It was a bizarre scene at City Hall this afternoon as Paul Mendleson, a well-known local lobbyist representing developers hoping to build a $100 million retail facility at the site of the Virginia Key Marina, appeared to suffer a complete break with reality after the City Commission unexpectedly voted to ditch the multi-million dollar project.
“It was so strange,” recalled Darlene McCloud, a local resident and vocal opponent of the project. “As soon as the Commissioners started voting against the project I saw the lobbyist start to become agitated. By the time a second vote was recorded against the project he was writhing in his seat and muttering nonsensical phrases to himself. By the time the third City commissioner stated that he was in favor of abandoning the project, the guy started taking off his $400 shirt and humming the Happy Days theme song,” said Ms. McCloud, noting also that “Gary Marshall had just died, so maybe he was also dealing with that loss.”
Witnesses say that sometime after completing the second Happy Days refrain, which by all accounts the City Commissioners and members of the audience enjoyed hearing so much they sang along, Mr. Mendelson was asked by security to put his clothes back on and sit down. The request caused Mr. Mendelson to grow angry and the 34-year-old lobbyist began screaming at the Commission that “this wasn’t supposed to happen” and ran out of City Hall scream-crying.
The day’s controversial vote caps off many months of community protest about the development of the retail marina project, with many residents and community advocates arguing that the project was impermissible under the Virginia Key Master Plan. It is seen widely as a victory for local activists and a chance for the City to work to achieve a more inclusive and environmentally friendly use for the land.
As the capacity crowd at City Hall exited the building, they were attracted to Mr. Mendleson’s bright red Model S Tesla by the lobbyist’s continued screams and observed the now stark naked man crying to himself while continuously punching the steering wheel. “This wasn’t supposed to happen! We have all of the money!”, he was reportedly heard screaming to himself.
As the crowd around his car began to dissipate, local muckrake Al Crespo stuck around and reportedly knocked on Mr. Mendelson’s driver-side window for 15-minutes, taunting the clearly broken man by yelling “It’s Miami Bitch” after every set of three knocks. When asked for a comment, Mr. Crespo chuckled and told this reporter “It’s Miami Bitch” several times before I realized I was late for a lunch appointment and left Mr. Crespo standing outside City Hall as he repeated his signature catch phrase to himself.
In a phone interview with the Plantain, Mr. Mendelson apologized for his action and said that his extreme reaction was caused by the City’s unexpected voted. “I don’t understand what happened,” said Mr. Mendelson, “we have all the money. I just don’t get it. It isn’t right. We have all the money. I just don’t get it. It isn’t right. We have all the money…”
After several minutes of repeating his statement this reporter realized that he was late for a dinner appointment and hung up the phone.