Mayor Machiavelli: From 2-shot distance, Alex Penelas seemed pretty lame in the Nov. 13 runoff elections in Miami Beach & the City of Miami. He endorsed both Elaine Bloom and Maurice Ferré. Further evidence that P is still laboring under the Elian curse from when he declared war on the whole federal government? Or from up close, at least as far as Ferré is concerned, there may be this: Penelas's most loyal operatives -- Brian May, Al Lorenzo, Dewey Knight III, and Bill Perry -- all backed Manny Diaz, the winner. A "sign," as Niccolo used to say? Ferré himself doesn't think so. "He worked hard and was helpful to me," Ferré told Riptide. Penelas raised between $200,000 and $300,000 in campaign funds that would otherwise have been inaccessible to the old pol. Now that's a smooth hedge.
"Screw the bastards," quoth the glamorous Crystal Schuh, an engineer at Channel 10's news HQ at 3900 Biscayne, after an anthrax scare caused production and camera talent alike to have to strip, shower, and don weird Tyvek moonsuits, like astronauts, for most of the day, Nov. 15. Crystal was deep in the feed room of the first-floor studio facility when Carla Ambrico, a secretary, opened a letter addressed to the station's nightly feature "Wall of Heroes,'' which honors local kids called up for duty since Sept. 11. Carla noticed a "plume" of white powder emanating from the envelope, and immediately the fire department, HAZMAT, and the FBI arrived to check things out. "Mostly it was a pain in the ass," Crystal told Riptide. The note was three-ring-binder stuff, windy, "some nerdy kid who doesn't like U.S. bombing policy, doesn't think we should honor anyone involved -- a goofy twerp, tryin' to bug a television station." He (they) succeeded, though Channel 10 staffers switched operations to their Broward studios and got the news out with only the tiniest glitch. "The powder tested negative for anthrax on Saturday, but none of us was sweating it too much," Crystal laughed. "And they didn't give us Cipro or anything...."
Repo man: John Svadbik of J. Palm Auto Sales and J. Auto Finance Corp. at 13480 SW 248th St., in South Miami-Dade, gives used-car salesmen a bad name. As documented by New Times's "Buyer Beware" on 4/22/99, Svadbik has been known to resell lemons he'd previously declared to be junk, repossess other cars illegally, forge customers' signatures, and charge very steep interest -- the kind the Sopranos get in North Jersey. His fave targets are poor folks, the uneducated, and those who don't speak English. Backing him up have been his father Anton Svadbik, a great humanitarian, and his little sister Julie, his "business partners." But on Halloween the Miami-Dade Police Department's Economic Crimes Bureau caught all three in some particularly egregious alleged scamming, charging them with nine counts of title fraud and six counts of unlawful repossession each. As the technical owner of the businesses, Julie also got hit with notary fraud and misusing temporary tags. Svadbik, a self-professed Christian who once ran for state office, lives in a three-bedroom home on the lake in the Kendall Hammocks subdivision with his second, bucksome, Ecuadorian wife. Those familiar with his M.O. say they wouldn't be surprised if he split for South America and left his family holding the court-appearance tickets -- but of course that's only unattributed rumor. "It would be nothing for him," speculates the mother of one of his former employees, who ratted him out to the cops. "This guy is a peach."
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Slicker than thou: When Miami voter Kelly Smith confronted then-runoff candidate for mayor (now mayor) Manny Diaz at the Taurus recently on his record as a proponent of rad Cuban-American positions on Elian and asked him how he proposed to unite the community now, Manny mentioned that he'd merely supported the Gonzalez family's right to a court hearing. With such smoothness can the governorship remain Anglo for long?
Hialeah Gardens straw man?: In July 2000, 26-year-old Yioset De La Cruz was elected mayor of Hialeah Gardens (after long-time mayor Gilda Oliveros was convicted of plotting to kill her ex-husband). Then began an exodus of old-timers -- at least seven veteran city employees have quit or been fired. Four of them are seeking redress in state court for alleged age discrimination, and another, code-enforcement director Orlando Diez, last month filed a nineteen-count federal lawsuit against the city of Hialeah Gardens, De La Cruz, and two other members of his administration. Diez alleges, among other things, that the mayor and his men violated his constitutional rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection.In a way the personnel upheaval is all part of the time-honored process of political spoils-taking, but a lot of people believe the real victor -- the man who allegedly now pulls most of the strings in Hialeah Gardens -- lives in Hialeah, their big neighbor to the east. Hialeah's powerful nine-term mayor, Raul Martinez, and his wife, Angela, campaigned for De La Cruz (a former assistant to the mayor). The Martinezes' daughter Aida is an assistant Hialeah Gardens city attorney. Most of the people replacing the fired workers have close ties to Martinez, and most of the booted employees are either avowed enemies of Martinez, or were loyal to those enemies. Diez, who worked for the city of Hialeah in the Eighties, claims Martinez has hated him since then, has threatened to "destroy" him, and finally got the chance when his fair-haired boy De La Cruz took power. "Raul's guiding [Hialeah Gardens]," agrees Julio Martinez (no relation to Raul), one of the four age-discrimination plaintiffs. "You can go there and ask anyone...."Cherchez la femme?: Stranger things have happened, but Manny Diaz's winning campaign to be mayor of Miami was supported by two bitter political enemies -- the Diaz de la Portilla dynasty and Carlos Lacasa and his pals. Rumors have it that a woman, Ana Alliegro, Alex Diaz de la Portilla's former girlfriend, is at the heart of it. "I heard Lacasa didn't want to help Maurice Ferré because I was [working with him]," says Alliegro. And Alex Diaz de la Portilla and his boys worked against Ferré because of bad blood with Ana, who they believe stole their election playbook. Also, Lacasa was mad at her because she'd nearly beaten him in an election several years ago ... Make much sense? No, but what does, down here in the land of sun and fun ...?