Haul of Shame

Waste dumps, illicit lobbying, paid supporters, hidden agendas. Or politics as usual in Miami-Dade County.

At 11:20 p.m. Alonso offered a motion to deny the application. Those who had assumed the commissioner would support the Peerless effort believe she realized that opposition was too strong and the rezoning request would lose. Then Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, in one last-ditch move to save the application, offered a feeble attempt to postpone the vote. "We have been criticized for taking decisions at this time of the hour," he said weakly. "I would like to be able to digest and sleep on a lot of this information and defer the item. I think the public has gone through a lot...." The commissioner's voice trailed off as his colleagues looked on, perplexed. Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla waited a moment and then seconded Alonso's motion. The other commissioners present followed and the application was rejected 9-0.

Peerless Dade has not yet decided whether to appeal. According to one source close to the company, if it appeals the firm might use a strategy suggesting the commission's decision was not valid because Alonso could not give an impartial vote under threat of recall.

Some voters wanted to oust Commissioner Miriam Alonso over her perceived support for Peerless Dade
Steve Satterwhite
Some voters wanted to oust Commissioner Miriam Alonso over her perceived support for Peerless Dade

When the first busload of supporters returned to the parking lot in Hialeah, they made an unpleasant discovery: Their cars had been towed. Posted in four locations around the parking lot were signs reading: "Customer Parking Only. All others will be towed at owner expense."

Carlos "Cuco" Carcas, who was there to meet them, frantically used his cell phone to locate the cars while angry senior citizens yelled obscenities at him. One sign at the entrance revealed Magic Towing to be responsible, and eventually Carcas discovered the company had the cars. Carcas insists the signs were not there in the morning. "Personally I considered it to be a lack of respect," he comments. One participant places responsibility for the towing on Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez. Many in Hialeah credit him with possessing omnipotent powers, and under this logic he had the cars towed to strike against his political enemies: Herman Echevarria and Silvio Cardoso.

Ivan Del Pino, manager of Magic Towing, says the signs had been posted there for weeks, and that the company announced through flyers that it would tow from the lot. He says Carcas appeared the next day to pay for the release of five of the fifteen cars. In the following days, according to one participant, Carcas paid off the elderly supporters. (He denies this.)

The cars never should have been there in the first place, the towing manager believes. "I know who [Cuco] is," says Del Pino. "I'm sure [he] should have known. We sent flyers over to the Building of Commerce and there are a lot of commissioners['s offices] there."

In the end it is unlikely that efforts to rezone the dump will stop here. There's too much money involved, and Miami-Dade needs landfill space to continue to grow. And certainly the manipulation of the elderly, like so many chessmen to satisfy the hidden interests of the wealthy, won't disappear anytime soon either. Yet it's possible that some "instant supporters" involved in the Peerless Dade effort might choose to stay in bed next time around. "It was an abuse of the elderly," reflects one angry retiree.

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