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Orca Frustration

Mike Gorman

Seaquarium nemesis Russ Rector is at it again. In October 2003 the founder of the Dolphin Freedom Foundation hired a public safety expert to check out the aquatic attraction. The ensuing report, along with videotape of the Seaquarium, became the basis for federal and city inspectors to cite 137 violations requiring $500,000 in repairs.

Now Rector has filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture alleging that one of the Seaquarium's star attractions, 40-year-old orca Lolita, is being mistreated. The marine mammal advocate can list any number of reasons why Lolita deserves better, but for now he's focusing on her teeth. More to the point, her former teeth. "This animal is missing teeth and has ground some of her other teeth down to the gum," Rector says. "She's gnawing on her enclosure, which is much too small."

Rector argues that the orca's tank is small, even by zoo industry standards. "Regulatory agencies have something called öminimum horizontal dimensions' for tanks, and the guideline for that is that the tank should be long enough to accommodate two body lengths of an adult male of the species," says the always-emphatic Rector. "Lolita's been penned up in a 35-foot-long tank when it should be a minimum of 48 feet. This is a frustrated animal, and it's further proof that the animals are being neglected as much as the facility."

As of this past week, Seaquarium officials were preparing for Hurricane Frances and did not return calls for comment.

School for Scandal

Real estate lawyer Manny Alonso-Poch's Academy of Arts and Minds, the most controversial charter high school in the history of Coconut Grove's Commodore Plaza, has already received an F for attendance from several disgruntled parents. Even though Arts and Minds bills itself as a ninth through twelfth grade institution, attendance for grades ten, eleven, and twelve since the first day of school has been zero. That's because Alonso-Poch and his administrative crew canceled those grades, on account of low enrollment. Not surprising, for a guy who bought a derelict cargo ship in 1998 and left it illegally docked next to Bicentennial Park for over a year, while city inspectors looked the other way, as The Bitch reminded readers in May. Alonso-Poch, who owns the building that houses his new "school," also tried (unsuccessfully) to push a $25 million hotel and parking garage project into a lot beside the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse.

Alice Billman jumped for joy last spring when she heard about Arts and Minds. Her daughter, an honor roll student and talented dancer, had been accepted for tenth grade at Michael M. Krop Senior High, an excellent magnet school in Aventura. Krop was way overpopulated (designed for 2500 students, currently enrolls 3900), but far preferable to tenth grade at F-rated and over-krowded Miami Senior High. Then Arts and Minds appeared out of nowhere, and Billman dreamed of "guaranteed" small class sizes, like a little New World School of the Arts. "It had this amazing brochure," she recalls. She registered her daughter via e-mail this past April.

Unfortunately for Alice Billman's peace of mind, Alonso-Poch, Inc. and his sponsors at Charter Schools USA, a nonprofit outfit that helps run eighteen schools in South Florida, didn't notify her about the cancellations until eleven days before the first day of school. That left her with two choices: Try to get her daughter back into Krop or send the student to Miami Senior High. Administrators for Miami-Dade Public Schools and Charter Schools USA eventually told Billman her only option was Miami Senior. Her daughter is now at Allison Academy, a private school. "Which I can't afford. Which I have totally on my credit card," Billman grouses. "Here we are going to a private school when my child is entitled public school and because of this whole process I'm out 850 bucks a month that I don't have." One lesson: Beware of real estate lawyers who open county-sanctioned schools in Coconut Grove shopping centers. And read The Bitch regularly.

Ill-Conceived Marketing Concept of the Month

A couple of years ago, before The Bitch even existed, a few ur-bitches became angered when one of the statements Mattel's Talking Barbie made was: "Math is hard." That model was eventually yanked in favor of a Marie Curie doll, complete with removable chunks of hair.

Now, black box retailer BestBuy is trying out a new dopey chica chic in a Miami test market. Called the Geek Squad, the on-call service provides technicians who make house calls for malfunctioning computers. Apparently, it's the ladies who will have the most use for someone with the hand-eye coordination to simultaneously hit the control, alt, and escape keys. Here's a sample from a press release describing the ideal BestBuy/Geek Squad client:

"Moms in Miami have found yet another way to ödo it all.' They can clean up the toddler's mess, pack up the kid's lunch, finish their Pilates class, and delete that nasty Sasser worm from the family computer--all before noon. How? They called the Geek Squad. Moms are learning that certain things should just be left to the experts. Computer support is one of them. Moms have so many other things to do in a day's time, why bother with Sasser and Korgo too?"

Why bother with college or birth control, either?

Der Furor

A ferocious hurricane bears down on an impoverished city which is governed by a greedy, violent corporate dynasty -- this is the eerily prescient premise of a new work of fiction by Miami author Robert Edward Fahey. Titled Der Furor, the book's plot also involves a fraudulent election abetted by rigged, flawed voting machines, the destruction of the environment, and the U.S. invasion of an oil-rich country.

But Fahey didn't set out to pen a depressing or visionary work. "It forced its way through me as I was trying to write a gentle, apolitical romance," he says. The book is on the Llumina Press imprint, www.llumina.com.

Another Sexual Equality Pioneer

Bob Rich, owner of Bob Rich Video in North Miami, was miffed when the New Times failed to take note of his store in this past spring's "Best of Miami" issue. The independent retailer was singled out by neither the staff of this newspaper nor our readers for any awards or recognition. Rich was further aggravated when he noted that The Bitch, an avowed and verbose cinephile, has thus far snubbed the selection at the Rich emporium.

To correct this injustice, Rich tried persuasive tactics. First, he sent The Bitch a five-page handwritten letter extolling the virtues of his shop. "We have had customers come from as far away as Palm Beach," notes Rich. "Our adult section is bigger and better than the adults-only stores because they have space problems. We don't buy copulation-only films," Rich sniffs, adding, "Many Dade County schools use us."

Um, The Bitch thinks she'll stick with her Atom Egoyan DVD collection, but she appreciates having a complete listing of Rich Video's stock -- which she does, owing to the fact that Mr. Proprietor sent her the 592-page inventory, contained in a dot-matrix printed five-pound ream of paper.

Showing the Poor the Door

South Miami's Gardens public-housing apartment complex -- the city's only one -- is often cited as the cornerstone of the Community Redevelopment Agency's plans to revitalize the poor and blighted neighborhood with the agency's purview.

Yet a majority of the 58 families who live in the Gardens complex are circulating a petition objecting to the CRA's redevelopment plan. The tenants allege that agency officials are trying to force them out of their homes so that the new South Miami Gardens can be marketed to wealthy buyers. The tenement presently occupies a square block at SW 68th Street and SW 58th Place.

According to the CRA's preliminary study, the redeveloped South Miami Gardens would set aside fewer than one-third of the units for low-income tenants. Currently, all occupants receive rent assistance from the Miami-Dade Housing Agency, which owns the complex. According to the petition, the tenants "are not in favor of this or any future plan that requires relocation."

Reyna Sevilla, a 36-year-old single mother who pays $300 in rent for a two-bedroom/one-bathroom apartment, says the residents are scared they will be forced to relocate despite their objections. "There are a lot of people who want us to move out," Sevilla says. "But South Miami Gardens is close to my son's school and my job. I don't want to leave."

Community Redevelopment Agency officials could not be reached for comment.

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"VERBATIM"

"In these 39 schools, almost as skillfully as a surgeon would be able to go after a bad part of a diseased body, we are now going to have to go after the thing that makes them vulnerable to a world that will hurt them. And here's the part where their inability to read is their Achilles heel. If they cannot read, if they cannot comprehend, if they cannot read with understanding and write legibly, the world will eat their lunch."

Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Rudy Crew at Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church, August 29, 2004, referring to his plan to help illiterate students in F-rated schools in Liberty City and elsewhere.

- Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Rudy Crew


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