Not for Sale ... Exactly

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And even given Shapiro's late start in fundraising, his railing against "Kasdin's political machine" and its money rings a bit hollow. There is in fact a significant "Anyone but Kasdin" machine, and it's cranking up to swell Shapiro's coffers. Among those backing Shapiro: developer R. Donahue "Don" Peebles, a former Kasdin supporter who has declared he will raise money for Shapiro this time around. He began to do so weeks before the commission voted for a zoning change that would favorably hike the building density for one of Peebles's properties. Shapiro voted for it, despite his rabid anti-development rhetoric. That he would do so on behalf of a major campaign donor suggests he's more willing to play politics as usual than his ads would like you to believe.

At 60th Street on Miami Beach, Collins Avenue divides in a Y-shaped intersection, into two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes. The triangular sliver of land in the crotch of that Y, and the empty parcels to the north of it, have been the crux of an ongoing battle between the City of Miami Beach and a private developer. That developer, Royal World Metropolitan, Inc., first filed an application to build a condominium tower called the Mirabella on the land in 1995. The site is still empty, and the fight this year moved to circuit court, where the developer alleges the city has tried to illegally restrict or eliminate its property rights.

Martin Shapiro's opposition to the Mirabella project is consistent with the anti-development stance he has assumed in the mid- and late Nineties, most notably through his lone "no" vote on the 1995 Portofino Agreement with Thomas Kramer. His battle against the Mirabella in particular has endeared him to many in the Middle and North Beach areas, especially those in the existing condos that adjoin the site. Many believe, quite reasonably, that a big condo in that location would worsen an already congested traffic situation -- and spoil a lot of nice views.

The president of the influential Council of Condominiums, Henry Kay (the veritable Generalissimo of the Condo Commandos), is convinced that Shapiro represents the interests of his troops in the 1999 election. "I can tell you without any hesitation that we are outraged, and have been for the past two years, with the response we got from Mayor Kasdin," Kay says. "He promised us the world [in his 1997 mayoral campaign], and he gave us a garbage can. Any condo owner voting for Kasdin is shooting himself in the foot."

As for Kasdin's opponent, Kay declares, "Martin Shapiro has been our standard bearer. He is our hero." He's also been the lawyer for the Maison Grande, the condo in which Kay lives, which stands directly across the street to the east of the Mirabella site.

In several instances Shapiro's legal work has brought him perilously close to conflicts of interest. He has served as the attorney of record for the Maison Grande Condominium Association in at least five cases, which are listed as mortgage foreclosures in the county records. Shapiro says they were more like collections than foreclosures. "Let's say a person was behind on their maintenance fees. The condo association would ask me to go to court to try to collect them," he explains.

The first such case lasted from December 1996 to January 1997. The next four came in 1998, the first running from May to June, the next three all beginning on the last day of July. The longest of these lasted until October 1998. According to the state's ethics laws, these stretches of time essentially were blackout periods, during which Shapiro should not have voted on any matter that could have had any conceivable benefit to his private client.

Shapiro does not often abstain from votes because of a possible conflict of interest, unlike his opponent, who also is an attorney with clients in the city he governs. In 1999 Shapiro has done so only twice, filing what the city calls a "Form 8B Memorandum of Voting Conflict" on two March 17 agenda items. Both pertained to a land-use change for the Ocean Parcel, a vacant plot of land in South Pointe. Kasdin, on the other hand, files such forms regularly. In 1997 his mayoral opponent, David Pearlson, made a campaign issue of the fact that, after he came on the commission in 1991, Kasdin begged off some 43 votes, mostly because he represented a client who would be affected by the vote. In the two years since his election as mayor, Kasdin has filed 22 conflict-of-interest forms.

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Ted B. Kissell
Contact: Ted B. Kissell