Tag Archives: Xavier Suarez

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.

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. 


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:

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.


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.

Is Kevin Spacey The Coconut Grove Playhouse Angel Or Devil?

Playhouse panorama – All pics by author on March 10, 2015

There is disturbing news coming out of Miami concerning the renovations of the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Everyone thought the Playhouse Plan was well on the way when last year all the financial encumbrances that delayed restoring and reopening the Playhouse had been settled. Then recently, Arquitectonica was chosen as the lead design company to oversee the project. However, quietly in the background lawyer Mike Eidson (Lewis S. “Mike” Eidson) started agitating for a new plan. In a nutshell, it’s far more ambitious than the 300 seat theater proposed as a Trojan Horse for a huge parking garage at Main Highway and Charles Avenue.

Eidson’s plan includes 2 theaters as a Trojan Horse for a huge parking garage at Main Highway and Charles Avenue, one about 350 seats and the other approximately 750 seats. [See: The Latest Play on the Coconut Grove Playhouse for Memorandum of Understanding penned by Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez and an overview of the Eidson Plan.] Because this plan is far more ambitious than the previous plan, it will require an additional $40 million to the $20 million already earmarked for the Playhouse restoration. That money has to come from somewhere and Eidson, not unlike Zero Mostel, has been out fund-raising.

Once again weeds are growing out of the house, not the ground.

This is a philanthropist?

In the Business called Show, someone who comes in with enough cash to rescue a play is called an angel. The names being bandied about as so-called “philanthropists” who want to swoop in and save the Coconut Grove Playhouse sound more like devils.

As of this writing, Mike Eidson has yet to return my call. I was hoping for an ON THE RECORD confirmation or denial before taking this to print. However, time is of the essence considering the Miami-Dade Commission will be voting on the Suarez Memorandum of Understanding tomorrow at 2PM. [If I turn out to be wrong, I’ll apologize profusely all around.]

It will take more than 3 “philanthropists” to cough up $40 million, so there will, no doubt, be more names added (or subtracted) from this list. However, 3 names have filtered down to me: Pointe Group, Grass River Properties and Aries Development. Long-time readers of the NNS Newsroom will recognize Aries Development as the company that I have been writing about for the last 6 years. It is owned by rapacious developer Gino Falsetto, who has allowed the E.W.F. Stirrup House to undergo nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.

SLIGHT TANGENT: It’s worth writing about The Pointe Group and Grass River Properties, but those are stories for another day. I had never heard of Grass River Properties until it came up in connection with the Eidson Plan. Through sheer coincidence, this reporter attended the Golden Pines Neighborhood Association meeting last night at which [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff and the local police Commander were forced to answer for Grass River’s highrise at 27th Avenue and 27th Street. To his credit Grass River rep Christian Cobb was there to answer questions and he was excoriated by several of the residents for parking and traffic difficulties around the project. From what Cobb said many of these problems will be solved soon, but could have been solved a lot sooner had Grass River been proactive, meeting with residents before the project started, or responding to complaints that have been made for the last 18 months. TANGENT OVER.

However, it was the words “Aries Development” and “philanthropist” in the same sentence that made me throw up in my mouth a little. This reporter has written story after story about what a BAD NEIGHBOUR Gino Falsetto has been to the West Grove neighbourhood that he carpetbagged his way into in order to build The Monstrosity. The Monstrosity is immediately behind — and dwarfs — the E.W.F. Stirrup House, which he controls through a 50-year lease, and has allowed to undergo nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect.

Why is the E.W.F. Stirrup House
culturally important to Miami?
Read: Happy Birthday Coconut
Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past

This is a philanthropist?

When asked, Aries Development puts forward two different lies for allowing this situation to continue. Pick one: Either they ran out of money before they got to the Stirrup House restoration or the city keeps delaying them. Dismissing the latter lie is easy: Aries only filed plans last year with the city, plans that are totally inadequate for historic preservation, under which all renovations must take place.

The “ran out of money” lie is even more laughable considering that Aries: 1). Built two hugely expensive basement levels below The Monstrosity for parking and a private Members Only Wine Cave called La Cava; 2). Is operating 3 restaurants on the ground floor of The Monstrosity; 3). Loaned the now-bankrupt Playhouse Board an undetermined amount of money, which is how it ended up with the Bicycle Shop in compensation; 4). “Squatted” on the Playhouse Parking Lot, collecting the fees from people silly enough to park there; 5). Is about to pony up a portion of $40 million dollars — out of the goodness of its corporate heart — to save the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

This is a philanthropist?


It’s time for people to treat Gino Falsetto as the slum landlord he is and reject his money-grubbing social climbing until he fulfills the promises he’s already made concerning the E.W.F. Stirrup House. 

More than any single individual Gino Falsetto stands to profit the most from a successful and lively Coconut Grove Playhouse. Gino Falsetto isn’t a philanthropist; he’s out to line his own pockets at the expense of everybody else.

A philanthropist would not allow this cultural TREASURE of Black Grove to waste away. A philanthropist would have already done the right thing. A philanthropist would not have created the current blight that is the E.W.F. Stirrup House and the Bicycle Shop. 

Gino Falsetto should should be made to clean up the messes he’s already created before anyone considers his money clean enough to touch.

This is a philanthropist?

TO BE FAIR: There are some real angels in this story: Mike Eidson and Kevin Spacey.

Eidson has come up with a game-changing Playhouse Plan that will be more than just a rinky-dink 300 seat theater with a parking garage wrapped around it.

Furthermore, having interviewed a half dozen people OFF THE RECORD about Mike Eidson, everyone tells me he’s on the side of the angels. Seriously. One person used that expression. His only interest seems to be to bring live theater back to the corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue.

Those in the know have been exercising caution about embracing Eidson’s Plan, though. The big fear is that it will take him so long to raise the $40 million, and solve all the design problems, that Florida just yanks the lease and sells the property to the highest bidder for a huge development. My fear is that Eidson is in such a hurry to show that he’s got this under control that he’s not too choosy about who he climbs into bed with.

Kevin Spacey, who has signed onto the Eidson Plan as Artistic Consultant, should also be considered an angel. There’s no denying Spacey’s acting chops. Were those films not career enough he’s also credited with restoring the reputation of London’s venerated Old Vic Theater as Artistic Director.

I am sure Spacey is getting involved with the Coconut Grove Playhouse for all the right reasons. While not as old as the Old Vic, it also has a venerated history, which I’m sure has not escaped his notice. Were I an an actor of his stature, that would be the kind of challenge I would take on next.

This is a philanthropist?

However, based on the little I know of him, I don’t think he would approve of the treatment of E.W.F. Stirrup’s legacy. It’s less than 200 feet from the Stirrup House to Coconut Grove Playhouse. Kevin Spacey needs to be made aware of how this carpetbagging rapscallion treats the people of West Grove, in which the Coconut Grove Playhouse resides.

To be clear: It’s only because E.W.F. Stirrup was Black has his house been allowed to undergo almost a decade of Demolition by Neglect. More than anyone else, except for perhaps his contemporary Ralph Monroe, Stirrup put his stamp on Coconut Grove and, therefore, Miami. Yet Monroe’s house, The Barnacle, just a few thousand feet away, is now memorialized as a State Park. The E.W.F Stirrup House is memorialized as more Gino Falsetto blight, just like the Bicycle Shop.

A panorama showing the parking lot between the Bicycle Shop and the north wall of the Coconut
Grove Playhouse. When Aries acquired the Bicycle Shop one of the first things it did was rip the roof off.
This led to an unsafe construction site, which I reported to By Law Compliance until they finally sealed the
building. However, then the structure became unsafe because it no longer had a roof to hold the walls in. Now
the interior is criss-crossed with massive steel beams bolted to the walls and floors to stabilize the structure.

This is a philanthropist?

The Latest Play on the Coconut Grove Playhouse

Click to enlarge

One of my sources sent me the following document. This appears to be the memorandum that will be voted upon during the Miami-Dade Commission meeting on Thursday, March 12, 2015.

* Memorandum from Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez

DATE: March 9, 2015

TO: Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez
CC: Mimai-Dade County Board of County Commissioners
FROM: Xavier L. Suarez, Commissioner, District 7

RE: Coconut Grove Playhouse Proposed MOU

Below please see a proposed set of parameters in the form of a memorandum of Understanding (MOU). I believe it reflects the best elements of what you and I have discussed over the last few months as the “two-theater solution.”

I would appreciate hearing back from you directly with your feedback before the Thursday hearing wehich I have scheduled as Chairman of the Exonomic Prosperity Committee. I have mentioned to Chief of Staff Alex Ferro that I am available at your conveience.

Memorandum of Understanfing
Click to enlarge

WHEREAS, it is the will of the Mayor and Commission of Miami-Dade County that the Coconut Grove Playhouse should be restored to its historic glory and configuration; and

WHEREAS, the objective of historic preservation calls for a restoration that will, as close as possible, maintain the façade, configuration, and size of the Coconut Grove Playhouse; and
WHEREAS there is an opportunity to build two theaters, one in approzimate size of 300 seats and one in the approximate size of 750 seats, upon a site plan as per the attached sketch (to be sent under separate cover); and
WHEREAS, the funding necessary to build two such theaters requires that operating and management agreements be in place with those who will manage each one, as well as a master agreement with an entity that fuses the powers of government and the private-sector donors who will fund the approximately two-thirds of the total budget needed to build the two theaters.
Click to enlarge

NOW THEREFORE the parties agree as follows:

  1. The preliminary layout attached hereto is approved in principle.
  2. A new entity will be formed that includes majority representation from appointees of Miami-Dade County and Florida International University, and minority representation from the private-sector donors and artistic consultants. That entity will act as the landlord and will be governed by the Sunshine Law as well as competitive bidding rules for public entities in Florida.
  3. Long-term operating agreements will be entered into with separate theater groups to operate the large theater and the small theater which will assure common use of facilities, parking and compatible schedules. In case of a legal dispute that is not amicably resolved, the two companies agree that the “landlord” is the sole and final arbiter of any legal disputes, with no recourse whatsoever to appeal decisions. (It is understood that each theater group will have unfettered discretion on artistic matters.)
  4. The small theater will have GableStage, Inc. or its assugnee as the operator; it will have a built-in educational component, as agreed to by all the parties in its particulars.
  5. The large theater will have a newly formed non-profit entity or foundation as its operator, and will have Kevin Spacey as its artistic consultant, with compensation initially to be paid to him by private contributors. It is understood that Mike Eidson, as founder of the Coconut Grove Fpundation, Inc., will select its first board of directors, its initial members and will formulate its internal operating agreement.
  6. Design costs of both theaters will be borne by the County from its G.O.B. funds until the end of the design phase, presently anticopated to end in about 18 months.
  7. In the event that private funds are not obtained in sufficient amount to complement the county’s $20 million and reach a figure sufficient to build both theaters, this MOU will be revised to account for that contingency in a way that is satisfacory to Miami-Dade County and Florida International University. In that eventuality, it is understood that no private entities will have vested rights to the mentioned operating agreements for either the large or small theaters; and no reliance should be placed by either theater group on the assurance that the long-term operating agreements will be continued as envisioned here. In other words, this is a condition presedent to the rest of the MOU.
  8. The continuance of the long-term operating agreements, as envisioned here, will be subject to a condition subsequent,t [sic] which is that they will each have performance criteria, as determined jointly by Miami-Dade County and Florida International University.
  9. All other agreements in existence, including those with the Miami Parking Authority and the City of Miami, remain in effect as long as they are consistent with this MOU.
Xavier L. Suarez
Miami-Dade County Commissioner
District 7

There still seem to be a lot of holes in this agreement. The biggest of which is where the extra $40 million (and that’s a conservative estimate) coming from to build the 2 theaters, retail, parking garage, and apartments. Who is going to cough up the funds to build a world class theater in Coconut Grove?

Who will be the “private contributors” who will have “minority representation” on this Board of Directors? Not Now Silly has discovered that those with the money call the shots, regardless of minority representation.

The big fear that some people have is that the fundraising to build the theater could delay the project to the point the State of Florida gets tired of waiting. Florida could then sell the land to the highest bidder and the corner of Main Highway and Charles Avenue could become a MASSIVE development that would put Cocowalk and Mayfair to shame.

* I was forced to remove the original PDF because it was messing with stuff under the hood of the Not Now Silly Newsroom. H/t to SAVE THE COCONUT GROVE PLAYHOUSE for the doc pics.

A Grand Day For Grand Avenue ► Gibson Plaza Groundbreaking

Artist rendering: Grand Avenue and Gibson Plaza

A gala day on Grand in The Grove, for the Gibson groundbreaking. This mixed-use, residential-educational building is the first all-new affordable housing built in West Grove in almost 50 years.

Gibson Plaza has been in the planning stages for many years. However, it took a unique and unlikely group of partners to move this project forward, including the Theodore Roosevelt Gibson Memorial Fund, the Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation, Miami-Dade College and the Mitchel Wolfson, Sr. Foundation. Miami-Dade County kicked in $9 million dollars, and Pinnacle Housing Group will construct the Bahamian-styled building that pays homage to West Grove’s original inhabitants.

Thelma Gibson’s 1st shovelful at the project she helped spearhead

Gibson Plaza, named for Reverend Theodore R. Gibson and Thelma Gibson, will be geared to the 55-and-up demographic, with 56 one and two bedroom units. Among the common amenities will be an exercise room, community center, library and computer lab. However, what has the neighbourhood excited is what’s slated for the ground floor. It is dedicated to providing continuing education, job training and after school programs for the neighbourhood at large.

“It has always been a dream of ours to have affordable housing, continuing education and after-school programs for children running side by side,” the 88-year old Ms Gibson said.

Every speaker who came up to the dais to say a few words (under the white tent in the 89 degree heat) spoke of how this project will lead to a neighbourhood revitalization of a sorely neglected area of Miami. That’s why residents were so upset about Trolleygate when they learned about it. This is a neighbourhood struggling to overcome a century of racism and neglect.

While east Grand Avenue got revitalized with CocoWalk, restaurants, and fancy hotels, the west end of Grand — Black Grove, or Kebo, as the original Bahamian residents called it — has struggled and become blighted over the decades. The non-conforming diesel bus garage is just a few very short blocks away from this development. The reason people were so upset with the trolley garage is because it does not comport with the vision of those who want better for the neighbourhood. Gibson Plaza is the beginning of that revitalization plan.

The two people who came in for the most praise and sustained ovations at yesterday’s ceremony were the two people who everyone acknowledged deserved the most credit for seeing this project through to fruition. First and foremost is Thelma Gibson, who, though the Foundation named after her late husband, helped aquire the 1 acre site, parcel by parcel, and who insisted that any project of this kind simply had to have an educational componant; and Jihad Rashid. President of the Coconut Grove Collaborative Development Corporation, who worked tirelessly to bring all the partners to the table and see that they all understood the vision.

One of the politicians mentioned over and over, by speaker after speaker, is Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who fought to get County Commissioners to allocate the $9 million. “On behalf of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners, and as Commissioner of Miami-Dade District 7, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to be associated with a project that I believe will spur the re-birth of the long neglected segment of our community – The Coconut Grove Village West.” Yet, that wasn’t just promotional bumf.

Thirty years ago Suarez helped set up the Gibson Memorial Fund and he’s been behind this project from the get-go.

How close is Trolleygate to Gibson Plaza?

IRONY ALERT: Another politician got short shrift in all the speeches. That’s just as well because [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff arrived 10 minutes late and missed the shovel photo-op. His West Grove constituents accuse him abandoning them for monied interests and out of town developers.

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

Last year when Trolleygate erupted in controversy, Sarnoff staged The Trolleygate Dog and Pony Show to protect the profits of Astor Development and Coral Gables against the interests of his own constituents. After Sarnoff insisted he couldn’t talk about Trolleygate because it was before the courts, he presented a one-sided slide show to insist diesel fumes and bus traffic on residential streets is perfectly safe. However, it’s what he did in the middle of the meeting that Sarnoff demonstrated his despicable side. At one point in this contentious meeting this reporter heard Sarnoff covertly threaten to withdraw support for Gibson Plaza (and other projects) if the community continued its fight against Trolleygate.It was slyly done, but was not lost on anyone in the room.

So, colour me thrilled that Sarnoff missed his photo op — another way to grab credit. Judging from the sotto voce murmurings when he gave his short speech, he’s lucky he wasn’t booed.

Even as the Collaborative’s Jihad Rashid celebrated
this achievement, he warned against gentrification.

The slogan on the banner in front of which every speaker spoke read CATALYZE • REVITALIZE • TRANSFORM, which is everyone’s hope for this stretch of Grand Avenue. Immediately across the street from Gibson Plaza is the Collaborative offices. Just to the east of that is the brand new KROMA Gallery, which hosted a lunch for attendees after all the speakers were finished.

While everyone hopes Gibson Plaza leads to a revitalization of the west end Grand Avenue, the fear is that this is just another step along the process of slow gentrification that has been eating its way into West Grove. Even Rashid recognizes the danger. As Nick Madigan in the Miami Herald notes:

After waiting for a standing ovation to die down, Rashid reminded the crowd that there had been a “history of disinvestment and disenfranchisement” in the West Grove, and remarked on the irony of expensive hotels and condominiums perfectly visible only a few blocks to the east. Rashid also cautioned against the danger that the neighborhood’s longtime residents will be pushed out by construction projects and investors looking for profits.

“If they get gentrified out in the name of progress, I don’t think that’s progress,” Rashid said. Still, he concluded, Gibson Plaza is a huge step forward.

Those in the know tell this reporter that due to property speculation along Grand Avenue, nothing less than 5 stories will pay for itself. Nothing taller than 5 stories is allowed by the Miami 21 Plan. This means that only 5-storey high condo buildings will be built along Grand, making it a new canyon for colonization and gentrification. Otherwise, West Grand will continue to undergo Demolition by Neglect, which passes for progress in West Grove. There appears to be no room left for anything in between.

View pictures of the groundbreaking in this Facebook album.
View raw footage at this YouTube Playlist.