By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Two weeks ago you ran a puff piece on long-time political wheeler-dealer and Miami mayoral candidate Manny Diaz ("New Face, Old Connections," October 25). Yes, this is the same Manny Diaz who's owned a piece of the controversial, politically connected Monty Trainer's Coconut Grove restaurant. The same Manny Diaz who was developer Manny Medina's righthand man when Medina was concreting the Grove with high-rises. The same Manny Diaz who voted to raise windstorm insurance rates 253 percent as a member of the state's Windstorm Underwriting Association, and whose campaign fund is fat with insurance-company contributions -- and fatter than anyone else's campaign account.
A week later it was Saul Gross's turn, despite a number of conflicts between his Design Review Board votes and his campaign contributions -- including thousands of dollars bundled by Craig Robins. Gross has been virtually anointed for that seat by the Beach power structure, and by the Miami Herald, and of course by you.
The following week we are treated to two full pages of Neisen Kasdin's ugly diatribes ("Hizzoner Unloads," November 1). Kasdin, who got incredible support from the business and developer establishment in his two runs for mayor (and from you, thanks to your last-minute 1999 smear of Shapiro) is, in my opinion, the worst mayor Miami Beach has had in 40 years, and possibly in its entire history. During his four years he had to abstain more than 70 times from voting because of conflicts, and those were admitted conflicts. His tenure was marked by sweetheart deals with high-rise developers and fear and trembling in the face of threatened lawsuits. He voted to pay Thomas Kramer far more for a piece of land than its appraised value. The issue of a supposed cash contribution Kramer supposedly made to him through an unidentified middleman, brought out in a Federal Election Commission report, has never been explained.
Kasdin ran commission meetings not like a "kindergarten teacher," as Brett Sokol wrote last week, but like a petulant little Napoleon, constantly cutting off people and belittling them. Under Kasdin we have been treated to spiraling traffic. We had our Lincoln Road fenced off for a private party. Collins Avenue infrastructure improvements have created a nightmare, thanks to poor planning. Kasdin sued one small-scale developer for defamation and got the other commissioners to agree to pay half his legal fees -- then backed down in the face of public outrage. He's continued supporting money-wasting redevelopment agencies. My neighbors and I had our own experience of Kasdin-style government when he saddled us for three years with a hazardous and inconvenient "no left turn" sign as a payoff to a handful of big contributors on North Bay Road.
Kasdin's visceral hatred of Commissioner David Dermer is understandable -- after all, Dermer is an honest-to-God reformer who has, among other things, pushed hard for tougher ethical codes in government. Dermer, possessed of the class that Kasdin lacks, has refused to respond in kind. Kasdin, so quick to sue for defamation, now accuses Dermer of a "criminal act." I'd love to see Dermer sue him for defamation, but David probably won't bother. Hey, guess what, New Times? The "gross corruption" on the mainland has already "leached" across the bay.
Of course no New Times article about politics would be complete without your favorite sport -- attacking political campaign strategist Armando Gutierrez. I work as a political campaign researcher and I've been working with Armando for almost twenty years. I have never ever had any cause for complaint in my dealings with him. Nor have I ever seen or heard of him "spreading false rumors of anti-Semitism and redbaiting," and I've sat in on plenty of strategy sessions with him.
By the way, if you were so impressed with Neisen Kasdin's angry denunciation of Dermer and his Save Miami Beach campaign, then why are you condemning Armando for having done consulting work for the other side? Interesting how you manage to turn a Kasdin rant into your own attack on David and Armando. If I were running for office and had the money, and there were a lot of Latin voters, believe me, I'd hire Armando too.
A fair analytical look at all the candidates in this year's Miami and Miami Beach elections would have served your readership far better than a collection of puff pieces and ugly rants.