Natalie Nichols battles Miami Beach vacation rental law

 

NATALIE NICHOLS BATTLES MIAMI BEACH VACATION RENTAL LAW
Arizona Gila Monsters v. Florida Litigation Alligators
October 19, 2018
By David Arthur Walters
Winter is nigh and it is time to plan your family vacation in the Sun. Florida naturally comes to mind because you have been there before or have heard about it and it is easy to get to. A weekend or even a week would be nice in Miami Beach.
Of course you do not want to cram your family into hotel rooms in crowded areas.  No problem, because thousands of homeowners in Florida are willing to rent their homes to guests. So you do some research online, and happen to find an ad by Natalie Nichols.
Natalie says she is willing to share her 3,030 square foot, $1.3 million home with dock and pool on Stillwater Drive, and she has great reviews. It is a good thing you called her early and made arrangements. Yes, she can help arrange for sailing. She wanted $1,000 per night. You finagled a week for $5,000.
The airport was a bit of a hassle, and then there was the traffic, yet it was not so bad compared to the jams you have suffered up north. Besides, it’s a sunny eighty-five degrees. Florida is a pretty place, indeed, and the kids are really excited.
Natalie greets you in front of the house. A police car pulls up as you are taking your luggage inside. A man in black gets out with a notebook and starts to ask you questions, like “How long have you rented this place?” Natalie interrupts him, at which time the muscle-bound cop in blue who has gotten out of the squad car barks at her to get off her property so the man in black can interrogate you.
The black outfit reminds you of pictures taken by your dad of the fascists during the war. Local merchants here call them “the mafia.” Your wife is worried. Your kids look on wide-eyed. “Dad, will they take us to jail?”
“What is going on?” you think. “Maybe Natalie does not own this place? Is she scamming people? Am I going to lose my deposit? No, that cannot be. I checked her and the property out online. She is a licensed real estate agent with good references.”
You cooperate because you have done nothing wrong. You are a stranger in a seemingly strange land, where cops can order people off their own property so they can question your guests even though that is unconstitutional thus contrary to official police policy. Besides, you regularly see videos on television of officers shooting people unnecessarily.
If you had said to the code enforcement officer, or even to the police officer, “I am an invited guest here, and that is all you need to know,” and Natalie had said “I do not have to answer your questions, so call my attorney,” that would have been the end of it if the officer had paid much attention at the police academy.
But no, you are innocent, unaware of what is going on because Natalie did not forewarn you, so you think you don’t need counsel, so you answered the questions. You said yes, you had rented the home, from that woman over there, Natalie, and you even showed the code enforcement officer a copy of the advertisement and the rental agreement, which he duly photographed. He kindly informed you that vacation rentals of dwelling units are not allowed in the residential neighborhood.
The code officer does not mention that the state preempted municipalities from prohibiting vacation rentals of dwelling units and regulating their duration. But the legislation included a negative grandfathering clause, allowing local agencies to disallow the longstanding practice in areas where it was prohibited prior to June 2011 although not enforced there except selectively for years, hence to do so would be inequitable. That would be Natalie’s residential neighborhood, although it was expressly permitted on nearby North Beach. You look on as he cites Natalie for harmlessly exercising her private property rights. He may advise you to get off the premises. 
If the government mafia had its way, Natalie would be fined from $20,000 to $100,000, depending on the number of offenses, and her business shut down for even advertising the property, plus $1,000 for lack of the tax certificate denied to her because the use is not permitted in the first place, plus $500 or imprisonment if the offense is repeated.
 
Mayor Dan Gelber, a former prosecutor, whose famous father, Seymour Gelber, said city officials had been corrupted for decades by the hotel and tourist industry, would, to add insult to injury, have the fines for the lack of a resort tax certificate ramped up to $3,000 on repetition of the offense, and he would like to see the likes of Natalie jailed if they persist, in effect wringing the necks of the geese that lay golden eggs instead of protecting them, something the real mafia would not do.
What? Is this Totalitaria?   
Members of the jet set may own several homes throughout the world, rent them out for a few months when they are not around, hence say they are “sharing” their homes, while others prefer not to share except with a custodian. Natalie called her rental “home sharing” because she actually lived there when it wss not rented out. You see, she packed a bag and stayed elsewhere until her guests departed. She had another home across the street, was fined $4,500 for advertising vacation rentals there, and sold it for $50,000 less than she bought it for. And then came the crackdown and she had to stop renting.
She still has her home and an old four-plex apartment building down the street, now allowed although newer apartment buildings were zoned out by imposition of single-family residential zoning. Long-term rentals to Floridians on Miami Beach can be a real problem. Her apartment building has been more than problematic, what with tenants trashing it and playing the eviction game, taking her sometimes seven months to get the bad ones out, leaving her at loss greatly exceeding the first and last month security deposit. She maintains that short-term vacation rentals attracts better clientele and lifts values in contrast to the riffraff South Florida landlords are confronted with.     
Home owners have been sharing their homes for decades to vacationers whether they had licenses to do so or not. Look, this is Florida, a swampy state. Everybody does it, everybody knows it, and nobody cares. In theory people who provide the public with lodging are supposed to have a state license. No doubt hundreds if not thousands of small renters do not have one, most of whom are unaware that there is any such state license, and that not having one is a misdemeanor. The politicians are making new laws every day. One day Popeye may show up at the dock and be greeted by the Tax Man and taxed just for being a stranger among other things.
The City of Miami Beach requires renters to have a local business tax receipt. To get it one should in theory be certified to use the property for rentals according to the kind of occupancy permitted by the particular zoning classification. And a resort tax certificate is needed to pay resort taxes on any rentals less than six months.
The city was glad to deposit resort taxes. Did it even bother to check to see if the payers had a state public lodging license?  Did officials carefully check to see if the short-term use is even allowed? No. This is not only Florida; it is South Florida, and, even better, the City of Miami Beach in Miami-Dade County, a lazy subtropical city first made famous by Capone and Lansky for its traditional corruption. 
Top-to-bottom municipal corruption included the non-random discriminatory enforcement of laws. Few code enforcement and law enforcement officers are corrupt, but they all belong to command organizations with directors and chiefs under the thumbs of the political power, the mayor and commission, so do not blame them for their lack of independence when their jobs are at stake for disobedience to the will of the power elite. The same goes for the local magistrate or “special master” who hears appeals of code enforcement cases. S/he is not a real judge, and has often been little more than a stooge. The City of Miami Beach Special Master “court,” which the state allows municipalities to have under the pretense of their being “people’s courts,” is a dependent arm of the ruling clique. Do not believe the pleas in federal court that policies are set higher up by the county state, so the city is not the policymaker hence cannot be responsible as the policymaker. And every official sued seems to have the sovereign immunity of kings from top to bottom, never mind the state and federal waiver of sovereign immunity.
If you are Miami Beach magnate Russell Galbut or his relative, you can throw raucous parties and violate the noise ordinances with impunity in single-family residential areas as well as in South Beach. Just scoff at the code enforcement officer and appeal the fine because the family’s fixer will show up in front of the magistrate and get the case dismissed. What we have here is socialism for the power elite. The Good Old Boys are favored comrades. The rest are shaken down. There is hell to pay for those who did not cooperate or cannot afford to hire fixers. The city’s departments are customarily referred to as RICO operations in arrest warrants and indictments.
Anyway, what went wrong? Nobody cared about how long someone was staying on Miami Beach before. We had plenty of rooms for them, and pretty cheap rooms at that, maybe right on the beach. A day, a week, a winter, twenty years: so what? A Mason and Dixon March 2017 poll in February had 94 percent of 625 registered voters South Floridians in favor of such home-sharing applications. 
One theory for the crackdown on Miami Beach vacation rentals places the cause on the intolerance of former Mayor Phil Levine, a self-made tourism media mogul and real estate developer whose thin-skinned egotism pales only in contrast to The Donald’s. Levine, a “self-made” man whose fortune was made from a close friendship with the wealthy Robins family and from hawking tours on cruise ships, was theoretically personally disturbed where he lived on Sunset Island by parties of three hundred people in rented houses. That, along with his relationship with the hotel industry, presumably fomented his animosity against Airbnb type of operations and anyone else involved in home sharing, including small fry like Natalie. Levine sent out a Trumpian tweet to Airbnb, “MB doesn’t want your selling!!!!”
Thus rankled at home, Levine used his dominance on the dais hence over the administration to crackdown on home sharing citywide. The vestiges of his rule remain on the commission to his day with commissioners who are not about to admit they became his overawed tools.
“King” Levine’s dictatorial manner was duly appreciated by lesser authoritarian types. Carolina Jones, Natalie’s neighborhood association president, was observed posting propaganda favorable to the hotel industry, and urging residents of the neighborhood to complain about short-term rentals even if they had not been bothered by them. Mind you that no statistical analysis was conducted to show a demonstrable link between short-term rentals and noise in single-family residential neighborhoods.
Levine  touted his close friendship with the Clintons, and spent millions out of pocket to seat himself and enough commissioners to render himself a de facto strong mayor in a city with a weak mayor charter. He was scandalized for selling the city to developers. His “Get It Done” right or wrong projects included personally enriching himself and his partner Scott Robins in the Sunset Harbour district. The city paid them $13 million for the air rights for a city garage over their shopping center at taxpayer expense. Millions were expended on raising the roads around the shopping center. The newly raised streets may have to be torn up to replace the crumbling century-old sewer system as a result of the expected increase of demand on that system due to development in the area. Jay Fink, the assistant director of public works, who is unable to produce an engineers’ certification for the sewers says, well, some cameras looked into the pipe and all was well, and we are doing an excellent job. Residents, however, say that is contrary to what was seen from above with the naked eye. However that may be, the partners bailed out of Sunset for $69 million before Levine ran for governor.  
In sum, Levine left Miami Beach, hopefully his stepping stone to the governorship and the White House, in shambles. The electorate got wise and his campaign was resoundingly defeated, temporarily deflating his ego to such an extent that he must be having difficulty re-inflating it even although narcissism is theoretically overcompensation for feelings of inferiority.
Selective enforcement is obvious in Miami Beach. The Miami Herald, the daily newspaper that championed Levine all along, does not cover discriminatory enforcement and the like because it serves as the propaganda organ or booster sheet for the ruling elite, its “authoritative news source,” at least until someone is arrested, and, pending that, it claims it was unaware of what was going on despite the floods of letters to the editor and reporters.
Natalie Nichols was blindsided for advertising a house, but not Mayor Levine’s pal and partner Scott Robins when he was advertising and renting out his unpermitted hotel on Espanola Way with inadequate fire sprinklers to tourists.  City officials including code enforcement brass were presented with multiple advertisements offering the hotel, which had been cited by the state but continued to operate. Code enforcement declined to act immediately, saying it was difficult to collect evidence of short term activity although they also had photos of tourists arriving with bags. It was finally cited after continuous pressure was put on officials. Robins took the case to the magistrate. Everything was eventually forgiven including several years of resort taxes and unpaid permitting fees for extensive unpermitted renovations for which there should have been double-permit fee fines. County appraisers were interested in the renovations because it was a unique building and the increased value might affect its taxes, and at that time Robins was pleading for a downward adjustment. Photographs of the renovations appeared in the advertisements.
Poor Natalie! She does not qualify for special treatment.
Mayor Levine knew all about Espanola Suites. And the mayor and code enforcement officers and the city attorney knew all about Rod Eisenberg’s historic Sadigo Apartment Hotel in the Collins Park neighborhood a few blocks away.  He had been giving the city a bad time from time to time for its discriminatory policies and negligence since the 90s. The legal mafia finally came down like gang busters on his three-story historic building although transient apartment rentals are zoned into his neighborhood, and his engineer said the structure was the safest in the area although it did not have fire sprinklers. Indeed, vacated and unmaintained buildings nearby, held for investment by developers friendly with city officials, were not secured by the city for years despite complaints from neighbors including Eisenberg. A vagrant firebug gleefully set some of them afire. Poor Eisenberg, who has spent hundreds of thousands of hard-earned dollars on lawyers, religiously believes Justice is nigh, and, like a fool, he thinks Justice will come in a courtroom despite the advice of a chief inspector, who wound up in prison for taking bribes, that he could not solve his kind of problem with the Sadigo in courts of law.     
A notorious case of party noise in a residential neighborhood involved the racket made at a ‘Great Gatsby’ party thrown in a residential mansion by Keith Menin, a relative of Russell Galbut, a mogul whose licensed hotels in hotel districts are resented by neighbors for their noise, which is regulated. When cited, Galbut &Co has its fixer go to the magistrate and get the cases dismissed. At Menin’s residential party, the code officer was addressed contemptuously; sure enough, the magistrate dismissed the case. The Good Old Boys are above the law or have purchased laws that legalize their misconduct.
Levine’s vanity made him a great scapegoat. Robins wisely keeps a low profile. Galbut’s power over politicians and vast swaths of prime real estate gets him cast as a local devil if not Satan himself. They are too blame for some development issues, yet there are economic and demographic factors at play, not only in Miami Beach but nationwide, the exception for Miami Beach being that it has always had a large population of transients running from the cold and sometimes the law. The population has exploded and there are more rich people to go around. More and more middleclass people are travelling. Real estate values rise with the demand for vacation homes; regular folk including the elderly are pushed out of their neighborhoods into ghettos.
Moreover, residents, particularly elderly residents, do not like having so many strangers around, especially when they make noise. Indeed, humans have an innate fear of strangers when they come too close; for much of human history, a man would as soon kill a stranger than look at him, and for good reasons. It should be no mystery to anthropologists why Ötzi the prototypical Copper Age ice man from Tuscany, whose corpse was found preserved up in the Alpines, was killed by locals: He was a stranger encroaching on their fat.

I have lived in dense tourist areas. I like tourists because they are generally in a better mood than locals. Yet what settled folk suffer, it is said, is “Tourist Pollution.”

So how does it feel to be a pollutant? Well, residents actually love your tax contributions provided that you stay in a hotel in the hotel district. And the hotel industry loves you even the more, and politicians do love hotel lobbyists. Wherefore let us raise fines for unauthorized transient rentals so high that renters will be driven out of business.

John Alemán, a wealthy Miami Beach Commissioner, excused the fines running from $20,000 to $100,000 as necessary because, she reportedly said, a beachside mansion might be let out for thousands of dollars per night, so lower fines would be a cost of doing business for some operators. Wherefore the penalty is reasonable. After all, people come to Miami Beach to party, to get drunk and make a racket, in other words, to cause a nuisance, as far as some residents are concerned. The government has a legitimate interest in curbing public nuisances, or so she adamantly thinks.
“Some” is the key word here. Perhaps John Alemán or her friends could get several thousand dollars a night letting out their fabulous mansions in a few choice spots to rich and famous visitors. An allegedly morally corrupt city attorney for Miami Beach has secretly allowed such a place to operate like a hotel providing nobody complains while small business entrepreneurs like Natalie are persecuted. A luxury vacation rental company called Villazo LLC was cited twice for running a private hotel operation on Palm Island. They fought the charges until 2015; city attorneys forged a secret deal that allowed them to continue. Real estate agent Gregory Mirmelli filed a complaint against the city for withholding the records on the deal and for its selective enforcement.
Natalie charged $1,000 a night for her 3,080 sq. ft. home on the water, yielding her around $20,000 per month on the average. Take away $10,000 per month for mortgage, taxes, insurance, and the cost for staying elsewhere, and that left her $10,000 profit before maintenance and depreciation of the structure. She had another home across the street, so double that during good times.
The hype in the expensive seminars is true, that is, if you are lucky, work hard, and enjoy the hassle, there is plenty of money to be made in buying, fixing up, renting, and selling homes. Of course timing can be the key to rental income and capital gains. We were Ground Zero for the Great Recession, and real estate values plummeted. Natalie persevered and managed to bail out of one home for $50,000 less than what she paid for it after the official harassment began in her neighborhood. She apparently struggles to keep the one she lives in. Without the rental revenue, she must cough up around $9,000 a month to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance.  She had an opportunity to sell it for a gain at one time, but she kept it because she thought she would need it to house her aging father before he went to the Better Place.  
Again, do transient rentals to vacationers increase nuisances such as noise in neighborhoods? That depends on the class of renters and the neighborhood, which might actually be improved by vacation rentals that tend to raise values and “drive out the riffraff.” Public records do not reveal noise complaints from Natalie’s neighbors. Since the city’s “mafia” started patrolling Stillwater Drive to harass unwitting vacationers carrying suitcases, owners are selling out, long term rents have fallen, and the quality of life has deteriorated accordingly as the neighborhood is becoming virtually ghettoized. 
Natalie argues that, if law enforcement would do its job, the public nuisances would diminish, and it is unfair to ban short-term rentals. She has a good point. Law enforcement finally did its job in Flamingo Park and elsewhere as the last wave of corruption crested. Landlords proceeded to jack up the rents. Carpetbag developers are redeveloping whole blocks of deserted buildings. The worst nuisances in the “chic” South Beach area have been the apartment and condominium buildings inhabited by undocumented migrant workers, remnants of the Mariela Exodus, welfare recipients, and itinerant dope dealers, for who knows how long. The nuisances included noise, rapes, muggings, shootings, and stabbings.
I almost became a “conservative” after being outraged at all hours while trying to get up at 6 AM to make an honest living. Noise can be torture to humans. A man in one town asked neighbors twice to quiet down, and they did not. He called the police, and they did not show. So he shot three people at the party. An official said that act was “abominable, reprehensible.” Another called him “an animal,” which was true because humans are rational animals with a long history of transience as hunter gatherers before they settled down. Animals will flee or fight when disturbed. Most of us civilized folk prefer to stay put and call the police. We feel we have a right to quiet enjoyment of the premises, so all hell may break out if the police do not show up.
Cash in hand was often sufficient background for South Beach rentals. That is what David Muhlrad, a prominent landlord, the city’s first code enforcement chief, relative of Russell Galbut, wanted when I arrived in South Beach—he said he could tell by my looks that I was good. I moved when the apartment building was converted to the Regent Hotel.
Some advertisements even trumpeted that no background checks were required. The lease might say six months and a day at so much a month, but that was not the real term, and no resort tax was paid, nor income taxes in many cases. Besides, many of the nuisances were created by long term inhabitants who stayed as long as they could get away with their normal misbehavior.   
One studio in a four-building apartment complex I moved into was used by two enterprising prostitutes to run a gambling den that served hotel and restaurant workers from 2 AM until noon, as tricks were turned in a car, outfitted with blankets and pillows and bearing a temporary license plate in the alley. Crack was available on demand as well as cases of beer. The studio upstairs was used as a drop for stolen goods and as a party den by a gang of teenagers. Next door was a dope dealer who was a master of disguises, so crazed by crack that he tried to wash the buildings down with a hose in the middle of the night, then went over to the police station and threw a bag of cocaine into the air. Another tenant in that four-studio building was down from Tampa working for Gotti’s son, running an illegal nightclub and selling weed. The police actually apologized when they were called and actually showed up. The landlord from Cuba, whose son was a county attorney, said apples would cost $5 if illegal aliens were banned. I refused to move because the issue was endemic to much of South Beach. Only the superrich in the towers managed to “keep the riffraff out.”
City officials were not unaware of those activities, and some profited from them. Jorge Gonzalez, the city manager, said there was corruption on the commission; he took steps to curb corruption: he was immediately terminated by the commission, paving the way for Phil Levine. There is no way of knowing how much short-term rentals contributed to the nuisances other than rising rents and property values, which is not a nuisance to people who can afford it.
I lived in a city where landlords downtown were required to submit lease information to the police department, not to curb short term rentals but to apprehend wanted criminals. Cages were erected periodically in the parking lot to hold prisoners as the police went from door to door arresting wanted people. Perhaps the city should collect lease information to determine the duration of rents as well as to apprehend wanted people. But some Miami Beach landlords do not require identification and prefer cash, so who can prove what their lease terms are?
Short-term rentals were eventually prohibited in the Flamingo Neighborhood apartment buildings, except for very few where the practice was grandfathered in by friendly commissioners, but the practice continues illegally. Still today tourists with suitcases can be seen entering the apartment buildings, often behind a real estate agent as their guide. The rule of thumb in Miami Beach has always been selective enforcement. The higher the fine, the greater the incentive for corruption.  
One unlicensed rental agent in Natalie’s area bragged that he paid off the code enforcement officers. If true that would hardly be surprising. Again and again, Miami Beach officials seem to have a tradition of being corrupted in one way or another, with waves of corruption mounting between FBI busts.
The FBI wanted to wire Natalie to sting a public works official who allegedly solicited bribes to expedite sewer work, but her lawyer advised her not to do it, and to pay him a fee, instead, to resolve her issue with the sewer line.
Well, there are always a few bad apples in every government, or so it is said, and we know the adage about the scum at the top. In fact, studies show that the bulk of corruption public and private is perpetrated by trusted managers and executives who have been around their organizations for some time. Former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez was blamed by “reformers” for the corruption. He claimed some of it was on the commission in the form of commissioners who served as fixers. Even the city attorney office has been suspected of aiding and abetting the corruption of its client, the ruling elite, as a sort of criminal defense lawyer for the commission.
Natalie must be out a million dollars in revenue since she was blindsided by the ordinance prohibiting vacation rentals in her neighborhood. She did not see it coming in Stillwater Drive.
When a 2010 ordinance was passed to prohibit short-term rentals in the Flamingo Park and Espanola Way residential neighborhood, few people were aware of what was coming. Tammy R. Tibbs, the operator of four apartment buildings in Flamingo, however, was made aware of the change. A grandfathering clause was written into the original ordinance to give him six months to get those buildings grandfathered if certain conditions were met, and of course he complied. A building at 751 Meridian Avenue was not on the grandfathering list. The owner, Playa de Oro, had its lawyer, Simon Ferro, a prominent zoning and government relation lawyer, and President Clinton’s former ambassador to Panama, get ahold of the city attorney, claiming that an error by the state prevented his client’s building from making the short list. Ad hoc legislation was arranged for that building.  Another owner claimed he had improper notice, but his petition was denied. Someday a diligent attorney may want to make a public record request for the list and examine the process to see if the Flamingo Park and Espanola Way neighborhoods were favored over Natalie’s neighborhood and why.
Natalie scoured the code when she got into hot water, but she could not find a restriction limiting occupation to more than six months and a day. She had been renting short term for years. And then the restriction magically appeared when she looked again. That is probably because the code is updated quarterly. Until then people were supposed subscribe to and scour the Miami Herald for notices of hearings, and then check back to see if an ordinance that interests them was passed into law. And when there was a crackdown on sidewalk cafes, flyers were handed out, and that was supposed to constitute sufficient notice. Agenda notices are emailed out without specifications, so you must take time off from work and martinis to scour the agendas.  If you do not have your nose in the rear end of city hall, you will lose track, even if you take the continuing education real estate courses.  Before the advent of the Levine Regime, all one had to do was enter key search terms in the universal search engine called “the fishbowl” to pull up links to everything including ordinances, as we do with Google search. Not anymore, not since “transparency” was improved and the software upgraded.
Pleas to make ordinances effective only when they are published online in the code, except for emergency legislation, have fallen on deaf ears. The city attorney, the mayor, the commissioners do not care about the inconvenience and efficiency because they do not have to care; after all, the city clerk and city attorney say it’s all perfectly legal.
We would be better off living in ancient Rome if we wanted to know the basic law. We could walk over to the civic center and find it inscribed on the stone.
City Clerk Rafael Granado, Esq. insists that notices of hearings satisfy the statutory requirements for notice of hearing. That may well be, but those notices do not satisfy the maxim maximus that, “An enactment that regulates persons or property and imposes a fine for violations must be a printed law and citizens must have notice that it is in effect before they can be subjected to regulation and fines.” To wit, the public must have notice not only of the possibility that prospective legislation is to be considered, but must also have notice that legislation under consideration was passed into law.
Alas, overall bad management, bad politics, bad distribution of power. As Hotelier Trump, who might have Natalie over to Mar-A-Lago to discuss this free enterprise issue, would tweet: BAD!!!
Miami Beach real estate looks like it is going to implode again, and that is not good for Natalie’s real estate sales business. The fear of flooding and Zika mosquitoes, and the recent crackdown on money laundering that involves a big chunk of the local market, has been dampening sales and hurting prices. I noticed on the Web that she sold a home recently. Great, yet it is not easy to get rich off commissions and an ancient four-plex apartment building. Maybe she will return to the medical industry with her entrepreneurial dream in shambles.
Lo and Behold! A knight in shining armor, the Goldwater Institute (1), has appeared to represent our lovely lady in distress in a suit against the City of Miami Beach. Sadly, there is nothing in it for her, unless the law is repealed and she still has a home to rent, except the satisfaction of helping others in like circumstances before it is too late for them too.  She will not recover from this suit the damages she suffered because the lawyers are unwilling to sue for damages. And hardly anyone wants to be in a class fighting city hall at this point.
Natalie is the poster girl for this nonprofit organization, founded to perpetuate the principles of the late Barry Goldwater. (2) The Complaint identifies her two remaining properties, her home and the four-plex apartment, as “Prototypical Miami Beach Short-term Rentals.” Vacation home rentals and transient apartment building transient rentals are, by state definition, birds of a different feather. The state preempted prohibition of vacation rentals after June 1, 2011, except where they were already prohibited as in her zone. Perhaps she could convert the apartment building to a condominium if the suit is won, and rent out each home. One day she might own over a thousand units and block them with Airbnb or its competitor. There would be nothing wrong with that except from the perspective of nearby hotels.
Better yet, why not rewrite the public lodging law for all categories to recognize the right of property owners to rent their premises for less than six months and a day provided certain equitable conditions are met? And fiercely enforce quality of life ordinances.
The fundamental abstract principle of Goldwater should be individual liberty as demonstrated in the progress of civilization and the liberal foundations of the United States of America. Of course there is considerable disagreement among people as to what that they should be liberated from and what liberties should therefore be conserved. In any case, free individuals should have a right to privacy and the right to make a living. To be themselves, they must not be alienated from the essential product of their labor, their private property.
Natalie Nichols’ property, claims the Goldwater Institute, is “prototypical.” It represents private property everywhere in the allegedly free world. It has been infringed on by government. She has a sacred right to do with it as she pleases provided she does no harm to others. As a matter of fact, she had not a single nuisance complaint from her neighbors. So her right, although it may seem rather moot now as a lost cause in the past, is everybody’s right, and is presently asserted in the circuit court Complaint brought by the Goldwater Institute (3), with a hearing scheduled for the end of October 2018.
Goldwater is bringing in its top guns. The Arizona carpetbaggers will be up against experienced local alligators in South Florida’s litigation swampland: Mssrs. Raul Aguila, Alexsander Boksner, and Carlton Fields Jordan& Burt.
More lies are told in Florida courts than anywhere else, and then under oath. Florida lawyers have naturally been exposed for lying in court as well, even forging citations to suit their needs among other unethical deeds including criminal fraud and embezzlement of trust funds. It would not surprise anyone if the malpractice were widespread since some of the lawyers exposed were considered to be the most upright lawyers in the state. Of course money is sacred to the integrated Florida Bar, the disciplinary arm of the state Supreme Court, so theft of client funds is likely to get a lawyer disbarred. Otherwise nothing or little is done but a slap on the wrist. The mission of the Florida Bar is more to protect the trade than to discipline it. (3)
In any case, the fly-by-night Arizona Goldwater litigators representing Natalie are formidable right-winged foes for the left-handed Florida swampland cavilers.   
“Matt Miller” Goldwater advertises, “is a Senior Attorney at the Goldwater Institute, where he leads the Institute’s free-speech litigation efforts. Before joining Goldwater, he served 9 years as the Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice’s Texas Office, which he opened in 2008. There, he won important victories for free speech and economic liberty. Prior to that, he worked as a land-use attorney at a large Dallas law firm. Matt’s cases have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Dallas Morning News, and other outlets nationwide. Matt has testified by invitation on numerous occasions before state legislatures on many topics. In 2009, he led the effort to reform the Texas Constitution to better strengthen protections for private property owners.”
“Christina Sandefur,” Goldwater states, “is Executive Vice President at the Goldwater Institute. She also develops policies and litigates cases advancing healthcare freedom, free enterprise, private property rights, free speech, and taxpayer rights. Christina has won important victories for property rights in Arizona and works nationally to promote the Institute’s Private Property Rights Protection Act, a state-level reform that requires government to pay owners when regulations destroy property rights and reduce property values. She is also a co-drafter of the 40-state Right to Try initiative, now federal law, which protects terminally ill patients’ right to try safe investigational treatments that have been prescribed by their physician but are not yet FDA approved for market. Christina is the co-author of the book Cornerstone of Liberty: Private Property Rights in 21st Century America (2016). She is a frequent guest on national television and radio programs, has provided expert legal testimony to various legislative committees, and is a frequent speaker at conferences. She is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Law and Hillsdale College.”
Fort Lauderdale lawyers Joseph S. Van de Bogart and Katherine Van de Bogart of Van de Bogart Law will keep the Arizona lawyer in line with Florida customs.
The Goldwater suit would like to do away with the “home sharing” prohibition altogether on constitutional grounds. Yet Goldwater counsel must not have absolute confidence in that happening since it emphasizes in another count that the fines of $20,000 to $100,000 are excessive in comparison to a supposedly more reasonable state limitation on all types of local code violations, in Chapter 162 of the Statutes of Florida, of from $1,000 a day for the first offense and $5,000 every day for each repeated offense.
Apparently the Goldwater lawyers have not read the provision of the statute that allows any other means for enforcing codes: “162.13 Provisions of act supplemental.—It is the legislative intent of ss. 162.01-162.12 to provide an additional or supplemental means of obtaining compliance with local codes. Nothing contained in ss. 162.01-162.12 shall prohibit a local governing body from enforcing its codes by any other means.”
The excessive-fine strategy either betrays the misunderstanding of the lawyers or reveals the income class Goldwater prefers, and that is apparently not homeowners who occasionally use realtors or rent their homes themselves to supplement their income. Vacationers can now rent a modest two-bedroom home in Miami Beach for $200 a night. Midrange would be $1,000 a night for a large home on the Bay with a pool like Natalie’s home, or one that could house quite a few people. Luxury mansions go for $10,000 or more a night.
Fines of $5,000 per day might not deter persons who own and/or advertise multiple homes and engage in huge operations that allow them write off the cost of the fines since enforcement cannot keep up with all the violations. But the fines will definitely deter others, especially the small fry who are really sharing their home instead of running vast rental operations. Furthermore, we leave it to the lawyers to discover how renters can avoid criminal misdemeanor charges for the violations that are cited.
People rich and poor should have a right to make a living of their own choosing in a free country if that does not unduly infringe on the right of others to do the same. Perhaps Goldwater Institute or someone else should take this major question up with the federal government in federal court, perhaps invest a million dollars to take it all the way to the top if need be to see how the conservative majority feels about it.
Since 94% Floridians approve of short-term vacation rentals, and two-thirds approve of transient rentals of all types, and that piece of the pie is so large, one would expect a great public clamor over the spread of the creeping bureaucracy that enhances the monopolies of the power elite. Yes, Airbnb is lobbying for vacation rentals for its own sake. Small rentiers would benefit. Where is the class action lawsuit? Why are not the rentiers coming out of the woodwork, like Natalie, to raise hell about the irrational infringement of their private property rights? Where are the interveners in the lawsuits?
Why? Because many of them are still doing it and do not want to expose themselves to retaliation. After all, retaliation, the most primitive practice of justice, is still the rule in Miami Beach. It does not pay to fight city hall when city hall is at the beck and call of the hotel industry and other major industrial segments of its economy. Believe it or not, people who have spoken in favor of vacation rentals on Facebook have been placed under surveillance and interrogated.
Finally, Florida, especially South Florida, is not a place where people come to cooperate or to join or intervene in other people’s lawsuits. They cannot see that there is a common element in their respective beefs, the violation of their civil rights.  As Christina Sandefur’s husband Timothy posted in his April 21, 2005, Freeespace under ‘The all consuming hatred of man’:
 “The evils of the modern age—as well as of the ancient times—have come about because of the assault on the individual; because of the notion that people do not matter, and that they owe their lives to the service of others. The principle of the gulag is the principle that the individual belongs to the state and that the state has the right to do with them what it pleases.”
He repeats what he had said many times before, that the notion that we should give up our notions as individuals and become cogs in the social machine “is the defining trait of conservatism” in the context of archaic patriarchal rights. Wherefore it appears in 2005 that he would conserve the principle of individual freedom and therefore its basis in private property.
Well, many South Floridians, familiar with repressive regimes, are staunch individualists who normally resent government encroachment on their persons and property. What we have here now is creeping alligator socialism. It can outrun you if you get too close to the water, and will drag you in before you know it.  Act accordingly. 
xYx
(1) The Goldwater Institute has championed, among other rights, the right to choose charter schools, education vouchers, and experimental drugs; the right to use heavy machinery in environmentally sensitive areas; the right to separate orphaned Native American children from their tribal culture; the right of corporations to contribute to political candidates; the right to make hateful speeches anywhere on college campuses; the right to pay tipped, young, and temporary workers less than the minimum wage; the right not to pay police officers for overtime; the right of minors to smoke electric cigarettes; the right not to give veterans employment preferences; the right not to teach CPR in schools; the right not to expand Medicaid expansion under Obamacare; the right to be free from greenhouse gas emission regulation;  the right of lawyers  to speak harmfully, in a way that manifests bias or prejudice towards others. And now, in Miami Beach, the right fought for is the sacred right to rent homes for less than six months, and, if that is not granted by the court, the right to be free from fines so high that a profit after paying the fines is rendered impossible.
 
(2) Old folks remember Goldwater well. He was trounced by Johnson 486 to 52 electoral votes in 1964 in the most dismal showing of a major party in history, yet his extremism inflamed the alarming hatred and passion of his Southern base and advanced the “popular” strains of conservatism of Presidents Reagan and Trump. He was not a bigot himself, as even Martin Luther King observed, at least not openly, but he favored segregation and he opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because, for one thing, it would to lead to quotas. A tiny minority of blacks voted for him, so it was said they must have been ignorant or illiterate. He championed the Forgotten American, “that dragooned and ignored individual who is either outside the organized pressure groups or who finds himself represented by organizations with whose policies he disagrees either in whole or in part.”  He was a Jewish Episcopalian popular among all sorts of disgruntled factions, including but not limited to Christians and the Klan. He believed it right to be extreme if the cause was righteous, although people disagree on what is right and are even willing to die for it. He thought military field commanders had authority to nuke enemies without a presidential order. The United States government should not interfere with the liberties of its own citizens, he said, but has a perfect right to interfere in the affairs of nations whose interests are incompatible with its own.
Goldwater may likened to the latest version of Trump, which changes from day to day, although Goldwater was not such a loose cannon and was keen on protecting the environment. He like Trump was declared insane by armchair psychiatrists, but he sued and won damages for defamation of his character.  He hated communism and said socialism was a social disease. What he called conservatism was mandatory in the face of the totalitarian menace if the United States with its “true religion” Judeo-Christian heritage was to remain the leader of antislavery forces in the world.
Creeping socialism, you see, eats up private capital as the government encroaches on and takes over activities, destroying incentives. Social security and other welfare programs are best gotten rid of. Small business entrepreneurs like Natalie are being ruined by socialist creeps, and the nation will be consequently impoverished. Perhaps in the end everyone will be gray and wind up with the mere 100 square feet of living space Lenin dreamed of for the USSR.
The bone of contention or the bottom line is obviously property. Real estate is said to be the basis of all wealth. Private ownership of property, starting with one’s own body, is the very cornerstone of freedom. Yes, there is a spiritual underground, but that is chaos, as was famously discovered when the cornerstone of the temple was raised and a man descended into the abyss below it.
Freedom and justice require order, and the right order, which is a “just order under God,” is based on property rights. Let the government keep its hands off our property. Government, said Goldwater, should be concerned with the things that are its proper province, such as defense of the country and the administration of justice. Government should not try to do things which are better done by individuals or voluntary associations.
City Attorneys Raul Aguila & Alexsander Boksner, Developer Rod Eisenberg

(3) Rod Eisenberg, a small businessman who owned the historic Sadigo Apartment Hotel on South Beach, testified before the City Commission that a city attorney defending the city against his civil rights suit suborned the perjury of material witness in order to get his case dismissed and obtain $600,000 in sanctions for assertions his lawyers made. Eisenberg’s guests in for an art show were tossed onto the street with their bags and he was arrested and jailed at the behest of the chief deputy city attorney, Alexsander Boksner, because Eisenberg was accommodating them at the Sadigo. He submitted a deposition of the material witness, a code enforcement inspector, under penalty of felony backed by a polygraph test to the mayor and commissioners and city manager, most of whom are lawyers, showing probable cause that the deputy city attorney may have committed a federal felony. And it would be a federal felony for those who had that knowledge to conspire to obstruct justice by not reporting it to law enforcement and the Florida Bar. Neither Boksner nor other knowledgeable officials responded to my inquiries about Eisenberg’s allegations. The Florida Bar had the information, said no file would be opened, and the district attorney was not responsive at all.
Eisenberg has most recently filed an independent action in federal court for recovery of the sanctions, and has alleged in his brief that the city attorneys frequently lied about transient rental laws. He will probably have to go higher than that, far away from South Florida, to obtain justice. Local, state, and federal are one ball of wax here.

 

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How Miami Beach Officials Get Away With Torture

Umberto Boccioni, The Street Enters The House
 
OPEN LETTER
Michael Grieco, Commissioner
THE CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
Miami Beach, Florida

Plea for Formal Remediation of Unreasonable Noise and Maladministration

Dear Commission Grieco:

I have posted this letter on the Web for your easy reference. You have said that my letters are too long for your cell phone, so I am hoping that you have access to a desktop or laptop computer. I am also hoping that your colleagues have the equipment and power of continuous concentration to consider this document and act upon it. If I do receive a response, I shall provide voluminous factual information to support my thesis upon request

This is my petition for legislative and administrative action to mitigate unreasonable noise, vibrations, exhaust fumes, and other pollution in construction projects in the City of Miami Beach by requiring contractors to include statements of probable pollution impact and their remediation program in their bidding documents, and by requiring owners and developers to provide temporary housing to residents whose lives are unreasonably impacted by construction pollution in all events, and especially when the city waives the charter provision of a civil right against such disturbances.

The need for such legislation was made evident to your neighbors during the horizontal drilling of a 2/3 mile long redundant sewer line. The noise, vibrations, and fumes around the entry and exit holes can only be described as torturous, of the nature that terrorists and other criminals are subjected to by the police power in other parts of the world in order to drive them out of their buildings or to confess to their crimes.

The only expression of concern was that the customers of Joe’s Restaurant, frequented by the affluent and vested interests, not be disturbed.

The charter protection was waived by the city because the drilling contractor had contracted to be present on the North Dakota pipeline. A responsible city official for that reason declared that the project was “time sensitive,” but implied that the city was in imminent danger of being inundated by sewage, which if expressly stated would have been a bald-faced lie. There was no emergency. In fact, an engineering report stated that there was a very small chance of a break in the existing sewer main, and that there was no imminent danger of it failing. The drilling team left town a year ago and the redundant project is just now winding up.
Many complaints and pleas were submitted by victims to the mayor, commissioners, and administrative officials. Responsibility for the outrageous disturbance on weekends and evenings was shamefully shirked by administrative officials, with the exception of Eric Carpenter. The mayor was too important to receive the victims at city hall; the commissioners, who were notified time and again of the issue, were unresponsive.
The rule of thumb when only a small number of people are disturbed is not to provide for their general welfare but to ignore them the best one can. This usually works politically because of the local culture: with some remarkable exceptions, people not only do not love their neighbors but they do not even want to know them unless there is something in it for them. Further, traumatized people tend to be concerned with their own predicaments to the exclusion of others.
The duty to address the complaints was delegated to the general contractor and his public relations employee. Shutting down the project until adequate sound protection could be obtained was out of the question due to the drilling team’s scheduling needs. The general contractor slapped together a wooden box for the gigantic engine to reduce the decibels. That project created more noise in the evenings and took all too long for a minimal result. In fine, it was too little too late, including too late to file for an injunction in circuit court, and the racket dragged on for months. The public relations sophist did what she could, which was to simply shine people on with specious rhetoric.

A meeting was held by your powerful neighborhood association. A public works official finally publicly addressed the ongoing nuisance. As an engineer he had no sympathy with the people suffering the unreasonable pollution due to a drilling process that is usually employed out in the boondocks and not in the residential neighborhoods of small cities such as ours. I have an account of that meeting if you have a personal computer and the time to consider it.

That account includes the tearful complaint of a woman who was being tortured by unreasonable vibrations and noise at 419 Michigan Avenue, near your home. She apparently thought David Mancini was the city’s official contractor, and that the 419 Michigan Avenue project was his responsibility, which he has nothing to do with.
As you know, the groundwork at that site for a small hotel, across Michigan from the healthy Vibe studio, seemed almost interminable due to water conditions. I estimated that the entire declared valuation of the hotel construction was absorbed by the groundwork, although a superintendent told me the extent of the groundwork was expected. Still, I have asked the building department to collect affidavits and documents upon completion to make sure that a correct value is declared and all permit fees are paid, which has not always been done in the past under the city’s Rob Peter to Paul to Breakeven Policy.
I hope that woman has recovered. I shall never forget her tearful plea for relief from the awful noise and vibrations. But manly engineers and city officials are deaf to such pleas from small minorities. There is always collateral damage in the fog of war against nature. The fact that there are so many complaints in our city creates a din that tends to deafen city officials unless, again, there is something in it for them if they respond to it.
There were so-called activists around town who could have raised enough hell to get some relief. Unfortunately, they either had their noses in the wrong place, or they were afraid to speak up because they had their own needs. After all, His Honor the Mayor said after the last election that people who complained about things would have to wait until the next election to be heard.

Therefore, I hope you will at least respond with your position on what you can do to make sure that city officials in instances such as this provide for the welfare for all stakeholders, not just the welfare of those represented by the power elite’s political bureau on the commission.

Sincerely,

David Arthur Walters

South Beach Mothball Poisoner

moth-balls

THE SOUTH BEACH MOTHBALL POISONER

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

“What is that awful smell?” I asked my next door neighbor when I reached the outdoor landing to our apartments on the second floor.

“I put mothballs on the ground around my motor scooter,” she said, pointing to her scooter next to the mailboxes downstairs.

“Why? It is nauseating.”

“So the cats will go away. The manager of the building over there said it is a good idea. She will do it too.”

“I thought you liked cats. You were feeding them up here by your door.”

“They peed here,” she motioned to her doorway, “and they peed on the cover of my motor scooter downstairs, so I put the mothballs all over.”

“What kind of mothballs? Some are poison to humans.”

“I don’t care.”

“What?”

“I don’t care. I have to protect myself. They peed on my cover and I got a rash when I handled it.”

“I am getting a headache,” I declared, and went inside, where I did a little research, and texted her.

“I shall see if I can find another way so the landlord does not get fined and people don’t get sick. There must be something else.”

“Find something good because I need to take care of myself with the cat urine.”

“I shall try. There could be big fines and you might get sick too.”

“I’m already sick with cat urine.”

“Should I have Animal Control call you?”

“You call them and tell them about the cat. I do not want to be involved. Please.”

“See if your mothballs are marked SAFE for humans.”

She did not reply to that text, so I linked her to Florida’s animal cruelty statute Section 828.08 providing up to a year in jail for putting poison out in public areas, and informed her that I did not want to call Animal Control because the police might be called in to arrest her.

I also linked her to an article on mothballs and how they can harm children—a little girl often visited her father in the apartment right above the area she had poisoned.

“I feel like you are mad at me. I just try to protect myself.”

“I’m not mad. I am trying to protect you. It is a crime.”

“Whatever. Everything is a crime. If you care you call Animal Control and deal with that. My life is busy. I have no time for that.”

I then linked her to an article on using cayenne pepper to keep cats out of gardens.

“Cats HATE cayenne powder,” I texted. “Cayenne makes them sneeze, run away. I tried black pepper once. Only cayenne works.”

I went to the Publix grocery store and purchased some cayenne for her to use.

“I put cayenne bottle on your door, I texted. “If it works we can buy big bottle. Put some also around door landing.”

When I went outside, I found she had thrown the bottle on my doorstep.

“You don’t want it? I can make soup,” I texted. I did, and I felt like a pressure cooker as blood rushed to my head.

The horrible odor diminished. The cats were still around, including the black-and-white cat I call Sylvester because he is a very smart cat, careful to avoid strangers, especially anyone carrying a cage.

The cats walked right by the mothballed area, but eventually stopped coming around so often. The neighbors in the downstairs area said the cat excrement and urine around their doors was indeed a nuisance.

cat
Landlord Refuses to Repair Central AC

I sent the poisoner an image of a pregnant tawny cat perched on a window air conditioner—the no-maintenance landlord refuses to fix the central air conditioners. I joked that Castro might drop mothballs from planes onto her homeland.

Landlord refused to fix central air conditioners and replace appliances
I was watching my favorite cop show, Da Vinci’s Inquest, a month later.  I became nauseated, and not at the sight of the bodies. I had my window open because the landlord had refused to fix the ground air conditioner that serves my studio.

I stood up, was dizzy on my feet, and then I realized that mothball fumes were wafting in my window. I went outside. The smell was such that it might knock a man down if he stayed a few minutes. White mothballs were all around the poisoner’s scooter and the mailbox area.

Not realizing that the poisoner was at home because at that hour she usually works at the health center nearby, and my taps on her door went unanswered, I texted her as follows:

“Too much poison making me sick. I have no AC and need windows open.”

I waited, and I received no reply. She had been warned, and she obviously did not care about anyone but herself. For some people there is only one number, Number One, around which the world turns, and all the other numbers are of no consequence if they do not serve Number One.

I called the police, informing the operator of the situation, and saying that I was reluctant to call because the landlord might evict me if he is fined, but the poison is dangerous and making me sick.

I evacuated the premises. Several men drinking beer out front scrambled when I told them the police were on the way to deal with the poison.

“Whew, I can smell it out here,” said Officer Garcia, Badge 705, as she stepped out of her patrol car. “You are lucky. I happen to be the department’s only animal cruelty officer.”

“I was watching my favorite cop show and was poisoned.”

“Now you can watch real cops.”

A towering cop, a quiet and very serious looking fellow, got out of another squad car to accompany her. He agreed that Da Vinci’s Inquest is a very realistic cop show.

I showed her my texts to the cat poisoning woman.

“You know your stuff,” she said.

I stayed on the street, nearly vomiting as the officers went and repeatedly banged on the poisoner’s door. She was indeed at home. A loud conversation ensued. She lied, and said she had not put the mothballs out before, and that she put them out because raccoons with rabies were around, and that no children lived on the premises.

A neighbor from a back unit happened to come by, and said that she had been sickened by the moth balls a month prior, and had to visit the doctor.

The officers made the poisoner pick up every mothball. Officer Garcia gave her a thorough education on the law, and made arrangements for Animal Control to come out and care for the cats. The neighbor in back promised to care for the pregnant tawny cat.

The fumes lingered after the mothballs were removed. When you smell the fumes, your lungs are actually being poisoned.  I asked Officer Garcia if the fire department should come over and wash the yard down. She said that should not be done because the poison would stay in the soil. She said she had a headache from being near the poison.

Officer Garcia noticed the broken lock on the front gate, and I mentioned that neighbors bring their dogs onto our yard to defecate.

I stayed in front for quite awhile, then went inside and kept my windows shut although it was very warm due to the unusual winter heat wave in South Florida this year.

Three days after the police visitation, the neighbors got together and fixed the locks on the gates at our expense because the landlord had refused to do it for several years hence the yard is overrun by undesirables.

I advanced the poisoner’s share for the keys because she was not home, and is not liked by the neighbors because she calls the police on everyone for making the slightest noise, which is fine by me because I like peace and quiet although I offered to speak with them so she would not have to call the police.

She did not repay me for the keys, and I said nothing, just smiled and greeted her pleasantly when I saw her. But she is not speaking, and passes me by stone-faced without a glance. I supposed that her ex-husband was correct when he told me that she loves to make enemies.

I am an understanding fellow, bear her no malice, and would prefer to be a friendly neighbor, which is rather untraditional in this old crackhood in chic South Beach.  But what can one do? I warned her four times, she had made two people sick, she actually asked me to call the authorities, we refused to bring criminal charges against her, and now she treats me like poison.

XYX

Floatopia Will NOT Be Tolerated in South Beach!


FLOATOPIA WILL NOT BE TOLERATED!

KING PHILIP LEVINE SCREAMED

18 April 2016 C.E. 

By David Arthur Walters

Miami Beach

“Floatopia will NOT be tolerated!” screamed Philip “King” Levine on his Vanity Timeline @mayorphiliplevine aka @mayorego. “STOP!” yelled the King, and he screamed again, “NEVER AGAIN!”

Yelling and Screaming has been banned by the King because almost all Yelling and Screaming, like everything else that happens in the realm, is about HRM. Of course an Exception must be made for His Exceptional Self.

Thousands of commoners descended upon the Royal Beach from the poorest precincts of the Realm with floatation devices on the Sabbath. The flash mob snarled traffic and littered the Beach, and many carefree participants relieved themselves in the ocean. They brought their own food and beverage. Only one sale was made on the King’s Beach, an inflatable plastic inner tube, purchased at Walgreens.   

The main complaint was the traffic, for only the King is allowed to snarl traffic, with his Get It Done capital improvement programs in order to line the pockets of developers, contractors, and event promoters bearing Letters of Patent, to boost money laundering and tourism, and to ostensibly save the Realm from Global Warming and Sewage. 

His Majesty commanded his Chief Horseman, Jimmy Morales, Esquire, to announce a scheme to His Majesty’s Court to violate his subjects’ common law right to float in such a way that the new law would avoid the Appearance of Impropriety abhorred by The Kings Inn. 

That the King is above the Law as the Source of the Law is beyond the shadow of a doubt, wherefore the Court, which, according to Chamberlain Michael Grieco, a Barrister specializing in criminal cases, “almost always” approves Recommendations that His Majesty commands Sir Morales to make to the Court, will compose a Pragma, upon which shall be placed the Royal Seal, that there shalt NEVER AGAIN be a Floatation Day without a Floatation Tax of 2,822 Norman shillings (US$200) levied on each Floatation Device and duly remitted to the Royal Treasury. Only the floatation devices of Cuban refugees shall be exempt from the Floatation Tax. 

That absolutely legal device is expected to STOP Floatation Day because only the most loyal of subjects, few in number, will pay the Tax or go to Gaol, for he who pays the King shillings or takes his shillings is the King’s man.

XYX

 

The Wooden Government of Miami Beach

THE WOODEN GOVERNMENT OF MIAMI BEACH

 
BY
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
 

“The noise is too loud!” “What?” “THE NOISE IS TOO LOUD!” “WHAT?” THE NOISE IS TOO DAMN LOUD! IT’S DRIVING US CRAZY!” “OH, NOISE. NO, THE NOISE IS ACCEPTIBLE BECAUSE WE HAVE PERMITTED IT!”

Noise from the trenchless drilling of the Miami Beach redundant sewer in densely populated South Beach has nearly driven people anywhere near the engines crazy.

 

The main fault is laid upon the government and not the contractors, from which we have already received illuminating comments from John English of Horizontal Technologies, an industry spokesman and consulting subcontractor to general contractor David Mancini & Sons and drillers Spartan Directional, and Hard Rock Directional:

 

“You are starting to embarrass yourself now. I have read better stuff in middle school papers. Not even sure what the article is about. I doubt they are interested in my opinion that the article is poorly written. Continue your tantrum until someone notices. I saw a young girl doing the same in a grocery store this weekend, just as annoying…”

 

Mr. English, an avid fan of Ayn Rand who quotes Atlas Shrugged on his company’s website, has compared the protection of human beings from excessive and unnecessary noise in densely populated Miami Beach to unwarranted governmental protection of birds and snails in their natural environment.


Atlas Shrugged is a novel that rationalizes selfishness. Sales of the book soared after the Enron Scandal because businessmen felt they were being unfairly prosecuted for saving the nation.

 

Mr. English said that anyone who associates noise with civil rights is an “idiot.” Since that category would include hundreds of legislators throughout the country, they are being apprised of his opinion even though he does not think it would matter to them.

 

On the other hand, he said there was room for improvement in horizontal directional drilling. Even so, he said, benefits at present far outweigh its costs.

 

Human beings may listen to recordings of the noise taken before and after the city’s wooden attempt at noise reduction:


BEFORE THE WOODEN RESPONSE


Channel 10 edited the video tape to make it appear that the city had taken “reasonable” steps. The gentleman who made that statement was himself trying to be reasonable, and was disappointed in the editing, especially after hell-on-earth continued.


The longstanding unnecessary and excessive noise was actually permitted by the city against its own ordinance, on the excuse that the construction had to be performed on an emergency basis to save the city from an imminent disaster, of being flooded with sewage. There was no imminent danger of the old sewer main bursting, as can be seen by documents offered to the city commission. This was simply another rush-to-construction project performed in accord with the Mayor Philip Levine’s “Get It Done” mission. Mayor Levine is a wealthy developer and public relations mogul. His public relations program represents him as a sort of messiah come to save the city from global warming.



AFTER THE WOODEN RESPONSE


Decibel levels were decreased by the wooden response to the complaints, but levels were still unacceptable. Imaging that you had to listen to this racket every day of the week for weeks on end.


 



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South Beach Hangover Girl

Hangover Girl by David Arthur Walters
Girl With Hangover, Bob Dornberg

SOUTH BEACH HANGOVER GIRL

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

“Oh, oh,” the girl moaned, “I’m so sick, I’m dying, I’m dying” the girl uttered under her breath after she entered Manuel’s South Beach Internet Café. Things are black.”

“Here, sit down,” said Manuel, taking her gently by the arm and guiding her towards his own reclining chair in the rear of the cafe. She staggered slightly, and sat down on the ottoman in front of it instead.

“Oh,” she moaned again, putting her elbows on her knees and her face between her hands, “I’m going to die. I can’t breathe.”

“You can’t breathe?” Manuel asked.

“I’m having trouble, trouble breathing….” I noticed she was sweating slightly.

“Do you want me to call the emergency service?” Manuel asked.

“Yes, please, I’m so sick, please.”

“Okay.” Manuel picked up the phone and punched in the numbers.

“Have you eaten something?” I asked.

“No.”

“You haven’t eaten anything today?”

“No.”

“Did you eat yesterday?”

“I had breakfast, a roll.”

“Have you been drinking or taking any drugs?”

“I was drinking. last night. I think somebody, somebody poisoned me. Now I’m going, going to die,” she panted – her breathing was shallow.

“You’re not going to die. You will be all right, so don’t be afraid, there is no reason to panic. Take deep breaths.”

“The emergency service is coming,” Manuel said. “I’ll get you some water.”

“No, I can’t drink, it hurts when I drink. Oh….”

She proceeded to curl up in a fetal position on the ottoman. Manuel helped her get up and onto the reclining chair, and then he went outside to direct the emergency service when it arrived.

“It’s going to be okay, so don’t you worry. You look like you have what I had a couple of times and did not know what it was,” I offered.

She turned her head and looked at me with questioning eyes.

“Yeah, I had a couple of margaritas in Waikiki on an empty stomach, thought I should have something to eat so went to a hamburger place, but as I was standing in line I started feeling weak, things went black, I fell over backwards, hit my head on the floor and was knocked out.”

Hangover EFFECTS

The girl’s eyes continued to beg askance of me.

“The police were called. They thought I was drunk so they put me in a booth, slapped me in the face a couple of times. I came to, managed to get around the corner and into my apartment, where a friend found me in a coma a day later, so I was taken to the hospital.”

“They’ll be here soon,” Manuel announced from the front door – we could hear the sirens.

“I was referred to the neurologist who had treated an astronaut for a concussion after the spaceman fell down in the bath tub. He told me about low blood sugar. I think that is what you have, from drinking and not eating because you’re not used to doing that. It’s important not to panic, not to try to stand up and go somewhere, because that is what I did the next time, and fell over again, this time in the bathroom. I fell under the urinals but nobody helped me, and they just peed over me.”

My depiction distracted her for the time being, but when two Miami Beach firemen entered, she began to moan again, her breathing went shallow, and she did not respond to questions as they were testing her vitals.

“You need to respond to me, young lady, if we are going to help you,” one fireman said.

No, she had not eaten anything today and not much the day before. No, she was not taking medications. Yes, she had been drinking alcohol the previous night. No, she had not used drugs, but thought she must have been poisoned.

“Your vitals are normal,” he said.

“You have what is known as a hangover,” was the stunning announcement.

She looked bewildered.

“What? But I’m so sick.”

“We can take you to the hospital, but it will cost you.”

“Probably twenty-thousand dollars by the time they get done testing you,” I chimed in.

“Does this cost me?” she asked wanly.

“No, there is no charge for us coming here,” the fireman said.

“Should we give her some glucose?” the other fireman asked.

“No,” he answered, and said to the girl, “You need to hydrate, to go home and drink some Gatorade. Where do you live?”

Hangover I SAID

She explained that she was from Scandinavia, was staying at a hostel across the street, and then she began to cry.

“What will they think? They will laugh at me.” She sobbed ashamedly.

“It does not matter what they think, young lady, and they will understand because they have had hangovers too, and will go get you some Gatorade and some pasta,” I said.

“Your health is the important thing, not what people think,” said one of the firemen. “Come, we will take you there.”

“Remember, never drink on an empty stomach, and if you do, drink plenty of fluids afterwards and eat something,” I said to her as the firemen took her out the door. They put her in the ambulance and drove her to the hostel in style, with lights flashing.

The poor girl, I reflected, her parents evidently did not educate her about the hazards of drinking on an empty stomach, or explain what a hangover is and what to do about it. Strange, for I thought most Scandinavians from the Vikings on down were experienced drinkers.

She was back at the Internet Café the next day, feeling much better and thankful for our Southern hospitality. She said her roomies at the hostel understood very well what had happened to her, and went out and got her some food and Gatorade.

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Enrique Norten’s Fabulous South Beach Spot

 

NORTEN Header
Rendering of glass palace at 321 Enrique Norten

 

 

ENRIQUE NORTEN’S FABULOUS SPOT ON SOUTH BEACH

Systemic Corruption Suspected in Spot Zoning for High Class Folk

28 July 2014

By David Arthur Walters
Miami Mirror

321 Ocean Enrique Norten in South Beach was not spot zoned for the benefit of middle-class permanent residents, but for the exclusive benefit of the likes of its New York owners and developers and their international jet-set clients who can well afford to invest millions of U.S. dollars in each condo, most likely their second or third home, or to speculate with money fleeing from other jurisdictions.

We may never know where the seed money for the 321 Enrique Norten project came from or its amount since the identity of the partners (“members”) in 321 Ocean Drive LLC, the registered foreign limited liability company that holds the title to the land, is a secret, as is the identity of the partners in its listed managing member, 321 Ocean Holding LLC, a Delaware limited liability corporation unregistered in Florida except with the City of Miami Beach as a lobbyist. A local limited liability company registered in Florida, 321 Ocean Manager LLC, was apparently set up to further shield the operators. If the condominium law of Florida were properly drafted in the public interest, the names of all the natural persons who own over a 10% stake in and/or otherwise control the artificial persons presently established to shield their identity and liability would be public record placed online.

The developers, David Arditi, Joshua Benaim and Tim Gordon of the Aria Development Group, studied and worked in finance together on the East Side of New York City. Arditi’s parents, who control Miami’s Cardinal Development, have thirty years experience of local real estate experience. The developers have advertised their expertise at funding developments with the deposits of condo buyers; a tactic that burned depositors became all too familiar with when Miami was Ground Zero in the last financial meltdown. In any event, the seed money required for a condominium development is way beyond the means of most developers so they must borrow from banks. David Arditi, when asked, “Is bank financing important to your business strategy, specifically with regard to condo development?” said that, “In the past two years, we have consummated five transactions, all of them on an all-cash basis.” (16 August 2013 South Florida Business Journal)

As for the Delaware managing member of the Miami Beach land owner, Delaware asks for the least information of all states, providing anonymity that even offshore jurisdictions do not provide. The New York Times observed in a 30 June 2012 article that, “Big corporations, small-time businesses, rogues, scoundrels and worse — all have turned up at Delaware addresses in hopes of minimizing taxes, skirting regulations, plying friendly courts or, when needed, covering their tracks. Federal authorities worry that, in addition to the legitimate businesses flocking here, drug traffickers, embezzlers and money launderers are increasingly heading to Delaware, too. It’s easy to set up shell companies here, no questions asked.”

Delaware vies with offshore financial jurisdictions to be the most secretive jurisdiction in the world. Two million corporations and limited liability companies are formed in the United States each year in states that do not require revelation of the beneficial owners. U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Chuck Grassley have attempted to get a law passed that would require states to obtain lists of beneficial owners of corporations and limited liability companies formed under their laws. Of course the American Bar Association objected, on the grounds that it would be too costly, undermine the attorney-client privilege, and interfere with state regulation of attorneys.

It is interesting to note here that David M. Arditi, in his capacity as managing member of 321 Ocean Manager LLC, in a letter dated 1 July 2011, informed the mayor and commissioners of the City of Miami Beach that, that it would be sad if he and his fellow developers do not get their way so they can become permanent members of the community, yet at least they would leave something positive behind. For example, “We brought in foreign investors to restore the contributing historic buildings at 304 Ocean Drive and 205 Collins Avenue.”

 

NORTEN Collins Avenue
Blighted 304 Ocean Drive in 2014

The 304 Ocean Drive building is directly across the street from 321 Ocean Drive. It has not been restored. In fact, it has been and continues to be a nuisance in terms of appearance and code violations.

 

NORTEN Code violaitons
Handsomely Renovated 205 Collins Avenue

Annette Schiffler Marciano is the presiding officer or manager of the owners of 304 Ocean Drive and 205 Collins Avenue: 304 South Beach LLC and 205 Collins LLC. In a 7 July 2011 letter to the mayor and commissioners, wherein she represented herself as an “ardent preservationist” and urged them not to approve of a citywide charter amendment pressed by Mayor Bower that would require local voters to approve of zoning amendments raising height requirements, which would allow the development of 321 Ocean Enrique Norten, she said, “I first acquired the Atlantic Air Apartments located at 205 Collins, currently undergoing a full renovation. I subsequently acquired the dilapidated contributing property located at 304-312 Ocean Drive. I will begin a full restoration by year end and return the property to its original splendor…. Please do not kill this project with a sweeping charter amendment that few property owners and residents are aware is even up for debate.”

Schiffler did not respond to my communication of 8 April 2014: “The renovation of 205 Collins Avenue is indeed splendid. However, the 304-312 Ocean Drive property remains sorely blighted, and a check of the city’s Code Compliance records indicate it has been a nuisance property in terms of code violations. That is, it has not been returned to ‘original splendor’ nearly three years after your testimony, which was used to support a spot zoning amendment to allow a mammoth structure to be placed in between two low condominiums on the beach across the street from your Ocean Drive property. I will deeply appreciate hearing from you as to why 304-312 Ocean Drive has not yet been developed, and when you expect work to begin and be completed. Also, it will interest my readers to know who the ‘foreign investors’ are, and what their relationship with the 321 Ocean Enrique Norten developers is. My deadline for this portion of the story is April 15.”

In fact, according to the county appraiser’s records, Schiffler recently flipped the property in August 2013, gaining her secret investors $2.260 million, and it is presently owned by Sea Spray Development LLC, managed by Hollywood developer and investment bankers,, Yair Wolff, and Tamir Lubezky, an Israeli. They operate under cover W Capital Group, a vulture capitalist organization they apparently founded around 2009 to take advantage of the Great Recession.

 

NORTEN Great Recession
320 Ocean is nicely preserved, why not 304 Ocean? (from rear)

Wolff and Lubezky, with Luis Revuelta, the architect playing second fiddle to starchitect Enrique Norten across the street at 321 Ocean, in tow, are playing the same historical “preservation” game as the Enrique Norten developers: Get your existing structures declared unsafe and entirely demolished, and then persuade the preservation board, after the fact, to allow a luxurious structure to replace it although it has nothing to do with Miami Beach’s quaint history as a poor man’s Art Deco paradise.

 

NORTEN Art Deco paradise
Luis Revuelta’s plan for 304-312 Ocean Drive

That is exactly Wolff and Lubezky have recently applied for at 304-312 Ocean Drive, complete demolition of the “former” 3-story apartment building. On the other hand, an old building adjacent on the property at 320, similar to the one sitting at 304 Ocean Drive, is being preserved and has been nearly renovated by unlicensed general contractor Jihad Doujeiji, husband to the late Sharon Lewis, a famed interior design, under an arrangement he described (hearsay) as a nontaxable like-kind exchange with his accountant. An accountant by the name of Michael A. Rauf appears as the secretary of 3157 Inc., the current owner of 320 Ocean Drive, the former owner, 320 Ocean Drive LLC, being controlled by the Doujeiji. Doujeiji is known among very wealthy persons for getting work done well at low cost; however, the renovation of 321 Ocean Drive drags on and on because he has other contracts to fulfill upon which cash will be immediately paid. As for licensing, when prohibited from using his deceased wife’s general contracting license, he rented licenses from other contractors to observe the permitting formality, or he proceeded without permits, on millions of dollars of renovations, including a million dollar renovation of a Sunset Harbour penthouse. When asked to recover fees uncollected due to understated contract valuations and unpermitted work, city officials did not respond.

The previous owner of 304-312 Ocean Drive, Project Madison LLC, certainly did not think 304-12 Ocean Drive was unsafe when they picked up the property in 2009. In 2010 they applied for permission for “partial demolition renovation and restoration of the existing two (2) and three (3) story building, including the construction of a new roof top addition, and the construction of a new 3-story structure on the vacant portion of the site, as part of a new hotel project.”

Now all that is not to say that the persons invested in the 321 Ocean Enrique Norten are scoundrels or worse, or that developers are generally “scum of the earth” and their lawyers “suck,” as is popularly believed. It is just to say that there are good reasons for everyone to know who the natural persons foreign and domestic invested in major developments in their communities are. Again, the personal identities of substantially beneficial owners, and the financial managers of substantial investments in the aggregate, should be publicly disclosed. As for attorneys, lists of all the clients of all attorneys licensed in the state should be a public record filed quarterly.

The sale of the 321 Enrique Norten penthouse alone, for $25 million, is expected to more than pay for the stated $18 million cost of the entire development. Although Tom C. Murphy, who controls the Coastal Condominium Construction Group building the project, and who testified in favor of the spot zoning and then got the contract to build it, claims to live in the neighborhood, his construction workers certainly could not afford to buy the smallest unit in the project. And, once the project is finished, the rank and file who attend to the needs of the well-to-do residents will not be able to afford to live in the vicinity, and many of them will have to take long bus rides to work.

Indeed, 321 Ocean Enrique Norten is for the top 3% of the population, located on the most affluent edge of the upscale South Pointe neighborhood, a special district where local taxes are retained to improve the posh enclave instead of shared with the surrounding community. The spot zoning that makes the project a reality is the work of the real estate industry’s rotating politburo or political cabinet, the Commission of the City of Miami Beach.

We see in Miami Beach the last resort version of the national situation described by Hedrick Smith, in Who Stole the American Dream? (2012). Public opinion is ignored (change to Charter re zoning shot down) and special financial interests prevail despite popular notions of how democracy is supposed to work. Political scientists have long observed that legislators “simply tune out the opinions of average Americans when voting on legislation, especially when powerful financial interests get engaged.” Princeton professor Larry Bartels said that senators “were vastly more responsive to affluent constituents than to constituents of modest means.” And Princeton professor Martin Gilens said that “Influence over actual policy outcomes appears to be reserved almost exclusively for those at the top of the income distribution.” The mystery remains as to how politicians get away with policies contrary to the general public interest.

 

NORTEN General public interest
The Worship of Mammon (1909) Evelyn De Morgan

If there is one form of social power over material things that almost everyone loves, it is money, so much so that the medium of exchange, which was once only part of the definition of Mammon, and then only in its gold and silver form, and which has no inherent value as mere number, has replaced Mammon, the greedy idol of material wealth, becoming an abstract treasure laid up in heaven on earth, the kingdom of god ruled by the mundane elect, increasingly from penthouse palaces atop ever higher air castles have the right of support from all levels below.

The pragmatic logician and geodesist Charles Sanders Peirce once said that what makes America great is that every poor slob thinks he can get rich. And our history confirms that positive thinking has led from rags to riches, from log cabins to mansions and even to the White House built by enslaved labor.

 

NORTEN Enslaved labor
La dolce vita at 321 Ocean Enrique Norten

However, the circulation of wealth is not what it used to be; the old adage, that the rich get richer and the poor poorer, is proven by ever bigger numbers. Evolution is from simple to complex; purity is bound to fall into corruption. The day of reckoning is nigh; Miami Beach shall inevitably be uncovered by an apocalypse according to the law of averages or god. The greatest concern of the power elite of the City of Miami Beach today is that an extreme high water event will destroy the wealth they have built upon the sand. Yet the climb to heaven along a wall of ever taller towers along the beachfront is bound to accelerate, until what is raised high is laid low, or the population is stifled by gridlock.

Since every poor slob may still believe he can get rich if he really wants to in this great nation, but maybe he only wants a decent living, it is interesting to note that Peirce was not greedy enough to pursue material wealth to its logical conclusion. He lost his job with the U.S. Coast Guard and Geodetic Survey when funding was withdrawn, was unable to secure a university position because of romantic indiscretions, then received pittances for odd jobs here and there, including writing reviews, dictionary and encyclopedia articles. He wound up in dire straits, at one point a fugitive from justice over bad debts and an assault charge. He was an evolutionist, yet for him the dominating factor was not unending strife and competition, but love and cooperation. Social Darwinism offended him with its glorification of unbridled capitalism, which he called “the Gospel of Greed.” Yet he had his financial ambitions. He invested part of his inheritance in 2,000 acres of land near Milford, Pennsylvania, and built a house upon it. However, he who had coined the term “pragmatism” got no return on his investment other than his own usage of the property. Sorely impoverished and malnourished, his penury was especially pathetic during the last twenty years of his life. His great friend, William James, raised funds from fellow academics to put decent food on Peirce’s table; otherwise, his fare was stale bread from the local baker.

In any event, it appears that the City of Miami Beach is degenerating, like the rest of the nation, from pristine purity, or, if you please, from original sin, to a state of systemic corruption. Of course Miami Beach has a long history of criminal corruption, apparently not ending a couple of years ago with the latest wave of F.B.I. arrests. Departments of city government are frequently characterized as racketeer-influenced, corrupt organizations. When at city hall, I still look inside magazines lying around on the chance of finding a grand or two, and I also check the toilet paper dispensers in the bathrooms for wads of cash.

However, I speak here not of criminal corruption but of systemic corruption. What we may have here is the usual crony capitalism with its regulatory favoritism and the manipulation of the economy for the benefit of the vested interests and the meretricious professionals who serve those interests in public and private offices. So inured are they to the culture, the customary way of doing business, that whatever they do seems normal to them.

The City of Miami Beach has a fascistic constitution with an unbalanced, strong city manager, weak mayor form of government. The commissioners, many of whom are lawyers, are paid less than $10,000 per annum while maintaining outside businesses, a formula that fosters inattention to public business along with undisclosed and conflicts of interest condoned by self-serving codes of ethics. The mayor, who chairs the commission, has scant executive power. The highly paid executive is the unelected city manager, presides over the feudal departments via their well paid directors, “princes” that have considerably autonomy provided they back “the Boss” whenever needed.

In a word, Miami Beach is a dictatorship, the dictator being subject to removal by the commissioners in an infrequent political coup during an extraordinary struggle for power and its spoils. There are negligible democratic elements. Merely 4,000 votes in a city with a generally apathetic population of 100,000 may win a commissioner’s seat; many of those votes are obtained with the help of tightly knit neighborhood associations. Factions do occasionally crowd the commissioner chambers and raise a clamor one way or the other, sometimes moving the commission to vote according to the loudest outcry no matter how irrational and rude, although its origin is in fact a tiny, vocal minority of constituents. Thus are the loudest squeaks oiled to maintain the machine. Absent the clamor, most decisions are conclusions foregone. Dictators and kings alike have been moved throughout history to respond to major clamors or lose their heads. Until then, they enjoy sovereign immunity from liability as if they were gods.

Miami itself is rapidly becoming a “world class” city despite its low-class reputation as the “northern capital of Latin America” and the “top money laundry in the United States.” Miami Beach has long been a magnet for people fleeing bad weather including mobsters. The beach has its good souls yet is filled with runaways and with people on the make or on the take who will dump you in a New York minute without so much as a goodbye when you are no longer useful. Florida itself has always been a famous place to secure large sums from creditors and governments, to con people out of their money, selling swampland, engaging in Ponzi schemes—Ponzi himself practiced for awhile in Florida.

NORTEN awhile in Florida

Sky-high condos with glass walls are in vogue. Humans, like bees, love to swarm and build hives. Towers filled with babbling people climb to heaven, as if piled up for a holocaust of vanity. At least people who live in glass houses tend not to throw stones, no matter how arrogant they might be, so do not worry about the neighbors if the flooring underlayment is up to code. Still, people worry about the Flood, although the Lord promised there would never be another, having realized that everyone created in his image was originally evil because wherever good is found evil must exist, and every god, to be a god, needs a devil.

“Boss” Jorge Gonzalez ruled the city administration for fourteen years, during a period of astonishing real estate development, until a clamor was raised on 2012 over the F.B.I. arrests of several corrupted city employees. Previously, in 2008, two current city employees and one former city employee were arrested for accepting money and/or gifts from a developer by the name of Michael Stern, but no clamor was raised to remove Gonzalez. A bribery charge had been brought against Thomas E. Ratner, an chief electrical inspector with close ties to Stern, who agreed to rat out Ratner. And then Mohammed Partovi, a plans examiner, pleaded guilty of accepting a Rolex watch and cash from Stern. Andres Villareal, a city building inspector pled guilty to accepting $100,000 cash from Stern. Henry Johnson, a city planner, pled guilty to receiving at least $17,500 in bribes from Stern. Johnson’s duties included both planning and assessment of traffic impacts for new developments that would require the payment of concurrency mitigation fees paid by developers to compensate government agencies for the impact of increased traffic and parking and the like. For instance, a developer in 2008 was supposed to pay $35,000 for each parking spot that he did not provide with the development.

 

NORTEN with the development
Simone Hotel destroyed by developers

Curiously, Frank Del Vecchio, who lives next door to 321 Ocean Drive, objected to the concurrency planning element yet did not raise the Noisy Hotel Scare over the plans to build a 7-story Bijou Hotel on that site, next door to him, where the historic Simone Hotel had once stood. Johnson had worked on the plans for that development, but that was not mentioned in the arrest warrant. Del Vecchio claimed that tens of thousands if not millions in concurrency fees may have been corruptly avoided throughout the city because the city planners just rubber-stamp whatever is submitted by developers.

According to the Miami SunPost, Del Vecchio was the first person to appeal on the concurrency issue since the ordinance was passed in 2000, winning the appeal on Oct. 3, 2007. He said he appealed because his review of the application for the Bijou Hotel project “documented that it patently and improperly understated the project’s accessory use traffic and parking impacts, representing tens of thousands of dollars in understated concurrency impact fees and several hundred thousand dollars in payments required in lieu of providing the parking spaces required.” Carter McDowell, counsel for the Bijou at 321 Ocean, who back in 2002 had represented the Bijou and three other properties that would be affected by a zoning change then wanted for the Savoy Hotel redevelopment, said that Del Vecchio’s complaint was merely technical, over a piece of paper missing from the file. Johnson was removed from the Bijou process not because of wrongdoing, claimed Planning Director Jorge Gomez, but because it had been politicized by the criminal charges. Richard Lorber, planning and zoning manager for the city, took over the Bijou file from Johnson. The Bijou plan was not realized. Jorge Gonzalez promoted Jorge Gomez to assistant city manager in late 2009, and appointed Lorber as active planning director. Lorber then made a positive recommendation on the 321 Ocean Enrique Norten application. He would be suddenly dismissed in 2014 by the new political regime’s city manager, Jimmy Morales, a mere two months after he was positively recommended by Morales to become the department’s permanent director. The only explanation for the dismissal was that the administration wanted to go in a “new direction,” raising speculation that the alleged “Yes Man” for developers favored by former city manager Gonzalez may have raised some objections to the new regime’s manipulation of real estate development in the city.

By the way, no criminal charges were bought in regards to the allegedly uncollected concurrency fees. I would later uncover instances of concurrency fees and permit fees going uncollected in Miami Beach; high officials did not respond my reports. Jorge Gonzalez would be embarrassed himself in 2010 when it was revealed that he had hired a new building director, Cynthia Curry, a county budget analyst and assistant manager previously scandalized but unprosecuted for certification of overbillings on an airport contract. A Miami Beach fire inspector, David Weston, who insisted in 2006 that millions were missing due to uncollected building permit fees, was fired. He said he had reported what he believed was criminal behavior to city officials, and to local, state, and federal law enforcement, and then was interrogated as if he were the criminal. Weston continued pressing his allegation with city officials and law enforcement since then. His allegations were included in an inflammatory Miami New Times article of 6 February 2013 entitled ‘Miami Beach Fire Department is Aflame with Corruption.’ The city commission asked the administration for a report. Interim City Manager Kathie Brooks, formerly the city’s budget director during a scandal involving corrupt procurement practices culminating in the October 2012 arrest of Procurement Director Gus Lopez over $600,000 in payoffs from 12 companies, and City Attorney Jose Smith, who would prematurely resign in 2014 to become city attorney or North Miami Beach with a drastic cut in pay, reported that Weston had been terminated for violating the city’s code of ethics, not mentioning that the county’s ethics commission had cleared him. Weston pressed his concerns with the new city manager, Jimmy Morales, shortly after he was appointed. Morales promised not to brush the matter under the rug, and then did just that.

Scandalized city officials urged anyone with information about possible corruption to take it to the FBI. So many people informed that it was said that the FBI office was virtually buried in rat droppings. The consensus of law enforcement seemed to be that the city officials had discretion to reduce fees at will; therefore, any corruption would be moral instead of criminal hence could only be resolved politically.

All in all, the impression is that Miami Beach, proudly following a long tradition of criminal corruption, is systemically corrupt; that is, what appears as egregiously evil to outsiders is perceived as normal necessity or banal by insiders. It is the system and not them at fault. They were following custom if not direct orders. Interestingly, the legal term ‘banal’ (from ‘ban’ – ‘proclamation’) refers to the privilege a medieval lord had to command his vassals to perform military service, or his tenants to carry his grain to a “banned” or proclaimed space i.e. his “banal mill” for grinding, or to his “banal oven.” The performance of the duty is so commonplace, habitual, and hackneyed that no individual has a twinge of conscience even over commissions of obviously evil deeds.

On the other hand, some land use professionals who do business with the city believe it has the most professional and ethical planning staff in South Florida. The arrest of a few government officials alone may not prove that the city government is a criminal racketeering operation. Perhaps those who have been thinking inside city hall boxes for a long time suffer from institutional blindness, fostered by an administration that frowns on internal dissension, and disciplines employees and outside consultants and contractors who publicly criticize it, as if it were a big business corporation i.e. a fascistic organization. A culture is developed where even honest, hard-working employees and consultants see no evil, thus do they serve the power elite in good faith with consciences clear.

People always have reasons for disliking public authorities, and a few residents hated the handsome Gonzalez with a passion, for his demonstrable arrogance, for the impression given that they were not his boss, that his boss was the commission—that much was true according to the city’s constitution.

 

NORTEN city's constitution
Frank Del Vecchio leading so-called rabble

All the above was pretext, however, for the opposition faction on the commission to seize power over the direction of real estate development, and to manipulate it to their ends; in effect, to replace one set of developments and developers with another set. Commissioners Ed Tobin, Esq. and Jonah Wolfson, Esq. led the coup, engaging retired lawyer Frank Del Vechhio, Esq., who represents himself as a community “advocate,” to ‘raise the rabble’ to demonstrate against the Gonzalez regime.

Gonzalez was then involuntarily retired after 14 years of service. The commission dismissed the recommendations of a highly paid recruitment firm and hire Jimmy Morales, a political insider and good old boy from the beach then working as city attorney of the troubled city of Doral, as business manager for the beach although he had no city management experience—the justification for the city’s fascistic constitution is that it be run in a businesslike fashion. And then the faux opposition recruited a wealthy friend of Bill Clinton, Philip Levine, to run for mayor, he spending well over a million dollars for the small city’s mayoral seat. Furthermore, Levine supported a slate of other candidates, the result being a majority on the commission, expected to march in lockstep, at least until the honeymoon is over. New elected Commissioner Michael Grieco, a former state attorney and now a criminal attorney, said that the commission almost always blindly follows the new city manager’s recommendations. Thus far the commission has indeed been Jimmy Morales’ rubber stamp.

 

NORTEN Rubber stamp
Jorge ‘Boss’ Gonzalez, Jimmy ‘Fingers’ Morales, Philip ‘King’ Levine

The electoral rules precluded the former mayor, Matti Herrera Bower, who had previously been a city commission, from sitting as mayor for another term, but she would not go away, and ran for commissioner and lost.

Bower, who as mayor was handpicked by her predecessor, Mayor David Dermer, an anti-high-rise activist and condominium lawyer, was known for her support of the poor, her antipathy to high-rise development, and a talent for cleverly obstructing agendas with hysterical antics. She opposed the successful 2002 amendment to double the maximum height limitation of theRPS-4 oceanfront historical district that includes the property now being developed as 321 Ocean Drive, from 35 to 75 feet, proposing that the maximum be 55 feet instead. The purchaser of the historic low-rise Savoy Hotel down the street had desired the zoning amendment for expansion according to plans submitted by licensed local architect Luis Revuelta. Del Vechhio testified in favor of periodic incremental increases from the existing average of around 35 feet so as not to alarm people by going whole hog—frogs will remain and perish in water gradually raised to the boiling point. He did not raise the Hotel Noise Scare that he would raise as the reason why the 321 Ocean Enrique Norten residential condominiums for the wealthy should be built next door to his own residence instead of a hotel.

 

NORTEN instead of a hotel
Former Mayors David Dermer and Matti Bower

Nine years later, Commissioners Ed Tobin and Jonah Wolfson, with Frank Del Vecchio acting as counselor-at-large for the upscale South Pointe community, led the movement to raise the ceiling further, to 100 feet, this time on behalf of 321 Ocean Enrique Norten. Del Vecchio, by the way, is a sincere man of apparently modest means who lives with his charming wife in a condo next door to 321 Ocean Drive. He claims that his constituents are the poor hence are virtually nonexistent in his neighborhood. He serves without pay on several civic organizations. He played an instrumental role in the election of Phillip Levine. The apparent irony of his position on 321 Ocean Enrique Norten will be considered elsewhere in a discussion of The Big Hotel Noise Scare.

 

NORTEN Hotel Noise Scare
Developers applaud Ed Tobin, Luis Revuelta, Frank Del Vecchio

Neither Enrique Norten nor his company Ten Arquitectos, which submitted plans entitled “321 Ocean Drive” to the city for approval of the zoning, appeared to be registered as an architect in Florida although he is credited as the designer of major projects in town including a colossal luxury development under construction, nearby 321 Enrique Norten, developed by Jorge Perez’ Related Group. Luis Revuelta, who drafted the plans for the owner of the historic Savoy Hotel at 425 Ocean Drive for its successful 2002 effort to raise the height allowable in the RPS-4 Zoning District from 35 to 75 feet, is distinguished by a number of handsome projects, is now only the architect on record for 321 Ocean Enrique. Although Revuelta is a top local architect, Enrique Norten, hailed as a so-called starchitect, was apparently wheeled in for publicity and political connections.

Greenberg Traurig, the most powerful law firm in the state, having had even The Florida Bar, the regulatory arm of the Supreme Court of Florida, as its client, was retained to lobby the planning director and city attorney for the spot zoning needed to erect the two luxury condo buildings on the lot. Greenberg Traurig’s lobbying lawyers, as we know, have been involved as lobbyists in several colossal fraud scandals, yet we may supposedly rest assured that The Firm does not condone wrongdoing, that it cooperates with investigators, and terminates bad lawyers when they are caught red handed in misconduct.

Therefore, in our next chapter, we shall examine Greenberg Traurig’s legal memorandum declaring that the spot zoning of 321 Ocean Drive was not spot zoning, along with the city attorney’s legal opinion endorsing it. Finally, we shall conclude with a chapter, The Noisy Hotel Scare – Paper Tiger!

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NORTEN footer