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My name is David Arthur Walters. I am an independent journalist.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Miami Beach Lobbyist Registration and OUR Goal

30 September 2014
Rafael Granado
City Clerk
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
Subject: Lobbyist Registration and Our Goal
Dear Mr. Granado:
Thank you for allowing an ordinary person to participate in your government. It is for that reason that I have a great deal of respect for your office under your supervision as well as that of your predecessor, the good Mr. Parcher, who was known for his dogged independence despite the city’s branchless or monolithic constitution.
2014-09-29 Email: Rafael Granado to David Arthur Walters. Mr. Walters. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Our goal is to have the form(s) completed accurately by the applicant, lobbyist and/or principal, As soon as that is done, they will be scanned and posted. Rafael Granado
It is with independence in mind that I must say with all due respect that I do not know whom “our” means when you state that “our goal” is to have the fatally defective lobbyist registration forms completed by someone at some unspecified date. I suspect that “our” excludes most of the community. I had asked when you will refer the matter to the Ethics Commission, as our lobbying ordinance provides you with the discretion to do that.
I certainly am looking forward to being alerted on the arrival of the information as to who owns 10% of more of this ‘Alaskan’ member of the Related Group controlled by billionaire Jorge M. Perez, the developer behind the huge South Pointe developments gobbling up the last acres of scarce open space for the benefit of wealthy international clientele.
I hope that I and anyone else interested do not have to search the records everyday of the workweek to discover that information someday.
If I were clerk, I would set a five-day compliance deadline. Compliance is minimal or nil without punishment. The natural persons involved here know better. They know why the community wants to know who is behind real estate developers’ façades, and yet they have scoffed at the law expressed clearly on the lobbyist registration form itself. They knew better, and now is the time for the city to show that it takes the people’s will expressed in laws seriously enough to enforce them.
We are plagued by noncompliance in this city. The fault lies not only with city officials but with the ethics commission and the county board of commissioners, not to mention the state attorney and attorney general and governor. I pray that you may include everyone within your “our,” and act independently of the will of Jimmy Morales, Philip Levine, Jorge M. Perez, and the Clintons.
Sincerely,
David Arthur Walters
 
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Miami Beach Building Official Queried on Iconic Con


30 September 2014

Mariano Fernandez
Building Official
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
Subject: 450 Alton Road (ICON #1801)

Dear Sir:
 
Attached please find a copy of a published article at the head of only part of my correspondence with public officials along with documentation delivered to the building official indicating that unpermitted work was performed by an unlicensed general contractor in unit 1801 at 450 Alton Road for a Wisconsin general contractor without a Florida license speculating in real estate condominiums in Miami Beach.  The staging resulted in a $1.8 million dollar profit. I have not checked the county record, but I have been told that the condo was flipped for another $1 million profit. This is only one of several projects involving the same people that I reported to the building official and other city officials.
 
To the best of my information and belief at the time because they were silent, the building official and quality assurance officer and other city officials did not have the construction inspected and permitted with double-permit fees, therefore I reported the information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Please advise if the property was eventually inspected and double permit fees charged as required by law.

Thank you,

David Arthur Walters

ICON ARTICLE WITHOUT FILES


 

 

 

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Miami Dade Ethics Commission Lambasted


 
 
The Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners knew very well that citizens had good reason to have contempt for public officials whose unethical behavior gave county government a bad name. Indeed, that contempt is memorialized in the Citizen’s Bill of Rights of the county’s Home Rule Charter when it calls “for individual citizens to grant respect for the dignity of public office” as a quid pro quo for allowing them to participate. Imagine that.
The perversion was so pervasive that the board of Commissioners found it necessary to create the Miami-Dade County Ethics Commission on Ethics and Public Trust as a trustee and guardian charged with restoring public confidence by educating the public on ethical principles and enforcing certain standards designed to ensure the integrity that is essential to the decision making process in an open, or democratic government. Imagine that.
Now the Ethics Commission has some good behavior to its credit, but its demerits are such that several people who have in good faith tried to participate respectfully, without foul language towards its officers, have dubbed it the Unethical Commission of Public Distrust. The conduct of its investigative staff and director has been especially taken to task, and with good reason, and they have accordingly perceived criticism as personally insulting.
No, the participation of critics is not welcome. Information is dismissed with prejudice against the informer instead of on the merits. Enthusiasm for ethical behavior is greeted with a cold shoulder, the stone wall, the silent treatment.
All this is sad to say since the rise civilization is based on criticism: civilization is an ongoing complaint. Civilization is declining in this institution despite its merits and the good works of its staff. Here again what is needed is good government, good leadership, and the will to do the right thing at all times for the people no matter who they are.
September 29, 2014

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Miami Beach Plea for Ethical Law Revision Council



 

26 September 2014

Raul Aguila
City Attorney
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

Subject: Ethical Law Revision Council

Dear Sir:

Is our lobbying code in need of revision in the light of experience and custom?  Take, for example, the Sec. 2-481 definitions of the “lobbyist” that needs to register:

 “Lobbyist means all persons employed or retained, whether paid or not, by a principal who seeks to encourage the passage, defeat or modification of any ordinance, resolution, action or decision of any commissioner; any action, decision, recommendation of the city manager or any city board or committee; or any action, decision or recommendation of any city personnel defined in any manner in this section, during the time period of the entire decision-making process on such action, decision or recommendation that foreseeably will be heard or reviewed by the city commission, or a city board or committee. The term specifically includes the principal as well as any employee engaged in lobbying activities. The term "lobbyist" specifically excludes the following persons….”

1. Employed or Retained (whether paid or not): We have already gone around the block on how registration may be evaded by a lobbyist who insists he pleads for a cause altruistically, and whose principal insists that he did not ask that person to lobby on his behalf. For instance, it is said that Energy trader Mark Fisher flew down in his private jet to lobby for Bollettieri’s (Green Square Inc.) bid for the tennis management contract, and went so far as to offer $120,000 to secure performance of the contract since the bidder was known to be insolvent. The incumbent contractor had regularly supplied tennis pros for his personal use, flying them to his estate to provide lessons. It is difficult to ascertain whether there would be some indirect quid pro quo in thanks for his friendly support and investment. Mr. Fisher stated at the hearings that he was supporting his friends’ bid for the sake of the kids who needed high quality tennis lessons. You have deemed that he is not a lobbyist by strict definition.  Apparently Director Joe Centorino of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics does not wish to investigate the matter or to opine on what can be done about the fact that the code leaves the barn door wide open for the evasion of registration.

By the way, I note that several states expressly exempt journalists from lobbyist registration. I recall that my old friend, former City Attorney Jose Smith, expressed his grave concern that I was lobbying for Leroy Griffith and his total nudity Club Madonna when I suggested that Mr. Griffith donate the $30,000 bribe, which he claimed the city was soliciting to pay the legal expenses a commissioner’s wife sustained as a result of his libel suit against her, to sex education courses at the nearby grade school, whose children the moral crusader thought would be put at risk if liquor were served to men around totally nude women, and have his ladies put on pasties and thongs, in return for a liquor license. I received nothing for my balanced history of the controversy, but the SunPost writer became the club’s publicist.

2. Principal & Employee Registration: The Bollettieri affair offers another example of something that is frequently done in apparent violation of the code that requires principals and employees to register as lobbyists. Managing Subchapter S shareholders and employees of Green Square, to the best of my knowledge, lobbied but did not register.

3. Incumbency: A COE investigator into the violation of the Sunshine Act in respect to Boucher’s no-bid contract for the beach concessions winked at the company’s lobbying activities because it was “the incumbent.” There is no such clause in the code exempting incumbents from registering as lobbyists.

You have been around for a long time and are well aware of the conflicts, vagaries, and impracticality of not only this code section but other sections of the code. In my opinion, archaic sections of the code should be revised and rewritten from top to bottom, as the Romans were wont to do on a regular basis. Even the modern State of Florida had a law revision council for a brief spell until the lawyers who lobbied for it satisfied their narrow objectives.

The confusion may be profitable to practitioners, yet it creates the appearance of impropriety, which officials do not seem to care much about anymore. There are quite a few people who actually strive to obey the law as it is written, and expect others to do likewise.  They have utter contempt for authorities who seem to ignore it, or who apply it selectively according to their biases and prejudices.  

Officials who abuse their discretion and make a practice of misprision should be publicly despised and reviled. However, some of the contempt is misplaced, is due to a misunderstanding of what officials face in the form of code sections nearly impossible to enforce as they are written or to consistently enforce in a uniform manner without doing a grave injustice to the people.

So I am hoping that you will join the revisionist camp, and do everything you can do to get the commission to cooperate in a project to thoroughly revamp out city’s inappropriate local codes.

Sincerely,

David Arthur Walters

CC To Whom It May Concern

 

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Florida Condo King names Signage Scofflaw of the Year


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Letter to City Manager on Demolishing South Beach History




20 September 2014

Jimmy Morales, Manager
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

SUBJECT LINK:


Dear Mr. Morales:
I have revised my article ‘Demolishing South Beach History’ to give more credit to Luis Revuelta’s Fantastique Style by showing renderings that do hint at or allude to certain elements of Art Deco Style.

I also revised the last paragraphs to include my recommendation, which I herewith send along to Mayor Philip Levine, to rename the Historic Preservation Board so the name will gibe with its function.
The “conservation” board has considerable power. We need more transparency there, and that would be helped, for example, by Afteraction reports more on the line of those provided after City Commission meetings. At the very least, lobbyists and the names of their principals, and the names of any experts who testify, should be provided for the sake of interest members of the public who are not insiders. Also, if humanly possible, the clerk should toss in something from the testimony that s/he considers particularly relevant.

In the recording of the July hearing on the proposal for the 304-312 Ocean Drive, I had to ask Ms. Tackett for the name of the architect and the presenter involved because the presenter glossed over the names. Of course one thing a professional speaker learns to begin with is to pronounce at least her own name very clearly. Her presentation at $400 an hour was not bad. I conceitedly say that I could have done better with my acting, dancing, and singing experience, for $100 per hour.
Once I learned the names, the first thing I did was check for lobby and architect registrations, to discover that the presenter had registered as a lobbyist, but I could not find her name as architect on the state site. Whether her sworn testimony at the hearing was on architectural elements requiring the expertise of a registered architect, I do not know, although Ms. Tackett would know since she herself is highly qualified although I could not find her name listed as an architect on the state website either.

Of course the clerks for commissions and boards should check beforehand for lobbyist registrations when the lobbyists sign in. I took me some time to distinguish the name of a lawyer who lobbied for the 304-312 Ocean Drive developers at the April 8 hearing, for he, like ordinary people, mumbled his name, perhaps because he figured everybody including anyone in the world who watched the video was familiar with him. It appears from the records that I had that he had not registered. If that were the case, he should not have been allowed to testify. Our chief clerk has promised to look into the matter, as I understand that he may fine the lobbyists so much per day until he did register on July 8, and report him to the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, something I understand is not done when the persons are well known, because city clerks do not have to do that if the administration does not feel like it. Additionally, on July 8 did not report who had a ten percent stake or more in the firm he represented, as required by law.

I realize from my sources inside the city that my constructive criticism is not appreciated because I am disrespected for not appreciating everything done by the new administration and commission, and for not being a nice guy with my analyses of official conduct. I have nonetheless been dubbed a (bad-expletive deleted, expletive deleted) in a complimentary way, which I do appreciate. Now I am greeted with utter silence by all but one commissioner, and he is easy to take offense.
I miss The Michael now, and wish he were mayor, because he embraced both positive and negative criticism, referring much of the latter to Diane so we would know that was the end of it. I apologized to The Michael for endorsing him after exposing his faults at the same time; he said I got him more votes than I lost him.

The lock-stepping regime is enjoying its honeymoon. How long can that last? I am further informed that dissent within the city is repressed under the new regime. Censorship prevails. Dissenters get the Silent Treatment under the rubric of Customer Service. I am told that anyone at all who does not appreciate the new regime is ostracized. The Silent Treatment is understood by psychologists as an aggressive, abusive, mentally cruel tactic, as any victim who has experience it knows all too well.

The titular head of the reform regime began with frivolously suing reporters who criticized him during his campaign, and took vindictive steps once elected. Although he has his virtues, his vices tending to fascistic or undemocratic business-style leadership, which our form of municipal government is prone to without independent “branches,” will shadow him and work his ruin as well as the ruin of your supposedly independent administration if you go along with it so the commission can, as one commissioner said, almost "blindly" go along with your recommendations.
That is not to say that I do not think you are a Nice Guy. You are that at least.  Yet I do not buy this business that “Everything is Good,” as a police captain told me with a big grin, tempting me to tell me, “Nothing is perfect.” The new administration and reform commission has done many things that should be appreciated, and it is too bad that communications are tainted by the repressive tendency, and public relations in respect to even good deeds remain pathetic.

Neither do I buy comments to the press blaming all the problems on the previous administration. I know of major issues that remain under your administration, which you have even condoned, despite the fact that, as you have bragged, scores of city employees were terminated. In that I see nothing new. You are a Nice Guy, but remember, you are a Home Boy, a Good Old Boy, and an Old Crony, while I am just a generic old man.
It is with all that in mind that I hope you will see to it that we get better Afteraction reports from the preservation board.

I hope you enjoy my little essay on the destruction of South Beach history. Although members of the ruling claque may find it somewhat offensive, consider that it actually advertises what entices many people, conservative and progressive, to visit and invest in Miami Beach, just as they flocked to the Wild West in the old days.
Sincerely,

David Arthur Walters

cc. Mayor Philip Levine

 


 

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Demolishing South Beach History


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Contradictions on Religious and Secular Law


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