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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Coconut Grove Is Not Out Of The Woods Yet

Lorry Woods had a great smile & a great idea to meet the voters in Coconut
Grove. The Not Now Silly Newsroom's Head Writer will get to it eventually
Headly Westerfield, Not Now Silly's Head Writer, was out on the campaign trail for the second time this week. This time he wasn't chasing Marco Rubio. Here's his report from the Lorry Woods BBQ Judging Meet & Greet.


It was a beautiful day in Miami that started with some cloak and dagger skullduggery. There's a person I have been pumping for information about one of the ongoing stories I'm writing about. At the same time they have a story about [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff that can barely be believed, but no one puts it past him. We'd been exchanging phone calls and text messages for a while and it was finally time to meet.

There's nothing I love better than meeting up with whistle-blowers and this one was providing a rare two-fer. [For now, that's all I''ll reveal.] This person wanted to meet out of their own neighbourhood, so that no one who knew either of us, would see us. I let them choose and it was Panther Coffee, in Wynwood.

I'll never go back there again, if I can help it.

To start with, one needs a credit card to park in that neighbourhood. It's all Pay by Phone, or Pay by Phone App. Either way, you'll need a credit card to complete the transaction. I was told there are some machines in the area, but I drove around several blocks and never saw them. However, I saw blocks and blocks of Pay by Phone only parking.

This is just another area of life where the Have Nots are screwed. If they don't have a smart phone and/or credit card, they're not parking their cars in Wynwood.

Panther Coffee is a tiny little place that's so crowded, that if one of the 4-seat tables is occupied, there's no room to pull out a chair at the adjoining table. Additionally, there's nothing in that room to baffle the sound. It bounces off every wall. The din was so loud I could barely hear the person talking right next to me.

Lastly, the Have Nots probably can't afford Panther Coffee, either.

People make fun of my Starbucks addiction, but I go there because I like the taste of their coffee. I pay $2.50 for "Biggest/Boldest," or a straight Venti brew. A smaller cup of coffee at Panther was $3.75. You read that right: $3.75 for a plain cup of coffee. Furthermore, I stood in line for 18 minutes, because I timed it, while the 6 hipsters in line ahead of me ordered complicated drinks and food from a more complicated menu. They need a COFFEE ONLY line, or find a way to speed up that whole process.

I repeat: I'll never go back to Panther Coffee again, if I can help it.

My whistle-blower had a lot to say about [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff. Of course, it all needs to be confirmed before I can print it. However, if only 10% of it is true, it becomes a game-changer.

From Wynwood I was going to a Lorry Woods Meet & Greet in Coconut Grove, dipsy-doodling the 7 miles along surface streets until I got to the E.W.F. Stirrup House. A citation on the gate alerted me to the fact that the house is now owned by a different company than had owned it previously. Previously the house was listed as owned by Stirrup Properties, Inc. Now it's owned by EWFs No 1 LLC. It will also take a bit of investigation to learn why there has been a change. The house is still in the Stirrup family, but one of the officers appears to have been removed. It's ironic that E.W.F. Stirrup, III, is no longer listed as one of the owners of the E.W.F. Stirrup House.

Donna Barnett, who lives across the street, poses at the fence
telling her she is on camera. This reporter has seen no cameras.
Next I visited Marler Avenue.

I've written about Marler before, in Where The Sidewalk Ends, Racism Begins; Chapter Three. In the 6 months since, the offending neighbours on Loquat have built a HUGE wooden fence just behind the property line, which is indicated by the picket fence on the extreme right in the picture left. (TO BE FAIR: It's a beautiful HUGE wooden fence.)

To remind readers, the picket fence is the remnants of the wall the City of Miami ORDERED to be erected to keep West Grove out of South Grove. Or, to put it into stark relief: to keep Black folk out of Whitey Town. Each chapter of Where the Sidewalk Ends documents another section of that wall built to circumscribe the lives of the Black folk living in West Grove.

Not a lot has changed in the many years since the residents of Loquat moved their backyards into the public Right Of Way that would have connected Marler Avenue to Douglas Avenue. Six months ago a neighbour on Loquat bumped out a portion of his fence 5 feet into the Marler Right Of Way. At the time I interviewed a number of residents about the new fence and they were all outraged that a homeowner would steal public land, just like in the old days. However, they were also resigned to the fact that no one would care.

I did what I could to disabuse them of that idea: "City Hall will definately care. Call them
 up and complain. Call up the NET office. Call the city inspectors."

Since then I visit Marler Avenue whenever I am in West Grove to see if anything has changed. This time some of the neighbours were outside and recognized me. "Hey! I thought you said we could get this fixed!"

But, it gets worse.

Donna Barnett, who I spoke to 6 months ago, told me a horror story about a recent incident. Apparently she mouthed off to the neighbour who built the [allegedly] illegal fence. Whether she was loud, or rude, is hardly the question, so I didn't ask. Next thing you know a cop is knocking on her door. The Loquat neighbour called the police on her, who were not so busy with actual crime they didn't have time to visit Barnett's house. Barnett tells me the neighbour is Latino and so was the cop who responded.

The cop threatened to arrest her if she exercised her First Amendment Rights again, by yelling at the neighbour, who is the one breaking the law. Then he commented on the condition of her property in a threatening manner, as if he could see to it that the property is cited for infractions. And then he got extra offensive, saying, "If I lived here, I'd build a fence, too."

TRANSLATION: This is a bad neighbourhood filled with Black folk and people were right to wall it off from polite society.

Lorry Woods meets with a voter
It was after this interview on Marler that I drove the few blocks north to the Lorry Woods Meet & Greet on Grand Avenue. It was held in the parking lot behind the Coconut Grove Collaborative Office.

I was impressed with Lorry Woods as an authentic person. She wasn't putting on airs. She wasn't telling people about herself, as much as she was asking questions and listening to the concerns of the residents. I overheard her in deep conversation with many potential constituents on a variety of topics.

I was more impressed by the idea behind the Meet & Greet. To draw West Grove residents, the Lorry Woods Campaign sponsored a BBQ Contest between Mango Man and Warren, a gent with a smoker on Hibiscus Street at Franklin Avenue who serves up delicious BBQ. The locals who wandered back to the campaign event would get a free plate of chicken. Then they'd vote on which BBQ joint they liked best. [FULL DISCLOSER: I didn't taste the ribs because I don't partake in campaign food & drink. I even bring my own water. I've eaten at Warren's, and have interviewed him as well. It all smelled delicious.]

To be perfectly honest, I didn't find out a lot when talking to Lorry Woods, but that's entirely my fault. During introductions I mentioned that I was researching the history of West Grove and the E.W.F. Stirrup House. She showed interest and asked a few questions, so I gave her a 5 minute capsule history lesson. Then, remembering I had just come from Marler Avenue, I gave her another 5 minute capsule history of that street, The Colour Line in Coconut Grove, and then brought her up to date on what I had just learned on Marler Avenue. By that time the voters started arriving, so we had to wrap it up.

I shouldn't really give a candidate advice, but what's the harm? Unless she's stupid, and I don't think there's a chance of that, she's already figured this out: Miami events need shade.


People were tucked up tight against the back wall of the parking lot, where there was only a small sliver of shade. The event could have used better signage, as well:


Couldn't you have, at least, put FREE FOOD on the sign? When people who walked by asked me what was going on, that's what I told them: "It's a BBQ judging contest with free BBQ." Everyone who heard that came to take a look. However, many people just walked past, unaware of the event at all, despite the signboard.

Those are nits to pick at this Lorry Woods picnic. It was a wonderful community event that brought many old friends together, some who hadn't seen each other for a while. Also in attendance was Thelma Gibson, the matriarch of the family for which Gibson Plaza is named.


Gibson Plaza, across the street from the Collaborative Office, appears to be nearing completion. A Grand Day For Grand Avenue ► Gibson Plaza Groundbreaking was published here just a year ago. I won't repeat how important a project this is for Coconut Grove, other than to say this is the first development in decades that was not designed to generate as much money as possible for developers.

Which brings us back to this election. Right now the developers and Big Money Boys have helped the wife of [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner Marc. D. Sarnoff, Teresa, amass a war chest in the neighbourhood of $333,000, which is a damned expensive neighbourhood. It's magnitudes more than the other 7 candidates put together.

Candidate Lorry Woods owns Elwoods Gastro Pub on NE 2nd Street in downtown Miami. I have to admit, the lack of an apostrophe crawls up my back. The only thing that would make up for that is learning it is named after Elwood Blues, but that's not likely, considering all the British motifs in the pictures on line.

However, I'd like to know her opinion on Miami's runaway development, which is my opinion on it. A restaurant owner on 2nd Street would logically be pro-development. More people could only help their bottom line.

I'll also gauge Lorry Wood's interest in West Grove issues going forward. The people of Brickell and downtown Miami don't need a champion at City Hall. The Developers, who have held sway over City Hall for far too long, don't need a champion at City Hall. Even restaurateurs don't need a champion at City Hall. These are groups or individuals with resources, who can afford $3.75 cups of cofffe at Panther without flinching.

However, yesterday Lorry Woods saw with her own eyes some of the people in a neighbourhood disadvantaged by 120 years of systemic racism. Can she be their champion? As Trolleygate, Soilgate, and, now, Marlergate demonstrate: this racism is not confined to the past. This neighbourhood, and Overtown, needs someone at City Hall who will speak for them.

Here are several more of the pictures. I took yesterday:







Then I wandered down the street to the Kroma Gallery. The artwork is always changing and always wonderful and thought provoking.





I also walked past the Ace Theater, designated historical like the E.W.F. Stirrup House, but being better cared for even though it's boarded up. At one time the Ace Theater was the only movie house where Coconut Grove's Black folks could go. The Coconut Grove Theater, later the Coconut Grove Playhouse, apparently allowed the daughters of E.W.F. Stirrup to go inside, but they were the exception that proved the rule. And, the only reason they were the exceptions was because their father sold the land on which the Playhouse was built.