Urban Oasis

Biscayne Park is a lovely little village with some big ugly problems

Involved enough that all three committee-backed candidates -- Ron Coyle, Ted Walker, and John Hornbuckle -- won seats on the village commission. The newly reconstituted body then voted in Walker as mayor. (Largely a ceremonial position, the mayor has no special powers. Biscayne Park operates without a city manager; each commissioner administers a different area of government.) A resounding triumph for the Homeowners Committee? Not exactly. Four short months after the election, many residents have done an about-face. Now there is talk in the Park about removing Walker and Hornbuckle from office. Their misdeed? They agreed to let Chief Gotlin, who tendered his resignation in January, stay on until a replacement is hired. And they've decided to investigate complaints against code-enforcement officer Ramos instead of summarily firing her. Walker calls it due process. Others call it betrayal.

"I worked vigorously to elect Ted Walker, and he said [replacing Gotlin] was his first priority," complains Homeowners Committee member Joann Parker (45 years). "Somehow, after he got elected, he wound up on the chief's side. I think he'll let the chief stay as long as the chief wants to stay."

Mayor Walker, who produces fireworks shows for a living, is like Biscayne Park's welcome sign -- funny in a homespun kind of way, but with an undercurrent of dead-serious protectiveness when it comes to the community. His Southern drawl, a product of his Old Miami roots, lends him a patina of folksy wisdom. "I had talked a little bit about building bus shelters for the kids who have to wait for school buses," he says by way of illustrating how politics works in the Park. "I thought it would be nice for them to have a little shelter to wait in, and also if people were taking walks during the day and it got too hot, maybe they could kind of sit down and rest in the shelters too. Well, word got out that the mayor wants to run all kinds of big, smoky Metro buses right through Biscayne Park. Now, I did say the word 'bus.' Anyway, that's how rumors get around. You might be able to figure out the truth if you could figure out the one word that's true in the rumor."

Jonathan Postal

Walker has become Gotlin's unlikely ally, and today lauds the police department. He says his view of the chief began to change as he got to know him better. Lately he's had to defend Gotlin against hearsay regarding a more recent incident involving Roy McDade. Last month village police arrested McDade and charged him with aggravated battery, two counts of resisting an officer with violence, and two counts of battery on a police officer -- all felonies. McDade refuses to discuss the pending case, but the rumor mill has the chief harassing him for his political opposition. Police records, though, support the chief's side of the story.

Summoned to McDade's house after his wife called 911, officers encountered a nasty scene. Both McDades were cut and bruised. They blamed each other. As police tried to question them, Roy angrily ordered them off his property before punching and shoving them, according to police reports.

Mayor Walker says there's no truth to the scuttlebutt that Gotlin sent his officers after McDade or anyone else. "Targeting of anybody is out of the question," Walker insists.

For his part, Gotlin says he offered his resignation in January in order to preempt what he assumed was the inevitable. The three new commissioners had vowed to fire him, so he decided he'd rather go out on his own terms. But now, with two of those three commissioners seeing things differently, Gotlin wishes he hadn't been so hasty. He'd like to stick around. "I've had opportunities to work in other places and I've never thought of anywhere other than Biscayne Park," he says. "It's my second home. I probably know half the residents by their first name. "

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