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NUMBER 83 - MAY 22, 2019
THE ONE THING THAT HAS BECOME MORE AND MORE EVIDENT UNDER THE SUAREZ ADMINISTRATION IS THAT YOU CAN'T RELY ON THE CITY'S TOP STAFF TO LOOK OUT FOR THE TAXPAYER'S INTEREST, AS EVIDENCED BY THIS DEAL
So right off the bat, I want to make it very clear that you, the reader, are going to have to spend some time if you really want to fully understand what is going on with the effort of the Adler Group - they are the developers who were awarded the deal to lease the 3.3 acre city property on the Miami River next to the SW 2nd Avenue bridge for $3.6 million a year, with an option to purchase the property for $70 million - to build a series of condo towers, a hotel and a new building to house the city's administrative headquarters.
The referendum language put before the voters last November to approve this deal - because the property is on the Riverfront it qualifies under the Carollo amendment for voter approval - was silent on how the building was going to be paid for: a VERY IMPORTANT point that you need to keep remembering:
One should immediately become leary when you read that a developer in Miami is claiming that there will be, "NO taxpayer money needed for this deal."
In fact, one should immediately request that a spit bucket be provided to every taxpayer because to put is as crassly as possible this is the political equivalent of, "I promise I won't come in your mouth."
There is, and will always be taxpayer money involved in deals that involve public property and the construction of a building that is going to be used exclusively as a public building.
The first issue that raises an alarm about this deal is that it allows the Adler Group to either lease the property for $3.6 million, or buy it outright for $70 million.
The projected cost of a new administrative office building, as described in a document provided to the city's Finance Committee is $139,932,000, and for purposes of covering any-and-all loose ends was rounded off to $150 million.
Understand however, that the $70 million buyout is what the developers are paying for the land, because the current building is going to be torn down no matter whether a new administrative building is built on the site, or elsewhere.
So the city, which owns 3.3 acres of waterfront property is willing to sell the whole kit-and-kaboddle for $70 million, and then turn around and spend $150 million for a new office building, because no one could come up with a better idea of how to leverage the property and the building to meet the city's projected needs.
And to a man, Colonel Klink and his gang will all tell you that they're all smarter than rocket scientists and committed to looking out for the taxpayers!
As a sidebar issue, and one that has never been raised is why can't the City of Miami have a single building that incorporates both a City Hall and an administrative center? Is that too complicated a concept for anyone to wrap their head around?
For those who are not aware, an enormous amount of wasted time is spent between senior members of the administration having to drive to City Hall anytime they need to meet with the mayor and/or a city commissioner, and the requirement that on commission days almost all the department directors have to hang out at City Hall, either to give reports, or to answer questions.
Anyhow, back to this dog and pony show.
On May 13th, the city's Finance Committee held a meeting at which the proposal was submitted by one of my less than favorite, duplicitous city employees, Daniel Rotenberg, the Director of the Department of Real Estate and Asset Management.
The acronym for his department is DREAM, but I think it should be called NIGHTMARE. (For those who are unfamiliar as to why I have an antipathy for Rotenberg, you can read several of my previous stories about his behavior HERE and HERE., and for a Cherry on the milkshake, Rotenberg, and two of his senior staff were hostile witnesses against the city, and in support of the Flagstone Group in the recent lawsuit, a really nasty piece of business that deserves someone writing a book about. The shit that was covered up by the city's settlement with Flagstone deserves being exposed for just how fucked up things in the City of Miami really are.)
So, back to the May 13th Finance Committee.
The person who turned out to lead the charge to protect the taxpayers of Miami was not Daniel Rotenberg, or Budget Director Christopher Rose, but Eric Zichella, the Chairman of the committee, whose day job is being a lobbyist.
You really need to listen to Zichella challenge this deal, because this is the kind of behavior and effort that the taxpayers of Miami should be expecting on a daily basis from the City Manager, the Mayor, the City Commissioners and all the rest of the senior staff members of the Suarez administration, instead of from a volunteer civilian.
And while you're at it, see if you agree with me that there are moments when you listen to Rotenberg talk, and wonder why he hasn't registered as a lobbyist for the Adler Group.
I don't want you to take my word for this, I want you to listen to the audio tape.
Listen to the claim that the $150 million in bonds will not be paid for by ad valorem taxes - general revenue money - but the concession that at the end of the day, if shit hits the fan, the city's obligation to pay off these bonds means that regardless of what claims have been previously made, if ad valorem tax money is required to pay off the bonds, then that is what will be used.
Theres a lot of really interesting and insightful information about this deal that you'd never hear discussed at a City Commission meeting, which in itself makes this a must listen to tape.
The tape is an hour and six minutes long, so you might want to save this for the weekend, when you can have the time to enjoy a beverage of your choice and listen to Rotenberg continue to reach up into his ass to keep pulling out justifications for this deal.
The video above is from the Sunshine Meeting that was held on Tuesday afternoon at City Hall Tuesday, with 4 members of the Miami City Commission present: Reyes, Carollo, Russell and Hardemon.
The Miami Herald covered the portion of the meeting that dealt with Commissioner Hardemon's request to his fellow commissioners to entertain the possibility of trying to woo, or at least talk with the ULTRA folks in an effort to get them to rescind their letter notifying the city that they were no longer going to host the ULTRA Music Festival within the city limits.
Not reported, but of far more interest and consequence for the citizens of Miami was the issue of the deal to finance the construction of a new administrative building for the city, which was introduced by Commissioner Reyes.
You can see the complete video at the bottom of the story, and I recommend that if you don't watch it all, try to at least watch the first 10-15 minutes.
WHOSE PAYING FOR WHAT?
If you go to the website of the Adler Group devoted to this project, they have the usual collection of fancy, out of proportion and scale architectural renderings, and self-serving rhetoric that is mostly PR Speak.
Here is what they say about the financing for the city's new administrative building.
The Finance Committee, by a vote of 4 and one abstention - a questionable act by a city employee who obviously didn't want to put herself in harms way by voting with the majority - to oppose this deal.
As for Rotenberg, my personal opinion is that he deserves to be fired, not just for his efforts in this instance, but for the whole list of questionable activities he's engaged in to support developers, former business partners and personal friends from deals that he's oversen.
It's Miami, Bitches!
Unless Joe Carollo had the roof over the doorway with the loose tiles and the tree behind it all removed sometime after the Code Inspection visit on Monday afternoon, and my visit on Tuesday around 1 PM, then the photo above with the roof and tree gone is what Ms. Troutman and her fellow inspectors would have found on their visit on Monday afternoon.
If that is true - and if Ms Troutman is capable of remembering from one day to the next what she sees when she goes on inspections, then there is only one question that really needs to be answered.
Why weren't there Notice of Code Violations cited in Ms Troutman's email for Joe Carollo illegally removing the roof, the loose tiles, and the tree behind it without a permit?
It's Miami, Bitches!
NUMBER 83 - MAY 23, 2019
CODE COMPLIANCE DIRECTOR ADELE VALENCIA WAS NOT HAPPY WITH MY STORY LAST FRIDAY, AND NOT ONLY CALLED AROUND TOWN TO WHINE ABOUT HOW I AND BILLY CORBEN HAD TREATED HER ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUT CLAIMED THAT WE HAD BEEN SO MEAN THAT IT AFFECTED HER ABILITY TO BREAST FEED HER NEW BABY, AND THAT NOT ONLY WERE WE MEAN AND UNFAIR, BUT THAT WE WERE ALL MISOGYNISTS TO BOOT. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT SHE SAYS ABOUT THIS STORY
Last Thursday morning when I posted my Notice of Code Violation on the door of Joe Carollo's house in Coconut Grove, I took the above photo, along with several closeups of the entrance to Joe Carollo's house that I included in a story I wrote last Friday about the failure of Code Compliance to do anything about the allegations made by Bill Fuller.
On Friday, the photo below is one of the photos that Code Inspector Genesis Troutman took when she went to Carollo's house in response to an anonymous call that claimed that there was construction, construction workers and construction debris on the property. (I cropped the right side of the photo to bring the little tile roof and the tree above it into better focus.)
As you can see, sometime between Friday, when Inspector Troutman took her photo, and Tuesday when I took my latest photo, Carollo had the roof with the loose tiles removed, the tree behind the fence cut down, and the bushes on either side of the doorway trimmed.
ADELE WANTS TO PLAY ROPE-A-DOPE
At the end of Tuesday's Sunshine Meeting, the news broke that Joey Flechas, of the Miami Herald, had just posted a story that Carollo had been served with 5 Notices of Code Violation, based in part on the allegations made by Bill Fuller at his press conference on May 9th.
On hearing the news, I left City Hall and drove to the MRC building in an effort to get a copy of those 5 Notices.
To explain what happend then, here is a copy of an email that I sent Mr. Valencia this morning.
On Tuesday afternoon, on my way to City Hall for the Sunshine Meeting that I wrote about below, I stopped by Carolllo's house and took this photo.
I wrote the above email, because I had checked with sources who had access to the city's City View program on both Wednesday and today, and who had informed me that though it had been down when I was at the MRC building on Tuesday afternoon, it was working sporatically on Wednesday and today, and the notices of violation had been posted.
Since Ms. Valenica, like other public employees before her had whined to me in a phone call we had on Saturday morning that maybe providing me with timely responses to my public record requests wasn't a good idea, if what I did with the information turned out to bite her in the ass, I took her failure to provide me with copes of the 5 Notice of Violations and the photos that the inspectors took at Carollo's house on Monday afternoon as a decision to rope-a-dope me as an example of her displeasure with my previous story, which I am now inclined to believe that she did.
Why am I now inclinded to think that? Because of the email response she sent me about 2 hours ago, and in an email that she had sent me on Wednesday afternoon.
Here is what she wrote me this morning.
Not only could she have included an abbreviated version of her excuse for not providing me with the Notices yesterday, but the telling evidence that she was rope-a-doping me was her claim that she had forwarded by request to, "Jihan Soliman (copied) will send you the copies of the Notice of Violations as well as any photos."
That was a decision - forwarding my request to Soliman - that she could have made on Tuesday after receiving my written request, or on Wednesday.
To wait until Tursday morning, after I had written to complain, is an after the fact act to try and cover her ass.
But, all of this stuff about her failure to respond to my request because of sporadic functionality issues with City Vew, or any other reasons that she might have decided to use to justify not providing me with the copies of the Notices of Violation are actually just a sidebar to the real issues surrounding the way in which Code Compliance operates.
The real story, and it's always important not to lose track of the real story, is in the email that Joey Flechas cited in his Tuesday story, an email written by Inspector Genesis Troutman, that detailed what took place during the Monday afternoon inspection of Joe Carollo's house, and what the violations were that he was cited for.
Here is that email.
Here is the email she sent me on Wednesday afternoon, which is self-explanatory.
Having read this email, let me re-introduce you to two photos, the first being the photo that Ms. Troutman took on Friday when she met with the Commissioner, his wife, and the next door neighbor, and then my photo taken Tuesday afternoon.