Rules of Subtraction

The debut of The Bitch

Miami-Dade mayoral hopeful José Cancela says that as far as he's concerned, developer Lowell Dunn, Sr., is unforgiven after a February meeting ended with Dunn handing Cancela a fistful of dollars.

Cancela says Dunn, best known for never-ending legal battles over his plan to develop the environmentally sensitive Madden's Hammock, called him and set up a meeting on the morning of February 19. "He said he'd raised some money among his employees. We chatted for a while and I thanked him and left.

"I drove away and pulled into a gas station to see what we'd collected," adds the former executive at Telemundo, Univision, and Radio Unica, who leads the crowded field of mayoral candidates in fundraising with about one million dollars. Dunn's envelope contained three checks and three smaller envelopes. The smaller envelopes were stuffed with cash. Cancela estimates Dunn had given him as much as $5000 in illegal cash contributions. According to state law, cash campaign contributions must be $100 or less.

Tommy Pooch tests the strength of the bamboo in 
happier times at Nikki Beach
Steve Satterwhite
Tommy Pooch tests the strength of the bamboo in happier times at Nikki Beach

Cancela, envisioning a stillborn political career, raced back to Dunn's office and caught the developer as he was leaving: "I was like, 'This is fucking insane.' I said, 'Listen, Lowell, take your cash and take your checks and don't ever call me again.'" Dunn, unfazed, suggested Cancela at least hang onto the checks.

The brazen land baron hasn't tried again to contact Cancela (who did not keep the checks). "All I could think was, 'This motherfucker thinks I'm just another Hispanic on the take,'" Cancela says. "If I see that sonofabitch again I don't know what I'll do."

Joe Centorino, head of the public corruption unit at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, wouldn't comment on Cancela's accusation, except to say that his office "initiates investigations based on all kinds of information, including news stories." Dunn may have committed at least one misdemeanor. If the envelope contained $5000 or more in cash, that charge would be bumped up to a felony. (Dunn did not return calls for comment.)

Regardless, a little publicity couldn't hurt Cancela: According to a poll commissioned by Univision conducted by opinion tracker Rob Schroth, Cancela trailed the pack of major candidates with only four percent of the vote. And Dunn and his money are easily expendable to Cancela, who travels in circles of absolute power that don't include Dunn, wealthy as he may be.

Other Miami-Dade mayoral hopefuls are also up on true crime.

Buying a pint of Guinness at Hooligan's Pub & Oyster Bar in Kendall will likely result in a barkeep's request to support the statewide campaign to restore the voting rights of convicted felons.

Candidate and Hooligan's owner Jay Love has asked his employees to get bar patrons to sign petitions that support an amendment to the state constitution making it okay for those who escape from Alcatraz to pull the lever, er, touch the screen upon completing a bit behind bars.

Brad Nickel, Love's campaign manager, insists that Hooligan's servers aren't being leaned on to pass out the petitions, nor asked to don D.O.C. duds instead of aprons in a gesture of jailhouse solidarity. Nickel adds that Love's belief that voting rights reinstatement is an important issue in the black community -- not mayoral aspirations -- is what's behind the petition drive, which so far has earned about 100 signatures.

Miami attorney Parker Thomson chairs the Performing Arts Center Trust, a Miami-Dade County board of private citizens in charge of the musical white elephant under construction on Biscayne Boulevard.

Last year the trust hired Thomson's daughter, Margaret Daly, president of First Media Direct, to handle interim marketing duties on the trust's behalf. The trust also hired Thorp & Co., a Miami-based corporate public relations firm, to handle publicity and media relations on an interim basis. Daly, from time to time, has worked with Thorp & Co.

Six degrees of Parker Thomson?

Nonsense, huffs Michael Hardy, the trust's chief executive. Reached on his cell phone as he boarded a flight to New York City last week, Hardy explained that he, PAC Foundation executive director Nancy Herstand, and Gail Thompson, the center's project manager, sat down last October and narrowed a list of eight firms down to three: Thorp, RBB Public Relations, and Conroy Martinez Communications. "These are more corporate-type problems [facing us] as opposed to arts-related damage control," Hardy crackles. "And that is Thorp's strong suit."

Hardy added that Daly stopped working for the trust in December when the board hired Gail Eden as its permanent marketing director. Thorp's public relations contract ends in May and Luis Palomares, the trust's soon-to-be-permanent in-house flack, starts in April.

Earlier this month Miami Beach officials finally inked a new deal with Jack Penrod in which the restaurant entrepreneur will pay the city a larger percentage of the gross revenues from his outdoor entertainment venue Nikki Beach Club, which is located on city-owned oceanfront land at First Street and Ocean Drive.

The no-bid concessions agreement, which shrewdly avoids the need for a voter referendum approving a private lease for public land, calls for Penrod to pay the city 5.5 percent of his receipts from Nikki Beach, two percent above what Penrod currently pays the city to lease the two-story restaurant fronting Nikki Beach that makes up the Penrod's entertainment complex.

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