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
Celebrities did what they were supposed to do -- look remote and beautiful, and throngs of Miamians massed outside VMA ground zero as well as indoors in the several thousand hard-to-come-by seats did what they were supposed to do -- represented with matching his-and-hoochie wife beaters, got drunk, fell out from the heat and excitement, and clamored for autographs from Wim Wenders and Michael Jackson.
Having arrived -- as instructed by her Moonman-motifed ticket -- two hours early for the ceremony, The Bitch was already bored by the time it started, a state of canine mind alleviated briefly by the presence of Lil Jon and Ludacris. But what was really horrifying was the big chunk-o-crowd booing Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry, daughters of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Aside from the fact that a good portion of the booing beachbillies probably aren't even registered to vote -- how freaking rude! (By the way -- P. Diddy: What's up with your newly-adopted "Vote or Die" sloganeering? Are you going to track down and suffocate nonparticipating citizens with Sean John windbreakers?) It's not like Vanessa and Alexandra -- who, though clearly frightened, prevailed with dignity and clear, steady voices -- were up there playing crappy, archaic, guitar-based rawk, as was Jet, who wish they were the Hives.
Arsenic-Laden Dust in the Wind
"I live ten blocks north of the project and I have bird baths, which I rinse every morning, and every morning there is a layer of dust and dirt covering those bird baths. And the same thing has been happening to all of my neighbors since they started construction over there."
That's Luis Penelas, chairman for the Buena Vista East Historic Neighborhood Association (and mayoral brother), talking. "Over there" is the future site of Midtown Miami, the 56-acre condo-retail-tropolis that will rise on the former Buena Vista railyard, the pampas that lies just south of the now-dustier-than usual Design District. "Most of the dust is going directly west. Here it's all low-income housing and young families and whatever," he fumes.
Dust is an unpleasant inhalant, but even more so when it originates from an official brownfield, which most railyards present and past, including this one, tend to be. Arsenic (from pesticides used to keep vermin out of railcars) and lead (from diesel used to fuel train engines) are among the contaminants. So Penelas called pollution experts at the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM). They told him that before construction began the developers had indeed cleansed the brownfield enough to bring toxic chemicals in the soil to legal levels (unless perhaps someone wants to build a day-care center on the site). Hence the citizenry is not breathing arsenic-laden dust, they assured him (and The Bitch). However, DERM experts also told Penelas that the construction crews should have been using "dust suppression measures," also known as trucks with water tanks and big hoses.
As a result of Penelas's complaint, a DERM compliance officer visited the site and communicated the grievance to the construction manager. DERM officials are confident the water trucks will be used at Midtown Miami in the future. But Penelas remains miffed. "Why did it take a neighbor to complain for this to happen?" he huffs. "Are we going to have to keep an eye on everything?"
Well, yes. "Certainly we do not have enough inspectors to go around to every construction site in the county to monitor for fugitive dust," asserts DERM's assistant director Alyce Robertson. Especially not if the site is a brownfield infused with arsenic.
A Final VMA Aside
Rich people, long known for not cleaning up or doing the cooking in their own homes, have now become too lazy even to live in them. A party ostensibly given by former Calvin Klein model Tyson Beckford in honor of the terribly expensive Mercedes Maybach was actually thrown by a company called Villazo Villas. The agency organizes events at chi-chi addresses (the Thursday-night affair was at a waterfront palace on Palm Island), takes a cut, and then hands over a site-rental fee to the absent owners, who presumably are out of town while the caladium trampling is going on.
New Simmering Disaster: More People, Fewer Jobs
Bruce Nissen, director of research for Florida International University's Center for Labor Research and Studies, conducted a study, the findings of which were published in August, on how the Sunshine State is performing in creating new jobs for its burgeoning population.
Nissen's analysis examined recent short- and long-term job-creation figures, rates of unemployment, and the quality of new jobs (and of those disappearing). The report says the state is faring poorly on many economic fronts, and contains some seriously gloomy assessments, including the following:
"In the 40 months since March 2001, by July 2004 Florida had gained 263,500 jobs. This is a job growth rate of 3.7 percent. While this may sound impressive, it is in fact inadequate, because during the same period Florida's working-age population (ages 20-64) grew by 6.6 percent. To keep up with the growing population, jobs would have had to also grow by 6.6 percent, which would have meant 472,800 jobs, not 263,500. That translates into a shortfall of 209,300 jobs. ...On this measure: POOR PERFORMANCE."
The Sound Card Samples W's Compassionate Impression of Karla Faye Tucker
A University of Miami graduate has launched a board game (because most Republicans can't operate a computer) mocking non-conservatives.
The game, called Liberalopoly, is the brainchild of Thomas Williams, who also happens to be the grandson of Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell. "The objective of the game," says Williams, "is to show how Democrats, not just Republicans, are dependent and accountable to powerful special-interest groups and the liberal media outlets that apply their own bias to their coverage of social and political issues."
Williams sells the game and runs its parent company, Poligames, from his Coral Gables apartment. The Website is http://www.liberalopoly.com.
Bored with the CRA
South Miami City Commissioner Craig Sherar and some of his constituents are on a mission to kill the city's embattled and controversial community redevelopment agency. "The CRA is nothing more than a black hole," gripes local resident and vocal CRA critic Valerie Newman. "We need to get rid of it."
Created by the South Miami City Commission in 1997, the CRA is charged with revitalizing the area bounded by SW 62nd Street on the north, Sunset Drive on the south, 62nd Avenue on the west, and 57th Avenue on the east. Under an interlocal agreement adopted in 1999 by the CRA, the city, and Miami-Dade County, the CRA receives roughly 50 percent of the ad valorem taxes generated by the properties within the CRA's designated area -- tax money that would otherwise go to the city's general fund. The CRA also receives state tax incentives through the county's Office of Community and Economic Development. Although the CRA is independent of the city, the city commission serves as the CRA board of directors. The CRA has the power to take people's properties through eminent domain and to dole out grants to landowners and investors who want to redevelop properties within the CRA's area.
To date, the South Miami CRA has collected more than three million dollars in taxpayer money to fund its operations and the redevelopment of homes and businesses in blighted neighborhoods. But Sherar, Newman and other residents have long complained that the CRA has done little to revitalize the area, which includes the Shops at Sunset Place and other not-so-blighted commercial properties near and along Sunset Drive. For instance, the CRA has doled out roughly $53,000 to local homeowners for upgrades on the facades of their houses and other home improvements. Yet the CRA has spent more than a half million dollars on consultants. "When you do an analysis," Sherar notes, "you can see we are not getting anything in return."
Now the CRA is scrambling to extend the interlocal agreement, which expired last year, with the city and the county so it can continue to receive funding. "They were supposed to have a plan submitted to the county in January," says an exasperated Newman.
At the CRA's August 24 meeting, a visibly angry Sherar did his best to kill CRA director Joseph Gibson's request to pay a consultant $124,250 to help the agency develop a new plan that would extend the CRA for the another 25 years. Although Sherar's bid failed, he succeeded in cutting down the number of years from 25 to 10. Gibson did not return phone calls seeking comment.
So Wrong Soho
On a recent Friday night, Joseph NeSmith and his date headed down to SoHo Lounge for Revolver, the popular post-punk/power-pop showcase which has featured DJs from Carlos D. from Interpol to Miami's own Alex Caso.
NeSmith, 22, self-described starving artist and a stage manager at New Theater in Coral Gables, typically orders only a round or two of cocktails because that's about all he can afford. On this particular evening, he and a companion spent $27 which included a generous tip for the bartender.
But the pair, who share a bank account, got a nasty shock the next day when they discovered that SoHo had charged their bank card $100. This was a problem. "We are not rich people and $80 is enough to break us," complains NeSmith. "We couldn't buy food like we had planned on our Saturday afternoon. I couldn't even change the oil in my car."
So NeSmith trudged down to SoHo that evening to try to get the matter sorted out. He walked up to a bouncer at the door and told him he needed to speak to management about his bill. Standing nearby, listening, was a woman. She turned around and walked into the club without a word. "Well, that was the owner," the bouncer told NeSmith. "So, I guess she doesn't care."
NeSmith was adamant so the woman returned, whipped out a marker and had him write his number on a club flyer, saying she'd call. She didn't. NeSmith faxed the club a copy of his bank statement and the receipt, which oddly, bears the date of New Year's Day, 1980 (roughly two years before NeSmith was born). Nada.
So finally, NeSmith called his bank, which refunded the entire $100 because of the weird date on the receipt. But he's still pissed at the brush-off and wants other SoHo patrons to start checking their receipts. "They were hoping I was some rich kid with deep pockets who wouldn't notice," he says. "We used to go to Revolver every Friday. Now I have no desire to go back."
Jessica, who described herself as one of the owners of the club (and wouldn't give her last name -- based on the logic of "I don't do interviews," as she told The Bitch) said she believed the problem occurred as a result of holding an open tab for NeSmith on his debit card.
"He thought he was mischarged but he was not. What he mistook for a sale was actually an authorization to hold $100. With a debit card, the bank will release the hold anytime between three and ten days later. ... I'm making new rules at the club not to have open tabs because of this problem. It's not easy for the merchant either. It was an error on our part for not getting back to him right away," Jessica said.