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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

Miami Beach Mayor Unresponsive to Espanola Peace Plea


17 February 2015
Filed by David Arthur Walters
MIAMI MIRROR
City of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has not responded to my plea on
18 March 2014 to do something to resolve a conflict arising from the citys
code compliance departments pathetic administration of the sidewalk code
in the citys historic Espanola Way district.
Complaints about the lack of and selectivity of enforcement had prompted
Antonio Halabi, who controls the Flame restaurant on Espanola Way, to
complain about unpermitted seats being set out to capture visitors before
they got to his restaurant, among other code violations. His competitors
subsequently visited his restaurant and threatened him, and code
compliance officers allegedly retaliated against the Flame. However, the
citys sidewalk coordinator was forced to resign, and city officials rushed to
permit more seats for Mr. Halabis competitors.
On 26 March 2014, eight days after my plea was made to the mayor, Mr.
Halabis landlord, a company controlled by Scott Robins, filed an eviction
suit against Mr. Halabi. That followed a threatening letter to Mr. Halabi,
dated 7 March 2014, the first item therein complaining that Mr. Halabi was
threatening the other tenants. Those tenants had been fined as a result of
Mr. Halabis persistent complaints.
Mr. Halabi has refused, on the advice of his attorneys, to discuss the
eviction suit and his counterclaim against Mr. Robins. Mr. Robins is
incidentally a prominent public figure influential in politics, and a friend and
partner of Mayor Levine in several projects, one of them a virtual
partnership with the city in a Sunset Harbour development.
Copies of my plea for peace to Mayor Levine were sent to Melissa Dunn,
Esq., an executive for Mr. Robins companies, as well as City
Commissioner Ed Tobin, Esq., City Manager Jimmy Morales, Esq,, Hernan
Cardeno, Esq., the director of the citys code compliance department.
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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

A copy of my letter appears below. Mr. Halabi, in a public record letter to


Mr. Cardeno, has disclosed a plan to assist the citys code compliance
department by forming an non-profit organization that will among other
things publish an informational newsletter to thousands of businesses and
residents so they may respond appropriately to various issues that they
may or may not be aware of that affects their community.
-XYX-

Forwardedmessage
From:DavidArthurWalters<miamimirror@gmail.com>
Date:Wed,Mar19,2014at12:25PM
Subject:HonorableMayor:PleaseHelpWithIdealResolutionofthe
EspanolaWayAffair
To:MayorPhilLevine<PhilipLevine@miamibeachfl.gov>
Cc:"Tobin,Ed"<EdTobin@miamibeachfl.gov>,"Morales,Jimmy"
<JimmyMorales@miamibeachfl.gov>,"Cardeno,Hernan"
<HernanCardeno@miamibeachfl.gov>,Info@robinscompanies.com

18March2014
MayorPhilipLevine
CITYOFMIAMIBEACH
Subject:ResolutionoftheEspanolaWayAffair
HonorableMayor:

I appeal to you for your assistance in resolving a conflict that has


arisen along Espanola Way due to the pathetic administration of the
citys sidewalk caf code. I am absolutely certain that the optimum
resolutionwillbeinthebestinterestoftheentirecommunitysince
it will also entail some of the administrative reform you spoke of
duringthemayoralcampaign.
I have written three articles on the subject of which the
administration is well aware yet the maladministration continues. I
wantmylastarticletobeacelebrationofsuccess.
Insum,AntonioHalabi,owneroftheFlameCaffe&Grill,hassuffered
substantialfinanciallossesduetothenegligent,discriminatory,and
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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

selectiveenforcementofthesidewalkcafcodebytheCodeCompliance
Division of the Building Department. His efforts to protect his
businessresultedindirectandindirectretaliationfromthecity.
Direct retaliation, for instance, included trumpedup charges brought
against him in the local code magistrates court, which is critically
consideredtobeanextortionatepoliticaltool.Althoughtherewasno
such violation on the books for which Halabi was accused, the
magistrateinsistedonimposingafineandrefusedtorehearthecase,
which was deemed so politically important due to Halabis complaints
of maladministration that it was personally directed by former city
managerJorgeGonzalesappointeddirector.Andthatisnotall.
An instance of indirect retaliation involved punitive actions taken
against smaller businesses, pointing out Mr. Halabi along the Way as
the complainant even when his complaint was anonymous, while giving
passes or minor tickets to major violators, with the consequence that
everybusinessonEspanolaWaywassetagainsthim.Evenyesterday,as
he walked along Espanola Way with a Miami Herald reporter, he was
hectored by a bully as they counted the illegal seats along the Way.
Perhaps as a reformer yourself, you will understand how he must have
feltwhenhisgoodintentionsweregreetedwithrankcontumely.
The night before, for the second time since I started my
investigation, I personally counted scores of illegal seats set down
at the Washington Avenue mouth of the Way to absorb the flow of
tourist traffic before it reached restaurants towards the end of the
block.IadvisedMr.HalabitocallCodeCompliance.Itappearsthata
smallfry with a few extra chairs was fined $500 while the big
violators naturally motivated to hog the traffic were apparently
ignored.Andthatisnotall.
Even Mr. Halabis landlord has joined the neighbors, impliedly
threateninghiminwritingwithevictionforharassinghisneighbors
becausehehasaskedforjustadministrationoflaw.
It seemed to me that the landlord had thus condoned the longstanding
misprision of city officials and unlawful behavior of his tenants.
However, it has now been called to my attention that your friend and
partner Scott Robins controls the property, a jewel in his investment
portfolio, and that it would be unlikely for him to intentionally
approve of misbehavior detrimental to his property interests and the
press reputation that he advertises in press releases as excellent.
Wherefore please be sure than he gets a copy of this letter so he is
fullyapprisedofthisEspanolaWayAffair.

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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

AsfarasIwasconcernedatfirstglance,theEspanolaWayAffairis
duetoshamefulmismanagementofprivateandpublicresources.
WhoamItojudge?Iwasemployedinthetravelindustry,realestate
development, and shopping center management in my youth. I was
fortunate to work under the direction of persons retired from the
first lunar landing module project, an intelligence commander fresh
fromVietnam,alowlybookkeeperwhotookuparchitectureandwoundup
owning a third of the hotels in a popular resort destination, and a
masterbuilderanddeveloperfromGermany.Imadehumblecontributions
towards attracting and keeping tourists and good tenants in a way so
cooperative that the government mistakenly thought it included price
fixing. Whatever the price, it did not prevent the occurrence of one
ofthemostcolossaloverbookingfiascosinthehistoryofthetravel
industryinvolvingthousandsoftouristsmorethaneagertopayit.
Iimagineyourvisionisfarkeenerthanminegivenyourgreatfortune
in the travel business and real estate development. I am more
interestedinideasthanthethingsofthisworld,andconsidermyself
fortunatealthoughIlivewellbelowthepovertylineinsqualidSouth
Beach quarters. I would rather die laughing than scowling over
millions. I have been dubbed an honorable village fool by a high
officialfornotrecognizingthatourbeautifulcityonthebeachhas
thebestofallpossiblecitygovernments.
However,whetherwehappentobefoolishorwise,wearetalkingabout
obvious,simpletechniquesinthiscase,notaboutthepossiblesocial
applications of rocket science. Simple things can be and should be
donetoattractandcapturebusinessalongbothblocks.
Most importantly, all the tenants should associate together regularly
to serve their mutual interest in that very special place called
Espanola Way. Instead of vicious competition along Espanola Way, why
not have spirited cooperation? The Espanola Way Society should be
createdtodojustthat.
Espanola Way should be promoted as an entity. For example, special
fiestas, carnivals, street fairs should be held regularly all along
the Way, and in and around the large plaza between the blocks, with
suitable measures to quickly clear the Way in case of emergency. And
whynotputaSpanishstylefountainintheplaza?
Espanola Way should selfregulate itself in a cooperative way. Since
the Code Compliance Division is notorious for its historical
unreliability, corruption, and unwillingness to enforce the code
unless someone else can be blamed for making complaints, hence is
unlikelytochangeexceptbrieflyforscandalousperiodssubsequentto
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FBI arrests, a private monitor should be appointed by the Society to


serve as host along the Way while making sure that extra chairs are
not put out until all the sidewalk cafes are full. And then seating
would be placed out according to an agreed upon system. And fines,
when rarely imposed by the negligent bureaucracy, would be shared
accordingly by those who do not opt out of the system. An attorney
truly devoted to the interest of his or her clients would deal with
unfairfinesandwithlegislation.
Everyone concerned stands to profit in one way or another, materially
and/or spiritually, from the ideal development of Espanola Way, so
that it becomes the truly outstanding aspect in every stakeholders
portfolio.
The beneficiaries would naturally include Mr. Halabi, who may, with
your assistance and that of your colleagues, recoup his losses and
more, and perhaps even be sufficiently compensated for the severe
distress he and his family have suffered at the hands of code
complianceofficials.ThenperhapsMiamiBeachwillfulfillthedreams
hehadoftheUnitedStatesofAmericainhisyouthinsteadofbeinga
livingnightmareandablackeyeonthenation.
It is with that in mind that I pray that you and your colleagues,
together with the city administration, will immediately arrange some
sort of preliminary powwow and palaver with all the tenants, to hear
them out, explain reforms, and assist them in the promotion of
EspanolaWaysoeveryonehasachancetosucceedtothebestoftheir
respectiveabilities.
Sincerely,
David Arthur Walters
AsEditor
Cc
ScottRobins
EdTobin
JimmyMorales
HernanCardeno
Letterattached

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