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. Photo in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A, September 2008; March 2018 photo below of North Beach, looking left-to-right, looking north, HYDE Condominium, Etaru Japanese Robatayaki restaurant, and Hollywood Beach in the distance, with umbrellas. All photos by me, © Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nov. 6th is Next Chapter of HB Mayor Joy Cooper vs. Aristides Pelecanos story

Below is a copy of an email that I sent on Monday to Bob Norman, columnist of the Broward Palm Beach Post New Times and the widely-read Daily Pulp blog.
See http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/ and http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/

I hadn't planned on posting it here, butsince his email address is just as odd as I'd been told it was by other local reporters, who say that their email to him frequently gets bounced back and forth, I decided this approach was better than anything else.

"Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
bobnorman@floridapulp.com "
Monday Oct. 27th, 2008

Dear Mr. Norman:

I've kept this email in cold storage waiting to send it to you until I actually had the answer to my original questions of the Oct. 8th email before sending you the copy of the email below, since you were the first and only person in South Florida -to my knowledge- to chronicle the appalling situation last year with Hallandale Beach resident Aristides Pelecanos and the animus that Mayor Joy Cooper clearly has developed for him.

There's news on that front, which is that last Sunday, the city, thru Director of Development Services Richard Cannone, published a notice in the Herald advertising the November 6th public meeting at 6 p.m. of the city's Unsafe Structure Board at the City Commission Chambers, where Mr. Pelecanos is one of three parties that are appearing that night.

I originally sent the Oct. 8th email below to a few dozen people in the Hallandale Beach and Broward County area, along with a few up in Tallahassee, all of whom are desirous of seeing some positive reform and changes take place in this city, and have it brought firmly into the 21st Century, which is not the case now.
I chose to send it (to them) on October 8th, one year to the day your story originally came out.

I've sent it now to you, notwithstanding your criticism of my blog in your column of Sept. 25 http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2008/09/mayor_joy_cooper_blows_up.php
because I felt it was quite unlikely that any other recipient of an email from Mayor Cooper regarding Mr. Pelecanos would think to share it with you.
Your story last year painted such an unfavorable portrait of Cooper in action, merely by relating the true facts of the case and letting readers judge for them self.

That's a common situation in this city, where the mayor is afraid NOT of crazy allegations, mis-statements of facts or even nasty innuendo, but rather of someone simply telling the public the truth, of supplying them demonstrable facts and trusting them to be able to make sense of it on their own, with perhaps a nudge or two.

That's how bad things have gotten here in Hallandale Beach in the year 2008.

On October 15th, I witnessed this in person again at the HB City Commission meeting, where Cooper and City Manager Mike Good completely mis-characterized what happened earlier in the day up in Hollywood at their City Commission meeting, where the second reading was held on the Beach One Resort hotel on A1A and Hallandale Beach Blvd., on the border of the two neighboring communities.

This despite the fact that you can see the digital tape of what transpired on Hollywood's website.

(Not that the Herald covered the story, failing to have reporters at either City Commission meetings, so they were completely in the dark about what happened The Herald hasn't had a reporter attend an HB City Commission meeting since June.)

In case of Mr. Pelecanos, Cooper could've simply shown some common sense and do what the system was set up to do, but once again, as she and Comm. Dotty Ross did months ago with the tumult abd controversy surrounding the HB Police/Fire Pension Board, where, rather than listen to the reasonable concerns of HB residents and officers from both the HB Police and the HB Fire/Rescue, who spoke out against her efforts with both conviction and anger -and who urged her not to let her own bias come into play- she did what she always wanted.
As usual.

She was the driving force behind the decision to hire outside legal counsel to tell her and her cronies on the Commission exactly what they wanted to hear, costing city taxpayers an amount that's been estimated over $10,000 in completely un-necessary legal expenses.
For personal pique and spite so it would seem, because the predictable result came quicker than she expected: the State of Florida told her NO!

A high-and-tight fastball thrown right under her chin to brush her off the plate.

All that un-necessary melodrama, personal invective and expense simply because Mayor Cooper allowed her personal bias and desire to trump common sense, and simply let someone other than a Commissioner to serve.

As if Cooper and Ross's absence from that Police/Fire Pension Board, which almost always votes unanimously, would truly be missed!
So much time, money and energy, plus all the turmoil, for what?

For personal reasons having nothing to do with the proper running of the group.

Sadly, since I returned to South Florida, that's been par for the course for her, since it often seems as if Mayor Cooper is channeling Humphrey Bogart's role as Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny, with Cooper and Ross's spot on the Pension Board serving much the same role as those missing strawberries from the ship's galley, which so consumed Queeg.

See http://www.tcm.com/video/videoPlayer/?cid=16993&titleId=25162 and
http://www.tcm.com/video/videoPlayer/?cid=9898&titleId=25162 and it's almost comical to compare the excuses that Captain Queeg uses to explain everything away with those of Mayor Cooper and City Manager Good and his staff.

The problems and screw-ups are never their responsibility, but someone else's.

Cooper's over-size ego and desire to have her finger in every aspect of governance of this small town has resulted in the current reign of ruin, where longstanding, self-evident problems are never properly dealt with, even something as simple as, well, getting the lights that shine on the City Hall sign fixed.

It's now four-and-a half years and counting.
Yes, LONGER than the U.S. involvement in World War II.
How do you like that for an fact-based anecdote, Mr. Norman?

I snapped this daytime photo of the sign above on Sept. 17th, the latest of several I've snapped over the past two years to clearly "illuminate" the problem.

Things are now pitch black PLUS.

For at least the past two weeks, every single public parking lot light next to the HB City Hall and the HB Police Dept. HQ has been out, as well as those next to the HB Cultural Center, where Early Voting has been taking place, and will 'til Sunday afternoon.
I've snapped many photos of it and video as well, which appear on my blog.

So. conservatively speaking, how many times in over four-and-a-half years do you think the Mayor, the City Manager and all of the individual city employees saw that City Hall sign inoperable?
A conservative guess would be thousands of times, right?

Of course, the city sign on U.S.-1 north of the Aventura line still hasn't been fixed during the same amount of time.

Closer to home, or HB City Hall itself, the safety light closest to City Hall''s east-side public parking and their own security camera has been out since late January or so, even BEFORE the city's security camera was ever installed -just a few feet away.

Now, logically you'd think that would matter to the city, esp. the Hallandale Beach Police Dept. next door, and they'd want the most lighting possible in the public parking lot or near their security camera showing that public lot -NOPE!
The HB Police Dept. just continues to ignore the problem even as their own side of the building, to the south, has FOUR count-em FOUR security cameras within about thirty feet of one another.

Yes, the security cameras that HB taxpayers paid for which have NO warning or informed consent signs anywhere near them at City Hall and the HB Cultural Center behind it, as is common in most government buildings in the country in the year 2008.
Nope, zero signs!

Above, a photo from October 2nd showing to the right, the public parking lot light that
hasn't worked for at least eight months, and to the left, the security camera attached to the
underside of the overhang.

And did I mention the fact that some members of the HB City Commission had to be told of Tallahassee's decision by local news reporters calling them for comment, days after the decision was made AND the city already knew the result, because Mayor Cooper, City Attorney David Jove and City Manager Mike Good weren't especially keen to say they'd lost.
Bullies and sore losers, what a powerful combination!

Since you don't seem to know this, Mr. Norman, when Tallahassee said no to Mayor Cooper, the first place anyone could hear the news and read the official correspondence itself was not the Miami Herald or the South Florida Sun-Sentinel or even local TV talking heads, but rather my humble little imperfect blog, Hallandale Beach Blog. on April 3rd:
Tallahassee Rules Against Mayor Cooper and Comm. Ross

While that's clearly a very sad reflection on a whole host of issues re journalism and passive local news coverage in South Florida in the year 2008, it doesn't change the fact that I was the first person to make the news public.

It doesn't mean that I'm always right, of course, but it does tend to show that contrary to your recent blog comments, my blog is generally comprised of a little bit more information than just 'personal opinions' as you described it.

By the way, per your post on William Ayers, on 9/11, I got off the D.C. Metro at the Metro Station just past 8:30 a.m., went up the elevator and put my Walkman on to re-join the Howard Stern Show, which I'd been listening to on my daily morning walk from my home to the Ballston Metro station.

Once in D.C., I took the elevator that comes up next to the Olsson's Bookstore and walked the few blocks to my consulting job at a law office on Pennsylvania Ave. It was across the street from DOJ and the FBI HQ, and the last thing I'd read on the ride in from my place in Arlington was the William Ayers piece in the NYT.

If United #93 had used The Mall as its flight path into the U.S. Capitol building, as many have surmised, I'd have been able to see the approach from my floor, high above the street, and if it had gone into the White House, I'd have heard it from four blocks away.
As it was, from our large porch, we could see the smoke far past the Old Post Office across the street, and over at The Pentagon.

If the national media had made a reasonably serious effort to interview Ayers last year and get the whole story in mind-numbing detail, this whole issue would be old news, but when he said no thanks, they said, "Okay, we give up."
There were no Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer full-court presses to get
Ayers and pin him down.

And so, instead, here we are.

Wednesday October 8th, 2008

3:00 p.m.

Dear Michael:

A couple of hours before last night's tepid and poorly-conducted HB CandidateForum, while I was writing on my blog about the sort of questions I hoped wouldbe asked of the candidates to elicit some insight into their thinking -as opposedto the silly ones that were actually asked!- I received this completely randomand un-expected email from Mayor Cooper, which I suspect I was not supposedto receive.
(Or maybe I was? She's so dis-organized it's hard to tell at times.)

As opposed to the mayor's crazy out-of-the-blue, post-midnight email screed to us a few weeks back, the one where she criticized us and took us to task,for, among other things, simply wanting to get together with others in the community who want to change the longstanding dysfunctional culture of cronyism and secrecy here in Hallandale Beach, as if she had some sort of royal veto power over citizens like you and I and the First Amendment.

(Per my previous comments to you, I'll finally be posting her email to us on my Hallandale Beach Blog site soon, and I'll dissect it with some vigor.
I also plan to run more photographic proof from around the city of her 'reign of ruin' that simply can't be refuted.)

If you look closely, you'll see that it is the same AOL email address that Mayor Cooper uses for her revisionist tracts/Commission accomplishments(!) that the South Florida Sun Times foolishly runs as if they were true, in lieu of, well, simply sending someone to cover HB's twice-a-month Commission meetings and reporting on it like a real newspaper.

Call me old-fashioned, but she really shouldn't use personal, non-official email to discuss pending city action, esp. one where she has evinced a very strong personal bias, since it leaves her and the city's taxpayers open to all sorts of legal consequences.

And just to drive home the point of how dis-organized Mayor Cooper is, the email references Mr. Aristides Pelecanos, whose name the mayor mis-spells as "Peliconas."

Wow, for a guy whom she personally has it in for, you'd think she'd know how to spell his name by now.

After Bob Norman of the Broward Palm Beach New Times recently cited my blog post on the mayor's absurd over-reaction to Comm. London showing some fortitude, and refusing to back down on his assertions that City Manager Good and his office had once again refused to provide docs in a timely fashion so that he could review them prior to a vote -in this case, the final 2009 HB City Budget- I reminded you and many others in the community of the devastating Norman column last summer on Mayor Cooper's all-out attempt to make Mr. Pelecanos a former resident of HB.

And in case you forgot, Mayor Cooper all but admits that she wants Mr. Pelecanos in foreclosure. Such a delight, our mayor!

Broward-Palm Beach New Times
Storming the Castle
Hallandale Beach and a Broward judge are trying to drive a man from his home
By Bob Norman
published: August 23, 2007

In Florida, the old adage about a man's home being his castle isn't just talk. It's the law.It's almost Holy Writ...
Yesterday on my blog, HB candidate forum tonight; Yet another bad idea
promoted by Mayor Joy Cooper; some odds and ends, or

I revisited the whole issue of Comm. London's comments, and show why I knowthey're true: because I was there when he asked for the docs and have photographicprooof that I was there. The individual that the mayor is emailing here wrote the following on The BPBNew Times website following the publication of the Norman story:

"Complete B.S. Mr. Norman never investigated any "so called" facts.
Never contacted the Golden Isles Homeowner's Association and never spoke to Mr. Pelecanos neighbors.

A journalist should investigate the story and all facts before publishing it.
A surprising revelation for a seasoned journalist like Mr.Norman.Comment by alex berkovich from Hallandale Beach on Oct 8th, 2007, 21:44 pm "

Obviously, since you live in that immediate area and are actually on the GIA, as the Secretary, you'd have a better idea than me of what is actually afoot here, as I have never met this Berkovich person before and frankly, don't even know if they're a HE or a SHE, as it were. http://www.drberkovich.com/

Is Alex Berkovich the husband of the dentist?

In any case, since I know that your honesty and insistence on high a degree of basic fairness must be a real thorn in Mayor Cooper's continuing attempt to muscle the GIA the way she tries to roll other myriad groups in the city, I thought I'd send this along and ask you what you think is going on here.

Frankly, I'd be lying If I didn't say that the whole issue with Mr. Pelecanos sounds like a story that was tailor-made for John Stossel of ABC News 20/20, who loves running segments exposing out-of-control govt. officials trying to use their official power for spiteful or personal reasons and vendettas, as most assuredly seems to be the case here with Mayor Cooper and Mr. Pelecanos.

After reading the email, I checked the City of HB website that you and I and everyone else in the city has been complaining about forever, because of its insipid and secretive nature, to see if they now have information on the webpage for the Community Advisory Committee, formerly Code Enforcement board, that you serve on, as referenced below by the City Clerk's office:

Shocker: blank page!

Once again, the perfect metaphor for life in Hallandale Beach under Mayor Joy Cooper and CM Mike Good in the year 2008.

By the way, at last night's candidate event, I honestly thought that Arturo O' Neill and Carlos Simmons did a very good job of outlining their strong desire to see the city make a clean break from the recent sorry past, and change the city's reputation for breeding a corrupt and corrosive culture at City Hall that repels and repulses HB citizens from participating, or feeling like they can have a say in what happens.

They both spoke clearly and specifically about replacing it with a customer-friendly City Hall culture that insists on accountability, transparency and attention-to-detail, even if that costs some long entrenched people their jobs.

That was very encouraging to hear after listening to the usual pablum from the other candidates!

I have continued to make local residents -and reporters I've spoken to!- aware of the great website you recently started full of facts, graphs and videos to bring to light some of the more disturbing aspects of the city's governance under the current Joy & Mike regime. http://www.changehallandale.com/

I think the spot-on comparison you draw between HB and Hollywood and how much money HB spends on salaries in the City Manager's office for a city over three-times smaller than Hollywood is particularly devastating.

As for the the Dotty Ross video you recently added to the site, having been there when Pastor Sanders was selected 3-1 to be an interim Commissioner just minutes after news of the then-upcoming Schiller resignation, with no advance notice to the public, well, it just makes her words and behavior all the more troubling, yet entirely emblematic of her last four years as a puppet of Mayor Cooper.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 2:36 PM

Subject: Fwd: Code Enforcement Advisory Committee Minutes (Community Advisory)

To: alex@drberkovich.com

FYI. I was reading these and was concerned that Mike is speaking with the NIP as if he is our representative for GIA? I know we are all working hard to make our area better. This needs to be addressed a the next board meeting. Also the Peliconas house on Holiday Drive will be scheduled for Unsafe structures within 3-4 week. There has to be 2 public notices and certified notice. I was also informed by the city attorney that they could appeal the unsafe structure ruling in the courts. We will see.

The system really protects the homeowner at all costs. Joy

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: "Jones, Chinta"

To: "Cooper, Joy" , "Good, Mike" , "Julian, William", "London, Keith", "Rafols, Nydia M", "Ross, Dotty", "Sanders, Anthony"

Date: Mon, 6 Oct 2008 11:45:13 -0400

Subject: RE: Code Enforcement Advisory Committee Minutes (Community Advisory)


DATE: October 6, 2008

TO: D. Mike Good, City Manager

FROM: E. Dent McGough, City Clerk

SUBJECT: Code Enforcement Advisory Committee Minutes For your review, please find attached copies of the minutes for the Code Enforcement Advisory Board (now known as the Community Advisory Committee) Meetings held in May and June 2008.

Please transmit to the City Commission per procedure.


_______________________________ __________________

D. Mike Good, City Manager Date ______APPROVED ______DENIED ______HOLD FOR DISCUSSION COMMENTS: __________________________________________________ EDM/cj

Attachment(s):2 Chinta Jones AOA II/City ClerkCity of Hallandale beach 400 South Federal HwyHallandale Beach, FL 33009 Tel. 954.457.1340 Fax.954.457.1342

Email: cjones@hallandalebeachfl.gov

2 attachments —

Download all attachments Code Enforcement Minutes May 2008.pdf118K View as HTML

Download Code Enforcement Jun 08.pdf124K View as HTML Download

re SFRTA Transit Workshop in Miami-Dade on Nov. 14

Above is the information I've previously mentioned about the upcoming SFRTA/Tri-Rail Workshop in Miami-Dade County on Friday November 14th at the Miami-Dade Expressway office located at 3790 N.W. 21st Street, across the street from Tri-Rail’s Miami Airport Tri-Rail Station.

Workshops are scheduled to begin in the Boardroom at 8:30 a.m. and end around 12:30, and parking is available at the Tri-Rail lot across the street.

Information is available online at http://www.tri-rail.com/announcements.htm.

RSVP at (954) 788-7958

At the August 22 meeting of the SFRTA Governing Board, the professional staff was directed to plan transit workshops this fall in each of the three counties, to be followed by a "Regional Transit Summit" in January or February. The Palm Beach workshop has already been held.

The thought is that the workshops and summit will help build public momentum and support for transit in advance of the legislative session in Tallahassee.

I've already made some suggestions to some folks involved about being sure to schedule it at a time when the pols aren't too distracted by other events going on in the state where they hope to cop invites or comps to to attend, like the Daytona 500 on February 15th, the BCS Title game on January 8th, especially if the Gators are involved in the latter, as I still think they may against Texas, or, the Super Bowl in Tampa on February 1st. http://www.tampabaysuperbowl.com/

I expect that Gabriel and the folks at Transit Miami http://www.transitmiami.com/ will have a lot more to say about the workshop in Miami as the date draws near, but I did want to remind you all for the second time here that it is going to be happening within the next three weeks, so mark your calendars.

As I've expressed here more than a few times, I really wish that a TM-like grass roots organization had existed when I was growing-up down here to give the general public a lot more of a voice and a counter-weight to some of the bad decisions that were already being made regarding the Metrorail's future, since the Tri-Rail would make even more sense now if some of the places my friends and I then frequented, had possibilities of being integrated into a larger regional transit network.

When I'd come home from IU during the summer, and wanted to be able to get around sensibly and quickly, and not forever be in traffic jams on S. Dixie Highway, when I was living down near The Falls, I'd have gladly spent a few hours a week at an office somewhere, say near Dadeland or South Miami, working on strategy and outreach to make sure that the future routes in the county would be based on common sense, natural boundaries and social networking, to create more places where South Florida could interact in a relaxed atmosphere.

You know, at a minimum, be able to ride a transit system with a Metro that actually (and originally) connected MIA to the downtown area and the business/legal districts or sports arenas and stadiums, as is common sense in most other communities, but NOT the natural order of things down here.

Now that so many people who live down here have no knowledge of what the county's Metrorail was supposed to be like, or the original promises for expansion, it's easy to think that the area's inherent political apathy and backwardness were the principal reason the stations were placed where they were, rather than purely political, ethnic and labor-based decisions, back before there were single-member districts on the Dade County Commission.

Almost 13 months ago, on September 25th, back in simpler times, before the Herald's Larry Lebowitz opened so many people's eyes here with his week-long series by connecting the dots on past negligence and incompetency in Miami having real world consequences for this area's growth and sprawl, there was a Miami-Dade County Citizens Advisory Committee meeting titled "Orange Line, Phase II, North Corridor Metrorail Extension Preliminary Engineering Phase."

See http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/corridor/n_corridor/n_meeting_schedule.asp and http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/stories/2007/09/10/daily39.html

Map of Orange Line is at: http://www.loopconsulting.com/projects/mdt/images/Map.jpg

That, of course, was the very line that was supposed to be finished in 2012 and, once finished, allow U-M students to get on the Metrorail near campus and go straight to the stadium formerly known as JRS, but which I've taken to calling Chez Huizenga for short.

(It's like the way people like me, i.e. traditionalists who know something about Dolphin owner Joe Robbie's many fights with the City of Miami in general and with Miami City Manager Cesar Odio in particular, who dared Robbie to leave -which I've described in my blog- still call the stadium in North Dade, Joe Robbie Stadium. Intentionally, to draw a distinction between what it originally represented, resolve and relief for Dolphin fans, and what it has become under Wayne Huizenga -a three-ring circus.)

NOT that this helpful bit of info about the Metrorail was EVER mentioned in any of the Herald or Sun-Sentinel articles or editorials before the move from the Orange Bowl was officially announced last year by U-M President Donna Shalala, nor mentioned by the local TV talking heads on the 6 and 11 o'clock news.

Maybe if the Daily Business Review had mentioned it, they'd have said so, since the local TV folks seem to really love stealing their material without attribution, where that seemed to be especially pronounced at WFOR, News4.

Thirteen months from now, I wonder what sort of things we will all know and accept as common knowledge about this area and the pols who are making such short-sighted transit decisions for the community's future growth.
Gist for another series for Larry?

This is, if nothing else, a target-rich environment!

In case you somehow missed it originally, after months of mind-numbing research, Larry gave
readers an exhaustive and cringe-worthy 'inside' look at Miami-Dade Transit issues, in his excellent front page series, one of the best the Herald has had.

With the help of interactive multi-media http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/transit/ he reveals in minute detail the hows and whys of the myriad broken promises made to voters and riders over the years, and connects-the-dots on the corruption, cronyism and political sleight-of-hand that have found such fertile ground here, even while transparency and accountability have not.

Sort of like so many promises and deadlines I've heard in Hallandale Beach since arriving here that have fallen by the wayside.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Orioles woes; Boston Red Sox to get new spring home in Fort Myers -a mini Fenway?

Orioles woes; Red Sox to get new spring home in Fort Myers -a mini Fenway?
The classic cartoon Oriole of my South Florida youth, when "the Oriole Way" meant being the best.

World Series - Boog Powell, Elrod Hendricks, Brooks Robinson, Oct. 19, 1970

Baseball 1971 - Power Personified, Baltimore's Boog Powell, April 12, 1971

World Series - Frank Robinson, Oct. 18, 1971

Some Oriole souvenirs thru the years.
Slightly expanded version of an email I sent today to the fabulous Sports Junkies, the dominant sports radio program in Washington, D.C., about the Orioles leaving Fort Lauderdale and the Red Sox making even more money my moving their spring training circus to a mini-Fenway Park in Fort Myers. I listened to them from their humble beginnings years ago to their days of dominance.

Of course they podcast, how do you suppose I listen to them now?http://www.junkiesradio.com/audio.shtml
The past few weeks I've taken notice of all the folks on Florida's West Coast who've been ripping the general idea of the Orioles moving there, here- http://search.news-press.com/sp?aff=1172&keywords=Orioles&skin=100 and at other places, saying that the O's are clearly a second-tier team who'll draw less (enthusiastic) fans who'll spend less money in the area during spring training than their accent-heavy NE cousins from Massachusetts.
As if simply being a loyal Orioles fan was not enough of a burden itself!

But now, it looks like the Red Sox will be getting new digs in Fort Myers, especially one modeled on Fenway Park -ka-ching!!
It's a case of the rich getting richer, a veritable license to print $$$$
Meanwhile, the Orioles...

All of these months later, to my mind, there has yet to be a definitive story in local South Florida media about how Broward County, the City of Ft. Lauderdale and local Congressional representatives were all asleep at the wheel, and completely botched the Ft. Lauderdale Stadium situation with the Orioles, thru excessive procrastination and lack of attention to detail.
La plus ca change...

As someone who has followed this from the beginning, the Broward County Commission has yet to demand public answers from their own employees involved in the deal, much less from Greater Ft. Lauderdale CVB head Nicki Grossman, a former Broward County Commissioner, who was the local person who spearheaded (bulldozed?) the agreement which has collapsed.
The only good part of it collapsing is that tax dollars that will NOT be going to help subsidize Peter Angelos,
pere et fils & Company's future profits/inheritance.

And if you read the details below, you'll see that the Red Sox reportedly will pay a half-million dollars a year in rent at the new facility, while based on past published reports locally, the O's have been paying a paltry $120,000 a year.

As you guys will recall me mentioning in past emails over the years while up in Arlington County and then down here, I'm a lifetime Oriole fan who grew-up in South Florida going to at least 6-8
O's spring training games every year at Miami Stadium in the early-mid '70's as a kid with my friends and family during the team's glory days.

I listened to their ballgames on WGBS AM-710 (pre-Radio Mambi) while Chuck Thompson provided the play-by-play accounts of those great players and teams, whose roster I knew backwards and forwards.
I'd even catch a bus after school from the 163rd Street Shopping Center to go out to the then-Biscayne College to watch the O's minor leagers that John Steadman might've mention in a newspaper column. Then I went to about 20-25 games a year at Camden Yards when I lived in the D.C. area for 15 years.

Since moving back to South Florida, I've watched their games on MASN via DirecTV when I can, loved their spring training programming on weekends, even while the Marlins were, typically, so clueless in their marketing that not ONE single Marlin spring training game was televised into South Florida, while I could catch a couple of games of other teams every March weekend on the various regional Fox Sports Network channels.
Thus, if I were to see the Marlins at all, it'd be on the Cardinal's TV network.

So, all that said, I've long lamented the fact that once the Yankees, Braves and Expos fled the South Florida area, the Orioles were at a decided competitive dis-advantage because of being so far away from other teams' spring training bases and stadiums, and NOT having their minor leaguers actually on-site, they spend more time traveling around the state on buses than any other MLB team in FL during spring training.
Though its clearly lack of talent not sluggishness that accounts for the O's woes once the season actually starts!

Though I've personally liked the proximity of seeing them play every spring since I moved back to the area in late 2003, I was against the 2006 Orioles deal IF it meant destroying the City of Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium, to my mind, the single best amateur sports facility down here, where I grew-up going to Ft. Lauderdale Strikers NASL games when those were always fun and exciting, esp. against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, which were legendary fun among my circle of friends.

The record is pretty clear the city, county and Congressman Ron Klein didn't exactly do their proper due diligence and keep their attention properly focused on the FAA's legitimate concerns about the true valuation of the land, so it wasn't a sweetheart deal that short-changed

It seems to me based on what I already do know that there's still quite a lot of information that has never seen the light of day on this matter, which gets to -shocker!- how generally poor the local news coverage on this subject has been here, other than Sarah Talalay's work at the Sun-Sentinel http://blogs.trb.com/sports/custom/business/blog/ local news coverage being the central point of my letter (and subsequent blog post) yesterday to the Herald's ombudsman.
And Talalay can't do everyone else's job PLUS her own, you know?

I still have all the docs, drawing and renderings of the proposed Orioles facility in FTL that the Orioles gave Broward County, stored-up on my computer.
At some point after the World Series and Election Day is over, I'll finally post them all on my blogs for everyone to see, and comment on some of the other factors at play here that I believe have led to this coming spring training down here being a real disaster.

While up at the stadium this past spring, where I'd have the proposed stadium drawings and specs handy, I spoke to lots of Oriole fans who made the trip south -some of whom were regular listeners of yours!- who said almost without exception, that they would NOT come down here again, even if the Orioles did play at FTL in March to finish out their contract, which is what they're currently planning on doing.
And that was seven months ago...

Part of me actually wishes the city and county would send the Orioles a letter saying don't bother coming down, there's a mysterious structural defect at the stadium that threatens public safety that can't possibly be fixed in time, so why don't they just plan on headin' out to the Cactus League in Arizona somewhere and play at some junior college facility while Vero Beach fixes up Dodgertown to their oh-so exacting specs.
I'd really, really love that.

Trust me, like all the other many botched things in South Florida involving local government, there are plenty of (ir)responsible parties at fault here, many of whom have thus far escaped their deserved proper scrutiny.

October 28, 2008
Lee County commissioners approve Red Sox agreementAgreement calls for 30-year deal, Fenway Park replica
By Glenn Miller
• View the Lee County-Red Sox draft agreement

SARASOTA - Balking at the $70 million price of building a new spring training stadium for the Boston Red Sox, some city and county commissioners say the Baltimore Orioles are a much cheaper alternative.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Ed Bierschenk, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers
September 21, 2008

Negotiations with the team to replace the Los Angeles Dodgers may be nearing a conclusion - possibly this week.

But officials are still skittish about naming the team, which sources said is the Baltimore Orioles , in fear of upsetting them, so they won't verify they are dealing with the Orioles for the former spring training home of the Dodgers.

The Orioles have held spring training at Fort Lauderdale Stadium for 13 years.

But the team's future in Fort Lauderdale was put in doubt after the Federal Aviation Administration denied the city's request to be exempt from a $1.3 million annual payment for the upkeep of Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in order to keep hosting spring training at the adjacent stadium.

Vero Beach City Councilman Bill Fish, other City Council members and Indian River County commissioners all signed confidentiality deals that have prevented them from relating details of the negotiations, which involve both the stadium and the adjacent land once occupied by Dodgertown Golf Course.

Indian River County Administrator Joe Baird said he hopes something can be finalized next week, but City Manager Jim Gabbard wasn't willing to go that far.

"Hopefully, we will have some good news in the not-too-distant future. We are working hard to get a deal as quickly as possible," said Gabbard, who declined to comment on a report that the city sent its latest proposal to the team.
The Orioles declined to comment.

City and county officials held a lengthy meeting with team officials in late July.

Earlier that month, Baird said he and the team had gone through three draft agreements outlining plans for Dodgertown.

Sources said the plans for the complex could include a youth baseball academy for the former golf course site.
In case anyone is curious, as may be noticeable up at the top in my letter, though I'm a very big sports fan, here and at parent blog South Beach Hoosier I've often lamented the fact that
despite the amount of tax money involved, how often financial numbers offered up by folks like Nicki Grossman of the Greater Ft. Lauderdale CVB as proof of the financial impact on the area of hosting events, like the Super Bowl, BCS Championship or the Orioles staying in Ft. Lauderdale for spring training were/are never put up to anything even resembling basic fact-checking scrutiny, much less, oh, forensic accounting. The local media just reports them as facts.
South Florida sports legend Hank Goldberg often spoke about this subject on his much-missed WQAM show as well, but the numbers proferred by the Orioles in relation to their 2006 deal, and passed off as legit estimates, were especially curious and over-the-top to my way of thinking.
Previous blog posts of mine mentioning the Orioles in some manner include:
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 Nick Saban the Interloper
Some of my favorite blogs and links include the following:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Decreasing value of Miami Herald endorsements: Herald ignores a city, yet blithely gives its' endorsement

Below is the email that I wrote and sent earlier out this afternoon to Edward Schumacher-Matos, the Miami Herald's once-in-a-while Ombudsman.
I had lots of cc's and bcc's on that, including lots of names of TV and print reporters and elected officials I interact with, both locally and national, who have an interest in accurate, timely and responsible reporting of news in government.

I've had a letter like this in mind for quite some time and when there was nothing printed over the weekend to dissuade me, out it went.
October 27th, 2008
re Decreasing value of Miami Herald endorsements: Herald ignores a city, yet blithely gives its' endorsement

Dear Mr. Schumacher-Matos:

Having grown-up in South Florida with the Miami Herald from the late 60's thru the late '70's, and being intimately involved with many national, state and local elections in Dade County, including

many hectic 24/7 months spent as the day-to-day State Campaign coordinator under Mike Abrams for Gary Hart's winning 1984 Florida Presidential Primary upset victory, I can still recall a time and place when the endorsement of the Herald was something of tangible and intrinsic value.

Value not only to the endorsed political candidate and their supporters, but also to open-minded voters and other media as well, and not just those in South Florida, but nationally, because that endorsement was NOT one that could be easily dismissed with a wave of a hand as a case of
institutional party bias or cozy business/professional cronyism, as was/is true with many too many newspapers across the country, including, perhaps most famously, The Chicago Tribune, a fact I fully realized but still didn't like when I lived in the Chicago area for a few years.

After I left North Miami Beach in the Fall of 1979 for life at Indiana University in Bloomington, and consistently voted absentee from there 'til 1983, despite my personally knowing many of the Miami-area politicians who were running in Dade County -as well as their families- my Mom in NMB would STILL cut out the Herald's list of endorsements in the Sunday paper and mail it first thing Monday morning so I'd get it.
Just to be sure, she'd call the next night with her own analysis of the various Herald picks, and we'd compare notes just in case I was going to send the absentee ballot back before getting her letter with the Herald's picks.

(I had a mail subscription to the afternoon Miami News while at IU, but the 3-4 day delay was clearly problematic as far as following local news from afar in those pre-Internet days, as you might well recall.)

So, all that said, for me personally, nothing quite illustrates the depths to which the Herald has sunken in more recent times then their strange endorsement last Saturday for the two seats on the Hallandale Beach City Commission, because that's where I happen to live now.

Not because of which candidates the paper's chosen to endorse, per se, based on the seven candidates making a group house-call on the Herald's Pembroke Pines office on Oct. 14th, but rather because the newspaper itself has seemingly made the conscious editorial decision to NOT send a reporter to cover Hallandale Beach's twice-monthly, often contentious City Commission meetings since June.

And that June meeting was covered by the Herald largely because it was a Joint Meeting with the City of Hollywood, which almost always gets a Herald reporter assigned to cover their City Commission and CRA meetings, as well as those involving Bernard Zyscovich and his positive constructive ideas for reshaping Downtown Hollywood.
Since I actually attend them, I'm in a position to say so.

(Well, almost always covers, since the Herald NEVER reported on the City of Hollywood's unanimous 5-0 approval on October 15th -at the second hearing- on the application of FORTUNE International's four-year effort to construct an iconic 41-story Beach One Resort hotel on State Road A1A and Hallandale Beach Blvd., right on the city's border with Hallandale Beach.
In fact, the Herald has yet to run a single photo of the area itself, or even an artist's rendering of the building, designed by world-renowned architect Carlos A. Ott, which could very likely become a Hollywood landmark for decades to come at the entrance to Hollywood on the beach.
Not to worry, though, I have a photo of it on my blog, with a link to all the hotel specs at Hollywood's website.)

And the Herald has maintained this position towards HB even though big news was being made there which has broad and long-term policy and process implications for all the citizens and residents of the city, of which the following are but the more obvious ones that the Herald has been completely AWOL on:

1.) In early August, a new interim commissioner, Anthony A. Sanders, one of the two Herald-endorsed candidates, was initially selected NOT elected by three of the five commissioners less than fifteen minutes after Comm, Fran Schiller's letter of resignation was read by City Manager Mike Good.

This was done despite the fact that the resignation would not become official until WEEKS LATER, with a regularly scheduled Commission meeting still coming up BEFORE that effective date of resignation on Aug. 29th, which would have afforded the city plenty of time for its citizens to be fully engaged in the process, NOT the orchestrated behind-the-scenes effort by the mayor and city manager to hand-pick a member.

I personally like and admire Pastor Sanders and was the very last person to actually speak with him before he and his wife Jessica left the previous City Commission's meeting, and could've supported the idea of his selection IF it had simply taken place according to the city's own established procedures -and in the Sunshine with appropriate public notice.

I would've even been open to the idea of supporting him and voting for him, because it disgusts me that this city which calls itself "Progressive" has had such an antiquated system of representation, which allows power to be concentrated in the hands of one geographic part of the city, east of the FEC railroad tracks, instead of one where there is equal opportunity to participate and be heard on the issues.
Myself, I'd prefer a system involving district seats plus at-large seats.

But sadly the process in Hallandale Beach that night WASN'T in the Sunshine, and in the interim, Comm. Sanders has adopted a tone that clearly suggests he believes he's entitled to the Commissioner position because of his many very commendable efforts in the city in the past, which rubs me and many other civic-minded HB residents who follow such things the wrong way.
And understandably so.

We want independent voices on the City Commission committed to reform, transparency and accountability, NOT puppets that rubber stamp.

Since you and the newspaper clearly don't know this fact, Mr. Schumacher-Matos, it's common knowledge that HB City Manager Mike Good actually wrote Comm. Schiller's resignation letter.
In fact, Schiller said as much that night, not that your readers would know that, since nobody from the paper was there.
(And so much for notions of separation-of-powers in a City Manager form of government, eh!)

That vetting process to fill the vacancy was wholly and substantially different from the process the city had previously insisted upon using to fill a vacancy less than 18 months before, with the resignation of Comm. Joe Gibbons upon his election to the State House in November of 2006.
Why throw out the city's existing procedures with WEEKS to go before Schiller's resignation was effective???
There's a question!

It's a question the Herald has never asked.

The only part about "the fix" that didn't quite work, this being HB and all, was Sanders being unaware that Mayor Joy Cooper would announce her selection of him -oh, I mean the Commission's!- on that particular night, as he was informed of the news via telephone by yet another HB Commission candidate, Alexander Lewy, an aide to Rep. Kendrick Meek, who was himself endorsed this week by the Sun-Sentinel.

I know this because a visibly-shaken Lewy was standing right next to me outside the City Hall chambers that night after the announcement, speaking to Pastor Sanders, while I was describing the whole un-democratic process on my cell phone to Herald editor Rory Clarke.
Lewy told me what he was doing, whom he was speaking to and what was being said to him.
Yes, there's no substitute for first-hand facts!

2.) Another curious issue unexamined by the Herald is the appraisal value of Sanders-owned property that the City of HB has long sought to purchase, with wildly fluctuating estimates.
And this week, you have the sorry spectacle of the city even paying for an ad -below- in a free local community rag that doesn't actively practice journalism -the South Florida Sun-Times, Oct. 23rd issue, page 13A- labeled Setting the Record Straight.

It has appraisal figures that are completely different -and much higher!- than ones cited publicly at the Oct. 15th City Commission meeting by Comm. Keith London.
He alone has sought to put some light on this matter by disclosing the names of the appraisers involved and the specific ID number attached to each estimate, so that city residents would know what's what with those very curious estimates.
The new figures cited in the city-paid ad seem completely unbelievable, given the location of the property and the current real estate market.

Is the city of HB actually bidding against itself for the property of Comm. Sanders and providing him a windfall profit?
Some people think so and the city's handling of the matter ought to raise some antennae among the media about why the process is unfolding the way it is if it's so innocent.

And look at the city's ad, a great deal of which is written like a political endorsement of him.
With taxpayer dollars!

If they'd had more time, the city might've even said that Anthony Sanders was born in a log cabin!

As bad as things are today in the newspaper world, in many if not most American cities, even mediocre newspapers recognize that story as one that at least warrants some independent investigation and reporting, to say nothing of a photo or two of the property, and a specific description of the city's future use for it, other than the vague abstract ideas of simply assembling contiguous properties for some project that never gets fully discussed publicly.
The Miami Herald has not written word one about this, with 8 days to go before Election Day.

3.) Another un-examined issue in the pages of the Herald is Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper's intemperate and embarrassing reaction to the Hollywood City Commission's unanimous approval of the Beach One Resort project, and the Hollywood Commission's unwillingness to ignore their
own Commission procedures and create a bad precedent by allowing the City of HB to make a lengthy Power Point presentation that other interested citizens and parties could not legally make, even people who live nearby.

Cooper did this just a short time later at the HB City Commission meeting by threatening to begin (illegally) charging Florida citizens a fee to access the public beach at HB's North Beach, and publicly stated her desire to tie the hotel's developer up in knots thru extended litigation.
Did I mention that it was illegal to charge an access fee to a public beach?

4.) And did I mention that in his final remarks at the Hollywood meeting on the 15th, Beach One Resort attorney Joesph L. Herndon publicly stated that the City of HB was completely rejected in their request for $1.5 million dollars from the developer in exchange for, well, basically, just walking away and forgetting their problems?
Yeah, that's neighborly!
Nothing quite says 'Hello neighbor" like "Stick 'em up!"

Most reasonable people might think the above might be considered news, Mr. Schumacher-Matos

More recently, the Herald even ran a preposterous PR note masquerading as news on the City of HB being nominated for an award for excellence from the Florida League of Cities, being one of five nominees.
The story NEVER mentioned the fact that the city, or rather, four of the five HB Commissioners, nominated themself, which is, if nothing else, very convenient, don't you think?

They also used that same same sage wisdom to self-nominate in two other categories.
One was for Comm. Dotty Ross, while she's running for re-election, a fact she happily mentions in her campaign mailers, just as they clearly planned in advance.
What better way to try to rehabilitate someone with as ineffective and mediocre a record as Ross's than to nominate her for an award for "Excellence?"

It's fiendishly ingenious!

In case you forgot, last year Dotty Ross's record included violating Florida's Sunshine Laws by joining with two other Hallandale Beach Commissioners in secret over lunch to vote themselves a 300% salary increase, with no advance notice to the public about the item.
This year, that record has included voting for an ordinance which precludes the general HB public from serving on the Police-Fire Pension Board, and voting against something that's so common sense it's taken for granted in other South Florida cities in the year 2008 -placing the names of people serving on city advisory boards on the city's website with more information about the committee itself.

In an era of exciting new technology that allows for more direct connectivity between citizens and their government representatives than was ever possible, Dotty Ross is firmly anchored to the distant past, as she was against even allowing the City Manager's staff to study the idea of having the city-controlled cable-access channel offering programming other than the HB City Commission meetings and the once a month HB Planning & Zoning meeting, even though this would clearly allow greater direct citizen involvement and participation in public policy.

So instead, 99% of the time, the channel only shows bumpers of city information, over and over and over. Not exactly Must-See TV.

The City Commission also nominated City Manager Mike Good for an award, someone who has largely escaped serious scrutiny in the Herald and other South Florida media that would give reasonable people and media in other cities cause for concern: lack of positive results.
But guess who'll pay the expenses for that bogus field trip to and from Orlando for 4 of the 5 commissioners?
Yes, HB's already-beleaguered taxpayers, that's who.

The idea of HB nominating itself for "Excellence" is personally galling to me precisely because I have been going to all those meetings the Herald has consciously chosen to skip out on.
I have paid attention, taken copious notes and asked questions of others in the chambers and around the city, plus done some independent investigation about some matters that has caused the mayor, among others, to get quite angry.

Galling, because of the self-evidently poor way the city has been run for years, that, among many other things I could cite for you here today on Oct. 27th, is, that last night was at least the 15th straight night in a row that the PUBLIC parking lot adjacent to HB City Hall and the HB Police Dept. HQ has been pitch black at night.
And the west side of the HB Cultural Center, where Early Voting has been taking place and will continue 'till Sunday.

That's a rather novel take on public safety don't you think?

All those hundreds and hundreds of police officers in police cars who've cruised in and out of that public area over the past weeks have been channeling Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes -they "see nothing!"
And that total includes the public parking lot lights that are next to the numerous HB Police Dept.-controlled security cameras. The ones without Warning/informed consent signs.
They still "see nothing!"

So what exactly was the point of taxpayers paying for so many security cameras if Cooper and Good's City Hall can't properly maintain the lighting right next to them?

Sure Mayor Cooper and the City Commission should've noticed it when they walked out of their meeting on Oct. 15th, since their reserved parking spaces in the public parking lot are right near the Police Dept. HQ, and that parking lot was also pitch black that night, too.

(That was likely the fourth night in a row they were out then.)

But to see the problem, Mr. Schumacher-Matos, they'd have to want to see it and then do something about it, right?
They don't.

It could hardly be more obvious to anyone who's paying attention that from the perspective of Messers Cooper and Good, nothing must be allowed to rock the status quo at HB City Hall, because
so much of it is built on lies, self-deception, self-promotion and mis-statements of facts to the public, and one small move could bring down the whole mountain.


If you had curious and enterprising reporters here, you'd already know that.

As it happens, the same unsafe pitch black conditions hold true at the intersection across the street from HB City Hall on S.E. 3rd Street at U.S.-1/South Federal Highway, the U.S.-1 entrance to Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino, the city's largest single private employer.
(Actually, that also includes the immediate block north and south, as well as the internally lit green street signs, the latter of which have been out for well over 3 1/2 years.)

That whole stretch of U.S.-1 is like one giant -yes- BLACK HOLE, thru which government

accountability and common sense have no effect whatsoever.
How myopic do they have to be to not see what's right in front of them?

Honestly, do you really think that kind of sheer incompetency would be tolerated, much less allowed to continue for weeks and months on end, IF it happened in front of the cash cow that is the Seminole Hard Rock? No.
Or even the less successful Bank Atlantic Center? I don't.

Nope, someone whose fingerprints are as connected to so many bad ideas, poor results, missed dealines and obfuscation as City Manager Mike Good would've long ago been held accountable, and told that if there were not immediate positive changes, especially in matters involving public safety, he'd be fired -for cause.
But not here.

Above, daytime photo from May 2008
The lights on the city's own City Hall sign haven't worked consistently in over FOUR-and-a-half years.
To give you some perspective on that, that's longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II.
Think about that!

Don't worry, Mr. Schumacher-Matos, despite the Herald having been too busy to cover even some of these matters, I've personally taken photographs and videos of the whole sorry and dangerous episode around HB City Hall to document for other area residents and visitors to take note of,
which you can access by simply going to my blog and looking at posts from the past several weeks.

The simple fact that the Herald would think to print an endorsement BEFORE the newspaper has EVER run a single story on the candidates in the race and the issues of interest to voters, while NOT having set foot in the city's Commission meetings since June, speaks volumes, and calls to mind all sorts of hoary cliches like 'cart before the horse' and so on.
But sadly, to me, it's all static, nonsense and feedback.

Call me old-fashioned, but I was under the general impression that the recent pact that the Herald, the Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post signed was done to facilitate MORE local news coverage, NOT LESS, but apparently I misunderstood the meaning of it all, since, indeed, the Herald's own actions for the past few months in my corner of South Florida belie any recognizable interest in furthering either public good or even basic aspects of journalism, like who, what, why, when, and where.
Or, the less well-known 6th W of basic reporting -"Why not?"

Maybe you should just consider raiding the news rooms of the ids at Indiana University in Bloomington and The Daily Northwestern at NU in Evanston, two perennially excellent incubators of curious news reporters that I've been familiar with over the years.
Then hire their smartest soon-to-graduate students and let 'em loose on Miami-Dade and Broward
Counties and see what happens when some eager and enthusiastic new blood is on the job, because despite a few very good apples in your bunch now, whose morale is quite low, the current status quo at the Herald is positively pathetic from a reader and news consumer's point of view.
Since no one else will tell you this, over the past year, the Herald has failed to have a reporter present at Hallandale Beach City Commission meetings for at least three of the four largest
proposed (and subsequently approved) development projects in the city, all on either U.S.-1 or Hallandale Beach Blvd., two of the largest thoroughfares in all of southern Broward County.

If a tree falls on a grid-locked road but the Herald never reports it, does it really make a sound?

Or, to paraphrase Robert Kennedy, some South Florida bloggers report on news that happens around them and ask "Why?" (Or, more likely here, "Still?")
The Miami Herald ignores things large and small taking place in their own backyard and says "Why Bother?"

Of course, that could finally change tonight if the Herald simply awoke from its long slumber and
decided to get re-engaged, and actually sent someone to cover tonight's HB Candidate's Debate
at the HB Cultural Center at 7 PM.
And afterwards, simply walked around and recorded what's self-evident and in "plain sight."
I'd like to think that were still possible, but given the Herald's recent track record, I won't hold my breath.

Mr. Schumacher-Matos, that's how it looks from my corner of South Florida today.

#HollywoodFL based photographer/entrepreneur Esther Chuang

#HOLLYWOODFL based photographer and entrepreneur Esther Chuang with Hollywood Mayor-elect Josh Levy
Thumbs up! What a night! #HOLLYWOODFL based photographer and entrepreneur Esther Chuang with a very elated Hollywood Mayor-elect Josh Levy at his Victory Party, held at Leo Anato's Atelier3/AT3 on Harrison Street & S. 19th Avenue, Hollywood. AT3's great environment and the amazing variety of food prepared by chef Kevin Dreifuss, former owner/chef of now-closed ENDS MEAT restaurant, was SUPERB! November 8, 2016 Esther Chuang, Morro Dois Irmãos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2015
Above, perhaps my most-favorite photo ever of Esther, which is really saying something considering the THOUSANDS that I've actually seen of her, from all over the world. But despite the fact that you can't actually see it here, trust me, her amazing smile and inner and external beauty are there. This photo is an even more amazing achievement when you know the backstory of what it took for Esther to get to the top of the mountain, since it's NOT for the faint of heart. Next time you see her, ask her about that! Morro Dois Irmãos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on her birthday, July 10, 2015. That's the Christ The Redeemer statue way out in the horizon on the top of another mountain, to the left of her head. To the right is the world famous beach of Ipanema and to the left is the equally famous beach of Copacabana. �� In case you forgot what the Christ the Redeemer statue looks like, up close, here's yet another Brazilian beauty to connect-the-dots for you: Gisele Bündchen, aka @Gisele.

Abençoado por Deus e bonito por natureza!✨ ������

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

View of Rio De Janeiro from my room.

A post shared by Bebe Rexha (@beberexha) on