Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.
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Sunday, April 20, 2008
Will the Avenaim family finally get justice?
The Brian Bethell who turned 43 recently.
You know, the man who brought two small kids with him and his girlfriend when they decided to go on a shopping spree with the dead men's credit cards at a Coral Springs Wal-Mart, as they had done before?
The man who was caught NOT due to anything in particular the Hallandale Beach Police Dept. had done, but rather because Mr. Avenaim's family had the good sense to take the initiative and put-up fliers at the store about the suspect, along with reward information.
This was why store employees recognized Bethell when he swung back by the store.
CBS-4's excellent reporter Ted Scouten did this report on the reward on March 3, 2006
Yeah, the Hallandale Beach Police who were so concerned about the safety/conditions of the 2500 Hallandale Beach Blvd./Millennium complex for employees and visitors, that they provided evening security -from the comfort of their squad cars- for a few weeks after the murder of Mr. Avenaim.
But who, when asked, specifically, refused to say whether or not they were off-duty while they were parked in their squad cars, and when asked about all the self-evident missing, broken or obscured parking lot lights near the crime scene, acted like they couldn't quite hear you, even though you were just inches away.
This being HB, the squad cars were up near the Hallandale Beach Blvd. entrance, rather than being near the actual Avenaim murder crime scene.
(Not that their superiors higher up the chain were any more forthcoming with information, as Chief Thomas Magill and Capt. Robert Rodgers both played dumb about that whole
situation after I specifically asked them about it last June.)
Yes, the Hallandale Beach Police whose concern for public safety was such that, according to Capt. Rodgers, they wouldn't specifically ask, encourage or nudge the owners of the complex towards fixing their longstanding safety/lighting problems.
As it happens, those self-evident problems are ones I've discussed at length over the past two years with a few print and TV reporters here in South Florida, and which were NOT addressed by the complex's owners until only 3-4 weeks ago.
Yes, the Hallandale Beach Police Dept. led by the still-serving Chief Thomas Magill, whom as I've chronicled here, is a man who tried to have two innocent Hallandale Beach Police officers criminally prosecuted -for something they didn't do. See http://hallandalebeachblog.blogspot.com/2008/04/dial-m-for-magill-and-mendacity.html
According to a recent check of the rather poky Broward County Clerks Office website,
Brian Bethell will FINALLY go on trial on the 28th of April -a week from tomorrow.
Key Dates - Future Scheduled Events
04/28/2008 JURY TRIAL
Judge: PAUL L BACKMAN
You'd think that as the trial phase was getting closer, you'd see something about it in local media, but I've read nothing in the newspapers, seen nothing on TV, or, shocker, heard nothing about it on radio, in the South Florida of 2008 where a niche apparently exists for Mexican music but not an all-news radio station. Que pasa?
Over the next few days, if everything goes according to schedule, I'll be cobbling together all the things that I already know and have already written about the Millennium situation -and kept in the deep freeze Draft for months- which, along with some photographs I've taken over the years, will buttress my points.
I'll post them to both Hallandale Beach Blog and parent blog, South Beach Hoosier, too.
You can then draw your own conclusions.
Speaking of the curious lack of media curiosity down here with regards to the upcoming Bethell murder trial, below you'll find a series of emails and notes which I've put together, which, taken in toto, paints a very accurate but damning portrait of the local news media as they currently
choose to practice their craft.
It also includes a bad memory for yours truly on a summer that might've been spent so much better.
What will soon follow is an excerpted copy of an email that I sent on February 8, 2008 to about a half-dozen or so Local 10 TV reporters, including Roger Lohse.
In case you don't recall the specifics of the news story under discussion below, it was Lohse's Local 10 news report on February 7th concerning the curious circumstances of the July 2007
accidental death of Myron Kafka of Hollywood, in the lobby of Millennium's HQ at 2500 Hallandale Beach Blvd. http://www.local10.com/news/13750861/detail.html
Perhaps this might help jog your memory a bit:
AROUND SOUTH FLORIDA
The Miami Herald
July 24, 2007
Miami Herald Staff Report
HALLANDALE BEACH BODY FOUND TRAPPED BETWEEN ELEVATOR, GATE
An employee at a Hallandale Beach medical office discovered the body of an 81-year-old man early Monday morning, police said. The man, identified as Myron Kafka of Hollywood, was trapped between an elevator and a metal gate. The incident happened inside the Millennium Building, 2500 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd. The 5,000-square-foot structure houses several medical offices, authorities said. Police believe the slender man got caught between the gate and the elevator. He did not appear to be crushed, police said. "We don't know how he died or how long he has been there," said Andrew Casper, a Hallandale Beach police spokesman.
A later report from AP: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wirestory?id=3412355
Man Dies Trapped Between Elevator, Gate
Elderly Man Dies After Becoming Trapped Between Elevator, Security Gate at Medical Building.
The Associated Press
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.
An elderly man died of a heart attack after he became trapped between an elevator and a security gate in a medical building, authorities said.
The death of Myron Kafka, 81, was considered accidental, Hallandale Beach spokesman Andrew Casper said.
Broward County Medical Examiner Joshua Perper said Tuesday that Kafka had been dead at least two days when staff from the building discovered his body on Monday.
Kafka was trapped in the 14-inch space between the elevator doors and a locked, illegally installed security gate, authorities said. Perper said Kafka may have been there since Friday afternoon, when he was last seen alive. According to the medical examiner's report, Kafka had been at his doctor's office, located in the building.
Officials ordered the gate removed and cited the property for installing it.
Long ignored public safety problems at 2500 Hallandale Beach Blvd.; HB Police ignore problem
Friday February 8th, 2008
I would like to speak with you soon -and possibly meet with you if possible- so we can talk about some other serious public safety problems I know about concerning the 2500 Hallandale Beach Blvd./Millennium complex, the subject of Roger Lohse's Thursday night report on Local 10's 11 p.m.newscast.
They consist of some first-hand observations I initially noticed in the aftermath of the Feb. 10th, 2006 murder of Albert Avenaim of Aventura, outside of Padrino's Cuban Restaurant, in a particularly senseless death, even by South Florida's grisly standards.
This Sunday will mark exactly two years since Mr. Avenaim's untimely murder.
What do you suppose has changed about the Millennium complex, safety-wise, in those two intervening years? Nothing.
And if you count the responsible property owners STILL not doing the minimum to do right by the public, and I do, it's actually worse than nothing, it's negligence.
In the days after the murder, I saw some things that just didn't make any common sense, but which, to me, were self-evident signs of negligence -dare I say gross negligence?- by the property owners and management, abetted in part by the City of Hallandale Beach's own incompetence, which, typically, responded with a fig leaf, rather than employing a pro-active
approach that showed some common sense and foresight.
Frankly, I suspect most of what I know to be completely unknown to the various insurance companies that cover the myriad owners/investors of that particular property, since the insurance companies probably assume that there's no way their clients at Millennium would intentionally put people in harm's way, whether employees or patrons of the various business establishments renting space there.
Through photographs I've taken of the property since Mr. Avenaim's murder two years ago, I can show that is NOT the case.
If anything, a reasonable person might infer from the preponderance of evidence that their inaction fell far below the standard that one reasonably expects, and actually shows a callous disregard for public safety, since it's clear they haven't maintained the property in a safe
As you may already know, Millennium and their various partners have some rather lofty -I say grandiose- plans to transform that property into a huge office/condo complex showplace, complete with all sorts of amenities for their tenants and the public.
And who's leading that effort?
Well, none other than garrulous State Senator Steve Geller, the FL Senate Democratic leader, and someone I'm very open about regarding as a cancer on Broward County's political system and public policy arena, as my blogs make clear.
Yes, the Steve Geller that has his office located at the HB City Hall.
(Geller is one of the individuals I hold most personally responsible for the State of Florida moving its presidential primary from March to last week, despite the perfectly predicted
downside of losing all Democratic delegates to the Denver DNC this summer.)
How do I know that Geller represents Millennium?
I was one of the select few to attend a sparsely-attended public meeting that Millennium was forced to hold, in December of 2006, in HB's Cultural Center behind their City Hall.
I got there early, expecting some emotional fireworks because of the rather predictable concerns about exacerbating the already bad neighborhood traffic-flow on HBB, the completely out-of-proportion size of the plan, etc., and sat at the table next to Miami Herald reporter Jennifer Lebovich.
Once I got there and had grabbed a donut and some coffee, and returned to the table I had all to myself, my biggest thought while jotting down some thoughts in my legal pad was making sure to leave early enough so that I could get home and not miss a minute of a new episode of LOST.
Really. I'd forgotten to program my VCR.
But then, quite unexpectedly, to my great surprise, in walked Geller and his retinue with trademark showy boisterousness, with him not waiting even two beats before continuing on a rant/harangue disparaging then-Gov.-Elect Crist in tones that would've been loud enough for everyone in the room to hear if the room had been half-full -wishful thinking- say, 150-200 people.
As it was, counting his Millennium crew and the interested public, such as it was, there were no more than 25 people in that room, so his voice was bouncing off the walls.
To be so self-absorbed as to publicly belittle Crist in front of people -and a reporter- before he'd even taken the oath of office, showed me the side of Geller I'd often read and heard about, but never seen in person for myself.
But I recognized the type, since I'd had dealings with Rahm Emanuel in Washington before he was anybody of note, per se, and he already had that insufferable attitude and ego thing down pat.
Geller's whole shtick was so over-the-top as to be farcical, and I debated back and forth in my head at the time whether I ought to dispense with pleasantries and the subject at hand, and simply drop my knowledge of what hasn't transpired at 2500 HBB on Geller and Millennium, in front of reporter Lebovich, once the presentation was over and the Q&A began in earnest.
In the end, I just didn't trust the judgment of the crowd or Lebovich's ability to synthesize the narrative and connect all the dots in a way that would get all the pertinent facts out.
Given my interests and background, and the fact that I've been to dozens of these sorts of development meetings over the years in Northern Virginia and D.C., I thought I had a pretty good idea how the evening would go.
But listening to the sheer obfuscation and mis-direction coming out of Geller's mouth, his Pooh-poohing of the patently obvious worsening traffic problems on HBB if the project was approved, as if he could wave a magic wand over them, rendering them invisible, well, it was all I could do to not ask him straight out if he and his colleagues even recognized the name of Albert Avenaim -and then go on offense.
As to the seriousness of the safety issues, this isn't just a hunch or my opinion, but rather something which I've captured with photographs over the past two years, though to their great shame and discredit, the City of Hallandale Beach's response, nothing, is almost as criminally
negligent. (Even today, weeks after the Boca Mall murders!)
I've spoken with great specificity about it with a number of people, including serious newspaper reporters as well as the Hallandale Beach Police Dept., including Capt Robert Rodgers and Police Chief Thomas Magill.
The city and Police have done nothing, and the problems I know about remain much as they did two years ago: waiting for another innocent victim.
(You'll recall that Mr. Avenaim's murder was solved NOT as a result of anything the HB Police Dept. did specifically, or even BSO, but rather thru the efforts of the alert Wal-Mart employees, after the guilty party, Brian Bethell, tried to use the third of his his victim's credit cards at their Coral Springs location, his second visit there.
You'll also recall he felt so confident, he even brought along his girlfriend and two toddlers,
which, I think, tells you everything you need to know about him.
Unlike the situation with the individual who called police per the shooting of the BSO deputy in Hollywood late last year, after driving the suspect in his car to the Pawn Shop near 441, who received a monetary reward from Crime Stoppers, I believe Channel Ten reported that the Wal-Mart employees who thought something was fishy with Brian Bethell did not get any kind of reward from Crime Stoppers.)
I myself grew-up in North Miami Beach, but spent lots of time in both Hollywood Beach and Hallandale, so I recall what it was like physically before the final capitulation to the condo canyons.
When my family moved to South Florida in the summer of 1968, when I was seven, we stayed at the small hotel next to the iconic HB water tower for 2-3 weeks, until my parents found a suitable apt. in NMB they liked.
Because of that fact, and our regular visits there over the years, I distinctly recall the way the beach in Hallandale looked then, with actual dunes of some height, and whispering pines along them. It was so peaceful and relaxing late in the afternoon.
What's happened to that area of the public beach since then is a disgrace, with the city not even having the common sense to conduct a shadow study before approving The Beach Club project, which happened while I was still in the D.C. area.
In order to keep my sanity, though it's far from the scope I had initially envisioned or hoped for, largely because of time constraints, I actually had to start a blog once I saw how absurd, pathetic and illogical things were done at HB's City Hall, where both "rhyme" and "reason" are unknown quantities.
Honestly, I can't help think that fictional mid-'60's Sparta portrayed in In The Heat of the Night has nothing on Hallandale Beach now in the backwards department.
Though I've lived in lots of different kinds of towns of varying sizes and nature all over the country, I've never heard of a real city where city employees were and are more risk averse to doing their job properly, and management was less reluctant to see to it that they did.
Lax oversight hardly begins to describe it.
Just so you know, that's the bias I bring to this matter.
Not to laugh about it, but I literally saw another prime example just 48 hours ago, right on HBB, where you can see it within spitting distance of the HB Chamber of Commerce.
Hiding in plain sight.
Yes, the forest for the trees.
Please contact me directly when you have some time to talk about the situation.
To give you some better perspective on the above, here's an excerpt from an email I sent on February 21, 2008 and sent to some Local 10 News execs.
More proof that Channel 10 News isn't what it used to be: the latest sad example
To: "Peter Burke" firstname.lastname@example.org, "Michelle Solomon" email@example.com
Some constructive criticism, on the chance that it may do some good... but I won't hold my breath.
Two weeks ago, after watching Roger Lohse's Local10 news report on Feb. 7th on Mr. Kafka's
death alongside the lobby elevator of Millennium LLC's HQ at 2500 Hallandale Beach Blvd., a property I'm very familiar with, I tried to alert him and some of your reporters to the fact that I was aware of information that could show that there was a continuing pattern of neglect surrounding the maintenance of the Millennium property, going back to at least the time of the Albert Avenaim murder at Padrino's Cuban Cuisine two years ago -in the very same retail/office complex.
(Why yes, the very same one that State Senator Steve Geller, the FL Senate Democratic leader represents and lobbies on behalf of. Not that your news reports ever mentioned it)
As it happens, February 10th was the second anniversary of Mr. Avenaim's murder.
Sadly for you two, none of the half-dozen news reporters I emailed at Channel 10 bothered to respond to my query, despite my making it very easy for them to reach me and get the information.
I have to tell you, Mr. Burke and Ms. Solomon, even by South Florida's often shallow-end-of-the-pool news standards, that sort of jaded and apathetic response among reporters still surprises.
But it is what it is.
Frankly, the sad truth is that other than Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg, there's no compelling reason to watch your oh-so-predictable newscasts.
Not that you asked, but I've since spoken to a number of other reporters in town, print and electronic, some of whom immediately saw the facts for what they were, and were able to
connect the dots -just as I described them.
They didn't need to be asked twice.
Having photographs to buttress my points surely went a long way towards assuaging any of their doubts, yet strangely, that didn't seem to cut much slack with your own reporters.
By the way, the last time I checked, Brian Bethell, the man who murdered Mr. Avenaim and two other South Florida men two years ago, on his Friday spree killings-cum-Wal-Mart shopping sprees, was scheduled to go on trial in the not-too-distant future at the Main Broward County Courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale, with Judge Paul Backman presiding.
You might want to have someone check that out if you could tear your reporters away from their steady diet of chick lit lite/yenta-oriented botox/diet/fashion/shopping/pseudo-celeb/Idol stories.
In any case, I'll probably be there in court at first to take the measure of the jury and the D.A. to see how it all plays out.
Also, before I close, since your particular company seems to place such a high value on "relevant and engaging content," you should know that the so-called related links on your website's story, below, are nothing but Walgreens cosmetics commercials -not news!
And that's been the case for at least two weeks.
So much for any sort of quality control.
Please don't bother responding to this email, your reporters' actions(!) already speak volumes!
DBS, Hallandale Beach, FL
Lawsuit Filed After Bizarre Elevator Incident
Lawsuit Filed After Bizarre Elevator Incident. The family of an 81-year-old man whose body was found trapped between a security gate and elevator door at a medical building in Hallandale Beach last year...
Despite my specific admonition not to respond, what do you suppose I received on Feb. 21st?
Yes, an email from Michelle Solomon, someone I'd heretofore never heard of before sending an
email to her about my experiences with the apathetic and not-so-curious Channel 10 reporters.
Subject: RE: More proof that Channel 10 News isn't what it used to be: the latest sad example
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2008
From: "Solomon, Michelle" firstname.lastname@example.org
I have sent this to our news director and general manager.
Michelle Solomon Executive Producer Local 10 Interactive www.Local10.com WPLG WPLG-DT Miami-Fort Lauderdale 305-324-2604 Business email@example.com www.ibsys.com
And who is Michelle Solomon?
Read this post from a Fort Myers-based blog and judge for yourself.
The title says it all.
Local10.com Miami Steals Blog Content
Some other facts/bias you should know about in making up your mind about all this.
I also sent a bcc copy of all my correspondence to and from Channel 10 to the head news person for Post-Newsweek, who is at at the ABC O&O in Detroit, WXYZ.
I never heard back from her.
As for Channel 10 itself, I applied and was accepted to be an intern at Channel 10 after my sophomore year at IU, the summer of 1981.
But I got totally screwed out of the great gig by the IU Telecommunications Dept. Chairman.
As it happens, the Chair back then was actually someone who knew me and my personality, since I'd gotten nothing but A's in all my Telecom classes, and was a heavy contributor to debate, especially in classes he taught.
He couldn't quite believe that as a Junior-to-be, I'd already nabbed a sweet gig at the #1 TV news operation in the state of Florida, and a Post-Newsweek station at that.
(This was back when Channel 10 under the late Ann Bishop, regularly whipped every TV station in sight.)
I had some bright ideas about navigating that internship position into something better the following summer with the Post-Newsweek gang up in DC.
I even had some IU friends in the suburban D.C. area, also Telecom students, who said that if things worked out for me with Kate Graham's 15th Street Crew at the Washington Post or over at Newsweek, perhaps I could even live with them over the summer.
Being in D.C. then would've been heaven, plus I'd have been able to get a first-hand view of D.C. years earlier than I actually did, which might've allowed me to be much smarter about some things once I got there, instead of the way things actually went once I got there.
But instead of being happy for me or giving off Good Vibrations, the Chairman said that the dept. rules were that only students who had already completed their Junior year could get internships, or the credit that might go with it.
I was told that the Dept.'s reasoning was that such a rule would prevent younger students from beating Juniors in the Telecom Dept. to the punch and grabbing precious internships.
(Of course, the only other IU Telecom student I knew about in South Florida was Lisa Abrell, someone I spoke to fairly regularly in classes, and when I ran into her on campus.
She was the bright and friendly daughter of WTVJ/Channel 4's Joe Abrell, who had been the station's News Director, Director of Public Affairs and public policy show host (Montage), and still later, served as a Dolphins VP under the Robbie family, being instrumental in the building of Joe Robbie Stadium.
Certainly Lisa had opportunities I could only dream of, and while I understood how the Dept.s policy might make sense for the Indy or Louisville market, even Chicago, because of the sheer number of IU Telecom students, it made less sense when applied to someone like me, about a thousand miles away.)
The fact that the Channel 10 Personnel Director had had good results in the past with IU student interns at other stations she'd been at was a tremendous help to me, but the fact is, we
really hit it off, so she really, really wanted me to work there.
In fact, to show what she was willing to do, after I'd heard the bad news from the Chair, she had me come down to the station so she could call the Chair up on the phone and plead my case, because she could see that I'd be a great addition to 3990 Biscayne Blvd.
But despite the Personnel Director's powers of persuasion, it counted for nothing in the end.
Unfortunately, as was so often the case at IU, rigid adherence to silly and unwieldy rules often counted for more than actual ability and desire.
I could never look at that professor in quite the same way as I had previously, and made a point of telling other Telecom professors about what had happened to me, so they could warn younger students in the Dept. that the Telecom Dept. would NOT have their back.
No internship for South Beach Hoosier at Channel 10 meant suddenly having to scramble at the last minute for summer jobs that would give me the means to pay three times what in-state Hoosiers were paying for classes.
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