The Stoddard Era is coming to a close in South Miami after 10 years. All I can say is, “Thank God, the party’s over.”
I’m not a resident of South Miami and you might wonder why I should have an opinion on anything to do with the City of Pleasant Living. I live down US 1 in Palmetto Bay.
On paper, Hizzoner and I should be political kinsmen. He’s a liberal Democrat. I’m a liberal Democrat. He’s concerned about global warming. I worry about the world that my grandchildren will live in after I’m gone. He’s a dad. I’m a father and a grandfather.
Phil has the bearing of Ichabod Crane, the lanky and ambitious schoolteacher from Washington Irving’s short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. While no one has ever used the word “lanky” to describe me, I can be just as socially awkward as both Ichabod and Stoddard.
Phil was recognized as the best local mayor by New Times in 2017. (Keep in mind that they also named another Phil, then Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, as “Best Chutzpah” for his antics.) President Barrack Obama named him to the Governance Coordinating Committee of the National Ocean Council. Phil also knows a lot about mosquitoes. Go ahead. Ask him. (As a diabetic, mosquitoes use my sweet blood as a dessert topping.)
His time with his hand on the tiller in South Miami hasn’t been without scandal. He claimed that a burglar broke into his house one morning at dawn while his wife and his parents were driving to Miami International Airport.
Phil was asleep naked in his bed. There’s nothing wrong with that by itself. But it turns out his daughter was asleep on a futon mattress on the floor in his room. She was sleeping with a 16-year-old Russian exchange student that the Stoddards were hosting. Although the contract Phil signed with the foreign exchange agency required the Russian girl to have her own bedroom, that seemed difficult in a three-bedroom house were one bedroom was Phil’s home office, one was his daughter’s room, and one was the master bedroom. (Phil’s parents’ visit meant the girls had to camp out on the floor in his room next to the nekkid Mayor.)
When the police arrived, they found Phil going commando while putting on his pants in front of his daughter and the girl from Russia. As bad as that was, it got worse.
Phil took to his private blog to eventually go after a police officer who included the fact of Stoddard’s nudity with an unrelated minor in a police report. Phil retaliated against Orlando Martinez de Castro, the police chief at the time, for his unwillingness to remove the police report from the file. Eventually, that led to Martinez’s firing.
And that led to a lawsuit that cost the City over one and a half million dollars over the Chief’s illegal ouster. It also led to a lawsuit for defamation against Phil for what he wrote in his private blog about the officer who talked about the Mayor’s bits wafting in the breeze in front of the two girls. The City settled the defamation lawsuit with the officer.
Phil also hosted a Halloween party for his daughter and her friends. A young man fell into distress at the party where there were allegations that underaged drinking was facilitated at least in part by Phil. That also resulted in a lawsuit which was settled by Phil and his insurance company without the City having to pay for the lawyer or the damages.
So how did I get involved in a city I only drove through occasionally to get from my house to downtown?
Phil gave a deposition in the case with the Police Chief where he admitted under oath that he was naked with the girls when the cops answered the 911 call. Having just researched, written, and illustrated a children’s book about childhood sexual abuse, Phil’s sworn testimony troubled me. I was also alarmed to hear that these shenanigans cost the City taxpayers about a million and a half dollars. So, I decided to speak out about it.
I went to a Commission meeting to ask the Commissioners to find out why the City wasted so much money on Stoddard’s attempt to coverup his lack of covering up. Phil wouldn’t let me speak and I eventually complained to the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics.
Most recently, Phil and his anointed successor, Sally Philips, put out a political hit piece on the three Hispanic candidates for Mayor: Horace Feliu, Lina Sierra, and Mark Lago. I met Horace a few years ago, after Phil and I started butting heads. I met Lina and Mark more recently at a Dade delegation function. I think the City would be well served by any of the three of them. I’m not enthused by Philips’ attack on her Hispanic rival and I’m even more wary after I found out that Phil’s bony hand was all over that mailer.
Put Phil’s green agenda on one side of the ledger and his lack of impulse control and his less that subtle racism on the other. The people of South Miami are going to have to decide where the balance lies. Choose wisely.
As for me, I’m just happy that Philip Stoddard’s Pants Off/Dance Off is coming to a close. Tell the DJ to pack it up and tell Phil to put his trousers back on.
The party’s over.