MORE

Current Events

Miami Police Chief John Timoney (second from right) tastes the Taser
Jonathan Postal

Indie film director Troy Duffy will someday overcome the creative blocks he has suffered in trying to make All Saints Day, the much-anticipated sequel to The Boondock Saints. Though only released in 1999, that film is already a classic in the underserved cinematic genre depicting Boston-based, Irish-Catholic-catechism spouting, arsenal-brandishing, law-giving dispensers of mortal justice. Perhaps Duffy can draw inspiration from Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who is notable for at least a few of those proclivities.

During a demonstration of police gadgetry for the press this past Friday, the city's top cop gamely agreed to guinea pig a high-voltage Taser -- on himself. Timoney locked arms with police spokesman Delrish Moss and Sgt. Angel Calzadilla and went for it. Police trainers attached probes to the trio's pants legs; then there was a sound like a giant fly being zapped into the afterlife. The three men jumped.

The Bitch (who assures readers that the following is in fact a fundamental statement in many Irish Catholic manifestoes) was disappointed when the chief did not hurl the same invective -- "You're bad! Fuck you!" -- at the Taser that he had at a protester corralled during November's free trade protests.

Instead the chief, who claims to have previously twice experienced the searing of the hand-held device, exclaimed, "Jesus! I forgot how much that sucked."

Fry will be done.

Mud Slide

Tomás Mestre has now truly earned his title as the king of dirt. Mestre is the politically connected (Alex Penelas fundraiser) waste hauler (lots of county contracts) who sued a Redland woman clean out of her house.

It started in 1997, when potential toxins cropped up in a Mestre-owned dirt dump in Ellen Perez's neighborhood. The dirt contained elements of arsenic and ammonia. County officials tested the area's underground wells to see if drinking water was contaminated. Perez read a county report and mistakenly interpreted it to mean that arsenic had intruded into her well; she said as much in the press. Mestre proceeded to SLAPP her down (that's Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Through his high-priced lawyers Mestre claimed Perez "intentionally made false statements" about his company, Ouster, to put it out of business. He didn't have a chance of winning. And he didn't. The case was tossed. But it took three years -- three very expensive years for Perez and family.

"As a result of the long struggle over the Ouster facility and the lawsuit filed against me in June of 2001, my family and I are faced with the necessity of selling our home and leaving the area," Perez wrote in a letter to friends and supporters. Perez had private lawyers for the first year of the lawsuit. When she couldn't afford them anymore Michael Pizzi took the case pro bono.

"I'm kind of proud of the work I did on that case," Pizzi says. "In the end we exposed the county, we exposed him, and we got the case dropped."

The Bitch couldn't reach Perez, who has been sick in addition to her other woes. But her letter, forwarded by friends, couldn't have put it more succinctly: "It certainly seems slightly ironic that I spoke out against the activities of the Ouster Corporation to protect my home, my family, and my health, and have lost so much of it in the process," she wrote.

Clothesed Off

By the end of the summer, Miami will have lost two hip urban shops, M-80 and Osiel Store. The Design District-based M-80, which was co-owned by fashion writer, nightlife promoter, and woman-about-town Anna Maria Diaz-Balart and professional stylist Maria Barraco, shut its doors in May. "After two years, I felt I had gotten a lot out of it, and it was time to move on to the next thing," explains Diaz-Balart over the phone from New York, where she is interning with tres cool rock label Frenchkiss Records (home to Les Savy Fav and the Detachment Kit).

Meanwhile Osiel "Ozzy" Rojas has been slowly packing up his inventory of clothes, IDM records, and vintage toys. When he's done, he plans to set up an online vinyl store at www.adivisionofyou.com. "We've had a great response," says Rojas, who opened last year on Washington Avenue with the help of a few private investors. "But now I'm looking forward to doing other ventures."

Though both Diaz-Balart and Rojas say their businesses were modestly profitable, neither was able to significantly expand its customer base beyond the handful of local devotees who were more interested in cutting-edge sounds and independent designers than celebrity-spotting, played-out corporate fashions, and bad hip-hop. So does the demise of these stores, not to mention the recent closing of Miranda, mean the Magic City isn't ready for the underground culture currently thriving in New York and other major metropolitan areas?

 

Diaz-Balart says no, and points to other Miami spots such as b-boy shop YoYo and the art gallery/boutique OBJEX Artspace as proof that there's life beyond South Beach tackiness. "I don't want to say that the Miami market doesn't support [small boutiques]," she says, "because I think other people should try."

Unsporting Conduct

You heard it here first: The bad blood between the Miami Heat's newly minted superstar, Shaquille O'Neal, and much-beloved former center Alonzo Mourning has the anatomy of a serious grudge that will only get uglier in the coming months.

Shaq just happened to blow into town during the week of Zo's Summer Groove, Mourning's three-day fair, one of the biggest charity events in all of South Florida, which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for Miami's needy children in just one weekend. Since a battle with kidney disease forced his retirement, Mourning has put his time and money cheerfully into the community.

For professional athletes and celebrities of all stripes who happen to be in town, it's almost obligatory to be seen -- and see the young fans -- at Zo's. But Shaq wasn't there. Make no mistake: This was a dis. O'Neal and Mourning have had a nasty public back-and-forth for years, instigated mostly by Shaq.

The mantle of most famous Heat player could have been turned over with grace and style, but O'Neal used the opportunity to hand Mourning a childish slight.

I Do Not Know You, Sir

Attorney Gabriel Martin is challenging his former boss Bennett Brummer in the election for Miami-Dade County Public Defender. Martin faced Brummer, who has held the job for 28 years, on July 17 at a forum sponsored by the Unrepresented People's Positive Action Council (UPPAC).

During the debate, Walter Harvey, president of the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association (formerly the Black Lawyers Association), asked Martin about his involvement in Miami's black legal community. Martin responded that he'd met with local leaders, among them the president of the Ferguson Bar Association. That came as a surprise to Harvey, who said he did not recall ever speaking with the candidate.

Martin explained: "I said that I had been talking with Kenneth Walton, the president of Wilkie D. Ferguson [Bar Association] through July 1. I wasn't embarrassed, I was surprised. They never indicated there was a new president."

Walton confirms speaking with Martin and adds he attended meetings and helped organize community events. But Bill Isley, UPPAC's president, said Martin's gaffe left the impression that the candidate was out of touch. "It didn't make him look good," Isley said.

Architorture

What good is a Frank Gehry-designed building if it is going to face an alley where two popular Lincoln Road restaurants dump trash?

Earlier this year the New World Symphony scored a coup when the performance company's representatives and the Miami Beach City Commission agreed to a deal allowing the symphony to build an estimated $40 million, 50,000-square-foot studio and concert hall on two city-owned surface parking lots on Washington Avenue and Seventeenth Street, just north of Lincoln Road. The ambitious project is being designed by Gehry, who created the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The symphony will pay the city a dollar a year in rent, in addition to covering the construction costs of the new building, a park, and a municipal garage for at least 320 cars.

New World Symphony supporters hoped Gehry's involvement would drown out complaints by Lincoln Road merchants over the impending loss of the surface lots, which can accommodate up to 505 vehicles in a city where off-street parking is a scarce commodity.

According to city manager Jorge Gonzalez, the symphony recently submitted a preliminary plan for the Washington Avenue site that blocks traffic on Drexel Avenue from Seventeenth Street to Lincoln Lane, a one-way street that doubles as dumpster alley for Lincoln Road tenants between Pennsylvania Avenue and Washington. The new building's configuration would put the concert hall's entrance adjacent to the dumpsters belonging to stalwart Yuca and Rosinella's, an Italian eatery.

The site plan apparently didn't sit well with Miami Beach real estate owner and former ambassador Paul Cejas, who owns the 420 Lincoln Rd. building. Cejas recently enlisted the high-powered services of Miami zoning lawyer Stanley B. Price and attorney Harold Rosen, a former Miami Beach mayor, to plead with city officials to reject the symphony's site plan. "He doesn't have a problem with the symphony," Price says, "but we want to find a way to balance their interests with our interests."

Cejas, whose wife sits on the symphony's board of directors, and his attorneys recently met with Gonzalez, who says he has convened a meeting between New World and the real estate owner's representatives to discuss alternate plans. "It's something we'll have to resolve," Gonzalez says. "But the symphony's preference is to close off Drexel."

 

Pigeons: The Sequel to the Sequel

The Bitch, after writing about distraught Miami Beach residents who called the cops on a mystery man seen caging up their beloved pigeons, has since heard from several alert readers who insist that pigeon-napping is part and parcel of life's rich pageant.

Most recently, Ofcr. Andy Kuncas of the Miami Beach Police Department called The Bitch to talk birds. "Last winter, after getting some complaints, I found a couple of guys who had about 50 or 60 pigeons boxed up in ... an old, beat-up Chevy Caprice," Kuncas says. "I wasn't really sure how to proceed. I wasn't sure how that would be criminal."

The confounded cop called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and was told that pigeons are fair game. "Apparently they're considered a nuisance animal," Kuncas explains.

Neither of the young men in the car spoke English, so Kuncas waited for a translator. "Turns out they were selling the pigeons for Santería rites. I don't know how much they were getting, maybe a couple of bucks apiece. It's not something that's going to make you rich."


Sponsor Content