Barricade Feature

What sets apart Miami Shores - and what vaulted it fleetingly into the national media - is the scope of its plan. If and when Phase II is completed, the town will have more than 90 barricades scattered across its 50 streets. It comes as no surprise that neighboring communities, especially the middle-class city of El Portal to the south, have greeted the barricades with resentment. But Muller says he's intrigued at how the second set of barriers appears to have tweaked the town's internal class battles, as well.

"I suspect the Shores has always had an invisible landscape, with the largest, most opulent houses east on the bay and the wealth gradient flowing down from there," Muller observes. "The [proposed] barricades on Miami Avenue have given visible features to that landscape, and that's ruffling feathers." And if ruffled feathers translate into "For Sale" signs, as a few angry west-siders insist they will, the village could be in for trouble. Muller stresses that a bedroom community like Miami Shores, which lacks commercial attractions, depends on a steady influx of young professionals to revitalize itself. For many, such as Mark Sell and his wife, the west side's cheaper houses mark the only access into the Shores. "If they continue to alienate that replacement community, they're writing a death sentence for Miami Shores," Muller warns. He adds that the village already faces an obstacle in luring younger families: the dearth of upscale job opportunities in the corridor east of I-95.

Mark Sell maintains the problem extends beyond age. He notes that the west side is also a growing destination for up-and-coming black families, many of them Haitian, that have boosted the village's black population from one to twenty percent since 1970. He says the perception that the area is now being cleaved from Miami Shores proper may send out a message, whether intended or not, that blacks are not welcome. And that is not a perception, he says, that the Shores can afford. "The Shores is going to have to be a place where integration works, where whites aren't scared away," Sell maintains. "Take a look at the demographics around here. Take a look at Miami Shores Elementary School. It's 60 percent Haitian and 90 percent black." Not all villagers keep up with such gauges, he adds, especially since many white kids from the Shores attend private grade schools.

Ask Stephen Loffredo how he feels about barricades and the veteran councilman's face assumes the sheepish posture of a man hoping to slip quietly away from the fan before the shit makes its inevitable appearance. Loffredo, a lawyer who joined the council in 1987, just as the barricade issue was coming to a head, voted in favor of Phase I. "The problem with Phase II," he says cautiously, "is that we never settled on what it was supposed to be in the first place. We were too busy implementing Phase I." Though he has not taken an official position on Phase II, Loffredo has received plenty of heat about the issue. He expects to take a lot more. "The sparks are going to fly on this one," he promises wincingly. "We're just warming up."

On that, at least, all parties seem to agree. A study of the traffic impact of the Phase II barricades went out to bid last month. The approval process should take another four to six months and probably will require another vote by the council. After four years of contentious meetings and mailings, the interim promises a crescendo of quarreling sure to focus on that holy tandem of village neuroses: crime and property values. Loffredo expects both to bend what little hard data exists toward their cause.

The consensus is that barricades have helped contribute to last year's four-percent drop in felony crime and the ten percent dive so far this year. But Miami Shores Police Chief Mike Zoovas, who has refused to take a stand for or against the barricades, cites a variety of other factors, including the police department's addition of four extra patrol officers since 1988 and the closing of the Shores discount movie theater, which was a magnet for crime. Proponents of the barricades are likely to crow over the ten-percent leap in property values in 1989, but less likely to tout last year's figure, which revealed Miami Shores as one of only three Dade County municipalities where property values dropped.

Sell and his coalition vow they will not go quietly. If a referendum pushed through the barricade concept originally, anti-barricade forces insist they can block Phase II by demanding another villagewide vote, which would require only a 500-signature petition. Should this fail, opponents are looking into the option of a class-action suit. Former mayor Jim Condit says village officials are bucking for a personal-injury lawsuit. "Suppose someone dies on account of an ambulance driver getting lost," the admiral croaks. "Is the council prepared to deal with that?"

Among more radical west-siders, the murmurings of secession have seeped into strategy powwows. "That's the only way to solve this damn thing," rants F. Richard Vane, a 30-year Shores resident. "People are trying to keep that ace in the hole quiet, but I don't give a damn."

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