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America’s Casablanca — A Book Review

Before I ever wrote a word about The David Winker Affair — it had just broken in the news — I was ranting about Miami Corruption to a friend. I already knew I would write about Winker because what I had already learned rubbed me the wrong way.

That’s when my friend said, “You’ll get a much better understanding of Miami Corruption today, if you read ‘American Casablanca‘”.

Boy, were they right!


America’s Casablanca: A “True Novel” about Miami’s Emergence from Bankruptcy and Corruption, by José García-Pedrosa, is a true eye-opener about Miami politics and how it’s been crazy after all these years, to quote Paul Simon.

However, let’s get the least important stuff out of the way first: This book is clearly self-published and screams for an editor. A h/t is given on the last page to Dr. Norma Martín Goonen, for editing and helping shape the book. However, she may have been too close to the author. Although they met after the book was written, they were married somewhere along the way. And, I suspect, her normal employment is not writing or editing. There are typos galore and an odd lack of a space after many quotation marks, a habit that became infuriating over 300 pages.

Furthermore the events related in the book, of which Garcia-Pedrosa was a participant, is a complicated web of people and motives spanning decades. An editor in on the ground floor — so to speak — at the beginning of the project, might have given the book a different outline. There’s far too much back and forth in the chronology. Some of that is necessary. However, some of it was intrusive, especially as events accelerated near the end of the book. There were times I wasn’t sure the meeting being described took place before, or after, the meeting just described. In this book it could be either. A few words here and there could have made things clearer, but a better outline could have solved the problem. I’m sure it’s something Garcia-Pedrosa grappled with; his solution didn’t work for me.

Having said that, this is not a book you read for the fancy prose. This is a book you read to see current City of Miami District 3 Commissioner, “Crazy” Joe Carollo, meltdown time after time over the many decades he’s been a Miami politician, sucking off the government teat while bullying opponents, misusing his authority, having people followed, and lying about just about everything.

Sound familiar?



Here’s where this book review takes a slight tangent:

I had no idea this book would be [mostly] about Crazy Joe. He turns up as early as the preface and is the focus of every chapter, even if he doesn’t make an appearance. The events depicted in American Casablanca happened, for the most part, because of Carollo. Every one of his shenanigans back then echoes in present day Miami politics and informs my Miami Corruption Tapestry, starting with The David Winker Affair.

I don’t want to take that tangent here, so look for it as Part Four of The Miami Corruption Tapestry, coming soon to a browser near you.

Tangent over.



As a self-admitted carpetbagger, having only lived in South Florida since Hurricane Wilma, I was unaware of most of the events related in this book. Therefore I had never heard of Xavier Suarez referred to as Hurricane Xavier, but that’s a moniker he gave himself along, with “a meteor the size of Texas”, “an earthquake”, and — later — “not deranged” as the media happily reported on his every stumble.

Others called Suarez different things as his 2nd term of Miami Mayor began in 1997. His continued antics led to stories of chaos in the Miami Herald, NYT, USA Today, TIME Magazine, and the London Economist, which called him El Loco in its headline.

However, it wasn’t long before Joe Carollo, who lost the election, challenged the results in court over the issue of bogus Absentee Ballots. He was successful. After some more court decisions, which eventually tossed all Absentee Ballots, even the honest ones, Suarez was disqualified. Crazy Joe was appointed the Mayor of the City of Miami.

Essentially, this book is the inside story of those roller-coaster years. The author, José García-Pedrosa, was hired by Suarez to be Miami City Manager (one of the most powerful positions in any city) having been hired away from Miami Beach, where he held the same position.

As it happened, Carollo hated García-Pedrosa for an incident from all the way back in 1982. As Miami City Attorney while Carollo was a Commissioner, García-Pedrosa ruled Carollo had violated Florida’s Sunshine Law.

It took 15 years for Carollo to get his revenge and he was as vengeful as anyone named Crazy Joe could be. García-Pedrosa only served 5 months as Miami City Manager and was fired by Mayor Carollo 3 times in his last 2 weeks.

While Carollo really needed no reason to fire the City Manager, because he served at the pleasure of the mayor with Commission approval, he threw every mendacious and false claim he could invent at the author, including charges of criminal conduct. Nothing was ever proven against García-Pedrosa.

Naturally the author is biased participant in the events, so it’s worth taking a whole shaker of salt while reading the book. Clearly he has an axe to grind.

I found myself Googling many aspects of this story and the publications that wrote about it contemporaneously: Miniskirt mayor, George Magazine, 60 Minutes, The New Yorker, along with Spanish language cartoons. There were many threads I wanted to pull on, all of which led me to agree that Miami politics has been a 3-ring circus for a very long time.

Which naturally leads to the Miami Herald, the newspaper of record during this period. Bottom line: The Miami Herald has always been a lousy newspaper, which this book proves over and over again.

While García-Pedrosa has an agenda, so did The Miami Herald, and he proves it.  It was willing to look past Corruption and Cronyism to come to the defense of Crazy Joe with mendacious articles or editorials that didn’t dig any deeper than the surface.

The Miami Herald is still useless in holding elected officials accountable, as any Miami Muckraker will tell you. It will look the other way, provided its executives can still hobnob with the movers and shakers at all the charity balls; a strata of society that the average Joe/Jane never reaches. The Miami Herald‘s view of us way down here is obscured by those clouds below them.

The most recent example of this paper’s idiocy is the recent endorsement of Katherine Fernandez Rundle for Miami-Dade County’s state attorney. This endorsement perplexed everybody and anybody who cares about social justice. Rundle had already served 27 years in the position and — SOMEHOW! — never found a police officer to have committed crimes against citizens. Never even took one to court

Even The Miami Herald realized this endorsement was bullshit when it wrote:

This is not a full-throated, unequivocal endorsement of the incumbent. Her 27-year tenure has been at times flawed, at times infuriating, at times befuddling. She can, and must, do better.

Miami New Times had the perfect rejoinder:

Some would say it was both infuriating and befuddling when Rundle opted not to charge the corrections officers who locked 50-year-old Darren Rainey, an inmate at Dade Correctional Institution, in a scalding shower and left him to die. And when Rundle said she couldn’t prosecute Jesús “Jesse” Menocal, a Hialeah police officer with a history of using his power to prey on women and girls because there were no witnesses to make the case. (This, despite the Herald’s own investigation, which found that prosecutors never interviewed three out of four witnesses and dismissed the women as gang members and runaways.)

Yet somehow, the editorial board pulled off the gymnastic journalistic feat of citing those “missteps” and still giving Rundle the thumb-up for another four years. The Herald argues that Rundle has the “muscle” and “valuable experience” to push for reforms in police departments, jails, prisons, and courtrooms.

This is not a review of The Miami Herald, so I’ll leave it here. Suffice to say García-Pedrosa proves it was bird cage liner back then. Current events show it still is.

The author almost lost me at the beginning of Chapter Eight — You’re Fired, which began with several passages about a section of Miami called “Germ City”. This small section struck me as being racist. It was only 4 paragraphs — and I could have read more between the lines than is really there. [I tend to see the world with Racism Coloured Glasses. Read page 157 and 158 of the book and tell me what you think.] Those paragraphs disturbed me greatly and I almost gave up reading the book.

However, the author did lose me near the end of the book for 2 reasons:

  • He relates his involvement in the international squabble between Cuba and ‘Merka, which has little to do with the events in the book, other than another way to criticize Carollo;
  • As Miami closed in on another Mayoral race, García-Pedrosa engaged in the same kind of backroom machinations that I have always found distasteful to try to become the next Mayor , even to the point of an attempt to change the city’s residency requirements in order to run for mayor.

Bottom line: It’s a whole lot easier to understand the crazy politics of Miami today by reading about its recent past in America’s Casablanca: A “True Novel” about Miami’s Emergence from Bankruptcy and Corruption, by José García-Pedrosa.

Fighting City Hall; The Miami Corruption Tapestry — Part 2.5

This is a continuation of the August 29 post “Winker? I Hardly Know ‘Er – Part Two of the David Winker Affair“, renamed The Miami Corruption Tapestry.

In that exciting episode I related:

What a difference a few days make. Another shoe has now dropped.

An ad hoc taxpayer group, an HOA, and the Coconut Grove Village Council spent cold hard cash to erect a billboard to SHAME the City of Miami into doing the right thing.

There are several ironies to observe here:

  • The last private citizen to successfully fight City Hall was current District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell, long before he ever thought to run for office;
  • Day Avenue is in Commissioner Russell’s district;
  • Unless he takes the long way around, Ken Russell needs to drive past this billboard to get to City Hall.

▌READ: Unpacking Grand Avenue


The Miami Corruption Tapestry so far:

The David Winker Affair
Winker? I Hardly Know ‘Er
An Email to the City of Miami & An Open Letter to Miami Taxpayers

An Email to the City of Miami & An Open Letter to Miami Taxpayers — The David Winker Affair; Part Three

The begining of The Deep Dive

Wake up, Miami taxpayers. You’re being played for suckers…again. And, by the same gang of [alleged] crooks that fleeced you once before.

Everything old is new again.

I’m currently reading America’s Casablanca: A “True Novel” about Miami’s Emergence from Bankruptcy and Corruption by Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, (published in 2019). Someone I highly respect touted this book when I was recently ranting about unfettered Miami Corruption.  This book is look at Miami politics from the inside.

Quick bio: Garcia-Pedrosa is a Cuban-American, moving to Miami as a child, where he finished high school, doing well enough to get a scholarship to Harvard (according to the blurb on the back of the book). After collecting a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law, he returned to Miami, where he championed the causes of Cuban exiles. Over the years he worked on many cases, including pro bono on behalf of Elián González, the child who became an international Tug of War between Cuba and ‘Merka that roiled Miami’s large — and politically powerful — Cuban community.

Where Garcia-Pedrosa fits into the Miami Corruption Tapestry: He later went on to become City Manager of Miami Beach. Not long after that, he joined the Big Leagues. He was hired as City Manager for the City of Miami when Magic City was going through a whole lot of misery, for a number of reasons. His service to the city lasted only 5 months. A very rocky 5 months. During the last 2 weeks of his short tenure, he was fired 3 separate times. As the Sun Sentinel tells us, the third time was the charm:

He asked the City Commission, which supports him, to let stand his final dismissal by Mayor Joe Carollo.

But Garcia-Pedrosa got in a parting shot against Carollo, saying the mayor used “seven or eight different and false excuses” to fire him.

“The residents of Miami do not deserve such dishonorable conduct by Mr. Carollo,” he wrote in a statement.


Bottom line: Miami has been dealing with batshit Crazy Joe Carollo — one way or another — for some 3 decades. Xavier Suarez has been kicking around just as long (although voters just put him out to pasture again; he recently lost an election to become Miami-Dade County Mayor). These politicians don’t go away when they are term-limited. They just recycle themselves, up, down, or sideways.


Back to our narrative, which is already in progress: The Miami mayor who hired Garcia-Pedrosa as City Manager in 1997 was kicked out of office for voter fraud soon afterwards. That’s the aforementioned Xavier Suarez. Suarez was the first Cuban-born mayor of the City of Miami way back in 1985.


Crazy Joe Carollo pops up in Part One and Part Two
of The David Winker Affair. This is Part Three.

From here on in, I am renaming this series
The Miami Corruption Tapestry.”


Suarez eventually retired from politics to spend more time with his family. Maybe 4 years was all his family could stand because in 1997 he ran for Mayor again and was reelected again.

The ’97 mayoral campaign was an ugly one, but Suarez eventually defeated <checks notes> Crazy Joe Carollo. Then Crazy Joe challenged some absentee ballots as fraudulent and won. [Maybe this is where Mad King Trump gets it from.] Suarez was never officially accused, but the rumours flew. Nevertheless his election was overturned and the office was given to <checks notes> Crazy Joe Carollo, who keeps turning up in every corner of my Miami Corruption Tapestry. Carollo did not win reelection in 2001.

Suarez went on to become Miami-Dade County Commissioner for District 7 and, eventually, Carollo went on to become a City of Miami Commissioner, which is when he first appeared on my radar. One takeaway from the Carollo years I’ve personally witnessed — and everything I have read — is that he’s still crazy after all these years. 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

And, Crazy Joe is still costing the city untold dollars in legal fees. Tangent over.


Here’s my basic point, even tho’ I took so long to make it: The same people have been picking the pockets of Miami taxpayers for decades — going back before the madness of 1997. Then Miami voters forgot all about the madness of ’97 and kept electing these same rapscallions, as if none of it ever happened. And, as if it didn’t cost the City of Miami both money and reputation while it was happening.

There will be more on Garcia-Pedrosa’s book in later chapters of The Miami Corruption Tapestry, but The David Winker Affair is just a continuation of decades of corruption.


When The David Winker Affair broke, I sent an email to the entire hierarchy of the City of Miami government seeking to get to the bottom of this travesty. I am still waiting for a reply.

Here it is:

EMAIL TO CITY OF MIAMI:
Subject: QUESTIONS – ON THE RECORD
Date: August 22, 2020
From: Headly Westerfield

CC List: Adele Valencia, avalencia@miamigov.com , Mayor Francis Suarez, fsuarez@miamigov.com, City Manager Arthur Noriega, anoriega@miamigov.com, City Clerk Todd B. Hannon,  clerks@miamigov.com, City Attorney Victoria Méndez, VMendez@miamigov.com, Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla, District 1,  adiazdelaportilla@miamigov.com, Commissioner Ken Russell, District 2, krussell@miamigov.com, Commissioner Joe Carollo, District 3,  jcarollo@miamigov.com, Commissioner Manolo Reyes, District 4, mreyes@miamigov.com, Commissioner Keon Hardemon, District 5,  KHardemon@miamigov.com, dwinker@dwrlc.com

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on television. I am a semi-retired, freelance investigative journalist who has been writing about Miami issues, on and off, for about a decade.

Most recently I was made aware of the David Winker story, which intrigued me as a classic case of corruption: The city coming down hard on a man who has launched several lawsuits against the city and won most of them. What intrigued me most was that a 65+ page dossier was produced, and the document was used to start Code Compliance inspections.

It took me a while to obtain this file. To her credit, Department Head Adele Valencia only passed along the specific property complaints (not the entire dossier) to her Compliance officers. Violations were noted and posted. It is my understanding that these violations are being disputed, as is the right of every Miami homeowner or business cited.

However, after a far more careful reading of this dossier, I have come to several conclusions:

1). This is the type of document usually prepared by a private investigator as oppo research against a candidate;
2). At one point it appears as if David Winker was under personal surveillance at a location away from his home, i.e. stalking;
3). And, most importantly, these documents were obtained through fraud, which may have contravened federal laws.

I draw your attention to Page 1 of Exhibit B in the dossier. About 2/3rds of the way down the page it says, “Your Social Security Number has been verified. Thank you.”

This means that someone fraudulently used Mr. Winker’s Social Security Number on 7/27/2020 at 10:02:44 PM [according to the upper right-hand corner of the next page] to obtain this exhibit. Exhibit C, and maybe a few others, appear to have been obtained through the same illegal means. Other exhibits are publicly available docs that anyone can access.

I request answers to the following questions:

1). Have you ever reported an address to Code Compliance for inspection? If yes: Was it an address within your District?

2). Do the records of Code Compliance Violations come across your desk as a regular occurrence, or do you need to request them to stay up-to-date? [Ms. Valencia is exempt from this question, unless she’d like to volunteer some information I may be unaware of.]

3). Do you support the use of city resources to whack opponents over political disagreements? If no, what do you intend to do about it?

4). What is the current status of the Violations posted at Mr. Winker’s door, case number CE2020014267?

5). Is the accessory use permit fee just a tax grab, especially in the era of The COVID?

David Winker is not the first victim of Code Compliance being used as a cudgel. There are media reports going back several years that Code Compliance was used against the enemies of Commissioner Carollo. Those people subsequently used Code Compliance against the Commissioner 9 months later.

However, Mr. Winker’s case is the most egregious because of the way the information was obtained and how the city allowed this colonoscopy, based on a dirty dossier [I can’t believe I just typed that], to initiate a simple Code Compliance Complaint.

None of this is because David Winker is “scum”, a word I recently saw used against him on Twitter. This was done to punch back at an activist lawyer who has been holding the City of Miami accountable. Possibly, and more importantly, it’s also a shot across the bow of anyone who might want to fight city hall, as Commissioner Russell once did.

6). Don’t you feel just a teensy-weensy bit dirty being used this way?

7). Has the City of Miami begun an investigation into how these documents were fraudulently obtained? Who illegally obtained them? Who illegally distributed them to Miami City Hall? [There may be different answers to each of those questions.] If not, why not? If not, it would appear as if the city is a willing co-conspirator to a form of identity theft, a federal crime.

8). Are you aware that just a little bit of the information contained within this file could lead to Identity Theft (which appears to have already happened to have obtained Exhibit B)?

9). Does the city know how many people have received this dossier, with all its private and personal data? I ask because I have a copy and I never should have seen it.

I am on deadline and would appreciate as fast a turnaround as you can. If I publish before you reply, and your reply changes anything within my article, I will update my story.

You can also phone me at ███-███-████, but I prefer stuff to be on the record. Email is always best.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE #2

As I say, I am still waiting on an answer from someone — anyone — in the city. Are there any questions I forgot to ask?

Stay tuned for Part Four of The David Winker Affair, aka The Miami Corruption Tapestry.

Right That Block; Block That Write ► Unpacking the Writer

It’s funny how things work out. The day after I published my last Unpacking the Writer, The COVID Chronicles, Mad King Trump tongue-kissed Salt & Pepa in a tweet and I threw up a little in my mouth.

I didn’t write about it. I wasn’t writing about much of anything. But, for reasons that even I don’t understand, I saved that Mad King Trump tweet for posterity . I was minding my own bidnezz, cowering from The COVID, with enough Writer’s Block to build a concrete canyon down Grand Avenue (which is what will eventually happen, BTW, but that’s another story for another day), when I got a phone call from someone I had not heard from in years. They started telling me about a particular story about Miami Corruption and — JUST LIKE THAT! — I was interested in writing again.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!


I had to learn how to write all over again. Writing is a muscle that can atrophy. I was rusty as hell. Furthermore, it DID NOT HELP that the WordPress software under the hood at the NNS Newsroom had been updated and the editor no longer did things I used to count on when I needed to count. There was a learning curve to the website software that I’m still working on.

At any rate: I managed to cobble together The David Winker Affair – Part One, followed rather quickly (for me lately) by Winker? I Hardly Know ‘Er – Part Two of the David Winker Affair. Part Three is almost finished and I have already outlined a Part Four. I’m not sure where this will go, but I’ll keep weaving these threads into the warp and the weft of my Miami Corruption Tapestry to form a bigger pictures.

That could be sooner rather than later. Suddenly sources have been sending the Not Now Silly Newsroom documents on Miami Corruption that others have only hinted at over the years. Now I have more Miami Corruption to look into than you can shake a FOI at.

Meanwhile, with about 60 days to go until the election, I’m hoping to write more about my opinions of Mad King Trump. He needs to be stopped. I’m old enough to remember the 1967 Detroit Rebellion and the other riots of the era. Following the murder of George Floyd the entire country has righteously erupted.

I don’t condone violence or destruction, but I understand the language of the dispossessed. I know how loud ‘the rabble’ has to get before any needed reform is even hinted at. In 1966 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told Mike Wallace:

I contend that the cry of “black power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.

Everything old is new again. We’re just calling it #BLM, or Black Lives Matter, but Black folk are still trying to make their voices heard. Were it not for the fact that people are now carrying video recorders in their pockets, so many of these murders at the hands of police would not be known.

I’ve watched, just during my lifetime, how the fight for true equality in ‘Merka has been two steps forward and one step back. The country never makes it to the finish line.

When I was growing up I couldn’t get my parents to drive me to school. Now 17-year old children are being driven across state lines to murder peaceful protestors with more firepower than police carry.

In Mad King Trump‘s ‘Merka, brownshirts taking over city streets with their pick-up trucks — jacked up to compensate for their cuckold-follow-the-pack lifestyle — shooting people with paint balls. Rich White Fucks with boats (or huge loans on their boats) are taking over ‘Merkin waterways.

Not only won’t Mad King Trump condemn the violence done in his name when asked outright, but he encourages it from the sidelines in tweets. He sees unhinged rallies where MAGAts wave the TRUMP 2020 flag, but only sees the support, not the this-is-so-bad-for-the-country-it’s-off-the-charts. Because, Mad King Trump has only ever seen the flags.

Which brings us full circle, dear reader. Just as I was getting ready to publish this update from the Not Now Silly Newsroom, I popped into Twitter to see if there was anything I wanted to roll into this post. There, right at the top of my timeline, as if daring me to screenshot it, and make fun of it, was the latest tomfoolery from Zircon & Burlap.

I don’t see this as a compelling
argument to reelect a monster.

The David Winker Affair – Part One

As this article was in the edit stage, Miami sent out the following, making it easier to rat out your neighbours.

Let’s start with a generally accepted fact known by every homeowner, developer, and builder: If you send a city by-law inspector to any address, in any town in this country, it’s more than likely they will find an infraction…or two…or six. Which brings us to the latest brand of insidious Miami Corruption:

Unscrupulous people are using the City of Miami’s by-law inspectors to settle political and/or personal squabbles. And, it’s ugly as hell and getting worse.

This has probably been going on for quite a while, but on a small scale; petty neighbour vs. neighbour bullshit, HOAs trying to get leverage, or just mean folk looking to make trouble. However, it only recently became public that the city’s Code Compliance office is an international joke.

This ugly mess broke out into the open back in 2018 when 2 city employees, both Code Compliance Inspectors told stories about District 3 Commissioner “Crazy Joe” Carollo — under oath and testifying at his ethics hearing.

NB: Crazy Joe is also at the center of a recall effort that’s as tangled and convoluted as anything else in Miami. That’s not the story I’m writing about but, it is tangentially related.

In “Carollo Might Have Broken the Law by Sending Code Enforcement After Ball & Chain’s Owner”, it’s alleged Carollo attempted to illegally use two Code Compliance Officers to…Wait! I’ll let Miami New Times’ Jerry Iannelli finish that thought:

Those employees’ allegations came during an investigation launched this past March when Bill Fuller, co-owner of the nightclub Ball & Chain, complained that Carollo was illegally using code enforcement investigators to target his businesses, all because Fuller helped Carollo’s election opponent.

Moreover, Crazy Joe has done this very same thing before. From the same article:

This isn’t the first time Carollo has been accused of sending code enforcement after his enemies. As New Times detailed last week, he used a nearly identical scheme in 1996 to attack Rodney Barreto, a local fundraiser and lobbyist. Barreto was the godson of then-Miami Mayor Stephen P. Clark, who frequently sparred with Carollo. Barreto also supported Carollo’s 1995 election opponent, Victor De Yurre. At the same time, Barreto also owned a series of parking lots outside the then-existent Miami Arena.

Carollo openly admitted to the Miami Herald in 1996 that he sent city employees to shut down Barreto’s allegedly illegal lots, but the city eventually let Barreto reopen them. Carollo claimed he was simply trying to trim “fat cats” from the city government, but the Herald said De Yurre’s supporters were the ones who wound up hit hardest.

“This is just basic, vindictive politics,” Barreto told the Herald in 1996. “It’s all promoted by Joe Carollo. This is not a nice message the City of Miami is sending here.”

Of course, because it was an ethics hearing, Carollo was allowed to defend himself. That’s not a rabbit hole I’m going down right now, but a week later Jerry penned “Video Suggests Carollo Lied to Miami-Dade Ethics Board“, which could be worth your time. However, here’s an important takeaway:

New Times obtained two seven-second clips from a witness who says he was riding in a GMC Terrain that night when Carollo was caught idling outside the Little Havana valet parking lot. The source — who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal from Carollo — says the clip, which begins in the middle of a heated Spanish-language argument, shows Carollo arguing with a Ball & Chain parking attendant, which corroborates the account that three witnesses gave the ethics board.

Reprisals? In Miami? Never happens.

IRONY ALERT!!!

It wasn’t but some 9 months after that when Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla, the business owners Crazy Joe had targeted, held a presser accusing Crazy Joe of living in a glass house.


To bolster their claim Fuller and Pinilla provided “photo evidence of each violation collected via Google Streetview.” It’s not like they hired a private dick to go through Crazy Joe’s dirty laundry.

But, someone did hire a private eye, a shamus, gumshoe, private investigator, sleuth, spy, bloodhound, eavesdropper, flatfoot, peeper, shadow, snoop, tail, P. I., Sherlock Holmes, bird dog, and/or slewfoot because that’s what happens in the next chapter of Code Compliance Corruption, as the laws are being used and abused to settle political scores.



David Winker, looking professional

Before I get too far along, let me introduce David Winker. I’ll tell you more about Winker in subsequent chapters of what’s looking like will be a multi-part story, but suffice to say that he is a Miami lawyer for hire. As a side gig he sues the City of Miami and, more often than not, wins.

This ugly episode will likely be his next lawsuit against the City of Miami.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED:

On August 6, 2020, Miami Code Compliance Department Head Adele Valencia received an anonymous 95+ page dossier on David Winker, activist lawyer and Miami homeowner. The only allegations in those 95+ pages that Code Compliance would care about can be quoted from the after-action report in an email from Valencia obtained by the Not Now Silly Newsroom:

On Thursday, August 6, 2020, the Code Compliance inspector conducted research on the permit history of the property through iBuild and Laserfiche, researched the property records on the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s Website, Sunbiz, the Florida Bar, and Realtor.com, and personally visited the property in the field.

The Code Compliance inspector inspected the home from the public right of way and opened a Notice of Violation, Case Number: CE2020014267.

The Code Compliance Inspector issued a Notice of Violation for 1) home occupation business without a Certificate of Use and/or Failure to follow the requirements for a home occupation business; 2) failure to obtain a valid Certificate of Use for the type of business being conducted; 3) Failure to obtain a Business Tax Receipt for the type of business conducted; and 4) illegally operating a business in a residential zone; 5) work performed without a permits and/or permit not finalized; and 6) illegal units. 

Clearly it didn’t take 95 pages for “Concerned Citizen” to hate on Winker’s property. So why were all those trees felled? The Not Now Silly Newsroom has obtained the entire dossier and is shocked by its contents. It was clearly prepared by a private investigator and alleges everything from traffic infractions to property liens; from tax troubles to Lis Pendens (which is going to be the next nom de plume I ever assume); From Exhibit A to Exhibit J. That’s right: Nine exhibits.

The file is a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks. It even includes tweets that Concerned Citizen labels “social media assaults.” I hope nobody looks at my timeline. I swear a lot.

A careful reading-between-the-lines of the exhibits seems to indicate that at one-point, Winker may have been under surveillance away from his home. Private dicks follow their quarry. Some people would call that stalking.

This dossier — this colonoscopy — is nothing more than a hit job. Whether any of it is true, or not, it’s an attempt at character assassination to silence someone holding the city to account. None of it is germane to the issue of the property and the alleged violations. This is the politics of personal destruction. And, it’s a shot across the bow of anyone who may decide to become an activist and fight city hall.

Furthermore, Concerned Citizen is not subtle at all. A letter addressed to Honorable [sic] Elected Officials of Miami City Hall begins: “RE: David J. Winker: Activist or Opportunist?

The first line attacks Winker as “disheveled” and the last line of the first paragraph says, “Unfortunately he is just a vicious individual.” Between those ad hominem attacks is the nature of the Winker’s real crime:

He came onto the scene about two (2) years ago by purportedly calling out the City of Miami and its elected officials on everything under the sun: from the soccer deal to building code violations, ethics issues to task force appointments, recalls to settlements, etc.

LEFT UNSAID:  Winker keeps winning his lawsuits against Miami, which means that the problem is not with him, but with the city. Yet, Concerned Citizen disagrees: The havoc David Winker has caused needs to be addressed categorically. I am extremely concerned that as a taxpayer I will be forced to pay higher taxes or lose services based on the many lawsuits or lost revenues caused by this man and his negative motives. Enough is enough.

Home Sweet HomeIn other words: I prefer City of Miami malfeasance to allowing a pro bono lawyer holding the city to task. [TO BE FAIR: One of the allegations is that he’s not *really* pro bono.]

Having been following this story from afar, I contacted Winker, who agreed to an interview.

We spent 4 hours together, at his house in the Shenandoah neighbourhood, one of Miami’s oldest subdivisions, going back 100 years now.


But first, a mea culpa.

I walked away from my reporting about West Grove for a variety of reasons, Pop’s death, not getting enough traction on my investigative stories, the time and money it was costing, and the distance to Coconut Grove: 35 miles. I should have been paying better attention in the interim, but I was UberLyfting hard. While otherwise occupied Coconut Grove has turned into a crazy game of telephone, a viper’s nest of innuendo, and enough conspiracy theories to launch a new QAnon.

END OF PART ONE.

Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two, in which I:

  • Write more about David Winker and his Non-Code Compliance;
  • Discover what Federal laws may have been broken;
  • Codify the Florida privacy laws allegedly breached;
  • Try to discover who paid for the 95 page hit job;
  • Who might be Concerned Citizen;
  • And, how all of this relates to Coconut Grove.

The COVID Chronicles — Unpacking the Writer

The COVID

I still call myself a writer, but I’ve barely done any in almost 2 years. Aside from posts on the facebookery or THE [Twitter Hate Engine™] — short, concise, and generally angry bursts of energy — I’ve not written anything of any length since There Will Be Hell Toupee, on December 27, 2018, and mostly because it is a topic (to lean into the cliché) near and dear to my heart.

Six days previously I published my very last gasp on Coconut Grove, Bulldozing History in Coconut Grove. The Grove was a topic that burned at me from the day I first discovered it 12 years earlier. At the time I was still disguised as Aunty Em Ericann, having launched Aunty Em’s Place in 2006. It was my very first ‘Merkin blogging experience. I had only recently moved from Canada and was trying to make as big a ripple as possible in what I knew to be a huge media ocean. The nom de troll was part of that plan. For a time, it worked, but that’s another story for another day.

Aunty Em’s very first post about The Grove was published on February 24, 2009. Presciently that post, The Shame of Coconut Grove, promised to be “Number One in a series”. Little did I know how right she would be…I mean…how right I’d be.

Over the years I have written dozens of investigative articles about Coconut Grove. The Grove consumed untold hours of my time in research and writing. Then there were the absorbed costs of multiple FOI requests, not to mention the gas needed to drive the 70 miles to The Grove and back, when I needed to be on the ground.

I’m proud of my work on Coconut Grove. During that time I broke some important stories about The Grove before the so-called Miami Media: Trolleygate and Soilgate were being ignored until I kicked up a stink. It was gratifying to see my stories picked up by the Miami-Herald and local newscasts, even though I wasn’t being credited. I knew who got there first.


If links are your thing:

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins:
Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three

The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse:
Part One, Part Two

How Will the Playhouse Redevelopment Hurt West Grove?

No Skin In The Game:
Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

Who Is To Blame For The Destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?

Say Goodbye to the E.W.F. Stirrup House While You Can

Interview With District 2’s Ken Russell

EXCLUSIVE: Are Valet Companies Stealing From Miami Taxpayers?

My last really important investigative story on Coconut Grove (at least in my mind) was published on August 8, 2018. It ended with the words “Because, make no mistake, at the core of every story about Coconut Grove is a story about Racism”. While I didn’t realize it at the time, Rapacious Developers Are Destroying A Historic Black Neighbourhood was both a summation of my time in Coconut Grove and my swansong on the topic. I didn’t figure that out until later.

After I dropped that article, I started compiling/composing a new Freedom of Information request for all the properties I would need to track for the proposed Charles Street hotel. Officially called The Charles Avenue Grove Inn, immediately across the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House I failed to save from Demolition by Neglect. There were at least 6 properties — possible 8 depending, on anticipated sales — but there were also several other issues I had been tracking, which I knew I needed to FOI the fuck out of. I started adding up the costs in my head and could see that I was faced with a bill of several hundred dollars because the City of Miami charges for that shit. And, that would have only been Step One. Once one gets the documents [if you even get the documents], they invariably lead to other documents and another FOI. These things can expand exponentially quickly. I didn’t have that kind of money. I had an occasional sponsor/patron/unnamed source, but wasn’t sure I could get them onboard for this much.

I’m building you a chronology.

Between those last 2 stories on The Grove was my very last Unpacking The Writer, a monthly feature of the Not Now Silly Newsroom. Quite unironically, considering the general topic of this post you’re currently reading, Kick That Block; Block That Kick ► Unpacking the Writer began “I am in the middle of the worst case of Writer’s Block in my lifetime.” It might be worth reading in full, but here’s one data point from the article:

That’s when I turned my back on The Grove. Why should I bust my hump, and spend good money, trying to help a community that didn’t seem to want to help itself? It made me recall the words of Al Crespo. To my mind the Crespogram Newsletter is Miami’s best muckraking site. Early on I tried to get him interested in my crusade to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House. His response shocked me at the time. “Why should I care about a neighbourhood that it doesn’t care about itself?”

If I learned one thing in all the years, it was that Crespo was right about West Grove’s apathy. While I recognized it more and more as I wrote about West Grove, it still ate away at me.

I had a ready excuse for that apathy. The folks who lived in that historic Black enclave were used to being ignored by the city, White folks, and the banks. Their concerns were more direct and immediate than saving a house at the end of a block that once belonged to a man who was — to put it bluntly — considered a slumlord in his lifetime. Or, fighting developers that were gentrifying their neighbourhood, replacing the affordable housing that was only affordable because it was in a Black neighbourhood. The ghetto.

Their bigger concerns were putting food on the table, keeping the young ones out of trouble, and avoiding the Miami Police, who could make their lives miserable if they got too far out of line.

Yes, I had a ready excuse for the apathy, but I was no longer willing to accept it.


The realization that I seemed to be the only person who cared, took my Writer’s Block and constructed a full-blown concrete block building, metaphorically like those that line Grand Avenue in West Grove. Impossible to escape from.

I stopped researching. I stopped thinking about articles. I stopped writing.

Which is odd because there was a time in my life that I just wrote to write. I had no place to publish my writing. I had no readers. I had no blog. I wrote merely to put my thoughts down and get them outta mind. It was cleansing, like a brain colonic. I wrote for the pleasure of the writing.

Eventually, I made somewhat of a living at it as a freelance investigative journalist and, later, toiled for a decade as a news writer on BreakfastTelevision [sic] on Citytv [sic]. Even then I still hammered words into particular configurations for my own enjoyment … and to clarify my thought processes. I need to start doing that again. Desperately.

To quote myself again from Kick That Block:

As much as that was true then, maybe enough time has passed that I think I might be able to finally get this down in digital form. I need to get it off my chest. I need to explore the problem deeper in order to see whether riffing on the topic with words will allow me to find what I’m looking for. It’s still going to take a while before I have anything in a finished form that I’d be willing to publish. If at all. Psychiatry might be faster, but who can afford that? They charge more than Miami FOIs.

For me it will be a relief to just get it ‘out there,’ because it’s a secret I’ve held on to a long time. Only one person on earth knows and they only learned in the last few weeks. I blurted it out while we spoke long-distance during one of my long walks during The Time of The COVID. I was explaining the various things that have turned my anhedonia into full time [find]depression.

It will be the most personal thing I will ever write. In fact, it’s so personal that all my previous attempts at getting my thoughts down were deleted from my hard drive so they could not be found.

That’s not something I normally do.

I still have every draft of every analog article I ever wrote during my magazine freelancing years. Some of them still have editors’ notes for further … err … edits. Electronically, I have an external hard drive (so that I don’t lose anything precious if a PC fries, as has happened many times over the years) with separate folders for each article, where I toss pics, links, notes, and, eventually, numbered drafts, until I have an article I am willing to release into the wild.

Having destroyed all my previous work on this deeply personal article, I’ll be starting from scratch. I saved nothing. I just looked.

Because it’s not something I can just ‘dash off’ — like this thingie you’re reading f’rinstance — don’t expect it any time soon. However, having finally told 1 person, I’m hoping it will be easier now.

However, to circle back to where I started, I need to get back to writing if I am going to continue to call myself a writer.

The COVID is a pretty little bug

Expect the Not Now Silly Newsroom to sputter back to life. It’s not like I got anything better to do. Today is my 44th day of self-imposed social distancing. I’m going wrangy, just like everybody else.


P.S. I was asked why I call it The COVID. I am harkening back to my childhood when elders spoke in hushed tones about The Cancer or The Polio when they didn’t think children were listening.

We now live in the Time of the COVID.

With all my love,
Aunty Em

Felix The Cat ► Saturday Morning Cartoons

Forget Mickey Mouse. The earliest cartoon I can remember is Felix The Cat, which premiered on tee vee when I was just a year old.

However, Felix The Cat is a lot older than that. In fact, he’s one of the very first stars of the silver screen, going all the way back to the Silent Era in 1919. Among his mysterious beginnings is that way back then Felix went by the nom de mouse of Master Tom. Why? What was he trying to hide?:

Master Tom left behind his former life with a name change for his 3rd movie, “The Adventures of Felix.”

Another mystery: From which back alley did he come from. The WikiWackyWoo has that story:

Felix’s origins remain disputed. Australian cartoonist/film entrepreneur Pat Sullivan, owner of the Felix character, claimed during his lifetime to be its creator. American animator Otto Messmer, Sullivan’s lead animator, has also been credited as such.[3] What is certain is that Felix emerged from Sullivan’s studio, and cartoons featuring the character enjoyed success and popularity in the popular culture. Aside from the animated shorts, Felix starred in a comic strip (drawn by Sullivan, Messmer and later Joe Oriolo) beginning in 1923,[4] and his image soon adorned merchandise such as ceramics, toys and postcards. Several manufacturers made stuffed Felix toys. Jazz bands such as Paul Whiteman‘s played songs about him (1923’s “Felix Kept On Walking” and others).

By the late 1920s, with the arrival of sound cartoons, Felix’s success was fading. The new Disney shorts of Mickey Mouse made the silent offerings of Sullivan and Messmer, who were then unwilling to move to sound production, seem outdated. In 1929, Sullivan decided to make the transition and began distributing Felix sound cartoons through Copley Pictures. The sound Felix shorts proved to be a failure and the operation ended in 1932. Felix saw a brief three-cartoon resurrection in 1936 by the Van Beuren Studios.

Felix cartoons began airing on American TV in 1953. Joe Oriolo introduced a redesigned, “long-legged” Felix, added new characters, and gave Felix a “Magic Bag of Tricks” that could assume an infinite variety of shapes at Felix’s behest.

This is the Felix I remember from my childhood and this may have been the first song I knew by heart:

I loved the cartoons that featured Poindexter and The Master Cylinder.

Sadly, most of the Felix The Cat cartoons now found on the innertubes have these horrible wraparound segments. However, if you can last out that first 60 seconds, there’s still a classic Felix The Cat cartoon at the chewy center:

This year the big news from Tinsel Town was that all is forgiven and Felix The Cat — one of the very first balloons — would return to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Just enjoy:

Don’t Give Up The Fort ► A Pastoral Letter

One block south of 8 Mile is the intersection of Gilchrist Street and Hessel Avenue


Like what you read here? Help support the
Not Now Silly Newsroom at Go Fund Me

Dear Pastor Kenny: 

Remember the fort we built in the backyard behind my garage on Gilchrist?

I distinctly remember scrounging some of the lumber for it from the excavation ditch that later became the Southfield Freeway. I can’t remember who was with me that day, you or Dean Donaldson, but if it was you, it’s safe to admit it. The statute of limitations on that crime has long expired.

It was a pretty sweet fort, as I remember. With the liberated plywood as a roof and walls, it was water-tight when it rained. We spent a fair amount of time hanging out in there, but I spent more. There were many times I’d sit in the fort reading comic books. It became my refuge away from my sisters. As you may remember, I had 4.

My old backyard showing the room my father added to the
back of the house, taken on August 2, 2016. The first thing I
noticed was that the cherry tree next to the garage was no longer
there. It was beautiful in the spring and you could sit on the
garage in the sunshine and pick cherries all the doo dah day.

Did you ever wonder why we still don’t have that fort to sit within and ponder the world?

I destroyed it in a fit of pique.

My parents were bothered by the mess we left behind and ordered me to clean it up. I walked across the street and tried to get you and Dean to help me. Neither of you could be bothered, so I decided the fort had to go. With tears in my eyes, and filled with childish rage, I ripped it apart within minutes, demonstrating how shoddy we were at fort building and how I can, at times, be my own worst enemy.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

In the last 8 months my life has been on a metaphoric fort busting bender, until I find myself beached here 13 miles from the beach — right back where I started.

Don’t give up the fort.

Just when things seemed at their lowest ebb, I hastily prepared another of my epic Road Trips to visit Pops. Knowing we’d meet again on my swing through Michigan, I had a lot of time to think over what I wanted to ask you during all of that driving. I was telling my friends along the way, most of whom have read my previous Pastoral Letters, that I was going to see you again. Most of them also knew of my troubles of late. I started to make the joke that with all that was going on in my life, I needed to be Pastor-ized.

Your house still looks picture perfect, Ken

I had hoped to meet you in our old neighbourhood, where your house still looks picture perfect. However, time constraints meant we only had a small time together and I was on vacation, for the most part. I didn’t mind traveling to Ann Arbor to meet you.

I wanted to share everything that occurred since the beginning of the year, but we certainly didn’t have time for that, so I shared the highlights lowlights — including the heartbreak I experienced just days earlier in Toronto. I even told you the joke above about needing Pastor-ization. Then I popped the question that had been on my mind since I left Florida. It started as a far more complex question, but during all those miles on the road it became simpler and simpler until I boiled it down to 10 words:

“What is the answer when Jesus is not the answer?”

Your answer was very Zen: Connections.

I am still processing what that means for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that not all connections are real connections. Nor do I really want to be connected to all those who are connected to me. The contradiction is that my writing at the Not Now Silly Newsroom, as well as my oversized presence on the facebookery and Twitterverse is all about making connections to many people I have no real connection with. Heavy, eh?

On my most recent road trip in front of my
former Kensington Market house on Nassau

IRONY ALERT: The person/place I truly wanted an improved and stronger connection with has gone cold and I have no idea how to rekindle it.

Ken, your other suggestion — to get back to Drum Circles — is a good one. Pops’ hospitalization kept me busy since early June, and there was no time. One of my favourite ones is tomorrow. It’s the monthly Drum Circle where I actually composed most of my first Pastoral Letter to you. However, here’s another contradiction: I’m not a joiner.

Speaking of joiners, I have always . . . what’s the correct word — envied? coveted?– someone who has a God to believe in. When life turns to shit, there’s an entity to pray to. Atheists don’t have that. Without those connections of which you speak, I’ve got to tough it out on my own.

The last time I believed in something bigger than myself was, in reality, not all that long ago. It was only last year and I wrote about it in a previous Pastoral Letter which I titled Before and After Synchronicity. Now I’m not sure if what I believed was real. It all seemed so right and this feels so wrong.

I no longer know what to tell the crows.

I hope it’s not another year before we see each other again, Kenny, but I expect it will be. In the meantime, feel free to reply. I told you that I write these more for myself than for getting a reply. However, this time I’d love to read your thoughts.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

Who Is To Blame For The Destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?

One of the first pictures I ever took of the
E.W.F. Stirrup House – August 26, 2009

This is the inevitable finger-pointing now that the sad, almost decade-long, purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT on the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House has ended.

SPOILER ALERT: In the end rapacious developers got what was wanted and needed. The once-historic house E.W.F. Stirrup House is no more, replaced by a reconstruction — or re-creation — which will be much easier and cheaper to bring up to the current building code.

Mission accomplished!!!


Read Say Goodbye to the E.W.F. Stirrup House While You Still Can, but here’s the capsule version for those who don’t follow links:

The developers were given permission by the Miami Historical Board to destroy the historic structure and replace it with an exact duplicate because the building was too far gone from termite damage and wood rot to restore. Those are the exact same conditions the developer allowed to be exerted on the house during the nearly decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.

City of Miami By-Law enforcement
officers discovered the E.W.F. Stirrup
House before I did – August 26, 2006

This reporter has been documenting in pictures and video the E.W.F. Stirrup House for more than 7 years. The thousands of pictures I’ve taken of this building over the years — which was designated a historic structure — proves how the all-wooden house was left open to the elements for most of that time, pointing to an unmistakable campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.

What’s more, there will be no penalty whatsoever and the developers may have even received grants to do what they did.

[This grant business is still being researched. As usual, a city department pledged to get this information to me weeks ago and has yet to do so. I knew I should have gone with a FOI request, as opposed to a personal promise.]

Who is responsible for this travesty? There’s enough blame to go around. Let’s name names.

Gino Falsetto/Aries Development


Click to enlarge

It all starts here.

However it happened (and I heard a doozy of a story that I was never able to confirm) several lots on Main Highway, at the corner of Franklin Avenue, were purchased and combined for development. So far, so good. Plans were drawn up. So far so good. Before building permits were issued there were objections that had to be satisfied from 3 different community groups, as the story goes:

  1. On the opposite side of Main Highway are several incredibly exclusive gated communities. How exclusive? The houses start at about $2 million and go into the stratosphere from there. The closer you get to Biscayne Bay, which is only 1000 feet away from the formerly-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House, the more you pay exponentially.

    These rich NIMBYs were concerned that their sunsets would be spoiled by a huge building to the west. While it’s unknown what height the developer originally proposed, eventually it was agreed to lower it to 5 stories and step it back from Main Highway, so that it would not create a huge edifice. However, that 5 story wall was instead presented to the rear of the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

  2. The second group accommodated were the Taurus’ customers. They argued that their historic drinking hole should be saved because it was old. The Taurus was a longtime Hippie Hangout, celebrated in story and song. One of the reasons it still was the place to drink in 2006 was because it was the only joint in the area that had a free parking lot. [We’ll ignore the implications of drinking and driving.] The rest of the Grove had parking meters or lots before you could go drinking.

    So, The Taurus was saved. One story says it was moved a few feet. Another says it was always right where you see it. But, it was saved.

    TO BE FAIR: The Taurus is an old building and one could argue that it should have been saved after all. I have found references from 1906 in which it was a Tea Room. However, it’s not as old as the E.W.F. Stirrup used to be before it was recreated.

  3. Then comes the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House.

    Some of the people of West Grove — the Black neighbourhood fanning out immediately west of the E.W.F. Stirrup House that would not have existed had not Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup built it with his own 2 hands — were worried the Stirrup House might not be saved.

    Old Man Stirrup, as some called him, was the patriarch of the neighbourhood, one of Florida’s first Black millionaires, and a man who thought that home ownership was important for the Black families arriving to become the service industry for south Florida’s nascent tourist trade. His 2-story house, in a area of small 1-story Conch and Shotgun houses represented the legacy of the neighbourhood, which is why old-timers were concerned about its potential destruction.

    The developer made a commitment to the citizens of West Grove: The E.W.F. Stirrup House would be saved. However, that’s where the stories diverge. Some people remember that what was promised was a historic museum and resource center. The other story goes that this was the promise made by another group for the Mariah Brown House, a few doors to the west, and that a Bed and Breakfast was always what had been proposed for the once-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House all along.

The recreated Mariah Brown House at 3298 Charles Avenue

IRONY ALERT: The Mariah Brown House was once the oldest house on Charles Avenue. When it was recreated, that honour then went to the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

No matter. What eventually got approved and built at Franklin and Main is officially called the Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums, at 3540 Main Highway. Unofficially (in the Not Now Silly Newsroom) this structure is known as The Monstrosity. It’s also a blockbuster, in an older sense of the word: the building that busts the block; the building that future developers will point to and say, “But you’ve already allowed this kind of density, height, and development in this community. Why not me?” [Prediction: eventually the Coconut Grove Playhouse restoration (or will that be another reconstruction?) will point to The Monstrosity to show what’s been allowed. But, as usual, I digress.]

This picture is from February 22, 2013. I had already been
photographing these open windows for 4 years at this point.

It’s crucial to keep this in mind as you continue to read about this travesty:

Once Aries Development got its grimy hands on the E.W.F. Stirrup House, it did nothing. It didn’t even bother to seal the house. It didn’t bother to close the windows. For the better part of a decade the house was open to the elements. This is not how you treat a structure you are committed to saving. This is a structure undergoing a clear and purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. What more proof is needed?

In fact, it was only recently (within the last year) that boards went up on the windows pictured above, but other broken windows and open windows were left alone.

E.W.F. Stirrup’s Descendants


Heretofore I have been careful not to criticize the Stirrup Family, but that ends now.

This picture from July 17, 2012 shows how invasive vines
were allowed to grow up the back of the house, over part
of the roof, and directly into the windows and wood on
the east side of the house. See below for the after pic.

The 5-story Monstrosity looks down upon the jungle.

When E.W.F. Stirrup died in 1957, he left it in his will that the house had to remain in the family in perpetuity. While I had always thought codicils like that could be challenged, to the family’s credit this one never has been.

The house is currently owned by Stirrup No. 1, LLC, a company owned by the grandchildren of E.W.F. Stirrup, which includes E.W.F. Stirrup, III. The Stirrup grandchildren, through this company, entered into a business arrangement to turn the Stirrup House into a Bed & Breakfast.

Here are the broad contours of this business deal:

The Stirrup descendants, who also owned two properties on the north side of Charles Avenue immediately across from the Stirrup House, agreed to a complicated swap. Aries would trade 2 brand new condos in The Monstrosity to the Stirrup grandchildren for those 2 properties on the north side of Charles, a 50-year lease on the formerly-Historic Stirrup House built with their grandfather’s own hands, and $10.00 to make it all legal. Which is how Aries got its hands on this cultural treasure, which it proceeded to destroy by a decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT

Once the deal was done, it appears as if the Stirrup grandchildren turned their backs on the Stirrup House, now literally in their own backyard. If the condos they were given are on the north side of The Monstrosity, they were able to look down upon the disaster that their grandfather’s house had become during this purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.

IRONY ALERT: Whenever the city cited the property for non-compliance, it didn’t cite Aries Development, which had a 50-year lease on the house and was responsible for its upkeep. The city fined the company owned by the Stirrups for all infractions because it was the owner of record.

It’s impossible to know what was happening behind the scenes, but if this were my grandfather’s legacy, I would have been jumping up and down to get the developer to do the right thing by him — to save the historic E.W.F. Stirrup House, the oldest house on Charles Avenue, from a campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.

It’s also impossible to know what motivated the Stirrup grandchildren to enter into a business agreement with Aries Development to turn the house into a B&B. Was it money? Were they sold a bill of goods by Aries? Were they blindsided by the horrible treatment the house received at the hands of the developer? However, as [silent?] partners in this business deal, some of the blame has to go to them for being terrible stewards of their grandfather’s house and his legacy.

LaTasha and LaToya Stirrup pointing to
E.W.F. Stirrup – One Grove mural unveiling.


Read more:


Trolleygate Brings A Community Together

Unveiling the One Grove Mural

Recently I discovered The Stirrup Family Legacy website. Part of the About SFL page reads:

This collaborative effort was born in the social media space following an inspired Facebook discussion among a few family members. While aware that our family story is already in the public domain and has been for some time, we acknowledged that the telling of our family story varied greatly and was regrettably unknown to many– particularly to those most needing to hear it. We came to an agreement as a family and decided to act–as a family, for our family.

We agreed that our family story is a classic American immigrant tale; one that is deeply rooted in the American dream.; one that is both exemplary and extraordinary; one that deserves to be told; and one that should rightfully be told by the Stirrup family.

All I’ve ever wanted was to restore the legacy of E.W.F. Stirrup, whose story I accidentally discovered. I became fascinated with the man and what his life meant for Coconut Grove, a place that proves the exception to the rule in Race Relations in this country. As the only person writing about him over the last 7 years, I welcome their inclusion. His is a story that needs to be told widely.

At a Coconut Grove Collaborative meeting (described below) is when I first met SFL’s LaToya Stirrup (and her sister LaTasha). They had read my articles on their great grandfather and thanked me for keeping the legacy alive. We started up an email conversation that ended abruptly. I was told through sources that, although they were not of the side of the family that gave up the 50-year lease on the Stirrup House, they were told by the family to stay away from me because I was criticizing the Bed & Breakfast deal.

However,  if we’re going to tell E.W.F. Stirrup’s story, let’s tell it correctly. The Our Patriarch page reads:

Stirrup constructed more than 100 homes in his lifetime, providing an opportunity for newly arrived Bahamians to actually own their first home. Many of the houses built by Stirrup remain, and are concentrated around Charles Avenue (originally Evangelist Street) close to the present-day Coconut Grove Playhouse, and the heart of the Bahamian community. Stirrup’s own home is at the head of Charles Avenue, and has survived as a legacy to its builder. [1] Over the years, many across Miami have continued to honor the legacy of Stirrup by keeping his memory alive in books as well as naming buildings around the city after him, like E.W.F. Stirrup Elementary in West Miami [2], The Stirrup Townhouses [3], and the Stirrup Senior residences in Coconut Grove [4]. His residence, which still stands today, [see 1] as well as the street he cleared to serve as the major thoroughfare for the community, Charles Avenue, were both designated Historic Sites by the City of Miami.

[1] Not any more, as this entire post proves
[2] The E.W.F. Elementary School is named after E.W.F. Stirrup, II, not the patriarch
[3] If this refers to Stirrup Grove, on Franklin Avenue, that is the only thing I’ve ever discovered actually named after the patriarch
[4] Also named after E.W.F. Stirrup, II


J.S. Rashid of Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation


Before I throw shade at Rashid, a man I happen to like, let me praise him. Two years ago I covered the Gibson Plaza Groundbreaking ceremony in A Grand Day For Grand Avenue. Rashid spearheaded this project, which is right across Grand Avenue from the cute little Conch-style house that holds the Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation. Gibson Plaza is now completed and a happening thing.

February 22, 2013 — six more months of growth on those
vines pictured above — when landscapers (and I use the
term loosely) ripped away the vines that had grown into
the siding and windows. This ruined the side of the house.

S’funny story: I was in Coconut Grove that day to attend
a Historic Charles Avenue Committee meeting at the
Collaborative Development Office at which I knew the
E.W.F Stirrup House was on the agenda. This clearing of
the lot was, as predicted, brought up as an example of
all the good things that were were taking place at the
Stirrup House by Aries.

This landscaping is the only thing that ever happened,
not counting the illegal removal of the old trees.

Rashid is also the force behind the Kroma Gallery, the only place along the west end of Grand Avenue that White folks will go to. He has also worked diligently for the infilling of lots in the West Grove with affordable housing, although property values have skyrocketed so much lately that the “affordable” part is now a pipe dream.

If anyone has been waving the flag for West Grove, it’s J.S. Rashid, a community organizer out of Chicago that’s managed to get some things done despite the uphill battle.

But, Rashid is a deal-maker. A community organizer. A go-along-to-get-along guy. However, I think he bends over backwards for developers.  

F’rinstance: when Aries Development needed to get the zoning on the E.W.F. Stirrup House changed from single family dwelling to commercial to accommodate a Bed & Breakfast, Rashid was there to support the project, appearing on the tee vee tubery and everything. While the video has been disabled, CBS Miami produced this report in May 5, 2011, two years after I started my lonely campaign to SAVE THE E.W.F. STIRRUP HOUSE. Quoting from Land Fight Brewing Over Historic Coconut Grove House:

The developer that owns the condo’s behind the Stirrup house has taken out a 50 year lease on the property and is  proposing rezoning the area for adaptive use that mean it can turn it into a business like a bed and breakfast or a cafe.

Community Activist Jihad Rashid was against the idea but he now calls the plan a win-win.

“With the protection that comes with that rezoning, the community can maintain its character and enhance our property and lifestyle and showcase our history,” said Rashid.

The developer has agreed to leave a one foot residential zone around the property to prevent other neighbors from wanting to turn their land into commercial zone. It has also agreed to restore the Stirrup house to its original state and in case of a natural disaster it would build a replica of the building.

It turned out to an unnatural disaster that destroyed the house: a decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT.

Had Rashid remained opposed to this rezoning, it’s doubtful the house would have been turned into a Bed & Breakfast. However, to be fair, it probably wouldn’t have changed the campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT that had started years earlier.

However, had Rashid been more proactive, some of this might have been prevented. At the meeting I described above, when the representative of Aries Development stood up to give a progress report, and mentioned the recent landscaping I stood up gave him a blast, saying that not only was it the only thing done to the house, but it also managed to destroy part of the house when the vines that had grown into the wooden siding were just ripped away. 

Rashid, who chaired the meeting, shut me down immediately by saying, “We’re all looking forward. We’re not looking back,” which is an insidious way of blame dodging I’ve written about before (under very different circumstances in my rant Treacherous Double-Dealing).

Bottom line: Over the years I tried to warn Rashid several times that things were rotten over at the E.W.F. Stirrup and nothing ever changed. The Community Activist was active elsewhere.

City of Miami Historic and Environmental Protection Board

The HEP Board ultimately approved the plans that allowed this property to be used as a Bed & Breakfast. While there were all kinds of protections in place, the developer was able to get away with nearly a decade of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT because once the HEP Board approved the plan, it never bothered to check on what was happening to this structure — even though it was designated a historic site by the City of Miami.

And, the protections seem inadequate or written with loopholes you can drive a cement truck through. F’rinstance: In the approval documents the developer needs to get a Certificate To Dig before it can dig a hole. This needs to be signed off on by an archeologist. Once I realized I had had lost the fight to turn the E.W.F. Stirrup House into a Bed & Breakfast, I shifted my focus to agitating for an archeological dig of the Stirrup property. 

The property is a huge double lot which has been owned by the same family for more than 120 years. Who knows what artifacts, buried just below the surface, could be discovered in an archeological dig? An archeological dig could reveal how life was lived by Bahamian immigrants in Coconut Grove at the turn of the last century.

Trench and rebar – February 3, 2016

On a recent visit to the Stirrup House, I discovered a backhoe digging a 2 foot deep trench all around the house despite the HEP Board calling for an archeological dig. So, I quickly called Megan Schmidt, Chief Preservation Officer of the City of Miami City of Miami Historic Preservation Office (see below) to see if they had a Certificate To Dig. 

Days later, after the trench had already been dug, rebar inserted into it, and the whole thing filled with cement, I FINALLY got my return call. Apparently the developer did get a Certificate To Dig, but — GET THIS! — the archeologist doesn’t actually sign off on the project until the whole thing is finished.

WAIT!!! WHAT???

Then what’s the purpose of the HEP Board requiring an archeologist to sign off on it after the fact if there is no archeology done? I’ll wait.

TO BE FAIR: The trench was dug to place a concrete footing all around the house so that they could slide massive steel I-beams from one side of the house to the other to support it during the work. However, that was all wasted effort and money, since they could have just razed the house and rebuilt it, as opposed to replacing the house one board at a time until nothing of the old house was left. And, with the scaffolding they put all around the house, most people I spoke to were fooled into thinking it was a renovation. After I told them to take a closer look, they realized exactly what I was talking about.

City of Miami Historic Preservation Office

The foundation trench has been dug, cemented, and
the steel i-beams slung underneath the house, but
before the house got jacked up. February 24, 2016

To her credit Megan Schmidt, of the City of Miami Preservation Office, is one of the few people in Miami government to return my phone calls, even though it takes her days to do so. Also to her credit, she agreed to meet with me once and opened up the entire Stirrup House file to me, which was surprisingly thin. [The reason being, she said, is because each city department keeps its own files.] She also shared the plans on file that merely showed the exterior elevations. I wrote about this in Shocker!!! E.W.F. Stirrup House Plans Are Finally On File.

However, at that same meeting she grossly misinformed me. I specifically asked whether the developer had the required building permits to start work. She told me they didn’t. Months later she said that either I misunderstood her answer, or she misunderstood my question. As it turned out the approval from the HEP Board (above) was all the permitting needed to begin the renovation. That precluded my last opportunity to stop the project.

At the time we met I shared with her my research on the house and my suspicion the rapacious developer was allowing it to undergo a purposeful campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. She thanked me for my interest and told me her office had to rely on people like me because they were so understaffed. But, was that just lip service? It’s hard to know.

I begged her to keep an eye on the house and she said she would. However, nothing ever changed and the developers were able to pull the wool over her eyes. The Historic E.W.F. Stirrup House is no more.

This is the elaborate web of scaffolding erected all around the Stirrup
House. While it provided stability to the structure, it also disguised what
was going on behind the scenes. In this picture, along the bottom of the
Stirrup House, note the new metal sill plate all around the house.
Also many of the horizontal support beams have already been replaced.

April 27, 2016

When I recently called her to say the entire house was being replaced, she tried to argue the point with me. 

She claimed the scaffolding surrounding the house was only there to protect the house during renovation. I asked if she had been there recently and she said she had in the last few weeks. I said she needed to go back ASAP to see how little of the old house was left. 

I also told her that the contractor informed me that it was all going to be replaced, board by board. I further informed her that the scaffolding actually was disguising that fact, either accidentally or by design.

However, Megyn Schmidt didn’t seem at all surprised or shocked that this project had become a reconstruction, saying casually that sometimes that’s the price of Historic Preservation.

No! The price of Historic Preservation is to preserve the building!!!

The developers AVOIDED the costs of Historic Preservation through its deliberate, almost decade-long campaign of DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT. That’s my whole point. They benefited by destroying this historic house, important to the Black community.

Schmidt was also the one who told me, two months ago, that to the best of her knowledge the City of Miami gave the developer a grant for the Stirrup House, which would have gone through the District 2 Commissioner’s office. When she said she would get the paperwork on this grant for me, I jokingly asked whether I should file an Freedom Of Information request, or should I just trust her to get it to me? I’m still waiting. 

On May 11, 2016 only the roof and a small
section near the front of the house remains.

I knew should have filed under the Florida Sunshine Law, not that it ever gets me anywhere.

TO BE FAIR: She has called me once in the interim to tell me that she may have been mistaken about the grant coming from the District 2 office, but she still remembers a grant and she was still looking for me. Yet, I have called her office and left messages several times since. She has not returned those calls and I know nothing more than I did when she offhandedly mentioned she believed there had been a grant.
I’ll update this grand business when I know more. However, that the developers may have received taxpayer dollars to destroy the E.W.F. Stirrup House really sticks in my craw.

Peter Gardner/Sabal Hill

Peter Gardner is the least culpable person on this list. He’s the newest developer to sign onto the E.W.F. Stirrup clusterfuck, only within the last year.

When I recently heard that he was now involved in the Stirrup House Bed & Breakfast my interest was piqued. I had heard his name, and that of his company Pointe Group (now Sabal Hill) as being one of the developers who wanted to gentrify Grand Avenue. This is a 6 block project that’s been bandied about for years and years and years.


Here’s the scaffolding coming down on June 20, 2016

There are two ends to Grand Avenue, the east end and the west end. The east side has CocoWalk and all the new development. From the east end you have access to Biscayne Bay and, more importantly South Bayshore Drive and Main Highway, both with their multi-million dollar estates.

Looking west down Grand Avenue from Margaret. This
model shown to me at the Sabal Hill offices makes it
appear as if Grand Avenue will become a gentrified
concrete canyon, despite Peter Gardner’s protestations.


The west end of Grand Avenue, from Margaret Street on, is the West Grove ghetto with the fabled US-1/Dixie Highway a
t the far west end. However, this entire end of Grand Avenue has gone from being the thriving Black Business District — when segregation gave this stretch of stores a virtual monopoly with the Black community — to the depressed area it is in now. The very same systemic racism as existed in every city in this country also exerted itself on this stretch of Grand Avenue. There was virtually no urban improvement in West Grove for more than 50 years, until Rashid built Gibson Plaza.

The biggest problem with this stretch of Grand Avenue is that these properties — which could once be had for a song because the neighbourhood was blighted — have been flipped too many times by speculators and developers. It’s still blighted, but now the land is too expensive to build anything that won’t create a concrete canyon along that stretch of Grand. Land is a machine that has to pay for itself. Only massive development will allow this land to pay its own way in the future.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT’S DUE: I met with Peter Gardner a few weeks back, surprised that he’d even talk to me after all I’ve written about the Stirrup House and the rapacious developers who got their grimy hands on it. None of the other developers involved ever replied to me.

I told Peter Gardner I was heartbroken over what happened to the Stirrup House at the hands of his current partners, Aries Development. Now that I no longer have to watch the Stirrup House I was going to start investigating Grand Avenue.

For his part Gardner kept talking about the fact that he’s a born & bred Coconut Grove boy who only wants what’s best for Coconut Grove. However his definition of what’s best for Coconut Grove is diametrically opposed to what I think is best for Coconut Grove. I don’t think wholesale gentrification will be good for the people in West Grove. Gardner tells me it could still be 2 years before the first shovel goes into the ground for these Grand Avenue developments. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail before then or, at the very least, plans are made for all of the current residents living in relative poverty to be relocated to affordable housing.

Something that greatly troubles me is how Sabal Hill has also acquired those two empty lots across the street from the Stirrup House (see above). He’s betting those 2 properties will become more valuable once the Stirrup House Bed & Breakfast and the Coconut Grove Playhouse are finally re-opened. Gardner paid $1,000,000 for those lots that are zoned for Single Family Dwellings. He will never be able to make his money back by building single family dwellings. He will need a zoning variance to build duplexes, apartment buildings, or a business.

There had been houses on those properties before Aries Development got its grimy hands on them. However, they were torn down so those lots could be used as a marshaling yard for the construction of The Monstrosity. In fact, those 2 lots are just some of the affordable housing knocked down to build that ugly thing.

The community needs to appose any change of zoning for those two properties, otherwise — ONCE AGAIN — the developers will get what they want by pulling the wool over the eyes of the City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department.

The Black Residents of West Grove/Apathy

It has to be said: The residents of West Grove are an apathetic lot. Whenever I talk to folks in West Grove about the E.W.F. Stirrup House, I get a big shrug. The Old Timers, who are old enough to remember Mr. Stirrup in his lifetime, have expressed little concern for the building. Younger people don’t even know who the hell E.W.F. Stirrup was and why his legacy is so important.

Looking south across the two lots acquired by Sabal Hill, to the
E.W.F. Stirrup House, dwarfed by The Monstrosity behind it.

One of my [Black] sources has a theory about this apathy. It starts with many decades of systemic racism. Black folks were used to being ignored at City Hall. It was all they could do to get low-paying jobs, put food on the table, and see their children get an education and stay out of trouble. 

Who had time to concern themselves with the house of a rich man? E.W.F. Stirrup may have been one of Florida’s first Black millionaires, but he was also called a slum landlord because some of his rental properties were in pitiful condition. So few people in West Grove know of E.W.F. Stirrup that his reputation hardly matters. However, make no mistake, there is a Black neighbourhood in Coconut Grove due to his efforts. 

The White Residents of Coconut Grove/Systemic Racism

This is what 13 decades of Institutional Racism looks like. And, it was no different in Coconut Grove than anywhere else in this country, except for one thing: E.W.F. Stirrup built more than 100 homes and then bartered, rented, or sold them to the growing Black families that were arriving to become the service industry for the nascent tourist trade.

Note the difference between how Commodore Ralph Monroe has been honoured and how E.W.F. Stirrup has not. They were contemporaries and both are considered Founding Fathers of Coconut Grove. Their houses were only 625 feet apart. Yet Commodore Monroe’s house was restored and turned into a Florida State Park called The Barnacle

The plywood sheeting is going up on June 7, 2016. The last part of
the formerly-historic E.W.F. Stirrup House left was the roof. And, as
you can see, that’s also been destroyed. It will probably be coming off.

Conversely, the E.W.F. Stirrup House was torn down to build an exact re-creation to be turned into a commercial Bed & Breakfast for Rich White Fucks, as I call them. I wonder what Mr. Stirrup would think about that?

Meanwhile, you can barely find information about E.W.F. Stirrup, his life and legacy online. I have only ever been able to find one photograph of Mr. Stirrup, even though Ralph Monroe was a photographer.

None of this would have happened had E.W.F. Stirrup had been White. West Grove wouldn’t look the way it does now if it were White. The same systemic racism that plagued other cities also worked its devolution on West Grove.

I calls ’em as I sees ’em.