Yo Quiero In!
Filed under: Politics
In his upstart race against two-term District 1 incumbent Angel Gonzalez, Mike Suarez is definitely the underdog. He's got less money, fewer connections, and — judging from a stroll through the heart of Allapattah — a far smaller quantity of signage than his opponent. Gonzalez's smiling, stately (if somewhat vampiric) face dominates the neighborhood's restaurants, shops, and vacant lots.
Still, Suarez has at least one key constituency behind him that Gonzalez is unlikely to claim: bail bondsmen. At least two bondsmen's offices near the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building in Allapattah are sporting Suarez campaign signs; not one is for Gonzalez. It's not difficult to guess why; Suarez is himself a bondsman. He posts bond for recent arrestees — at Ace Bonding on 14th Street, in front of which a Suarez sign has been staked into the ground. A competitor, Dade County Bail Bonds, is also plugging the candidate: A campaign sign is posted proudly in the driveway, right in front of the company's "Bail Bus," which bears a painted cartoon of a jailed Chihuahua holding a sign that reads "Yo Quiero Out!"
Even the bondsmen who have chosen not to advertise Suarez's campaign favor him. "Oh yeah, I like him," says Martha Lopez, the owner of Lady Bond Bail Bonds. Christian Castillo of Castillo Bail Bonds also opted against hosting signs, but says Suarez is indeed his profession's candidate of choice. "Yeah, a lot of bondsmen have stickers," he says. "You know, he used to work here for a while. He's a good guy — I think he'd be good. You ever heard of Bounty Girls Miami? Now that's a story you should do." — Isaiah Thompson
Baby Mama Drama
Filed under: News
Terence Pinder symbolizes all that is crooked and wrong in the city of Opa-locka. His story thus far: A slick, charismatic populist with an affinity for ladies, P.F. Chang's, and Baptist melodrama, the former city commissioner was arrested last November and charged with, among other things, hiring a dead man and wooing women at cheesy restaurants on his city credit card. He bonded out but in December was suspended from his post.
Last week a Florida Elections Commission report detailed "probable cause that [Pinder] committed 16 counts" of election fraud. The details are as juicy as Pinder's sad history as a public official.
During his two-year career with Opa-locka, Pinder hid campaign kickbacks by claiming to be a part-time employee for Ted Lucas at Slip-N-Slide records. Or so said his ex-girlfriend and baby mama, Ginger Williams, who flipped on Pinder after she discovered all those illicit Red Lobster dinners hadn't been just for her. She turned state's evidence against him a year ago this month.
Through his attorney, Ben Kuehne, Pinder has denied the charges all along — it's all just baby mama drama trumped up into hasty charges. Pinder has repented, working at a Liberty City church and promising folks around town he'll be back behind the dais in no time — ready to lift the city out of poverty and destitution.
The commission report found questionable campaign accounting practices, illegal 11th-hour campaign contributions — in many cases from phantom donors — and numerous petty cash withdrawals "paid to hire workers."
An investigator found that Pinder had handed $700 to Opa-locka Police Ofcr. Cheryl Cason on election day "to pass around to poll workers." Pinder denied giving Cason the cash. "When asked," the report says, "[Pinder] stated that his campaign was not well organized."
Furthermore a $550 expenditure made out to Earl Bethel (a dead junkie) was clarified by Pinder as a mistake. That money was distributed, he said, to random, unnamed "people from the streets" who helped take down campaign signs after his victory. And a $1300 check made out to "campaigne" was cashed by Pinder's girlfriend's sister, Lakeisha London, on October 25, 2004. (He claims the check was stolen while he went to the bathroom. She says he handed it to her — blank.)
Pinder has a little less than a month to contest the election commission's charges, which are civil in nature. The State Attorney's Office is conducting its own probe into alleged criminal conduct, according to the head of the Public Corruption Unit, Joe Centorino. Pinder can dispute the material facts, or not. Either way, Riptide thanks him for the show. It will only get better from here. — Calvin Godfrey
Filed under: Culture
Scott Manning peels off headphones and steps out from behind the DJ stand, where he's been spinning jam band beats in The Standard hotel lobby in Miami Beach. In a plush white bathrobe and flip-flops, he dings chimes around 9:45 Thursday night.
Manning, who describes himself as "37 going on 18," bursts into wild giggles and waits for the socially aware set, most ranging from their twenties to forties, to coalesce on the couches and rocking chairs in a circle.
He is one of three organizers of the nascent Thursday-night "conscious networking" party, designed for people to hang at the spa and then meet in their robes for the 9:00 circle "just to be real for one night." One of their goals is to find respite from the "fake" Miami nightlife scene.
When the events promoter came to Miami Beach, he asked a friend, Larry Shafer, where people who want to make the world a bit better meet. Shafer, a 35-year-old real estate investor and South Beach resident, didn't have a solid answer ("Miami is very boob- and beer-focused," says Shafer, also in a spa robe and slippers Thursday). So the duo and others organized the party, where they show free artsy movies and documentaries in a corner of the hotel's trendy bar. In its fifth or sixth week, the event drew about 60 people last Thursday; 30 joined the circle.
They want to bring Miami into the social awareness ranks of cities such as New York and San Francisco.
Juan del Hierro, a sacred ministry director at Unity on the Bay, offers to speak about the 2008 elections and eco-spirituality at a future meeting. "The last thing I wanted to do was join another thing I want to be passionate about," says the 28-year-old, wearing a maroon polo and shined tan shoes. "The other reason I'm here is to meet a crunchy gay man," he laughs, explaining: "I've had two martinis." Fittingly, martinis served that night were made with organic vodka. — Janine Zeitlin
"The cells are coming together to make a giant butterfly in Miami. It really needs it."
— Kanela Barton, a water therapist, comparing the "conscious networking" party at The Standard on Thursday nights to a transforming caterpillar