Sunday, April 29, 2012

Let's open the Random Pixels mailbag


I just got this email from a loyal Random Pixels reader:
Dear Random Pixels

Yesterday, some friends and I were discussing the Miami Herald.

One of them brought up the fact that the Herald broke the story in the 1980s of the extra-marital affair Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart was having with an unmarried woman.

And that got us to wondering: number one, has the Herald ever reported on other instances of public figures cheating on their spouses or their private domestic issues, and, number two, has the Herald ever reported on the extra-marital affairs that have involved their own employees?

Signed,

Puzzled in Pinecrest
Yes, "Puzzled," the Herald has reported on extra-marital affairs of other public figures.

One fairly recent example: The Herald's Joan Fleischman reported that a gay Miami TV anchor had filed a "domestic violence complaint" against his ex-partner. Fleischman also published private emails between the anchor and his "family therapist."

A more recent example was a Herald report on an alleged tryst between Miami Heat star Glen Rice and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the 1980s.

As to the second part of your question: Yes, there have been instances of married Miami Herald staffers carrying on affairs.

And, because those staffers' names are published in the paper everyday; one could argue that they too, are public figures. But you're out of your mind if you expect the Herald to publish anything about those affairs.

One affair the Herald managed to cover up was between Fabiola Santiago and her immediate superior at the Herald's sister publication, El Nuevo Herald.

Santiago was the Spanish-language paper's city editor in 1989. When Santiago was promoted to managing editor by the man with whom she was having affair, her colleagues staged a revolt.

The Herald's publisher at the time, David Lawrence, stepped in and in 1993, Santiago was eventually transferred to the English language side of news operations.

In Nov. 1993, the Herald published a short item that said Santiago's paramour and boss "has taken a sabbatical through the end of the year, when he will seek new career opportunities." How's that for corporate double-speak?

But that was then, and this is now.

Last September, Santiago's bosses at the Herald finally considered her sufficiently rehabilitated. So much so that they named her the Herald's newest columnist.

And, it wasn't long before she climbed up on her moral high horse and started wagging her finger at those she considered morally and ethically deficient.

Some of those on the receiving end of her rants have included a Cuban cardinal, a federal immigration judge, people who won't stop texting, taking phone calls and talking to each other in movie theaters, and a Broward judge who ordered a man accused of domestic abuse "to buy his wife flowers and a card, and take her out to dinner."

Santiago's most recent tongue-lashing was aimed squarely at Miami filmmaker Billy Corben.

Corben made news recently when he was cited in a defense attorney's motion for a new trial for a Florida City man convicted of armed robbery.

The lawyer argued in her motion that Corben - who was the trial’s jury foreman - violated the trial judge's orders by sending Twitter and Facebook messages to followers about his experiences in court.

In her column in Saturday's paper, Santiago called Corben's tweets, "silly musings." She characterized  Corben as "condescending" and called him a "tweeting twit."  How original.

Corben told me yesterday that Santiago interviewed him for about an hour prior to writing her column.

Corben says he told her several times that he was sorry if his tweets had "created any more work for the judge and the state attorney."

But, none of that got into Santiago's column.

Instead, she writes, "You’d think Corben would at least be humble and regretful, but no: 'I did a very good job, if not an excellent job.'"

Corben told me,  "She blatantly and disgracefully misrepresented my feelings."

Corben also told me the story he told to Santiago was essentially the same thing he told to radio hosts Paul and Young Ron last Wednesday.

I've embedded the interview below.

Billy Corben on Paul and Young Ron 4-25-2012 by rakonturMiami

Corben's friend and attorney, David O. Markus has written a letter to Herald editors in defense of the filmmaker.

In it he says...
If Billy Corben edited his movies the same way that Fabiola Santiago edited her interview with Billy for her recent Miami Herald op-ed, he would have been run out of the movie business.

Santiago’s opinion piece is really just a personal attack on Billy, which for lack of substance, resorts to name calling: for example, she called him “condescending,” interested in “self-promotion,” “stupid,” and a “twit.”

Why so harsh? Not because Corben tweeted about the case he was participating in and not because Corben violated any court order; he certainly didn’t.

It appears that Santiago was upset because Billy uses social media, something she appears to find disdainful. But all he did was shed some light on the process of being a juror -- like what food was available in the cafeteria (bistec with rice and beans), what movies are shown (old Sandra Bullock films), and the broken elevators.

There is nothing wrong with shining some sunlight on the intimidating and stressful process of going to be a juror. In fact, Santiago herself wrote an article for the Herald last year about jury service and like Billy, made observations about the food (“sturdy cortaditos and buttery Cuban toast”).
The Miami Herald owes Billy Corben an apology for allowing such a shabby smear job to be printed in its pages.

But, I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Stuff we like



President Obama at last night's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

My favorite line of the evening was Obama's shot at the Huffington Post, "offering some sarcastic congratulations for its recent Pulitzer prize."
There’s no one else out there linking to the kind of hard-hitting journalism that the Huffington Post is linking to every single day. And you don’t pay them! That’s a great business model.
The president got off some other good lines including:
"Anyway, it’s great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom — or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper."

"Our chaperone for the evening is Jimmy Kimmel, who is perfect for the job since most of tonight’s audience is in his key demographic — people who fall asleep during 'Nightline.'"

"Jimmy [Kimmel] got his start years ago on 'The Man Show.' In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception."

"I have not seen 'The Hunger Games.' Not enough class warfare for me."

On Harvard degrees and Mitt Romney: "I have one, he has two. What a snob."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Saturday Night Chuckle is brought to you by...

...the weekend crew at MiamiHerald.com

This has been on the Herald's homepage for most of the day.


And here's what one of my Facebook friends had to say about it.




Friday, April 27, 2012

The New York Times reviews Marlins Park


Kimmelman
New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman reviews the new Marlins Park. The review appeared on page one of Saturday's Times.

His introduction:
A Ballpark That May Be Louder Than the Fans

By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN

MIAMI — After 20 years of retro-style ballparks since the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, nearly all decked out with brick facades and calculated quirks that came to seem as predictable and interchangeable as the old doughnut-shaped arenas, Major League Baseball has its first unapologetic 21st-century stadium.
On the economic benefits:
Economic development is supposed to follow — that was the rationale for the public financing that covered most of the $634 million project ($515 million for the park itself) and contributed to the recall of Miami-Dade County’s mayor. Cities are always building new stadiums with the justification that they’ll catalyze the local economy. They rarely do.
On attendance:
The challenge now will be filling the park’s seats. With a capacity of 37,442, this is one of the smallest arenas in the big leagues, but Miamians in droves have notoriously stayed away from Marlins games. Mr. Loria and the city are banking, as so many other owners and cities have, that a new stadium can change a team’s and a neighborhood’s fortunes.

Can it? The Miami Marlins, until this year the Florida Marlins, have labored since their inaugural season in 1993 in a 75,000-seat suburban football arena, where the Dolphins play, which can be as much as an hour’s drive from downtown, with lousy sightlines, crippling summertime humidity and no roof. The Miami Herald’s Marlins beat reporter, Clark Spencer, told me on a recent night that he used to pass the time with colleagues in the press booth, counting attendance.

“Once we counted 80-something people,” he said, “and that included some confused foreign tourists.”
The consensus:
“A lot of us weren’t expecting something this nice,” said Adam Brownstein, a 38-year-old native Miamian, who spoke for what seemed like every resident I met.
Read the complete review by clicking here.




Thursday, April 26, 2012

In case you missed it...

At a City Hall rally Thursday afternoon, Miami Beach resident Mike Burke politely
discussed the city's problems as Mayor Matti Bower listened intently.

...there was some kind of demonstration at Miami Beach City Hall Thursday.

Not much was accomplished, but it made for some outstanding teevee.

If you missed it, here are the highlights:

  • The participants all pretty much agreed on one thing: It's time to get rid of Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower and City Manager Jorge Gonzalez.

  • Former Miami Herald reporter and Beach resident Edna Buchanan told Local 10's Michael Putney, "For the decade [Gonzalez has] been city manager, our city has turned into a third world country."

  • Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower got into several shouting matches with some of the protestors. At one point it appeared that her eyeballs were on the verge of exploding. (It's just a hunch, but as I watched news footage of Matti engaging one protestor after another, I couldn't help thinking that she had seen this movie one time too many.)


  • Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower shouts at resident Mike Burke.
    Mike Burke shouts back. Both point fingers at each other.

  • CBS4 showed video of brand new Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez observing the action from the second floor of city hall.




  • In the run-up to today's demonstration, there was an exchange of emails, embedded below) between City Manager Gonzalez and Miami Beach Commissioner Ed "Mad Dog" Tobin.

    In one of the emails, Tobin complains: "Commissioners are not privy to ANY matters of employee misconduct or malfeasance. We get that type of information from newspapers, blogs and the rumor mill."

    (Note to "Mad Dog" from Random Pixels: It's not my fault that I have better sources than you.)

  • The next regular Miami Beach Commission meeting is set for May 9. With any luck at all, that proceeding will make today's demonstration seem tame by comparison.

  • Apr.24 Tobin/manager Exchange



    Sept. 22, 1988: Just another day on the job

    Sept. 22, 1988. It's a hot day in Miami and I'm at home doing not much of anything.

    Suddenly, my pager goes off.

    It's the Associated Press photo editor's number. Looks like I'm going to work today.

    I call him. He says, "Get down to federal court and see Milt."

    By "Milt," he means Milt Sosin, the legendary retired Miami News reporter who is the courthouse reporter for Associated Press.

    Officially Milt's title is freelance reporter, or "stringer." Unofficially, he's the A.P.'s courthouse "fixer."

    Judges who send convicted criminals to prison for decades without so much as batting an eye, smile when Milt walks into their chambers, unannounced.

    Milt once convinced the U.S. Marshals to walk notorious drug dealer Benjamin Barry Kramer out an unused side door just so I could get some shots of him.

    Anyway, the photo editor tells me that Milt has "arranged" for me to get some shots of a witness in a trial.

    He says the trial isn't that big of a deal, but this witness was causing quite a commotion in the courtroom and had to be taken out. "On top of that, he's dressed in garish colors," says the photo editor.

    Well, if that's the case I ask, why don't I just wait outside and get a shot when leaves? Sounds like he's easy to spot, I say.

    "That's not possible," says the photo editor. "The witness is now in custody and behind bars."

    "Just get down there and see Milt," the photo editor says for the fourth time.

    I rush down to the courthouse and meet Milt inside. He takes me to a small room. He opens the door gingerly and we walk in.

    That's when I get my first glimpse of the "witness."

    He's definitely behind bars.

    He takes one look at me and my cameras and starts squawking up a storm. I'm guessing that like most jailbirds, he's camera shy.

    But it won't do him any good to complain. I'm going to get what I came here for.

    Scroll down to see his photo and the story that ran in newspapers the next day.














    JUDGE HEARS TESTIMONY, WHISTLES AND BIRD CALLS

    September 23, 1988
    Associated Press

    Five people accused of illegally importing endangered parrots and other species worth about $250,000 from Cuba went on trial Thursday as six caged birds fluttered and made noises in the courtroom.

    One huge scarlet macaw occasionally made a low sound that its caretaker said was agua, Spanish for water, while an Amazon parrot in a foyer outside the courtroom periodically made wolf whistles.

    The colorful exhibits were part of the scene in and around the courtroom of Chief U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King, presiding in the trial of four men and one woman charged with smuggling the exotic birds earlier this year aboard a boat found in the Florida Keys.

    The birds also included 193 finches, 48 Amazon parrots and a mustached parakeet. The parrots can be bought cheaply abroad and sold for $1,500 to $3,000 each in the United States.

    The defendants, Carlos Fernandez, 27, Jose Flores, 24, Felix Valdes, 39, Nancy Lopez, 50, and Rigoberto Cherta Garcia, 42, are Cuban nationals who live in Miami with legal alien status.

    ''The government will show that these birds are endangered species, that the defendants knew,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Gelber. ''These birds are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars -- a figure approaching a quarter of a million dollars.''

    Defense attorney Ellis Rubin believes the government's case is really ''for the birds.''

    Rubin told the jury of seven women and five men that the government would seek to prove ''solely by circumstantial evidence'' that the birds came from Cuba. The attorney said the defendants are breeders who were moving the birds from Miami to Marathon in the Florida Keys when they were arrested.

    The U.S. Coast Guard received a distress signal from a boat in the Florida Straits on April 3, which led to the discovery of a boat at Matecumbe Key with the birds aboard.

    U.S. Customs Service agents said correspondence on the ship, including a letter from a woman asking to buy ''a girdle, size medium, that I need very much to go out,'' showed the boat had been in Cuba. They also found Cuban coins, a bill from a hotel and souvenirs of Cuba.

    Each defendant is charged with three felony counts, one of conspiracy to violate the Lacy Act and two counts each of violating the act. If convicted, they face a maximum five-year prison term and a $250,000 fine.


    Is Gretchen Carlson of Fox News a hypocrite, ....



    ...an idiot, or all of the above?

    Wednesday morning on "Fox and Friends," she opened her pie hole again without knowing what she was talking about.

    Speaking of President Obama's early Wednesday appearance on Jimmy Fallon, Carlson said, "I think it's nutso."

    "I think it's very effective for President Obama," she remarked later. "I personally do not agree with the highest office of the land, the most important figure in the world going on these comedy shows. I think it lowers the status of the office."

    You mean like this, Gretchen?

    Of course, with some minimal fact-checking, Carlson would have learned that many U.S. presidents have engaged in schtick on TV.

    But, as we all know by now, the stupidity of Fox News hosts is exceeded only by that of the people who watch Fox.

    Let's go to the tape.




    gretchen carlson, hot, gretchen carlson legs, hot fox news hosts hot


    Wednesday, April 25, 2012

    Stuff we like

    Filmmaker Films Daughter Every Week for Twelve Years, Puts Together Time-Lapse Video

    Filmmaker Frans Hofmeester spent the past twelve years hovering over his daughter Lotte with a video camera — as fathers are wont to do.

    Recently, he took snippets of footage from all 600+ weeks he had on film, and pieced together this mesmerizing time-lapse: Birth to 12 years in 2 minutes, 45 seconds.
    -via Gawker

    Lotte Time Lapse: Birth to 12 years in 2 min. 45. from Frans Hofmeester on Vimeo.



    Facebook photo of the day

    Check out this photo that someone posted today on Facebook.

    Click to enlarge.

    That's Miami Beach Commissioner Jerry Libbin on the far left, and his colleague, Commissioner Michael Gongora on the far right.

    If you just landed on earth in a flying saucer; after looking at the picture you might surmise that everything is just fine on Miami Beach.

    But, you'd be wrong. So very wrong.

    Today, I emailed the photo to a few friends and asked them to write a caption for the photo. For obvious reasons, all of them asked that I not use their names.

    Friend #1: "When Jerry talks, Michael is ALL ears."

    Friend #2: "It's nice to see that two potential mayoral rivals can get together when it comes to the fabulous SoBe life."

    Friend #3: "I'm staying away from this one. ;)"





    Obama wows them in Boulder

    15 Pictures Of A Colorado Dive Bar Going Nuts For Obama

    "The president dropped by a The Sink, a popular bar and pizza joint in Boulder earlier tonight. Excitement ensued, yogurt was spilled, and nobody was as excited as Madelyn Starkey."
    -via BuzzFeed


    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Who wants to help an 'Angel?'

    To the regular readers of Random Pixels.

    I received this email today from the Miami Police Department.

    If you are able to help, please do so.

    And please forward the link to your friends.

    Let's see if we can all come together and help this kid!

    Thank you!


    2012 COPS BIKE FOR CEREBRAL PALSY

    On May 2, 2012, at 7 A.M., an elite team of Miami Police Departments’ personnel will embark on a 3-day journey from Bongos Cuban Café in downtown Miami to Bongos Cuban Café in Downtown Disney, Orlando.
    This ride will benefit a young girl afflicted with a horrible disease. This special little girl, Angelyn Gutierrez, who is 9-years-old cannot walk, sit or stand without support. She is a straight “A” student and a very lovable child. The main purpose of this ride is to assist her family in the purchase of a suitable transportation van for her needs.

    The Miami Police Department is asking everyone to open up their hearts and support this worthwhile cause that has been put together by these officers. The monetary goal for this van is $35,000. Individual and corporate sponsors are needed to fulfill Angelyns wish. The following information provided is the contact information for any donations.

    MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO:

    JIREH IS MY PROVIDER INC.

    PLEASE SIGN ANGELYNN GUTIERREZ ON THE MEMO LINE
    MAIL CHECKS TO 710 S.W. 12 AVE., MIAMI, FLORIDA, 33130.

    100% OF THE PROCEEDS’ WILL GO TO ANGELYN’S FUND DRIVE.

    YOU CAN ALSO DONATE AT:

    WWW.GOFUNDME.COM/COPSFORANGELYN

    YOU CAN ALSO MAKE DIRECT DEPOSIT TO:

    BANK: CHASE

    NAME: Jireh Is My Provider, INC

    ACCOUNT #: 3027890986

    TYPE OF ACCOUNT: SAVINGS

    Click to enlarge.




    The way we were... Key West 'secedes' from the U.S., 1982

    From the Miami News, April 23, 1982.

    30 years ago this week...Key West "secedes" from the United States and renames itself the Conch Republic.

    Click image to enlarge.



    Lawyer wants new trial for convicted robber because of filmmaker juror’s tweets

    Last February, Miami filmmaker Billy Corben was called up for jury duty.

    As he waited to be picked to hear a case, the hyperkinetic Corben pursued his favorite daily activity: Sending out never-ending streams of tweets and Facebook posts.

    He probably never dreamed those short messages would get him some ink in the daily paper.

    But they did.

    The Miami Herald's David Ovalle reports that...
    Angelo Williams
    A Florida City man wants his armed robbery conviction thrown out because his trial’s jury foreman, filmmaker Billy Corben, sent Twitter and Facebook messages to followers about his experiences in court.

    Corben, maker of the Miami-based documentaries "Cocaine Cowboys" and "The U," never sent messages about the facts of the case or identified the defendant.

    Instead, Corben tweeted that he got picked for a jury, noting that the aging courthouse boasted only one working elevator, the wireless internet service was woeful and the cafeteria lunch special was sautéed bistec with white rice and red beans. He joked about being held in contempt of court for tweeting.

    But the lawyer for Angelo Williams, (pictured above left) points out, in a motion, (embedded below) filed in Miami-Dade circuit court, that one follower wrote back on Facebook, “We’ll make sure you put the bad guy away!”

    “He flouted the repeated and clear command of this court by openly inviting input and commentary about Mr. Williams’ trial,” defense lawyer Sara Yousuf wrote in her motion.
    But Corben - who is in New York attending the Tribeca Film Festival - told the Herald's Ovalle, “The experience reaffirmed my faith in the jury system,” Corben said. “We could have had a verdict in 15 minutes. But we sat there for hours to get this right, and went over the jury instructions and charges meticulously. A man’s liberty and freedom were at stake.”

    Ovalle reports that "Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jose Fernandez will consider [Yousuf's] motion Tuesday morning in court."

    But, we'll have to wait until Ovalle files his story to learn the judge's decision. He told me late Monday night that he doesn't use Twitter.

    __________

    Read Ovalle's full report by clicking here.

    Read some of Corben's courthouse tweets I posted on this blog last February by clicking here.

    Corben


    Monday, April 23, 2012

    The happiest cop in South Florida is...



    ...Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez.

    Late last month Martinez assumed command of what might charitably be called "a mildly dysfunctional police department."

    Almost two weeks ago, the FBI busted five Miami Beach city code enforcement officials and two fire inspectors after they were caught trying to extort money from a nightclub manager in exchange for overlooking code violations.

    It's a case that some say Martinez's department should have cracked. Added to that, the Miami Beach Police department is still reeling from the repercussions it felt following a wild police shootout last Memorial Day weekend and a July 4th weekend incident that will forever link the phrase "Miami Beach Police" with the words "all-terrain vehicle."

    However, in spite of all that, I have a feeling that Martinez is breathing a sigh of relief today.

    And that's because he's no longer in charge of South Florida's most dysfunctional police agency.

    That dubious distinction now belongs to James Loftus, Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

    Click to enlarge.

    Late last night we learned that back on January 31 - according to an official email - the geniuses at something called the Miami-Dade Police Homeland Security Bureau were gathering intel on Miami photographer and activist Carlos Miller by monitoring his Facebook page.

    Click image to enlarge.

    Eleven hours later, one of the email's recipients, Miami-Dade Police Major Nancy Perez, ordered Miller's arrest on charges of obstruction of justice and resisting arrest while he was covering the Jan. 31 Occupy Miami eviction.

    Miller learned of the email's existence following a public records request.

    Miller also writes that the Homeland Security Bureau's commander, Miami-Dade Police Major Glenn Stolzenberg, "received an email from fellow officers informing him about my article in which I first had identified Perez as my arresting officer, he stated the following in his response...
    "Thanks Maggie. Please have someone take a look at this. There maybe a statute that deals with posting pictures of LE officers."
    What's frightening about that email snippet is that 25 years ago Stolzenberg, (pictured below) did a stint as a Miami-Dade Police department spokesman. He knows very well that it's perfectly legal to photograph cops and publish their pictures.

    Miami-Dade Police Major Glenn Stolzenberg on the look-out for terrorists
    at a recent Super Bowl.
    Miami New Times managing editor Tim Elfrink argues that if the cops were in fact monitoring Miller's Facebook page, it should have been evident to even the least experienced among them that Miller's schtick goes something like this:

    1) Show up where there are lots of police.
    2) Take their pictures.
    3) Get arrested.
    4) Go to jail.

    Miller, who at times, can be annoying and abrasive, doesn't exactly fit the profile of a terrorist. There's nothing on his Facebook page that's even remotely subversive. That's pretty much evident to everyone who visits it. Everyone except Major Glenn Stlozenberg and the super-sleuths at Miami-Dade's Homeland Security Bureau.

    Sleep well, Miami-Dade taxpayers...Major Stolzenberg is on the case!

    So, there you have it. It appears that Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus is now in charge of of South Florida's Most Dysfunctional Police Department. Well played, Director Loftus, well played!




    How bad do things have to get? [Part II]

    Jorge Gonzalez and Ed Tobin
    The Miami Herald says there's plenty of blame to go around on Miami Beach. From an editorial in yesterday's paper:
    Corruption on the Beach

    OUR OPINION: Before targeting city manager, commission must acknowledge own culpability.

    Given Miami Beach’s decades-old history of crime, corruption and payola in sunshine — stretching back to the days of mobster Meyer Lansky, no less — there’s deeply engrained precedent leading to the latest corruption scandal. Rooting it out never has been easy. But if the past is prologue, is anyone really surprised at the most recent arrests?

    Five city code inspectors, two city firefighters and a Miami-Dade police officer are accused of drug-trafficking and taking bribes from a club owner to overlook code violations and tax debt. The club doors stayed open, and everybody was happy — including allegedly crooked city employees who, over time, were $25,000 richer.

    Now comes the blame game. Could City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, in the position for 12 years, have been more proactive given chronic trouble in several city departments during and preceding his tenure? Sure. It’s a relief to see him get out in front of this most recent bad news and engage outside agencies in the quest to clean up city government. He says that an FBI multiagency task force will probe city departments; the county’s Inspector General, Chris Mazzella, will bring the Beach under his purview. The IG can initiate investigations, pursuing hotline tips. The county’s ethics commission will create more-comprehensive training for city employees; and Mr. Gonzalez reassigned a law-enforcement officer to help run code enforcement.
    [...]
    Mr. Gonzalez, indeed, has to account for what has happened and how he plans to move the city forward. But commissioners can’t squirm or blame their way out of giving the public an accounting of their actions — or inaction. As elected officials who set policy, they need to come clean.
    This morning - perhaps in response to the Herald editorial - Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin sent this email to the mayor, city manager and his colleagues on the commission:
    From: "Tobin, Ed"
    Date: April 23, 2012 7:45:51 AM EDT
    To: "Jorge Gonzalez" < JorgeGonzalez@miamibeachfl.gov>
    Cc: "Deede Weithorn" , "Jerry Libbin" , "Jonah Wolfson" , "Jorge Exposito" , "Michael Gongora" < MGongora@miamibeachfl.gov>, "Matti Bower" < MayorBower@miamibeachfl.gov>, "Ed Tobin" , "Ed Tobin"

    Subject: The Public and the elected officials have a right to know

    For the entire term for which I have served I have faced enormous hurdles whenever I sought information relative to mistakes,inefficiency, incompetence, overspending, waste,criminal conduct or lack of oversight.You have always fought hard and successfully to keep these matters strictly within your purview citing your management privilege.

    Commissioners only receive information through you. All hand picked department heads and executive level employees for which you have long standing friendships guard this information insuring information of any negative nature whatsoever does not go to a Commissioner.

    This culture trickles into every aspect of the City as employees consistently omit information to the elected officials of fail to perform basic due dilgence that may suggest an alternate course of action different from that of their recommendation.

    Of course we cannot exercise any effective oversight over management when any information that may tend to suggest mistakes,inefficiency, incompetence, overspending, waste,criminal conduct or lack of oversight by management is withheld from us (unless it reaches the Miami Herald). The most essential of information can no longer be kept from the public and their elected officials.

    Specifically as it relates to the pending criminal investigations I want to be present with you and the Mayor as a representative of my fellow Commissioners for all matters relative to any criminal wrong doing to insure that we receive all information unfiltered and that we provide all information unfiltered to the public at the appropriate time.

    Without Commission access to all information in real time we will never know:
    What about our organization allowed this to happen? Did we see signs of wrong doing? Should we have seen signs ? Did we cover up or ignore matters that would have lead to the discovery of wrong doing?

    These questions were never explored by the Commission in the building department corruption scandal because you managed the information.

    Respectfully,

    Ed Tobin

    Sent from my iPad
    So, just how serious are the city manager and commissioners about implementing change?

    Perhaps an answer can be found in what they did after they learned of the arrests of the code enforcement officers and fire inspectors on April 11.

    The city commission was in session on that day.

    The meeting adjourned at around noon so the city manager, mayor and commissioners could attend the press conference announcing the arrests at the U.S. Attorney's office.

    When the meeting was reconvened that afternoon did the mayor and commissioners spend time talking about ways to fix things?

    No.

    They spent more than an hour discussing the banning of plastic drinking straws on the beach.

    How serious are Miami Beach residents about demanding change from city hall?

    We'll find out this week.

    Beach activist Frank Del Vecchio has organized what he's calling a "public protest rally" for noon Thursday, April 26 at Miami Beach City Hall.

    It will be interesting to see how many residents show up. Or for that matter, any of the Miami Beach commissioners.



    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Some friendly advice for Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus

    Click image to enlarge.
    Hello Director Loftus.

    Miami-Dade Police Director
    James Loftus
    I thought I'd take this opportunity to drop you a line and tell you what a great job the men and women of the Miami-Dade Police Department are doing.

    Please convey my thanks to each and every one of them for the sacrifices they make everyday as they go about protecting the citizens of Miami-Dade.

    Well, I guess that's it.

    Oh, I almost forgot; there is one little thing I'd like to mention.

    It appears that one of your officers has never heard of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    I'm sure that by now you've heard of the incident where one of your officers (see above photos) attempted yesterday to harass and intimidate a news crew from a local Spanish language TV station. (Click here to read an account of the incident.)

    I wrote to you a little more than a year ago when I experienced first-hand, intimidation by one of your officers as I attempted to cover a news story. It's clearly evident that you have done little or nothing to correct the problem.

    I find it incomprehensible that in the year 2012, you still have officers in your department who think it's okay to intimidate journalists.

    And I find it even more unbelievable that Officer Thomas would resort to something as sleazy as writing three traffic citations in order to "get back" at the journalists.

    In addition to Officer Thomas' ignorance of the rights of working journalists, he also has serious anger management issues that need to be addressed.

    I know that you've received a letter (embedded below) from Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association regarding Officer Thomas' actions. I hope that you'll give serious consideration to Mr. Osterreicher's concerns.

    In closing, it might be helpful if you took a minute of your time to look at the video below. It shows a minor incident that occurred on Miami Beach last month. Please note that the photographer was allowed to record the interaction between two police officers and a subject without the officers so much as batting an eye. This is how it should be done.

    Parenthetically, don't you find it embarrassing that I'm using the actions of the Miami Beach Police Department as an example of how your officers should conduct themselves?

    Here's some advice: Correct this problem that some of your officers appear to have with the media and do it soon. Before it comes back to haunt you.

    Have a nice day.




    MDPD Letter 04-20-12


    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    The Random Pixels Drama Queen of the Year Award goes to....



    ...Broward County mega-lobbyist/sleazeball Bernie Friedman.

    Friedman tried a blocking maneuver on Local 10 reporter Bob Norman this afternoon at Broward County Hall as Norman was attempting to interview Sun Recycling executive Phil Medico about illegal dumping done by his company.

    After Norman gently pushed Friedman aside, the lobbyist started screaming like a little girl.

    I'd never heard of Friedman until I saw Norman's report this evening; but he strikes me as the kind of guy who got picked on a lot at school. Like everyday.

    It's obvious Friedman has never heard of the saying, "Don't ever write a check with your mouth you can't cash with your ass."

    Nice job, Bob! Next time, you have my permission to push his sorry ass down the escalator!

    And, congratulations, Bernie! You are the first ever winner of the the Random Pixels Drama Queen of the Year Award.

    Watch the confrontation by clicking here.



    How bad do things have to get?

    Jan. 19, 2011 - Miami Beach City Manager Jorge M. Gonzalez and Commissioner Jonah Wolfson recognize Jose Alberto of the Code Compliance Division for his services.

    To hear prosecutors tell it, Jose Alberto was committed to customer service.

    After accepting a few thousand dollars in bribes to help a South Beach club gloss over code violations and tax debts, federal agents say Miami Beach’s lead code inspector introduced club management to a firefighter with a unique set of skills: expediting permits and finding police escorts for cocaine deals.

    “We are straight,” Alberto allegedly told a club manager. “As long as you ain’t no FBI.”

    Alberto, 41, is now behind bars...
    -Miami Herald, April 12, 2012
    __________


    "I'm sure that you were as appalled as I was by the disappointing revelations of the past few days. All sources of corruption must be identified, and we must fix the fundamental issues that allowed the bad seeds to sprout." -Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower in an April 16 letter to residents.
    __________


    Four Miami Beach commissioners have called for a special meeting about FBI corruption busts. None scheduled so far. via @newsbysmiley

    Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower says no meeting til there's a solution to discuss.
    via @newsbysmiley
    __________


    "Thanks to these folks, I am no longer a resident of Miami Beach ...

    "I finally caved and sold my unit just a few weeks ago as I really saw no end in sight to all the frustration with the multitude of problems regarding the glaring lack of enforcement that so affected my family's quality of life and our right to quiet enjoyment of our home that I made a dramatic life changing decision to sell and relocate my family."
    -former Miami Beach resident Brad Stevens in an email to Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower and commissioners.
    __________


    Miami Beach sinking in a vast swamp of dishonesty

    In places other than Miami Beach City Hall, human resource officers are not encouraged by certain notations in employee personnel files.

    Petty larceny, for instance. Or arrests for cocaine possession. Two busts on coke charges are not considered career builders.
    [...]
    In most towns, if a human resource officer found all of these transgressions bundled inside the personnel files of the city’s code compliance and fire inspectors, they’d run through corridors of City Hall like an apocalyptic street preacher, warning that an awful scandal loomed.

    The April 11 arrest of five code officers and two fire inspectors — charged with running an extortion racket — was plenty predictable, given that those very transgressions were, indeed, in the files of the inspectors the city let loose amid the temptations of South Beach.
    -Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, April 19, 2012.





    Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    Your early afternoon time waster

    by Scott Hilburn

    -via GoComics.com/TheArgyleSweater


    The way we were...The Miami News Opinion page, April 19, 1982

    Thirty years ago this week on the Miami News Opinion page, editor Howard Kleinberg pleaded with then Miami mayor Maurice Ferre to let a cable company show dirty movies to its subscribers.

    Click images to enlarge.

    On the same page, cartoonist Don Wright took a shot at one of his favorite targets...conservative Republicans.





    Tuesday, April 17, 2012

    The Secret Service needs a few good men...

    Apparently, the Secret Service has some openings...

    Are you man enough?



    join secret service, secret service recruiting, secret service hiring


    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Miami Beach police plan to keep 'weapons and drugs' from getting to city this Memorial Day



    Yesterday on "This Week in South Florida," host Michael Putney quizzed Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, Police Chief Ray Martinez and Deputy Chief Mark Overton about the recent arrests by the FBI of city code enforcement officers and firefighters on charges they conspired to shake down owners of a South Beach night club.

    Putney also devoted part of the show to a discussion of how Martinez and Overton plan to deal with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend crowds in the wake of last year's deadly police-involved shooting of Raymond Herisse.

    Overton, who has been on the job less than a month, showed that he hasn't yet been brought up to speed as he discussed last year's shooting.

    Overton told Putney the shooting of Herisse was the result of police trying to stop a stolen vehicle.

    Actually Chief, that's not quite right.

    From the Miami Herald's June 1, 2011 story:
    The police description of events starts a few minutes before 4 a.m. near Collins and 16th Street, where a Hialeah police officer tried to conduct a traffic stop of the Hyundai.

    Herisse ignored police and struck the officer, then hit or almost hit several more as he drove south on Collins, slamming into barricades and cars and going onto the sidewalk, police said.

    Video shot from a nearby fifth-floor apartment and posted on YouTube shows the car speeding down Collins Avenue amid gunfire and skidding to a stop after four shots rang out. Officers surrounded the car with their guns drawn, and about a minute later fired a barrage of bullets.

    Four bystanders were struck by bullets.
    And from a Dec. 17, 2011 Herald story:
    Still, many questions linger about what led to the shooting. Eleven officers — seven from Miami Beach and four from Hialeah — have been identified by the state attorney’s office as being involved in the shooting. They opened fire, two of them with fully-automatic weapons, on Herisse , a 22-year-old Boynton Beach man, as he rolled to a stop in his Hyundai at about 4 a.m. May 30.

    Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega, who recently retired, said before the shots were fired, Herisse was confronted by a Hialeah police officer who attempted to pull him over at Collins Avenue and 16th Street. Herisse ignored the officer and sped south on Collins Avenue, striking that officer with the car and almost hitting several other Hialeah officers as he slammed into barricades and other vehicles. Police said three officers were hurt.

    Hialeah officers were on duty, assisting Miami Beach police with the event, which often causes conflict among the young party crowd, police, local residents and the wealthy tourists actively courted by Miami Beach.

    “I saw the whole thing,’’ said Rivera, who was standing across the street when she saw Herisse ’s car. “A cop was on a bike, he jumped off his bike and told the guy in the car to get out. The guy didn’t get out and he pressed the gas. The cop jumped aside and started shooting at the car.’’
    So, even though four of the officers involved in the shooting were from Hialeah, Overton - who was Hialeah's police chief before being hired by Miami Beach - seems confused about the chain of events that led up to the deadly shooting. Not a good sign.

    But, after that misstep, Overton goes on to offer a glimpse into how his department plans to deal tactically with the criminal element this year.

    Overton tells Putney, (see video above,) "We're going to put in measures that are going to try to identify and intercept individuals who are coming to the beach in stolen vehicles with weapons...drugs, things of that nature which are actually the problem."

    The question is, how do the police plan to "identify and intercept" individuals coming to the beach with weapons and drugs? Roadblocks and checkpoints on all three eastbound causeways? Possibly. Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think this has ever been done before.

    The city's 20-page Memorial day battle plan leaked a few weeks ago to Miami New Times uses words like "safety checkpoints" and "lane reductions" on the MacArthur Causeway.

    The city has put up a page on its website that explains how it plans to deal with the holiday weekend traffic.

    ......
    Click here to see Putney's entire interview with Ciy Manager Gonzalez, Chief Martinez and Deputy Chief Overton.



    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Omar Infante hits first home run in Marlins Park...

    ...and lights up the home run sculpture.




    The answer is 'no!'

    Photograph by Carlos Miller.

    I'm starting to get a lot of visits to my blog from people who are obviously planning a trip to South Beach this Memorial Day weekend.

    Below is a typical Google search term:


    My answer to that is NO!! You should not travel to Miami this Memorial Day!

    (Some of the other search terms used recently by people looking for info on Memorial Day weekend include: "how to talk to women on south beach" and "what should i wear on south beach." Seriously, if you're that clueless, you need to stay home.)

    But, for the rest of you who refuse to take no for an answer ...know this: City of Miami Beach officials and police are planning to make Memorial Day weekend 2012 on South Beach as miserable as is humanly possible.

    One official spoke with me on the condition I not use his name. "Tell your readers," said the official, "they're better off staying home. But, for those who insist upon coming, Ray Martinez and his boys are going to make this Memorial Day weekend on South Beach a wretched experience. We've got some fun things planned. Fun for us...not so fun for the people coming here. Were taking our city back!"

    When I pressed the official for details, he said this before hanging up, "Four words: Dusk to dawn curfews."

    And, based on what I'm hearing from other knowledgeable sources, a three-day weekend in Kabul, Mogadishu or South Central L.A. will seem tame by comparison if Miami Beach police get their way this year.

    A couple of weeks ago I previewed what officials have in store for those who plan to come here:
    ...Street closures up the ying-yang, strict enforcement of open container laws, zero-tolerance for illegal parking, nightly DUI and "safety" checkpoints near Watson Island on the MacArthur Causeway, possible closure of the MacArthur if traffic becomes unmanageable, "enhanced enforcement of obstruction of traffic" and a "traffic/cruising loop" that's been cleverly devised to "route [non-resident] traffic through and out of the city."
    And if all that isn't enough to deter you from coming, one high-ranking police official told me, "We're going to set a record this year for the number of arrests we make. We plan to double the amount of arrests we've made over the past 5 years. The ACLU will be filing lawsuits against us for years to come. We don't care!"

    There you have it. Still planning a trip to South Beach for Memorial Day weekend?

    Go ahead...but don't say you weren't warned.

    memorial day weekend south beach 2012, south beach memorial day weekend arrests, miami beach police memorial day weekend 2012


    Friday, April 13, 2012

    Today's Highly Improbable Miami Herald Headline

    Introducing a new Random Pixels feature wherein I attempt to conjure up a page one headline you'll never see in any newspaper.





    billy corben, alfred spellman, rakontur, twitter, facebook, rakontur miami, rakontur cocaine cowboys, the u


    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Your lunch hour time waster

    What if someone made a French New Wave film about a cat?

    Wonder no more.

    Henri 2, Paw de Deux

    "I suppose that's my lot in life, to be watched endlessly, but never understood."



    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    The New York Times gets it right ... and then gets it wrong

    A short New York Times editorial today on the Ozzie Guillen fiasco started off by making an excellent point...
    For the crime of expressing a strange support for an unpopular Communist dictator, Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the Miami Marlins, has been banished from the dugout for five games. It may be the first time that baseball has punished political speech, and it would be considered an over-the-top reaction anywhere but South Florida.
    But then the author blew it by writing this:
    [Guillen] was brought on to increase the popularity of the team among Latinos, particularly after it relocated to a new stadium in the heart of Little Havana, where attendance is just as bad as it was in the old stadium.
    Really? Attendance is just as bad?

    Former Miami New Times writer Robert Andrew Powell wants to know how they arrived at that conclusion.

    Today, on Facebook, he wrote: "How can they write that attendance is just as bad at the new stadium? There's only been one game, a sellout."

    FBI makes arrests in 'public corruption investigation' in Miami Beach [UPDATED x3]

    UPDATE x3: Click here to read the Criminal Complaint against Jose Alberto or scroll down.

    UPDATE x2: Lead code compliance administrator Jose Alberto was scheduled to receive an award at today's Miami Beach commission meeting.
    Click to enlarge.



    At a Miami Beach Commission meeting on Jan. 19, 2011,
    City Manager Jorge M. Gonzalez,  and
    Commissioner Jonah Wolfson
    recognized Jose Alberto
    (center, white shirt) for
    his services.
    (photo via Flickr)
    (Click image to enlarge)


    UPDATE x1: Miami Herald's David Smiley tweets:


    _________________

    Details are sketchy, but I've learned that the FBI has arrested several City of Miami Beach employees this morning.

    I'm told the arrests stem from a "local public corruption investigation" concerning the City of Miami Beach Code Compliance office.

    I'm told at least three employees of the Code Compliance office have been arrested.

    The U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami has scheduled a 1pm press conference to release details on the investigation and arrests.

    Alberto, Jose L. Et Al Criminal Complaint





    Tuesday, April 10, 2012

    Republican Party of Fla. has paid Texas company over $68,000 to manage Rick Scott's Facebook account

    When Rick Scott was campaigning for Governor, he promised to create more jobs in Florida.

    So, why is he paying a Texas company to manage his Facebook account?

    To be more precise, according to the Miami Herald's Mary Ellen Klas, the Republican Party of Florida has paid Texas-based Harris Media more than $68,000 to manage Scott's Facebook page.

    That fact came to light today after Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch fired off an email to the RPOF upon learning that a doctored image of a Miami Herald front page had been posted on Scott's Facebook page.

    Click to enlarge.
    From the Herald's "Naked Politics" blog:
    Rick Scott's Facebook feature of Miami Herald headline: not quite

    The Miami Herald headline on the Facebook page of Gov. Rick Scott shouts: "New law helps put Floridians back to work." It is dated Monday, April 9 with the inexplicable dateline of Guatemala City.

    It was a fake headline pasted over a real story by Herald reporter Nancy San Martin from the Herald's International edition, dated March 5, 2007. The real headline read: "Murders highlight rise in crime in Guatemala."

    Rick Hirsch, managing editor of the Miami Herald, alerted the Republican Party of Florida of the fake headline and asked them to take it down. The party pays Harris Media to manage the governor's Facebook page.

    Brian Hughes, RPOF spokesman, said he was not aware of the post but had it removed immediately. "It was overzealous graphics,'' he said.

    "The posting of a fraudulent front page of the Miami Herald is unacceptable,'' Hirsch said. "Not only is it a fraud on the public, but it is trademark infringement for use of our masthead in a fake edition, and copyright infringement for those portions of the front page that were not fabricated."

    Texas-based Harris Media has managed the governor's Facebook account since the 2010 campaign and the company touts its success at promoting the governor through the social media site on its web site. Since Scott took office, the RPOF has taken over payments to the company, paying it more than $68,000 to handle the Facebook and Twitter accounts just in the first 12 months the governor was in office.
    Note to Harris Media: If you're going to "phony-up" a newspaper front page, at the very least, it should look believable.



    To anyone who has ever had their car towed on Miami Beach...[UPDATED]

    Yesterday, I posted an item about Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez ordering a review of the city's towing policy.

    Jorge Gonzalez
    In my post, I wrote that - according to my sources - Gonzalez ordered the review after his car was towed from in front of a fire hydrant on Lincoln Road.

    This morning Gonzalez let me know by email that some parts of my post were inaccurate, "Your blog is not completely accurate on this one. As is probably usual, people may have left some facts out...," Gonzalez wrote.

    Gonzalez asked that I call him. I did. And this afternoon he filled in the blanks during a cordial 15 minute conversation.

    Gonzalez confirmed that his car was towed back in January from a parking space on Lenox Avenue between Lincoln Road and 17th Street. Gonzalez admitted that he was parked in front of a yellow curb where parking is prohibited; but stressed that he was not parked near a fire hydrant.

    When he returned a few hours later, he learned that his car had been towed.

    He told me that he walked the dozen or so blocks to Beach Towing where he withdrew money from an ATM to pay the tow fee. The cashier recognized him and declined to take his money.

    But, Gonzalez said he didn't order a review of the city's towing policy until a month later when a dozen or so cars were towed from in front of some homes on the Venetian Isles.

    It was after the Venetian Isles incident, Gonzalez said, that he learned that many tows in his city are at the sole discretion of a single parking enforcement officer.

    Gonzalez said that was also the case when his car was towed. He said that because of an uneven and murky policy regarding tows on Miami Beach, "What might be a ticket today could be a tow tomorrow."

    Gonzalez says that as of a week ago the policy has been revised and now a tow cannot be authorized by a single parking enforcement officer.

    "Now," says Gonzalez, "any city-initiated tow must now be approved by a supervisor or dispatcher."

    The policy change does not apply to cars parked on private property. You're still on your own if you're having lunch at Lime on Alton Road and decide to grab one of those empty spots in the 7-11 parking lot next door.

    Gonzalez also politely pointed out that my observation that he's "done virtually nothing to put the brakes on Miami Beach's two towing companies," in his almost 12 years as city manager, wasn't entirely accurate.

    Gonzalez reminded me that he was instrumental in getting a "Towing Bill of Rights" enacted on Miami Beach.

    Full disclosure: I apologized to City Manager Gonzalez for some of the inaccuracies in my original post.



    Monday, April 09, 2012

    'Make It Count' - a film by Casey Neistat

    The latest from Casey Neistat.

    Just brilliant!

    "We shot this in 10 days, just the two of us. Max, my friend in the movie, is a talented filmmaker, he edited this movie. check him out http://www.maxjoseph.com/"

    Best line: "The trouble is all of the street signs are in squiggly lines."



    To anyone who has ever had their car towed in Miami Beach...

    UPDATE: The post below has been updated with new information. Click here to read the update.

    Note to Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez:
    This is NOT a legal parking space.


    Jorge Gonzalez
    If you've ever had your car towed while on Miami Beach, City Manager Jorge Gonzalez wants you to know that he feels your pain.

    Really, he does.

    Gonzalez has been Miami Beach's City Manager for almost a dozen years.

    But, in that time he's done virtually nothing to put the brakes on Miami Beach's two towing companies. Companies that some say engage in "legalized theft." (At least that's how one veteran Miami Beach police officer once described their activities.)

    Well, all that may be about to change. According to my sources, Gonzalez has ordered a review of the city's towing policy.

    The reason for Gonzalez's sudden change of heart? In January, Gonzalez had his car towed by Beach Towing from a space on Lincoln Road.

    In the wake of that unpleasant experience, several sources tell me that Gonzalez may be looking at revising and/or rewriting the city's towing policy.

    Or, as one well-placed source puts it, "He got his car towed and now suddenly he gives a f**k about the Tow Policy."

    Another source says that Gonzalez was able to get his car back without paying.

    On another note, here at Random Pixels we are incredulous that Gonzalez does not have some kind of dashboard placard or window decal that warns parking enforcement officers that his car is not eligible to be towed. (C'mon Jorge! You mean to tell me you can get all kinds of free tickets but you don't have the good sense to figure out how to keep your car from being towed?)

    Anyway, with that in mind, I've taken the liberty of having the Random Pixels Design Studio whip up this spiffy dashboard placard just for you Mr. City Manager.

    Just have your assistant print it out and next time you're over on Lincoln Road, place it where it's visible to those pesky parking enforcement dudes and everything should be just fine. Guaranteed.

    Print out and place on dashboard of your vehicle.