By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
My Life as Your Civic Watchdog Was a Financial Disaster
I was honored that New Times thought my efforts in the community warranted a commendation ("Best of Miami," May 11). The text was most appreciated, but your choice of a headline, "Best Gadfly," in one shot destroyed all I had been trying to accomplish. Prior to the "Best of Miami," people would yell, "Hey, watchdog, where are you off to now?" For the last few days I get a mocking: "Hey, gadfly!"
In my Webster's dictionary the number-two definition of gadfly is as follows: "A person who persistently annoys or provokes others with criticism, schemes, ideas, demands, requests, et cetera." I have tried to avoid being that by mostly listening and, behind the scenes, making suggestions or pointing out things that were going on in other areas of government. My mission has been to enhance intergovernmental communication. The only demand I have ever made was for people to become more informed on civic issues because a tremendous number of things occur at lower-level meetings, where generally no one from the public attends. In this town people seem to read only the headlines.
I would also like to set the record straight. I am just a middle-class former executive who had some great years before I assumed this volunteer watchdog role in 1998. Miami City Commissioner J.L. Plummer was treating people like they were nothing, yet the usual suspects had the carpet rolled out for them. When I began standing outside Miami City Hall looking for candidates to run against him, the late political consultant Phil Hamersmith came up to me and said, "You fucking little people, we are going to crush you." That was November 1998, and that is when I decided to really jump into this. Considering the events since then, every time I thought I should get out, things just moved to a higher level of political absurdity. In the end I attended nearly 2800 meetings.
In early 1999 I branched out to the school board, the Public Health Trust, and the county government, but it was not at the full board meetings where my presence was most effective; it was at the smaller meetings of subcommittees. One of the board members of the Public Health Trust remarked that I was "like the neighborhood policeman making sure everyone played safe and didn't hurt themselves."
I was one of seven people present when the school district did its land deals, and I have probably the only map of the next fifteen future new schools and the last twenty-three land purchases. One of the best meetings I went to was the school planning and construction meeting, where Richard Hines announced that the school district was building $417 million in new schools over the next fifteen months.
My all-time favorite meeting, however, was the one listed on the county calendar for March 29, 2000, at 8:30 a.m. at the Firefighters Memorial, 8000 NW 21st St., where the topic was "Elected Officials Conference Training on Weapons of Mass Destruction." I signed in as a citizen and sat down as the group was watching a film of the explosion at the World Trade Center. Two minutes after my arrival a hand touched my shoulder and the person said, "This is the FBI. Will you please get up slowly and come with me." For the next fifteen minutes I was interrogated by Special Agent John Bonner about why I was there. It actually was quite unpleasant, but I showed him the Miami Herald articles about me and the county calendar and said I had never seen this subject come up so I thought it would be interesting. I finally convinced him I was not a terrorist and he pleasantly said I could stay if I would use good judgment because the discussion was about the United States' tactics and strategies against terrorist groups. I indicated they seemed to have it well in hand and left to go to another meeting.
Contrary to the perceived public impression, I have destroyed myself financially doing this, and in the near future will be filing for bankruptcy. The business world perceives me as radioactive, a whistle blower on steroids who seems to have ties with the press, police, and government officials. In other words, way too dangerous to have around. Thus after 21 months of trying to keep the pressure on, it will soon be over for me. I will become just another example of this community's motto: "No good deed goes unpunished."
I began putting together The Watchdog Report by e-mail as a final way of showing citizens they need to have neutral sentinels or monitors not only to enhance the flow of information but to act, in a way, like Crime Watch. When someone is there, it is amazing how often things go as they should, especially in my case, because of my close links to the press.
Sorry this is long, but I wanted to set the record straight before I sink into oblivion. One last comment: Prominent civic groups such the Beacon Council, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and the Alliance for Ethical Government are uninterested in actually changing the culture; all of them are basically feel-good groups.
One example: In response to the hundreds of calls of support I've received from people I don't even know, I tried to involve former state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and the Alliance for Ethical Government (he is paid to head the alliance). But they just blew it off because they were so busy. I had suggested to the judge that they pay someone to go to meetings and then put the information online, but he claimed that was not their mission and they did not have the budget. That is ironic, because my solitary efforts have affected the expenditure of about $100 million in taxpayer money.
I wish I were more upbeat, but this town has finally taken its toll on me.
Off the Beat
It's very sad to see that the only reliable newspaper in town is losing its credibility. I refer to "Best of Miami" and your choice of Claudio Silva as "Best Percussionist." How could you not ask the opinions of real Brazilian musicians who can tell you who is real and who is a joke? Let's try something: If this guy can tell the difference between 2/2 and 5/4, I promise to say I am sorry.
Ask the real Brazilian musicians like Ary Piassarollo (guitar), Tonia Elizabeth (vocals), Erica Norimar (vocals), Saulo Ferreira (piano). Or even ask the Americans, any professional, any person who likes music and know something about it.
Shame on you. This makes your awards look not serious. Next time do better research and do not believe in résumés.
via the Internet
Donato Reeled Me In
It's about time someone like Bob Norman brought out the facts about Donato Dalrymple ("Donato's Closet," May 4). This man is not true to his word and we should never have been taken in. Initially I thought his intentions were honorable. I'm sure many of us thought that. But his only interest from the beginning was to make a quick buck. Obviously it's going to take longer than he expected.
After seeing him in that closet with Elian Gonzalez during the rescue, it was obvious he's just trying to ensure his place in the movie version. As he stood there after the operation and said, "America, what have you done to this child?" I couldn't help but wonder the same thing about him: Donato, what have you done to Elian? It should have been clear from the beginning that he was up to something, and finally New Times brought it out of the closet. Your paper is a breath of fresh air in a city whose breath is full of -- . Well, we'll just leave it at that.
Name Withheld by Request
No Need to Weep, It's Just Politics
Was Jose Luis Jiménez's article about outgoing Miami Police Chief William O'Brien ("Elian Made a Tough Guy Cry," May 4) supposed to bring tears to my eyes? Get real, New Times. Despite having declared he was "not a politician," Chief O'Brien made a tough political choice, nothing more. The nonpolitical choice would have been to entrust Mayor Joe Carollo with the supposed "privileged" information he had received.
What Jiménez (or Chief O'Brien) didn't say is that the measure of a community's cohesiveness is directly proportional to that exhibited by its executives. Arguably the chief's actions were violative of the trust that is supposed to exist between the mayor and the city's chief of police. Failure to act in good faith should be grounds for dismissal (this is true in any language), unless of course the chief's actions were prompted by "higher considerations." Frankly that notion scares me more than all those "crazy Cubans" fighting to keep Elian here. A little indignation is not always a bad thing. Just ask those who have had to endure the Holocaust, Pol Pot, and Castro's brand of communism.
Next time Jose Luis Jiménez writes a story he ought to give a little more thought to what certain people have had to endure. Perhaps then he'll better assess the real world of politics and sharpen the senses that have grown weak from too many years of freedom gone uncontested. Perhaps then he'll stop writing those fairy tales.
City Manager Perez-Roura? Police Chief Ninoska? Finance Director Tamargo? Public Works Director Garcia Fuste?
As a resident and voter in the City of Miami, it occurs to me that we are needlessly spending a lot of money on the city commissioners and the mayor: their salaries, their staffs, the overhead of city hall offices, the expense of elections, et cetera. The Miami City Commission majority, when it upheld Mayor Carollo's firing of City Manager Donald Warshaw, based its decision on the opinions of callers to Cuban radio stations. We could save a huge amount of time and money -- and help dig our city out of its financial problems in the process -- if we were simply to cut out the middlemen.
Let's out-source our government and contract with the Cuban radio stations to run the city. Miami staffers could prepare requests for proposals and select which station runs the city by using an open bidding process. A new contract would be let every year so no one station would obtain a monopoly.
This way we could become a model of direct democracy for the rest of the world instead of being the laughingstock.