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THE ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL MIGHT JUST MEAN MUSIC TO MOST FOLKS, BUT FOR THE CITY, ULTRA IS A CASH COW, AND THIS YEAR THEY MADE THE COW GO MOO, MOO, MOO,
Now that the ULTRA Music Festival has come and gone, it's time to take a very preliminary look at the way that the city cashed in on ULTRA's move to Virginia Key this year.
First of all, it must be understood that the ULTRA Music Festival is a cash cow. There is no way to know for sure how much money it makes, but in addition to the ticket sales that this year were $534 for a 3 Day Pass, there were VIP Tickets which cost over $1000, and VVIO Tickets which allegedly cost somewhere in the low 5 figures, excluding the costs for high-priced champagne, food and whatever else was available in the VIP and VVIP Sections.
There are also revenue streams from major sponsorships and marketing tie-ins - including this year KFC - and world-wide TV broadcast rights , all of which could take the gross to somewhere between $50 million to $60 million dollars.
With that kind of money, a lot of folks would consider ULTRA as an easy mark, and at the front of that group this year was the City of Miami and its Fire Department.
Now, before going on, I know that there are people who will be quick to argue that given the disruption that ULTRA caused people on Key Biscayne and along the Bay including those who claimed that the loud music caused them sleepless nights, any, and all the money that the city and it's fire department was able to pry from ULTRA would probably represent what they considered a fair reimbursement for their disruption and discomfort.
Some people might even want to go further and argue that whatever they got, the city should have gotten double or triple the amount.
To accept that argument however, you should also, out of fairness consider another argument that if, or when, a government agency gets an opportunity and decides to operate on the principle of engaging in practices and tactics that result in taking advantage of individuals and companies requiring their services or assistance, then sooner or later that kind of behavior will permeiate throughout the administation of the city and county, and become an unwarranted, but accepted way of treating all the businesses that need government assistance.
Given the willingness by previous Miami city administrations to accept and turn a blind eye to various forms of extortion and corruption as a business model, the fire department, with either the encouragement or approval of City Manager Emilio "Colonel Klink" Gonzalez, appears to have recognized the unique opportunity presented by ULTRA being between a rock and a hard place as a result of their last minute effort to move locations and having to change their operational footprint by coming up with a list of accessories that may or may not have been required specifically and exclusively for this event, but which ULTRA ended up paying for.
At the top of that list was $167,711.50 for 110 sets of POINT BLANK BODY ARMOUR, that averaged out at $1524.64 per set, and which the fire department obviously convinced ULTRA that they needed to properly protect concert goers.
A question that I've tried to get a response to is why $1524.64, when Point Blank's top of the line bullet proof vests run around $650 a piece, but no one has responded to my request for an explanation.
Yes, I know we live in dangerous times, and there are crazy people out there with guns, but I never saw any firemen wearing a bullet proof vest during my time hanging out there - I tend to notice things like bullet proof vests - and while some folks in the fire department have undergone special training to work in conjunction with cops in First Responder situations, you have to wonder why the city hadn't already purchased bullet proof vests for them at the time of the training?
NUMBER 57 - APRIL 10, 2019
If you look at the list of items that the fire department included in their wish list like $41,200 for computer tablets, $8000 for bicycles and $5300 for raincoats, as well as other items, you have to wonder why wouldn't the department already have some, or most of these items on hand to handle emergencies at other events other than ULTRA.
Gifts under a Christmas Tree however, are the least of the costs that raised questions about possible featherbedding, which in turn made me wonder whether anybody lubricated the cow before they screwed her.
FEATHER BEDDING 101
There has always been a tendency, if an opportunity becomes available for government agencies to featherbed when it comes to government employees taking advantage of any kind of event related to entertainment, whether it be film and photo shoots, concerts, or major sporting events, and the invoices from this year's ULTRA event showed a remarkable increase in the number of fire department personnel - the police numbers have not yet been made public - from last year's event.
In addition to the $475,000 in new equipment, the Fire Department increased their staffing and manpower costs from $405,261.73 in 2018, to $981,570.62 this year.
That's an increase of $576,308.89.
Here is a partial invoice for outstanding payments that the city provided me that details the costs, and payments prior to March 31st.
For a better comparison of line items, below are invoices submitted to the Bayfront Park Management Trust by both the Fire and Police Departments for the 2018 ULTRA Festival at Bayfront Park. You can see see and compare these numbers and costs with copies of the 2019 invoices for these same line items above by clicking .
MUST SEE TV - COLONEL KLINK PRAISING THE "PHENOMENAL JOB" OF PLANNING BY THE CITY THE DAY BEFORE ULTRA BEGAN
While raising the issue of featherbedding I must also point out that the comparisons between last year's event at Bayfront Park, and this year's event at two locations on Virginia Key makes it impossible to engage in an exact apples to apples comparison when it comes to the various costs involved, but at the same time, when the personnel costs for the fire department increased from $405,261.73 in 2018 - excluding the $475,000 for new equipment - to $981,570.62 in 2019, and even allowing for the addition of a separate stage at the historic Black Beach, an increase of 142% in labor costs raises reasonable questions about some of those costs being excessive.
Challenging costs in these kinds of situations, especially when you hope to return the following year can end up in a rope-a-dope stand-off where you know you're getting hosed, but even if you can prove it, you'll end up getting screwed worse if you're allowed to return because then they'll be waiting for you with both a bad attitude and a sense of entitlement that comes when public employees know they have you over a barrel.
IN MIAMI, AS ELSEWHERE, POLITICIANS AND PUBLIC EMPLOYEES OPERATE ON THE PREMISE THAT OPM - OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY - IS THEIR MONEY
I didn't set out to do a story picking on the fire department, and this is not the place to enlarge on the position of prominence that fire departments and fire unions have managed to create for themselves since 9/11, but it was looking over their invoices and spotting the line item for the body armor that caused me to start looking closer at what these invoices revealed, and how it appeared that they seemed to be treated different than the police department, which traditionally has just submitted and been paid for their off-duty officers.
It was a tip on Tuesday afternoon about a scheduled meeting between the Mayor and the ULTRA folks to discuss ULTRA buying the police department $750,000 worth of new bicycles, that raised the possibility that the cops, discovering that the fire guys had managed to get $475,000 of goodies, and that no doubt prompted this meeting, and it will be interesting to see if ULTRA goes along, and how the story will be spun.
At the same time, even with reasonable questions about increased costs and the purchase of almost a half million dollars in new equipment for the fire department, the ULTRA folks willingly, or grudgingly agreed to pay for all of this, which unfortunately, is not always the case in Miami, where starting with Mayor Tomas Regalado and the City Commission in 2011, taxpayer money has increasing been used to provide city services from police and fire, to public works and barricades, for all kinds of parades and festivals, including most recently the
In 2011, then Miami Police Chief Miguel Esposito was in the midst of a pissing match with Regalado over his seizure of hundreds of illegal maquinitas, and a side issue of that fight became Exposito's unhappiness over Regalado demanding that the police department eat the costs of providing police for the Three Kings Parade.
It was that cost, and the $10,170.00 in police costs for the Gloria Estafan protest rally on Calle Ocho later that year for the Cuban group, Ladies In White, that prompted a new account to be created in the city budget to underwrite the costs of city services of events such as this, as detailed in the 2012-2013 budget:
While some of these events were ostensibly sponsored by non-profit organizations, the Three Kings Parade continues to stick out as a unabashed political favor by the Cuban politicians at City Hall to the powerful and influential Univision Rado Station, because while the parade is "sponsored" by Univision, they don't pay any money for the city services they receive.
Here is a PDF that includes the permit application for the 2018 parade, along with the itemized invoice from the Police Department , the invoice from Solid Waste and the invoice from the Fire Department, which you will see says, "Sponsored."
The only cost for Univision associated with the city, is paying for the 235 parking meters along SW 8th Street, at $10.00 a meter.
Three Kings Parade -2018 by on Scribd
Univision Radio is part of a publicly traded company, and given that the police costs have remained relatively consistent since 2011 thru 2018, and no doubt 2019 as well, and even though I've not been provided those records, it's reasonable to assume that they have received a financial gift from the taxpayers of Miami of approximately $750,000.00.
I won't even attempt to deal with the quagmire that involves Commissioner Joe "Comemierda" Carollo and AmericaTeVe over the Last Friday musical events on Calle Ocho, other than to say that the city has not provided me any documentation as to who is really paying for the city services associated with that event?
All of it is obviously being paid for by the taxpayers, but the question is whether its being absorbed by the budgets of the various departments, or being paid through Carollo's Special Events Fund, which Carollo, asked for, and received an additional $90,000 last September to supposedly cover those costs.
INSTEAD OF IMPROVING AND BECOMING MORE ACCOUNTABLE, LIFE IN MIAMI SINCE FRANCIS SUAREZ BECAME MAYOR HAS BECOME MORE CHALLENGING AND IN SOME CASES MORE CORRUPT
I've not written this because I have any great sympathy for the predicament that the ULTRA folks found themselves in when they were forced to move their music festival from Bayfront Park to Virginia Key, although what has remained unspoken is the back story of why Commissioner "Comemierda" Carollo, after initially negotiating and agreeing to support a new contract that would have kept them at Bayfront Park, turned around, and in one of his patented moves, threw them under the bus.
There's a real story there that I'd liove to know.
Nor am I overly concerned about the noise and breakdown in transportation that resulted in thousands of concert goers walking across the Rickenbacker Causeway. Music festivals create lots of noise, and only the morons at Miami City Hall didn't, or wouldn't acknowledge beforehand that when you put tens of thousands of people on an island in the middle of the night without enough transportation to get them off in a timely and organized manner, what happened, was was bound to happen.
For me, money and process continues to spark my interest, and the reason I chose to write this story, and the story that will follow in a day or two was actually to make a larger point about what's going on inside the City of Miami today when it comes to allegations of shakedowns and extortions at the hands of members of the Friends and Family Club and city employees.
The fact is that there is a perception that shakedowns and blatant acts of extortion, both big and small, official and unofficial, have become just one more hurdle that business people in all parts of the city have been forced to deal with in recent years, and even though the ULTRA folks have all the money they needed to cover whatever special purchases and inflated personnel costs they had to pay in order to keep the city folks happy, not every business has the same kind of cash flow, or ability to cover the costs of being extorted by the relatives of elected officials and city employees.
This has become especially true since the Suarez administration has been around, and when visits from relatives of elected officials and/or one city employee in particular who has gained the reputation of being identified as the city's Un-Official Bag Man shows up with offers of assistance and aid for a beleaguered business owner who needs to get past the hurdles at City Hall in order to do business, then that's a problem that needs to be exposed.
Too many people, with too many stories of this kind of behavior, as well as stories alleging other questionable behavior by city employees on behalf of business owners seeking to ignore the law in Wynwood have convinced me that they can't all be made up stories.
Yes, it's true that Commissioner Hardemon's, Auntie Barbara, has been the subject of speculation about how much she really gets paid for arranging lunches with nephew Keon, and yes, his Uncle Billy has been named in a lawsuit alleging that he might have offered a little help in getting a business owner a permit for a billboard on his building, but if true, these are minor league hustles compared to what else is going on under everybody noses.
That it is going on, and going on in some cases only because of what has to be considered collusion between elected officials and their family members and city employees is the kind of activity, that if uncovered in other cities, would have already led to serious undercover investigations and arrests.
Not in Miami. Here, it's just business as usual because,
It's Miami, Bitches!