Friday, December 29, 2006

MVB Persons of the Year

Hands down, it's Sherrone and David Jenkins who won our Thelma Award for the most inspiring south Floridians. They are the parents of Sherdavia Jenkins, the 9-year-old killed by a stray bullet in a shootout in Liberty City on July 1st. For those not aware of their story, please visit the Miami Herald's multi-media section the paper created based on a remarkably moving series by Audra D.S. Burch. Their story reminds us that for most people, for those below the radar, life is a struggle the moment they wake each day. As the year comes to an end we want to recognize and applaud the Jenkins' ability to keep the faith in the face of grievous personal lost, to respond eloquently and with dignity to tragedy, and for their general perseverance without fanfare and their noble struggle without complaint.

UpDate (1/29/09): The City of Miami renamed a mini-park for Sherdavia Jenkins. The Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park at NW 62nd Street and 12th ave comes "as Liberty City bursts with outrage over the neighborhood's latest fatal shooting -- a weekend (1/23/09) bloodbath that left two teenagers dead and seven others wounded."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gerald Ford, The Helsinki Accord, and Miami

Reflecting on the death of former President Gerald Ford, historians are giving him credit as a founding father of the human rights movement for backing the 1975 Helsinki Final Act that required the Soviet Union to recognize human and religious rights. Although the "Final Act" legitimized territory the communist state had gained following WWII in Eastern Europe, that human rights clause would eventually lead to the Soviet Union's downfall. Poland's Lech Walesa, Russia's Andrei Sakharov, and the Czech Republic's Vaclav Havel used it as a protective shield to stand up and fight the Russian giant. Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said that although the Accord was "no more than a piece of paper" activists "were able to shame their governments into treating people a little bit better."

Which got us to thinking. Miami needs a Helsinki Final Act that will shame our local governments "into treating people a little better" and to protect its people from lying, self-serving, greedy bureaucrats and elected officials.

We are also reminded about the importance of place in creating who we are. Many have acknowledged that the culture of Grand Rapids, Michigan was very much responsible for making Gerald Ford the decent, humble man that he was. There is a culture steeped in what is commonly called and often derided as the "middle-American" virtues of common sense, fairness, self-reliance, and patriotism. We don't see much of that here unless, of course, you talk about a loyal following of vociferous immigrants and the locally elected who have a misguided apoplectic patriotism towards Cuba. Mostly though, if you live here long enough, you begin to see a culture that doesn't live by those virtues found in Grand Rapids. Instead, it seems to be a schizoid culture with misplaced loyalties bent on getting as much as it can in any way that it can even if it means trampling over those middle American virtues to get at the public trough.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

MVB's Top 25 Ideas of 2006

Although it's only been since July that MVB officially has had a public presence with the publishing of this blog, many of the ideas found here have been lobbied for years old school, i.e., via snail mail and the occasional confrontation, excuse us, meeting. We thought it might make an interesting end-of-the-year posting to gather them together in no particular order.
  1. Make it our civic duty to build the tallest building in the world in Miami on the "Boulevard of Giants."
  2. Carnival Miami Orange Bowl Parade: Revive the Orange Bowl Parade by bringing the best Rio Samba schools and floats to parade up and down Biscayne Blvd.
  3. Get our highly paid local artists and athletes to fork up some dough to support our arts through Slam Dunk for the Arts.
  4. Bring the International Toy Center to Miami.
  5. Connect Miami with Miami Beach with a Disney-style monorail.
  6. Put Cirque du Soleil in the Miami Arena or
  7. Attach a new baseball stadium/hotel/convention "megaplex" to the Arena.
  8. Scrap the streetcar for a jitney to employ people and save millions.
  9. Ditch the "Big Dig" and use the train.
  10. Create "Broadway South," a theater district around the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts.
  11. Use shipping containers for a fast, inexpensive solution to Miami's affordable housing crisis.
  12. Make Miami home of the first spaceport.
  13. Facilitate the Watson Island Mega-Yacht Marina where a symbiotic relationship will develop between it and the spaceport.
  14. "Give" the poor our shuttered public housing units in exchange for sweat equity.
  15. Accomodate the "Miami Circle" with a soaring, spirit-lifting, taxpaying condo/office/hotel tower.
  16. Make Miami the first "Airship" port in the world.
  17. Turn Overtown into "Soul Street U.S.A."
  18. Create a world-class surfing pool in downtown Miami.
  19. Use the FEC tracks for commuter rail now!
  20. Recycle technology, build the "Miami Monument" on the cheap.
  21. Recycle the "Harmonic Runway"-- make it the "Harmonic Bridge."
  22. Save the Miami Marine Stadium.
  23. Arc de Fun!-- Miami's answer to the Arc de Triomphe
  24. Joy Temple: Miami's Public Trophy Room.
  25. Free Lolita and build the biggest and best Miami FreeQuarium.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry/Happy (Insert Your Holiday) from MVB!

Yeah, I know, it doesn't sound the same when you're trying not to offend anybody by being politically incorrect. The sentiment loses its sincerity. But that's the price you pay for living in a multicultural community. Here at MVB, we have a plethora of religions ranging from angry Catholicism and Mossadic (not Hassidic, we be pro-active defenders of Israel) Judaism to pagan caveman nature worshipers and one agnostic, but then, you'd be one too if you were nothing more than a giant talking turd. Still, the way America has turned "the reason for the Season" into a mindless stampede toward materialism, it doesn't really matter what religion you are when December 25th rolls around. So, with that in mind, please click here to listen to MVB's "Christmas Song" to you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Miami FreeQuarium

Me and the boys of MVB were sitting around talking and sipping mojitos, is our wont at the end of the day, when the lively conversation inevitably turned to the county commission's poster child for boorish behavior and environmental indifference. When Natacha Seijas recently beat back the citizen led attempt to have her removed from office, I wondered half seriously if perhaps our community might be jinxed. I was surprised by the response by our staff resident renegade on the run, Nokosee Osceola (first introduced here with his hot girlfriend).

NOKOSEE: You got that right.
VERTICUS: What do you mean?
NOKOSEE: My shaman, E.F. Hialeah says--

At this point, I was surprised to see the staff lean forward in anticipation. I sensed I had been missing out on something and made a mental note to attend more of the daily mojito sessions.

NOKOSEE: Free the fish.
VERTICUS: "Free the fish"?
NOKOSEE: Free the fish.

I must have been missing something. I looked around for help. The guys were nodding their heads in sage agreement.

VERTICUS: Okay, Nokosee, what the hell are you talking about?
NOKOSEE: Until you free the fish, this place will never be happy hunting grounds.
VERTICUS: "Happy hunting grounds"?

I sighed and tried to remember that Nokosee is the product of a Cuban mother and a Miccosukee/Seminole father who met at Hialeah High School and that getting a straight answer, an answer that I might understand without an interpreter, would require patience, something I'm not famous for. So I exhaled slowly once more through my mouth and waited, smiling hopefully that the young hunk sitting in front of me in a loincloth sipping the last drops of his mojito would be more forthcoming.

NOKOSEE: It's wrong to imprison the fish. Like all living things, we are born to be free.

I looked around at the guys.

VERTICUS: Does anyone know what the fvck he's talking about?

Eyes rolled, shoulders shrugged, but no one had a clue.

NOKOSEE: The big fish in the Seaquarium, you dumbkoff! Do I have to spell it out for you?

Nokosee's outburst caught us all by surprise. Although rumor had it that he had been groomed by his mysterious ex-Green Beret Nam dad to be the first of the "New Seminole" to take back south Florida, we hadn't seen any of that probable streak of genetic madness until now. I proceeded cautiously.

VERTICUS: You talkin' about Lolita the killer whale?
NOKOSEE: You got it, kemasabe. As long as she's kept in captivity, this land will be cursed.
VERTICUS: "Cursed"?
NOKOSEE: Big winds, bad people, and insurance rates skyrocketing right out the top of your chickee.

I was afraid to say anything and tried to conceal my astonishment that anyone today would believe in such nonsense when I guess Nokosee caught my left eyebrow rising slowly across what I thought was my best poker face.

NOKOSEE: You don't think the land and its people are cursed, do you?

A trembling smile broke across my face and I shrugged helplessly.

NOKOSEE: Did you know that California hasn't had an earthquake since they freed Willy?

I looked around for help. The guys turned away. I tried to keep my mouth shut, but I'm cursed too.

VERTICUS: Just mudslides and fires.

Nokosee jumped up and threw his cocktail glass down on MVB's terraza floor. It exploded in deadly shards. One stuck in Nokosee's calf and blood began to pump out but he never flinched or lost a beat.

NOKOSEE: That's for their other sins to mother earth!

With that, he set his bare foot on my desk, yanked the glass splinter from his leg and threw it at the Hooters calendar on the wall behind me. The glass shard stuck squarely in the middle of today's date. I swallowed deeply and turned to see him leaving a trail of blood across the floor and out the door. The resounding sound of the door slamming shut had us all jumping in unison.

As we paused to collect our breath and to wait for our collective heart beats to drop, it became clear to us after a much needed mojito refill, that the half-naked Seminole might be onto something. Especially after our resident archaeologist Bobby Bermudez, champion of the controversial notion that the Miami Circle is really a giant pre-Columbian "Smiley Face," suggested that history is full of cursed people and lands and despite intense scientific scrutiny, many have not been disproven. So, after another round from the mojito pitcher, we all agreed that freeing Lolita was worth the effort. By the end of the work day we approved the following course of action:
  1. Work to free Lolita.
  2. Propose a joint venture between the county and the Seaquarium to reinvent the old rusting hulk by turning it into the biggest and best fish-friendly aquarium in the world. No more performing mammals of any size-- except for the divers who will clean the tanks.
  3. Call the new tourist attraction FreeQuarium.
Over the following days following our communal hangover, we discovered more reasons to lift the curse. For example, we should work to remove the trained animal shows because of the methods employed. You can learn more about why we have taken this stance here and here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another Shooting, Another Day In Paradise

As the young bodies keep dropping all around us in Miami because someone was "disrespected" or someone wanted someone's rims or someone's girl or last, but not least, someone's money, check out these stats while listening to this catchy little ditty with a message: "Another Shooting" by Lori Rosolowsky.

  • In the last 18 months, 31 young people died from gunfire in Miami.
  • In a 2004 study by Sperling's BestPlaces, Miami was singled out as having the highest violent crime rate as well as one of the highest property crime rates.
  • In 2003, one kid or teen in the US was shot to death every three hours, nearly 8 every day, 54 a week, nearly 3,000 a year. 4 to 5 times that number survived bullet wounds.
  • The number of kids killed by guns in 2003 exceeded the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq for 2003 to April 2006.
  • More 10-19 year-olds died from gunshots than from any other cause in the US other than motor vehicle accidents.
  • Almost 90% of US kids killed by firearms in 2003 were boys.
  • Black kids are most likely to be victims of firearm homicide. In fact, the firearm death rate for Black males ages 15-19 is more than 4 times that of White males in the same age group.
Something ain't right in America. Something ain't right in Miami. The boys here at MVB keep thinking about the ones walking around with bullet wounds: 45,000 since those stats. That's a freaking city's worth of angry young people prone to "acting out." Lots of attitude. Lots of anger. Lots of bragging rights. We think about them "begatting" a new generation in a violent world that is the norm to them. Papa be bad. Papa be dead. Look at me wrong and you be dead too. So much anger and hatred. Where does it all come from? And what, if anything, can be done about it?

These are the kinds of questions that keep us up at night. With a loaded Smith & Wesson by the bedside.

Vote Today-- Make Seijas Go Away

As much as we would love to hear the fat lady sing tonight, we fear the recall vote will be all for naught-- unless an early Christmas miracle takes place. According to the Miami Herald, Commissioner Seijas and her political machine has amassed over $400,000 to fight the recall vote. $245,680 came in 19 days. She's spent $160,000 on Spanish language radio and TV in the last few weeks alone. In contrast, Citizens For Positive Change and Citizens to Recall County Commissioners have raised $46,000 between them. It's embarrassing. It's moments like this that remind us how useless this blog is at affecting change. Seijas will get all of the old Cubans in Hialeah to vote to keep her in office and there is nothing anybody can do about it. When she wins, emboldened, she will become even more insufferable. Pray for an early Christmas miracle, kids. To help God along, make sure you get out and vote if you live in Hialeah or Miami Lakes today. Polls close at 7pm.

UpDate (12/20): As predicted, Seijas won on the backs of old Cubans bussed in to vote early. It's a sad day in Miville when only 11 percent in the district voted. It also shows how money can force the outcome of an election when the electorate is inured to public corruption and is willing to overlook boorish behavior to vote with their hearts instead of their minds. Until its citizens stop voting ethnically and start voting ethically, Miami will always be a contender and never a champion in the world when it continues to elect bullying, obstructionist, self-serving public officials based on party lines and those divisional lines of race, religion, and place of origin.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Time Magazine Chooses MVB as "Person of the Year"

In the words of the "Kang": "Thank you. Thank you very much."
In the words of Sally Field: "You like me. You really like me."
In the words of Verticus Erectus, publisher of MVB: "What, no honorarius?"

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cool Things Made in Miami: Chopper Nation

Could Miami become the Detroit for choppers?

It will if Victor Cabanas, founder of Chopper Nation has anything to do with it. Because most choppers are hand made one-off customs requiring hundreds of hours to build, average prices hover around $60,000 and go up from there. He, like Henry Ford, realized you could open up the market to more buyers if you could reduce the price of the product. Henry Ford did it through the invention of the assembly line.

Victor Cabanas is doing it by replacing time intensive sheetmetal work-- such as pounding out gas tanks and fenders by hand-- with "stamping" those items from steel presses-- just like they do in automobile plants around the world. Henry Ford is quoted as saying, "You can have any car in any color as long as it is black." Chopper Nation will get you onto a chopper for as little as $25,000 as long as it is black-- the company's bare bones introductory model.

For those with more discretionary income, the sky is the limit. At the top of the line is a chopper pictured here that uses nitrous oxide (NOS) for an added kick Despite using interchangeable parts, paint jobs and accessories like the NOS package still make each bike a custom.

More things we like about Chopper Nation:
  • They make their own distinctive frames that include a twisted downtube. Many custom bike shops-- including the Discovery Channel's famous Orange County Choppers-- buy their frames already pre-made.
  • The location. If you live in south Florida, it couldn't be easier to get to their facility. It's right on the west side of I-95 at NW 108th Street.
  • They will be introducing a "soft tail" design at a comparably low price.
You can read more about Chopper Nation at Crossroads Magazine.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Miami Spaceport

One of the things MVB has been advocating since its short time in cyberspace is for Miami to build the world's first spaceport here and here.

Compared to the competition, we could do it relatively inexpensively and quickly by using the existing jetport lying fallow 35-miles west of Miami in the Everglades. Unfortunately, it looks like we won't be first-- even though ex-Governor Bush had formed a committee to look into making a spaceport a reality in Florida. (As an aside, part of MVB's mission statement besides using the blog to pick up girls is to not only advocate "things" but to actually act on those ideas. In that regard, we got in touch months ago with Bush's point man for the spaceport. We told him about the jetport. He didn't know it existed. We sent him pictures and info and have heard nothing since-- which is normal afterall when you consider that this is the "Rodney Dangerfield of Blogs").

Originally, we thought people were going to be launched into space from airport runways at commercial airports. It turns out these Virgin Galactic rocket planes need lots of room around them, hence the first regularly scheduled spaceflights for civilians will in all likelihood take place somewhere in New Mexico because of the open space and the fact that the state is already constructing a spaceport. Too bad for us because the jetport has the required runway length (over 10,000 feet) and open space-- with the Atlantic Ocean thrown in for good measure. We thought since Sir Richard Branson has a home here, maybe that would be enough to rustle up some interest. Guess not.

Still, in hopes of keeping the idea alive regarding Miami becoming one of the few cities in the world that has a spaceport, we thought our two loyal readers might enjoy this way cool Virgin Galactic video and animation.

UpDate (12/17): It looks like the Feds are a little nervous about flying civilians into space. The FAA will require future space tourists to sign a waiver promising not to sue the government should anything go wrong.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Chihuahuas' Revenge

As MVB Predicted: The Miami Herald's Fiedler Was The Next To Go

As we predicted on October 5th, Tom Fiedler, Executive Editor of the Miami Herald would be the next to go. Officially Fiedler's exit is retirement but we all know the real reason. You just can't go around calling Cubans "Chihuahauas" in this town and expect to get away with it.

As for his replacement Anders Gyllenhaal, editor and senior vice president of The Minneapolis Star Tribune, all we can say is "Good Luck, buddy. You're going to need it."

The clock is ticking down on Umoja Village

As predicted, the government would find a way to remove the homeless and their leader Max Rameau from the makeshift "Umoja Village" they erected on public land in Liberty City 53-days ago. With each passing day, the world is reminded that Miami and the county are doing an embarrassingly shabby job at providing affordable public housing and it officially became too much as the squatters at the "Village" were served notice yesterday when the City of Miami voted 3-2 to change the rules for public assembly. From now on any citizen gathering held on government land not generally open to the public-- must obtain a permit. It becomes final in January when commissioners are required to vote on it again. Only commissioners Marc Sarnoff and Tomas Regalado voted against the rule change sighting First Amendment challenges to free speech and the right to assembly.

Call us jaded from having lived here for so long, but we suspect that pressure was put on commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, an African-American who represents that part of Liberty City, to introduce the rule change. She said she was getting calls from her constituents to get the squatters out of there because they were having a bad influence on the community. In truth, the pressure was probably coming from developers and the mayor's office to make Umoja Village go away and it would look better if the rule change came from one of their own. Why else would Spence-Jones ignore the outrage from activists and leaders from five area churches who want the "Village" to remain?

As reported in the Miami Herald, Rev. Ralph Ross of the Historical Mt. Zion Baptist Church said, "They want to tear this place down. This place says our leaders are not doing what they can for our people." Rev. John Cox of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church added, "With regards to Umoja Village, the church embraces the residents as our brothers and sisters. We regard them as good neighbors-- in fact, better neighbors than some with more means."

Rev. John, too bad your sentiments aren't enough anymore in a world where only money talks.

As for Max Rameau, unless the Miami City Commission comes to its senses in January for the final vote, be prepared for an ignominious, but legal, eviction. Since the law may be against you, your only ally, aside from the church which no one seems to be paying much attention to lately, is the Fourth Estate, the poor's last resort talisman against a bullying, self-aggrandizing government. Keep them abreast of the situation. Make sure you send out press releases to cover "Christmas at the Village". Knowing the press is all over the "Village," maybe, just maybe, the City of Miami won't try to run you and your homeless brothers and sisters out of town. We're sure the last thing they want is another Time magazine cover story with cops behaving very third-worldly cracking heads with the same zeal found in south American dictatorships as they tear down your shantytown and try to bury everything it stood for.

5 Days Left Till Seijas Recall Vote

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Miami-Dade Schools Credo: Winning is Everything Even If It Includes A Gang Bang With A 14-Year Old

Saturday, December 9th, the state Class 5A football title was won by Miami Northwestern High, thanks in part to Antwain Easterling, its 19-year-old running back who "started despite admitting being part of sequential consensual group sex with a 14-year-old girl" in the school's restroom. Following is a remarkable excerpt from a Miami Herald sports editiorial by David J. Neal, a black writer:

"Where was one subatomic particle of halfway decent adult guidance that there are consequences for unacceptable actions? Easterling's mother, other family members, even a man of the cloth, went to the school Friday and made a plea for him to play. Great lesson.

"Northwestern coach Roland Smith didn't say 'no play.' Northwestern principal Dwight Bernard didn't either, and was too gutless to explain to parents of young girls why he allowed a student who said he committed a sex crime on campus to represent the school. Dade County Public Schools superintendent Rudy Crew didn't overrule Bernard.

"In other words, three black men completely abdicated their role as community leaders and role models in a manner that parallels the way too many of my brothers desert their parental responsibility.

"And so is the example set for the continuation of several cycles that's not just sad. It's sick. "

You said it, Mr. Neal-- and better you than O.W.G. Last time I looked, if a white guy ever said anything like this, he'd be tarred and feathered-- figuratively speaking-- by African-Americans. Maybe that's why most of us keep our mouths shut. You can't blame us, even Bill Cosby gets the heat from "you people" when he "says it like it is." Of course, this story on its surface isn't really about race, its about winning at all costs, not doing the right thing, and setting the wrong example for kids, but in America, it's always about race in the end. We urge you to read the editorial before the Herald cuts it from its website.

Oh, yeah, keep an eye on this kid-- we're sure Antwain Easterling will get recruited into a top college and go on to make more money than you and I can ever dream of. As ex-con Don King would say, "Only In America!"

UpDate (2/8): Yesterday, a rather subdued Easterling signed with Ol' Miss.

UpDate (March): Easterling is busted and later fined for marijuana possession.

UpDate (6/4): Because of a grand jury investigation, principal Dwight Bernard is booked into Miami-Dade county jail on two third-degree felony counts of official misconduct. The Miami Herald also notes that Echezabal was promoted to sergeant after the police union complained of retaliation. To see an amazing video of Bernard getting arrested and led to jail plus a look at the state attorney's palatable discuss with school administrators, click here.

UpDate (7/11): Superintendent Rudy Crew fires the head coach and the entire football staff.

UpDate (9/14): Miami Northwestern becomes national champions by beating Texas high school football team Southlake Carroll in front of a national TV audience at SMU's Ford Stadium.

UpDate (2/24/08): Southern Miss suspends Easterling for violation of team rules. It is the second punishment for Easterling who was placed on indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules in November.

It's A Poopy Babalu Blowout!

Somehow MVB got this invitation yesterday. Probably an email blast. We know we're on somebody's list because of the "clicks" on our phone calls. In any event, they want us to perform "Poopy Babalu" at the party. We're thinking about it.

Join your commissioners
(except Miss Goody Two-Shoes Sorenson)
and C. "Boss" Poop
at our
"Poopy Babalu Blowout!"
Tuesday, December 19th at
Club Poop.
  • Come celebrate with us Commissioner Seijas' win over the recall vote!
  • Congratulate three commissioners for their "Poopy Head" Hat Trick!
The Victory Party starts at 6PM.
Free Food and Open Bar
Compliments of our "Special Interest" Friends.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The "Poopy Babalu" Song

Add some mood music while reading the "Poopy Babalu" song:

Friday, December 08, 2006

As 2006 Comes To An End Only One Miami-Dade County commissioner Makes It Through The Year "Poopy Head" Hat Free: Katy Sorenson

As her fellow commissioners danced the "Poopy Babalu" around her this year earning well-deserved "Poopy Head" hats for pettiness and their continued attempt to hold onto power at the expense of the public, only Katy Sorenson finishes the year "Poopy Head" hat-free. Although we may not agree with her on everything, she was at least consistent when it came to voting against issues that threatened citizens' rights. Standing for something bigger than you instead of self-interest is a rare and beautiful thing to see especially in this county. We applaud her for not buckling under the pressures lobbied upon her and resisting becoming a member of "Club Poop."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Miami Dade Commisioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz wins his Third "Poopy Head" Hat!

Somehow it escaped MVB that Miami-Dade county commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz introduced two ordinances that basically make it more difficult for citizens to petition their government. The first one is the "anti-lying" ordinance (passed by a 11-2 vote) which makes it a criminal offense for petitioners to intentionally lie to induce voters to sign a petition. On the surface, it seems like a good idea. Digging a little deeper reveals a major flaw: how can you prove the "lying" is intentional. Maybe the petitioner is just ill-informed. Or didn't express him or herself correctly. What really matters is how the petition is worded. MVB believes it puts another undue burden on those who want to petition their government. Besides, there are already state laws giving prosecutors legal means to fight petition fraud.

The other ordinance (passed 12-1) requires a separate piece of paper for every signature and allows people to remove their names after15-days. MVB believes this puts an undue financial and bureaucratic burden upon the petitioning group and, although it may not seem unconstitutional in this third world government, it reeks of unconstitutionality outside it.

Tuesday, commissioner Diaz twisted the knife in a little deeper when he introduced another bill that would allow only registered voters to circulate petitions and collect signatures as well as requiring petitions be translated into Spanish and Creole. Basically, instead of having a choice to hire professional companies to run your petition campaign that reside outside the county, petitioners would be forced to shop from an artificially reduced pool of limited resources that could lead to rising costs for the petitioners, costs that might make your right to petition cost prohibitive and limit your effectiveness. Translating petitions into three languages that require one summary page per signature escalates the cost of everyone's right to petition their government and seems unnecessary and unfair. It also begs the question, where will it stop? There is a large Russian speaking population in northeast Dade. Shouldn't there be a Russian language translation? What about our large Portuguese speaking population? Shouldn't they be included too? It looks like Diaz-- and the commissioners that voted in favor of these ideas-- is hiding behind the appearance of doing the right thing for the people at their expense, i.e., he's smiling perversely when telling you it's for your own good while usurping your rights with a freedom flushing enema. For that, we happily bestow his third "Poopy Head" hat. He now has risen to the "Top o' the Heap" with commissioner Seijas and has been given a new nickname: Jose "Poopy" Diaz.

Because they backed these ideas, the rest of the Miami-Dade county commission also earns another "Poopy Head" hat. The only one "Poopy Head" hat free is Commissioner Katy Sorenson who has managed to refrain from stealing citizen rights by voting against these cockamamied ideas every time they come up. For that, MVB has something special planned because we believe in recognizing the positive as well as the negative when it comes to local politics. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Countdown to January 23rd: Michael Putney explains why it is a good idea to vote for the strong mayor referendum

Michael Putney has been a a respected journalist in our community for a long, long time. Cerebral, even-handed, he's WPLG-Channel 10 ABC affiliate's senior political reporter who occasionally writes op-ed pieces for the Miami Herald. Today's Herald article nicely sums up the case for voting for the strong mayor referendum on January 23rd and should be read by anyone still wondering how to vote. It's a nice summary of all the bureacratic governmental BS that's been going on during the last year and justifies our begrudgingly bestowed "Poopy Head" hats to some commissioners and county manager George Burgess. His suggestions at the end are quite good for creating a more accountable government.

It's time to restructure county government

I got taken to the woodshed for my last column, which recited some of the latest instances of waste, fraud, corruption and mismanagement in Miami-Dade County government. And I wondered who, if anyone, was minding the store down at County Hall.

George Burgess summoned me to his 29th floor office to let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he is. What's more, the Miami-Dade County manager made a fairly compelling case to back up his claim. True, he has dumped, demoted or transferred several county executives and other employees who screwed up. Also true, he has replaced them with generally capable managers who seem to be doing a good job. Burgess and his assistant managers and department directors work closely with the county's top internal cop, Inspector General Chris Mazzella, who has a green light to ferret out any county worker who cuts ethical corners or breaks the law.

''There will be cheaters who will figure out ways to cheat the system to the end of time,'' Burgess told me, ``but we're going to find them and get rid of them. I want these corruption issues attacked and exposed.''

Whispering approval

I have no doubt Burgess is sincere. Yet why did I get a bunch of e-mails after my last column from current and former Miami-Dade employees telling me that lack of meaningful oversight in county government is even worse than I reported? Why did so many line, mid-level and even high-ranking county employees take me aside in recent days to whisper in my ear that my Who's minding the store? column was right on the mark?

I left Burgess' office a believer in his dedication to ridding the county of employees who want to wrongly profit from their positions or get a free ride. I also left with a few bruises, but I get paid to take lumps from time to time from those who disagree with what I write or say. Still, it's incompetent or dishonest county workers who should be leaving Burgess' office with bruises and without their jobs. For better or worse, kicking butt is simply not his style.

This drumbeat of bad news -- hundreds of unauthorized cellphones at Water & Sewer, a mail room clerk allegedly stealing $1 million, firefighters on bogus ''fire watch'' assignments, a $1 billion cost over-run on the North Terminal at MIA, phony contractor licenses, fraudulent tuition reimbursements, etc. -- all redounds in favor of Mayor Carlos Alvarez's campaign for strong mayor. I have little doubt that it will pass next month. But anyone who thinks that creating a strong mayor will alone stop or reduce the mismanagement and corruption in Miami-Dade government is kidding himself. It might be a step in the right direction, however, in tandem with several other reform measures.

• Create a county commission with, say, six at-large seats and seven from districts. That would lessen the parochialism that now pervades the commission and still allow for minorities to be elected.

• Pay commissioners a reasonable full-time salary and require that it be their full-time job. Commissioner Carlos Gimenez proposes $114,000 annually (half the mayor's salary) plus reasonable benefits.

• Break out a couple of the county's largest departments (Port of Miami, Housing Agency) from the manager's portfolio and provide oversight with citizen boards similar to the Public Health Trust that runs Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The Jan. 23 vote on strong mayor should be just the start of a discussion about restructuring Miami-Dade government. I suspect the mayor would take part, but I have my doubts about the commission. Last week they elected one of their most mediocre members as their chairman and passed resolutions that criminalize petition drives. And in a fit of pique, Commissionaer Natacha Seijas put an item on yesterday's agenda that would cut the mayor's salary in half.

Can we realistically expect the 30,000 Miami-Dade County employees to behave more ethically and honestly with the example set by the elected officials who lead them?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Meet Lincoln Basel, MVB's Resident Art Critic

Lincoln Basel has returned from Boston for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach art fair running December 7-10th. The following interview with our resident art critic was conducted by staff writer Max "Gumsandals" Cohen in the lobby of the Delano Hotel.

MVB: Welcome back to Miami Beach, Lincoln.
LB: What a smart outfit, Max Cohen. I just love those retro Hawaiian shirts you wear. Is that Rayon? I don't think cotton is up to capturing those neon colors.
MVB: It's a polyester blend of something or other.
LB: And the sandals, with you they're never out of fashion.
MVB: Thanks. So what do you think about this year's fair?
LB: Well, as you know, my favorite artist Verticus Erectus won't be exhibiting this year because he got involved with this cockamamied blog and that is a real shame.
MVB: But there will still be thousands of artists from around the world to pick and choose from.
LB: That is true, Max Cohen, but for me the joy is in the discovery of the undiscovered artist-- like Verticus Erectus on that back alley wall in your "arts district."
MVB: Wynwood. Would you mind telling us how that happened?
LB: It would be my pleasure, Max Cohen. I remember it like it was just yesterday. I had grown bored with the Euro trash and their feeble attempt at overpriced art in the "official" fair and decided to catch a shuttle out to your-- I shudder to say-- "arts district;" a very gruesome place-- especially at night-- of non-descript warehouses and empty streets that at any other time of the year would instill fear in the bravest of men. And I must say, I had second thoughts about getting off the shuttle when I saw the place, but I'm always up for an adventure and decided to take the plunge. I know I must have stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone was wearing black except for me. I, of course, chose to dress to the nines in my custom tailored white tuxedo. Although I must admit I admired the area's laid back approach to art what with "art lovers" crowding the sidewalks and drinking bottled domestic beer, unfortunately, nothing caught my eye until I stepped around a rowdy bunch of art connoisseurs and happened to glance down a back alley. A small group had gathered around something glowing on the dark wall. Neon it was and I am such a sucker for things that glow and glitter that I had to see it. It was a special moment, Mr. Max Cohen. The crowd must have seen me coming because they parted on cue-- I swear this is true-- with the absolutely heavenly sounds of a harp. I felt I had stepped into the Twilight Zone it felt so surreal. As it turned out, it wasn't as surreal as I had thought. There really was a harpist there in a long formal gown, sitting on an upended trash can next to the painting. And a man. He was urinating on the wall on the opposite side of the painting. I couldn't tell if this was some sort of performance piece or what. The smell was atrocious. As it turned out, it was the artist himself, Verticus Erectus, relieving himself in front of everyone without a care in the world.
MVB: He has an enlarged prostate.
LB: So I soon discovered. At the time, however, the crowd mistook his actions for something more meaningful than that. When someone began to applaud, I guess no one wanted to look bad by missing the "deeper meaning" and soon everyone was applauding. Until he turned around, that is. He was so enraged he didn't wait to put his privates away and hosed the crowd with what I can only guess was a bloated bladder full of beer.
MVB: Ugh. Did he get you too?
LB: He surely did, Mr. Max Cohen. All over my nice new tux. I was stunned. Horrified. I couldn't move. And such a Mr. Dirtymouth. I've never heard such filthy language.
MVB: What did you do?
LB: Well, my first thought was to smack him across the head with the harp but some art lovers beat me to the punch, so to speak, by pummeling him to a bloody pulp. I must say, I was sickened by what I saw and had to step back as the crowd-- women included-- kicked the living bejesus out of him. And you know what he did, Mr. Max Cohen?
MVB: No, what did he do?
LB: He yelled at the harpist to keep on playing.
MVB: You're shitting me.
LB: No I am not, Mr. Max Cohen, Mr. Dirtymouth. And you know what?
MVB: What?
LB: She did.
MVB: Fvcking A!
LB: Is everyone at this blog a Mr. Dirtymouth?
MVB: Sorry, Lincoln, please go on.
LB: Anyway, when I turned my head away I saw the painting. It looked to be hovering in front of the wall. I was transfixed. The juxtaposition of the heavenly music with the brutal bashing of Mr. Verticus Erectus and his floating painting on the dark alley wall was too much for yours truly. It actually brought me to tears. When I couldn't stand it any longer, I pulled out my Walther PPK and fired it once in the air.
MVB: You fired a gun?
LB: Not just any gun, Mr. Dirtymouth Max Cohen. It's James Bond's weapon of choice.
MVB: Don't you think that was a little drastic?
LB: Not for art. I haven't had a piece of art reach out and touch me like that since 1969 when I stumbled onto Adam Turtle's work in Coconut Grove when I was a pot smoking hippie. Anyway, the startled crowd stopped beating up Verticus Erectus and, after gathering their composure, began applauding me as if I were part of the "performance." And then they started applauding themselves because it occurred to them that they too were part of the performance. Before you knew it, they were helping Verticus Erectus up and brushing him off and thanking him for the "experience." It was then that I realized I was witnessing pure bloody genius at work. Here was an artist who had covered all the bases. He had left nothing to chance and was brave enough to risk his own life for his art. Oh, yeah, and the use of neon is always a plus.
MVB: Unbelievable.
LB: Unless you were there, Mr. Dirtymouth Max Cohen, unless you were there.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cool Things Made In Miami: Krinklglo

Want Fiberglas reinforced plastic (FRP) panels up to 5x20 feet that glow in the dark? There is only one place to buy them in the whole world and that's where they're made-- right here in Miami. The glow is as intense as Kryptonite. Imagine whole buildings clad in this stuff. It would be like looking at Oz at night. The company, Dimensional Plastics has been located in Hialeah since 1963 producing its patented line of custom FRP panel stained glass substitutes called Krinklglas. Although they do custom "stained glass" work to your specs, the company is primarily a manufacturer of a variety of decorative FRP panels with machining and cutting-- they can be cut and drilled like wood-- done on site by the buyer. Another product it produces, Panel Blok, is an economical and quick solution to glass block. Because it comes in different thicknesses, the thinner panels can be bent into tight and undulating curves glass block can't match. Best yet, the thicker varieties meet the tough Miami-Dade County code for hurricane panels and the thickest ones will stop bullets.