Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there must be something in the water down in Florida. I was reminded of this when speaking with a facility cruise parking facility manager down in Port Canaveral, who was talking with me about the trials and tribulations parking operators have been put through over the past year by the Canaveral Port Authority. As some may recall, I detailed some of the Canaveral Port Authority’s blunders and mismanagement in this blog back in November. While the level of crazy seems to have peaked back then, things have far from calmed down, even with former Port Authority CEO and apparent anti-free-marketeer Stan Payne recently being fired.

Case in point, while the Port Commission backed away from the onerous fees they wanted to enact on the local parking operators, they still decided to stop issuing new permits for off-site parking facilities. This derailed the plans of a number of facilities that had been planning to open at Port Canaveral, and with them went dozens of new jobs. But for the Port Authority, this was apparently a small price to pay for the opportunity to squash any new potential competition. This move was particularly costly for Florida’s Premiere Parking company, which was in the process of opening a facility when the new permit policy forced them to close. Ironically, they had been opening a facility to replace the one run by Jose “Jay” Nieves (whose outrageous antics I have discussed before) that had been operating illegally for years with no business permit and beyond shady business practices right under Port Authority’s nose. And it wasn’t even the Port Authority that shut him down, he packed up and ran after Jeff Deal of Orlando‘s WFTV Channel 9 filed a story where he documented Nieves joyriding in a car parked at their facility. But of course when a legitimate business wants to open in the same spot, the Port Authority was all too happy to shut it down.

Besides their ongoing war against the local parking businesses, which is mostly out of the public eye, the Port Authority also managed to snag itself some spectacularly bad publicity just recently that made national headlines. As many of you probably recall, Florida youth Trayvon Martin was murdered last year by George Zimmerman under the supposed justification of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Trayvon was targeted by Zimmerman because in his paranoid mind a black teenager in a hoodie in a nice neighborhood could only be up to no good and was probably a criminal just waiting to strike, and so he confronted him with his firearm. While many details are still disputed, what is known for sure is that George Zimmerman shot and killed a teenager who had nothing but a Snapple and some Skittles in his pockets and whose only crime was being a black kid in the “wrong neighborhood”. The whole story reeks of paranoia, racism and classism. So where does Port Canaveral come in, since Trayvon’s murder happened in Sanford? Well earlier this April,  it was discovered Sergeant Ron King of the Port Canaveral Police Department had been distributing targets during firearm trainings he was running for other officers of a person wearing a hoodie with skittles and an ice tea in the pockets. For the few of you reading this that are sociopaths/investment bankers, normal human beings feel using Trayvon targets for Florida Police training is wrong and insensitive to the point of malice on about a dozen levels.

Now in the Port Authority’s defense, interim CEO Jim Walsh immediately denounced Ron King’s actions. “We are offended by this. We are outraged that one of our officers would have this conduct,” said Walsh. “It is not tolerable. It is not acceptable.” While this incident calls into question the screening process used by the Port Canaveral Police Department, the Port Authority and Police Departments responses were swift and appropriate; and frankly, given the history of institutional and overt racism that has been ever-present in Florida politics and government, you can’t say the PCPD is doing worse than average for the Sunshine State. That said, being the best polished turd of the bunch still makes you a turd. The PCPD fired Sgt. King, with Walsh commenting, “Whether it was his stupidity or his hatred, (this is) not acceptable.”

Hopefully, Port Canaveral’s capacity for craziness is waning rather than waxing, at least for the sake of the local economy to say nothing of parking facilities and all of their employees. I know that many of the facility owners and managers are anxious or worried about what the Port Authority’s next move will be, and many of them feel like their business’ future as well as their own is in the hands of the Port Authority and is therefore very uncertain. Only time will tell whether those concerns prove to be true (they’re certainly valid given the past rollercoaster of a year there.); who the Port Commission chooses as their next CEO will be a big indicator of what is to come. Hopefully whoever is chosen will. want to foster the local business community instead of fighting it, but whatever the character of the eventual CEO pick, you can be sure it’ll be covered by It’s Just Parking.

 

I’ve dedicated a fair amount of space on this blog to the parking failures of the government, but parking scandals are anything but one sided. With that in mind, I present to you the story of Jose “Jay” Nieves, entrepreneur, petty crook and one time “owner” of Premier Parking Spot in Port Canaveral, FL.

Jay Nieves, “legitimate businessman”, being confronted by WFTV Orlando Channel 9’s Jeff Deal

Premier Parking Spot used to be an off-site cruise parking business in Port Canaveral. Last spring, after hearing some rumors about Premier Parking Spot employees taking customers cars out on joyrides, local WFTV Channel 9 Orlando reporter Jeff Deal decided to investigate. With that in mind, he rented a fire-red, 480 horsepower, V-8 2012 Corvette, the kind of car that would make anyone, not just Ferris Bueller, want to take a day off and take it for a spin. And I’ll say one thing, Nieves is probably about as ballsy as Ferris Bueller.

You see, Deals outfitted the car with a GPS tracking device and hidden cameras, and then had a couple that was taking a cruise drop it off at Premier Parking Spot. The car was there for all of six hours before the gps tracking device started reporting that the car was on the move. Following the GPS signal, WFTV film crew recorded Nieves taking the corvette on a joyride with another employee, peeling out on dirt roads and posing for pictures in front of it. Nieves left it at his home overnight, then later used to run errands, at one point even loading the Corvette with lumber and letting a dog run around in the car. Although the car had been left at his parking facility, technically what he did was car theft (WFTV decided not to press charges, as the whole point had been to expose Nieves and inform the public).

After a couple days of this, Deal confronted Nieves outside of his business, where they had just watched him drive up in the Corvette and then leave it out front with the top down and one of the doors open for 20 minutes before coming out again. It was at this point that Deal confronted Nieves, showing him video they had of Nieves driving the car all over town. Not only did Nieves deny any joyriding, he denied the car was a customers, even after being told that there was a GPS tracking device in the car and seeing the video! Like I said, if nothing else Nieves is certainly ballsy. When you watch the ease with which he tells such a bald-faced lie, you have to wonder how this guy hasn’t already run for congress.

And surprisingly, this was the tame part of the story. You see, the next day it was reported by the Sheriff’s office (who had received calls from angry customers) that Nieves had closed up his business and disappeared overnight. Customers who were arriving back from their cruises that day waited for more than an hour for a shuttle to come before finally taking a cab to Premier Parking Spot. When they got there, they found the lot devoid of any employees, the keys to all the cars just left hanging in the doors of all the cars!

It was later discovered that Nieves had a long history of driving violations, domestic violence, and had even been busted in 1991 for smuggling a kilo of cocaine into the country. On top of all of that, it turns out that he hadn’t had a business license for Premier Parking Spot, apparently operating it off the books the whole time. This makes you wonder whose job it is to keep track of these things and making sure career criminals aren’t just setting up whatever kind of illegal business they want; lord knows the last thing Florida and the parking industry needs is more shady businessman of questionable ethics.

Since this all went down last spring, another, reputable parking operator has moved into the space and built a new facility there. Ironically, it was Premier Parking USA that bought the lot, an operator with facilities throughout Florida and the east coast. One has to wonder if they knew the history of the lot they bought and the name of it’s former occupant. With any luck, they’ll be able to overcome any justifiable prejudice cruise goers may have against the name; but just in case, I suggest they not joyride any of their cars, especially any shiny new Corvettes.

A big kudos goes to Jeff Deal and the WFTV News Team in Orlando for bringing this story to the light. You can see the full report they did below. Although these types of incidents are the exception to the rule, better to be safe than sorry, so always check to make sure you’re parking with a reputable company and take a look at their online reviews before you park.

Finally, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season and a happy new year!

Look, I know most people revert back to the pre-historic lizard parts of their brain the moment someone says “SALE!” or “Black Friday” anywhere near them, but this is ridiculous. As the title of the blog says, it’s just parking! A parking spot is never, ever worth committing a felony or getting violent over. I am not a legal expert, but I can still guarantee you that ANY parking violation or ticket is less costly than a felony and is generally not going to get you jail time. My first instinct is to end this post with a “Let this be a lesson to you . . .” type of message, but frankly if you feel that you need to be ARMED when you go to WalMart then you’re probably not much into blogs and even if you were, you’ve got issues well beyond anything that can be solved by reading a paragraph online.

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Shooting over Wal-Mart parking spot leads to attempted murder charges

The AJC. Credible. Compelling. Complete.

By Fran Jeffries

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two suspects face attempted murder charges after a shooting over a Wal-Mart parking space in Tallahassee.

Police say a disagreement over the parking space led to the shooting outside the store on Black Friday.

Earl White III and Tiffany Yancey face charges of attempted robbery with a firearm, attempted murder and possession of firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the store shooting.

Police said Yancey pointed a gun at a female, demanding “everything in your purse.” Police say White then shot the woman and a male passenger outside the store. According to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat, the two victims received non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.

The suspects fled, but were soon spotted south of Cairo, Ga. on Highway 111. Police pursued the suspects in a chase that reached speeds of 90 miles per hour. Police used spike strips, to slow the vehicle and sent it crashing into a guard rail, according to the Democrat.

The couple will be charged after being extradited to Florida, according to police.

via Shooting over Wal-Mart parking spot leads to attempted murder… | www.ajc.com.

There must be something in the water down at Port Canaveral, or at least in the water that Port Authority CEO Stan Payne has been drinking. Over the past year, Mr. Payne has seemingly declared war on private sector parking operators at his Port, going so over the line that multiple members of the Port Commission have tried to get him to step down due to his egregious use of the Port Authority’s authority.

It began back in January, when Mr. Payne and his staff released what can only be described as an attack video on their website aimed slandering offsite parking services, saying that if you park at one rather than the port you will wait for hours, have your car damaged and broken into and your vacation ruined. The video is poorly done, the acting terrible, and their portrayal of offsite lots hilarious if you didn’t know they were being serious. While there are always some bad apples in any business, for the vast majority of parking facilities their claims just aren’t true. But hey, if you’re trying to get people to pay $34/day more for a parking space, I guess honesty is not going to be your ally. Not only did Mr. Payne come up with this video, he had it made and posted on the Port Authority’s website without bringing it to the Port Commission. Not only was there a furor from the commission, but the video was widely mocked and criticized by the local media as well. And all of this for the low, low cost of $18,000 of tax payer money to slander local businesses!

And as ridiculous as that is, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Back at the beginning of the summer, Mr. Payne had an independent consultant brought in to do a presentation on their parking services and how they could improve them. At a recent meeting before that, the Commission had discussed numerous mostly in-house changes and improvements the Port Authority could make to improve parking revenue and traveler satisfaction, so this seemed reasonable, even if the commission was subjected to a surprise presentation by this consultant. Rather than talking about further in-house improvements that could be made, the consultant dedicated their entire presentation to painting a scary and completely untrue assessment of the “threat” presented by off-site parking facilities, and recommended various ways that the Port Authority could use it’s power to force them out of business. The Commission was then immediately called upon to vote on enacting these ideas, with no period of review or outside opinions. Despite the protests of two of the five Commission members (Mr. Weinberg and Mr. Allender), the Commission passed these new ordinances, including a moratorium on new port parking permits for any businesses and a $50 per trip fee for any offsite parking shuttle wanting to access the port. These policies would essentially kill the entire offsite parking business in Port Canaveral in one fell swoop, destroying multiple local businesses and putting dozens if not hundreds of people out of work.

And what was the reasoning for all of this? Profits. The consultant presented the offsite facilities as a clear and present danger to the Port Authority’s revenue stream. Now while that may seem like a reasonable concern (even if the response was unreasonable), it was not. The Port Authority had been making record profits. Going into the third quarter of 2012, they already had made more than $4 million more than the Port authority had made for the entirety of FY 2011. On their $20-$40/day parking, the Port made a 97% profit. The only thing they were in danger of was having to make too many deposits at the bank.

The story doesn’t end there either. Next week, I’ll talk about how the destruction of the local parking industry in Port Canaveral was narrowly averted and delve deeper into Stan Payne’s attempts to use the parking authority for his own gain.