An ambitious and costly plan to put two museums in Bicentennial Park came under attack this week when the Urban Environment League demanded dramatic changes to the proposal and an influential art collector voiced his complete opposition to the development idea. The Miami Art Museum, the Miami Museum of Science, and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida want to build new homes in the downtown Miami park, but of course don't have enough money. So they're turning to county taxpayers for help -- a lot of help. On November 2, if voters approve bond issue number 8, the museums stand to reap $275 million.
The UEL, which advocates for public parks and smart city planning, objects not to the money but to the amount of land the museums want to grab -- a total of 16 acres from the 29-acre park on Biscayne Bay. UEL president Nancy Liebman says sixteen acres is "totally unacceptable." She and her board of directors believe four acres is more appropriate, and they plan on delivering that message to county manager George Burgess at a meeting this Friday.
The $275 million ($100 million for the art museum, $175 for a combined science and history center) is roughly half the money that would be generated by bond number 8, the remainder to be spread among various other cultural and preservation projects. Bond number 8, in turn, is but a fraction of the "Building Better Communities" $2.9 billion bond program on the November ballot.
"We support all the bond issues, and we're not opposing museums in Bicentennial Park," Liebman explains, "but we want to make it a better plan." The UEL wants Burgess to persuade the museums and their influential boards of directors to compromise. As Liebman puts it: "To get them in line to understand reality."
Reality would mean much smaller buildings, sculpture and botanical gardens that would be integrated into a redesigned park, and guarantees that any future expansion take place outside park boundaries. And if the museums reject UEL's demands? A harsher reality: Active campaigning to oppose the bond issue, a prospect Liebman finds troubling: "I would be heartbroken to oppose $10 million in preservation projects, some of which are in Miami Beach," where Liebman fought for historic preservation as a city commissioner.
Developer Martin "Marty" Margulies -- whose huge personal collection of valuable objets and canvasses fills a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style warehouse -- wholeheartedly opposes bond number 8 and expects to spend some of his considerable fortune telling the world why. "The language on the ballot is deceptive," he says. "It doesn't mention museums or a park. It's just öcultural facilities' and öHead Start,' and what they'll be giving to Head Start is minuscule compared to the $275 million they're trying to extort from the public." (The precise language: "To construct and improve libraries, cultural facilities, and Head Start learning centers for pre-school children....")
Margulies is particularly annoyed at the thought of the art museum snagging $100 million. "This is a museum with no collection," he fumes, "and they want to build 150,000 square feet? Why? I don't know what they intend to do with all that space, unless they want to have social functions like Parrot Jungle, which is now just a banquet room with parrots. "
As for his own intentions, Margulies reports that his people are developing advertisements he hopes will torpedo number 8. Efforts at compromise, he says, are pointless: "After all this lobbying and public brainwashing, I don't see the museums modifying their stance. Negotiations are not going to be at all productive."
After suffering a Dave Eggers-less September issue, The Bitch ripped the October edition of Spin from the mailbox to be sure her favorite column had been rightfully reinstated. It had, and not only that, the magazine's monthly comic, "Real Life Rock Tales," stars hip-hop hero Lil' Jon and takes a swipe at inexplicably popular Miami Beach "resto-bar" B.E.D.
"Lil' Jon takes revenge on a snooty Miami club," crows the strip, illustrated by Cameron Stewart and reported by Ultragrrrl Sarah Lewitinn. The ever-cheerful LJ, who has a house on the Beach and is in town all the time, apparently had to cool his heels (along with pal Fat Joe) behind the velvet rope while nonentities bum rushed the door. Once inside B.E.D., though, Lil' John housed the mic and demanded tequila shots for everyone -- on the house.
This is B.E.D.'s second smackdown in the national press in the past few weeks. On the opening of the Manhattan B.E.D., the September 13 edition of New York magazine showcased owner Dirk van Stockum stuffily declaring: "This is a fine dining establishment." Meanwhile, restaurateur (Ono in the Hotel Gansevoort) Jeffrey Chodorow spoke sneeringly of South Beach B.E.D.'s less-than-freshly-changed linens. "I don't want to lie down on someone's lamb chop grease," said Chodorow, who left without eating.
The third annual Miami Spice "restaurant month" (actually August through September), a marketing partnership between the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and American Express, has proven to be a popular program. And why not? It does, after all, allow diners to enjoy a three-course lunch for $20, or dinner for $30, at restaurants whose prices at other times may be somewhat prohibitive. Those paying attention to the fine print in Miami Spice's promotional ads might note an ambiguous declaration: "Restaurant participation varies." In the case of Azul, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this means that the program is enthusiastically promoted, but only for lunch. Acqua, in the Four Seasons, offers the deal for both meal periods, and posts notices informing diners that they are participants, but doesn't hand out the special menu out unless it is requested. Americana, in the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, interprets the term "participation" in particularly loose manner -- no promo is displayed, and servers maintain a strict "don't ask, don't tell" policy. In other words, if you don't know beforehand that Americana is in on Miami Spice, you'll likely never find out. Considering this is the first year participants had to pony up fees to join the Miami Spice program, why wouldn't the Ritz want to let patrons know about it? The Bitch put the question to Courtney Recht, the R-C's assistant manager of public relations, who responded: "Corporate standards don't allow us to put up any promotional material." Recht added that the Americana would "definitely" be Miami Spicing again next year. Well, you didn't ask, but The Bitch tells anyway.
For a man who inspires such serene devotion in his followers, the Dalai Lama managed to incite the wrath of many Miamians during his visit to South Florida this past week. When His Holiness chose to leave his plush accommodations at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, his intimidating parade of security blocked traffic, quickly managing to work up major snafus on Brickell Key.
Even the DL might have found his inner peace greatly challenged had he been attending his own appearance at University of Miami Convocation Center. Juanita Mazzarella, a teacher of the peaceful art of Reiki hands-on healing, gladly surrendered her ticket to the sold-out event after four hours of frustration. "Wouldn't it be nice to enter a big event like this and have to take off your shoes, enter into silence, and see beautifully lit white candles guiding your way to the stage?" Mazzarella wondered.
Instead peacenik patrons first found themselves subject to unclear parking directions, then airport-like security methods which involved a thorough bag search, X-ray machines, scanning devices, and a detection-wand wavedown by an host of zealous guards. The sweaty atmosphere inside the venue seemed more akin to a sporting event, complete with an hour-long ladies' room line and vendors selling insanely overpriced bottles of water and every kind of Dalai Lama trinket imaginable. The Bitch doubts this simple, ascetic man would approve of the T-shirts, keychains, books, and posters plastered with his beaming likeness. What should have been an experience of mellow enlightenment turned into something closer to the excruciating irritation of watching Eddie Murphy's abominable 1986 Tibetan torment The Golden Child.
Alexandra Wensley, director of communications at the Mandarin Oriental, sweetly but firmly informed The Bitch that she couldn't possibly be persuaded to comment further on details of the Dalai Lama's visit, but assured that he had a wonderful stay. She did let slip that a few members of the staff were even allowed to meet with him. Whether that was under a work-related, room-service circumstance remains unknown.
To those responsible for the disorganization behind this significant event, all The Bitch can say is: Namaste (I honor the divinity in you, which is also in me).
Miami City Hall has been abuzz with aspirants to the dais ever since September 22, when Gov. Jeb Bush looked up from hurricane and big-brother duty long enough to suspend Miami City Commissioner Art Teele, who was charged with assault in connection with an incident three weeks earlier in which he allegedly tried to run a police officer off the road. The volatile rascal himself has been keeping a low profile, allowing a network of pastors and activists from his district to build demand for a special election, in which he, as well as any number of District 5 residents, could run.
Many prefer this election to its alternative, having an appointee selected by the remaining commissioners fill Teele's seat. What right, they argue, do an Anglo and three Cubans have to pick their representative for them? On the other hand, given the somewhat specious case against Teele (unless the long-rumored corruption probe finally gets off the blocks), it is entirely possible he could be back in office by the end of the year. Who would want to go through a campaign, only to lose the seat in a couple of months? Commissioner Angel Gonzalez's chief of staff, Frank Castañeda, said Monday that his boss was leaning toward an appointment for that reason.
But as of press time, who that appointed person might be was still an open question. Gonzalez wanted to defer the decision until he'd had time to meet with candidates Wednesday morning. Commissioner Joe Sanchez said he wanted a woman to take the job. "You live in District 5?" he joked to New Times as a way of not revealing his choice, which will probably be Jacqui Colyer. Colyer is a workforce development consultant and long-time community activist who unsuccessfully ran for a state seat in 2000 and 2002.
At a community forum in Hadley Park on Monday evening, Colyer was handing out purple flyers urging people to call the commission and ask for her appointment. The number she listed on the flyer was for Tomás Regalado's office. Regalado, who rumor had it was going to nominate former commission appointee Richard Dunn, said Colyer came to his office and told him she was "on the short list."
"I said, 'What list?'" Regalado recounts, professing ignorance. "I think the mayor is trying to guide this process."
Mayor Manny Diaz, perhaps too busy guiding the process, didn't return phone messages. Meanwhile, staff for Johnny Winton's office, as well as certain city staffers at the behest of manager Joe Arriola, met with several interested candidates in the past week, a range of up-and-comers, never-heard-ofs, and usual suspects. The general sense gleaned from these staffers is that Winton, and maybe Diaz and Co., were trying to identify new blood, someone fairly young and not from the old guard of black Miami politics.
But perhaps another motive was simply trying to derail or at least stall the relentless campaigning of Bishop Victor T. Curry. Curry, of New Birth Baptist Church and its radio station WMBM-AM (1490), is the aspirant with the most star power. He should be able to quell the outcry from those advocating a special election. But his considerable influence could also come back to bite commissioners if Curry brings too much of his activist mentality to the seat. Radio and pulpit are powerful tools.
Curry really wants the seat. He wasted no time bringing his ability to rally 'round an issue to the service of his favorite cause. He met with or called commissioners and the mayor, although Diaz doesn't get a vote. His supporters organized a rally at Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday afternoon, which involved handing out T-shirts and arranging transportation for supporters to flood city hall Tuesday evening, when commissioners were to discuss filling the vacant seat.
County commission chairwoman Barbara Carey-Shuler said she recommended to Diaz that the commission have a special election because an appointee will have a hard time convincing the community he or she isn't just a lackey. A number of candidates have asked her to put in a good word for them, but she's staying out of it for now. "I think Victor's a fine person," she says when asked about him. "I could work with him."
Albena Sumner, the president of the Allapattah Homeowners Association, expresses a sentiment echoed by many, especially those who support Teele: The current jockeying by would-be politicians only plays into the hands of the people running the city, who want to keep the black community's money for themselves. "It just sticks in my craw," she says. "Even the so-called black leaders don't live in the community. They raise the money and they come for the votes. The people prostituting themselves to be appointed? What is their background as far as Overtown, Allapattah, Liberty City? They are playing politics as usual."--Rebecca Wakefield