NUMBER 117 - NOVEMBER 14, 2018
NOTHING EVER SEEMS SIMPLE OR STRAIGHT FORWARD WHEN IT COMES TO DEALS INVOLVING THE CITY OF MIAMI, LIKE FOR INSTANCE THIS LATEST DEAL WITH THE ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL THAT MAKES ALL THE PREVIOUS CONTRACTS LOOKS LIKE STERLING EXAMPLES OF GOOD GOVERNANCE
Well there were meetings.
The first meeting that I've been able to verify, although not the first meeting that I think actually took place between ULTRA representatives, and anyone associated with the city, was a private meeting that took place at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Key Biscayne on the evening of October 11th.
This meeting was between unidentified representatives of ULTRA and several representatives from the Virginia Key Beach Trust.
Why did the ULTRA folks want to meet the Virginia Key folks at the Ritz Carlton, and not their offices which are on the beach property on the way to the Ritz Carlton?
I cannot answer that, nor can I reveal what was discussed at this meeting, because when I asked, I was told that the assistant city attorney who serves as the legal counsel for the Virginia Key Trust had advised those who had attended the meeting that they could not talk about what had been discussed.
Now, my normal response to being told that public employees holding private meetings in a fancy hotel room had been told by an assistant city attorney that they could not talk about what had been said at that meeting would have been,"that's bullshit," but I'm going to cut them a little temporary slack because I suspect that the Virginia Key folks were victims and not co-conspirators at this meeting, and that they cannot be happy about being involved in such a meeting by their supposed consultant, who it turns out has never bothered to register as their lobbyist, even though clearly that is a function that she plays, nor more importantly can they be happy about what ULTRA wants to do ON - and more importantly TO - their property, but they are between a rock and a hard place, because as I was told, "It's the city's property."
This does not mean that I do not believe that the Virginia Key folks need to disclose what was said at that meeting, because I absolutely do, but I think that the venue for that disclosure needs to be at Thursday's Commission meeting where everything can be disclosed and discussed in an open meeting.
What I have been able to learn is that after this meeting took place, the City Manager and the folks at DREAM stepped in, and on October 31st, the first draft of an agreement prepared by DREAM was sent to the ULTRA lawyer for review and comments.
How that came to happen is also something that needs to be discussed in an open meeting.
THE REAL STORY ABOUT ULTRA HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT MONEY, STARTING WITH THE TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS THEY MAKE EACH YEAR, AND THE THOUSANDS OF FREE TICKETS THEY GIVE AWAY, SOME TO PUBLIC OFFICIALS WHO DON'T WANT ANYONE TO KNOW THAT THEY TAKE THESE TICKETS
There are a number of stories about the questionable if not outright criminal behavior involving officials and employees of the City of Miami and the "free tickets" that they have received from ULTRA over the years.
One allegation, an allegation that I have been surprised at how many people are apparently aware of, is that of a certain city commissioner who is alleged to annually receives bundles of tickets that he in turns over to the son of a high ranking City of Miami Police official who scalps the tickets for him.
The names of the commissioner, the police official and his son, also a police officer are known, yet, in terms of potential criminal behavior, it's chump change to the investigation that was initially prompted by an audit of ULTRA conducted by the city's Independent Auditor in 2014, and forwarded first to the Ethics Commission because they had subpoena power, and then forwarded to the State Attorney who's unethical and unprincipled public corruption attorney couldn't wait to shut down.
THE WOMAN IN THE BANDANA IS NOW A CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE, AND HER APPEARANCE IN THIS VERY SHORT VIDEO CLIP WAS PART OF AN INVESTIGATION THAT PREDICTABILY WENT NOWHERE ONCE IT WAS DISCOVERED HOW MANY OTHER FOLKS INCLUDING HER THEN BOSS, MIAMI CITY ATTORNEY JULIE BRU HAD RECEIVED FREE VIP TICKETS
And that's just the ticket issue.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE $2 MILLION FEE THAT COMMISISONER "COCO LOCO" CAROLLO BRAGGED ABOUT NEGOTIATING
In September, Commissioner Carollo bragged about how he had gotten ULTRA to go along with paying the city a minimum fee of $2 million dollars
Lots of cities all over the world host music festivals, and while some of them come with their particular set of challenges and problems, most of these events manage to get through them without the event becoming a giant clusterfuck like the ULTRA Music Festival is becoming for the City of Miami.
On the one hand, ULTRA is a major, worldwide festival that generates millions of dollars for its organizers, provides the folks who are into EDM with a great place to party, and in the process provides Miami with publicity that it could not afford to buy, which in turn contributes to the bottom line of hundreds of businesses that are part of the city's and county's tourism industry.
It's a 3 day money maker that should not be dismissed out of hand just because of the problems it created at Bayfront Park.
On the other hand, for a lot of folks and businesses it's one of, if not the biggest pain in the ass of the year, and in the last 4 years it should have become evident to anyone who even paid minimal attention that the event could not continue on the course that it was headed of creating serious and aggravating sound problems for residents who lived in the condos surrounding the park, and lengthly closures of the park before and after the event.
There was destined to come a day of reckoning that would force ULTRA out of downtown, and that day turned out to be September 27th, when the City Commission voted to reject the proposed contract that had been negotiated by Commissioner Carollo, who in a patented Carollo move, then announced that while he negotiated the contract, he was opposed to it.
My sources have told me that the only person who was actually surprised by that move was Commissioner "Sellout" Russell, who was purposely kept in the dark. Going into that Commission meeting it was known by a small but important handful of people that supposedly included the ULTRA folks, that the final vote would go against them.
The biggest surprise was not that ULTRA knew how the vote would go down, or that they had finally worn out their welcome downtown, but that even with the handwriting on the wall they turned out to be so unprepared to have worked out a Plan B that would have let them gracefully say thanks for the memories, and moved on to a new site.
The notion that the best, if not only Plan B that ULTRA could come up with was to move over to Virginia Key and split the event between the parking lot at the Miami Marine Stadium and the two smaller open fields at the Historic Black Beach at the eastern tip of the island, while parking cars hither and yon on the island is just not only an example of bad strategic planning, but also of an in-your-face FUCK YOU to the residents of Key Biscayne.
Worse, it also raises very serious questions about whats actually behind the City of Miami decision in going along with this scheme of allowing ULTRA to setup on Virginia Key.
Could it be, as some have speculated that ULTRA's ejection from Bayfront Park was part of a deal worked out with the Fomula 1 folks to let them come in as some have speculated, or, could it just be that the rocket scientists in charge of running the city of Miami continue to look at the event as a source of personal graft - and I will detail that allegation below - and well as a short term cash infusion to help plug the $27 million of revenue that the city's Reserve Fund needs to recover after settling the lawsuits filed by the police and fire unions over the "financial urgency," stunt that the Regalado administration pulled shortly after they came into office, and decided that as crazy as it might turn out, they had to go along with this deal for the money?
The answer to that might never actually become known, but there is no question that the city, by continuing to ignore the problems created by ULTRA year after year, choose to take their money and put off a day of reckoning until the day that they couldn't, and instead of making a clean break, their previous behavior so compromised them, that now in a mix of metaphors they are handcuffed to ULTRA like Tony Curtis was handcuffed to Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones, and worse, going along on this adventure are the folks on Key Biscayne who, along with the folks on the Virginia Key Trust are the ones who most likely will feel the full brunt of the screwing that will take place.
IT'S NEVER A GOOD SIGN WHEN PEOPLE LOOKING FOR A DEAL FROM THE CITY OF MIAMI ASK PUBLIC EMPLOYEES TO MEET THEM AT A RITZ CARLTON HOTEL
According to the limited emails that I was provided as part of the public records request I made on Tuesday morning to review the file on ULTRA maintained by the Department of Real Estate Asset Management (DREAM), it would seem that the first correspondence between DREAM and ULTRA took place on October 31st.
You will see below that at 10:40 AM, on that day Jacqueline Lorenzo, from DREAM sent Sandy York, the attorney for ULTRA, "a preliminary draft," of a Revocable License Agreement, and that evening York sent her back a "clean draft version."
(NOTE: copies of all of the documents referenced in this story can been seen by going HERE, where I have placed them for your review.)
This alone doesn't speak well for the kind of forward thinking that you would expect from a company that stages major music festivals all over the world, and not only does it not speak well of their ability to think strategically, but more importantly you would have to assume that before this first draft was written there had to have been some meeting(s) between the folks from ULTRA, and folks from the city, right?
I mean, who starts negotiating an open-ended Revocable License Agreement to use two major pieces of public land 15 days before the agreement is expected to be put before the City Commission for a vote?
Her name used to be Veronica Xiques, now it's Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Veronica Diaz, and back in 2014 she was an assistant city attorney whose responsibilities included being the city's attorney for the Bayfront Park Management Trust.
In 2013 and 2014 she got "free tickets" to the ULTRA Music Festival and never reported them as gifts. This was discovered when the Independent Auditor was doing his audit, and the audit also turned up the fact that Xiques' boss at the time, Miami City Attorney Julie Bru and her policewoman girlfriend had also received VIP tickets, worth $850 per ticket, and were seen partying it up with all the high rollers in the VIP Section.
These discoveries prompted all kinds of craziness including what many believe to the the most obsequious, ass-covering legal opinion written by Assistant City Attorney George Wysong in an attempt to justify not only the acceptance of these tickets, but also the failure to report them.
(NOTE: As some of you have by now discovered, my stories for 2014, 2015 and the first half of 2016 are no longer available online. It is a problem that I hope to be able to correct before the end of the year, but it's prohibited me from being able to provide links to all the stories that I wrote in 2014 related to this audit and bogus legal opinion.
What no one has seen until now however, is the below Ethics Commission Close Out Memo that describes the frustration of the Ethic's Commission's investigator in trying to get the State Attorney's office to behave like prosecutors and not hand holders.
There were no efforts by the State Attorney's office to "threaten" anyone, and there were no prosecutions, and so earlier this year when the proposed contract negotiated by Commissioner Carollo was submitted to the City Commission on September 27th, Section 10-2 of that contract included this provision allowing the ULTRA folks to give away as many as 1000 free tickets that not only could end up in the hands of folks like the City Commissioner who allegedly has his cop pal scalp them, but also the tickets would evade the surcharge, thereby short changing the city.
That was in September. In the latest version of the Revocable License Agreement, that will come before the Commission on Thursday, the number of "free tickets" that ULTRA now wants to give away and evade paying a surcharge on has gone from 1000 tickets to 3000 tickets, and it's gone from "EVENT' to "Event day." which means a total of 9000 "FREE TICKETS" that would not have to be accounted for, and could be scalped by the ULTTA folks themselves.
In the latest draft of the Revocable License Agreement going before the Commission on Thursday, that amount has been reduced to $1.4 million dollars.
This change represents a windfall of $600,000 that all of a sudden could become, 'funny money.'
How did that change make it into a contract that was supposedly reviewed by the City of Miami's smartest financial minds? $600,000 doesn't just end up being removed from a fee payment by mistake or by oversight, it's done on purpose!
Who did this on purpose, and who on the City Commission has got the balls to demand an answer to this question at tomorrow's meeting?
LOST IN ALL OF THIS ARE THE CONCERT PROMOTERS WHO DID EVERYTHING BY THE BOOK, ONLY TO BE TOLD THEY HAVE TO MOVE THEIR DATES, OR POSSIBLY HAVE THEIR CONTRACT CANCELLED
The best laid plans of mice and men are often undone by lack of knowledge, and a significant piece of information that few people knew, or cared about when ULTRA chose their dates to move their event was that the use of Virginia Key's Historic Black Beach had been penciled in by another festival who had already been hosting festivals at the Beach for 2 years - and to positive reviews by everyone involved.
The Rapture Music Festival, created by two young socially conscious guys, which also featured electronic dance music, was more than just a music festival, and they were already being promoted on social media.
On Tuesday morning I invited myself to the bi-weekly meeting of the city's department heads and other senior officials who meet to discuss the upcoming agenda of the city commission because I heard that they would be discussing the ULTRA agenda item.
Here is what was said. The person who I pan to at the left of the screen is the Director of DREAM, Daniel Rotenberg, and he is the one who says, "It will be moved, or possibly cancelled."
And some people wonder why the City of Miami has acquired such a bad reputation for screwing over folks who try to do business in the city.
The fact of the matter is that the guys with the Rapture Music Festival had done all the necessary and required paperwork to position themselves to legitimately claim the dates they wanted on March 1st of this year.
Not only did they do the paperwork, but they paid the required fees, something that I'm willing that the ULTRA folks have not done.
IN CONCLUSION THERE ARE SO MANY BAD PARTS TO THIS DEAL, THAT GIVEN THE PREVIOUS BEHAVIOR OF THE CITY'S DEPARTMENT OF REAL ESTATE ASSET MANAGEMENT, SOMEBODY NEEDS TO BE FIRED AS A 21ST CENTURY VERSION OF A HUMAN SACRIFICE TO DRIVE HOME THAT THE CITY NEEDS TO START STANDING UP AGAINST GROSS INCOMPETENCE, AND THEY SHOULD START WITH DREAM DIRECTOR, DANIEL ROTENBERG
Among all the things that should be considered, and haven't, especially when it comes to the portion of the event that will take place at the Historic Black Beach is that the 2 areas where performance stages will be placed are separated by mangroves and nature paths.
That means, that people, among them people on drugs - because one of the highlights of the ULTRA Music Festival in past years have been the Amnesty Boxes for illegal drugs - will be wandering around this nature preserve in the middle of the night, high, and thinking less about communing with nature and maybe looking for a place to pee, or a place to throw up.
The two other - in a long list of issues and license items that I could devote time to, but won't so your eyes don't glaze over - are these two:
Sec 3.6 states “Parties shall use commercially reasonable
efforts to assist and facilitate future productions of the Event
to take place on the Property.”
Not only does this fly in the face of their proposed stance regarding their possible cancellation of the Rapture contract, but what “commercially reasonable efforts” will the City use to “assist and facilitate future productions?”
Who will approve these efforts and how will they be funded? Will tax dollars or funds that the city may secure be used? Will Ultra pay city staff compensation for any work done with the intent of benefitting the event?
Inquiring minds need to know the answer to these kinds of vexing questions
Lastly, given the gross incompetence and outright chicanery that I continue to report on regarding the actions of this City Manager - starting with his collusion with AFSCME union President Sean Moy, to give him a feather bedding job, and what even before we see it, we know will be another contract as bad, or worse than this for the Beckham soccer stadium deal, the City Commission cannot continue to allow all future decisions and actions on contracts and licenses such as these to be made without oversight or supervision.
If you've managed to reach this point and your eyes haven't glazed over, there's only one last thing I can say,
It's Miami, Bitches!