Lincoln-Douglas It Wasn’t

Lincoln-Douglas It Wasn't
Filed under: News

Some words of advice to Mayor Carlos Alvarez and his supporters: Don't let state Sen. Gwen Margolis do any more debating for the strong mayor ballot proposal. On January 4, Margolis and county Commissioner Sally Heyman debated the potential increase in Alvarez's powers, including the hiring and firing of department heads. The Urban Environment League sponsored the two-hour debate, held at the American Legion building on NE 64th Street and Seventh Avenue. The two elected officials engaged in a tit for tat reminiscent of a schoolyard cutdown session.

Margolis spent most of her time bashing the county commission, a government body she chaired for eight years before returning to the warm confines of the legislature. "You go to the county commission chambers and you will see how they spin around and around," Margolis groused. "It is the most incredibly bad form of government I have ever seen....What is going on is disgraceful."

She even took a shot at her old nemesis, county Commissioner Natacha Seijas. "Fortunately I wasn't taken out in a body bag," Margolis said to a chorus of applause. "They tried, but I am delighted to be alive. It was not an easy experience."

Margolis is dead-on about the county commission, but it's difficult to take her seriously, considering she was once part of the problem, a fact noted by black community activist Leroy Jones during the audience participation segment of the debate. "All my times visiting the county commission I never heard Senator Margolis speak about [corruption]," Jones said. "As the chair, you had the power to say something, and you didn't."

Margolis responded in a huff. "Had we had an exposé by the Miami Herald at the time I was on the county commission, believe me, I would have spoken a lot," she grumbled.

That's when Heyman took the opportunity to pounce on Margolis's flub. "Well, the airport's problems were exposed," Heyman said. "Miriam Alonso was exposed. Pedro Reboredo was exposed."

Margolis clammed up and awaited the next audience question. — Francisco Alvarado

Pricey Rice
Filed under: Food

Translated from Italian, esco pazzo means "I'm going crazy." It's a state of mind that more than one diner might have experienced at South Beach eatery Escopazzo upon receiving his or her bill this past week.

Granted, the intimate, family-run restaurant dishes up fine Italian fare, and we all know you only get what you pay for. Patrons never seem to scoff at shelling out an average of $16 for an appetizer or $30 or so for a hearty and expertly cooked entrée.

So when a daily special of risotto laced with white truffles was rattled off without mention of price, one could only assume the appetizer's cost would be in the typical range.

Imagine the shock when the bill arrived and the rice dish you and your companion decided to share was a whopping $125!

Now who's crazy? — Joanne Green

Waning Wetlands
Filed under: News

The last remaining patch of untouched wetland greenery off Old Cutler Road measures 138 acres, sandwiched below SW 184th Street between the Deering Estate and a new housing development called Cutler Cay. A sign outside the gated community urges passing motorists to buy quickly: "Only 40 homes left!"

Cutler Cay recently made the pages of National Geographic, which presented a satellite photo of its culs-de-sac and fountains, built at the very edge of Biscayne National Park's fragile marine ecosystem. To develop the land, Shoma Homes paid a one-million-dollar fee for environmental mitigation — less than the price of one of its garish mansions.

Now the undeveloped land to its north is slated for a similar fate. But a band of local residents and environmentalists is arming itself for a standoff with Miami-Dade County's Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM). The agency says 30 acres of the site, classified as "low-quality wetlands," can be filled for development without damaging the environment. Community activists say DERM's approval is contradictory, because two years ago the agency cracked down on another developer, Trebloc Corp., for proceeding with construction on the same property.

When Edgardo Defortuna's Cutler Properties LC purchased the land for $2.2 million in 2003, only nine acres were zoned for building.

"They bought that land knowing that 90 acres of it are mangroves and completely undevelopable," says Eduardo M. Verona, a Cutler Bay resident protesting the development. He and other activists say Cutler Properties is using that 90 acres to bargain for building approval by promising to give the county back the remaining 60 acres.

The land "had traditionally been farmed," says Simon Ferre, a lawyer representing Cutler Properties. "We feel it's a reasonable use of the property."

DERM's "low-quality wetlands" designation isn't residents' only cause for concern. The land lies just south of Burger King's former corporate headquarters, the site of the highest storm surge — 16.9 feet — during Hurricane Andrew, according to the National Weather Service. Post-hurricane photos of the building show offices that look as if they had been dynamited.

Luis Espinoza, a spokesman for DERM, says via e-mail that the agency has received 362 anti-development e-mails from residents. Regardless, the issue will go before the Environmental Quality Control Board on Thursday, January 11, at a public hearing — bearing DERM's stamp of approval. — Emily Witt

Decadent Domain
The Miami-Dade County Commission is comprised of "venal fiefdoms." Feudal times may be tough for some to square with Miami's modern skyline. But anyone who has tried to breach the impregnable walls of county government knows that, indeed, we do live in feudal times.
Taken from "Miami Dade Politics," by gimleteye, at Eye on Miami (

More Riptide
What happened to the Jesus defense? New Times does battle with Miami Beach over a Christmas Eve parking ticket. READ IT HERE.

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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.
Joanne Green
Emily Witt
Contact: Emily Witt