Thursday, March 31, 2011

Miami New Times [briefly] pulls suspect restaurant review [UPDATED x2]

UPDATED @ 1:30pm: Shortly after noon Thursday, Strouse posted his explanation of the events surrounding the disputed review.

UPDATED @ 11:10am: Miami New Times editor Chuck Strouse tells me this morning that Lee Klein's review of Route 9 was pulled because of "four or five factual errors."

Strouse said he was working to correct the errors and that the review would be re-posted on the paper's website soon. (Review has since been re-posted with this note: "This story was removed from the Internet overnight while several factual errors were corrected. We apologize for the inconvenience.")

Strouse said he is satisfied that Klein visited Route 9. However, owner Jeremy Goldberg isn't so sure. (A source at New Times tells me that restaurant critics are required to turn in receipts.)

"I'm not some bitchy restaurant guy who doesn't want a bad review. Something sketchy is going on here," Goldberg told me this morning.

Goldberg also feels that Strouse misled him.

"When I talked to him Wednesday, he told me the review would be pulled and that he would issue a retraction in next week's paper. He didn't tell me that the review would be re-posted," said Goldberg this morning.

Additionally, the Food for Thought Miami blog has turned up an interesting connection between Klime Kovaceski and Klein which can be seen here.

Strouse took pains to point out to me that this is the first time he's had to correct one of Klein's reviews.


Miami New Times editor Chuck Strouse, in an unprecedented move Wednesday, pulled a restaurant review by long-time critic Lee Klein from the paper's website.

Late Wednesday night, Jeremy Goldberg, owner of Route 9 in Coral Gables, confirmed in a phone conversation with me that he called Strouse Wednesday after reading an online review of his eatery by Klein.

Goldberg said he learned of the review after a customer called and left a message.

"Much of the information in the review was incorrect," Goldberg told me.

For instance, in the pulled review - which is preserved in a Google cache - Klein writes of Goldberg and his wife Paola: "Before schooling, they had worked as prep cooks in Miami eateries; after graduating in 1991 [from the Culinary Institute of America], they managed restaurants such as Timo, Johnny V Las Olas, and Escopazzo. Less than two months ago, they opened their own dining establishment."

"I was 9 years old in 1991," said Goldberg, who is 28.

After reading the rest of the review, Goldberg told me that it appeared that much of Klein's information about the menu came from an early version of Route 9's website which was revised prior to restaurant's opening.

But Goldberg said he really got suspicious after reading the review and realizing that some of the information in it meshed with an experience he had a few weeks earlier with diners at a "difficult table."

Fortunately, the diner left his business card. According to Goldberg, the card bore the name of Klime Kovaceski, executive chef at Trio on the Bay on the 79th Street Causeway in Miami. (A short review of Trio by Klein can be seen on New Times' website here.)

Goldberg called Strouse Wednesday morning to complain about Klein's review. "He was very concerned and told me he'd get to the bottom of it," said Goldberg.

A source at New Times told me that Strouse could be heard throughout the entire newsroom Wednesday afternoon yelling at Klein over the phone.

Goldberg told me that in addition to calling Strouse, he also drove up to 79th Street to confront Kovaceski. Goldberg reports that Kovaceski confirmed he was the source of much of the information contained in Klein's review.

An attempt to locate contact info for Klein was unsuccessful. I didn't call Strouse because of the late hour but I'll attempt to get a comment Thursday. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Luther Campbell is no longer the least qualified mayoral candidate

Roosevelt Bradley, candidate for Miami-Dade mayor

Luther Campbell is fighting a losing battle. He's trying to convince someone...anyone, - with the help of Miami New Times - that he's a serious contender for the office of Miami-Dade mayor.

Yesterday he unveiled one of the planks in his platform. He wants to tax strippers.
If a stripper makes five or even six figures a year — and some do — a few hundred bucks to register with the state like a real estate agent or a nurse is a wise investment. For one, cities could keep underage girls out of the industry. For another, they could actually take care of their people.

Miami could be the first wave in a stripper tsunami. Exotic dancers from across the nation come here to get naked. We have more strip clubs than anywhere in the United States. We're home to the two largest strip clubs in the country — Tootsie's Cabaret and King of Diamonds — where P. Diddy and Rick Ross recently made $1 million rain on the dancers.
Uhhh, sure Luther.

But Campbell has to be the happiest man in South Florida. He can no longer be called the least qualified candidate for Miami-Dade mayor.

That distinction now belongs to former fired Miami-Dade Transit Director Roosevelt Bradley who has announced he's entering the race.

From the Miami Herald, March 16, 2007:
Transit director is forced out

Friday, March 16, 2007

Abstract: Miami-Dade's veteran Transit director became one of the first to fall since Mayor Carlos Alvarez was given broader powers to hire and fire at County Hall.

Miami-Dade Transit Director Roosevelt Bradley , one of the highest-ranking blacks in county government, was forced to resign abruptly Thursday night.

Bradley , 51, confirmed his departure from the $225,000-a-year post but declined to comment further about the circumstances. He did not return subsequent phone calls.
Vicki Mallette, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, said that Bradley resigned. Mallette didn't know if an interim replacement had been named for the nation's 14th-largest transit agency, which has a $425 million annual budget and nearly 4,000 employees.

"The mayor doesnt want to comment any further on personnel matters," Mallette said. "I believe theres going to be a memo [today]."

A tireless worker known for putting in seven-day weeks, Bradley had broad political support, especially among black commissioners, union leaders and in the community. His departure came as a surprise even to some of his harshest critics at County Hall.

"It's no secret that I had problems with his agency," said County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who recently stepped aside as transportation chairman.

"It wasn't about [ Bradley ]. It was about the agency and how it was run. Long-standing problems with deficits. Inefficiencies," he said. "On a personal level, I thought he was a decent man. But I had problems with the way that agency was run."
Allegations lingered during Bradley 's tenure about patronage, nepotism and irregular hiring practices.

A 2005 inspector general's audit slammed Miami-Dade Transit for hiring a Pembroke Pines woman who was best friends with a close friend of Bradley 's.

Beatrice Fullington was hired to a sensitive security job even though she had an outstanding warrant for allegedly stealing money from her previous employer.

The Fullington investigation had further fallout.

Bradley subsequently fired one of the inspector general's key witnesses, safety and security director Bonnie Todd.

Todd filed an unfair labor practices complaint. On the eve of her hearing, she was rehired into another position of equal stature at the transit agency at the same pay level.
Read the county memos on Bradley's firing below.

Roosevelt Bradley Termination

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Snapshots from the Funkshion Fashion Week Concert after party


Abelardo Antonio Soto of North Miami is taken into custody by Miami Beach police Saturday.

Just another wild weekend on South Beach.
Throngs of tourists and event-goers may have been good for Miami Beach’s hotels, clubs and restaurants, but the thousands of visitors created a busy — and at times violent — week for the city’s police and firefighters.

Between Wednesday and Sunday night, officers and paramedics dealt with a possible suicide jumper at the Flamingo condominium, a mid-day drowning at The Clevelander, a brutal gang rape at The Fontainebleau, and an officer attacked when crowds outside a concert on the beach degenerated into what a fire department spokesman described as an “angry mob.”
Some in that "angry mob" were arrested and had this been any other weekend, the arrests might have gone unnoticed.

But thanks to Youtube, memories of this weekend will be around for quite a while.
Some of the YouTube videos onlookers shot Saturday outside of the Funkshion Fashion Week concert headlined by Swedish House Mafia were sparking mixed reactions on Tuesday.

I lived on South Beach for quite a few years before moving a year and half ago. But in that time, I never saw anything like this.

When I asked a police officer I know if he'd seen the videos, he answered, "Why should I? I live that everyday." He added that his wife had looked at the videos and told him in jest, "It's a good thing I'm not a cop. I would have shot everyone in that mob."

My friend continued: "This sort of thing has been going on for years; the crowds are just more brazen now."

Next up: Memorial Day Weekend. I can't wait.

Here are a few frame grabs from the videos.

Before the crowds gathered, Lt. Douglas Simon tried to cuff Sara Greenback.

Sara Greenback resists being handcuffed by Lt. Douglas Simon.

Lt. Simon holds onto Sara Greenback while waiting for back up officers to arrive while a security guard restrains another man.

Agg Batt Arrest

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Democrat and Republican share their thoughts on computers

President Obama:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott:
Gov. Rick Scott visited the Department of Elder Affairs Tuesday and spoke for 20 minutes to about 200 employees who packed a conference room. At the end of his talk, the governor who wants to run the state "like a business" asked people with suggestions to write a letter and send it to the Capitol through the U.S. Postal Service -- because he doesn't use email.

In 2011.

"If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send me, I don't have e-mail," Scott said. "It's easier if I never get e-mailed. I get embarrassed by it that way. It's not as easy to communicate," Scott said. "Have a great day."
-via The St. Petersburg Times

The silence is deafening

Over 7 months ago, on Aug. 15, 2010, City of Miami Commissioner Richard Dunn stood shoulder to shoulder with Mayor Tomas Regaldo and Miami polce chief Miguel Exposito at a press conference where it was announced that Miami police were going to "take back the streets."

"This is not a public relations show; this is the real thing," said Regalado.

"There will be zero tolerance to this criminal activity," said Dunn.

Ten days later, - after police had fanned out and killed 4 men in high crime areas - a squeamish Dunn suddenly decided that "zero tolerence" wasn't such a good idea after all.

Now, said Dunn, "we're going to pray that the violence ends."

And by last January, Dunn was likening Exposito to Fidel Castro.

After a man was killed and another wounded in a police shooting last Feb. 11, calls for Exposito to be fired grew louder.

The Miami Herald reported, "The shooting brought instant criticism from Miami Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II, an Exposito critic who has campaigned for the chief’s removal."

“It looks like the chief has succeeded in creating a culture in the police department of shoot first and ask questions later. Unfortunately, it only seems to happen in District 5,” the Herald quoted Dunn as saying.

Sunday night there was another shooting in Overtown.
Barbara Smith-Brown was pulling out of a parking spot in the 1900 block of NW 5th Place, when gunshots rang out.

“I never thought in a million years that I would be in a hospital, that I would be shot or my son would be shot,” said Smith-Brown.
Police say a bullet went through the passenger side door, striking 8-year old Cody in the arm and Smith-Brown in the knee.

“I thought I was going to die and I was feeling that I wanted to stay alive,” recalled Cody.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Rick of SFDB wrote this morning, "Thank goodness Miami Police weren't around because they probably would have shot the perps."

Ironically, Smith-Brown and her son were shot just a few blocks from the site of a memorial wall that pays tribute to the victims of the police shootings.

Commissioner Dunn, who hoped to stop the violence with prayer, has been uncharacteristically mum on the shooting of Smith-Brown and her boy. Not a peep.

The Miami Herald, has also been silent and has yet to print a word on Sunday's shooting. A frequent critic of aggressive policing, the paper often chooses to ignore the real causes of violence in the 'hood by simply not reporting it.

Also not talking: Members of the community near NW 19 St. and 5th Place where the shooting occurred.

Other than telling police that the shooters were on bicycles, no one has provided the cops with a detailed description according to William Moreno of the Miami Police Department.

And that's strange.

In a neighborhood where everyone often knows everyone else, no one has called police to identify the shooters who rode to the scene on bicycles and who were seen arguing minutes before the shooting.

All of a sudden, the silence is deafening.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lincoln Road Antique Market tomorrow

After tomorrow - March 27 - there are only three more Sundays to enjoy the Miami Beach Lincoln Road Antique Market.

Here are the remaining dates.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I demand a recount

Matt Pinzur, Special Assistant to now departed Miami-Dade County manager George Burgess, proudly poses at the new Marlins stadium.

We've made a terrible mistake.

Can we have a do-over? On the recall election, that is.

While poking around on the Internet tonight, I found an interview (link opens Windows Media Player) that Special Assistant to former county manager George Burgess, Matthew Pinzur did with WFLC earlier this year.

After listening to Pinzur talk about what a great job Miami-Dade government is doing, it's a wonder anyone voted to recall Carlos Alvarez.

I mean, this guy is so good he could sell pork spareribs in a kosher restaurant. And if Pinzur was a prison warden, I can almost picture him convincing a death row inmate to strap himself to the execution gurney.

Early in the interview Pinzur says that more than half of the people who own property in Miami-Dade will pay less or the same in property taxes this year. "There wasn't some big tax increase, it's really just a myth." Oh, OK!

Pinzur didn't mention what the other half will end up paying. Slick!

And, listen at 12:40 as Pinzur explains the reason why public money is being spent on the Marlins Stadium.

"[The taxes are] tourist taxes and by law those can only be used for things like improving sports facilities, like convention centers...ummm, this is not money that can be used for almost anything else in government. So what the mayor and the county manager said is one of the things that make a community great is professional sports; it's true in Europe, it's true all over the world. And just because some people don't go to baseball games; some people also don't go to the symphony..."

It's so much easier when the mayor and manager make the decisions for all of us, right Matt? Elections and the democratic process are so overrated.

And if we believe what Pinzur says, Alvarez and Burgess were required by law to build a stadium! Now I get it; it's all so simple!

Listen also at 17:00 as Pinzur explains how great downtown Miami is becoming. "We've got this developing, growing central downtown community which really cities of Miami''s age haven't been able to just create out of nothing."

But the best part of the interview comes at 25:15 when he tells the listeners to get informed and get involved, "don't just  ... believe rumor, don't just believe what you see on a blog somewhere." Is that a shot at me, Matt?

But, you sold me Matt. I'm convinced; Miami-Dade is a great place to live and work! I just wish I had heard this interview before March 15th.

However, the one question Pinzur didn't answer is, "If Miami-Dade County is such a great place to live and work and pay those low, low taxes; where do you live Matt?"

I'll answer it for you Matt.

Matt Pinzur - who is paid almost $130,000 a year in salary and benefits by Miami-Dade taxpayers - lives in Broward County.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Random Pixels presents "Fast food will make you stupid"

Meet Kimesa Smith.

The bikini-clad Alabama woman was arrested Saturday night on a misdemeanor battery charge after she had a violent meltdown at a beachfront Burger King in Panama City Beach, Florida.

And as they say on TV, it was all caught on tape!

-via The Smoking Gun

Another bad week for Miguel Exposito

I don't know anything about Miami police chief Miguel Exposito's personal habits.

But if I were a betting man, I'd wager a C-note or two that he pops quite a few antacid tablets. He just strikes me as a guy who might be fighting a severe case of acid reflux.

And if that's the case, he may want to bring an extra large bottle of Tums to work today.

It looks like its gonna be another one of those days.

In today's Miami Herald', Chuck Rabin reports that "family members of seven black men slain by Miami police, along with community leaders...will get their say in front of Miami commissioners Thursday, where they will demand more leadership positions for black police officers in the inner city and the elimination of some specialized units."

There will, no doubt, be more calls for the chief to resign or be fired.

Tuesday was also another bad day for Exposito.

The chief and his police force got some more bad national press with publication online of a New York Times story headlined, "Race Issues Rise for Miami Police."

The story by Don Van Natta - a former Miami Herald reporter - summarized for a national audience, the killings by Miami police of 7 black men in 8 months and the chief's embarrassment over a leaked TV pilot that showed him calling his men were "predators."

The story marks the second time in three months that Chief Exposito has ended up on the pages of the New York Times.

Emotions will be probably be running high at today's meeting with more calls by community members for Exposito's firing. The Herald's Rabin reports that city manager "[Tony] Crapp has remained tight-lipped on his plans for the chief."

Rabin didn't say in his story if Exposito planned to be at the commission meeting. I'm guessing he won't be.

Perhaps he'll be in his office popping more antacids while he tries to figure out how to keep any more names from being added to this memorial mural I spotted in Overtown on Wednesday.

Click image to enlarge

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What this country needs is a crazy third world dictator...Donald Trump

Lewis Black skewered Donald Trump, the presidential candidate, last night on the Daily Show:

"That right; Donald Trump came out as a birther, which is Republican for 'I'm running for president.'"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Norman Braman...then and now

One week ago today, Miami-Dade residents were celebrating the fact that car dealer Norman Braman had saved them from another 18 months of Carlos Alvarez's incompetent leadership.

And he's not finished yet.
Three of the leading candidates for Miami-Dade County mayor threw their support Monday behind an eight-point reform plan proposed by billionaire businessman Norman Braman, who led the successful recall of former mayor Carlos Alvarez, as the race for a new mayor picked up steam and county commissioners tried to regain their footing after last week’s stunning recall vote.
Thirty years ago Braman was on another crusade.

"Norman Braman wants to save us all from economic catastrophe," read the first sentence of a story in The Miami News on March 23, 1981.

"He puts his money where his heart is -- with Reagan," blared the story's headline.

It's OK Norman, all is forgiven!

Random Pixels presents "Fast food will make you stupid"

The Beefy Crunch Burrito: Layers of seasoned ground beef, rice, warm nacho cheese sauce, sour cream and Flamin’ Hot Fritos, wrapped in a warm, flour tortilla. It's enough to make you lose your mind! 
We've been down this road before.

Seems like half the crime in the U.S. could be eliminated overnight if we shut down every fast food restaurant in the country.

Ricardo Jones
The latest act of Stupidity in the Drive-thru Lane resulted in a case of "burrito rage" in San Antonio Texas.
The price of the Beefy Crunch Burrito had gone up from 99 cents to $1.49 and the man at the Rigsby Road Taco Bell drive-thru had just ordered seven.

The fast food customer was so disgruntled by the price hike he shot an air gun at the manager, displayed an assault rifle and pistol while in the restaurant's parking lot, fled as police were called, and pointed one of his weapons at three officers who pulled him over. Fleeing when they opened fire, he barricaded himself in his hotel room — all over $3.50 plus additional tax.

All three of his weapons were found to be air-powered and not firearms.
Ricardo Jones then holed up in a hotel room which resulted in a three hour stand-off with a SWAT team.

When it was all over, Jones was charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault against a public servant.

Carlos Alvarez: where did he go wrong?

If you're like me and just can't get enough of the Carlos Alvarez Recall Election Analysis and Post-Mortem, you're in luck.

In case you missed it, an excellent story in Sunday's Herald by Patricia Mazzei, credited Spanish language radio with playing a role in Alvarez's ouster. Mazzei explained how wealthy, non-Spanish speaking recall leader Norman Braman - "the son of blue-collar immigrants from Poland and Romania" - was able to "strike an emotional chord with [Hispanic] voters."

On Friday, Helen Ferre, host of Channel 2's "Issues," assembled three South Florida journalists - Tim Elfrink of Miami New Times, Michael Lewis of Miami Today and Antonio Fins of the Sun-Sentinel - to discuss where Alvarez went wrong. After watching the segment, I was left with just one question: If these guys could figure it out, why couldn't Alvarez?

Monday, March 21, 2011

For Elvis fans only

"The blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll."-Muddy Waters


For more than 25 years the photograph haunted me.

From the time I first saw it on a desk in the photo department of the Miami News, I sensed there was something special about it.

Shot in the days following the birth of a musical genre called rock 'n roll, it is, quite simply, the single greatest image ever made of a rising young star named Elvis Presley.

It was shot by the great Miami News photographer Charles Trainor, Sr. during one of seven concerts Presley gave in Miami over a two day period in August, 1956.

But, for a long time, that was all I knew about the image.

Over the years I kept seeing the photo in magazines.

Every time LIFE magazine or Rolling Stone did a special on Elvis or The Fifties or the history of Rock and Roll, that picture ended up being used...usually on the cover.

After old issues of the Miami News became available on Google, I was able to search and find the paper that carried stories of Presley's two days in Miami.

Trainor passed away in 1987, but with a little old-fashioned shoe leather, I tracked down and interviewed another former Miami News photographer named Don Wright who covered the concert with Trainor. At the time Wright was an up and coming shooter who went on to become a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist at the paper.

Armed with a treasure trove of new information, last summer I wrote a story about Presley's August, 1956 concerts at the Olympia Theatre in downtown Miami.

Trainor's son, Charles Jr., followed in his father's footsteps and now works as a photographer at the Miami Herald.

After his father's death, he was able to salvage some of his dad's favorite negatives.

After my story was posted, he promised me would send me a print of the Elvis photo.

Today, a beautifully printed, exhibition quality 16x20 print arrived in the mail.

It's been so long since I've seen a real black and white print with dazzling whites, rich, velvety blacks and silky mid-tones that I'd almost forgotten how beautiful one can be.

I called Charlie to thank him.

I asked him if he still gets requests for copies of the Elvis print and he said most definitely. He said he fills an occasional request for fine art collectors.

He said another one of his father's most requested prints is that of Cassius Clay clowning around with the Beatles in Feb. 1964 at the Fifth Street Gym.

I reminded him that next August is the 55th anniversary of Presley's Miami concert and that perhaps there are some who might like to give one of the prints as a gift.

Charlie assured me that he has copies to mail out.

So, if any Random Pixels readers are interested, just shoot me an email and I'll forward it to Charlie. Click on my email link at the upper right hand corner of this blog.

The way we were

From The Miami News, March 21,1961

Fifty years ago today, state and federal agents arrested 8 people "in marijuana raids on a 38-foot sloop at Dinner Key Marina" and an address in Hialeah.

The agent in charge described the 8 as "beatnik types combined with the racetrack crowd."

In his story, The Miami News reporter noted that one of those arrested "wore a Van Dyke beard."

Random Pixels presents Baxter the Dancing Dachshund

This dog has got some moves but if you look closely you can see his partner rewarding him with treats.

As long as we're doing dachshunds, here's one of a Navy man being greeted by his two dachshunds as he returns home after a deployment.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The shot of a lifetime

There's an exclusive club for photographers that not many get to join.

It's reserved for the lucky few who get the shot - or shots - that every photographer longs for. It's for those who have experienced the exhilaration of capturing a once-in-a-lifetime image.

(I was admitted to The Club almost 20 years ago, but that's another story.)

Florida wildlife photographer Heather Green is the newest member of The Club. Welcome Heather!

This past January, Heather saw and photographed something that only a handful of Floridians will ever be fortunate enough to see - let alone photograph - the Florida panther.

Jeff Klinkenberg of the St. Petersburg Times tells her amazing story in this weekend's paper.
Taking a good picture of a deer or an owl is harder than it sounds, but at least deer and owls are common. The photographer who blows her first shot knows she'll eventually get another chance.

Serious wildlife photographers, though, aim higher than that. They all dream about the one flesh-and-blood creature that is almost as spectral as a unicorn: the spectacularly camera-shy Florida panther.

It's possible that more people have won the lottery than seen a panther.

The chance of having your camera with you, and getting a focused, well-composed photograph when the panther shows its whiskers?

Astronomically small.
The state has about 120 panthers now, clinging to life in the southwest hinterlands. But most folks live their entire lives within panther territory and never see a big cat or its track.

Heather also wrote about her big cat encounter on her blog back in January. Click here to read it.

And click here to read Jeff's story.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Burger King shifts gears

from the Random Pixels business desk...

Miami Herald reports that Burger King has ended their 7-year relationship with the edgy ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
It was under Crispin Porter that Burger King brought the King back and turned its focus on the “Super Fan,” a young male customer that tends to be a heavy fast-food user. That strategy helped fuel the brand’s turnaround that began in 2005, but when the economy hit the skids so did Burger King’s performance. The company has attributed the fall to the high unemployment rates of that super fan customer.

As sales went south, frustration grew among Burger King franchisees, who have been calling for a change in the company’s marketing strategy for several years. The end of the relationship with Crispin Porter was viewed as a step in the right direction by many of these franchisees. They blamed the company’s heavy marketing focus on the super fan for driving away other customer groups ranging from women to minorities.
C'mon! No more creepy king ads?

And no more making fun of "chick food?"

Whatever agency BK chooses to replace CP+B, it's a safe bet they won't be reverting to this style:

Quick, call the Herald and tell them there's a war going on!

Here's the story websites of several U.S. newspapers were leading with today:

And here's what the Miami Herald's website looked like for the entire day:

Yup! Some Star Island millionaire has filed for bankruptcy. Someone please tell me that Joan Fleischman has not come out of retirement and is now in charge!

One loyal Random Pixels reader sent me this note at about 12:30 this afternoon:  "BTW--there's no sport in this anymore, but if you looked at the online Herald right this moment you will see some bizarrely huge pix of bankrupt socialites while war on Libya is relegated to a little box on left nav. "

Finally, at a little after 5pm, someone at the paper woke up and changed the homepage.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Your Random Pixels Big Number of the Day

Number of votes cast in Tuesday's election to recall Carlos Alvarez: 183,652

Number of votes to keep him: 24,796

Number of votes Carlos Alvarez received in his August 2008 reelection bid: 110,000+

Footnote: Someone at the county is on the ball. Alvarez's page on the county's website has already been removed.

Manatees enjoy Spring Break too!

from NBC Miami

Ever wonder how manatees do it?

Up in Hallandale they were doing it in broad daylight with a crowd watching.


After all, it is Spring Break!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Are newspapers losing their clout?

A funny thing happened the other day.

The Miami Herald recommended a NO vote on the question of recalling Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez and commissioner Natacha Seijas.

Not many noticed or if they did they chose to vote another way.

I didn't know about the recommendation until a friend who reads the print edition pointed it out to me.

Today, I had a little fun and came up with this mock ad. ...

...which I'm guessing we won't be seeing in the paper anytime soon.

A Facebook friend posted it on his page yesterday with this comment:
"Is this for real??? Did The Miami Herald really recommend we vote NO in yesterday's recall election? 88% of Miami-Dade citizens voted YES. Guess that means 12% of the county reads The Herald. Out. Of. Touch."
His post received quite a few comments, including this from the Herald's Gkenn Garvin:
"The Herald, I believe, also endorsed Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter and George McGovern, back at a time when the circulation was much larger than it is now. Hell, the Herald once endorsed Hugh Rodham for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. People read (or don't read) newspapers for many reasons, and political endorsements are surely way down at the bottom of the list, not just in Miami but everywhere else."
Despite what Glenn says, years ago, newspaper readers would clip out a paper's recommendations and take the clipping to the polling place. These days, the Herald posts its recommendations on a printer-friendly page on its website. I wonder how many actually bother printing the page?

But how could the Herald be so out of touch with its readers?

Are the people who sit on the editorial board so much smarter and better informed than the readers?

Well, let's assume for a minute that every one of the paper's readers read every political story printed in the paper prior to an election.

Now they know as much as the editorial board and can make their own decisions...right?

It's not quite that simple. Here's an excellent column from 5 years ago that explains how the St. Petersburg Times editorial board came up with their recommendations in 2006:
In the past four weeks, we have interviewed 170 candidates for state and local office in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. In addition, we asked the candidates to provide biographical information and respond to our issue questionnaire. In some local races, we also talked to people in the community who know the candidates' strengths and weaknesses.
Each election season I hear from readers who say they appreciate our efforts to help them sort out their thinking on candidates, especially in races for circuit and county court judgeships and school boards, where too often voters know little about the candidates. I also hear from a few readers who say a newspaper has no business telling people how to vote. Voters, they say, are capable of making up their own minds and editorial boards should just butt out.
Voters are free to consider or ignore our recommendations. However, we believe we provide a public service by doing our part to inform voters who do not have the time or the means to assess candidates and their positions on issues. We work hard at it and believe that whatever voters think of our choices, they benefit from having our opinion in the mix, even if they reject it.
I'm sure the Herald editorial board doesn't do anything radically different from the St. Pete Times.

If you're really curious about how little all newspaper endorsements matter, you don't have to look any further back than the general election of 2010.

Rick Scott was elected governor without the endorsement of a single major Florida newspaper.

And there's this:
Once upon a time, newspaper endorsements were a big deal to candidates for higher office because there was a belief that the news media were a good proxy for the peoples' views and values.

But today, that arguably is no longer the case. A Wall Street Journal-NBC poll this month found that only 13% of voters had a "great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence in the national news media, less than the portion who had confidence in the federal government, the auto industry or the energy industry, and only four percentage points better than the 9% who felt that way about Congress.
So, how can the Herald - and all newspapers - align themselves a little more closely with the thinking of their readers?

Here's a suggestion for the Herald editorial board.

How about inviting a few of your readers to sit in on the deliberations the next time you decide on your recommendations?

That way you won't have to take all the blame if you screw up like you did on Tuesday. And you might actually learn a thing or two.

What was on your mind this week?

I thought some of you might like to take a peek inside the Random Pixels Control Center and see what I see.

So, with a tip of the hat to SFDB, here's a look at a graph of the 8 most widely read posts for the past 7 days on Random Pixels; a clear reflection of what was "Topic A" on the minds of many this week.

Also clear is that many South Floridians chose Random Pixels as their #1 source for information before heading to the polls. (We had a hunch our readers were a discerning bunch of we know!)

I've linked the posts below if you're curious:

Winners and losers

Random Pixels presents "Your Daily Carlos"

Miami-Dade County employees: bringin' home the bacon! (also, so far the most widely read post this month)

Carlos Alvarez...thanks for the memories!

Carlos Alvarez's curtain call

Carlos Alvarez and the Kodak moment

Carlos Alvarez to make make his case Saturday

Please! I have to know, is the car OK??

Click chart to enlarge

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Today's Random Thought

For some reason, these seem appropriate today

Winners and Losers

By the time you read this, the smoke will have cleared and the dust settled.

In my half-century in Miami, I have never seen anything like what happened Tuesday night.

Perhaps Channels 10's veteran political reporter, Michael Putney put it best:
"I have never seen a vote this lopsided in any election. This was not a landslide. It was a massacre."
So let's look at all the winners and losers.

WINNERS: Miami-Dade voters who sent a clear and resounding message by a margin of 9 to 1 to the remaining politicians at County Hall: Cut the crap and start representing us!

WINNERS: Miami Herald reporters Matt Haggman and Martha Brannigan. Haggman and Brannigan, along with former Herald reporter Jack Dolan have done some of the best only investigative reporting in town on Alvarez and his shady doings at County Hall.

LOSER: Former Miami-Dade commissioner Natacha Seijas. With over 18 years on the commission, this ill-mannered and vile excuse for a human being is a poster child for term limits. 'Nuff said.

LOSER: Former Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez. Elected six and half years ago, this former cop looked like a knight in shining armor who was going to gallop in on his white steed like the Lone Ranger and clean up county government. Fat chance!

He turned out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. Staffing county hall with cronies and paying them astronomical salaries like there was no tomorrow.

Imperious and arrogant, he did everything except erect a guillotine in the plaza in front of County Hall and conduct lunch-time beheadings.

LOSER: Miami Herald editorial board. The would-be opinion shapers at the Miami Herald proved just how out of touch they are with the readers they purport to serve when they came up with this recommendation in today's paper:

But Tuesday's biggest loser? The envelope please....

BIGGEST LOSER: Victoria L. Mallette, Director of Communications for Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

Mallette makes $136,019 a year. Her boss, the mayor, gave Mallette a 54% pay increase a while back after telling taxpayers that everyone must make sacrifices.

According to her bio on the county's website, "Mallette along with her staff, coordinate and advance the Mayor's public appearances; liaison with local, national and international media to focus attention on the Mayor's agenda and accomplishments; and develop public relations strategies to advance the Mayor's programs and initiatives.

"Mallette serves as the Mayor's chief spokesperson and is a key advisor to the Mayor on complex, sensitive or controversial matters of public information and media relations.

"Mallette is also the Mayor's primary speechwriter, which includes the writing and editing of the Mayor's annual State of the County Address. She reviews and approves correspondence emanating from the Mayor's Office, including media advisories, press releases, constituent letters, monthly newsletters, columns and related informational materials; prepares and organizes media events, including media availabilities, press conferences, and town meetings; and is responsible for the content and accuracy of the Mayor's website."

With all that, when pollsters recently asked Miami-Dade registered voters to name her boss's biggest accomplishment, (see Mallette's job description above) "80% said there were none or couldn't think of any."

Great job Vicki! What exactly do you do to earn that fancy salary? And how many more like you are there at County Hall?

Don't say anything, I think I already know the answer!

So, Victoria L. Mallette, you are Random Pixels' Biggest Loser! Congratulations!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Carlos Alvarez...thanks for the memories!

A photograph I shot of Carlos Alvarez during the 2004 mayoral campaign.

Tuesday is election day.

Short of divine intervention, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez will be unemployed  come Wednesday morning.

Here's a look back at Carlos Alvarez's brief six and a half year tenure as mayor, told in his own words and the words of others.

``He is courteous and congenial; however, this is not to say that he cannot be autocratic when the need arises.'' -from Carlos Avarez's evaluation in 1980 after serving his first 18 months as a Metro police supervisor - as quoted by the Miami Herald, October 28, 2004

``Our citizens deserve a mayor that has dealt with major events and catastrophes. Our citizens deserve a mayor with experience. Our citizens deserve a mayor who won't panic when it starts raining hard.''  -Carlos Alvarez quoted by the Miami Herald, July 25, 2004

``He did not want to hear constructive criticism. Once you did that, you were persona non grata.'' -retired Metro police captain Charles Miller quoted by the Miami Herald, October, 2004

``Carlos Alvarez surprised me. He ran the most simple of races with the most simple of messages: `I'm a good guy, people like me. My family loves me.' No real positions on the issues, no great amount of money, especially in the primary. And he won both races easily.'' -pollster Sergio Bendixen commenting on Alvarez's election as mayor in November, 2004

"I'm looking forward to the next four years. There are a lot of challenges, but I'm very optimistic." -Carlos Alvarez following his August 26, 2008 reelection

"While support for me in this community is strong, I know its not universal." -Carlos Alvarez following his August 26, 2008 reelection

By almost any measure, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez's reelection this week was a landslide: more than 110,000 votes on a day of dismal turnout, and nearly a 2-to-1 margin of victory.

Yet a deeper look at the results reveals a pulse of discontent. Political experts were buzzing Wednesday with the news that Helen Williams, a former teacher fired by the school district a decade ago, captured nearly 60,000 votes with practically no money, campaign operation, political experience or public profile.
-from an August 28, 2008 Miami Herald story on Alvarez's reelection to a second term as mayor.

"A billionaire who lives in a mansion, spends 6 months out of the year in France and has a yacht about the size of a destroyer is saying that I'm insensitive. [I'm] a middle-class, blue collar guy that spent 28 years as a police officer. When was the last time Norman Braman rode on a Metro bus or went to a Dade County park? Or went to a police station or went to a crime scene?" -Mayor Carlos Alvarez, on CBS4, March, 2011.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Carlos Alvarez's curtain call

In a last ditch effort to convince voters to keep him in office, Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez made a final pitch this morning on Michael Putney's show on WPLG.

He basically repeated the same talking points he's been hammering away at for the past few months: His administration has dealt with one billion dollars worth of budget cuts over the past four years without sacrificing essential county services yadda yadda Miami-Dade's crime rate has gone down during his time in office yadda yadda Norman Braman never rode a Metro bus yadda yadda defended raises given to his senior staff two years ago saying he also cut $1.5 million from the mayor's office administrative staff yadda yadda.

But it wasn't what he said on the show but rather what he did afterward that's noteworthy.

A Random Pixels reader spotted the mayor out and about and shot this photo.

Is it just me, or is the mayor looking a lot older these days?

Click image to enlarge

Ft. Myers Beach...

...ain't South Beach.

Town code emforcement officers kick out film crew from Girls Gone Wild.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spellbound at the Herald

Miami Herald is apparently trying something new. It appears that stories are now edited and corrected after they've run in the paper.

Click images to enlarge

Miami Herald, March 9, 2011

Miami Herald, March, 11, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday night soul

Carlos Alvarez to make his case Saturday

Eliott Rodriguez of CBS4 sends me this email today:
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez taped an interview with me Thursday that will air on my program News & Views on CBS4 this Saturday at 10 a.m.

Alvarez is fighting to keep his job despite dismal poll results that show 67% of Miami-Dade voters want him recalled.

CBS4 Investigative Reporter Jim Defede will also be on the show along with Miami Herald reporter Matthew Haggman and Fernand Amandi of Bendixen & Amandi, the local research firm that conducted the poll.

The poll showed that 80% of voters cannot name a single accomplishment by Alvarez during his 6 years in office.

I asked the mayor about this number. Alvarez said his administration has dealt with one billion dollars worth of budget cuts over the past four years without sacrificing essential county services.

He also said Miami-Dade's crime rate has gone down during his time in office. He said the police department and fire department are among the best big city departments in the nation.

Alvarez also said he helped convince Gov. Rick Scott to provide state funding to dredge the Port of Miami so it can accomodate larger cargo ships.

Alvarez stressed he has no regrets about presenting his roll back budget that included $178 million worth of tax increases. He pointed out that most homeowners saw their taxes go down.

He also defended raises given to his senior staff two years ago, saying he also cut $1.5 million from the mayor's office administrative staff and gave those staff members extra duties.
By phone Rodriguez told me: "I think the mayor realizes he has not done a very good job of communicating his message, especially when it came to the budget.

"He's never been a slick politician or captivating speaker. That's not his strong suit. I think he realizes that now and is trying hard to get his message out before the recall election on Tuesday, March 15."

Footnote: Alvarez is also scheduled to appear live this Sunday on Michael Putney's show on Channel 10 at 11:30am.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Random Pixels presents "Your Daily Carlos"

Hopefully by this time next week we'll be referring to Carlos Alvarez as "former mayor Alvarez" and he'll be cleaning out his office.

And - fingers crossed - two weeks from now he'll be a distant memory.

He does have one more chance to convince voters who haven't already cast their ballots that he's doing a great job and deserves to keep his job.

Channels 10's Michael Putney tells me that Alvarez will be the guest on his show, This Week in South Florida, this Sunday at 11:30am.

Alvarez's appearance on the show at this late stage, seems to me to be an exercise in futility. But I'll tune in to see what he has to say.

Perhaps he'll talk about what he's going to do with all the spare time he's sure to have after Tuesday's vote. Or maybe he'll talk about his favorite South Florida fishing holes. Who knows?

Speaking of exercises in futility, this morning the Herald reported that Miami-Dade taxpayers are funding a last minute effort by Alvarez to fend off the recall.
Miami-Dade County has launched a far-reaching campaign to burnish its image among residents and county workers at the same time county Mayor Carlos Alvarez is fending off a recall drive.

Though the word “recall” is rarely mentioned, messages about the county’s good work are suddenly everywhere: Tucked inside water bills, blaring from scratchy speakers on Metrorail platforms, in video messages on the county-run website. New placards at County Hall portray dedicated public servants doing everything from safeguarding water quality to rescuing stray cats and dogs.

The campaign includes government-paid mailers and flyers, blast emails and waves of county staffers armed with message points to address community groups. In many cases, county officials are approaching various nonprofit groups that compete for a slice of county funding, to be awarded in April.

Questions about the Alvarez administration improperly mixing government and politics arose last week when The Miami Herald and CBS4 reported that the county transit agency released 12 bus drivers from their jobs to join a vaguely defined union “education committee’’ while continuing to collect full county paychecks. At least one of the bus drivers was spotted campaigning for the mayor at an early election site.
Over at Miami New Times, art director Pam Shavalier came up with some new looks the mayor might want to try out in an effort to widen his appeal "in a last ditch effort to reach voters."

Carlos Alvarez as Justin Bieber. This look could appeal to
voters who are also parents of teen girls.
So while Carlos Alvarez gets to tool around town in taxpeyer-paid-for BMW 500i Gran Turismo for another few days, some are already beginning to speculate where the mayor went wrong.

The Herald's Fred Grimm says that voters "forgive a lot but not arrogance."
Karen Paul of Florida International University, an expert on business and political ethics and a member of the Alliance for Ethical Government, a citizens’ group formed to clean up Miami-Dade government, thinks the stadium evolved into “a symbol of arrogance and pandering to the powers that be at the expense of the property owner.”

Oddly enough, the professor’s sentiments were echoed by Alex Daoud, the former Miami Beach city commissioner and mayor who served 18 months for a bribery conviction. The defining difference between his behavior, however criminal, and the travails of Carlos Alvarez, he said, “was an issue of arrogance.”

“The public will forgive a lot of behavior, but it won’t forgive hubris,” Daoud said, explaining the inscrutable attitude of Miami-Dade voters.

“I did a lot of bad things in my life,” he said, “But I never lost an election.”