In Miami, there aren't many with the guts to hold our ineffective and/or corrupt public officials accountable. Certainly not Florida’s soon-to-be out of business "paper of record," the Miami Herald, which, nearly 40 years ago, missed the Watergate story, right under its nose, and hasn't caught up since.
The Herald’s columnists tend to aim for low-hanging fruit, utilizing their soapbox, not to hunt for big scalps, but rather to cover such crucial community issues as the Tampa vs. Miami Cuban Sandwich War (seriously, google it; I refuse to provide a hyperlink on principle). It’s no wonder corruption is so rampant here, the watchdogs have gone to sleep, died, or been put down.
Carl Hiaasen was the closest we ever had to Mike Royko, but he got the hell outta Dodge long ago for the relatively safer pastures of Central Florida. He still files his column in Miami, but it seems most of his efforts go toward his career as a best-selling author.
Thank goodness for constitutional crusader and hip hop legend Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell (formerly of 2 Live Crew). Over the past few weeks, Campbell has called out some powerful Miami figures in his column, Luke’s Gospel. So damning were his criticisms, these politicians felt it necessary to respond.
Following a Campbell-penned column on longtime Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the subject wrote a rebuttal touting her record on public corruption: "Thirty-four elected officials and/or candidates have been convicted and 19 elected officials have been removed from office… [plus] 292 law enforcement officers and 286 public employees we have also charged."
Rundle has been state attorney for 19 years. In Miami-Dade. That isn’t such an impressive record when it comes to thwarting public corruption. Plus, in those 19 years, she has never prosecuted a police officer for an on-duty shooting. Her numbers include the City of Miami cops who fatally shot seven unarmed black men in a matter of months between 2010 and 2011–a spree that prompted an ongoing Justice Department investigation (see my column from last week). In fact, there are nearly 63 unresolved police shootings dating back to March 2006, 25 of which involve fatalities.
Last week, Campbell set his sights on a regular target of his: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who defeated Campbell in his bid for county mayor last year (seriously). In previous columns, such as the subtly headlined “Carlos Gimenez Has Been a Horrible Miami-Dade Mayor,” Campbell hinted at what was to come: He officially endorsed Gimenez’s opponent in this year’s race. This prompted a swift response from Gimenez, pleading his virtues.
Only in Miami could the man who once coauthored the poetry that is “Pop That Coochie,” “Me So Horny,” and “Doo Doo Brown” be one of civically conscious few who is trying to keep our leaders honest.
Welcome to This Week in Florida.
- Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your husbands, and hide your hoodies, Florida is about to become the first state in the union with one million concealed carry gun permits.
- Criminals are stealing taxpayers’ identities and collecting fraudulent IRS refunds, and—I hope you’re sitting down—the “scam is most prevalent in Florida.” An estimated 88,724 phony returns filed in Tampa resulted in refunds of over $468 million, while Miamians collected more than $280 million from about 74,496 bogus filings.
- Speaking of taxpayers getting screwed: 4,284 Florida public officials and employees completely disregarded a financial-disclosure deadline last month, and that little oversight will cost each taxpayer $4.75t that will be used to send a certified letter to all the violators. That’s a total of $20,349. It’s stuff like this that’s (barely) keeping the US Postal Service afloat. When a horse breaks its leg, the usual response is to shoot it.
- The Drug Enforcement Agency busted a pill mill in New Port Richey this week. This would ordinarily be the equivalent of reporting that the sun rose this morning. But, this particular “pharmacy” is owned and operated by brother-in-law of Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll.
- Sure, you hear about hit-and-runs all the time. But in Florida, they don’t only happen on the road. This week, a couple was injured in a hit-and-run boat crash off Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove.
- Florida is now famous for our thin-skinned minor league baseball umpires after an ump ejected a Daytona Cubs intern for playing “Three Blind Mice” organ music after a close call.
- Police in Santa Rosa Beach arrested a 26-year-old man after he (not necessarily in this order) stole a man’s debit card, robbed another woman, hit his wife in the head with a gun, and forced a seven-year-old boy to smoke pot at gunpoint.
- To maximize excitement for tourists and provide riders a close encounter, some Everglades airboat captains will (illegally) feed alligators. One captain recently got his hand bit off by a gator, and this week he was arrested based on evidence that he fed that gator more than just his appendage. It might be a good idea for captains to lay off illegal feeding considering a massive (read: petrifying) gator nest was just discovered in Everglades City.
- A 62-year-old Conch Key woman known (to friends?) as "The Sea Hag” asked Martin Mazur, 64, who was sitting outside his house drinking, for a beer. Mazur said “no” and “The Hag” shot him five times, killing him.
- Over a year ago, a Lauderhill cop, on the verge of being arrested for official misconduct, shot himself in the head. He left behind a suicide note, begrudgingly released by police only now, which led to the previously unreported firing of two other officers and raised serious questions about the legality of arrests made by the department’s Crime Suppression Unit.
- Orlando might be home to the Happiest Place on Earth, but at least one 7-Eleven clerk in the city limits didn’t get the brochure. She was fired after cursing at a customer and his three-year-old son, and later chasing them down in her car to flip them off and drive donuts around them. The customer must be a fan of this column because he recorded the whole episode on his cell phone camera for us.
- A fugitive involved in the elaborate South Beach B-Girls scam was nabbed by FBI at the Miami International Airporton his way out of town. The scheme involved Eastern European women who would wander legit South Beach nightclubs to recruit rich-looking men to join them at “private clubs,” where the men would allegedly be drugged and defrauded out of as much as tens of thousands of dollars each. At least 88 businessmen and tourists, including a Philadelphia TV weatherman, were duped.
- In an effort to get your money to the lord as expeditiously as possible, a Miami Gardens church now has an ATM machine in its lobby where parishioners can use their credit or debit cards to transfer money directly from their accounts to Lord Jesus Our Savior.
- A Miami-Dade police officer was shot three times, another man was killed, and an otherwise quiet residential neighborhood was under siege for half a day–all over 80 pounds of pot in an alleged grow house. This is the only time anyone dies as a result of marijuana. But, no, we’re not turning into Mexico. Not at all.
- A Lake Worth man solved his own burglary by activating the locator function on his iPad, called the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office to deliver them this open-and-shut case, and the cops—voila—did nothing. To their credit (I guess), they now admit: "We dropped the ball.”
- The Miami Herald continued its descent into Biscayne Bay this week, first with the announcement that, by year’s end, they’ll start charging for online content that people already already don’t read for free. Then, to celebrate an American Olympic swimming victory for Ryan Lochte, the Herald went for the gold in race-baiting. Too bad that’s a Winter Olympics sport.
- Let’s all welcome the Florida Sheriffs Association to the 20th century: They just elected their first female leader since getting their start 118 years ago.
- RIP: Tennessee Titans football player Orenthal James Murdock was found shot outside a Tampa high school. A short while later he died at the hospital from the allegedly self-inflicted wound.