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
After New Times awarded him the title "Best Gadfly," Ricker responded with a long letter gently taking issue with the term gadfly and passionately announcing that his watchdogging was over, that he couldn't go on anymore.
"Contrary to the perceived public impression," he wrote, "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 whistleblower 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.'"
He concluded by predicting that he would soon sink into oblivion. "I wish I were more upbeat, but this town has finally taken its toll on me," he wrote. That was May 18, 2000.
By September he was back in the Herald with another editorial, again begging for donations. "Frankly, every time I should have quit this activity something new and incredible would occur, thus keeping me in the game," he wrote. "I am now, more than ever, committed to continuing all of my activities and to publishing the Watchdog Report 48 times each year."
In November he manned a Watchdog Report booth at the Miami Book Fair. His report is coming out weekly as planned, and it looks better each week. The reporting is getting more digestible as well, as Ricker learns how to "slant" information, as he says, to make it more palatable to his readers. Yet every Watchdog Report still ends with a plaintive plea for funds. "We cannot continue without your support though I wish it were otherwise," he said. In a January e-mail request for a donation from New Times's editor, Ricker warned that he may be out of business before this article could be published. "This last [issue] was really close," he relays.
One of the main arguments Ricker uses to justify his salary goal is his work ethic. "I feel I work fairly hard," he opines. And it's hard to argue his point. Few if any reporters work harder or as steadily as he does. No reporter attends more meetings, that's for sure. "It's part of the gig," he shrugs. "I'm usually the only reporter willing to be at the Public Health Trust at 7:00 at night."
In fact it's 7:30 now, and Ricker has just left the Public Health Trust meeting to return one last time to Dinner Key. He's been working since 8:00 this morning, but he wants to stop in at Miami City Hall for one last sweep of the city commission meeting. "Just in case I missed anything," he says.
It's late. It would be a good time to go home, or maybe to the Taurus for a drink. Ricker has a girlfriend, though he admits his work drives her nuts. "I'm never around," he explains. "On the weekends I never do anything but write the Report. Last Saturday we went to the circus but could only stay from 3:00 until 4:00 because I was working again by a quarter to five. She argues with me all the time."
Ricker has been married to three different women. Each time, he says, his wife left him for another man. While he points out optimistically that he hasn't had a divorce since 1987, he allows that publication of the Watchdog Report is the main force in his life right now. "If I can do one thing to bring the spark plug of information to the engine of civic government, then it will all be worth it," he declares. "Of course I do have a Pollyanna attitude. I mean, I almost got goose bumps down at county hall when I watched them do the electronic recount the day after the presidential election."
Arriving back at city hall, Ricker discovers a parking lot full of cars. The city commission is still meeting. Poking his head into the chambers, Ricker receives an earful of an argument between Commissioner Regalado and the city manger concerning Miami's cable television channel. Ricker looks at his watch. "This is great!" he exclaims, scanning an agenda crammed with issues yet to be discussed. "This could go all night!"