Osvaldo Ciedi has a sweet spot -- a nine-acre tract way out west on Davie Road, complete with a house, a pool, a lake, and acre after acre of farmland. Since 1994, the tall, lean, 64-year-old Argentinean has operated his Maybe Davie Farms from this location, growing palms and other trees for local landscaping outfits.
But in November, just as Ciedi and his Colombian wife were planning to retire, pulling up stakes to go on a cross-country tour, the Town of Davie hit the couple with code violations that could bankrupt them.
The problem? Dirt. Earth.
For years, Ciedi has accepted tree clippings from Asplundh Tree Expert Co. for $50 per truckload, undercutting local waste hauler Waste Management by about $100. But taking on the garbage man wasn't his business plan, maintains Ciedi, who thinks he can get $3.5 million for his place. He simply spreads out the mulch on his farm and lets it break down into compost. "Soon this will be nutrient-rich soil," Ciedi tells the 'Pipe as he holds up a handful of mulch on his farm. That soil has been the lifeblood of Ciedi's nursery.
But the Town of Davie says Ciedi operates a professional dump. "We're claiming he's running a solid-waste management facility," says Daniel J. Stallone, the town's top code enforcer. "He was taking in landscaping debris, which is part of the definition of solid waste."
To comply with the town's codes, Stallone wants Ciedi to remove all the mulch and the rich soil it created. Of course, to haul away the earth, the city is forcing him to use Waste Management, the only solid-waste company licensed to operate in Davie. Ciedi estimates that he'd have to pay Waste Management $400,000 in dump fees alone.
It ain't trash that Tailpipe smells at Ciedi's "dump." It's civic obstruction. The farmer has hired an attorney to fight the code violations, but the appeals process has already lasted six months -- with no end in sight. At this point, Ciedi wishes he could just grease a few palms and start his retirement.
"Everyone talks a lot about the importance of recycling," Ciedi says. "But this is recycling, and I'm being punished for it."
Congress passed the 1999 federal law known as the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act with a particular aim: to stop all the teenaged and 20-something geeks who were registering web domains based on corporate trademarks -- say, fordvehicles.com -- then waiting to extort payoffs from deep-pocketed companies. But as Citrix, a $741 million technology company in Fort Lauderdale, recently demonstrated, silly tricks aren't just for kids.
After one of Citrix's competitors, California-based WebEx, announced its new service, MyWebEx PC, Citrix quickly registered ten domain names, including webexpc.com, mypcwebex.com, and mypcwebx.com. That's cybersquatting, alleges WebEx. In a lawsuit recently filed in federal court, WebEx charged that Citrix registered the domains to confuse consumers.
Citrix spokesman Eric Armstrong did not return calls.
But look for more odd court cases stemming from Citrix, which makes networking and video conferencing software. Just a few years ago, the company claimed it should be exempt from federal tax. Why? Taxing information suppliers violates the First Amendment, of course. That one flew about as far as a lead balloon.
Well, maybe you can have it both ways.
Chiropractor/neophyte politician Rick "Doc" Bruns was not only soundly defeated by Democrat Lois Wexler in a bid for a Broward County Commission seat in November, he also got nailed by an embarrassing ethical problem. While he signed a voter's registration affidavit claiming he lived in Davie, he had a homestead exemption at his $2 million mansion, which is well outside of District 5 boundaries -- in the posh Las Olas Isles.
In response to this news, the Broward property appraiser's office revoked Bruns' $25,000 exemption in mid-October. Ouch.
But a special magistrate recently ruled in Bruns' favor and reinstated his homestead exemption on Las Olas.
So does he live in the district where he ran or not? Um, well, both, he says. "I live half-time in Las Olas and half-time in Davie."
All this tube can say is, he's glad Wexler is more resolute about her address.
Tailpipe spends enough time tossing sparks beneath license plates to know that not every proposed vanity tag makes it to a back bumper.
This year, as always, a crop of plates has been deemed "objectionable" by the state's five-member personalized license plate review board. So far, the board has nixed 1HUNG LO, WHT TRSH, SCHTUP, JSTAPRK, RUWETT, 6LUV9, PMPN8EZ, U-WANKER, KUNK, PUSSZI, and hundreds of other would-be tags.
"People are ingenious," says Frank Penela, a spokesman for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. "We get such a laugh out of the explanations. We get things like, 'This is my nickname.' Your nickname is 'BIG SLUT'?"
Whatever. Tailpipe acquired a list of recent rejects and couldn't resist imagining which of Florida's 90-odd specialty plates they might have graced.
Don't Send Ben
Buying phallic treats called Dick-Tarts (pictured at right)? Playing a game called "cornholio," which was called "goosing" back in the day? Wearing flip-flops at work? Taping pinups to locker doors?
At first glance, it seemed to this phallic tube like just a couple of fun-loving Fort Lauderdale firefighters horsing around. But then, two Station 35 employees were suspended for 3.5 months. The 'Pipe scratched his rusty noggin in puzzlement when he got the news.
One of the allegations against 26-year-old firefighter Ben Johnson -- initially included in the city's list of wrongdoings but unreported in the media -- isn't in the same league. According to documents turned over to Tailpipe, Johnson's co-workers complained that on September 30, 2004, while transporting a dead patient to the hospital, Johnson "verbally call[ed] personnel to witness as he fondled a deceased middle-aged female by repeatedly twisting and pulling her bare nipples."
That case was transferred to the State Attorney's Office's Sex Crime Unit, says Bob Bates, director of the city's Office of Professional Standards. And should the state decline to prosecute Johnson, adds Bates, Fort Lauderdale officials may file charges.
It isn't Johnson's first accusation of impropriety on the streets. Back on April 22 of last year, he was busted after reportedly offering an undercover Hollywood detective $20 in exchange for oral sex. He successfully completed a Misdemeanor Diversion Program on this one, and charges were dropped.
If either of the charges were true, Tailpipe wouldn't entrust a blow-up doll to the back of Johnson's ambulance.
-- As told to Edmund Newton