Axing the Property Tax

Take Us to the Bridge
Filed Under: News
Following revelations by New Times that a parking lot under the State Road 836 bridge was being used by probation officers as a dumping ground for homeless sex offenders — and that the lot was located within 2500 feet of eight schools, in violation of a county ordinance — two men were moved from under the bridge and placed ... under another bridge. Their new home is under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Surrounded by water, palm trees, and endless traffic, they now, presumably, reside a legal distance from schools.

The third sex offender who had been living in the parking lot, Patrick Wiese, was re-arrested on March 3 for being listed incorrectly in the Florida sex offenders registry as living at his victim's address. Wiese is currently incarcerated; a hearing has been set for March 23.

Florida Department of Corrections officers who ordered the men to live in the parking lot won't face punitive actions, DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said in an e-mail. "We are one piece of the puzzle," Plessinger wrote. "The issue of how Miami-Dade, Florida, and this country deal with sex offenders is one that must be addressed not only by the DOC, but by lawmakers, the court system, and the community as a whole."

This isn't the first time homeless offenders have been ordered under this causeway. At least one additional sex offender is registered as living there. Plessinger did not answer questions as to whether the DOC has any better plan for future offenders who leave prison without a residence. But there's always the MacArthur Causeway. — Isaiah Thompson

Axing the Property Tax
Filed Under: News
Florida's Republican legislators are chipping away at ad valorem taxes. House speaker Marco Rubio's plan would do away with property taxes entirely, replacing lost revenues with a 2.5 percent increase in the state sales tax. With that in mind New Times took a gander at how much some of Miami's elite builders forked over last year. These political insiders stand to save a bundle if the proposal passes.

Real estate developer Armando Codina, a former business partner of Gov. Jeb Bush, resides with his wife in a five-bedroom palace in Cocoplum. They bought the waterfront mansion for $1.2 million in 1995. They paid $77,927 in property taxes in 2006.

Codina's neighbor and rival Masoud Shojaee coughed up $116,649 in property taxes last year for his own Cocoplum castle. Seven years ago, Shojaee purchased the two-story, seven-bedroom villa for $1.5 million.

Alan Potamkin, a high-profile developer from Coral Gables, paid a whopping $348,102 in property taxes in 2006. Potamkin's kingly homestead has a current market value of $21 million, more than ten times what the auto/real estate magnate purchased the four-bedroom property for in 1987.

South Florida Super Bowl XLI host committee chairman, Rodney Barreto, laid out $37,672 in taxes for the two-acre, four-bedroom Pinecrest ranch he and his wife acquired in 2005 for $2.3 million.

Lobbyist-turned-builder Chris Korge forked over $28,072 to cover 2006 taxes on his 53,000-square-foot abode. Equipped with seven sleeping quarters and eight lavatories, Korge bought the two-story estate for $1.3 million in 1996.

Not everyone has ponied up. Disgraced Miami businessman Raul Masvidal still owes $33,639 for his four-bedroom residence on Old Cutler Road that he bought in 2001 for $1.8 million. — Francisco Alvarado

Fab Foodies
Filed Under: Food
The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival has announced its 2008 honorees: internationally renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and the buoyant British chef Jamie Oliver. The former will be feted at the festival's tribute dinner on February 23, 2008. Oliver will receive the Wine and Food Fest's outstanding achievement award at its tribute brunch.

Vongerichten's innovative interpretation of classic French cuisine at the Lafayette in the Drake Swissotel earned him four stars from the New York Times at age 29. He followed this up with the charming and equally acclaimed Bistro Jo Jo, and then opened Vong, whose Thai-inspired French cuisine was touted by the Times as "explosively flavorful."

Oliver's rise to the top was far more serendipitous. A documentary about the highly regarded River Cafe in London was filmed while Oliver was working there. When the show aired on national television, Oliver's charming personality caught the attention of producers, and he was soon hosting his own cooking show, The Naked Chef, preparing the simple, largely Italian-inspired meals with which he has since become synonymous.

He has also become well-known for his charitable work. In 2002 he founded Fifteen, a restaurant in London staffed by disadvantaged young people who have been trained by Oliver's Fifteen Foundation. Fifteen restaurants have since sprung up in Cornwall, Amsterdam, and Melbourne. In 2004 he launched his "Feed Me Better" campaign, aimed at improving the poor quality of school meals in the U.K., which led to the British Government pledging the equivalent of almost $1 billion to improving school meals.

Great choices, both. And only 50 weeks to go! — Lee Klein

WTF? Leather and Race
Craving a Daytona 500 moment? Don't wanna drive five hours to get your fix? Look no further than the intersection of U.S. 1 and 104th Avenue. Every Thursday night the fabric of the universe tears open, yielding an interdimensional portal that dumps hundreds of dudes and their motorcycles into the parking lot of the local Fuddruckers. Fake tits and black leather abound. This otherworldly band usually hangs around until midnight, gawking at custom bikes, eating red meat, drinking domestic beer, and occasionally racing. A local resident complained about the noise created by the bikers' mufflers. "They all get together for racing," gripes a nearby homeowner, who would only give his name as "Dave." "They peel out of there up on one wheel and all kinds of crazy stuff." On a recent visit, however, the gathering was so peaceful, the three off-duty Florida Highway Patrol officers working security spent over an hour indoors, munching on burgers. — Calvin Godfrey

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.
Calvin Godfrey
Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein
Isaiah Thompson