SOUTH BEACH SEVEN ELEVEN HALLOWEEN CRASH
“Both numbers are lucky.”
3 November 2015
By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR
A 2007 Audi in which two women were fist-fighting crashed into the 7-Eleven at 9th Street on Washington Avenue in South Beach at 5 a.m. last Friday, taking out two pillars and bursting into flames. One woman fled the scene after she and her companion were pulled from the car by Good Samaritans.
Little did the astonished witnesses at Pizza Rustica across the street know that the sidewalk café at which they were sitting was illegally situated right on the corner, jutting out in such a way to traffic crossing Washington Avenue that it especially jeopardizes the lives and limbs of pizza lovers.
A complaint about the precarious pizza corner was lodged with the city’s code enforcement department. Hernan Cardeno, Esq., the department’s director, said nothing could be done about the clear violation because the city manager had rendered it legal by permitting it.
The City of Miami Beach has a strong city manager, weak mayor form of government. City managers may with impunity act as virtual dictators, placing themselves above the law ordained by the political body, the city commission. Jimmy Morales, Esq., the current city manager, however, is subject to the dictates of Mayor Philip Levine, who is a de facto strong mayor by virtue of a so-called purchased majority on the commission and a city manager subservient to his dictates.
For example, for last New Year’s Eve celebration on Espanola Way, Jimmy Morales waived the requirements for the special event permit ordinance designed to protect the public although the ordinance does not provide for such a waiver. One of the restaurant owners, whose request for a special event permit had been denied as submitted too late, had for some time insisted that code officers enforce the code equally for all restaurants on the street, including two other restaurants that had applied for permits; those two businesses were eventually favored by the waiver of all special event permit requirements. The troublemaker’s landlord, Scott Robins, who owns the buildings along one side of Espanola Way, and who is a partner and close friend of the mayor, brought a retaliatory eviction suit against the tenant as a result of his persistent insistence on equal enforcement of the laws. The city manager allowed the celebration to proceed without permits as an answer to the complainant, so he would know who is boss of the city. Such retaliatory behavior favors competitors who are friends with officials and/or are obedient to the whim and caprice of the powers that be. Yet the county ethics commission took the officials’ prevarications for granted without asking the complainant for a response, and dismissed the ethics complaint he had made.
Since Major Levine and his faux reform majority seized control over the city largely for the benefit of contributing vendors and real estate developers, South Beach seems to be returning to the Wild West days that the police department had managed to considerably dampen. Top police brass were gotten rid of and outsiders wheeled in. The public request for the hiring of a city manager from outside the area, however, was ignored, and Jimmy Morales, a political insider and home boy, was shoed in despite the recommendations of a professional recruiting firm. The newbies brought in to head the police department are naturally compliant with the wishes of the local political force, although police departments in theory work for the general public.
The police department responds efficiently and effectively to specific complaints. Proactive enforcement, however, of quality of life ordinances and traffic laws is the bugbear plaguing the city. And neighborhood relations have deteriorated. Some of the new officers are unapproachable, unfriendly, even hostile, and often unfamiliar with the local code of ordinances.
Crime does seem to be rising, at least according to anecdotal reports. Getting statistics on all types of crimes and not only the UCR Part I on major crimes has proven virtually impossible. A high-ranking officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the books are being cooked by the new police chief.
“(Chief Oates) is under reporting crimes. Crime in Miami Beach is out of control, and they’re cooking the books to lie about the real numbers and actual specific crimes.”
Police chiefs and their departments everywhere will always be blamed for whatever goes wrong on the streets. Statistics can always be interpreted two ways. Yet, when a police department refuses to regularly release easily generated reports, as is even done online in some jurisdictions, or neglects to even write reports in some instances, it must have something to hide; either incompetence of misconduct.
However that may be, the community is left waiting for genuine, radical reform. In the interim, expect more arrogance on the part of undisciplined officials, more serious crimes to result from the toleration of minor crimes, more pedestrians maimed and killed.
And expect more cars crashing into storefronts, as at the 7-Eleven on Washington and 9th Street. One of these days a car or truck is bound to careen into that sidewalk café at Rustica Pizza across the street.
The owner, a respected lawyer, has set out a couple of planters as barriers. Concrete would be better. Still, that might not do considering that two pillars were knocked down across the street.
“Oh, someday the pizza people will be hit,” said a worker repairing the damage at 7-Eleven, “and the city and the manager will be sued. Seven and eleven are lucky numbers.”
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH PERMITS ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN
The Risk to Life and Limb May Be Worth the Profit
23 October 2014
By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR
Pizza Rustica sidewalk café corner permitted at 863 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach
La Pizzeria de la Lemoni unpermitted sidewalk café corner at 4600 N.E. 2nd, Miami City
News accounts that at least ten people were injured on Saturday the 4th of October by a car crashing into La Pizzeria de Lemoni’s unpermitted sidewalk café at the corner of 46th and Northeast Second Avenue in Miami reminded me that, nearly four years prior, I had pointed out to the Code Compliance Division and the City Manager of the City of Miami Beach that part of Pizza Rustica’s 22-seat sidewalk café was dangerously perched on the corner of 9th and Washington Avenue.
“Rustica seating on corner under umbrella endangers customers,” I reported to Code Compliance in 2010, “impedes the fire department. Miami Beach ordinances mandate 5’ corner and crosswalk leeway, and maximum umbrella height of 6 inches.”
Image to Code Compliance in 2010
City officials did not respond to my concern, which I posted on Miami Mirror for the benefit of accident victims and their lawyers in the event of a crash. Given my experience as a pedestrian with reckless and sometimes intoxicated drivers, I believe it was only a matter of time until Rustica customers were maimed and perhaps killed while eating their pizza.
Indeed, the traffic has become more and more troublesome since then on the beach, as I duly noted when I walked upon a man killed in broad daylight by a taxi at the intersection in front of the Five Guys Hamburger joint on Washington Avenue.
I contacted Code Compliance again after this month’s accident in Miami, only to be told that the sidewalk café was permitted, period. So their hands were tied.
You see, the city’s strong-manager, weak-mayor form of government provides the city manager, an unelected official, with virtually dictatorial powers provided that he does not alienate a majority of city commissioners, as did former city manager Jorge “Boss” Gonzalez, who was forced out after 14 years on pretexts of corruption and negligence; he insisted that he had bent to the will of commissioners, and that the corruption was rooted with them. He was replaced by Jimmy “Nice Guy” Morales, a political insider with no city management, who was shoed in to the position despite a professional recruitment firm’s recommendations. Mayor “King” Levine, a wealthy public relations mogul and real estate developer supported by the Clintons, purchased his seat and contributed to campaigns in order to obtain a “reform” majority on the commission, which he leads during the honeymoon period. Although Levine is bowed to as the “Great Leader,” City Manager Morales wields considerable dictatorial power. Commissioner Michael “Boy Friday” Grieco, a criminal defense attorney, has stated that the commission almost always follows the city manager’s recommendations “blindly.”
In fine, the theory based on the city charter is that the city manager or his designees may permit sidewalk café arrangements prohibited by the commission’s ordinances because the commission has provided that he can do so. So if he or his designee, say, the director of the public works department, does not prohibit arrangements prohibited by the code, they are permitted. Such exceptions to the rules, permitted by the rules, reminiscent of the sovereign discretion of kings to break the laws because they are divine fonts of law, are said to create corruption honey pots for sticky fingers.
Now the sidewalk café ordinance does provide that the city manager shall immediately correct life safety violations, “defined as those conditions which, in the reasonable determination and judgment of the city manager, involve serious danger and/or risk to the public health, safety or welfare,” and that “the city manager may cause the immediate removal, relocation and/or storage of all or part of a sidewalk cafe in emergency situations or for public safety considerations.”
His judgment and his reason reign supreme unless a majority of part-time, lowly-paid commissioners take exception to it.
City officials did not respond to my thesis that the city’s legislature never intended to establish laws that would endanger the safety and welfare of the public. That intention would obviously belie the very reason for its existence. Any such laws would be null and avoid under a higher constitution. Solomon said not to count on riches in war, so I said the city should not count on having sovereign immunity as per the absurd Trianon decision of the Florida Supreme Court, or on the legislature, or on insurance coverage, if people are maimed and killed due to the intentional negligence of its officials. Even if immune, or covered by insurance, is injury and loss of life worth the profits to Pizza Rustica and the sidewalk café fees to the city? And why would insurance companies underwrite such dangers?
Public safety is the very reason the Miami Beach sidewalk café code specifies that café’s be at least five feet away from corner curb cuts, pedestrian crosswalk signals, fire hydrants, crosswalks and the like. New York City goes even farther to protect cafes from corner accidents, which are quite common: nine feet from the corner is the rule, measured from the outer edge of the sidewalk café to either the curb line or the nearest obstruction.
I was not surprised by silence of public officials, for none of them will speak to be on the record for publication. Press inquiries are referred to Nannette Rodriquez in the Communications Department, and she has little or nothing to say about such embarrassments, especially when pointed out by someone not a member of the city’s handful of approved press organs, and is internally infamous for not suiting the current regime’s need for 100% appreciation of everything it does.
However, a reliable source of information within the city has informed me that there are several situations besides the Rustica corner that are troubling reasonable officials, therefore they are meeting to discuss reasonably what may be reasonably done to prevent the permitting of prohibited arrangements in the future.
That being said, I must splurge on Rustica’s popular pizza this weekend—my current budget after rent is $7 per day. Miami Beach is home to the highly regarded Pizza Rustica franchise operation, and is owned by influential attorney Susan Tiffany, its president and legal counsel.