Riptide

The Ritz is getting an early start as an all-night juke joint in Coconut Grove. After recent rains, hotel builders started working around-the-clock to remove water that gathered in the foundation on SW 27th Avenue near Biscayne Bay.

Neighbor David Ralph complained and Ofcr. Tom Braga checked it out. Then, after some negotiation, City Manager Donald Warshaw agreed to let developers of the planned 200-room, multimillion-dollar hotel work through the night. The sound from the pump was muffled. "It's acceptable now," Ralph says.

The real issue: Almost two years after plans for the hotel were announced, the Ritz is not only underwater, but still without financing. Developers hope to get final signoff on the bucks later this month, says attorney Lucia Dougherty.

The June 7 New Yorker issue that included Mimi Swartz's piece "The Herald's Cuban Revolution" sailed from the newsstands. "I immediately sold out. They were gone the same day they arrived," says J.C. Moya, manager of Books & Books in Coral Gables. Stores in Aventura and Coconut Grove provided similar comments.

Although Herald columnist Joan Fleischman did an admirable job of summarizing the article, she skipped a couple of important snippets: 1) 43 employees have left the paper in the past year and have not been replaced; and 2) this gem about recent readership trends: "The paper remained unloved and largely unread by Miami's Hispanic population. 'I have to say the only mail I got was from elderly white women,' one reporter told me."

Speaking of other publications' reviews of the Herald, the June edition of Brill's Content points out the newspaper published an entire article on the Herald's Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, but featured just a tiny box describing the other winners. Hubris, anyone?

And the Herald isn't even kind to its own. A special page whipped up for executive editor Doug Clifton's goodbye makes brutal fun of his propensity to lay off employees, alienate friends, and cause newsroom turnover. The page also notes the Herald's real and imagined changing self-promotional phrase: "Florida's Largest Newspaper, then Florida's Second Largest Newspaper, then Florida's Foremost Newspaper, then Florida's What the Heck We Still Have a Paper Paper."

The good news: An Editor and Publisher survey of 50 columnists shows the Herald's Dave Barry and Leonard Pitts to be among the most popular of their peers. Only the New York Times's Maureen Dowd received more votes. Question: Sure columnists are reading, but is the public?

The cost of Carmen. Not only did federal prosecutors spend millions of dollars in taxpayer money to screw up prosecution of former Port of Miami director Carmen Lunetta and associates Neal Harrington and Calvin Grigsby. Not only did the conniving Lunetta walk away with a $280,000 payout when he retired amid clear signs he had abused the public's trust. Not only are county attorneys spending more on a civil case that is likely futile.But the lack of a conviction means Lunetta will almost certainly pick a $113,000-per-year pension from taxpayers' pockets.

as told to Chuck Strouse

Tips? Call 305-571-7605 or e-mail riptide@miaminewtimes.com.

 
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