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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

Abominable Coca Cola Umbrellas near Police Station

RANDOM ENFORCEMENT
BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

PREFACE I have been disappointed by the performance of the Miami Beach code enforcement officers for several years. For example, in March 2012, a man with a big dog was once again not picking up his dogs waste from the middle of the sidewalk on 8th Street near Euclid Avenue. I gave him a holler and he gave me the finger, and turned into the alley. I looked down the alley when I arrived there, but the man had gone into one of the apartment buildings. However, a code enforcement officer was there. He had gotten out of his city vehicle and was chatting up two girls in their SUV. I interrupted him, and asked him if he had ever given someone a ticket for dog waste in the neighborhood. Never, not around here, he said. Well, the guy who just came down the alley allows his dog to crap in the middle of the sidewalk near the corner every day. Why dont you give him a ticket? You have to call us when you see someone doing that. Right, and do you think he is going to wait around for a half hour, maybe more, until one of you guys show up? You can follow him, see where he lives.
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Sure, but maybe it would be better to just make a citizens arrest, cuff him and sit him down on the curb until you get here, right? Im not saying that. Im just being facetious. Im getting sick and tired of the dog crap everywhere, like all around that building on the corner of 7th and Pennsylvania across from the corner caf. You guys arent doing your job. Im going to write you up. Here is my card. Never mind, he declined my card. I know who you are, he said and resumed chatting with the girls. I did not write him up because I figured doing so was futile. But I was encouraged in April 2012 when I read that one of the code compliance officers I had written about in July 2010 had been arrested along with four others, plus two firefighters and a cop. There were allegations of bribery at a South Beach nightclub, and protection services for cocaine convoys. Residents hope it is the tip of the iceberg, and that many more arrests will follow, for the consensus is that corruption is widespread. I was pleasantly surprised by the busts, for my interest had been in what I believed to be the typical arrogance and negligence of the officers and their bosses, not in criminal their conduct. I had conducted my own little investigation after George Castell, Miami Beach Code Compliance Administrator of the Code Compliance Division, suddenly blurted out during a July 2010 Las Olas Caf neighborhood walkaround meeting, completely out of context, that We do not have selective enforcement in South Beach. The City of Miami Beach, like other cities, has certain standards to which businesses must conform. Among many other things, the Code Compliance Division is responsible for restricting the advertising behavior of South Beach businesses that serve the tourist industry. The average person, unfamiliar with the particular codes and ordinances, would naturally believe that the standards, whatever they are, are evenly enforced. I asserted my disagreement with Mr. Castells abrupt denial of selective enforcement in South Beach. I brought up a particular case of apparent selective enforcement by his division, one that suggested the possibility of religious intolerance and discrimination against the owners of Crazee Olive, a Middle Eastern-style restaurant owned by Iranian-Americans. I decided to conduct a private investigation into Mr. Castells assertion immediately after the Conference to uncover more facts to see if my reasonable suspicions would lead to probable cause to believe that Compliance regularly engaged in discriminatory or selective enforcement of rules. Although Mr. Castell refused to do anything about the violations that I subsequently discovered and sent him photographic evidence of because I would not make a formal complaint, nearly all

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of them were corrected over the next few months after I published the photographs and send the links to various public officials including the city manager and his assistants. David Arthur Walters April 17, 2012

ABOMINABLE COCA COLA UMBRELLAS The citys Code Enforcement chapter, as set forth in Sec. 30.1 (a), states: It is the intent of this chapter to promote, protect and improve the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the city and to provide an equitable, expeditious, effective and inexpensive method of enforcing codes and ordinances in force in the city where a pending or repeat violation exists or is enacted pursuant to the authority of F.S. Ch. 162. (Underlining supplied) Other than the prohibition of noisy marketing, such as playing loud music to attract attention, the standards are esoteric, generally unknown to the public at large, and unevenly enforced. For example, who knows that the umbrellas popping up on sidewalk cafes in South Beach with the Coca Cola name or symbolic bottle on them are contrary to the display standards? These little restaurants, the pizzerias, taquerias and the like, are having a hard time paying the rent lately, so the Coca Cola guy goes around and offers free umbrellas to put on their sidewalk cafes no doubt a few newcomers are not even aware of the fact that they are supposed to have permission to seat customers on the right-of-way. What is wrong with the Coca Cola brand? After all, we have seen the umbrellas with the Amstel name and bottle on them for years and thought nothing of them. Here is the pertinent section of the Code hardly anyone is familiar with: Sec 82-385 Minimum standards, criteria, and conditions for the operation of sidewalk cafes. (q) No food displays shall be permitted on the public right-of-way. No advertizing signs or business identification signs shall be permitted on the public right-of-way except that the restaurant name and/or its logo may be permitted on umbrellas but such logos and/or lettering may not exceed six inches in height. We have seen that the objective for having such ordinances in the first place is explicitly stated: to promote, protect and improve the safety and welfare of the citizens. Theoretically, since there is no definite end to the welfare of citizens, the sovereignty of the authority delegated to ensure it is likewise unlimited. As for signage, it is not that soft drinks and beer is unsafe for public consumption hence contrary to public safety, but rather that, if the authority allowed businesses to use their sidewalk cafes as advertising space and/or to advertise the restaurant itself in huge letters on its umbrellas, the streets would be littered with unsightly clutter. That might disturb the esthetic sensibility of the citizenry, hence be contrary to their welfare. Besides, the city would not be getting a piece of the advertising action.

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The partners who own the little Middle Eastern restaurant Crazee Olive at 751 Washington Avenue did not know they were violating a standard when they put up two Coca Cola umbrellas and chairs near the curb of their sidewalk caf, or at least what they thought was their permitted sidewalk caf. That may have attracted a little more business, but not much, for business has been rather bad during the Great Recession. I liked the tasty food at Crazee Olive. I paid little attention to the ubiquitous Coca Cola umbrellas, and wrote a review of my good experience. However, I minded the umbrellas when I returned for my usual $5 burger, fries, and Coke special, because the trademark name and symbolic bottle had been painted out, rendering the sidewalk caf blemished. What a mess! What happened to your umbrella? I asked Mohsen, a partner in the business. We were fined one-hundred dollars for having the Coca Cola name on the umbrella. But thats ridiculous! I exclaimed, and thought of other Coke umbrellas I had seen. What about the place across the street? What about the half-dozen Coke umbrellas a couple of blocks from here? I see them all the time. Theres one at that place I hate, where I encountered the pickle chiseler, on 5th Street and Ocean. The pickle chiseler insisted on charging me a halfdollar extra for a little relish on my room-temperature hotdog served on stale bread. I know, said Mohsen, shrugging. Youre being discriminated against, I conjectured. Maybe. This is anti-business. Times are not good, he said. Let me see the ticket. The ticket, dated May 23, 2010, handwritten by Compliance Officer Whitehead, fined the business $100 for violating display standards; to wit, the Coca Cola information on the umbrella. Names other than the name of a restaurant are prohibited, stated the officer in his neat scrawling. However, the name and/or logo of the establishment itself can be displayed on an umbrella, provided that it is no more than six inches in height.

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Whats this about six inches? I said. What about the huge letters on the umbrellas around South Beach? I noticed how big they are because I could read them from across the street with my bad eyesight. Id want my letters bigger than six inches, too. It looks l ike if a man has more than six inches in South Beach, hell get fined a hundred dollars. I know, said Mohsen again, shrugging again. But I dont want to complain about other people and get them in trouble. Me neither. As they say in the Army, this is chicken shit. Look, I know the president of the local restaurant and hotel association, David Kelsey. Ill send this info to him along with some photos of the other violators, and maybe he can do something to prevent selective enforcement, maybe get the standard repealed for everyone so they dont have to paint out the advertising. Okay. By the way, he read my review of your place and said he was going to contact you. I saw him ride by your place on his bicycle the other day He didnt. I see. I guess he gets his dues from the luxury restaurants and hotels. I sent along the information to Mr. Kelsey and expressed the suspicion that the Middle Eastern food establishment was being discriminated against on religious grounds. Mind you, I was somewhat paranoid, even though I was aware of many claims of discrimination against Middle Easterners in South Beach were preposterous. Indeed, I thought all such claims were unfounded until I consulted with an Israeli, a young man who had trained American Special Forces in martial arts. He recounted several instances where police and immigration officers had profiled him because he looks like some Arabs, perhaps Palestinian and Pakistani, i.e. Semitic. Some of the officers had been U.S. Marines with combat duty, he said, and some of them extend their hatred for Islamists to all Muslims. I thought immediately of a late friend, may he rest in peace, a Navy SEAL and American hero of many missions, employed by a South Florida police force, who felt likewise, believing that Islam is a violent hence evil religion, and that Muslims should be converted to Judeo-Christianity or atheism at gunpoint or suffer the consequences I was a liberal thorn in my patriotic friends side, but he was one of the most faithful friends I ever had. And I thought of ex-Marine Jason Ready, the vigilante border patrol guy who sympathizes with the National Socialist Movement they believe that only straight, white non-Jews should be citizens, and everyone else should be deported. I suppose Muslims would be deported too, no matter their color. They are even more fanatically monotheistic than most Jews. Muslims, like Christians, were frustrated by Judaism, and developed their own versions of frustrated Judaism. It is an open question in South Beach as to whether the gradual liberation from old-time religion,
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as it appears in Judeo-Christianity with its unconditional love and forgiveness, is a progression to heaven or a regression to hell. Todays terrorist is yesteryears noble (arab) romantic desert warrior and still is if in a uniform and following the right flag. Oh my g-d! I wondered. Could multicultural South Florida be under the sway of militant superpatriots in the police forces? Surely not! Thats ridiculous! Mr. Kelsey said he would take the selective enforcement incident up with Compliance and get back to me. Shortly thereafter, I received an anti-Muslim photo essay from him, pictures of the massive protest against the erection of a mosque near Ground Zero. What the f--k is this? I asked myself. So this is the answer? I protested to Mr. Kelsey, that Muslims should not be discriminated against and selected for enforcement of display standards in South Beach. He agreed with as much via email, but that did not relieve my uneasiness over the pictorial response. When I spoke of all this with a friend of mine who had been close to prominent city and law enforcement officials in Miami and Miami Beach, she said, Dont, dont, dont get involved in this issue. They will think you are friendly with Islam. You will get on their list and youll regret it. SOUTH BEACH FALAFEL JIHAD When George Castell of the Code Compliance Division of the Building Department insisted at the July 2010 Las Olas Caf Conference that, We do not have selective enforcement in South Beach, I could not resist bringing up the ticketing of Crazee Olive to the exclusion of everyone else with the same violation, although I did so with some reluctance because Mohsen believed he would be further harassed by Compliance if he complained. And I mentioned to Mr. Castell my suspicion that the Crazee Olive partners would be retaliated against if it complained about the selective enforcement. City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, who is personally responsible for the enforcement of the citys Code, has expressed contempt for people who complain about his administration. He complained, according to one of his communication specialists, who called himself a fly on the wall, that he is sick and tired of people complaining about one bad blade of grass in his great lawn. But quite a few folks, even some who attended his Leadership Academy, where they learned the only Rule of Order, Be Nice Dont Complain, complain privately that there are lots of bad patches in his lawn, and say there are many of his snakes hiding in the grass ready to strike anyone who steps on his plans. I noticed that the red umbrellas by the curb, with the Coca Cola name and symbolic bottle painted out because of the citation, as well as the four chairs, were gone when I re-visited Crazee Olive for my usual $5 lunch special shortly after the Las Olas Caf Conference. Only two small
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tables with two chairs each and no umbrellas were on the sidewalk, directly outside the front door, presumably on private property. In essence, there was no sidewalk caf. The other partner in Crazee Olive, Said Saidi, Mohsens relative, was in town and manning the store that day. Said is the Senior Information Officer of the World Bank and is therefore out of town a lot. I was pleased to meet him and to say that his wife, a Southern belle from Washington, D.C. had reinforced my view that Persians have excellent taste in food and women. And then I asked him about the missing umbrellas. Compliance had come around again, he said, on July 13, again when no owners were present. Compliance Officer Corey Burton fined the establishment another $100, this time for operating a sidewalk caf without a permit or for not renewing a sidewalk caf permit. Which was it? I asked. Saidi told me that his famous architect, Mauricio Lacayo, who has designed several well known South Beach establishments, had pulled a sidewalk cafe permit for Crazee Olive, and that the required liability insurance for an outside caf had been paid. However, he said, he had followed up with Compliance, and apparently there was some confusion about the law, which had been changed, over the number of seats available inside and outside the establishment, and whether or not the caf permit was temporary instead of permanent. But why didnt Compliance bring the matter up when it cited Crazee Olive for the umbrella insignia on May 26? Good question. On both occasions, he informed me, Compliance officers had said there would have been no citation unless someone had complained. When everybody does something, it was explained, they let it go unless someone complains about a particular violation. Who in Sam Hell would complain? Nobody knows about the chicken-shit rules for the umbrellas. The complaint had to come from within. It seemed to me that Compliance was retaliating against the establishment because David Kelsey had forwarded my research proving that the City Managers Code Compliance Division was engaged in selective enforcement. I think your business was selected for unfair enforcement and is being harassed, probably because you are Muslim. Perhaps, but Im not getting excited or making a judgment about this, not yet, Said calmly stated. Ive contacted the architect. If something went wrong, if its our fault, well get it fixed. This dude is a really cool cucumber, I thought to myself as I wolfed down my burger, fries, and iced tea. Man, is this burger good! Fresh meat. Big fries yummy gotta get more Ketchup. Best special ever - cant get this for a fiver anywhere else on the beach. Isnt it amazing how some people have to be told they are being discriminated against before they fully realize it?
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As I relished the food and mulled things over, I became haunted by the thought that perhaps Crazee Olive was being discriminated against not on religious grounds, but because I had written and published an honest review of the establishment, and that review was circulated around the city. Back in 2005, when I still had an open mind about Boss Gonzalez, Jimmy Newton in the Parks Department had told me that the city manager had badmouthed me, calling me crazy and pronouncing me insane because I had written about the concealed hole in the parkthe hole had almost broken a friends leg; and about a drowning in a hole off the beach at Lincoln Road. And I complained about lifeguards having to build lifeguard stations out of scrap wood long after a storm; their improvised stations were being used as drug-shooting and smoking galleries and toilets at night. Furthermore, I had lately criticized his Be Nice and Dont Complain Leadership Academy mentality, saying it reduced those people who actually adhered to it to the lower hierarchical level of a baboon troop; I was thinking of Planet of the Apes. And I had gotten wind of the vindictiveness of some of the leading vipers in his great lawn. Maybe little ol me had brought the Boss goons down on Crazee Olive, I feared. But no, that is absurd, I was just paranoid, I reasoned ever so sanely. I, like most residents of South Beach, am nobody to him, really, not worth the bother of capitalizing on, not worth bringing into the fold like the old-fashioned godfathers were wont to do with talented troublemakers in their territories, rather than kill them first, as stupid leaders do now. Now opposite to the delusion of persecution side of the paranoia coin is the delusion of grandeur. If I were deemed crazy and sent up Shit Creek for electroshock treatment instead of being shot for political crimes, I would have to confess that sometimes I am shocked by the grandeur of my insignificance. As the blinded Cyclops painfully howled, when his kin stood outside his cave and asked him who had blinded him, Nobody blinded me! So they figured he was crazy, and retired, and lost their sheep. Single-minded civic leaders, you snakes in the great lawn, beware of Nobody if you covet your sheep! Sheep, beware of vipers who change their skins! THE INTERNAL CRUSADE I emailed Mr. Castell on July 16, and expressed my suspicion that Crazee Olive had been retaliated against for complaining about the very selective enforcement he had insisted did not exist. He looked up both incidents in his data base on July 16, and responded: For future reference any violation that is issued and violator does not agree with the violation, he or she can read the appeal process located on the back of every ticket and appeal it. They will be scheduled for a Special Master hearing and explain why they do not agree with the violation, he stated while addressing the Coca Cola advertising issue. Unfortunately, business owners that apply for sidewalk caf permits always fill out the application, but a majority of the business owners do not read the ordinance that is attached to the application. If the read the ordinance and follow the section of the code, then they will not be
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in violation of the code. Code Compliance enforces the Citys ordinance, the same one with the application that is provided with the application. I supposed, as he said, that many people do not read the ordinances, or they may have read them and forget them over time. I wondered how recently he had read the provision for the issuance of a warning instead of an immediate fine when the violation is of no danger to the public and is not issued for operating a caf outside of the confines permitted. That is, most restaurants get a warning first. Why not Crazee Olive? The question of whether or not there was a valid permit had not yet arisen at the time the signage fine was issued. Also there was another violation (issued on 7/14/10) for operating a sidewalk caf without a permit, which is a serious issue especially for the liability issues and violation of the Citys Code Section 82-381, 82-371. According to the issuing officers notes, this is a complaint from Public Works who oversee the issuing of sidewalk caf permits. (The serious issue had resulted in the same fine as the Coca Cola lettering - $100). So the complaint was internally made. The notes of the issuing officer were withheld by Mr. Castell for some reason. The name of the person making the complaint was likewise withheld. Apparently the notes do not include the responses of the accused establishment, that insurance is in place and that a sidewalk caf permit was believed to be pulled by the architect, who had been duly contacted. That information would of course come in handy for anyone pulling up the computer record - competent businesses record pertinent information and update their files. I was glad to politely respond on the same day: Thank you. I reviewed the original tickets. This may be a case of selective reinforcement and then retaliation for making a complaint about selective reinforcement, given that identical violations were not fined until very recently [only one establishment among many violators, a restaurant across the street from Crazee Olive, had been cited and fined], and then the alleged violation followed. Both inspectors told the partners that there would have been no citation but that someone had complained. I am of course speculating when I opine that the complaints were internal to Compliance, and that the nature of the selective enforcement was religious intolerance, a hypothesis that seemed to be supported when the response to my first complaint via David Kelsey (who informed Compliance) was an anti-Muslim essay in re Ground Zero. That, coupled with your remark [at the Las Olas Conference] that you knew one of the partners, and your remark that you are a Marine, set my imagination going even further. Needless to say, Dr. Saidi, one of the partners, who is the Senior Information Officer at the World Bank, is none too pleased with apparently selective treatment of his business, but remains quite reasonable, and will contact the world-famous architect whom he believes had the proper permits pulled, to see what went wrong technically. Everyone concerned, regardless of whether
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or not the citations were intentionally selective, are not too impressed by the proceedings as they are not conducive to the conduct of a profitable business. The reader should know that my email to Compliance, with copies to the city managers representative who had attended the Las Olas Conference, included photographic evidence of violations elsewhere, including Coca Cola umbrellas, Amstel umbrellas, and oversized lettering on the sides of umbrellas. My remark that I am a former Marine was mentioned because I like to do things in an organized fashion. Please have the owner of the location contact me, or come to my office to see me reference any issue or have Mr. Kelsey (who knows me) to come and see me. Please as I stated when we met if you have a Code Compliance issue/complaint, please call during the day 305673-7555 or go to the City of Miami Beach website maimibeachfl.gov to submit the complaint in order to have a tracking number. Okay, I answered. Ill take your word for that. Order is good in the military, but at such meetings as ours at the Las Olas Caf Conference, it is good to listen to what a resident (off and on since 1969) has to say about the neighborhood and take some notes instead of ignore him and his suggestions, write him off as a complainer, and try to shut him up by forcing him to keep to the official order, the principle of which is, according to the Leadership Academy, Be Nice Dont Complain. I recommend that you call Dr. Saidi at the shop 305-397-8181, and drop by to chat with him. He is a fine gentleman and good communicatorin fact he is Senior Information Officer for the World Bank. The City should be honored to have him here. This whole thing may be misperceived, but you must admit that from his perspective and that of any objective observer of similar violations something wrong has occurred. Why should he have to come over to your office? In my opinion, a gentleman would call on him given the circumstances. Mr. Castell did not respond to my suggestion that he behave like a gentleman. I was going to say officer and a gentleman but I did not know his rank. Neither he nor anyone else involved respond to my requests for biographical information for my report. PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE REJECTED I had also emailed Mr. Castells subordinate, Code Compliance Officer I Ramon D. Vasallo, whom I had also met at the Las Olas Conference. I took a liking to him as he seemed kind and considerate and did not display the intimidating military demeanor of his superior. I sent along a photograph of an establishment with lettering alongside its umbrella measuring about 8-inches in height, well in excess of the 6-inch limitation specified in the ordinance. Mind you that a single sign with letters 8-inches high may be permitted along one side of the valance of an awning provided is does not take up more than 25-percent of the awnings length, but the sidewalk caf umbrella lettering included in a sidewalk caf permit is limited to a height of 6-inches. The
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apparent violations are numerous. Just this morning I noticed a restaurant name covering the entire valance of an awning with fat, foot-high lettering I had passed by the restaurant daily without noticing the sign, but now that I know the rule, it sure is ugly. Perhaps this is another example of the city boss exceptions to the law.

Miami Beach Ordinances provide that awning lettering may occupy no more than 20 percent of the awning and be no more than 8" in height.

I also sent two photos of beverage-advertising umbrella violations, across the street from the South Beach police station, to Lynn Bernstein, the city boss assistant who had coordinated the Las Olas Conference for him. The police and compliance authorities attending the Conference had constructively suggested that every citizen should pitch in and help them enforce the laws. Mr. Vasallo, always deferential to his boss, referred the photographic evidence of ordinance violations to Mr. Castell: This would be a complaint, said Mr. Castell in response to the photo of the oversized lettering on a sidewalk caf umbrella. Please use the procedure that I stated in the other email reference submitting a complaint. Just for your information, this can be checked by the code officer checking with Planning and Zoning to see if the business was issued approval for the lettering on the sidewalk caf umbrella. This ex-Marine has grown arrogant and lazy with his twenty-year tenure, is not willing to work for business people but only against them, I told myself in reaction to his message. Hes the so called Code Compliance Administrator, so why does he not take some initiative to get to the bottom of this? But his attitude dovetailed with that of the official who has dictatorial power over enforcement or lack of enforcement of the Code, Boss Gonzalez himself. Indeed, the city manager has publicly scoffed at Miami Beachs 90,000 residents who think they are his boss. He said he liked the job he had held for ten years, and therefore he intends to stay in Miami Beach. Furthermore, he suggested that people who are unhappy by implication with his policies should move. Well, we have seen the ordinance laying down the law on the height of umbrella lettering: six inches. Mr. Castell left me wondering if the city manager, whose approval is acquired for all
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permits, but who apparently can approve of exceptions, selectively enforced the ordinance by permitting an exception to the rule while requiring everyone else to comply. Now from the very beginning, my complaint was not against particular violators of the Code. My complaint was against the Code Compliance Division and Boss Gonzalez for the selective enforcement of the Code. I was not about to comply with Mr. Castells direct order, to use the particular rules he specified, to file a complaint against some restaurateur already hard pressed by the Great Recession. Imagine a community where criminals are running rampant and the police will not enforce the law unless someone makes a specific complaint and in a certain form even when the crime is being committee in the police officers face. And of course many victims are reluctant to come forward and report violations for various reasons, often because of the fear of retaliation - their reluctance actually encourages the commission of crimes. That is the reason victim surveys are made instead of taking the official crime rate for granted and note that if the police do not enforce the laws, the crime rate will fall with the number of arrests, and supervisors including their political bosses can pat each other on the back, but the crime victim report gives the lie to their self-congratulation. Thank you, George, I responded. Given what you have said, I believe the following is a fair and accurate statement to be included in my upcoming article. Please feel free to state any objections, if you feel it is not: Mr. Castell set forth a procedure for making complaints that must be followed, which does not include sending email with photographic evidence of violations. It follows that, otherwise than by specific complaints made by a telephone call or at the citys website, violations will not be pursued except at the discretion of the officer on the street. The compliance officers that wrote tickets for alleged violations at this particular business both told the proprietors that the business would not have been cited except that someone had complained. Since virtually no one but officers of the compliance department (actually the Code Compliance Division of the Building Department) or persons involved in the legislation of the ordinance would know that there was a violation businesses would be unaware of it since none of them were similarly treated it is our view that the complaints were actually generated from within the compliance division (i.e. the Building Department). In any case, it is our view that this procedure is bad policy, and would definitely result in erratic and therefore the selective enforcement of an ordinance such as we have seen in this case. As for the possibility of discriminatory practices, that matter will be referred to the proper authorities for investigation. THE MASTURBATOR ET CETERA Perhaps the police department is following the same procedure in respect to public nuisances, such as the public masturbator, whose indecent displays and stench have generated several email complaints along with photographs to city officials including the assistant police chief, yet he
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remains on the street, exposing himself as he publicly urinates and masturbates in broad daylight. He might have excused himself as a Cynic (i.e. dog) in ancient times, citing Diogenes view that one should not be ashamed of doing something in public that might be done in the privacy of ones own home with impunity. But we are civilized or rational animals, we have out folkways or mores, a system of approved behavior that sane or wholesome people comply with, otherwise no one could be trusted. One complaining merchant insists that the Masturbator is not crazy because he knows the difference between right and wrong he puts it away and leaves when someone threatens to call the police. Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora referred a request for help getting the public masturbator off the street to the citys homeless division, and it responded that it had helped the man many times over the years obviously helping keep him on the street. We understand that the city manager has issued oral instructions not to enforce quality-of-life offenses. However, we find it difficult to imagine that police officials would ignore emailed or e-texted photographs of felonies being committed on the street unless someone called a certain telephone number or went to a website for a complaint number, or that it would ignore the vision on a video-surveillance system of potentially or actually dangerous behavior threatening the safety to tourists Mayor Matti Bower wants the cameras installed only in high traffic tourist areas because she is afraid her privacy might be invaded elsewhere. In any event, the lax enforcement of quality-of-life misdemeanor offenses such as loud parties, unleashed dogs, deposits of animal fecal matter, public drinking, lewdness and drunkenness, panhandling, loitering, littering, rowdiness and the like encourages more and more people to scoff at the law and inspires some of them to the felonious conduct given an inch, they take a mile. For instance, the spate of violence in and around South Beach nightclubs, particular in that neighborhood once known as Seventh Heaven but now known as The Toilet, with its wall-towall nightclubs, reflects badly not only on all the nightclubs in South Beach, but on the City of Miami Beach as well and on the State of Florida as a whole. Lynn Bernstein, the city managers assistant, spoke on this issue at the July 2010 Las Olas Conference in The Toilet neighborhood: When people come over the bridge and see this beautiful place, she said dreamily as if excusing the misbehavior, they lose themselves. YOU CANT FIGHT CITY HALL You cant fight the system, the owner of a sandwich shop in that seamy neighborhood said. Two days prior, a Compliance officer had called on him and cited him for Coca Cola advertisements on his sidewalk caf umbrellas, forcing him to paint them out. The rest of the violations up and down Washington Avenue and on Ocean Drive nearby persisted. The man was busy with customers - our conversation was desultory. Why are you asking me about the umbrellas?
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Im a journalist, I said, handing him my card, and am investigating to see whether or not Code Compliance Division is discriminating against merchants in South Beach. Are you a Muslim? He appeared apprehensive at the question, did not answer the question nor did he give me his name. He looked Semitic to me, but I might have been mistaken. They have a system. You cant fight it. You have to work around it. Why would a system enforce a rule made for everybody only against you and the fellow with the Middle Eastern restaurant up the street? They have a system. Ive been here for ten years and have had nine stores. This is the last one left. Many stores have closed down recently and Compliance should not be picking on people now. Look, there is always something. Somebody tries something new, maybe puts something in the window. So Compliance says nothing and everybody starts doing it, then one day somebody gets a ticket for it, then others get a ticket, so you dont do that anymore, you go do something else. You never know for sure whats going to happen. But George Castell said the rules are on back of the permit applications. The rules are always changing. They make a new rule, then another, and another. So you know George Castell? Yes, I met him yesterday, at a meeting, the Las Olas Caf Conferenceit was supposed to be a neighborhood walk-around but it was just a sit-around. He said people with complaints about enforcement should call him or come see him. Does he help you? He doesnt help. He acts like a hes god and you are just a dog who has to come begging. You call and you are put on hold then sent to voicemail. You go over there and wait and wait to see him, lose time from your business. No, he does nothing to help. This is the system. But you cant blame him because he is just following orders from high up; he follows the system, so go easy on him. You have to go to their judge, their special master, to appeal, but the special master is one of them, just like them, so you have to appeal from him to a court, and that is very expensive, and the judge is part of their system. You cant fight the system and win. I had in fact called the general Code Compliance Division number Mr. Castell gave me; I was automatically put on hold for three minutes then transferred to voicemail. Indeed, that is a common complaint: call Compliance, get a recording. The one time I had reached him, long before the Las Olas Caf Conference, was because I kept complaining to someone who did answer the phone, so she transferred me to him. He worked wonders as a consequence, citing my slumlord for allowing animal feces, some of it human, left by the Washington Avenue barflies, which the slumlord had allowed to pile up around the buildings for years despite complaints made to him.
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But how can it be a system when enforcement is selective, some people fined and others not fined for the same thing? Its more like roulette. Thats a system. You cant win, but you have to try. Now I had to go get paint and paint the advertisements out of my umbrellas, but the paint is fading fast, you can see the Coke bottles now, so they might come around and give me a bigger fine. I noted that Coca-Cola had not been painted over on at least one edge of the umbrellas. Some people want to get rid of the system by getting rid of the city manager. They are two votes away from accomplishing this. You cant, it will be here forever. They have their laws and their ordinances and judges. The system will never go away. You cant fight it and win. I thought of Tamerlanes shopping center in Samarkand. Tamerlane loved the truth so much that he allowed the elders of a certain small tribe to criticism him freely all others were beheaded. And if someone in his shopping center objected to his policy, their shop was flattened and they were beheaded. The laws are a system, and some laws, if not the system itself, are irrational. But I am talking about the enforcement when I say there is no system when enforcement discriminates against certain people. Doesnt it discriminate against you? Discrimination is a system. They dont like me. Why? Are you a Muslim? I just had to ask again. Again he would not answer. I assumed he was Muslim. Cubans own the system. They dont like me. The Compliance officer came in here one day, looked at me, and said, I dont like your attitude. But I had said nothing to him yet. I had only looked at him. You come into my store, onto my property, I say nothing to you but you say you dont like my attitude? Who do you think you are? Are you a god because you are Cuban? You are nobody. THE CUBAN THING AGAIN Aha! I knew it, theres discrimination, ethnic discrimination if not religious intolerance! Maybe this Semitic-looking fellow is not Semitic but Dominican or something, or maybe a Hispanic Jew, as he did seem to have a slight Hispanic accent. Its the typical South Florida hate-theCubans in charge of everything thing. Lots of people down here who are not Cuban and who are oppressed believe the Cubans run things, especially if they are Hispanic non-Cuban Hispanic immigrants resent the priority and special benefits provided by the United States to Cubans. In turn, the first, more aristocratic wave of Cuban immigrants or their descendants tend to look
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down their noses at other Hispanics, if not the second wave of Cuban immigrants, who were mostly poor and many of whom were released from the prisons and had to sleep under bridges and in the sports stadium when they got to Miami. On the other hand, I know some very talented, skillful and hard-working Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County who are seeking work and who seem to be oppressed by non-Cubans. They look at me strangely when I say, I thought Cubans were in charge down here! Cant you get them to help you, put you in charge of something? If only the late Miami Boss Jorge Mas Canosa were still alive, maybe he would hire them all as long as they abided by his system. The Cuban godfather rose from milkman to magnate and knew very well what it is like to be a dirt-poor Cuban in Miami. After he took over Miami, because americanos could not run it well, his objective was to oust Fidel and preside over Cuba, but he became fatally ill before he could accomplish his mission. Little did I know that my next interview would seem to belie three of my tentative persecutory hypotheses: that South Beach merchants are necessarily discriminated against if they are Muslim or Semitic; that Crazee Olive was discriminated against because I reviewed the establishment and the city manager hates my guts; that Cuban-Americans in official positions are necessarily would-be hidalgos who treat non-Cubans as lowly peons. Alas, even independent journalists working as the free press have to attend to contradictory facts. ENLIGHTENED TURKS EXONERATE COMPLIANCE Jimmy, I asked the manager and partner of Med Pizza, between 12th and 13th Streets on Washington, has the Code Compliance Division bothered you lately? I had reviewed Med Pizza during the same time month I reviewed Crazee Olive, and in fact I had e-blasted the review to people I know who worked for the City of Miami Beach, recommending they try Jimmys thin-crust, no-pan baked pizza. Jimmy is Saladins nickname. He is a Muslim, a Turkish-American [he would convert to Catholicism a few months later]. I once kidded him about his religion, saying that the mullahs do not approve of South Beach at all. He took me seriously, and explained that there are only a few extremists, and many more or less secular Muslims, just as there are orthodox Jews and secular Jews, and they might have a drink of wine, perhaps eat a little pork and so on. No, Mr. David, they dont bother me. Why do you ask? I think they are harassing Crazee Olive, because the owners are Persian. They dont harass me, Mr. David. One Compliance guy, the black guy, was not good, but the Cuban guy is okay. Have you ever been fined by Compliance?
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No. I got warnings, and I fixed things. What did you fix? Jimmy explained that he had hung illuminated signs in the window, a Med Pizza neon sign and an ATM neon sign, but was told he had to get a permit for them, or get to rid of them or move them back at least eight feet into his store. He moved the ATM sign eight feet back and put the big Med Pizza sign on his back wall. He put the ATM machine itself in the very back of the store under the marijuana-buds poster. In fact, I had noticed when I first reviewed the place that he did not have a sign out front, and was going to recommend he get one but I forgot about it. And they told us we had to remove the tables from the sidewalk. You didnt have a sidewalk caf permit? Mr. David, we had a permit for many years, but last year I gave the money to my brother to renew it and he forgot and used the money for something else, so when we asked for a new permit, they said we could not have the tables because the chairs were attached to them. We had the tables on the sidewalk for years, but now we would have to buy new ones. We decided not to have a sidewalk caf. I put the tables out in back by the alley. Everybody lost, Mr. David. We lost use of the tables, the city lost the permit fee, and the insurance company lost the premium. You know, I have not made money here for two years. Business is very bad. Tourists have little cash, just credit cards, and charge five dollars. He took me out back and showed me the tables. They were sturdy octopus type tables, with seats affixed underneath them, such as one sees at many malls and in fast food joints around the country. I returned to Med Pizza a few days later, and brought along a copy of the Code. Jimmy, the Code says sidewalk caf furniture must be of high quality design, materials, and workmanship so it is safe and convenient to the public. It says nothing about seats affixed to tables. The furniture must be kept clean and orderly and be attractive. Mr. David, the tables are safer than the ones they like. They are stable. The cheap tables and chairs you see everywhere will blow over or away with the wind. People move the chairs and block the sidewalk. We had the good tables for years, but then Compliance did not like their looks. Maybe your attitude of your face was not attractive to them that day. You should have said, Look, this is just my face, I cant help it. What? Of course Jimmy did not understand my crack. Mr. David, come, please, bring t he paper and show my brother, John.
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John is the proprietor of the Deco sandwich shop on the southeast corner of 14th Street and Washington Avenue. The sidewalk was partially blocked with chairs in front of a pub along the way. You see, Mr. David? Jimmy said as we negotiated the narrow pathway. The customers push chairs back everywhere and they get in the way. But they could not move the seats from our tables. I see, I acknowledged as I ducked my head to avoid hitting it on an umbrella. This is a violation right here, I said. Im six foot and an umbrellas supports along its outer edges should be at least six feet and eight inches above the ground. Jimmys brother John was savvy to the system. Hes been running business in South Beach for ten years, he said. I showed him the ordinance, and asked him what the problem was with the tables. The tables were unsafe, they said, and maybe a bicycle would run into the fixed seats. Good grief, its the bicycle-riding on the sidewalk that is unsafe, a damn nuisance, I remarked. Do you think you are being discriminated against, that Code enforcement picks you out or selects you for special enforcement? John rolled his eyeballs, indicating it was a silly question. We used to have a problem with the black guy, but so many business people complained that they replaced him with the Cuban. Hes good. I havent had any problems here. Ive gotten warnings. I was fined once over the garbage because I did not correct an issue because the garbage company was not working that day. But what about the octopus tables over at Jimmys place? They were not in the original site plan for the caf. That was several years ago. The compliance officer said, Whats this? These tables are not in the plan, and said we would have to replace them. A long time later, What are these tables still here? I said, the hurricane blew the tables you wanted away. So he said, Okay, and thats the last time anyone said anything about them until we tried to get a new permit. Ha, ha, so the hurricane blew them away, I said. You see those aluminum tables and chairs everywhere. They blow away, people steal them. Yes, I see them in peoples apartments after they first arrive and need starter furniture. John, Ive heard that Compliance doesnt enforce the Code that much unless someone complaints, but who would complain if they dont know the ordinance?

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Someone complained about the illuminated signs hanging in the window of our pizzeria. She was trying to get some kind of permit, read the Code, was denied, so she decided to take it out on us and she made a complaint. I understand that you cant put an illuminated ATM sign in a restaurant window, and that the machine has to be set back from the window a certain distance, but I see ATM machines by my windows and a lot of illuminated ATM signs in windows. Can you get a permit to do that? I dont think so. Nobody complains about that. Someone complained about the motor scooter we park out front, and he was mad when he heard it was not on the right-of-way so we could keep it there in that blue area where the building is set back from the sidewalk. Turkish people have a thing about hospitality: I was presented with a huge cappuccino; revved up on caffeine, my mind was a confusion of racing signs and awnings and umbrellas when I left. I imagined that I was a Compliance officer marching down the street, and then the scene took on a semblance of order. I did not now the Code by heart yet, but I knew enough to observe a number of violations. It might not be a good idea to inform the general public of the details of the Code lest they start making selective complaints. Gee, the pickle chiseler I despise has several violations, but I would not rat him out because of his petty chiseling of people out of fifty cents for relish on hotdogs, and his lousy attitude. We all hear the cops say, when they want to trick information out of a merchant, that if he doesnt cooperate they will report Code violations, so that might be one reason to let violations go. The trick is, I thought, is to let people be unless the street is getting way out of order, unless someone is doing something that, if others followed suit, would make it appear unpleasant. Letting things slide a little would make merchants feel a little free. Of course, if a particular violation is unsafe, that must be taken care of immediately. THE HOOD STINKS Mohsen, Im winding up my investigation of Code enforcement. It is not very scientific since I interviewed only a few people, and did not conduct a statistical study of ticketing. But I must honestly say that I dont think you were discriminated against for any particular reason, unless maybe it is because you are down on this end of the avenue. This is a bad neighborhood. Im losing money. Well, it looks nice when you first come here, but when you find out where you are, then you know why people call the area The Toilet. Oh, when I go home, it stinks so bad in the parking lot that I have to cover my face. And the dirty people lying around and exposing themselves in the street, its terrible. I have never seen another tourist area in America as bad as this one.
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I know that parking lot, as I live nearby. We often cross the street in the morning when we pass by because it smells badly. There have been many fights in that alley, knife fights and gun fights. I mentioned it to the police department and city managers office several times, but they think nobody is concerned because I am a nobody. And that guy that exposes himself, and masturbates and urinates on the street, many complaints have been made to the police department, but the city keeps helping him to stay on the street. He has been around for many years. Mayor Bower thinks nobody is concerned too, because she is unconcerned about the concerns of people unimportant to her. You dont like her. I dont like her or the leaders of the administration. Theyve violated our trust. They have got to go if South Beach is to improve. I dont have time for politics. Wouldnt you like to get together with other merchants around here and picket city hall, maybe lead the revolution to get rid of the careless leaders who are unconcerned about us? No, I would not have anything to do with that. Then let me have an order of your Cajun French fries. Anyway, the beach is beautiful. I think business will get better for you next winter. It was bad last winter, Mohsen said, tiredly. I have to work long hours. I am a beach person but I cannot get to the beach. Mohsen, really, dont be depressed. I understand why you think the city might be picking on you. Maybe they are, but I dont believe so. I think you were unlucky. Its like that game kids play, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but there are a lot of donkeys around, and you happened to be in the way, and got stuck with the tail. If Fate isnt real or willful, its just an accident you got tailed. I asked the compliance administrator, George Castell, to come see you, because all this seems unfair from your perspective, but he said you would have to go see him. I have to be here for so many hours. I dont have time to make a big thing out of this. Our architect will get to it next week. I suggested that everyone just come over and try your $5 specials. If you sell 100 additional specials, I figure you might break even with the fine before overhead. Mohsen smiled. Everyone wants the specials now. But the overhead eats up the gross profit. Hey, isnt it odd that you were cited for the Coca-Cola sign shortly after you told me about what happened to you in Houston, with your Coke sign misspelling?

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Mohsen was in a rather grim mood, but he smiled at the story he had told me just after I reviewed his restaurant. I had jested about the misspellings I had seen on various South Beach menus. I am not a fastidious speller, and my grammar is far from perfect. The rules are rational but there are many exceptions to the rules. I am sometimes amused because the breaches are rational. Naturally we have many people in South Beach whose first language is not English, and their breaches are sometimes in accord with the rules of their own language if not English. Phonetics also comes into play here is a shibboleth: TIN BREAD AT MANOLOS I see you have tin bread, I said to a waiter while perusing the menu. Yes, we have tin bread. Is tin hard to eat? No, sir. Does your tin bread come in a tin can? Oh, no, it comes in a plastic bag. CRAP SOUP TODAY And there was the freestanding sandwich sign outside of one restaurant, perhaps itself a violation of the Miami Beach Code as well as American English spelling: To be helpful, I went inside to inform someone of the mistake. I see you have crap soup today. I said to the Hispanic manager - chowder would be even more difficult to spell correctly, and I have seen it spelled chowedur on your sandwich boards. Yes, we have crap soup, she said. I think you mean you have crab soup, emphasizing the b with my lips. The letter on the end should be a b not a p. In English, the word crap comes from a word for toilet, the crapper invented by Thomas Crapper, so crap is what you put in a crapper. It is not a crab in the ocean, it is la mierda. Ah, Si! she got the picture, and then giggled with hand over mouth. After that, the restaurant sometimes spells crab correctly, and the handwriting has also vastly improved. A BUCK PER CO*K After recounting these stories to Mohsen, a native-born Persian, he told me that he had in fact had difficulty spelling an English brand name, Coke, when he came to America. He recounted
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how he had put up a handwritten sign outside his store one day along the gay parade route in Houston, and had misspelled Coke. $1 CO*K Gay men were coming in, laughing, buying Cokes, and finally someone explained to me what my sign meant. Did you sell a lot of Cokes? I sold eight hundred dollars of Coke during the parade. My cost was only a quarter each, or twenty-five percent! AFTERMATH I sent links to the photographs I had taken of violations to the city manager and other officials. Or at least I thought they were violations; as far as I knew, the city manager had the power to make exceptions, so the violations could have been exceptions. And the ordinances were not as simple nor were the merchants as stupid as Mr. Castell would have us believe, as anyone can see by actually reading the Code and trying to find out what is permitted, and how much the permission might costdo not worry, a licensed expert can help you for a fat fee. As a matter of fact, I was sorry that I had learned what I did, because walking down South Beach became a nightmare of for me as I perceived the advertisements with an eye for possible violations, sometimes pulling out a dollar bill to see if lettering, for example, was higher than six inches. I am so glad that I eventually forgot to look for code violations everywhere I went, and can now walk the streets in peace. In any case, all but four of the infractions I alleged had been corrected. Still, not a single official contacted me to acknowledge if not to thank me for my role in the corrections made; plainly, despite the rhetoric about needing help from the citizenry, citizens who butt into bureaucratic business, who are too helpful, are not appreciated. As for Mr. Castell, he is what he is. People who know him well say he is a good chap and a good bureaucrat. I know for a fact that, if your slumlord allows the premises to be covered with dog excrement and trash, and if you can get through to him personally, then your landlord is going to be sorry. Finally, my allegation about selective enforcement was true, but I do not believe the selection was not based on bigotry or racism. I think the enforcement method used was random selection.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE LETTER


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Rustica seating on corner under umbrella endangers customers, impedes fire department. Miami Beach Ordinances mandate 5' corner & crosswalk leeway, and maximum umbrella letter height of 6"

From: David Arthur Walters Date: Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 10:29 AM Subject: Photographic Evidence To: Jorge Gonzalez City Manager CITY OF MIAMI BEACH Dear City Manager: Below you may find several links to a few photographs of what may be violations of the Ordinances of the City of Miami Beach, Florida; that is, if I understand those ordinances correctly. If my understanding is correct and they indeed are contrary to the letter of the law, they nevertheless may be variations that you as City Manager have approved for permitting, perhaps for a fee or for reasons unknown - Appendix A of the Ordinances do not seem to include a full tally of permit fees, nor has anyone I have contacted been willing and/or able to provide me with an explanation of what is going on. George Castell, who has received photographs of the alleged violations, informed me via email that the oversized lettering on the GROOVY sidewalk umbrella, for example, might have been permitted via the site plan, but he would not bother inquiring into it himself, and said he would not prosecute violations of the Ordinances unless specific complaints were filed via a telephone call to his office (where one is often put on hold and then transferred to voice mail if voice mail is working) or via the filing of a complaint on the City website.

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In other words, photographic evidence of violations, and, it follows, the actual sight of a violation by your compliance administration, would not cause your administration to enforce the laws without prejudice. A couple of umbrella violations, however, were prosecuted on internal complaints, which has led to a suspicion of selective enforcement and perhaps religious discrimination on the part of Code Compliance Division hence yourself since you are ultimately responsible for enforcement.

Ordinances provide that umbrellas may not be hooked together so as to make one tent; and letters thereon must be no more than 6" in height.

My intention is not to file complaints against businesses that may be in violation of the Code if my understanding of the Code is correct and if you have not provided for variances. My complaint is against you, personally and in your official capacity, for intentional uneven enforcement of the laws of this city, or gross negligence if the laws are enforced on a random, irrational basis. I have indications in other areas of concern, such as your management of the Parks Department and the Finance Department, in relation to the city contractor, Green Square Inc, that mismanagement and/or malfeasance is the case. Very truly yours,

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David Arthur Walters cc: Jose Smith, City Attorney cc: Matti Bower, Mayor (No response they never respond) Attached: A FEW PHOTOGRAPHS OF MANY APPARENT VIOLATIONS: http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-yet-another-coca-cola-ad.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-ocean-drive-violation.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-groovy-violation.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-coca-cola-umbrella-coca.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-unbrella-coca-cola-ad.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-enso-violation.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-paul-umbrella-violation.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-awning-violation.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/rustica-embrella-lettering-violation.html http://miamimirror.blogspot.com/2010/07/south-beach-rustica-violation.html

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