Abel Holtz: Break the Law, Get a Street Named After You!
This past fall, one of my favorite stretches of roadway in Dade County, the section of SW 16th Street near FIU called Jose Canseco Boulevard, was renamed. Apparently the good people on the County Commission felt it was not quite appropriate to have a city street named after the man who ushered in baseball’s steroid era. Fair enough, County Commission, nobody wants to live on a street named after a cheater.
But while Canseco admitted to cheating at what is ultimately a meaningless game with pretty much irrelevant consequences, there is another stretch of road in this town named after a far worse cheater. One who cheated not only the people of Dade County, but also cheated at life. I am talking, of course, about SE 2nd Ave., also known as Abel Holtz Blvd.
ABEL HOLTZ – CROOKED BANKER
For those unfamiliar, Holtz was the founder and Chairman of Capital Bank, one of the largest and most powerful institutions in Miami during the 80s and early 90s. During his tenure at the helm of Capital Bank, Holtz used his influence over local politics, most notably with the bribing of then-Miami Beach Mayor Alex Daoud. Holtz testified to the grand jury that the payments he made to the mayor were for legal services. They were, in fact for much more.
Daoud put Holtz’s son, Daniel, on the influential Miami Beach Zoning Commission at the seasoned age of 24. He also had a series of other votes he cast that helped Holtz, and in return the mayor received between $1000 and $1500 a month. Holtz told the grand jury this was not the case. In October of 1994, he changed his tune and just before the grand jury was preparing to indict him, he admitted he had lied to them. For a crime that then–U.S. Attorney Bruce Udolf said should send a message “ that lying to a grand jury will not be tolerated,” Holtz got all of 45 days in jail and 4 and a half months of house arrest.
SHORT MEMORIES AND DEEP POCKETS
Despite this slap on the wrist, Abel Holtz emerged unscathed. His voting rights were restored in 1998. He even almost got a presidential pardon. But best of all, he still gets a street named after him in the middle of downtown. Bribe a mayor, lie to a grand jury, and we’ll name a section of downtown in your honor.
Abel Holtz Boulevard begins at NE 2nd Avenue in Downtown. Ironically, the federal courthouse complex where he pled guilty is just two blocks away. So not only do we reward a cheater, we name the place where he admitted to the cheating after him. This would be like naming Giants Stadium after Bill Belichick or every voting booth in Florida after George Bush. It’s amazing what some donations to the University of Miami Medical School can do, isn’t it?
ALWAYS NICE WHEN THE TOURISTS CAN LEARN ABOUT OUR CIVIC EMBARRASSMENTS
My question is this: If Commissioner Joe Martinez says “It’s an embarrassment,” to have a small, relatively irrelevant stretch of road in West Miami-Dade named after a guy who cheated at sports, how is it perfectly acceptable to have a major downtown thoroughfare named after a guy who admitted to breaking federal laws? Am I missing something? I’m sure Jose would have built a new children’s hospital if he could, but lacking that kind of money I guess means you don’t get to keep your street.
The commission should realize you don’t really deter people from breaking the law when you name streets after them. Maybe Abel’s case hits a little too close to home for some of them, and they don’t want to bite the proverbial hand. Who knows? All I know is what a very wise man once said about naming streets:
That man? Abel Holtz.
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