Miami's most xenophobic, small-minded law may finally go down. The board of the American Civil Liberties Union recently voted to support the efforts of Debbie Ohanian, the Starfish owner and famous masochist who set up last year's riotous Los Van Van concert, in her effort to bring three Cuban bands to the American Airlines Arena. So far Ohanian has made only a verbal agreement with the arena to present Charanga Habanera, Paulito FG y Su Elite, and Issac Delgado. If staged, the event would violate a county ordinance that prohibits business dealings with Fidel Castro's Cuba. The ACLU is poised to take on the measure's legality, says John de Leon, local chapter president. "If Debbie goes forward with the concert at some point in the future, the ACLU has committed to supporting her in challenging any law that's stopping her. We're gonna do it this time."

Cliché watch:

The Miami Herald, February 22, page 1A: "The twin developments added bizarre new twists to the already tortured tale of the 6-year-old shipwreck survivor."

Same paper, same day, page 1B headline: "Elian family summit takes bizarre twist"

Same paper, same day, same story: "It was yet another bizarre twist in the case of Elian Gonzalez."

Speaking of the city's paper of record, Riptide applauds the pick of Robert Beatty, former top dog on Miami's oversight board, as a Herald vice president and general counsel. He's smart, competent, and has donated endless hours to good causes. But we have concerns. Even more than former Herald publisher, doormat Dave Lawrence, Beatty is snarled in the city's social fabric. He's been a leader in the chamber of commerce, the Orange Bowl Committee, and the Beacon Council. As a lawyer he has represented many of the town's biggest corporations, from SunTrust bank to BellSouth. Is this the kind of guy to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable? Beatty acknowledges he has "not a lot" of experience in libel and first amendment law. But he promises to read up and also to resign membership on the SunTrust board and a chamber committee. Other affiliations won't affect his judgment. "That's a nonissue," he says.

Isn't that our extremely well-paid ($181,789 per year) county bureaucrat out there selling the controversial Homestead airport to the public? That's right, Gary Dellapa, leader of the towering mess of Miami International Airport, has been making the rounds recently, speaking in favor of the political giveaway facility that would be located between two national parks. "As far as I am concerned, as your county aviation director, we need Homestead and we need it bad," he said at a recent business breakfast. "There is no other site. Homestead is it." Doesn't Dellapa have anything better to do?

Call it Silicon Square. Or maybe E-Boulevard. After losing $200,000 on the once-infamous dance club Timba at 29th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, which closed February 1, co-owner Steve Rhodes is now signing away the property to one of the nation's most extensive Latin music Internet sites, "The lease is consummated. It's a done deal," says Ivan Parron, chief financial officer of Ritmoteca, which employs about twenty people. The company will follow, a Spanish-language health site of about forty employees, which hung its shingle in the neighborhood last December, and, which runs a Website called Outonthenet, by the way, recently moved into the office building at NE 28th Street and Biscayne that houses New Times, which also has a pretty darn good Website.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse