By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
He started buying plants immediately. Now he has ten acres of miracle-fruit plants growing on a farm in Davie. And it's still not enough to keep up with demand, he says. He sells the fruit for $3 each, with a minimum order of $100. In one week earlier this year, he grossed $135,000.
His customers are generally the cosmopolitan type, he says. Wealthy enough to afford $3 berries, anyway. Miracle fruit is popular at what Mozie calls "flavor tripping parties," where the host provides plenty of sour foods and drinks and then implores guests to trick their tongues with the effect of the berries.
Back at the house, where Mozie has bags of Miracle Gro in stacks along the outside walls, Mozie points out a few more of his exotic plants in the backyard. They come from all over the world. Here's lemongrass. Allspice. Bay rum. Passion fruit. Papaya. Sugar apple.
Is there anything that Mozie can't grow?
"A beard," he says with a smile.
The timing was just so convenient. Hollywood's then-Mayor Mara Giulianti was embroiled in a red-hot campaign last summer to keep her job. She was desperate for evidence to suggest she had finally turned the city around.
Then the National Civic League, like the spirit of Christmas, stepped forth, offering awards for cities that demonstrate "civic infrastructure," "community celebration," and "community projects." Those who won the awards would be declared All American Cities.
Hollywood had all of those things in spades (the city is just about one big "project," isn't it?), and with some guidance from city officials, it had an expenses-paid delegation on its way to Anaheim to make Hollywood's case.
But wait. Was that Hollywood's own money or a federal grant, awarded to the city with strings attached?
Ah, what's the diff? Housing director Neal Herst, two other city officials, and five "at-risk" youngsters in a Hollywood summer program (along with one parent) made the trip. They stayed in a first-class hotel in Anaheim and swept up the award, whose bestowal was soon broadcast from streetlights and fences all over the city. Hollywood, the All American City.
This curmudgeonly old car part was the first to report that the award was financed, in part, through a $10,000 chunk of Hollywood's community development block grant, funds that are supposed to go toward housing for low-income residents ("Everybody's All-American," August 16, 2007). Other expenses were paid through the generosity of developers and lobbyists like attorney Alan Koslow. There were, of course, no quid pro quos involved there, even though the Giulianti administration had a long history of giving Koslow and his developer clients whatever he asked for.
So when news broke last week that the federal government had taken an interest in this subject, the only question was: Why did it take so long? A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development refused to say whether it had launched a formal investigation or whether its officials are merely in a fact-finding stage.
It certainly wasn't a good omen that the spokesman suggested 'Pipe consult an official at the Office of the Inspector General, which is the destination for the cases where HUD suspects its money was mishandled. A spokesman for that office said he could "neither confirm nor deny an investigation" of Hollywood. Gulp.
And, oh yeah, you remember what happened in January. Giulianti got beat in the mayoral election by Peter Bober.