Riptide

Weaving tangled Webs

It took more than a month and a razor-thin win at the county commission, but Teressa Cawley is out. Miami-Dade commissioners suspended dealings with their onetime financial advisor last week. The reason: The Securities and Exchange Commission has accused Cawley of lying about bond work in 1993 and 1994. In a report the agency termed her conduct "reprehensible" and stated that she "presented a clear and present danger to the investing community."

That wasn't enough for Gwen Margolis, commission chairwoman. Perhaps under the spell of lobbyist and convicted influence peddler Ron Book, a Cawley compañero, Margolis tried to delay the suspension vote until September; it had already been put off twice.

No dice. The more-or-less white knights, led by Katy Sorenson and Jimmy Morales, blocked the effort. After a 5-5 vote killed deferral on Tuesday, commissioners knocked Cawley from the box on Thursday. (The tie vote meant a loss.)

There may be more to come in the Cawley mess, though. In true "bring- 'em-all-down-with-me style," the financial whiz penned a July 27 letter describing alleged malfeasance by other bond underwriters: Lehman Brothers, PaineWebber, Raymond James, William R. Hough, Prudential, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Dain Rauscher, and First Union.

The battle for the Web in Miami, like all our superheated subtropical clashes, has gotten ugly. And like almost all of them, it now involves Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Cable television companies are battling to control the broadband lines that provide TV signals and, potentially, Internet hookups. They have lost two and won one recently. Commissioners in Portland, Oregon, and Broward have forced AT&T to open its wires to competitors; San Francisco allowed them a monopoly.

The choice is worth millions of dollars in the future. If you use the Internet at home it also means your money.

Miami-Dade County commissioners will take up the matter in the fall, but the cable companies have already started their advertising assault on Spanish-language radio. One ad claims that costs will double if the cables aren't opened to competition. Another absurdly equates GTE, which is fighting the monopolists, with Castro's commies:

Man: A telephone company that ... hasn't contributed anything to the county, GTE, wants the government to interfere in the private sector.

Woman: Interfere in the private sector?

Man: Yes. That's why I left Cuba. They even want to involve themselves in the Internet!

AT&T, soon to become the state's largest cable provider, stands to profit big-time if the monopolists triumph. Barry Johnson, director of corporate relations for the company in the Sunshine State, says the debate isn't about monopoly. It's about a thousand communities making their own rules. The feds should step in: "It's as if each city decided which side of the street you drive on," he comments.

Après Exito!, the deluge.

Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel company may still be smarting from multimillion-dollar losses on its last offensive into Miami-Dade. The weekly Spanish-language (and ironically named) publication Exito! went under in 1997. But the masters of Broward media are not admitting defeat.

Back in February the company rolled out a 40,000-circulation weekly Spanish-language publication, El Semanal (which translates cleverly to the Weekly), in Hialeah. Then in July it upped circulation to 110,000, including an edition tailored to Miami. More than two-thirds of the papers are being delivered to homes, according to publisher Justo Rey. The papers, comments Ray, include "extremely local news," like stories about Camillus House and Seaquarium. Is El Nuevo Herald quaking in fear?

This month the Sun-Sentinel will also start delivering thousands more community newspapers, Rey says. In English. They'll be local editions tailored to Southwest Miami-Dade neighborhoods. That's on top of existing printings in Miami Lakes, Pinecrest, and Cutler Ridge. Watch out Mother Herald! Hell, watch out New Times!

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

 
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