The Bad Boys of Miami Beach

In mid-1995 publicist Ric Katz made a phone call to the offices of the SunPost, Miami Beach's flimsy free weekly. Although Katz often handles election campaigns on the Beach, he wasn't calling on behalf of a particular candidate. He was just checking in to see, you know, how much it would cost to have an article written about one of his clients.

Throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties, the top dog at the little paper was South African emigre Felix Stark. Under him, editorial space in the SunPost was, if not for sale, clearly "for lease," Katz says. But Felix Stark had died in January of that year. His son Andrew, 23 years old and fresh out of college, was now the publisher. Katz says he personally had never paid for play for his clients, political or otherwise, when Felix was around, but he decided to check the rates with the publisher's successor.

"I got into a bit of a row with the paper, because I said to Andrew, 'What's the price?'" Katz recalls. "Look, I liked Felix and I respected him, but that space was for rent. If it isn't now, then fine. And Andrew made it very clear they were not doing that any longer."

Katz's was not the only such call Andrew Stark fielded in his first few months at the helm of the SunPost. "Some of these political consultants came to me and said, 'What we need to do is -- '" Stark relates. "I actually told a few of them to, you know, go to hell, quote-unquote. I was like, 'What do you mean we?' 'Well, you know, me and your father were such good friends, blah blah blah.' You know, I didn't want any of that."

What Stark did want was to reinvent the paper in such a way as to shed its reputation as a journalistic pushover. His solution was to promote a platform of "in-your-face journalism," which means relentless, often provocative, coverage of Miami Beach politics, both in its news articles and opinion columns. Stark emphasizes that he is "a selling publisher," one who -- with the exception of participating in the endorsement of candidates -- leaves editorial decisions to his burgeoning staff.

The SunPost's role in last year's elections, both as chronicler and participant, proved a watershed, earning the paper equal parts respect and derision. Although the publication's agenda remains murky and the caliber of reporting and writing fluctuates, even its enemies acknowledge that it is far more than the fluffy community paper of years past. The SunPost, bless its rumor-mongering, sensationalistic little hide, has become something of a player.

Jeannette Stark, sole owner of the SunPost, lapses into quiet tears at the first mention of her late husband Felix. She's perhaps unusually vulnerable today; she's just come from a friend's funeral and is clad in a severe but tasteful black-and-white ensemble. When the tears come, she accessorizes with a pair of thick tortoiseshell Gucci sunglasses and gamely continues the interview. An occasional tear trickles out from under the frames.

Her husband was not just a "good friend" but "a true journalist," Jeannette says. When the conversation turns to politics, her sorrow becomes tinged with anger, especially when she talks about "the PRs" -- meaning the public relations consultants and political handlers who relentlessly schmoozed, cajoled, and bullyragged her husband.

"People like Gerald Schwartz and Ric Katz, all the mischief was made by those people," Stark says, her South African accent clipped and genteel. "Those PRs are still around, and they constantly make mischief. Dad could walk a tightrope after years of experience, and it wasn't that important to him, but he at least got on with all the PRs. Whereas Andrew, at the beginning, fought with all of them. Right, Andrew?"

Andrew, now 27 years old, looks up from his desk across the room and shrugs. Those are battles, he says, that he's already fought and won. He doesn't dwell on them.

The SunPost office itself is barren; the operation is in the process of relocating to another floor of the 1688 Meridian Ave. building, thanks to a major renovation the place's owner is undertaking. The current suite is a low-ceilinged labyrinth of small offices; the narrow hallways are choked with cardboard boxes filled with back issues and the bright orange SunPost street racks that have become a common sight throughout Miami Beach since Andrew took over.

During the Seventies, Felix Stark published a small daily paper and more than twenty weeklies throughout South Africa. As the anti-apartheid movement grew increasingly violent, Stark decided it was time to end his journalistic pursuits there. "He had two daughters and a son that he didn't want to grow up in the situation that he felt was coming," Andrew says.

In 1979 the Stark clan -- Felix, Jeannette, daughters Kim and Anslie, and Andrew -- emigrated to Key Biscayne. Still interested in the publishing biz, Felix bought the Sun Reporter, a Miami Beach biweekly of the bake-sales-and-bar-mitzvahs stripe. In 1985 he rechristened his publication the SunPost.

The editorial format? Party pictures up the wazoo (compiled by Jeannette), feel-good community news, a bit of straightforward reportage, and during election season, political stories. Sometimes campaign handlers themselves wrote these pieces, using the pages of the SunPost to laud their candidates or bash the opponents.

Long-time Beachers like to bemoan the early Eighties as the era of drugs, guns, and Marielitos. Stark's SunPost suffered, as did most Beach businesses. But Jeannette insists that her husband helped cure the city's ills -- by ignoring them. "We let the paper drift a bit so we could get out of the mess Miami Beach had gotten into," she explains, adjusting her sunglasses. "We stopped reporting all the crime -- all the headlines that destroy us. We needed to let the city grow a little bit. And revival came because he did that, you know."

Others don't ascribe quite as much influence to the SunPost's laissez faire editorial strategy. "At that time the SunPost truly was a handout, and I say that in the most derogatory fashion," says former mayor Seymour Gelber, referring to his first mayoral campaign in 1991. "They were allowing the PR guys who represent the candidates to write the stories, then putting another name on the stories. It was simple: The one who made the most contribution in ads got the space."

Andrew Stark bristles at suggestions his father was anything less than ethical. "The picture that's painted of sort of this power-brokering guy, it's complete B.S.," he insists. "He cared about his family, he needed to make this company run, and that's all he cared about. He didn't ask for political favors or anything."

At the time of his father's death in January 1995, Andrew had just earned a bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas ("On the four-and-a-half-year plan," he jokes) and was considering law school. But at his mother's urging, he took over publishing duties. Shortly afterward his sister Anslie came on as editor. (Kim had run another Miami Beach weekly, the short-lived clubs-and-models tabloid PostMortem, in the early Nineties.) Sensing that the ad-buying community would support a substantive weekly paper, Stark immediately set about trying to legitimize the SunPost's news coverage.

An important step in that process, he says, was hiring someone with a strong journalism background as editor. Anslie was interested in pursuing her academic career in psychology anyway, so everybody in the SunPost family was pleased when, in 1996, Andrew hired new editor Michael Sasser, who had previously worked for the South Florida Newspaper Network, publisher of several weekly papers in the Boca Raton/Delray Beach area. Shortly thereafter political junkie and freelance writer A.C. Weinstein became a regular contributor. Intern Erik Bojnansky became a full-time reporter.

The SunPost began courting a younger, hipper readership with house ads touting the paper's "in-your-face journalism," which featured a leering, distorted mug reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's "Here's Johnny" moment in The Shining. Stark originally crafted that image out of necessity. "We had to have a banner for the Miami Beach Festival of the Arts," Sasser explains. But the catch phrase, which continues to appear in the paper's house ads, came to fit the SunPost's new mindset. "It's about not kowtowing to people, not always following conventional analyses, taking a little harder look," Sasser relates. "I don't want to say it's about being confrontational, but it's certainly scratching beneath the surface, and not being afraid to ask the questions that make people uncomfortable."

Sasser wrought numerous cosmetic changes -- spiffing up typefaces and names of sections -- but it was the reportage and opinion columns, he says, that made the Miami Beach power structure start to squirm. Bojnansky's news stories (as many as five or six per issue), Sasser's "Murmurs" columns (rumors and ruminations about city commission and board meetings), Weinstein's commentaries, and at least one unbylined editorial per issue all hammered on the personalities and issues swirling around Miami Beach City Hall.

This new strategy has been good for business. After once breaking 40 pages during the election season, the SunPost is now running issues in the low to mid-30s. Stark won't get specific about how much better things are now than in the years before his father died. He does say, though, that the paper is thicker, and that he has successfully raised advertising rates several times in his three years at the helm.

Stark also insists that the paper is getting in the face of an ever increasing number of readers. He estimates circulation (mostly distributed through those orange boxes, though the paper also is being tossed in some 2000 residential driveways) at 25,000. You'll have to take his word for it, as that figure is unaudited. Most of last year the SunPost printed in its staff box the logo of the well-known company Verified Audit Circulation, along with the notation "audit pending." Logistical problems precluded an audit last year, Stark says; the paper has since stopped running the logo.

Now with a staff of fourteen (six on the editorial side), the paper is in the process of goosing its entertainment section (called "Hype" and edited by nightclub columnist Lesley Abravanel) to be as snappy and sassy as its political watchdoggery. The only section, in fact, that has remained immune to change is Jeannette Stark's photo-heavy "Society" section.

A.C. Weinstein sits in a low lawn chair with his back to the wind. As he does every Thursday, the day after deadline at the SunPost, he's smoking GPC menthol 100s in Lummus Park and minding his favorite tree.

The tree is a twisted, stunted thing. The main trunk seems to have snapped off years ago; the one forearm-thick branch that remains parallels the ground for six feet or so before ending in a bristle of palmlike fronds. Weinstein isn't sure what kind of tree it is, but he's determined to keep a vigil over it, just in case those Miami Beach Parks and Recreation workers get any funny ideas about cutting it down.

On this brisk, breezy Thursday, the rail-thin columnist is kicking back in a red plaid flannel shirt, blue sweat pants, and a Florida Panthers cap. He shows two slender gaps in his smile, which is both nicotine-stained and cynical. His dentist yanked a couple of teeth earlier, finishing the job a stray elbow began a couple of days earlier during a pick-up basketball game at Flamingo Park.

Many a Beach politician and handler would love to find the guy who thwacked Weinstein and buy him dinner. Of all the practitioners of the SunPost's brand of muckraking journalism, Weinstein is the most consistently mucky. His stridency is relatively new to Miami Beach; he moved to town in 1991 from Key West, where he'd already built a reputation as a full-time hell raiser and dilettante journalist.

"Are you going into all this background? I'm controversial everywhere," Weinstein relates, his thick Boston accent hurrying the words along. Behind him, two men snuggle on the lawn. Across the street, tourists snap photos of the Versace mansion. "When I was in Key West, I took on the chamber of commerce and the tourist development council. I've always taken, I think, the good-government approach. I've never been on the other side -- not yet." The columnist chuckles. "Tempting sometimes, but not yet."

Weinstein clearly revels in his role as rabble-rouser and man of mystery: He will volunteer neither his age ("around 40") nor his full first name. He gestures over his shoulder in the direction of the hulking Loews convention hotel -- a favorite target of his columns -- and waxes populist.

"It's a philosophical thing," he stresses. "Why give 50 or 60 million dollars to one billionaire developer? If the city's saying we have to give that money to development, I'd much rather see it spread around to 30 or 40 smaller, Art Deco hotels, to people who have been here for many years and have suffered through the hard times."

Weinstein's philosophy is not that of the paper. To make that point clear, Stark added a disclaimer at the bottom of Weinstein's column during last year's mayoral and commission elections, stating that the opinions therein were "strictly" those of the writer. Sasser says he doesn't have a problem with the disclaimer, which he describes as a concession to hypersensitive Beach politicians who don't understand that opinion columnists should have the freedom to write what they want.

Weinstein doesn't mind either. He gets paid (though he won't say how much). He gets to pick on the fat cats and champion the little guy. He has no complaints.

Nor does his boss. "I happen to think he's the best political columnist in town," Sasser says. "He's critical, not based on personalities but based on the issues. I don't think he is as rooted in dogma as, say, Carl Hiaasen. A.C.'s not very dogmatic -- or maybe he is, but he doesn't fall into any clean, neat category. As a result, he can critically examine issues from the perspective of garnering the public's trust."

Publisher Stark says Weinstein adds an important voice to the paper. "I do not particularly always agree with A.C.'s point of view -- at all," Stark stresses. "And that's why the disclaimer's so strong underneath the column. But A.C. represents certain points of view in the community, and I think that most of the time he's pretty accurate in what he writes."

Weinstein sits quietly on the windswept grass, waiting for the local anesthetic to wear off, and watches a couple of leashed bull terriers pull their owner along the sidewalk.

"Are those pit bulls?" he asks.
No, they're not.
"Nah, I think those are pit bulls," he decides.

Weinstein says he felt an immediate backlash for the position he and the paper took on last year's Save Miami Beach referendum, which called for amending the city charter to require a public vote any time the city wanted to increase waterfront zoning density.

The SunPost -- Weinstein in particular -- was vociferous in support of the referendum. Opposition to this stance was equally charged. "I got some death threats, interesting ones," Weinstein avers. "I got lots of hangups on my home phone. All that just got me more excited, more inspired."

What really stuck in his craw was the negative, misleading nature of the $1.8 million campaign against the amendment. "That became personal with me, more than any issue I can recall," he says. "I was offended by the scare tactics. I literally called it a cesspool, a sludge campaign."

The referendum has defined the political climate that prevails in Miami Beach. And from the beginning of the 6000-signature petition drive in late 1996 through the special election itself in June 1997, the SunPost was right there with Save Miami Beach chairman David Dermer and his cohorts, getting in the face of commissioners, the city attorney, and the Thomas Kramer-financed political action committee that opposed the referendum. The issue dominated the paper's news stories and columns, with workhorse Bojnansky writing numerous play-by-play pieces on heated exchanges between Dermer, city commissioners, the city attorney, and anti-referendum campaigner Ed Resnick. Weinstein launched his jeremiads against the misleading ads the "No" side was running. In "Murmurs" Sasser mercilessly slammed City Attorney Murray Dubbin and then-Commissioner David Pearlson for their opposition.

Sasser, a florid, girthsome 28-year-old, saw the issue as a simple one: granting the people of Miami Beach the right to vote. "Every politician and every civic institution lined up to support the developer," Sasser recalls. "Then they sat quiet while the developer told its lies in advertising. Eventually the Miami Herald -- naturally also on the developer's side -- even they said, 'Look, these ads are out of control.'"

The Herald's twice-weekly Neighbors section was the only other publication keeping regular tabs on Beach politics. And while the Herald's Rick Jervis was fair, accurate, and thorough in his coverage of both the referendum and the later commission elections, he and his colleagues couldn't come close to matching the sheer partisan exuberance of the little local paper.

The respected Columbia Journalism Review seemed to prefer the SunPost's approach, at least where the referendum was concerned. In its September/October issue, the magazine tossed the paper one of its coveted "Laurels" for its continual criticism of the Portofino Agreement and its coverage of the referendum campaign that killed that pact between the city and reviled German developer Thomas Kramer. The SunPost was making an impression.

The SunPost's reporting on the general election was as exhaustive as its referendum coverage. The paper held off its endorsements until quite late in the game, but throughout the summer and autumn of last year, nearly every page (apart from the society and nightclub sections) screamed "Vote!" If not in an opinion column, then in a news story or an advertisement.

Even before the endorsements came out, Sasser and company did evince their preferences. Weinstein once called the Save Miami Beach slate the "Dream Team." He also berated incumbent Commissioner Nancy Liebman (opposed by Save Miami Beach endorsee Warren Stamm) for supporting the controversial "three strikes and you're out" proposal for dealing with businesses that violate city codes. (Liebman stresses that "three strikes" wasn't her idea.)

The SunPost eventually endorsed David Pearlson over Neisen Kasdin for mayor, along with a list of commission candidates that mirrored those favored by the Save Miami Beach group: Dermer, Spencer Eig, Warren Stamm, and Simon Cruz. Only Dermer and Cruz made it to the dais. The SunPost's backing of Pearlson, an unabashed supporter of development and a vocal opponent of the Save Miami Beach referendum, was a source of considerable friction within the so-called reform movement (the support also reflected internal inconsistency: Stark describes himself as "basically pro-development," yet his paper fawningly championed the anti-development Save Miami Beach group.)

The deciding factor in the SunPost endorsement of Pearlson over Kasdin, Sasser says, stemmed in part from a story the paper broke about Kasdin this past October. Erik Bojnansky's cover story related how, in the course of a Federal Election Commission investigation into developer Thomas Kramer's illegal campaign contributions, Kramer told the feds he had given $500 to Kasdin's 1993 campaign fund for the city commission, and had given an additional unspecified amount to Kasdin through an unnamed intermediary. (Although the FEC found that Kasdin had violated federal law in accepting money from a foreign contributor, the commission stated in a 1996 letter to Kasdin that it would take no action.)

The publication of such a story in the midst of an election, Sasser says, put him in a "pressure cooker for about two weeks. I knew I was not going to be happy with the way this would be spun by many people."

Meaning the SunPost, which endorsed Pearlson shortly after that story ran, was out to torpedo Kasdin?

"Right. I think as long as you can convince people that the SunPost is out to get him, then no matter what we say -- even if it's the truth -- it can always be spun into some personal thing."

Sasser says the problem isn't his paper's coverage but its reception. Beach politicians, he maintains, are not accustomed to being criticized for their screwups. The Herald has given Beach politics short shrift for so long that local pols have become far too thin-skinned for the kinds of shots his paper dishes out, he says. "These are people who are used to a very small-town mentality of 'either you're with us or you must be destroyed.'"

In the posh dining room of the Eden Roc Hotel on October 16, 1997, Neisen Kasdin kept his composure. It was the "Great Mayoral Debate," sponsored by the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, Cablevision Communications, and the SunPost. The six candidates were sitting at a table answering questions from moderator Michael Putney of WPLG-TV (Channel 10), and mayoral hopeful Michael Burke had just held aloft that week's issue of the sponsoring newspaper -- the one with the story about Kramer's contributions to Kasdin.

Before responding to Putney's next question, Kasdin offered a terse response to Burke's brandishing of the paper. "I'd just like to say that the serious mud has started to fly," he said with a grimace.

Later that day Kasdin was still seething. "Now you're seeing the big, dirty campaigning," he grumbled. "And they're using their usual vehicle, the SunPost."

On the list of local politicians who think the SunPost must be destroyed, Mayor Neisen Kasdin is very likely at the top. That debate incident is a classic example of the paper's ability to get under his skin. At the same time, Kasdin's lingering animosity is a testament to the paper's influence.

Although Kasdin soundly thrashed Pearlson in their November runoff, he took umbrage at the fact that the issue featuring Bojnansky's expose of the Kramer contributions received widespread home delivery. But it wasn't the SunPost that did the delivering.

"I guess people who were happy with the [Kramer money] story paid for reprints," Stark explains. "The paper was delivered to them, and they did the home-throws. They wanted 4000, so I printed 4000 copies. I delivered it to them, and they took care of it."

Both Stark and Sasser say the story and its distribution by Pearlson operatives created enough appearance of bias to make those next few weeks extremely uncomfortable, thanks to pressure from the Kasdin camp. Both Sasser and Stark recall irate phone calls from Kasdin's people, though neither will discuss those conversations in detail. Stark emphasizes that he would have done the same for any customer willing to pay for the extra press run. Sasser stands by the story itself.

Kasdin's enmity for the SunPost, in fact, goes back several years. He says he almost included the paper in the libel suit he filed against developer Mickey Biss in 1995 over comments Biss made in the SunPost. (That suit was dismissed in 1996.)

He scoffs at the notion that Andrew Stark's approach has brought respectability to the paper. "The only thing different today than five years ago is that they don't accept planted stories from political consultants," Kasdin mutters. "But you have to ask yourself: Are they, through their own staff, doing essentially the same thing? Are their columnists, particularly A.C., not just acting as flacks for some political PR people and interests? At best, they are very selective in their self-appointed role as watchdog."

Kasdin points to a Bojnansky-penned front-page story from this past September. The piece describes how Arthur Schultz, who holds the city contract for valet parking at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts, accused a Kasdin campaign employee of shaking him down for a $5000 contribution. Schultz made this statement at a city commission meeting. Nowhere in Bojnansky's story does Schultz or anyone else offer any proof of the allegation. The story does detail how Schultz and his "spokesman," George DePontis, visited the SunPost offices before the meeting to give the paper the "exclusive." The story does not mention that DePontis also is a political consultant who at the time had among his clients David Dermer and Spencer Eig, members of the Save Miami Beach/reform slate with which Kasdin was out of favor.

Curiously, none of these complaints has stopped Kasdin from throwing his ad dollars the paper's way. His campaign spent some $5900 on ads in the SunPost last year. Pearlson gave the paper $6500, a sum that included the extra press run. (He became a candidate much later than Kasdin.)

Nancy Liebman, who overwhelmingly defeated SunPost darling Warren Stamm, no longer has any patience with the paper, which she dubs "that thing on newsprint." (A thing, it is worth noting, she helped subsidize to the tune of $1325 for campaign ads.)

"It's negative, it's goading, it's cynical, it is not a newspaper that gives you any factual information," she asserts. "I think they fancy themselves a political force in the community, and maybe they are for a little group of people. But I don't think the wider community here has much respect for a lot of the things they do."

Sasser's "Murmurs" column is perhaps the paper's most controversial element. Usually written from the point of view of a fictional device called "the cynical old man," the bulk of "Murmurs" runs as short paragraphs under the subheadline "City Hell" and is rife with rumor and innuendo. Consider this gem from early in the election season: "The rumor mill also is saying that one or possibly more candidates for commission seats have started to crack under the pressure of running, and is stepping on people's toes. This and it's only April." In the same column, the paper refers to itself in the third person: "The SunPost is rumored to be investigating."

Weinstein too can be guilty of amateurish prose and truly impenetrable insiderness. His recent two-part stab at satirical fiction, "Columbo," was so crammed with the names of politicos and oblique references to their alleged misdeeds as to be unreadable.

"They seem to be writing in code," muses former mayor Gelber. "It's like they're writing for six people who are insiders, and who are going to chuckle like wild when they read it. When I was in office, I had a pretty fair idea what they were talking about. Now that I'm out of office, and it hasn't been that long, it's all Greek."

Whatever language the SunPost uses, the members of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club speak it fluently. About three years ago this informal gathering of gadflies began meeting at 8:30 a.m. every Tuesday to gripe about code enforcement, lack of adequate policing, and community redevelopment block grants. The political leanings of the Breakfast Club parallel those of the bad boys of Beach journalism.

Where does the Breakfast Club end and the SunPost begin? "They're like one blob, and you can't separate them," groans Nancy Liebman. "And those are the same people who come to the city commission meetings and think they're running the city because they're the loudest."

Critics point to the Breakfast Club as the primary wellspring for the SunPost's story ideas. At the very least, the club is the choir to which the newspaper preaches.

On this particular Tuesday morning at Puerto Sagua restaurant, the menu includes huevos revueltos, grits, cafe con leche, and Miami Beach Development Corporation (MBDC) president Denis Russ. The dozen or so men and one woman seated at the rear corner table of the Cuban eatery are core members of the club, which regularly hosts public officials for breakfast. Several of the group's more rabid members are slavering at the prospect of taking a bite out of the beefy, bearded Russ.

Russ's MBDC, a nonprofit that distributes federal money to disadvantaged areas of Miami Beach, has long been a favorite snack for this crowd, as well as for the SunPost. The club and the SunPost, for example, hated the city's short-lived special taxing districts, which MBDC championed.

A.C. Weinstein, who says he tries to make it to these breakfasts at least once a month, isn't here today. Too bad: He once called Russ "Denis the Menace" in a column. But Russ is by no means safe.

Indeed, the natives look especially restless. Hotel owner David Kelsey is sullen and cheerless in his short-sleeve olive-drab shirt. Gray-suited developer/attorney Kent Harrison Robbins is coiled in his chair. Bea Kalstein, the venerable "Queen Bea" whose tremulous yet piercing voice haunts city commission meetings, munches her French fries.

Russ begins his presentation, but club secretary and former mayoral candidate Michael Burke immediately asks him to move from the end of the long table to the middle. "We can all get a better shot at you there," he jokes. Only he isn't joking. Russ moves, and the shots follow.

When Russ makes the mistake of mentioning the negative coverage his group has received from the SunPost, the paper's amen corner springs into action. "I don't think this is the right forum for you to bash the SunPost," warns the bulldoglike Kelsey. "We're not a negative group; we're not here to roast you, or Neisen Kasdin, or New Times, which has a pretty checkered past if you really want to get right down to it." The wiry, tightly wound Robbins takes a turn, lambasting an MBDC-funded low-income housing project that cost $137,000 per unit to rehabilitate -- about which a story recently ran in the SunPost.

For the next hour Russ takes his lumps from a group that doesn't seem to approve of public money being spent for anything.

Burke, who helped found the unofficial club, boasts that of the 22 people who ran for office in Miami Beach last year (himself included), 8 were members of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club. Two of those members, David Dermer and Simon Cruz, are now on the city commission. And as for the local paper? "I think their coverage has been brilliant," he says. "A.C. and Sasser and Erik have really covered the commission like a blanket. I don't always agree with their positions, certainly, but the depth and accuracy of their coverage has been excellent."

Robbins, who advertised extensively in the SunPost last year to bash any candidate Save Miami Beach didn't like, allows that the Breakfast Club and the SunPost are often of similar minds about what's important on the Beach. (In addition to buying ads deriding politicians, Robbins also fights city hall by suing it -- mostly over a 22-story condo he wants to build on Collins Avenue at 76th Street.)

"I will say this: Without the SunPost, there would be no reform movement as it is today," he asserts. "I think people who question the legitimacy of the SunPost are attacking it for bringing to light the bad deals the city has gotten into. Though [the paper] has been a little rough sometimes, I've never seen it be unfair. It's the responsible newspaper this community absolutely needs.

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