Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The way we were...The Great Normandy Isle Pot and Porn Bust of 1964

Miami News, Oct. 2, 1964.
(Click here to enlarge.)

Back on the evening of Oct. 1, 1964, 30-year-old John C. Bland IV was relaxing in his Normandy Isle bachelor pad with a "29-year-old blonde," when officers from Metro and Miami Beach police departments staged a raid.

A Miami News account of the raid doesn't say what led cops to barge in on Bland, unannounced. However the story does go into great detail about everything else...including the fact that Bland...

  • Was "a practicing nudist."

  • Owned the apartment building, a boat in the canal behind his building and a 1964 Cadillac convertible parked out front.

  • Was found to be in possession of "a pouch of marijuana, seven scrapbooks of nudes and pornography and 13 rolls of lewd film."

  • The story also noted that Bland had six pistols and a rifle in his apartment.

    And cops told Miami News reporter Bob Wyrick that Bland's den "was furnished with a nude painting on the ceiling, stereo equipment, a plaited leather whip and a set of bongo drums."

    "Can't a man live the way he wants in his own home?" Bland asked the cops.

    Wyrick ended his story by reporting that a few years before, Bland had sued Arthur Murray Studios, because after paying for more than 200 lessons, he still hadn't learned to dance.

    Apparently the guy just couldn't catch a break.

    The scene of the "crime" today. 
    (Click to enlarge.)

    Your lunch hour time waster

    Monkey smacks Houston TV host.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

    Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine introduces new police chief

    Miami Herald video by Walt Michot.

    Looks like Miami Beach is about to get a new police chief.

    Beach expected to approve new police chief on Wednesday


    Miami Beach commissioners on Wednesday will vote on whether to confirm the city manager’s nominee to be the city’s next police chief.

    Dan Oates is widely expected to receive confirmation for the post. As the chief of Aurora, Colo., Oates received acclaim for leading city’s police department in the wake of the mass shooting at a movie theater there — even earning the praise of President Barack Obama.

    Oates, 59, has declined to comment on his nomination to lead the Beach’s police department, but he made brief remarks on Tuesday at a meeting of a community group. Mayor Philip Levine introduced Oates to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, a group that organizes talks by local leaders.

    “I can’t wait to get here. I feel so humbled and honored,” Oates said at the meeting. “I understand this is quite a group.”

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

    The way we were....57 years ago in South Florida

    From the Miami News, April 28, 1957....

    Cops in Miami Beach inaugurated a new program to engrave hub caps with identification numbers which they hoped would put a dent in "the tremendous traffic in stolen caps."

    Miami News, April 28, 1957. 

    Over in Hialeah Gardens, the police chief denied that he and his four patrolmen were running a speed trap on Okeechobee Road.

    This despite the fact that 93% of the tiny town's income for the preceding 12 months was collected from traffic fines, according to the Miami News.

    The News also reported that one unlucky guy caught in the town's speed trap "was forced to sell his car to a Hialeah Gardens policeman for $35 in order to pay a traffic fine."

    On the letters page, the News printed a plea from Susan Wright. 

    Record store owner Mike Spector supplied the News with a list of the week's top ten records.

    And in 1957, News editors quaintly referred to movies as "moving pictures."

    Click to enlarge.

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    Local 10's Terrell Forney...asking the tough questions, never taking no comment for an answer

    Just because your TV station sends you to a non-story, doesn't mean you have to abdicate your responsibilities as a journalist.

    Last night, the Local 10 assignment desk sent reporter Terrell Forney to cover a "fire" that started in a popcorn machine at a Miami Beach theater.

    Sure it was a dumb story...but that didn't stop Forney from asking the tough, what does a popcorn machine "fire" smell like?

    Your lunch hour time waster

    Yosemite HD II

    "A 200+ mile backpacking experience through Yosemite National Park captured by Colin Delehanty and Sheldon Neill. This project was filmed over the course of 10 months. We spent a combined 45 days in the park capturing the images in this video."

    Note: Best if viewed in full screen mode.

    Yosemite HD II from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    This is what now passes for news at Local 10

    WPLG used to set the gold standard for television journalism in South Florida.

    Sadly, that's no longer the case.

    The station now employs two former NFL cheerleaders who have magically morphed into "journalists."

    And, it gets worse.

    They're now airing "news stories" that wouldn't be "news stories" were it not for 20 or 30 seconds of surveillance video.

    The story below aired at mid-day Wednesday.

    Reporter Ben Kennedy, who usually does his stand-ups while frantically flapping his arms, seemed subdued and a bit embarrassed that he was being forced to report this crap.

    (Note to Constance Jones: Someone casually shoplifting two six packs of beer doesn't even come close to the definition of a "brazen robbery.")

    video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

    And then, shortly after 8pm Wednesday evening, the station posted this "story" on its website....which, once again, wouldn't be a "story" except that one idiot whipped out his cell phone shot 15 seconds of video of moviegoers milling about outside the theater.

    The station then posted a story before getting all the facts.

    MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Police are investigating what caused a smoke alarm to go off at a Miami Beach movie theater.

    Moviegoers rushed outside after the alarm sounded at the Regal Cinema on Lincoln Road.

    Miami Beach Fire officials said one fire engine was sent to the theater, but no fire was discovered.

    Firefighters believe a fire inside a popcorn machine is to blame.

    The theater was still evacuated around 9 p.m. Wednesday.

    No other details were provided.

    video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

    video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

    Your early afternoon time waster

    Dogs playing catch by themselves.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Attention Miami Beach residents: You're invited to Mayor Philip Levine's first ever, Second Amendment Appreciation Day event!

    Exactly one week ago I broke the news that a City of Miami Beach employee carried a concealed weapon into a highly sensitive, restricted area of the Miami Beach Police Department.

    On the same day I broke the news, I began attempting, through a series of emails and phone calls to the city's spokesperson, to learn why the City Manager and Mayor ignored the fact that an employee was carrying a concealed weapon on city property in direct violation of not only federal and state laws, but also city policy.

    A full week later, there's been no response.

    As I reported here last month, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales believes that when it comes to the media and their pesky questions, it's best to say as little as possible.

    And while I can't get anyone to go on the record, it appears that Mayor Levine has no problems with city employees carrying firearms on city property.

    And that attitude may explain this flyer that Levine has been quietly emailing to City Hall employees and Miami Beach residents.

    I don't know about you, but I wouldn't miss this for anything!

    Is Dan Oates in line to become Miami Beach's next police chief? [UPDATE x2]


    UPDATE x2 - CBS4 in Miami reports: A police chief from Colorado has been named Miami Beach Police Chief following Raymond Martinez’s resignation last week after he was appointed chief of security for Ultra Music Festival.

    Dan Oates, the police chief in Aurora, Colorado, was first reported by Random Pixels to have been at the top of the list of veteran cops to possibly acquire the role as Miami Beach’s next police chief.

    CBS4’s Jim DeFede confirmed with Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine Tuesday night that Oates, who is also an attorney, was chosen by city manager Jimmy Morales.


    UPDATE x1 - CBS4 in Denver reports:  Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates has advised his bosses that he has applied for a job as a police chief in South Florida.

    “I can confirm that he applied,” Aurora City Manager Skip Noe told CBS4 Tuesday afternoon.

    Noe said Oates was being considered for a Chief’s job in the Miami area but he wasn’t sure what department.


    Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine makes no secret of his dislike for the way his city's police department is run.

    In an interview with WLRN shortly after his election last November, Levine said: "Clearly the residents are very concerned about the police. The internal issue we have is a cultural one within the police department. We’ve had too many incidents and of course the New York Times and CNN have reported on them, and frankly that’s not good for business and it’s not good for residents."

    Last March, after Police Chief Ray Martinez announced his decision to retire effective this month, Levine was finally given a chance to remake Miami Beach's police department by selecting what he likes to call "a world-class police chief."

    Sources at City Hall are telling Random Pixels that Levine, and City Manager Jimmy Morales, may be close to picking a new chief.

    Several city hall insiders tell me that Dan Oates, the current police chief in Aurora, Colorado, is at the top of the list of veteran cops who are vying to become Miami Beach's next police chief.

    Oates was thrust into the national spotlight in July 2012 after a heavily armed gunman went on a bloody shooting rampage inside a movie theater in Aurora, killing 12 people, and injuring 59.

    Oates' first job after graduating from Bucknell University with an English degree was as a newspaper reporter in Atlantic City, N.J.

    Oates began his law enforcement career with the New York City Police Department, joining in 1980 after hearing an ad on the radio.

    According to a July 20, 2012 New York Daily News story, Oates graduated from New York Law School and "also holds a master of science degree from New York University — finish[ing] his 21-year career with the NYPD in 2001 as the commanding officer of the department’s Intelligence Division. He is licensed to practice law in New York, New Jersey and Colorado."

    The Daily News story quoted a retired NYPD official as describing Oates as a “very cerebral guy, an academic.”

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    Your lunch hour time waster

    A music video from Uganda.

    Artist: Eddy Kenzo.

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Save Our Libraries

    “Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” ― Walter Cronkite

    “I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” ― Ray Bradbury


    An invitation from former Miami New Times staff writer, Rebecca Wakefield:
    Are you available Wednesday? I'm on a save the libraries kick (for why, click on links below). There's a finance committee meeting on Wednesday @ 9:30 a.m. we are trying to get a few people to show up to support full funding of the library system. Time commitment of an hour or less. The budget will come out in July and the millage ceiling will be set, so this is important to set the table.

    If you are able to make it, we can meet down there early and I'll buy you coffee. Just email me at if you're coming.

    If not, please consider making a call to a Commissioner and sending the flyer (embedded below) around to anyone you think would be interested in getting involved.



    Without more tax dollars, Miami-Dade library system would fire more than half its full-time staff

    Suarez endorses library-tax hike for Miami-Dade libraries

    Library cuts are forcing tough decisions on children’s books in Miami-Dade

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    The way we were...'Americanism vs. Communism'

    52 years ago today...

    From the Miami News, April 19, 1962.

    Sharing history

    Via The Telegraph:
    British Pathé, the newsreel maker which documented all walks of life on video during the 20th Century, has uploaded its entire collection of moving images to YouTube.

    The archive of 3,500 hours of footage was digitised in 2002 thanks in part to a grant from the National Lottery, and is now freely accessible to anyone around the world for free.

    Meanwhile, here in South Florida, HistoryMiami, under the incompetent leadership of its director, Stuart Chase, still can't figure out how to make its collection of more than one million photographs freely accessible online.

    Included in HistoryMiami's collection are tens of thousands of photographs and negatives spanning 40 years that retired Miami Herald photographer Tim Chapman recently donated to the museum. Photographs that no one will ever see.

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine's former bodyguard may have broken state and federal gun laws last month

    Eric Kolbinsky. 
    During last year's Miami Beach mayoral campaign, then candidate Philip Levine frequently attended campaign events with one or more personal bodyguards.

    One of those bodyguards was retired DEA Special Agent Eric Kolbinsky. 

    After Levine won the election, Kolbinsky was hired by the city at an annual salary of $65,015. According to a city spokesperson, Kolbinsky is "a City employee in a temporary position; emergency management specialist."

    Late last month, Kolbinsky, and his boss, Miami Beach Emergency Management coordinator Chuck Tear, visited the Miami Beach Police Department's Public Safety Communications Unit (PSCU). The PSCU is more commonly known as the 911 call center.

    Tear, a civilian employee with virtually no law enforcement experience, was put in charge of the PSCU by City Manager Jimmy Morales last January after pictures surfaced that appeared to show PSCU employees napping at their consoles.

    Following Tear and Kolbinsky's weekend visit to the call center, Anthony Loperfido, one of the police officers on duty at the PSCU, sent the following email [embedded below] to his supervisor, Lt. David Hernandez.

    In the email, Loperfido wrote "I noticed that [Kolbinsky] is armed with a semi-automatic firearm which is concealed under [an] untucked, long sleeve shirt."

    Loperfido closed his email by expressing concern for the safety of the PSCU's employees, writing, "I am not comfortable with the situation and feel this is a safety issue for the personnel [that] work in the PSCU and the police station."

    Click here to enlarge.

    Sources are unclear on whether or not Kolbinsky has a state permit to carry a concealed weapon.

    But as a retired federal law enforcement official, he's permitted to carry a concealed weapon under the provisions of H.R. 218, the Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act, that then president George W. Bush signed into law in 2004.

    [H.R. 218, the “Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act” PDF file.]
    "H.R. 218 exempts qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from local and State prohibitions on the carrying of concealed firearms."

    However, the law's exemption is not total.
    "In addition, State (not local) laws which prohibit the carriage of firearms onto State or local government property and State (not local) laws which allow private entities to prohibit firearms on their private property would still apply to qualified active and retired law enforcement officers."

    The Florida State Statute on Concealed Weapons and Firearms [F.S.S. 790.06 (12)] clearly prohibits carrying a concealed weapon into a police station:
    A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into:

    2. Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station.

    Additionally, the City of Miami Beach's policy on the Prevention of Workplace Violence prohibits employees from possessing... "a deadly weapon, firearm or destructive device in any manner, on one's person, in one's belongings, in any City facility or work area, including City vehicle, or in one's personal vehicle while engaged in City business."

    But if Kolbinsky was a little hazy last March on the city's policy that prohibits guns at work, or Florida's concealed weapons law, all he had to do was stop for a minute and glance at the sign that's in plain view for all to see at the entrance to the police station.

    Click image to enlarge.

    Note: I've asked Miami Beach spokesperson Nannette Rodriquez for a comment from the City Manager's office on the incident at the police station. As soon as I hear back from her, I'll update this post.

    Sunday, April 13, 2014

    How to kill a newspaper

    This month's issue of Ocean Drive Magazine features a short profile and a Q and A with the Miami Herald's Executive Editor, Aminda "Mindy" Marqués Gonzalez.

    The piece ends with Marqués predicting the future of the Herald: "I can’t tell you exactly how you’ll be getting your news, but I know we’ll be delivering that news. We’ll be here."

    What Marqués didn't tell Ocean Drive is that consciously - or subconsciously - she's on a mission to destroy what's left of what was, at one time, Florida's largest, and most-influential newspaper.

    When Marqués was named the Herald's executive editor in October 2010, the paper's daily circulation was slightly over 151,000.

    Now, three-and-a-half years later, the Herald's circulation is less than 100,000.

    The chart below is taken from the print order for an upcoming 8-page special section to be inserted in the Dade and Broward editions of the Herald in May. The total press run for both sections is less than 95,000.

    A publisher's statement filed last September listed the daily press run as 103,076.

    Marqués told Ocean Drive Magazine that the Herald's daily circulation is 155,113. But she didn't tell Ocean Drive is how it's possible to claim a daily circulation of 155,000 when the daily press run is now less than 100,000.

    Why are subscribers leaving in droves, and how did a newspaper that was once Florida's largest in terms of circulation, fall to fifth place?

    For some answers, look no further than Marqués leadership - or lack of it.

    Some answers:

  • Despite the recent appointment of Chuck Rabin to the crime and cops beat, under Marqués' leadership - or lack of it - the paper's crime coverage, has for years, consisted of nothing more than stories copied and pasted from TV station websites. 

  • Under Marqués' leadership - or lack of it - the paper ignored every shooting and homicide in one northwest Miami neighborhood in 2013.

  • Under Marqués' leadership - or lack of it - what little crime-related news the Herald does cover, is usually relegated to the inside pages of the paper's local section.

  • Last Wednesday, the Herald's sister publication, el Nuevo Herald, prominently displayed on its front page, the story of an allegedly drunk Miami-Dade cop who ran into a shopping cart containing two kids in a Publix parking lot.
    Page 1A of the Herald that same day, featured a silly story about - and I am not making this up - a "national water dance project."

  • And last February, when staff photographer Al Diaz shot a dramatic set images of a heroic life-saving effort on State Road 836, Marques ordered that the images run inside the paper, far away from the front page where they belonged. This despite the fact that Diaz's photos were featured on virtually every network and cable TV news show within hours of the incident, and for several days after.

  • A few days ago, I had a brief phone discussion with a Herald insider. We talked about the paper's rapid and steady circulation decline. Later that day in an email, the insider elaborated on some of the things we'd discussed on the phone:
    Many factors are involved.

    Obviously, the most significant is the technological transformation of the publishing world. The Herald was entrapped by the same forces that diminished most other newspapers -- demographic change, the availability of instant digital information, a significantly dumbed-down, self-absorded citizenry.

    But that doesn't explain the Herald's dramatic fall from grace. Every other paper in the state and nation confronted the same issues; our plunge has been far steeper than most.

    That's due to a failure of corporate strategy and of local management.

    The constant, Chinese-water-torture cuts in staff, space and vision have taken their toll. A struggling enterprise, any struggling enterprise, cannot hope to grow its business or even maintain its business if it continually offers its customers less (and frequently tries to charge more.) That's simply economic reality and it was willfully ignored by McClatchy, where top corporate executives still exhibit greed (protecting their rising salaries and bonuses) and cowardice (an unwillingness to take the chance of investing in the product). Their objective is just to get their next over-sized paycheck, regardless of the long-term consequences.

    Locally, the Peter Principle came largely into play. As seasoned, experienced managers were forced out (in some cases by age, but more often by fairly vicious terminations or no longer tolerable aggravation), they were replaced by people of less experience, weaker vision and, in some cases, their own brand of greed -- just keep that paycheck coming. Some survivors just aren't very smart or talented - they had risen to the level of their incompetence. But some are smart or talented  and many of those made small compromises in their professional standards. Then, larger compromises. Then, many standards simply were discarded. Also, when it comes to story assignment and play, especially front-page play, these less seasoned managers tend to be tentative and conservative - their first priority is to not rock the boat. The resulting environment discourages risk taking, encourages dull, "safe" story selection. So you end up with a dull, "safe" front page and newspaper - precisely the opposite of what is required to build or even maintain readership.

    If you look around the country at the papers that have most successfully held off the rising tide of failure, you see the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and, in Florida, the Tampa Bay Times. Even most of those are in varying degrees of trouble now, but they held on the longest. What do they have in common and what do they have that the Herald squandered? A core magnitude of coverage and quality. It's as simple as that.

    The remaining cohort of newspaper readers are fairly smart and engaged people. You can't fool them for long. By now, at a quickening pace, they have received the message about the Herald: This thing just isn't worth the walk out to the driveway or the website click and the leap over the digital paywall. (The executive editor actually boasted recently about 20 percent of the Herald's revenue coming from digital means. Think about that - after all of this time and effort, only 20 percent of our revenue is coming from the newspaper's only hope for the future, digital. And that's 20 percent of an overall revenue base that steadily diminishes as print circulation and advertising evaporate. That's hardly boast-worthy.)

    Pretty soon, the diminishing readership in print and the slow growth, if that's what it really is, in digital readership will reach the economic point of inflection. Remaining advertisers will realize that they're not getting any bang for their bucks. They will bow out. And when the ad managers at BrandsMart, Rooms to Go, and South Motors finally figure it out, it will be all over for us.

    One other thing: McClatchy proved in Alaska this past week that it feels no loyalty to its component newspapers or the people who work there or read them. That day also may be coming to Miami. If that happens, and it could be any day of any week, it also will be all over for us.

    Will the Herald be around a year from now? Probably.

    Two years from now? I'm not so sure.

    What I do know is that when someone finally gets around to writing the Herald's obituary, Marqués will be named as the person who, in the paper's final days, administered the coup de grâce.

    Friday, April 11, 2014

    The way we were...Riot at the jail

    Miami News, April 11, 1964. 


    50 years ago today, on April 11, 1964, prisoners rioted at the three-year-old Dade County Jail.

    Tuesday, April 08, 2014

    Miami-Dade Police Internal Affairs Lieutenant Arrested and Charged In Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy

    Via United States Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey:
    NEWARK, N.J. - An internal affairs officer of the Miami-Dade Police Department was arrested this morning in Miami Gardens, Fla., and charged with allegedly aiding a narcotics trafficking organization – distributing cocaine from the Dominican Republic in New Jersey and elsewhere – by orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot; providing firearms and sensitive law enforcement information; and facilitating the transport of drug proceeds, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

    Ralph Mata, 45, a/k/a “the Milk Man,” of Broward County, Fla. – a lieutenant with the Miami-Dade Police Department, Internal Affairs – is charged by federal criminal complaint with one count each of: aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute cocaine; conspiring to distribute cocaine; and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity – specifically, drug proceeds.

    Mata is scheduled to appear tomorrow, April 9, 2014, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes in federal court in the Southern District of Florida.

    According to the complaint unsealed today:

    After rival drug dealers threatened to kill members of the drug trafficking organization, or “DTO,” with which Mata conspired, Mata and members of the DTO discussed a murder plot. Mata stated that his contacts – assassins – would wear uniforms and badges to make it appear as though the two targets of the plot were being pulled over by law enforcement before shooting them. Mata arranged to pay two assassins $150,000 per target. Ultimately, the DTO decided not to move forward with the murder plot, but Mata still received a payment for setting up the meetings.

    Mata purchased several firearms to provide protection and security to the DTO members located in the Dominican Republic, which he transported on two separate trips from Miami to the Dominican Republic between Oct.5, 2012, and Jan. 17, 2013. A number of these firearms have been recovered by law enforcement.

    Mata also helped to transport narcotics proceeds for the DTO in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash and a Rolex watch valued at approximately $10,000.

    Mata also used sources of information available to him as a law enforcement officer to find out information about the seizure of $419,000 in narcotics proceeds from a Bergen County, N.J., residence, which members of the DTO suspected had been stolen by another member, but were in fact seized by law enforcement.

    The narcotics charges each carry a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine. The transaction involving drug proceeds charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Garret Mountain Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark; the DEA’s Paterson Post of Duty under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski; IRS – Criminal Investigation, Newark Field Office, under the Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, New York, under the direction of James T. Hayes Jr. He also thanked the Miami FBI, Miami-Dade Police Department and Miami-Area Corruption Task Force for their assistance with the arrest. The investigation is ongoing.

    The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary Toscano of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division, José Almonte of the Criminal Division, and Barbara Ward and Marion Percell, Chief, of the office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.

    The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

    Miami Beach police responded to three Washington Ave. nightclubs more than 500 times in 2013

    Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith resigned last week after 8 years of service.

    Miami Beach City Manager
    Jimmy Morales. 
    Smith's resignation came just 10 days after he publicly bitch-slapped City Manager Jimmy Morales.

    In his letter dated March 26, Smith chastised Morales for sending a letter in January to strip club owner Leroy Griffith, threatening to close his club over his failure to pay resort taxes.

    "Our office did not review or have prior knowledge of your letter to Club Madonna," Smith told Morales in his letter.

    Only businesses regulated by Florida's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco or the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, "are liable for the city resort tax. Club Madonna is regulated by neither," the Miami Herald's Christina Veiga reported.

    Club owner Griffith celebrated his latest victory over the city by issuing a press release that blasted Morales and other "top leaders" at City Hall.
    “It is disturbing that top leaders at City Hall were not on the same page with one another, and were jumping to unfounded conclusions, with some not knowing what others were saying, doing, implementing or authorizing – or whether any of it was even factual or legal. Alarmingly, this is a case of the right hand not aware of what the left was doing.


    "We hope that Mayor Levine and city commissioners will take note of the reckless and rash words, orders, and threats that have emanated from some departments at City Hall in recent months, and take corrective measures, up to and including replacing top officials. We expect our city leaders to apply the law equally, fairly, and correctly, and not abuse the power of their offices by issuing arbitrary closings and unjustified threats that hinder businesses and residents alike."

    Griffith also used his press release to remind City Hall that his club "continue[s] to be a powerful generator of economic prosperity and stability to neighboring businesses on Washington Avenue," adding, "We also proudly possess one of the lowest incident rates of any nightclub or entertainment business in South Beach. It's an indisputable fact: City and police crime stats bear this out year after year."

    It was that last line that caught my eye.

    Does Club Madonna really possess such a record?

    I decided to check Griffith's claim by pulling Miami Beach Police Department incident reports for 2013 for Club Madonna and two other Washington Avenue nightspots. (I've embedded the incident reports associated with all three clubs below.)

    Griffith, it turns out, is telling the truth.

    In 2013, the Miami Beach Police Department received and logged just 36 calls regarding various incidents at 1527 Washington Ave., the address for Club Madonna.

    Compare that with the 132 calls MBPD received in 2013 regarding incidents at Cameo at 1445 Washington.

    But both Cameo and Club Madonna pale in comparison to Washington Avenue's Mansion nightclub.

    In 2013, Beach police logged a mind-boggling 344 calls from Mansion at 1235 Washington.

    That's a total of 476 calls received from just two Miami Beach businesses in 2013.  That's not a very comforting thought if you happen to be a Miami Beach resident and taxpayer.


    July 13, 2013: Miami Beach Police responded to the city's two towing companies more than 750 times in 2012.


    Both Cameo and Mansion, by the way, are owned by Opium Group. 

    Note to Jimmy Morales: If you want to clean up Washington Ave., it might be a good idea to go after the real know, the ones who are causing the problems.

    Monday, April 07, 2014

    The Miami Herald's new publisher, Alexandra Villoch, has zero journalism experience


    The Miami Herald has a new publisher.

    "Alexandra Villoch, senior vice president of advertising and marketing for the Miami Herald Media Company, has been named president of the company and publisher of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald," the Herald is reporting.

    So, who is Alexandra Villoch, and what are her qualifications to lead Florida's largest fifth largest newspaper...aside from the fact that she has not just one, but two, Twitter accounts?

    Well, in addition to being "senior vice president of advertising and marketing for the Miami Herald Media Company," the Herald reports, "She also is active in civic affairs, serving on the executive committee of The Beacon Council, on the board of governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and on the board of directors for the Miami Dade College Foundation."

    Alexandra Villoch. 
    The Herald story also quotes McClatchy V.P. of Operations, Mark Zieman: “Alex is fiercely committed to Miami, and is equally passionate about the Herald’s vital role in that community.”

    However, what's not what wasn't mentioned in the early version of the Herald's story is that Villoch's "commitment" and "passion" wavered a bit back in 2008.

    From a June 4, 2008 Herald story:
    The Miami Herald Media Co.'s top advertising executive, Alexandra Villoch, is leaving the publishing company to lead the Zoological Society of Florida, which raises money for Miami Metrozoo.

    The move comes at a crucial time for Metrozoo, which is undergoing a multimillion-dollar makeover and needs a skilled leader with a record of successful fundraising and civic involvement.

    Villoch, a veteran South Florida executive who had a long career in the banking and airline industries before joining The Herald in 2000, fits that bill. She already sits on boards of several local organizations, including the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Miami Dade College Foundation.

    For Miami Herald Media Co., which publishes The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, Villoch 's departure comes as the newspaper industry faces major challenges holding onto advertisers as more readers turn to the Internet.

    Villoch said zoo executives sought her out.

    "I'm happy here, but this was an opportunity," she said. "The ability to work hand in hand with the zoo and the board to market the zoo to our community not only as a local resource, not only as an educational resource but also worldwide, well, it's a combination of everything I've done in my career."
    But, less than three weeks later, she was back at the paper:

    Alexandra Villoch, The Miami Herald Media Co.'s top advertising executive, has had a "change of heart" about her decision three weeks ago to become the president and chief executive of the Zoological Society of Florida, which raises money for Miami Metrozoo.

    Villoch will resume her post as senior vice president for advertising for The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, publisher David Landsberg announced Monday.

    In an e-mail to Herald employees, Landsberg quoted Villoch. "Our audience reach places us in a unique position," she said, according to Landsberg's message. "This is a combination that spells success for the future, and I want to be part of getting us there."
    Also not mentioned in today's Herald story on Villoch's appointment is that she has no journalism experience. None. Zero.

    In an email this morning, one newsroom veteran told me, "Wow, we are really getting near the bottom now, at least so far as qualifications and previous experience."

    Alexandra Villoch, the Miami Herald's new
    publisher, may not have any journalism experience, 

    but she knows how to tweet!

    But not everyone at the Herald thinks the promotion of someone as unqualified as Villoch is such a bad idea.

    Within minutes of this morning's announcement, the Herald's worst columnist, Fabiola Santiago, posted this on Facebook: "This makes a Cuban-American female trifecta in Miami Herald-El Nuevo Herald leadership. I have lived to see the day -- and I love it. Wow."

    The Herald story on Villoch's appointment also neglects to mention that for the past year or so, she's been publisher of the paper's glossy tribute to conspicuous consumption, INDULGE Magazine.

    But the fact that Villoch has no journalism experience, doesn't mean she can't hold her own when it comes to crafting a memorable paragraph or two.

    In the current "Spring Home and Design" issue of INDULGE, Villoch writes, "What makes a home truly special? It may be a captivating location, historic architecture, intriguing art collection or innovative interior design. But at the end of the day, it's the memories we create in our home that make the most lasting impression..."

    In the February "Food and Wine" issue, Villoch shared a secret with the magazine's readers: "I have actually booked an entire vacation around visiting a specific restaurant! Many years ago, at a cooking class at the Biltmore Hotel, I met the chef from la Chevre d'Or in Eze, France. Several years later, I planned a vacation around a visit to his hotel and restaurant." I'm sure the paper's readers in East Little Havana and Liberty City can relate to those sentiments.

    If the goal of the bosses at McClatchy, the Herald's parent company, was to pick a publisher that would further widen the gap between the paper's leadership, and its journalists and readers, then they've succeeded on a grand scale.

    God help us all.





    MIAMI, Florida, April 7, 2014 – The McClatchy Company (NYSE:MNI) today named Alexandra Villoch as president and publisher of the Miami Herald Media Company, which publishes the Miami Herald and the Spanish-language el Nuevo Herald newspapers and their affiliated print and digital products.

    Villoch has been the senior vice president for advertising and marketing at the Miami Herald Media Company since 2005. She replaces David Landsberg, who previously announced his departure to become president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of South Florida. Villoch begins her new role April 14.

    “We couldn’t be more thrilled to have such a savvy, accomplished media executive as Alex in-house and ready to step up into this important post,” said Pat Talamantes, McClatchy’s president and CEO. “We’re excited about the future of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald under Alex’s leadership.”

    Villoch, 56, joined the Miami Herald Media Company in 2000 as national advertising director and became the director of retail advertising and event marketing in 2001. She joined the company’s executive ranks in 2005 as the senior vice president for advertising and marketing. In that capacity, she was responsible for leading and developing sales and advertising strategies across all product lines as well as spearheading the company’s marketing efforts. She also headed HCP/Aboard, the company’s custom publishing division that produces 36 different books and publications with more than 115 editions.

    “Alex is fiercely committed to Miami and is equally passionate about the Herald’s vital role in that community,” said Mark Zieman, McClatchy’s vice president of operations. “She is a proven innovator, a respected leader and a vocal champion of our successful transformation into a digitally focused media company. Alex is perfectly suited for her new role.”

    Prior to joining the Miami Herald Media Company, Villoch worked for United Airlines and was the airline’s general manager for Miami International Airport and the Caribbean with responsibility for all passenger and cargo operations, sales and government relations.

    Villoch, who is fluent in Spanish, was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved to the United States with her parents at age 2. Her father worked for a global construction company and Villoch moved often during childhood, including stays in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Peru, Louisiana and Texas.

    She moved in with relatives in Miami to finish high school, attended Miami Dade College and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and an MBA from the University of Miami. She is married to Cesar Mendoza, a McClatchy Company IT employee. They have four adult children.

    Villoch said she was both excited and honored to lead the Miami Herald Media Company.

    “We have a talented, motivated and passionate team,” she said, “and together we will work to carry out our mission of serving our diverse and vibrant community with quality journalism and products across all media platforms. I look forward to working to strengthen our position and grow our reach.”

    Villoch is extremely active in the Miami community. Over the years, she has served on numerous civic and charitable boards and won many honors for both her citizen and professional leadership. She presently serves on the executive committee of The Beacon Council, on the board of governors of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and also on the board of directors for the Miami Dade College Foundation.

    Happy Birthday, Lady Day

    Billie Holiday sings "Fine and Mellow," live on CBS-TV, Dec. 8, 1957.

    Thursday, April 03, 2014

    Thanks for all the laughs, Dave

    David Letterman to Retire in 2015

    By Bill Carter
    The New York Times

    David Letterman, the longest-running host in the history of late-night television, announced that he will retire from his CBS show next year, the latest shakeup in a rapidly changing late night talk-show lineup.

    Mr. Letterman, who has always used his show as the outlet for discussing developments in both his life and his career, revealed his decision during a taping Thursday afternoon in Manhattan.

    Mr. Letterman, 66, said he had informed the CBS president, Leslie Moonves, of his intention to step down from “The Late Show” at the end of his current contract, which expires in 2015. Mr. Letterman is considered by many to be the most original voice in the late-night format, and Mr. Moonves has been steadfast in his assurances in recent years that he would never ask Mr. Letterman to retire, saying at one point, “You don’t do that to a television legend.”
    He began “Late Show” on CBS in 1993 after an 11-year run on NBC’s “Late Night” program, which he created. That total run of 33-years in late night (counting 2015) eclipses the 30-year tenure of Johnny Carson on NBC’s “Tonight” show.


    It's not a stretch to say that I can probably count on both hands the number of David Letterman's shows I missed in the 80s and early 90s.

    But it wasn't until today's announcement of his retirement in 2015, that I'd given much thought to just how good his shows were back then.

    How good?

    Here are just three clips from the early and mid-90s that demonstrate Letterman's uncanny ability to improvise and create comedy on the fly.

    All three clips have two things in common. They're unscripted, and wickedly funny....something that's pretty much disappeared from late night TV these days.


    Dave works the drive-thru at a New Jersey Taco Bell, June 1996.

    Dave visits a New Jersey community, Feb. 1993.

    1993 - May We See Your Photos, Please?

    Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales is now doing the work of two, strip club owner Leroy Griffith sends out the best press release we've ever seen!

    Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales doesn't have enough work to keep him he's apparently moonlighting as the Beach's part-time city attorney, and issuing useless legal opinions.

    Leroy Griffith. 
    Last January, in another skirmish in Miami Beach's ongoing war with Washington Ave. flesh emporium, Club Madonna, Morales wrote to the club's owner, Leroy Griffith, telling him that his place might be shut down because he had violated city code by failing to pay resort taxes.

    The only problem with Morales' letter is that he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

    Last week, Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith sent Morales a letter, telling him, "our office did not review or have prior knowledge of your letter to Club Madonna."

    Turns out that only businesses regulated by Florida's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco or the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, "are liable for the city resort tax. Club Madonna is regulated by neither," The Miami Herald's Christina Veiga wrote last week.

    That might have been the end of it, but two days ago, Griffith sent out a press release - complete with highlighted paragraphs and bold-face names - blasting Morales and other "top leaders at City Hall":
    “It is disturbing that top leaders at City Hall were not on the same page with one another, and were jumping to unfounded conclusions, with some not knowing what others were saying, doing, implementing or authorizing – or whether any of it was even factual or legal. Alarmingly, this is a case of the right hand not aware of what the left was doing."


    Earlier: Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales believes the less you know, the better off you are.


    1527 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL 305-534-2000

    F O R    I M M E D I A T E    R E L E A S E


    The City of Miami Beach has conceded that Club Madonna does not owe resort tax revenue, a reversal from the city manager's threat two months ago to shut down the club over his claims that the club was somehow delinquent.

    In a two-page legal opinion [embedded below] addressed last Wednesday (March 26) to City Manager Jimmy Morales, Miami Beach City Attorney Jose Smith concluded that the club “is not liable for resort tax” as it currently operates.

    This acknowledgment is a 180-degree turnaround from Morales's January 27 letter to the club. In it, Morales said he had determined that the club had failed to pay resort tax levied on the sales of club-sold beverages and was therefore in “violation of city code” and could face closure.

    Smith's memo to Morales is striking in that it glaringly reveals that the city manager apparently issued his letter to the club without first having run it by the city attorney:

    “As you may recall, our office did not review or have prior knowledge of your letter to Club Madonna,” Smith reminded Morales.

    Smith also revealed that top city leaders – including Chief Financial Officer Patricia Walker, Code Compliance Division Commander Hernan Cardeno, and Chief Deputy City Attorney Donald Papy – discussed the club's resort tax matter in the wake of Morales's January 10 administrative order closing the club over allegations of an underage teen having been forced to perform in the club by her captors. Club Madonna is currently suing the City for its and Morales's actions in that closing.

    The discussion of Club Madonna's taxes came up “because the City was defending a lawsuit involving a resort tax dispute with a different club (Chakra 5),” Smith wrote.

    In his memo, Smith reported that Walker recalled a 1997 conversation with then-City Attorney Murray Dubbin “about the non-applicability of the resort tax to [Madonna].”

    “She recalled that [Club Madonna president and CEO] Leroy Griffith had stated at the time that no food or drink was being sold,” Smith wrote, “and that everything was included in a 'cover charge'. [Walker] recalled Dubbin saying to her, 'forget about it' (regarding the collection of resort taxes).”

    Smith's memo goes on to mention that Walker had learned through a Google search that Griffith had applied to the State Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco for the right to allow club patrons to bring alcohol into the club.

    What Smith's memo neglects to clarify, however, is that this was an old petition from 2011, not a recent application.

    Walker, according to Smith, “also believed that Club Madonna may be selling hot foods (such as hors d'oeurves).”

    Walker is incorrect; the club does not sell and has never sold hot foods.

    A club attorney, Richard Wolfe, wrote to Morales on February 7 that “our client openly admits to the sale of non-alcoholic beverages and soft drinks to patrons [....] That has been known to the City for more than 20 years, during which time the City has never claimed that the resort tax was due, until the recent dispute with the City and our client has escalated.”

    Club Madonna spokesman Charles Branham-Bailey* issued this statement today:
    “Club Madonna has suffered unrelenting aspersions and allegations from City Hall ever since the city manager's improper and unwarranted closure of the club on January 10. This – the allegation that we were delinquent on taxes that we have never owed – has been but the latest of these.

    “It is disturbing that top leaders at City Hall were not on the same page with one another, and were jumping to unfounded conclusions, with some not knowing what others were saying, doing, implementing or authorizing – or whether any of it was even factual or legal. Alarmingly, this is a case of the right hand not aware of what the left was doing.

    “We are satisfied to have been ultimately proved correct in our rebuttals to Mr. Morales's allegations. Both a club attorney and our accountant addressed letters to the city manager in February affirming that we are not classified as a business that is required to pay resort taxes, and thus have never owed any.

    “We are pleased that City Hall has recognized and accepted our claims as correct. We expect that this legal opinion means Mr. Morales retracts his threat to go after us and attempt to shut us down again, over an issue that never was one and never should have been elevated to the level of one.

    “We are displeased, however, that his January 27 allegations of tax delinquency and his threat to shut us down have demeaned and defamed us in media reports about this matter. His making an issue of something we never owed and threatening to shut us down over it – without having carefully researched the facts of the matter – was totally uncalled for and, in retrospect, erroneous, unwise, and beneath the dignity of his public office.

    “Club Madonna has been, in its twenty-year history on the Beach, a business that has faithfully paid its taxes. In that time, we have employed countless local residents. We have been and continue to be a powerful generator of economic prosperity and stability to neighboring businesses on Washington Avenue. Ask any of those businesses about the benefit of having us as a neighbor and they will attest to this. When we are open, they benefit. When we were closed by the city manager's order for 17 days in January, they suffered tremendously.

    “We have also benefited untold distributors, suppliers, laborers, taxi drivers, and countless others.

    “In twenty years, we have generated more tax revenue for this city that we love than have many of those who would wish to put us out of business.

    "We also proudly possess one of the lowest incident rates of any nightclub or entertainment business in South Beach. It's an indisputable fact: City and police crime stats bear this out year after year.

    “We hope that Mayor Levine and city commissioners will take note of the reckless and rash words, orders, and threats that have emanated from some departments at City Hall in recent months, and take corrective measures, up to and including replacing top officials. We expect our city leaders to apply the law equally, fairly, and correctly, and not abuse the power of their offices by issuing arbitrary closings and unjustified threats that hinder businesses and residents alike.

    “We are grateful to have gotten this legal opinion, but it was like pulling teeth to get the City to finally issue it and own up to its error. It took two months for the city attorney to issue it following the city manager's January letter to us. It shouldn't have taken more than two days. No Miami Beach business should have to endure such callous treatment from our public servants at City Hall. Period.

    Griffith, whose birthday coincided with Smith's letter, pronounced the City's ruling a “welcome birthday gift.”
    *NOTE: Charles Branham-Bailey is a former Miami SunPost columnist.