Friday, October 30, 2015

It pays to be Mayor Philip Levine's friend [Part two]

Who's your "Sugar Daddy," Leonor? 


It wasn't democracy's finest hour.

At an Oct. 1, 2013 Miami Beach mayoral debate (see video above) at the Shore Club, the insults were flying ... many of them originating from a table where unruly supporters of candidate Philip Levine were seated.

One resident got up to chastise Levine for his now infamous "maƱana" remark.

Levine responded by attacking the woman; suggesting that she was best friends with his opponent, Michael Gongora, and adding incorrectly that Gongora had appointed her "to all the various boards."

Watching all of it from the side of the room was Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson. And behind him, whispering in his ear, was Wolfson's aide, Leonor Hernandez.

Leonor Heranndez - wearing "Levine for Mayor" stickers on her blouse -
whispers in the ear of her boss, Miami Beach commissioner Jonah Wolfson
during a mayoral debate on Oct 1, 2013. 

(Screen grab from the video above.)

Hernandez proved herself extremely helpful to the mayor in 2013 by taking a leave of absence from her city job and working round the clock for Levine's campaign, getting all those votes from the elderly in Miami Beach's senior housing. She put her own elderly mother to work with the seniors, as well as her son on robocalls and political mailings, and her husband at campaign fundraisers. Getting the mayor elected was a family affair.

She was rewarded handsomely, with a job she desperately needed, and - for a woman who declared bankruptcy, and with her husband has nearly $5.0 million in judgements against them for apartment buildings and two single family homes on Miami Beach foreclosed on - somehow ended up with a $287,000 home paid in cash in Cutler Bay with no explanation.
There was speculation that Philip Levine bought it, or loaned her the money. He has loaned money to friends before.
She and her husband lost their two side-by-side waterfront homes in North Beach to foreclosure in 2014, after years of appeals and legal maneuvering.

The properties were foreclosed on in lieu of judgements of $1.5 million and $1.9 million.

There are other outstanding judgement liens - see detail below - and code violations that were never paid.


via Miami-Dade Property Appraiser's Office.
Click here to enlarge.

Mayoral aide Leonor Hernandez's home in Cutler Bay. 


Now, two years later, Hernandez is working for Levine as he campaigns for reelection.

Officially, she's on leave of absence from her city job.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and his aide, Leonor Hernandez, (seen at his
right elbow) at a recent campaign event in North Beach.  (Click image to enlarge)

But questions abound.
Did Hernandez submit a request for this outside employment?

Is she on an official leave of absence to perform political campaign work? When was the leave paperwork submitted, to whom, and is it on file with the City HR department?

Is she drawing down any leave time (using accrued vacation leave and therefore receiving a paycheck, and also access to health care coverage and other benefits) while on leave to do campaign consulting?

And what about sending a city employee who regularly visits senior centers as a constituent aide (city employee) into those same centers during elections?  Even if on leave, it violates the very first bullet in the Commission On Ethics memo [below]. How are the residents to know whether she is there as a city employee or as a private citizen/campaign volunteer? She is always functioning in an official capacity to represent the mayor.

Click here to enlarge.

Perhaps Mayor Levine will answer some of these questions before election day.

But don't hold your breath.

Despite a lot of talk in 2013 about cleaning up corruption at Miami Beach City Hall, Levine's actions over the past two years prove that he's really no different than those who preceded him.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin becomes a Miami Police officer at 10:30 Friday morning

Miami Beach Commissioner Ed "Mad Dog" Tobin and City Manager
Jorge Gonzalez are seen on May 9, 2012 after Gonzalez announced
he was resigning effective July 8. (Click on all images to enlarge.)

Ed "Mad Dog" Tobin
Termed-out Miami Beach commissioner Ed Tobin has resigned effective at 5 p.m. today, reports the Miami Herald's David Smiley.

And that means future city commission meetings won't be nearly as interesting without "Mad Dog Ed" on the dais.

Consider these three sentences from a September 2013 Miami Herald story:
As Miami Beach's commission meeting last week dragged on for the 14th hour, things got a little testy.

It was 11:20 p.m. Commissioner Jonah Wolfson began to mock Mayor Matti Herrera Bower's high-pitched voice, and, for the second time that night, threatened to throw himself off the third floor of City Hall.

Commissioner Ed Tobin offered: "I'll carry you there, if you promise to do it."
And in 2012, when the ACLU expressed concerns over Miami Beach's plans to handle Memorial Day crowds, the Miami Herald's David Smiley quoted Tobin as saying "There were people defecating on people’s dining room tables [during the first Urban Beach Week in 2001]. So on the events where people are defecating on the tables, we’re going to have a different approach than the events where they aren’t.”

Today, Smiley broke the news that Tobin will be sworn in as rookie Miami police officer at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning.

From Smiley's report:
Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin will finally realize his childhood dream of becoming a cop. It just won't be in the city where he grew up.

Tobin, a former prosecutor, officially becomes a Miami police officer Friday. He will be sworn in during a 10:30 a.m. He had about three weeks left on his final term on the Miami Beach Commission, but resigned at 5 p.m. Thursday due to a Florida law that prohibits holding two sworn positions at one time.

“Once he hits the streets he's no longer a commissioner. He's a rookie,” said Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes. “He's Officer Tobin.”
One Miami cop says his department is a natural fit for Tobin: "We pay less and have lower standards than the Beach," he told me.

Tobin, 53, has dreamed of wearing a badge and a gun since his days as a Miami Beach police explorer scout some 40 years ago.

Tobin originally applied for a job with the Miami Beach Police Department in 2014, but withdrew his application after flubbing an answer to an important ethics question during an oral examination.

During his time as commissioner, Tobin made quite a few enemies within the MBPD when he lobbied unsuccessfully in 2012 for the selection of controversial Bal Harbour police chief Tom Hunker to be Miami Beach's new police chief.

In a letter to colleagues and constituents, Tobin wrote:
I have known one of the candidates for Chief for 30 years, Tom Hunker. Tom retired from Miami Beach as a Lieutenant after 26 years of outstanding service. He ran the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking task force here in South Florida and then spent several years as the Asst Chief for North Miami Beach. He has spent the last 8 years as Chief of Bal Harbour. He has won countless Local, State and National awards. He is an expert in money laundering and currently brings in about 20 million of forfeiture money from seizures in other states and countries, annually, to Bal Harbour. These funds would be coming to Miami Beach if Tom is chosen. [emphasis added] Currently Miami Beach earns about 1.5 million from our drug forfeiture efforts.

Tom earns a larger salary in Bal Harbour and has 3 years left on his contract there. His city Manager has confirmed he does an outstanding job there. Tom does not need this job but is willing to come back to the City that gave him his start.

The safety of my family and my community is my primary concern.

Tom Hunker is my choice for Chief.
Tobin was absolutely correct when he said Hunker was "an expert in money laundering."

This week, the Miami Herald reported, "After years of rampant abuses by undercover Bal Harbour police [under Police Chief Tom Hunker], the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the millions taken in by the officers who turned a money-laundering sting into a major cash enterprise, spending lavishly on travel and luxury hotels without making a single arrest."

Yes, by the time the next Miami Beach city commission meeting rolls around, "Mad Dog" will be pounding a beat on Miami's mean streets.

Which means Miami Beach residents will no longer be able to relish moments of comedy gold like this....

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two years after his election, it appears that Mayor Philip Levine has broken his promise to manage Miami Beach's finances

Philip Levine campaign ad, July 2013. 

When Philip Levine campaigned for Miami Beach mayor in 2013, he promised to "get control of city finances, before we're all swimming in debt."

Last Sept. 10, Miami Beach commissioners held a budget meeting. Levine skipped the meeting to go shopping in New York City.

So it was up to Miami Beach Vice Mayor Ed Tobin to run things.

Tobin got the ball rolling by asking questions about Mayor Levine's massive and costly, taxpayer-funded public relations machine.

As a candidate, Levine promised to "manage the city's finances." But once elected he started spending taxpayer dollars like a drunken sailor on shore leave.

Tobin wanted answers on how much Levine's "chauffeur" was costing the city, and also asked why the mayor needed a staff of PR people following him around the city.

The commissioners returned six days later at the request of Weithorn for a "Sunshine Meeting" that was intended to discuss budget policies.

(The meeting was recorded but never uploaded to the archived meetings section of the city's website. A Random Pixels reader called City Hall to ask about the video and was told, "We were directed not to put the video on the website, but if you'd like a copy, you can pick up a DVD at City Hall.")

In the video, Weithorn begins by asking why the city's assistant emergency management director, Clarise Ferguson, got a a 24.6% salary increase.

After moving from the police department's communications unit, Ferguson's salary jumped from $60,183 to $93,849.

Human Resources Director Sylvia Crespo-Tabak told Weithorn that Ferguson's responsibilities had "expanded exponentially," adding that "[Ferguson] gets along with [emergency manager] Chuck [Tear]."

Countered Weithorn, "In the private sector I don't know anyone who gets a 25% increase."

What no one mentioned is the fact that Ferguson's boss, emergency management director Chuck Tear pulls down an annual salary of $150,958.

Also not named at the Sept. 16 meeting was another of Tear's employees, emergency management coordinator Eric Kolbinsky.

Kolbinsky, a retired DEA agent, worked for Levine as his driver/bodyguard during the 2013 mayoral campaign.

A few months after Levine's election, Kolbinsky was given a part time position in the city's emergency management department at an annual salary of $65,015.

Kolbinsky is now a full-time employee with the city and makes $91,020 a year. (It's good to be the mayor's friend.)

But despite the fact that there are three top employees in the city's emergency management department making a combined total of $335,827 a year, no one seems to be tackling any emergencies.

Less than a month after the Sept. 10 budget meeting, a Miami Herald photographer captured images of people coping with severe street flooding.

Chuck Tear's highly-paid emergency managers could have used the flooding as a dry run for a more serious incident, but its appears they were caught unprepared. So much for those huge salaries.

Father-and-son Carlos Coello Sr. and Carlos Coello Jr. give 
Maria Posada, 65, a lift back to her condo in Miami Beach 
on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. 
Photographs by Walt Michot/Miami Herald.

Phil Levine talks a lot about spending taxpayer dollars wisely. But his actions speak louder than his empty promises.

On his campaign website Levine says, "Taxpayers work hard for their money. This City should work equally hard to ensure that money is wisely spent."

So, Mr. Mayor, when are you going to start?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Why cab drivers in Cuba earn more than doctors


The video Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine doesn't want you to see

"Earl," the other Mayor of Miami Beach. 

Richard Nixon had Checkers, George H.W. Bush had Millie and Barack Obama has Bo.

And in Miami Beach, Mayor Philip Levine has Earl. Earl and the mayor are inseparable.

During his 2013 run for mayor, Levine cast Earl in at least two TV ads.

But by then, Earl was a seasoned actor.

A few years before he ran for mayor, Levine and his employees at Royal Media Partners produced a video that purported to show a typical day in the life of Phil Levine, with Earl playing the part of Phil.

The video could only be seen by those who had the link, so it remained hidden from Miami Beach voters for much of the past two years.

But late last week, it leaked out.

I posted it on this blog, but within a few hours the video was yanked from YouTube.

But not before Steve Cody was able to save a copy and tweak it a bit with some psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud.

Writes Cody: Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, once said,"The psychoanalysis of neurotics has taught us to recognize the intimate connection between wetting the bed and the character trait of ambition." He also said, "Show me a video a man makes about himself and I will know everything about him." Both of these quotes apply to Miami Beach Mayor and candidate Philip Levine. 

(Be sure to read Freud's detailed diagnosis of Levine at the end of the video.)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

'Unbelievably respected' supporter of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine abandons ship

"Were gonna need a bigger boat."
Former supporters of Miami Beach Mayor Philip
Levine are abandoning ship. 

THEN: March 12, 2014 -- Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine presents Dr. Morris Sunshine, a self-described "community activist," with a proclamation on the occasion of Sunshine's 90th birthday. In Levine's words, Sunshine is "unbelievably respected."

From the minutes of the City of Miami Beach Commission meeting, March 12, 2014.

Proclamation To Be Presented To Dr. Morris Sunshine For His Community Activism And 90th Birthday.

(Requested by Mayor Philip Levine)

ACTION: Proclamation presented.Mayor Levine stated that this proclamation is for somebody who is incredibly well known in Miami Beach and unbelievably respected - Dr. Morris Sunshine. Mayor Levine read the proclamation. Dr. Sunshine was a distinguished professor of Sociology at Syracuse University and other institutions of higher learning. He is a classic example of how the GI Bill has turned out productive, effective leaders scholars and teachers in the United States. He is a founding member of the South of Fifth neighborhood association. He has served with distinction on City of Miami Beach boards and committees for many years. He attends every power board meeting every month in City Hall and makes important contributions to whatever is under discussion. He is “Mr. Noise Control” and quality of life for all citizens of Miami Beach, and he rides with the Police Department and keeps an eye on the streets and he has never hesitated to help a neighbor or a neighborhood in need. He has been in a strong committed relationship of over 60 years with his wife Marsha and the best friend anyone would ever want to have. Therefore, Mayor Levine proclaimed March 12, 2014 “Dr. Morris Sunshine Day” in the City of Miami Beach.


Previously: Miami Beach activist Frank Del Vecchio calls Mayor Philip Levine 'unethical'


NOW: Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 -- Dr. Morris Sunshine emails his friends, telling them: "Philip Levine and members of his slate do not deserve the trust of the voters."

From: Morris Sunshine
Sent: Fri, Oct 23, 2015 9:34 pm
Subject: Some political geometry

Dear Friends,

I start from the same axioms that the Miami Herald editorialist did on Thursday when he illogically endorsed Philip Levine for mayor, but my deductions are different. Here they are, fully spelled out:


(1) Levine and Commissioner Wolfson made joint phone calls to vendors, lobbyists and developers to solicit money for a political action committee;

(2) This PAC, Relentless for Progress, was plainly designed to get around a Miami Beach ordinance which prohibits those kind of people from contributing to political campaigns;

(3) A second, equally important, objective of the PAC was to elect three stooge commissioners, who would always vote with the mayor, breaching the system of checks and balances provided for by the city charter;

(4) The ethical stink was bad, so bad that Joe Centorino, the Director of the county's Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, decided to investigate;

(5) Before the PAC was closed under public pressure, about $163,000 was transferred to a lobbyist, who is the mayor's agent, for distribution to the campaigns of the three stooge candidates; and

(6) The PAC also paid for several so-called non-political TV ads featuring the mayor.


(Th.1) The closing of the PAC has no moral significance because its establishment reveals a deep character flaw in the city's mayor. [See Ax. 1 and Ax.2]

(Th.2) Commissioner Wolfson and Mayor Levine vigorously attempted to establish a Pay-to-Play regime in Miami Beach. [Ax. 1 and Ax. 2]

(Corr. 1) The establishment of a Pay-to-Play system is the benchmark of a Big City Machine, like the Tammany Hall (NYC) and the Pendergast (Kansas City) machines.

(Th.3) If the Levine-Wolfson plan succeeds, we will have a king, not a mayor. [Ax. 3 and Ax. 5)

(Corr.2) The mayor's unlimited political ambitions for office have blunted his moral senses. (Ax. 6)

(Th.4) Philip Levine and members of his slate do not deserve the trust of the voters.

If you agree with this political geometry, please join me in supporting, with your money, your influence and your vote, the following people:

Mayor: David Wieder
Group IV: Kristen Rosen Gonzalez
Group V: Mark Weithorn
Group VI: Mark Samuelian

Best wishes,
Morry Sunshine

Friday, October 23, 2015

Here are some photos of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine posing awkwardly at his polling place today

Here are some photos that Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine posted on his Facebook page today.

Original caption: "Proud to cast my ballot today at North Shore 
Branch Library, during early voting, to keep our City moving 
forward in the right direction. ‪
#‎VoteLevine‬ ‪#‎LevineForMayor‬ ‪#‎MiamiBeach‬"

Not sure if there's much more to say about those, so here's a cute video the Mayor produced back in 2012 when he was a private citizen. 
It shows Levine's dog, Earl, playing the part of Levine.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Did the 'failing' Miami Herald really 'endorse' Mayor Philip Levine's reelection bid?

"The expensive city-funded pumps ... didn’t work everywhere as well 
as expected..." -from the Miami Herald's "endorsement" of Mayor 
Philip Levine, Oct. 22, 2015.
(Click here to enlarge)

A year ago, this month, Worth magazine published an interview with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine who was just completing his first year in office.

At one point, the interviewer asks Levine about endorsements he received during his 2013 campaign.
Levine: ....The Miami Herald couldn’t have been more against me.

Worth: How do you explain that?

Levine: Failing businesses usually fail from the top. I used to laugh and say that when I started my new business, I made more money in my first year than the Miami Herald made in the last 10. But their editorial board was aggressively against me. They saw a rich guy.

After giving that answer, Levine went on to call the Herald "fakakta" company...Yiddish for "something that is not working well or is really crap."

Levine is now completing his second year as mayor and is asking voters to give him another two years.

This morning the "fakakta" Miami Herald picked Levine in his bid for re-election over challenger David Wieder.

Or did they?

The Herald's "endorsement" of Levine reminds me of those ink blot tests that psychologists often give their patients. While some may call the Herald's editorial an "endorsement," others are seeing something completely the opposite.



The Herald's "endorsement" of Levine is about 328 words long. But about half of those words are a clear rebuke of "Mayor Ego" and his first two years in office. Or as one of my Facebook friends pointed out, "Of the 15 sentences that make up the endorsement, only three are positive."

The expensive city-funded pumps that didn’t work everywhere as well as expected, and whether the pumped water is contaminating the bay; a serious misstep with his ethically questionable decision to get involved with the RFP PAC that collected thousands from city vendors; and a brash attitude from the dais all have chipped away at his credibility. The public’s perception that he wants to control the dais with a slate of friends running for the commission doesn’t help.

We think that Mr. Levine should adopt Mr. Wieder’s campaign promise. The challenger told the Editorial Board: “I want to restore trust, integrity and responsiveness to our city government. I will not allow cronyism, backroom dealings, sole-source contracts. … Pay-to-play politics will have no place in my administration.”

Still, Mr. Levine’s passion for the city is authentic. We believe him when he says that he eats and breathes the city’s challenges, from its climate-change struggles to traffic gridlock. If reelected, Mr. Levine should make it a point to mature as a politician, to serve all of Miami Beach. We hope that these troubled times have been a learning experience for the mayor. We’re willing to give him a second chance to prove he’s not “Mayor Ego."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the ethically challenged Levine, is it?

When is the last time a newspaper "endorsed" a candidate by advising them to adopt their opponent's campaign promises?

Levine, and his staff of PR experts are usually very quick to post accolades of any kind on the Mayor's Facebook page. But as of late Thursday morning, there's no mention of the Herald's "endorsement." I wonder why?

Monday, October 19, 2015

It pays to be Mayor Philip Levine's friend [Part one]

This is the first of a series of posts that will examine how Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine takes care of his friends. Beach residents, not so well. But friends, and incompetent employees are a different matter.


Charles "Chuck" Tear, head of Miami Beach's Office of
Emergency Management. 

Last March, Miami Beach threw a birthday party for itself.

From March 22nd thru the 26th, the city celebrated its 100 year history with a 100 hour party that was capped off with a concert.

The concert, fittingly, was as massive as the ego of its architect and chief engineer, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

(Levine told Ocean Drive Magazine that he expected more than 120,000 to attend the concert. The Miami Herald reported that a crowd of just 16,000 showed up. )

Figures released by the city show the celebration's revenues were slightly less than what the city spent (more than $5 million) on the entire shindig.

(Some of the expenses: $250,000 paid to singer Andrea Bocelli, $41,000 for a "Miami Herald ad," $12,000 for "VIP restroom trailers," and more than $143,000 was paid to two security companies. The city also spent more than $2,000 for "staff t-shirts.")

But in case you missed the concert and all the surrounding hoopla, the City of Miami Beach has you covered.

There are almost 100 videos on YouTube that will let you relive over and over, for years to come, all of the sheer wonderfulness of Mayor Philip Levine's greatest accomplishment.

There's even a video of the entire 7 and a half hour concert which includes footage of Mayor Levine embarrassing himself leading Beach commissioners in the singing of Happy Birthday.  The video has a grand total of 700 plus views.

All of the events went off without a hitch. And that's probably due to the tireless efforts of Chuck Tear, the head of Miami Beach's Office of Emergency Management.

At a recent commission meeting, Commissioner Ed Tobin - tongue-in-cheek - called Tear, "One of the greatest Americans in the modern history."

Tear was tasked with keeping the centennial celebration safe. He did all this from a million dollar mobile command center parked on the beach.

In a video on the city's YouTube page, Tear gives a Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco a guided tour of the command center.

Highlight: At one point on the video Tear tells Grieco that he has just issued a safety message advising those working on the concert preparations to "slow down and get hydrated." (Your tax dollars at work, folks.)

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales hired Tear as the City's Emergency Management Coordinator in May 2013 during the final few months of Matti Bower's term as Mayor.

In his more than two years with the city, Tear has managed to fly beneath the radar.

But across the causeway, I'm told that Tear isn't held in high regard by other emergency managers in Miami-Dade County. "You don't have to spend much time with Chuckie to figure out that he's full of sh*t," one source tells me. "How this guy was hired is a complete mystery," says my source. "His resume is loaded with red flags. He bounces around from job to job."

In Feb. 2014, after pictures surfaced that appeared to show 911 call center employees sleeping on the job, Morales turned over control of the call center to Tear, a man with minimal law enforcement experience.

But last April 13 Morales called Tear into his office, and after a profanity-laced tirade that could be heard in the hallway outside, fired him on the spot.  On hand to escort Tear from the building were Assistant Miami Beach Police Chief Lauretta Hill and Police Sgt. Tony Gil.

But sources tell me that when Mayor Philip Levine heard of Tear's termination, he ordered Morales to patch up whatever differences he had with him and rescind the termination. One source tells me that Tear told Morales he'd return to his job, but only if Morales apologized to his staff.

Another source spotted Tear later in the evening sitting in Mayor Levine's court side seats as the Miami Heat faced off against the Orlando Magic at American Airlines Arena.

But some in the city are asking the question: Why does Levine bother keeping Tear around?

Sure, he protected Levine's centennial celebration from an ISIS attack. But after the recent issues with flooding, some are beginning to wonder if Tear has any kind of plan in place to handle even a minor emergency.

Tear who makes well over $100,000 a year - as much as $150,000 according to one source - has one basic function: Make sure the city can respond to emergency situations.

Earlier this month, a Miami Herald photographer managed to find and take pictures of regular citizens struggling with the flooding.

Miami Herald photo by Walt Michot

But for a reason yet to be determined, no one from Tear's Emergency Management department ever dispatched any first responders to check on the welfare of residents affected by the flooding.

The elderly lady in the above photo had to rely on passersby to get back to her apartment.

Perhaps at the next debate, someone will ask Mayor Philip "Just Get It Done" Levine what Tear and his emergency management were doing during the flooding.

As a follow-up question, maybe someone will also ask Levine why no firefighters were available to help residents.

Oh, wait a minute. We now know why.

They were busy campaigning for the mayor's re-election.

On his website, Levine boasts, "At City Hall, we’ve put our customers first and put the government on track to be one of America’s best when it comes to serving our residents and businesses."

I'm calling bullish*t, Mayor Levine.

Chuck Tear may be good at telling people to get plenty of hydration, but as an emergency manager, he's a dismal failure.  Why not "get it done" and fire this clown?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is a big, fat liar [UPDATED]

A City of Miami Beach video posted on YouTube in Aug. 2013 shows that
planning and work on storm water pump stations began long before
Philip Levine became mayor.


See UPDATE below with details on a mailer sent out by Levine in which he appears to backpedal on the disingenuous claims made in his TV spots.


If you're a Miami Beach resident you've no doubt seen at least one of the ads (below) in which Mayor Philip Levine attempts to portray himself as a Knight in Shining Armor who arrived at City Hall in the nick of time, putting into action a plan to save Miami Beach from sea level rise, global warming, catastrophic flooding and the zombie apocalypse, all in one fell swoop.

Click to enlarge. 
In the ads he's running on TV and posting on social media, Philip "Just Get It Done" Levine is taking credit for the work begun by those who preceded him at City Hall.

His ads are a mixture of lies and self-promotion. Levine is very good at both. He's like that guy in school who would steal your idea for a science project and then take credit for it as if it were his own.

(In a recent interview on MSNBC, Levine told Jose Diaz-Balart, "We put together a $400 plan [to mitigate flooding.]...Miami Beach is leading the way. We've become a model.")

In the second ad below, a silky-voiced narrator intones: "Miami beach streets were flooding. Even on sunny days. And for years City Hall did little to stop it," Really, Phil? City Hall did little to stop it?

In a letter to the editor in this morning's Miami Herald, former Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower uses some actual facts to politely refute some of the lies spouted by Levine in his slick ads.

The main point of Bower's letter is that much of the planning for flood mitigation and storm water drainage started years before Levine ever thought about running for mayor.

Just below Bower's letter are parts of three Miami Herald stories that clearly show construction on storm water pumps was planned and under way long before Levine became Mayor in late 2013.

A Jan. 2013 Herald story notes that Alton Road construction was set to start "in an effort to relieve Miami Beach flooding."

Here's Bower's letter:

Flooding mitigation preceded Levine

A political truism reminds us that, “It is much easier to campaign than to govern.” Politicians accept this and realize that the words used while campaigning remain with them once elected.

Politicians should be truthful, they should take credit when deserved and give credit to others when warranted. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine should accept this truth. He is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts regarding flooding.

By no means can we declare victory as the mayor has done in ads aired by the disgraced PAC, Relentless for Progress. Running for reelection, he wants you to believe that nothing had been done to address flooding until he was elected and that the problems have since been fixed.

The flooding we experienced these past weeks are proof that we are far from done. Notwithstanding spilling pollutants into the bay or preferred contractors being awarded millions of dollars in no-bid contracts, Miami Beach flooded again, worse than ever in some areas.

I credit Levine for continuing the projects begun long ago. From North Beach to South Pointe you can see the improvements that have been completed. The Planned Progress program dates back to the early 2000s and was developed by Jorge Gonzalez, then city manager at the time.

Construction was purposely phased to make sure the transportation grid would not grind to a halt. Nonetheless, significant and successful improvements have been completed throughout and the overwhelming majority of residents have seen improved drainage, water, sewer, sidewalks, lighting and beautification in their neighborhoods.

The mayor should more appropriately acknowledge the efforts he inherited upon entering office. It is true that some improvements were completed under his watch, but it is also true that all were begun before he entered office.




From a June 2013 Miami Herald story:
Construction on Alton Road in Miami Beach has residents, the city of Miami Beach and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) all in contention with one another.

Alton Road has had a notorious reputation for flooding and irregular pavement for years in the South Beach area. Plans have been drafted, however, to combat those problems and build a better road that serves the surrounding area of Alton Road.

Construction began back in April and is set for completion in August 2015.

According to FDOT, the project, which began its planning phase in April 2007, includes “three pump stations (at Fifth Street, 10th Street and 14th Street) and a new drainage system to improve stormwater drainage in the area,” in addition to rebuilding roadways, driveways, sidewalks, pedestrian ramps and constructing sidewalk extensions.

From a Jan. 28, 2013 Miami Herald story:
Alton Road construction starts in effort to relieve Miami Beach flooding

Three separate roadway projects going on at the same time will likely cause traffic jams for Miami Beach residents and commuters.

Alton Road, Collins Avenue and I-395 will all be under construction in 2013.All are state projects, and they all overlap.

Among the projects is a plan to help relieve flooding along Alton Road. But the situation may get worse before it gets better.

The construction along one of Miami Beach’s busiest corridors may make area traffic a nightmare for the duration of the 2.5 year project, and may exacerbate the West Avenue neighborhood’s own flooding problems.

To top it all off, the construction kicks off just as spring tides will be at their highest, making more flooding likely.

From a Sept. 1, 2012 Miami Herald story by Curtis Morgan
In Miami Beach, where prolonged flooding in low-lying neighborhoods has become the norm after heavy storms, city leaders are weighing a $206 million overhaul of an antiquated drainage system increasingly compromised by rising sea level.

The plan calls for more pumps, wells to store storm runoff, higher sea walls and “back-flow’’ preventers for drain pipes flowing into Biscayne Bay. Those devices are intended to stop the system from producing the reverse effect it often does now. During seasonal high tides, the salty bay regularly puddles up from sewer grates in dozens of spots, such as near the local westside bar Purdy Lounge. Extreme high tides — like one in October 2010 — can push in enough sea water to make streets impassable, including blocks of the prime artery of Alton Road.

“It’s the first time, as far as I know, that any community in South Florida and actually in the entire state of Florida is taking into account sea level rise as they plan their storm water infrastructure,” said Fred Beckmann, the city’s public works director, during a public hearing on the plan earlier this month.


UPDATE via Political Cortadito:
The mayor also sent out a mailer (embedded below) — a whole mailer — saying that he never said he fixed the flooding. He sounds like a second grader caught in a lie. Nah-uh. I did not.

His campaign videos sure suggest he fixed the flooding. “The streets are drier, all because a mayor cared enough to fight back,” one says. And in the Relentless for Progress TV ad, he says “streets that were once flooded are now dry.”

Then the King Tide came and showed what a liar he is. Now, Levine is being more, um, specific.

“Miami Beach never declared victory over our flooding problem,” the mail piece says, and it is telling of how desperate he is and how much this has hurt his credibility that the whole mailer is about flooding. “We are still in the early phases of a five to 7-year plan.”

The mailer comes with a before-and-after picture of Alton Road and 10th, where the flooding has been fixed. What it doesn’t say is that Levine’s office building is on that corner. In fact, what it doesn’t say is that at least two of his properties are adjacent to the first flooding fixes. Wonder if that’s a coincidence.

Stephen Colbert would not want to split a check with Bernie Sanders

Last night, Stephen Colbert did an impression "that could forever define Bernie Sanders."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fabiola Santiago, the Miami Herald's most fraudulent columnist, apparently doesn't bother reading the Miami Herald

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

I immediately thought of that line from the classic 1942 film "Casablanca" as I read Fabiola Santiago's column in this morning's Miami Herald.

Santiago, the Herald's most fraudulent columnist, is just now learning  and she's shocked, SHOCKED!  that Cubans who are in the U.S. thanks to the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, have for years been using their special status to defraud the United States government.

In this morning's paper Santiago writes:
Evidence has been mounting for far too many years that wholesale fraud is being committed by Cubans taking advantage of the extraordinary privileges that U.S. immigration law bestows only upon them.

Cases of Medicare and Medicaid embezzlement by recent waves of Cuban immigrants — now living as U.S. fugitives in Cuba and enjoying their stolen wealth — have been well documented in federal court and by the Miami Herald. And now a year-long investigation by the Sun Sentinel, based on hundreds of documents and reporting trips to Cuba, highlights widespread abuse and theft at a cost to U.S. taxpayers in excess of $2 billion.

The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 has become a revolving door for these thieves to obtain easy access to Florida, become U.S. residents and return to Cuba to live on fraudulently obtained money.  

Apparently Santiago would have us believe that despite the fact that she writes almost exclusively about Miami's Cuban community, she was totally unaware  until she read about it in a competing newspaper  that Cuban criminals have been committing Medicare and other kinds of fraud for years.

Back in 2008, Herald federal courts reporter Jay Weaver thoroughly documented cases of Medicare fraud by Cubans, including that of the Benitez brothers.  

Maybe Santiago was on vacation the week Weaver's stories appeared in the paper.

Medicare fraud fugitives evade capture

by Jay Weaver

The Benitez brothers were masters of Medicare fraud, prosecutors say.

They spent their Medicare millions on Mediterranean-style homes, apartments, hotels, boats, a helicopter, even a water park -- all in the resort area of Bavaro, Dominican Republic, court records show.

After they were indicted on fraud charges in late May, Carlos, Jose and Luis Benitez used their Cuban passports to travel from Miami to the Dominican Republic, then to Cuba.

The three brothers are accused of defrauding the U.S. government's health insurance program by billing $110 million in false claims for HIV drug-infusion treatments at their dozen Miami-Dade clinics. Medicare paid their companies about $84 million in reimbursements between 2001 and 2004, according to federal authorities and court records. 

The Benitezes -- who came to this country in 1995 and became U.S. citizens five years later -- have a lot of company. They are among 56 fugitives charged since 2004 with filing at least $272 million in phony Medicare claims before disappearing from Miami-Dade. Collectively, the fugitives absconded with at least $142 million in taxpayer funds.

In 2008, Myriam Marquez, who was then a Herald columnist, followed up on Weaver's piece with a column titled, "Wet or dry, policy should be the same."
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, who has handled several Medicare scam cases involving Cuban defendants, is right to warn his colleagues about the flight risks.

"It seems to me that our thinking has to change," Moreno noted during a June hearing when he learned that Carmen Gonzalez, charged in an $11 million scam, had left for Cuba. "We always think here in Miami that if you're a Cuban refugee, you're not going to go back to Cuba.

"I'm wondering whether a Jew leaving Nazi Germany can go back and forth to visit the relatives. I would suspect you couldn't."

Santiago, who is the Herald's Chief Apologist for all things having to do with the Cuban exile community, has argued that Cubans deserve the special status afforded them by the Cuban Adjustment Act.

After all, they're fleeing a brutal dictatorship.

But in this morning's column she writes: "I believe in the humanitarian role of a country open to refugees and in the economic benefit generated by the energy of hard-working immigrants. But an out-of-date law meant to protect the politically persecuted is being made a mockery of by people cashing in on the generosity of Americans."

Better late than never, Fabi.


Sun Sentinel: U.S. welfare flows to Cuba - “They’re taking benefits from the American taxpayer to subsidize their life in another country.”

Sun Sentinel: Plundering America, the Cuban Criminal Pipeline

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wants you to know that his many neighborhoods are 'bone dry' thank you very much

In the newspaper business this is what's known
as "unfortunate ad placement."


On his website, Miami Beach Mayor Philip "Just Get It Done!" Levine says "Our flood mitigation program is just in the early phase with only 10% of the program having been completed to date and we are already seeing encouraging results."

But it's safe to say that Levine never envisioned at least one benefit his "flood mitigation program" would provide Beach residents.

While crews got busy "mitigating" in neighborhoods where Levine has extensive real estate holdings, other areas were neglected.

And that means that many folks on the Beach are now getting to know each other just a little bit better.

Yesterday, veteran Miami Herald photographer Walt Michot captured these images of Miami Beach residents pitching to help neighbors and co-workers who have been affected by the flooding.

Father-and-son Carlos Coello Sr. and Carlos Coello Jr. give 
Maria Posada, 65, a lift back to her condo in Miami Beach 
on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. 
Photographs by Walt Michot/Miami Herald.

Red South Beach Hotel doorman Jose Salazar carries fellow employee 
Daysi Rodriguez over floodwaters on Miami Beach on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015.
(Click image to enlarge)

Curiously, there aren't any pictures of Miami Beach firefighters helping stranded elderly citizens. That's probably because they're too busy out campaigning for Levine. 

And while Mayor Levine's ad agency is feverishly churning out one ad after another in an attempt to convince Beach residents that he's got the flooding situation under control, the Herald found at least one person who's not convinced.
“It wasn’t like this last year,” said Jennifer Hernandez, a supervisor at the Alden Hotel on Indian Creek Drive. She was handing guests trash bags to wrap around their legs as they stepped into the water in front of the hotel.

“We can’t control mother nature,” Hernandez said as she surveyed the wakes created by cars moving through the water.

But over at 10th Street and Alton Road — less than three miles from the Alden Hotel where Hernandez works — it's a different story.

I'll let Miami Beach spokesperson Nannette Rodriguez explain: “Sunset Harbor is bone dry. You used to not be able to get into the Publix, and it’s all dry. Even Purdy Avenue is dry. Tenth and Alton: totally dry, Rodriguez told the Miami Herald's Joey Flechas a few days ago.

So why are some locations "bone dry" while others are under feet of water?

Call it happenstance, but the building that sits at Tenth and Alton is owned by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Flechas never shared that information with his readers.

And the Sunset Harbor and Purdy Avenue locations also mentioned by Rodriguez? If you guessed that Levine also has real estate holdings at Purdy and Sunset Harbor, you guessed correctly. Flechas also neglected to include that bit of equally important information in his story.

(Click here to see a complete list of Levine's real estate holdings in the Sunset Harbor and Purdy Avenue neighborhoods.)

The video below speaks volumes. It isn't as slick as Levine's campaign ads, but the pictures say it all.

Miami beach Mayor Philip Levine owns this building at 
10th Street and Alton Road, Miami Beach.
Images via Google Street View, July 2015.
(Click photos to enlarge)

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Last month, John Blanding of the Boston Globe shot a picture at a movie premiere that started an Internet conversation

“Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour.” ― Walt Whitman

John Blanding is a photographer at the Boston Globe.

Last month he covered the U.S. premiere of the movie, "Black Mass."

Blanding took the usual shots of the stars arriving and posing on the red carpet.

But he also took the shot below that's started an Internet conversation.

Click on the image and see if you can spot the reason why everyone is talking about it.

Photograph by John Blanding/Boston Globe.
(Click image to enlarge)

Everyone’s Sharing This Picture To Make A Point About Modern Life
After this crowd photo at a movie premiere in Massachusetts went viral, it started a discussion - are smartphones ruining or enhancing our modern life experience?
Posted by BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Monday, October 05, 2015

VIDEO: Motorcyclist texts while fleeing police

Posted by Martin County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, October 1, 2015

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine may not be a dictator....but he's mastered the art of looking like one

Photography was invented sometime in the early 1800s.

But it wasn't until the early to mid-20th century that politicians realized the power of photographs and their ability to sway opinion.

Adolf Hitler was probably the first to use photographs on a regular basis for propaganda purposes.

Starting in 1936, Hitler never went anywhere without his personal photographer in tow.

In the late 1930s, very few photographers were using color film. German photographer Hugo Jaeger was an early adopter, and when Adolf Hitler was introduced to Jaeger’s work, he liked what he saw.

“The future,” Hitler reportedly told Jaeger, “belongs to color photography.”

Between 1936 and 1945, Jaeger was granted unprecedented access to Hitler, traveling and chronicling, in color, the Fuhrer and his confidants at small gatherings, public events and, quite often, in private moments. 

Hitler is long gone, but dictators and despots still use photographs to burnish their image.

There's no shortage of images of brutal, sadistic tyrants posing with smiling children, adoring adults, pets, and men in uniform.

I started thinking about this early this morning after looking at some photographs of an event that Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine hosted for seniors last night.

Now no one is saying that Phil Levine is a dictator...although at times he acts like one.

Earlier: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine engages in a little 'hero self-worship'

But as I browsed the photos he posted on Facebook, I couldn't help but notice the similarity to  historic photographs of some of history's most despised dictators.

The caption for the photo below reads: "Amazing campaign Gala with our ‪#‎MiamiBeach‬ seniors! Salsa dancing and wonderful music. ¡Simplemente Hazlo! ‪#‎VoteLevine‬ ‪#‎LevineForMayor‬"

Click this and all images to enlarge.

Notice how similar Levine's expression is to that of Chairman Mao's in the Communist propaganda poster below. I also love how the photographer has masterfully framed the shot that shows Levine surrounded by ecstatic supporters.

Here's another shot from last night's event....

....that bears an eerie similarity to this Soviet-era poster.

Spend any of amount of time looking at Levine's photos and you come away with the feeling that he's being advised by someone who once worked as a political advisor for a Banana Republic dictator, and someone who believes that the occasional use of Photoshop is OK just as long as it's done badly.

Bad Photoshop is better than no Photoshop!

Here's another shot from Levine's Facebook page....

Pair the image above with this shot of North Korea's Kim Jong Un....

Dictators are also fond of posing with men and women in uniform. Levine is no exception.

An absolute must for any dictator's portfolio are shots that show he loves and connects with the little ones!

Fidel Castro with children in 2002.
Fidel Castro with schoolchildren. (1959)

You can't call yourself a dictator unless your subjects whip themselves into an uncontrollable frenzy while in your presence.

Dictators are also fond of showing that they love their four-legged subjects just like they were people.

So, if you're a Miami Beach voter, you should stop by Levine's Facebook page as often as possible and look at the photographs.

After all, you're paying for this crap.