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As for Joe Fontana -- seemingly clad in the same brown blazer he's sported during his last three failed commission runs, he appeared woefully out of touch with current realities, blathering on about bus shelters when the rest of the room was preoccupied with addressing the local economic fallout from September 11.
Asked about this somewhat bizarre cast, Kasdin declines to directly finger Gutierrez. Instead he opines that "for some people their biggest enemy is a smart, honest elected official," someone like Saul Gross. "At the end of the day, people like Armando just don't like that kind of person in public office. Their favorite person is someone who joins along with their shenanigans. Beyond that, they can tolerate a person who's not too bright, who doesn't interfere."
Kulchur goes for broke: Would that be Joe Fontana?
Kasdin grimaces. "Joe would be a throwback to the old days of Miami Beach politics," he says, the Eighties era of mayor Alex Daoud -- who was eventually imprisoned for bribery, money laundering, tax fraud, and obstruction of justice, all charges during his reign. "I can assure you," Kasdin continues, "if Fontana and Dermer get into office, we'll be right back there in no time."
Neisen Kasdin is no angel, and he's done his share of cozying up to lobbyists. Yet it's hard not to feel some regret at his declining to run for re-election. After all, here's a leader who studiously kept both Miami's exile hysterics ("There was a lotof political pressure to get the Beach to toe the line") and its traditions of gross corruption from leaching across the bay. And having casually spoken with him over the past few years at events from the New World Symphony to the Source Hip-Hop Music Awards, it's become apparent that he's a keenly intelligent man who is genuinely dedicated to the best the Beach has to offer. So why is he stepping off into the sunset?
Run, Neisen, run!
"No, no!" he laughs, holding up his hands in mock defense. "You have to understand the program I'm on. When I first ran in 1991, I resolved I wouldn't stay in office more than ten years. Politics is not my career; I'm an attorney. Nor is politics my family. I want to get back to the rest of my life."
C'mon, Neisen. For somebody ready to embrace domesticity, you've been politicking something fierce. I've heard all kinds of stories about your behind-the-scenes involvement in Tuesday's election.
"Look, you have to let go and accept what's going to come," he replies with a touch of Zen. "Politicians should not have such puffed-up egos to think the fate of the city rests solely on their shoulders." Taking in Kulchur's skeptical smirk, he quickly adds, "It doesn't mean I don't have a deep concern and interest in seeing our city is put in the best possible hands." Spoken like a true political playa.