Tag Archives: Toxic Soil

This Toxic Timebomb Could Blow Up Soccer In Miami

Everything old is new again.

David Beckham, who has been trying to bring Major League Soccer to Miami for the last 5 years, has run headlong into an issue that roiled the city just a few years ago: Toxic soil.

Soilgate was a stain upon the City of Miami’s reputation and is a hidden aspect of racism that remains, pretty much, still hidden to this day. For 70 years Old Smokey, the incinerator situated in the Black neighbourhood of West Grove, belched out smoke and suspected carcinogens settling on everything from houses to playgrounds to fresh laundry drying on the line.

Despite decades of local complaints Old Smokey was only shuttered after White parents complained. Because of desegregation their children had been transferred to a nearby school. As time went on, people simply forgot about Old Smokey as the property was turned into a training facility for the Miami Fire Rescue Training Center.

That toxic soil timebomb eventually exploded when — after covering it up for 2 years — the City of Miami announced the closing of 8 parks due to the discovery of toxic soil. The toxic soil came from toxic fill from Old Smokey. The city was simply giving it away by the truckload, as well as using it for parks.

► Read more about Old Smokey from the Old Smokey Steering Committee
► Read more about a class action suit against the City of Miami by West Grove residents
► Read more about Soilgate in the Not Now Silly Newsroom

While the parks were eventually remediated (but not to everyone’s satisfaction) and reopened, no one really knows how well the remediation plan of removal and seal will hold up over time.

Meanwhile, Beckham and the Mas brothers are hot to bring football — as it’s known everywhere but here — to Miami. To that end they’ve already tried two previous locations which fell apart over different issues. Team Beckham is hoping the 3rd time’s the charm. The new location is Melreese Country Club.

It won’t be easy. The golf course is the only City of Miami owned golf course in the city, it is loved by people across the spectrum, and is home to The First Tee, a children’s charity whose mission statement is “To impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.” Hardest of all: Approving the Beckham site would require the city to accept this no bid plan and doing so would require a change to the city by-laws to accept a non-competitive plan.

However, it was also discovered that Melreese is another Miami location filled with toxic soil. The location was previously a dump site and fill from Old Smokey may have been used here as well. According to Miami New Times:

The county first realized it might have a toxic problem in Melreese in early 2005 when it started digging in Grapeland Park, a smaller public plot that borders Melreese’s southeastern corner. Beneath a water park in Grapeland, its engineers discovered a serious issue: “Incinerator ash material was found in a layer at least two-feet thick” beneath Grapeland’s soil, according to a DERM report.

In October 2015, DERM hired a firm to drill soil samples and test water at nearby Melreese, a 154-acre course that opened in the 1960s, to see if it also was contaminated. The short answer: most definitely.

The company dug 50 holes up to three feet deep around the course and, in 36 of them, immediately found clear evidence of toxic ash. The ash was silty, “dark gray to black in color” with “brownish-red nodules” and plenty of burnt glass and metal shards, a sure sign of the waste. The thickness varied, but in some places “exceeded four feet in thickness.”

Since Grapeland was in use as a water park, county officials decided the toxic ash had to be removed ASAP. The process wasn’t cheap. In 2006, contractors quietly hauled away 86,000 tons of toxic soil at a reported cost of nearly $10 million. Grapeland is a fraction of the size of Melreese.

Last week Beckham’s boys put on their dog & pony show for the Miami City Commission to vote in favour of approving the referendum question for November’s ballot which would change the city’s charter to accept the no bid contract. However, before they got a chance to reveal their plan there was almost 4 hours of public comment, both for and against bringing soccer to Melreese, to be renamed Freedom Park.

In the end the city decided to punt the issue to another meeting this week after Commissioner Ken Russell* said there were still outstanding issues that need to be addressed, the least of which is the toxic soil on this location and who will pay for the remediation.

It’s supremely ironic that it was Russell who put the kibosh on this plan. Russell ‘made his bones’ over the issue of toxic soil. Russell woke up one morning to find the park across teh street from his house was fenced off and closed without warning. This is where he and his children played. After some investigation he discovered it was due to toxic soil from Old Smokey. Further investigation revealed a remediation plan, which had been worked out in the backrooms of Miami City Hall without any public consultation whatsoever, would be totally inadequate for the job required and would destroy much of Merrie Christmas park in the process. Russell took his fight to City Hall and won. A year later he became the dark horse winner in the race to replace the termed-out commissioner.

Not Now Silly is agnostic on the issue of Freedom Park provided 2 important conditions are met:

  • No taxpayer money is spent to build it, support it, or remediate it;
  • All concessions will be required to sell Freedom Fries instead of French Fries.

* FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been working on a book with, and about, Ken Russell, which may never see the light of day.

Another Open Email To Miami’s Public Records Department


TO: Jones, Isiaa <IJones@miami.gov>
SUBJECT: Frustration Over PRR 16-452: FOIA Request
September 28, 2016

CC: Melendez, Eleazar <ElMelendez@miamigov.com>;
Russell, Ken (Commissioner) <krussell@miamigov.com>; Mendez,
Victoria  <VMendez@miamigov.com>; Hannon, Todd
<thannon@miamigov.com>; The Loyal Readers of the Not Now Silly
Newsroom; Various Facebook Groups and Pages of my choosing

morning I sent an email which stated I’d be at Miami City Hall on
Tuesday to inspect the files you said would be waiting for me. In that
email I asked 2 questions, basically: Whether the fee for the emails I
requested was still on the table and how much it costs to photocopy per

I never got a response to that email, so I didn’t
know when I arrived on Tuesday morning whether my 24 hours notice was
sufficient. Luckily, when I arrived, I was expected.

There were 2
boxes of material for me to look through, but only a small portion of
the total answered any of my search criteria. The rest was just all the
city files that arrived in those boxes from the former-Commissioner’s

While some of it was quite interesting — and
I wish I had the budget to photocopy that entire 2 inch thick Reid
Welch file — and while some of it matched my search criteria, none of
it is what I asked for.

I asked for all of the email, not the files.

mentioned this to City Clerk Todd Hannon during a brief conversation
yesterday. He had me second guessing myself because he said I had asked
for everything, and the boxes of files was just one stream for my
request. The other stream was the electronic request for all of the

I am not sure what instructions Mr.
Hannon received, but this is exactly what I asked for, from my original
email to Commissioner Russell:

I would like to receive any email [from the former District 2 Commissioners office] that references the following keywords:

And, I’m still waiting.

To be perfectly honest, I was requesting the email FIRST in case it gave
me new information to add to a RECORDS search. You see, my RECORDS
search would have come later, based upon what the emails revealed.

drove down to Miami from Sunrise yesterday hoping to do all of this on
one trip. No one in the Clerk’s office knew a thing about the email I was supposed to examine.
Aside from the gas wasted, I spent more than 3.5 hours on the road 
[Yeah, it shocked me too. The roads were bad yesterday.]

about my time and gas makes me wonder how many keystrokes it took your
IT guy to come up with a cost of $100.31. How many minutes from an IT
guy am I paying for? What is the basic rate?

good piece of news: I now know that you charge 15 cents per photocopy,
because I got a few made out of those boxes. That’s Kinko pricing.  

I’d like to draw your attention to the penultimate paragraph of a
letter Commissioner Ken Russell sent to the Miami Herald, published

Our decision on Thursday morning is not an easy one, but it is very
simple. Our attorney withheld public records, and I have lost my trust
in her. This cannot be denied, and it’s enough to call for her removal.
What’s at stake, however, is much greater. The commission has this
opportunity to tell the public that we prioritize transparency and
accountability — that we don’t agree that friends in high places should
be able to circumvent our public process.

I’m still waiting for transparency. None of this should be as hard as it has been.

An Open Reply To Miami’s Public Records Department

I have chosen to make this a public reply to an email recently received from the City of Miami’s Public Records Department.

TO: Jones, Isiaa <IJones@miami.gov>
SUBJECT: PRR 16-452: FOIA Request
September 16, 2016

CC: Melendez, Eleazar <ElMelendez@miamigov.com>;
Russell, Ken (Commissioner) <krussell@miamigov.com>; Mendez,
Victoria  <VMendez@miamigov.com>; Hannon, Todd
<thannon@miamigov.com>; The Loyal Readers of the Not Now Silly
Newsroom; Various Facebook Groups and Pages of my choosing

Hello and thank you for your prompt attention to my FOIA request, which I first sent to the office of the District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell. You’ve summed up my keyword search criteria correctly.

However, while some may feel the fee to acquire these emails small, as a citizen blogger with a budget of $0 and zero cents, I simply cannot — will not — pay this cost. If I were, say, the Miami Herald, I could easily afford this. Unfortunately these are topics that never much interested the Miami Herald. So, it’s left to a citizen-journalist-blogger like me to ask these inconvenient questions.

I have been writing about Trolleygate and Soilgate as separate issues from their beginnings. However, recently it began to appear as if there is a connection between these two stories. Hence, my records request.

Tangentially, there was a time in this country when anyone could wander down to the local City Hall and ask to take a look at a file. Now one must pay the costs of retrieval, from an expensive and complicated system the city set up, because that’s the only option. While I understand how that makes sense fiscally, costs like this run counter to the Florida Sunshine laws. The information should be free.

Additionally, in your email you state:

The process to create the storage media will take approximately 4 business days after receiving the approval and payment. The costs includes [sic] searches for Civilian mailboxes. Police mailboxes are not included. If the request is related to a law matter case or may include any other exempted emails then a review of the results may be required before being released and this may add more delivery time and cost.

That means there will almost assuredly be additional, hidden, costs because at least one of these matters was the subject of extensive litigation, which the city of Miami eventually lost. This cost the City of Miami and the city attorney’s office a hefty legal bill that has yet to be tallied. [Hey! That might make another good Public Records Request, but one thing at a time.]

IRONY ALERT: As was in all the local newspapers, the current District 2 Commissioner, Ken Russell, requested the firing of the City of Miami attorney because he says his office no longer has any faith in her. And, why is that? Because when his office asked her office to produce emails, some were not forthcoming.

Yet, due to city protocol, here’s how Eleazar Melendez, Chief of Staff at the Commissioner’s office, was forced to reply to my FOIA request:

I am passing your email to the city attorney’s office, as we discussed, in order to fully and legally comply with this public records request. They will perform a full and exhaustive search for the terms requested and, as we discussed, might ask for a payment in order to cover resources being dedicated to performing the search.

The City of Miami attorney the District 2 Commissioner wants fired replied:

Will handle. Thx.
Victoria Méndez, City Attorney

Kafka lives!!!

Consequently, and for the reasons listed above, I am CCing the current District 2 Commissioner to see whether he is interested in discovering what kind of strange deals were made by his predecessor to:

1). Get Armbrister Field AstroTurfed over so quickly, especially considering other parks were being closed due to toxic soil [Read: Marc D. Sarnoff ► Everything Old Is New Again];

2). Get a relative clean bill of health for Armbrister Field while he was closing other parks that had toxic soil, even though parts of Armbrister Field was recently closed due to toxic soil [Read: Armbrister Field Contaminated After All! Was There An AstroTurf Cover Up?];

3). Appear to act as political lobbyist and fixer when he intermediated between Astor Development and a community group to offer $200,000 to remediate Armbrister Field with AstroTurf in order so that they drop their objection to the Trolley maintenance garage being built on Douglas Avenue [Read: Is Marc D. Sarnoff Corrupt Or The Most Corrupt Miami Politician?];

4). Subtly threaten his constituents to withdraw his approval supporting local community initiatives if they refuse to drop their objections to the Trolley maintenance garage [Read: The Trolleygate Dog And Pony Show];

5). Possibly helped the developer find a way around a City of Miami’s Planning and Zoning e-mail that flagged the Trolley maintenance garage as non-conforming [Read: BLOCKBUSTER!!! The Trolleygate Smoking Gun Surfaces];

6). Totally ignore the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to force a non-conforming Trolley maintenance garage onto Douglas Avenue [Read: Trolleygate Violates 1964 Civil Rights Act ► Not Now Silly Vindicated];

7). So quickly close 6 parks and begin remediation plans without any consultation with the ratepayers, who also happened to also be his own constituents in some cases;

8). Illegally apply (then remove, then deny he ever had ever done so in the first place) a Brownfield Field Site designation in the neighbourhoods surrounding these parks deemed toxic [Read: When Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff Lied To My Face].

That is why I am making a formal request to the current District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell to request these documents on behalf of the citizens of West Grove, who have been fighting systemic racism for many decades.

It has always been my contention that many of the decisions that affected West Grove made by the previous office-holder appear to have been a modern day extension of the systemic racism that has plagued the West Grove – and, to make a larger point, the entire country – over the last century. [Read: Modern Day Colonialism and Trolleygate] There is no way a Trolley maintenance garage would have ever been sited near Shipping and Virginia and it’s instructive to note that Blanche Park, across the street from the previous office-holder, was the first park closed due to toxic soil and remediated (and remediated more than once, for that matter).

I just want to find out what was happening behind the scenes while the constituents were being kept in the dark.

Thank you for your prompt attention to these matters.

Headly Westerfield
Chief Word Wrangler
Not Now Silly Newsroom

Armbrister Field Contaminated After All! Was There An AstroTurf Cover Up?

More about Trolleygate and Soilgate

An Introduction to Trolleygate

Is Marc D. Sarnoff Corrupt Or The Most Corrupt Miami Politician?

BLOCKBUSTER!!! The Trolleygate Smoking Gun Surfaces

An Open Letter To Miami Media

Marc D. Sarnoff ► Everything Old Is New Again

When Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff Lied To My Face

Back in 2013, when Soilgate was just getting off the ground (pun intended), the big surprise was that Esther Mae Armbrister Park was NOT one of those ordered closed IMMEDIATELY.

That’s because Armbrister Park is immediately adjacent to where Old Smokey had been belching out black and acrid smoke for close to 70 years. Old Smokey is also where the contaminated soil dumped in the Miami parks ordered closed had originally come from.

Despite the relative clean bill of health, the football field at Armbrister Park was immediately remediated by having the topsoil scraped, removed, and the whole thing capped with AstroTurf. Even the children’s playground was capped and covered with a rubberized material, which almost immediately started to flake and disintegrate.

Everybody thought that was the end of that. Until September 7, 2016, that is.

That’s when my phone and text started blowing up. Several of my faithful readers wasted no time to tell me that they heard Armbrister Field was being closed because it was found to be contaminated with toxic soil. However, none of my sources had first-hand knowledge at that moment in time. [Documents started winging their way around the internet a few hours later.]

To get confirmation, I thought I would go straight to District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell. He and I originally met over the issue of toxic soil long before he ever considered running for office. At the time he was locked in battle against the [allegedly] corrupt former-Miami commissioner, Marc D. Sarnoff over the remediation of Merrie Christmas Park. This is the park right across the street from his house. It — and 6 other parks — were suddenly closed without any notification after the soil had been deemed toxic.

The residents living around Merrie Christmas Park hired a lawyer (bankrolled privately) to see the park was remediated to their satisfaction. And, it was. That also led to the removal of the Brown Field Site Designation that had been illegally applied to their neighbourhood.

Tangentially, and no less important, is that the park immediately across the street from [allegedly] corrupt former-Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff was also remediated. In fact, it was the first to be remediated. What’s more is that it’s been remediated twice already.

My point being that it’s bad optics when the park in front of your house is fixed, but there are still entire neighbourhoods waiting nearly 4 years for their parks to reopen.

Ceremonial ground breaking for the remediation
of the toxic soil at Douglas Park – July 6, 2016

On July 6th I attended a groundbreaking for the eventual reopening of Douglas Park, a park that is still not renovated after being closed for nearly 4 years.

Back in November of 2014, [allegedly] corrupt former-Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff was assuring residents round Douglas Park that the city was on top of their toxic soil problem. However, the work did not start until July of this year under the administration of his successor. It’s estimated that it will take 2 years before the park reopens. And, we know how solid these kind of estimates are.

But I digress.

My call to Commissioner Russell’s office seemed to take everyone by surprise. For laughs I decided to go through his main office number. Speaking to the receptionist, I made it clear that I was a reporter, I needed to speak to Chief of Staff Eleazar Melendez, Anthony Balzbre, but more importantly Commissioner Russell, for an ON THE RECORD response. She dutiful took down all the info, said they were all in a meeting, but asked me to hold on.

Within a minute Eleazar was on the phone with me. This was the first he had heard of Armbrister Park being closed and could not confirm. I told him I needed an ON THE RECORD comment and confirmation from his boss. He said he’d get back to me as soon as he learned more. [In the meantime, I was still getting phone calls and info from other sources.]

Less than an hour and a half later Commissioner Russell called me back personally to confirm what I had heard. He knew little more than the park was closing due to elevated levels of arsenic, but promised to keep me up to speed.

Unlike the parks that were found to have toxic soil, Armbrister Field was not contaminated with the same Old Smokey landfill that was spread around all the other parks. While this appears to be a case of “what goes up, must come down” further testing is needed to determine where the toxins came from. Old Smokey belched out smoke and particulate over a wide area for around 70 years. It was carried wherever the prevailing winds blew. That’s why everyone was surprised that Armbrister Field had been given a clean bill of health when all the other parks had closed.

Or had it?

During the Trolleygate fiasco, this reporter wrote about how [allegedly] corrupt former-Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff had been using new AstroTurf at Armbrister Field as a bribe bargaining chip to get the Trolleygate diesel bus garage built. Apparently, [allegedly] corrupt former-Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff convinced Astor Development to cough up $250,000 out of the goodness of its corporate heart to cover Armbrister Field with AstroTurf. However, there appeared to have been strings attached by [allegedly] corrupt former-Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff. He wanted the West Grove ratepayer groups to drop their challenge(s) to Astor Development building what would eventually turn out to be the illegally constructed polluting diesel bus garage on Douglas Avenue in their community.

The Now Now Silly Newsroom has published several stories that called into question Astor’s motives in proffering a $250,000 bribe incentive in the form of a new AstroTurfed football field. In the end, who did pay for the AstroTurf at Armbrister? And, why was the amount $250,000?

In the last 2 days this reporter has had several conversations with officials, both on and off the record. I think I am finally closing in on the quid pro quo. There will definitely be a Part Two to this story as I learn more, ferret out more documents, and as more people go ON THE RECORD. Eventually I hope to answer the following questions:

How did the toxic soil under Armbrister Field
manage to fly under the radar until now?How did Armbrister Field get remediated so quickly
when several parks that have still yet to reopen?

Did Astor Development pay a quarter of a million
dollars for the remediation of Armbrister Field?

Who received the $250,000?

What part did [allegedly] corrupt former-Miami District 2
Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff have in all this jiggery-pokery?

Stay tuned . . .

When Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff Lied To My Face

Just like on Batman, the lair of the criminals is crooked.

Mea culpa. I should have written this up in December, when it happened, but that would make me merely another reporter to whom [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff lied. That’s hardly news, but better late than never. 

A bit of background. On December 9th I attended the Douglas Park Soilgate Dog and Pony Show. This was merely the latest, fancy, multimedia production, mounted at taxpayers expense by [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff in another frantic effort to mollify constituents after they realize they’ve been hoodwinked, as opposed to the elected representative being upfront with his constituents in the first place.

Read about a previous Sarnoff Dog and Pony Show:
The Trolleygate Dog And Pony Show

I didn’t write about Douglas Park Soilgate Dog and Pony Show because: 1). It was a total yawnfest, even though at the end of the meeting [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff lied to my face; 2). I really had nothing new to say on the topic after I shot my wad posting Marc D. Sarnoff ► Everything Old Is New Again in November. That post documented the Sarnoff Skulduggery™ that slicked through Brownfield designations against 6 Miami parks, and 6 adjacent neighbourhoods, before anyone could notice. To quote myself:

[Michelle] Niemeyer is the lawyer who has been advising and working with the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park. She’s managed to help them understand and negotiate the extremely complicated thicket of Miami, Miami-Date, Florida and U.S. environmental laws that go into effect once a neighbourhood has been designated a Brownfield site.

According to Niemeyer, the entire process for designating the 6 neighbourhoods around the toxic parks Brownfield sites was flawed from the get-go. The Brownfield designation was slapped on these neighbourhoods without the proper notification, no matter how many publications in which the city claims it was published. There are supposed to be public meetings before any decisions made and none were held.

During the Douglas Park Soilgate Dog and Pony Show Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo refered to this flawed process in an oblique way and I wanted to get [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff on the record. That’s why right at the end of the Douglas Park Soilgate Dog and Pony Show, I raised my hand to ask a question. Unfortunately, because I had already written about the Sarnoff Skulduggery™, he was prepared for my question. I had barely begun before he cut me off to tell me there had never been a Brownfield designation.

“Does that answer your question?” he challenged.

“No, not really.” And, so I started to ask the question again in a slightly different manner. Once again he cut me off to say there had never been a Brownfield designation.

As I started to ask the question a third time, [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff cut me off again to say the same damned thing. That’s when I gave up. The meeting was breaking up, it was getting loud in the room, and no one really cared about the answer but me. And, even I didn’t care that much because the record shows he is duplicitous liar every time he opens his mouth. However, at least I had him on the record that there was no Brownfield designation, just another lie to a reporter and his own constituents.

[Maybe I didn’t write about the meeting because I’m embarrassed that I allowed [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff to bully me off my question. I kicked myself over and over on the drive home. However, as I have clearly demonstrated, he’s not inclined to answer any questions from me anyway.]

I was reminded of all of this Tuesday when I got an email from Ken Russell announcing Merrie Christmas Park is almost ready to reopen. To remind you, Russell led the neighbour revolt that got the toxic soil removed from Merrie Christmas Park. He’s also recently teased that he’s considering challenging Teresa [is it too early to call her corrupt?] Sarnoff, wife of [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, in the Miami District 2 race, already crowded with 6 people vying to topple the Sarnoff Dynasty.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This reporter runs a kidding-on-the-square Facebook page called ABT – Anybody But Teresa. Come join the fun.

Russell managed to get the park cleaned up to the neighbours’ satisfaction despite the best efforts of [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff to present them with a fait accompli, a bizarre take-it-or-leave-it deal that would have had the neighbours chipping in for the cost of removing the toxic soil.

Yes, you read that right. For some reason [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff thought the residents should pay to remove the toxic soil the city dumped in their local park. As it turned out an anonymous donor coughed up the dough for the toxic soil
remediation and the work went ahead. That’s just another [possibly
illegal] deal [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff
cooked up behind closed doors. So far he has refused to name the
anonymous donor, which pisses all over the Florida Sunshine Law. But, I digress.

In his email Russell reminds his neighbours: 

Brownfield Designation:
Several months ago, the Commissioners quietly voted to declare this and 5 other parks as Brownfield Sites so that they could get money from the State and [be] release[d] from liability after the cleanup.  Through research, we learned that proper notification wasn’t given to residents and that this particular use of the Brownfield [law] wasn’t appropriate.  So the State is not recognizing the City’s ordinance.  However, for us, it’s important that the City officially reverse their decision to declare our neighborhood parks as Brownfields so that there would be no future confusion or stigma.  I received a call from Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo confirming that at the next Commission meeting (not this week), that the Commissioners would bring it back up for a vote to reverser [sic] their earlier vote.

How can a city reverse a vote that [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff tried to tell me to my face had never been made? Because, you see, it’s not just a game of semantics. This affects people’s lives and property values, something that [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff doesn’t seem to understand as he moves all these chess pieces on a board, playing both sides without any oversight.

At the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park Facebook Page Russell elaborated on this Sarnoff lie:

If anyone tells you that the City never designated the 6 parks as Brownfields, ask them about this attached signed approved memo from the City Manager’s office. I have been promised by Alice Bravo (City Deputy Manager) that Sarnoff has promised to un-do the designation through a vote at a Commission meeting later this month.(even though the State never recognized the designation, it’s important that the City withdraw their intention to designate).

If you go to the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park Facebook Page. you will see that Ken Russell has helpfully posted the minutes of the July 24, 2014, Miami City Commission meeting. Because of Sarnoff’s failure to adequately notify the residents around 6 parks and to provide public forums prior to any city vote on Brownfield designations, the motion passed will not be recognized by the State of Florida and now has to be undone. 

This District 2 race is shaping up to be a lot of fun for the Not Now Silly Newsroom.

Marc D. Sarnoff ► Everything Old Is New Again

I’ve managed (mainly) to avoid writing about [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff, except as it related to Trolleygate.

However, that doesn’t mean Sarnoff was totally off my radar. While I’ve been busy writing about things which interest me far more than a term-limited local politician, I still kept one eye on him, amazed at the crap he gets away with in plain sight. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder what he’s getting away with behind the scenes. Lately that has had a habit of sneaking out, mostly because he’s having trouble keeping his lies straight. You can’t tell one community group one thing and another community group the opposite and not expect them to compare notes. That’s why in so many recent off the record conversations the sentiment was expressed, “No one with the Sarnoff name will ever be elected to office again.”

Granted I was the one saying it, but only because I truly believe it.

I started researching this post, in a desultory manner, when the notice above came in through my electronic transom. “Oh!” I thought. “I really need to go to this to see if [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff says anything stupid or incriminating.”

I hadn’t forgotten how he used $200,000 of Astor Development’s money to bribe the folks at Ambrister Field to oppose the folks fighting to keep Sarnoff from shoving a polluting diesel trolley bus garage into their neighbourhood, contrary to zoning ordinances. I fantasized that Astor Development would be there to help Sarnoff cut the ribbon.  [At the time Armbrister Field was thought to be contaminated due to being right next door to Old Smokey, the incinerator.]

LONG STORY SHORT: In the end, after multiple lawsuits, the bus garage that got built BECAUSE of meddling by [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff will never be used as a bus garage. Now the dickering is over what adaptive use it can be converted to for the benefit of the neighbourhood and how much money Astor Development wants to get rid of this white elephant [pun intended]. The last figure I heard, that people are still laughing at, was $4,000,000.

ANOTHER LONG STORY SHORT: Sarnoff didn’t say anything stupid or incriminating at the Armbrister Field ribbon cutting and — amazingly — he didn’t even try to grab credit for all the renovations. While it amused me he pulled a muscle in the first inning of the Police vs Politicians softball game, it wasn’t enough to sustain a whole post. So I never wrote it up.

Even before the Armbrister Field ribbon cutting I had been thinking of Sarnoff because his name kept cropping up in the media on the issue of Soilgate. I joined a Facebook community group called Friends of Merrie Christmas Park, formed by Ken Russell who lives across the street from the park. Russell was blithely unaware he was living across the street from a toxic park until the park was suddenly closed. He was unaware a remediation plan had been put into effect until the bulldozers arrived. After he delved deeper into the city’s plan for
the toxic soil remediation, and found it wanting, Russell started to organize his neighbours.

Merrie Christmas Park is one of the Miami Parks — most of them in Coconut Grove — closed due to the discovery of toxic soil. The toxic soil comes from ash from Old Smokey, which was used as fill in the earliest days of Miami.

Are these parks merely the tip of the toxic iceberg?

Courtesy John Dolson

The dirty secret that almost nobody is talking about — concentrating on just the parks instead — is that toxic landfill from Old Smokey is scattered all over Miami.

Most of South Florida is built on fill of one sort or another. Keep in mind, just 100 years ago this entire region was little more than a swamp. Slowly, as infrastructure was added in the form of roads, railways, and bridges, vast swaths of land in between was still waterlogged. Digging the canals that crisscross South Florida helped drain the swamp and it also provided the earliest fill to build upon. However, it was never enough. Back in the day Old Smokey was simply giving it away. The du Ponts used approximately 100,000 tons of it to build their estate on St. Gaudens Road. 

What seems to have bothered Friends of Merrie Christmas Park most was the lack of public notification. Notification might have allowed them to have input into any eventual remediation plan. Or, at the very least, an understanding of the stakes before [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff cut all his backroom deals. Yet, as much as this fight is about toxic soil, it is also about property values. The decisions that Sarnoff shoved through city hall without public input forced Miami-Dade County to declare every home within a 1/4 mile radius a Brownfield site. No one knows for sure, but it’s estimated that having one’s home declared a Brownfield site devalues a property by 10% to 20%.

Once Sarnoff caught wind the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park was going to hold a neighbourhood meeting, he sprung into action!!! First he scheduled a Dog and Pony Show at Miami City Hall and then he crashed the neighbourhood meeting in Merrie Christmas Park to obfuscate. Watch:

Video courtesy Al Crespo of The Crespogram Report
IRONY ALERT: It was the earlier lawsuit against
Sarnoff’s previous fiasco, Trolleygate, that uncovered a 2-year old memo
indicating Miami was already aware of poisoned parks, but buried the
results. [Pun intended.] This led to the testing of all the parks, which led to the
closure of 6 of them for remediation. The biggest parallel between Soilgate and Trolleygate is how all of those decisions were made in backrooms, without proper neighbourhood notifications.

In Trolleygate that led to all those lawsuits, which cost the city of Miami a bundle to defend. That was taxpayer money wasted by Marc D. Sarnoff, who was protecting the interests of an out-of-town developer building an out-of-town diesel bus garage, over the interests of his own constituents.

No lawsuits have been filed in Soilgate . . . yet, but it seems inevitable. And, every dollar spent on lawsuits can be blamed on [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff making decisions in backrooms, as opposed to under the light of Florida Sunshine Laws.

IRONY ALERT II: A Marc D. Sarnoff Dog and Pony Show should be trade-marked and patented. They all follow the same pattern. First Sarnoff ignores his constituents, making backroom deals without benefit of Florida’s Sunshine Laws. Once the taxpayers and his constituents have learned they were sold down the river, they start to agitate. If they agitate loud enough, Sarnoff spends taxpayer money to create a Dog and Pony Show and then calls a public meeting to sell the neighbours on the plan that’s already a fait accompli.

In other words: The Dog and Pony Show is the public meeting that MORE PROPERLY should have taken place before any decisions were made so that the stakeholders — the neighbours — the community — the taxpayers — his own constituents — understand the issues. However, Marc D. Sarnoff prefers people are kept in the dark until it’s too late.

As Miami New Times writer David Villano tells us in his groundbreaking story City Quietly Labels Toxic Parks “Brownfield Sites,” Limiting Neighborhood Input In Cleanup:

Ken Russell of the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park, is outraged that he and other nearby residents were not notified of the proposal to re-label the park as a Brownfield — a move he believes could greatly impact property values.

“It’s hard to believe they didn’t make an effort to tell anybody,” he says.


City officials say an ad publicizing the hearing was placed in three local publications — the Miami Times, the Daily Business Review, and Diario Las Americas.

You might be forgiven if you don’t understand this notice. In
fact, it’s what [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D.
Sarnoff was hoping. Image swiped from The Crespogram Report

How could the city say it notified the residents when no resident remembers being notified?  Al Crespo of The Crespogram Report, shows how this hocus pocus was performed. In a story called The Miami City Commission Will Always Try To Screw You In July, he reports the city did this by deliberately NOT naming the parks, just listing the various addresses:

Skimming through the agenda, or skimming through the notices published in the Public Notice section of Miami Times, The Daily Business Review and Diario Las Americas, one’s eyes could easily have slid over a bland notice listing a handful of addresses.

Further proof that this was intentionally done so as to minimize the ability of the residents living close to these parks to speak at the Public Hearing, was the failure of the City to post notices around these Park properties, thereby minimizing the possibility that the residents would find out and attend the Public Hearing.

A dollar to a donut says that all of this can be attributed to decisions and instructions issued by Commissioner Sarnoff to Assistant City Manager Alice Bravo.

Why Sarnoff?  First, because 4 of the 6 parks included in this agenda item are in his District, and secondly because he, along with Alice Bravo, his ever present sock puppet on all of these kinds of issues have been at the center of all issues and schemes dealing with how the city dealt with the discovery, testing and now with the clean up of the contamination in these parks.

Sarnoff again!!! He keeps turning up like a bad penny.

IRONY ALERT III:  The Marc D. Sarnoff Memorial Dog
Park, also known as Blanche Park, was also found to contain toxic soil.
This is ironic because Sarnoff not only lives across the street from the
park, but the park had been renovated SEVERAL times prior to the toxicity becoming known. One of those previous renovations was to take 2/3rd of the
park away from CHILDREN and letting it go to the dogs, literally, by turning it into a dog park.
Sarnoff has no children, but he does have dogs. And, he managed to ram a
dog park through across the street from his house, before anyone knew
what happened, children be damned.

IRONY ALERT IV: The Marc D. Sarnoff Memorial Dog Park is the only park closed because of toxic soil that has ALREADY been remediated and reopened. How about that? I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with the fact that [allegedly] corrupt Marc D. Sarnoff lives across the street.

However, and this is DAMNED important, it was closed, remediated, and reopened SEVERAL TIMES!!! What was wrong with the first remediation? What was wrong with the second remediation? What did all those children — and, okay, dogs, too — ingest in the various times the park was open before and between various remediations?

TRYING TO MAKE A VERY LONG STORY SHORT: What’s happened at Merrie Christmas Park since the latest Sarnoff Dog and Pony Show is almost a repeat of previous Sarnoff Comedy Capers. First he tries to set one neighbour off against another, by blaming the activists (who hired a lawyer to make sure their rights are not further abrogated by the meddling of Sarnoff) for the project being stalled. Once he saw which way the toxic wind was blowing, Sarnoff agreed to remove ALL the toxic soil, but only if the nearby residents would kick in a portion of the clean-up costs.

I need to repeat that because it’s so outrageous:

Marc D. Sarnoff thinks the residents should help pay the cost of removing the toxic soil that the City of Miami put in the park in the first place. 

Once the idea that residents pay for their own remediation was rightfully laughed at by all intelligent people, Sarnoff still got his way. In the end, an angel ponied up the private costs of removing the toxic soil. All that is know about this anonymous donor so far is that it is a male, he lives in Coral Gables, which is just on the other side of Le Jeune Road from Merrie Christmas Park, and has fond memories of playing in the park as a child.

However, the remediation appears to be stalled, despite several promises by Sarnoff that it would be cleaned up by now.

And, that’s just one park. 

There were 15 people at this meeting. Two were reporters. One
was a rep from the Coconut Grove Village Council. At least 2
live in other neighbourhoods.That leaves 11 concerned citizens.

SKIP AHEAD TO LAST SATURDAY: One of my sources sent me a notice of a Douglas Park Meeting on Clean-up and Re-Opening. Because the issues are virtually the same as those at Merrie Christmas Park, I thought I’d attend.

This meeting provided good news and bad news for [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff. First the good news: It was poorly attended. It was so poorly attended, Sarnoff didn’t even bother showing up, like he had the better-attended Merrie Christmas Park Meeting. The bad news? One of those that showed up was lawyer Michelle Niemeyer.

Niemeyer is the lawyer who has been advising and working with the Friends of Merrie Christmas Park. She’s managed to help them understand and negotiate the extremely complicated thicket of Miami, Miami-Date, Florida and U.S. environmental laws that go into effect once a neighbourhood has been designated a Brownfield site.

According to Niemeyer, the entire process for designating the 6 neighbourhoods around the toxic parks Brownfield sites was flawed from the get-go. The Brownfield designation was slapped on these neighbourhoods without the proper notification, no matter how many publications in which the city claims it was published. There are supposed to be public meetings before any decisions made and none were held.

Another concern expressed at the Douglas Park meeting was one I hadn’t heard before. Folks are not much happier with the artificial turf and rubber mulch the city proposes to use to cap, but not remove, the toxic soil. More and more communities are waking up to the dangers of artificial turf. The Poughkeepsie Journal is just one paper around the country reporting Fake Turf Poses Health Risk

Four of the constituent chemicals in these “tire crumbs” (or “tire mulch”) as they are called — arsenic, benzene, cadmium and nickel — are deemed carcinogens by the International Agency for Cancer Research. Others have been linked to skin, eye and respiratory irritation, kidney and liver problems, allergic reactions, nervous systems disorders and developmental delays.

While the risk came to light recently when a University of Washington women’s soccer coach began to think it might be more than a coincidence that two of her goalies were stricken with cancer, researchers have known about such potential links for years. A 2007 report by the Connecticut-based Environment & Human Health Inc. looked at several scientific studies and found definitive connections between various health problems and exposure to synthetic turf.

Environment & Human Health Inc. also reported that kids on playfields are likely to face similar risks as line workers in the rubber fabrication and reclamation industries, where they say health reports show the presence of multiple volatile organic hydrocarbons and other toxic elements in the air. “Studies at tire reclamation sites report leaching of similar sets of chemicals into the ground water,” says the group.

Yet, the city of Miami, is gung-ho on the use of artificial turf, such as they used for Armbrister Field.

When I went to the Armbrister Field Ribbon Cutting, I took note that the BRAND NEW artificial, rubberized cap over the children’s playground was already flaking. I was able to pick pieces of it up. Some of the small pieces are brightly coloured. I could easily see toddlers picking them up and putting them in their mouths, which is how toddlers sample their world.

HERE’S THE PUNCHLINE: Just as people were leaving the Douglas Park meeting someone passed out the flier at right, which looks almost exactly like the flier that called for a meeting on the toxic soil at Merrie Christmas Park.

Someone said, “Oh look. Sarnoff is holding another Dog and Pony Show.”

Someone else replied, “I hope he saved his script from the last one.”

And, this time, neither of those someones was me.

Unpacking the Writer ► Closing Out Another Year

Crazy angles. Just like Batman.

Long-time readers of Not Now Silly know that Unpacking The Writer is a monthly feature, in which I pull back the curtain and reveal the man pulling the levers.


New readers may be unaware that this is also my clever way to remind people to click on the adverts on these pages. The few cents I get from the monthly clicks don’t even cover the cost of storing the pics I use. [Did I say “few”? I meant miniscule.] However, now that Google has lowered the price of storage, I might actually be at the break-even point. Whoopie!

No matter. While money was never the reason I started a blog, it would be nice to make a few dollars here and there for all the hard work I put into these posts. On your mark. Get set. Start clicking.

I compare myself to Superman whenever I can.

Something else new readers may not know: I had a residency for a few years at NewsHounds, the motto of which is “We watch Fox so you don’t have to.” Because I was concerned Right Wing Crazies™ might want to hunt me down, I used a nom de plume. Because I thought it was funny, that pseudonym was Aunty Em Ericann. Because that so upset Right Wing Crazies™, some of them decided to hunt me down.

It’s the circle of life.

So, the Right Wing Crazies™ hunted me down and exposed my secret identity, just like I was a superhero and they were trying to conquer the world. No one ever accused them of being Braniacs, however.

In an effort to destroy me — because he couldn’t refute my message — Johnny Dollar was stupid enough to publish details of my alternative lifestyle at his sewer because, clearly, my sex life falls under his stated rubric of CABLE NEWS TRUTH. That’s the story I tell in the very first post on this blog: Johnny Dollar has Proven Himself To Be A Very Dangerous Person.

TRUE STORY: This blog was launched to expose Mark Koldys. Therefore, if you like this blog, you have Johnny Dollar to thank for it. It’s my modest suggestion that the very best way to thank Johnny Dollar is to share my Johnny Dollar stories all across the World Wide Interwebs. Feel free to repost.

The more that people learn about Mark Koldys and Ashley Graham, the more repulsed they are. They are saddened such evil motherfuckers like Johnny Dollar and Grayhammy actually exist. They are outraged that people would do such a thing over political differences. They understand that I might be willing to forget this silly little cyber-feud — even after 3 years of relentless and mendacious attacks — except Koldys and/or Graham keep reminding me it’s time to write about them all over again. What’s funny is how they keep trying to convince people that they are the victims.

For all those reasons I ask my faithful readers to share, or trade, these blog posts with your family and friends. Here’s are some good places to start:

blackflon was once part of the Flying Monkey Squad, but became bored and
gave up his part in the feud. Maybe Mark Koldys & Ashley Graham will take a clue.

I guess I’m just nostalgic for the earliest days of this blog. While it started with the mission to destroy Johnny Dollar, I’ve branched out considerably since then.

For the first year — to keep the continuity and to bring along my NewsHound fans — this blog was slapped with the unweildy title of Headly Westerfield’s “Aunty Em Ericann” Blog, which I got tired of typing. A year ago, April 1st, I simplified it to Not Now Silly, the URL I had chosen a year earlier. It occurs to me that I’ve not told that story here:

When I was originally setting up this blog I was asked to come up with a URL. I knew that it was something that I’d have to live with for a while, so I typed one possibility after another. They were either already taken, or just seemed stupid when I stared at it long enough. I was just starting to get frustrated when Pops called me from the other room. “Not Now Silly” is what my fingers automatically typed. Then I hit enter. It was as good as any URL, I suppose and, just like every problem, I was over-thinking it. 

For some reason Keg tried it in blue before we settled on sepia.

When I decided to rename the blog last year, I reverted to that URL. Keg designed a logo I that I love, based on a pic I found on the innertubes.

To blow my own horn: I’m most proud of my investigative writing on Coconut Grove. Back when I was still disguised as Aunty Em, I wrote my first blog posts on the Charles Avenue Historical Marker. Accidentally stumbling across that marker led me to all my other reporting on Coconut Grove, from the Demolition by Neglect of the E.W.F. Stirrup House; to the quiet racism that led to Trolleygate; the historical racism that led to Old Smokey; right on down to documenting The Colour Line as it shifts throughout the history of Coconut Grove.

And, my Coconut Grove posts do pretty good, click-wise, because I have regular readers now who want to know what I’ve uncovered lately. However, nothing could have prepared me for the click action on my post of February 22nd, Aries Development Continues To Rape Charles Avenue, all about the illegal cutting of the trees at the E.W.F. Stirrup House. It garnered 1297 clicks in just a month, jumping to the #3 in the Not Now Silly Top Ten. Sadly that knocked one of my Johnny Dollar posts down to the #9 position.

Readers: I do it for you. Without my readers, these words would be meaningless. These last two years have been a great ride. I sure hope you’re going to stick around for the next few. Here are some videos I made that combines my love of history and my obsessive picture collecting. See you around the funny papers. Oh, and click on an advert. It won’t cost you a thing and you’ll feel better for it.

Headlines Du Jour ► Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hello Headliners!!! It’s the 70th day of the year and the birthday of Shemp Howard. Among the Headlines Du Jour of yesteryear includes:

Had enough? Then let’s get right to today’s Headlines Du Jour:


Lesbian couple murdered and left near dumpster in Texas

The quickly shifting language of the transgender community
He, she, ze, and how to navigate a new landscape


Right-Wing Zealots Are Already Freaking Out About The Return Of Cosmos!


Race, the War on Drugs
and Mass Incarceration

GOP Lawmaker Accused of
Racism for Tweet About the NBA


Pennsylvania trooper fatally shoots pregnant wife in the head while cleaning his gun


Use of Public Transit in U.S. Reaches
Highest Level Since 1956, Advocates Report


Coconut Grove’s Blanche
Park to close through
summer to remove toxic soil

From the Not Now Silly archives:
A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large


It Takes Nine Days to
Spot a Stoned Driver


Detroit Doesn’t Need Hipsters To Survive, It Needs Black People

Graffiti Tagger Hits One Of
The New Shinola Clocks
That Were Gifts To Detroit


Most Corrupt Town in America in
Danger of Being ‘Wiped Off the Map’


Fox & Friends First Misspells ‘Spelling Bee’


Honest Ed’s latest bargain: those zany signs


Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the
Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information
Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in
today’s open thread.

Headlines Du Jour ► Sunday, January 26, 2014


The Human Cost of Income
Inequality in America

What you need to know about
income inequality before
Tuesday’s State of the Union address

Low pay hurts the economy

How do we deal with income inequality?

Income Inequality:
The Defining Issue of Our Time

Economic Costs of Income Inequality

Wealth and Income Inequality: Result
of “political capture”, Not the
Invisible Hand of the Market

Muckraking Journalists Needed Now More
Than Ever As Inequality Gap Grows

Venture Capitalist Compares Anger Over
Income Inequality to Nazi Germany

Poll: Most Americans believe
income gap has grown

Krugman: Income Inequality and
Unemployment Are Linked

Researchers: Income inequality
hurts economic growth

Editorial: Income inequality poses
global risk of riots and revolution

Millionaire TV Host Calls Growing
Income Inequality ‘Fantastic’

Making progress on inequality

Larry Di Rita On ‘The Ultimate
Antidote To Income Inequality’

How your income compares
to others in US

Davos finds inequality a major concern

In anticipation of President Obama’s State of the Union address, Now Now Silly will be highlighting articles on income inequality this week, along with all the other Headlines Du Jour you’ve come to know and love. Let’s get right to it:


Iowa GOP posts
flowchart to ID racism

John McCain Censured by Arizona GOP for Being Too ‘Liberal’

Five Important Sex Ed Lessons
For Republican Lawmakers


Medical Marijuana Bill
Introduced In West Virginia


Price for Miami parks cleanup
may end up in the millions

From the Not Now Silly Archives
A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is
Trolleygate Writ Large


We May Finally Find Out Who Is Funding One Of The Nation’s Shadiest Dark Money Groups


Buddhist Student Told to Change his Religion if he Doesn’t Want to be Taught Creationism in School

Noah’s Ark revealed to be
filled with cannibal rats,
drifting toward British coast


‘Jeopardy,’ comedians make hay out of continued Rob Ford scandal



Himmler’s love letters reveal him to be insecure romantic
fantasist who kept the Holocaust secret from his wife


Broadway Responds to Russia’s Anti-LGBT Persecution



Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the
Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information
Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in
today’s open thread.

Headlines Du Jour ► Tuesday, December 24, 2013

When the Not Now Silly interns began agitating for Christmas off, I decided to grant their request. I fired the whole lot of them. However, I ain’t going out into the innertubes and getting my hands dirty. That’s why I have purchased the very latest technology in headline collection, specially designed drone robots. Today’s Headlines Du Jour are the very first to be picked by the new bots. Not only do they work cheap, but they won’t demand time off.


Judge Smacks Down Utah’s Request for Stay
as Hundreds of Gay Couples Get Married

Federal judge’s ruling rejects
Ohio gay marriage ban


Mike Huckabee Defends Phil Robertson With a
Paranoid Rant Against Militant Homosexuals


City Of Miami Closes Two More Parks For Potential Contamination

◄ From Not Now Silly
A Century of Coconut Grove Racism ► Soilgate Is Trolleygate Writ Large


Democrats Need To Rally Around the Issue of Income Inequality in America


Miami’s Staggering Inequality Explained in One Map


Reservoir found under Greenland’s snow. What it means for shrinking glaciers.
The water in the huge reservoir remains liquid year-round, and researchers say it could help them estimate how Greenland’s rapidly melting ice sheet will respond to global warming.



Tea Party Darling Rand Paul Insists He’s Sincere About Helping Detroit


Walmart Gets Busted Forcing Employees to
Make Political Contributions to Republicans


eBay removes anti-Zimmerman artwork the
same day Zimmerman’s painting sells for $100k


Whips, cloaks and parchment: the
festive presents of ancient Rome


Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in today’s open thread.