,
  • Robert Meyers, Executive Director of the Miami-Dade County Ethics and Public Trust Commission.
The formal awards ceremony took place in Little Haiti at Churchill's Pub last night. After Bob Enzyte, MVB's award giver, was patted down and his cummerbund tightened to insure a modicum of decorum, he stepped up to the podium and told the crowd that the MVB Worthy Award was inspired by "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," a 1963 movie starring Phil Silvers, Spencer Tracy, and Jonathan Winters among others. The parallels between the film and life in Miami-Dade County were eerily similar starting with the title of the picture which resonated with local relevance. In the movie, the characters will stop at nothing to get rich, just like many of our public "servants." When Jonathan Winters yells, "It's the Big 'W,' I tell ya, the Big 'W'!", they are led to believe that four palm trees resembling a "Big W" mark the spot where a recently deceased old guy's (Jimmy Durante) riches are buried. MVB liked the idea of taking a negative symbol that served as a beacon for cutthroat opportunists and transforming it into a postive one used in an award that recognizes the efforts of those men and women fighting corruption in a public sector palm covered world gone mad by greed.

"Thank God," Enzyte said, "they wanted to call it the 'Worthy Award,' otherwise they'd still be looking for other symbolic connections and we wouldn't be here." As the crowd chuckled, Enzyte looked over at Verticus Erectus, the MVB publisher. By his dead-eye expression, one could tell Erectus didn't think it was funny.

Enzyte's mouth began to twitch. He turned away and grabbed his cummerbund as if it were a security blanket. "Anyway," he continued, "the 'Worthy Award' represents the yin to MVB's 'Wall of Shame's' yang. Of course, it might be a lot harder finding 'worthy' public servants than it is those ripping off the public, but that's okay, because this award is made from genuine Swarovski crystal and it ain't cheap."

"Svarsky? Yang?" someone yelled from the bar. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Yeah! We want the 'Dixie Dawgs Unleashed'!"

"Yeah?" Enzyte screamed back and, with a jabbing, twisting finger for emphasis, added, "Well f*** you!"

"Bob?" Erectus' voice rose over the background chatter and the clinking of glasses in a steady, drawn out manner.

Enzyte could tell his boss was not pleased. Immediately a perspiration moustache appeared, glistening under the harsh spotlights. He turned toward the three honorees and wiped the sweat away. Even though they were seated behind a table on the stage and were looking up at him, it seemed they were looking down at him, judging him from their position of superior masculinity, reminding him that he was an unworthy lesser man who was nuts to boot. Enzyte tried to smile. He nodded toward the three worthies. "Excuse me," he said before turning to the bar. "My apologies to the bar. The 'Dawgs' will be up right after this."


That cheer cut the tension and when the scattered laughter died down, Enzyte introduced Christopher Mazzella. Upon accepting his award, Mr. Mazzella characterized his job as a "street fight." With over 30,000 employees and a nearly $7 billion budget, there is a lot that can go wrong. He told the large crowd gathered around the candle lit tables enjoying their Curry Night buffet that 5 percent of all public dollars are lost to "fraud and ineptitude" which is about $344 million a year for Miami-Dade County.

After the crowd stopped choking on their potatos vindaloo, Mazzella went on to say that there are two types of corruption: the "traditional" kind involving kickbacks and bribery and a second kind catagroized by "waste, fraud, and abuse of power."

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Centorino said Miami-Dade County public corruption "is like a cancer that is far advanced before it comes to light" and that it was not seen until the media began exposing it in the 1990s. Because it was so bad, he thought it would take a generation to clean it up. Now he thinks that "maybe we are halfway there."

"What can we do to help?" a drunk shouted from the circular bar.

Centorino said you need to have a "level of outrage" that will make you want to "go into public service for the right reasons."

"Well," the drunk shouted back before falling off his barstool, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

"Me, too!" his buddy agreed. "Let's arrest all dem city hall bastards now!"

Centorino patiently explained that although a lot of the stuff we read in the paper about our public officials might look like "outrageous and unethical activity," that doesn't mean it's criminal. According to Centorino, criminal behavior must fit within the "narrow confines of the criminal statutes."

"Does that mean we can't arrest commissioners for babbling on about not having enough water?" another barfly shouted across the lovely English barmaid Alex's tattoos. "Or when one of them shows signs of para...paranoia on the po...podium?"

"No comment," Centorino commented.

At that point, Enzyte stood up and took the mike. "Although I'm sure you'd love to, right, Mr. Centorino?"

Centorino yanked the mike from Enzyte's hand and nodded at a big, burly cop lurking in the shadows. The cop pushed his way through the dark pub, knocking candle lit tables and diners askew to get to the stage. Enzyte was thrown up against a wall and handcuffed-- but not before his pants and his cummerbund fell to the ground. When the cop whipped Enzyte around to escort him off the stage, that's when we heard the first scream. It was Brooklyn, the other barmaid who can only be described in the vernacular of a Russ Meyer movie press kit as "pneumatic." She missed the first time (see here) Enzyte hosted an event and was unprepared for what she saw.

"I'm thinking of suing MVB," she cried. "I don't think I'll ever be the same after what I saw tonight."

When Erectus was told Brooklyn might sue him, he sighed and said, "I don't blame her. I thought Bob had stopped self-medicating, but I guess not. Anyway, I'm going to have a talk with her to see what I can work out."

Unfortunately, following Enzyte's arrest, and the riot it precipitated, the third recipient of the MVB Worthy Award could not be found. In case Mr. Meyers is reading this, your award was last seen in Brooklyn's hands as Erectus, with an arm around her shoulders, led her weeping from the pub toward his Rolls Royce. Please advise if you still want it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

For the Middle Class, Miami is a "Paradise Lost"

Despite what you may think about Miami Police Chief John Timoney, we like the idea of him watching over us. He's a tough guy's tough guy. We feel safer when we know he and fellow police officers are patrolling the beat.

Too bad many of them can't afford to live here. According to Sgt. Armando Aguilar, president of Miami's Fraternal Order of Police, none of the new cops graduating out of the academy can afford to buy a home in Miami-Dade or any nearby counties. In fact, the force is losing officers left and right to other places that pay better and where living is less expensive. Miami police officer salaries start at $37,817 which ranks Miami 36th out of 43 other municipalities reporting annual pay data. But that won't buy a cop a house here.

Or new teachers, nurses, and many more of the community's middle-class who are in the same sinking boat. Consumer-price inflation is rising much faster than wages. According to an article in the Miami Herald, "inflation in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area was running at 5.1 percent, nearly twice the national rate."

Nearly twice the national rate.

Would someone please tell us what is going on?

Last week one of our staff members had to pick something up in Plantation in Broward county from a guy who was selling his house. The house wasn't new or that big, but it did have nice "curb appeal" in a neighborhood of unassuming homes. Inside, marble floors, an upgraded kitchen, two bedrooms, one bath, a two-car garage, and no backyard to speak of. He wanted $425,000 for it. He pointed out another house that had recently been sold. Its curb appeal was sorely lacking but it sold for close to half-a-million dollars. Why? It had a pool.

Something has to give. Teachers and police in Miami-Dade in separate incidents began standing on street corners last month waving placards and shouting at anyone who will listen about low wages and shrinking retirement funds. We believe these are the first signs of a crisis hovering just beyond the horizon that no one in local government seems to be addressing. Maybe nothing can be done until the market "corrects itself" with falling home prices. But what will initiate that process?

According to Bruce Nissen, a professor at Florida International University, he sees the workforce organizing more and more protests. Will that be enough to set the "corrections" in motion? As much as we would like to believe it will, we think that, without government action, protests will devolve into strikes effectively shutting down the economy and disrupting our lifestyle to the point where draconian measures will be called up to fix the problem. Unfortunately, we don't think falling real estate prices will be the total answer. However, building affordable housing is part of the answer. But if developers can't make a profit against their investment in land, the rising cost of labor and materials, why bother building anything at all? Even though most people can't afford to buy into the high-end condo building boom in Miami-Dade, if that sector in the local economy collapses, thousands of people will be out of work. It's a double-edged sword for sure and we don't pretend to have any answers. Instead, when considering what tomorrow may bring, we face the future with fear and trepidation.

Monday, November 06, 2006

FDOT Cold to HOT Lanes-- Unless, of course, they can over-engineer at our expense

The Florida Department of Transportation wouldn't know a good idea if it rolled off the Interstate and parallel parked itself between two big, bad expensive ideas on its Talahassee driveway. Last year they started installing on-ramp traffic signals along I-95 that will supposedly help traffic by staggering incoming vehicles. A few days ago it was announced that this multi-million dollar experiment will have to wait at least another year to work out the bugs. Now we hear they will spend $11 million of our money to "study" the feasibility of bringing High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes to a small stretch of I-95 between Golden Glades and downtown. Basically, these lanes take vehicles out of the interstate crawl if the drivers are willing to pay for it, i.e, pay a toll to drive in an "express lane." The downside is that these HOT lanes usually replace the free car pool lanes (HOV).

This is the kind of stuff that makes MVB crazy. When you have bureaucrats with easy access to public dollars, they don't waste any time throwing money at a "study." It probably has more to do with protecting their own butts and risking their careers than taking a stand for a common sense solution. In this case, we would urge them to not spend the money on another study but implement the program ASAP. If they need to be reassured that it will work, they need only read favorable reports from Utah and Minnesota which are successfully running HOT lanes. That will save $11 million right there alone. With that money saved, they can put it into building electronic express lanes that constantly monitor and debit vehicles registered to pay and drive.

According to Larry Lebowitz in today's Miami Herald, Utah and Minnesota's first HOT lanes are also the states' first toll roads. Utah spent $2.6 million to restripe one of the lanes on I-15. Drivers can only enter the Express lane at 18 locations. Decal revenue pays for additional staff and troopers to make it all work. Ticket revenue goes to the county, not the state. Pretty cool and simple idea, right?

Minnesota's is a little more sophisticated-- and complicated. Driving the I-394 HOT lanes during rush hour will cost you more than when driving on them at other times of the day. Electronic signs advise drivers what the "going rate" is at any particular time of the day. During an average day, the rate is between $1 and $4. If traffic starts backing up, it can go as high as $8. I'm sure many of those poor bastards who live in Broward but work in Dade wouldn't think twice about paying that much if it meant getting home earlier after a long day at work. By the way, the Minnesota HOT lanes average 55 mph. The average speed on I95 at rush hour is 18 mph.

The Minnesota program cost $16 million to retool the roads. The less sophisticated Utah HOT job cost $2.6 million. Somewhere in between we bet that FDOT $11 million study could fund an actual working HOT lane up and down I95.

But you know what our FDOT wants to do? Instead of retooling the exisiting HOV lanes, they are leaning toward having private vendors design, finance, build and run "two-to-four reversible, elevated lanes built in the medians" with the idea that the builder-operators would be repaid over time through toll revenue. We can only imagine how expensive that little project will be. Can you say, "Billions"?

This is the same kind of approach the FDOT is using with the $1.2 billion Port of Miami tunnel project-- which MVB is very much against (see here). We're beginning to think that the FDOT never really considers any solution to a problem unless it is beyond the realm of common sense.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Miami Dade College Number One...

Despite its management.

We've always been proud of Miami Dade College. Verticus Erectus is an alumnus of the North Campus-- as are most of the MVB staff with the possible exception of Sir Manny Mojito who says he's an Oxford graduate. In fact, looking back, Mr. Erectus argues his MDC professors were better there than those at the University of Miami where he finished his last two years. Today, the college ran a full-page color ad in the Miami Herald reminding everyone at considerable public expense that they are, among others, number one in these areas:
  • MDC enrolls the most students in the nation (163,000)
  • Awards the most Associate Degrees
  • Awards the most degrees in Nursing
  • Enrolls and graduates more Hispanic students than any other in the nation
  • Enrolls and graduates more African-American students than any other in the nation
  • Is the most diverse institution in the nation with students representing 171 countries and 84 languages

So why can't they pick up the phone or answer their emails in the International Student's department?

An Eastern European friend who recently graduated from high school told us he was looking into studying music studio production and jazz piano in Canada.We suggested, because he has been here many times-- Verticus booked him at Churchill's where he banged out some original compositions on their old upright-- that he consider MDC because they have some of the best music/film/TV production classes in the U.S. We told him to check them out through the Internet. About six weeks later, he got in touch to let us know that no one had responded to his numerous email queries and asked if we could help him out. When MVB agreed to help, we had no idea about what we were getting ourselves into.

After many emails to the North Campus International Student contact Ms. Tere Martinez went unanswered, we broke down and actually called the International Student department. In the beginning, we left messages because there was no one picking up the phone. This went on for half-a-dozen times over a couple of weeks. At one point, it got so bad that even the answering machine wouldn't kick in to take a message. As always, just when you promise yourself this is it, no more attempts, someone picked up the phone on our last call. Liz, a young woman on the other end, was very polite and apologetic. She explained that the department is inundated with queries and has fallen behind. She was able to answer most of the questions our friend had, but was unsure about the Tuition Assistance Institute which offers special financial incentives to students who live in a few select countries around the world. Our friend happens to be from one of those countries. She didn't have a clue about what we were talking about-- even though there was a link on the opening page of the International Student web site. She suggested MVB check with Financial Aid. We did, they didn't have a clue either and said we should go back to International Student Services.We did and got lucky twice in the same day. Liz again answered the phone and promised to get back to us before 4:30pm. Well, she did, but her department still didn't know what we were talking about. So, MVB clicked the link on the side of the their web page. The program is state funded to waive all or part of a foreign student's tuition. Only 25 are given out in a year for the whole state. Digging deeper, we discovered the Eastern Europe group is ran out of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. MVB sent the director, Jean Kijek, an email. We called them up and left messages. Nothing.

To this day, no one from Miami Dade College north campus has responded to our original emails. Tere Martinez hasn't called. Neither has anyone from the University of Central Florida. This leads MVB to believe that these state schools succeed despite themselves. If Miami Dade College president Eduardo Padron, the highest paid community college president in the U.S., took a cut in his $407,229 annual salary or a cut from his 31.5% salary supplement, maybe they could fund a couple more support staff positions in the north campus International Student department to answer the phones and reply to the emails.

Anyway, our friend will miss the winter semester because of the ineptitude of the MDC north campus. Hopefully he will be able to enroll for the fall semester. By the way, the kid speaks and writes perfect English and has a Cambridge Certificate of English to prove it. Unfortunately, MDC doesn't accept that one. He needs TOEFL certification. To prove he can handle the English requirements, he will have to take a TOEFL test at the college which to us sounds like another example of a badly ran bureaucracy at work.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Miami Heat Slam Dunks for the Arts

When Dwight Dunkin of the Miami Heat heard the Concert Association of Florida (CFA), which for forty years nearly singlehandedly kept the classics in music and dance alive in Miami, couldn't crawl out from a measley $1.7 million perennial debt, he decided the time had come to "slam dunk their cares away."

"It ain't always about the money with us obscenely paid athletes," he said in an interview on the steps in front of the Miami Airlines Arena in downtown Miami. He was joined by Ms. Judy Drucker, founder and President of the CFA and another woman whom he squeezed and gave a wink before continuing on. "We've been shown the money-- and lots of it. Now it's time to give back. When I heard Ms. Drucker couldn't shake loose that debt, that it 'had been hanging on for years,' I decided to pass a bucket around the locker room after last night's humiliating 42-point lost to the Bulls in our opening season game. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best time. It was hard to get my point across to my teammates what with Coach Riley yelling and screaming at everybody in the background. When he finally lost his voice and was escorted away by security, I stood up on a bench and made my pitch in the dead silence of the locker room.

"'Champions of the World?' I screamed. 'We just got creamed. We look like chumps.

"'Shut the f*** up, Dunkin,' someone shouted back.

"'Sit down, motherf*****,' another one of my buds chimed in.

"But I wouldn't. I kept on. 'We should be ashamed for takin' all this money they throw at us and playin' like we did tonight. Let's make amends. Let's give some of it back.

"'What? Are you nuts?'

"I ignored the question and said, 'Let's help a deserving non-profit group that puts on concerts here--'

"'What kind of concerts?' someone shouted.

"You know, those kind of concerts where they play music like, I don't know, from a hundred years ago.

"'A hundred years ago?'

"Maybe older," I said.


"'You talkin' classical music?'

"Yeah, that's it! And they put on dances, too!

"'Not that ballet sh**?'

"Yeah, it's cool.

"'Let's get him before he says another word!' they yelled.

"At that point, some of my teammates jumped me and pummeled me to the ground. When I regained consciousness, I found they had slam dunked me head first through a basketball rim. Those guys, always joshing around. Anyway, as I struggled to free myself, I happened to glance upward into the Arena lights and was blinded by the light. When I looked away, my eyes were blinking and trying to focus on something below me. It was a name tag. As it came into view, I could read the word 'Epiphany.' When she came into view, I could see she was one of those cute arena security guards and she was looking up at me.

"'How'd you get up there?' she asked.

"When I told her what happened, she smiled and said, 'It's a good idea. I like it. I'll get you a ladder.'

"I guess I needed to hear that then because I must admit I had begun to second guess myself during the time it took the blood to rush to my head. Anyway, before she returned and I blacked out for a second time, I had worked it all out. I, Dwight Dunkin, the lowest paid player on the team, would bring together professional athletes and other wealthy entertainers living in south Florida to help pay off the debts on our fiscally responsible non-profit cultural groups so that they can stop struggling and start flourishing. I decided to call it the S.D.A-- Slam Dunk for the Arts."

So, how did the Miami Heat get involved?

"Well, when Mickey heard about it, he also thought it was a good idea and offered his full support. The players have been pretty cool about it too. We may be chumps right now, but we came up with something that ain't chump change that's for sure. That's why I'm proud to present a check for $2 million to the Concert Association of Florida."

As the media and a few homeless guys who had wandered by and stayed to watch the press conference applauded, Mr. Dunkin was given a giant cardboard check to present to Ms. Drucker. Unfortunately, the bay breeze caught the unwieldy object and nearly knocked her down the steps. When she regained her composure and straightened her hair, she thanked Dunkin and the Miami Heat players. "Finally, after 40 years," she said, "we are debt free. I can finally start taking chances on bringing in more avant garde forms of entertainment and not worry about filling seats."

"You mean like the Blue Man group?" Channel 10's Michael Putney asked.

"Oh, for god's sakes, no, Michael," Ms. Drucker replied. "I'm talking about the Klezmatics and Pinchas Zukerman and a bunch of Russian guys with names no one can pronounce."

Louis Aguirre from Deco Drive interrupted the uneasy silence that followed by shouting over the heads of the reporters, "Dwight, who's the babe standing next to you?"

Dunkin turned to her with a loving, knowing smile and gave her a squeeze. "This is Epiphany."

Aguirre responded, "So I guess you could say you had an Epiphany."

The press laughed. Dunkin smiled and didn't turn away from her as he replied, "Oh, yeah, I had Epiphany alright. Mo' than once."

Epiphany sadly shook her head, smiled up at Dunkin and playfully waved a cautioning finger in his face. "Remember, Dwight, darling" she said, "Epiphanies rarely come more than once in a lifetime."

"Yeah, but when they come, they really come," Dunkin replied with a tight squeeze for emphasis.

"Oh, you so bad."

"I know."

At that point when Dunkin and Epiphany started going at it on the Arena steps, the press conference-- to the relief of Ms. Drucker who was obviously uncomfortable standing next to the amorous couple-- basically came to an end.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Score Another One for the People

Yesterday for the third straight time, the courts told special interest groups and the county commission "Seven"* to give it a rest. Despite "the Seven's" effort to circumvent Mayor Carlos Alverez's right to a referendum before the electorate regarding his strong mayor charter change, the commission took another haymaker to its collective jaws. Whether they are down for the count depends on how much they fear losing power. Their "managers" are huddling now outside the ring to decide whether or not to appeal or to "commit resources to campaigning against the mayor's plan."

We don't like the idea of seven or more against one. It's not American. MVB hopes they stay down for the count and that, as Mayor Alvarez says, they allow "the people's right to vote (to) prevail"-- which is very American.

*"The Seven" county commissioners who voted to pass over the county's own legal staff to bring in outside council to represent them at considerable expense to the public are: Bruno Barreiro, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Dennis Moss, Dorrin Rolle, Natacha "I want my Water" Seijas, and Javier "I'm Watching" Souto. For this shameful display of contempt for the public, they were awarded MVB's first "Poopy Head Hats" here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

THINGS THAT KEEP US UP AT NIGHT: The Fate of our County Rests in the Hands of a Craig's List Want Ad

After seeing this Craig's List posting, perhaps County Commissioner Javier Souto is on to something. Maybe we should be "watching" more carefully. When local elections can be won or lost by a mere hundred votes, should the fate of county government be left in the hands of someone found on a Craig's List ad? How do we know the person who gets the job isn't a Chavez operative trying to circumvent democracy? Isn't Chavez already supplying us with the voting machines? Don't we need a higher standard than "punctual and polite"? We admit that those are pretty high standards considering where we live and that it might be hard to find someone with those attributes but by chance they actually do find someone like that, will there be a background check? Will the applicant have to pass a rudimentary I.Q. test? How do we know the contract worker won't lose them because, despite his punctuality and politeness, he's a complete idiot? How do we know he or she won't get lost driving up from Homestead in the dark, make a wrong turn and end up in Liberty City never to be seen again? How do we know the "contract" worker won't hold the voting results for ransom?

These are the kind of questions that keep us up at night. That and the racket coming up from Opium.