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Monday February 25, 2008

A short article that puts some numbers to the fiasco of the Miami-Dade public art program: 13 pieces worth $12.6 million not recorded in inventory, 24% of the collection in need of maintenance or repair, one $400,000 piece destroyed because of a disagreement with the artist, $24,000 in storage fees for pieces not on public desplay, 87 items (total value $94,780) missing, 46 other pieces damaged or deteriorated. Shameful shit. Total collection: 630 pieces of art valued at $28.2 million. (via MAeX)

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Monday January 7, 2008

OK, I know this is supposed to be serious, and I’m sorry, but I find the idea of a politician not being able to keep a memo he wrote to himself secret hilarious.

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Thursday December 20, 2007

“It should be noted that while the above outlined County obligations and terms represent the major elements, they do not constitute all of the provisions in the draft BSA [Baseball Stadium Agreement].”

Michael Lewis explains how you, my dear tax-paying amigos, are soon to receive the anal reaming as it pertains to the Marlins stadium deal.

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Wednesday December 19, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, your county commission is out of its collective fucking mind: They just approved $347 million for a new Marlins stadium (more then double what the actual team will contribute!), overrode the UDB veto (to allow building past the development boundary, and note that Katy Sorenson, Rebeca Sosa, Carlos Gimenez, and Dennis Moss are the only ones that stood up against development), and generally passed the whole downtown overhaul that was proposed last year. I’m with them on the streetcar and on Museum park, but not much of anything else. Update: The budget for the 800-unit replacement to the Scott and Carver housing projects can suddenly accommodate only about 150 units. (thanks, Carlos)

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Monday December 3, 2007

Eight county commissioners voted in support of development beyond the Urban Development Boundary last week: Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara J. Jordan, Joe Martinez, Dorrin Rolle, Natacha Seijas, and Javier Souto. To echo Verticus: “They should be ashamed of themselves.” Update: The proposals are now forwarded to the Florida Department of Community Affairs, which usually gives these things the thumbs-down, but get this: their approval is just another recommendation back to the county commission for a final vote in April. Good grief.

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Wednesday November 21, 2007

Urban Development Boundary update: From information received by Boom or Bust, it appears that there are 4 pending applications to open a total of 178 acres beyond the UDB to development. Only one of those is currently recommended for rejection. Please to attend the Miami-Dade County Commission meeting on Tuesday, November 27, 2007, write your commissioner, or at least customise and submit this action alert.

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Monday November 19, 2007

Heading to a ballot question near you: the results of the charter review, mainly a change in salary from $6,000 to $92,000 for county commissioners, and the requirement that they not have outside employment. Can we pass this, please? (Similar measure have been rejected by voters in the past.) Update: Pushed back, at least until November. It sounds like the Commissioners are having cold feet about having to give up their “other” jobs, and the possibility of term limits

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Friday November 2, 2007

Sun Post: “Hundreds of thousands of Miami-Dade trailer park residents could be forced from their homes.” Dave, comment at TM: “there are a grand total of 14,674 mobile homes in Miami-Dade County. I find it hard to believe you could fit more than 50,000 people in them much less ‘hundreds of thousands.’”

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Thursday November 1, 2007

The Miami-Dade commission has scrapped the recycling program under dubious circumstances.

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Monday October 8, 2007

'Stay as far away from us as possible'

Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer: “I come from a city that doesn’t have a lot of need to ask the county for things, other than to stay as far away from us as possible.”

Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz: “I do not want to see that city come before us and ask for any money like the $300,000 to help with the festivals.”

Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno A. Barreiro: “That’s one voice within a city. People when they’re leaving office go off on tantrums.”

Dermer’s response: “We are the engine of revenue production — certainly tourism revenue production — within the county. It behooves the county to ensure they have the cleanest, safest and strongest engine to keep that revenue coming.”

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10 ways the new miamidade.gov website sucks

miamidade.GOV

“OK, we’ll show those bastards. We’ll re-design the site, top-down, make it all Web-2.0 looking, throw every widget under the sun at it, and be damned if they’re not blown away.”

Uh, sorry, Judi. You blew it. Big time. So much so that a comprehensive, methodical analysis would take weeks, of which I ain’t got. But let me give you some highlights:

  1. You’ve got five (oh so slick) tabs running across the top: ‘Home,’ ‘Service Center,’ ‘County Agencies,’ ‘County Hall,’ and ‘Calendar.’ With the exception of the first and last one, do you really think anyone who doesn’t work in a county government has any idea what those things mean? You get paid for obfuscation?
  2. It’s a non-standards-compliant mess of HTML tables. I sympathize: web standards have only been globally accepted since around 2002. Nobody would expect you to get up to speed when building a website for a body that only governs 2.4 million people.
  3. Some of your links launch new windows . . . some don’t. This would be annoying enough if there were some rhyme or reason to it. There ain’t. Speaking of links, about half the links to existing pages have broken.
  4. What’s the single worst method for delivering online video? Windows Media? OK, let’s use that exclusively. (I’m letting the random links to PDF’s slide.)
  5. Here’s another great idea: let’s have as many sections of the site look and behave as completely differently from each other as possible! OK, you’ve got the main page. Compare the following: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . ok, I’ll stop. Those last two aren’t technically even on the same domain (btw, is there a reason for that?). This takes the cake, though, right? No navigation for you! (What makes this particularly fun is that all these pages are a just a single click off the main page. Imagine what we could find if we dug a little.)
  6. With the possible exception of the Luminati, every other website in the universe that requires registration has the registration button on the login page. I searched like crazy for the registration button, and after a long search was informed that “Due to our recent upgrade, however, registration is temporarily suspended.” Ah — so this is one of the new “features.” Got it. Curious about why I was trying to log in?
  7. because the “My Calendar” thing seemed like the only hope for getting useful information out of your otherwise hopeless calendar page. Speaking of the calendar, if a sane rethinking of the whole thing is out, can we at least have the events open to real pages, instead of crappy popup windows?
  8. On the “Information for . . .” menu, residents are #9 on a list of 11. Thanks for making it abundantly clear where we rate.
  9. Extra poke in the eye to Firefox (or any non-IE/Windows) users: home page opens scrolled down a random number of lines, “intro” video distorts into its letterboxed shape, and of course none of the previously mentioned FUBAR has been addressed.
  10. . . . all of which brings me to the sad conclusion that this is nothing but a shitty new skin on the same shitty old mess. We think these people are going to implement county-wide wireless internet access? They can’t even get a website working right.

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Wednesday October 3, 2007

HUD takeover approved

I’m looking for something interesting, and it’s really just slim pickins. Yesterday the Dade Commission approved HUD’s takeover of the County’s housing agency. We knew this was coming, and the commission voted 11-1 for it because this way they get a little oversight and a little veto juice over some of the fed’s decisions. They’re unhappy, and so are housing advocates, on the grounds that the fed’s just a bigger bureaucracy (and so how can we expect it to do a better job).

But come on, people — the Miami-Dade Housing Agency was a clusterfuck for a very long time, lots of people knew about it, and they let it slide. And don’t give me “the problems are being addressed,” either. The response has been a completely limp, “we’re addressing the issues” type of shit, not the “we’re going to lock up everyone involved, and everyone who knew what was happening.” Also: you think that was the only Agency in the county that was corrupt? Where are the crackdowns on the other departments, Mr. Carlos Alvarez, Strong Mayor? Where are the results?

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Monday September 17, 2007

PBS’ Exposé on last year’s House of Lies series in the Herald shows how Debbie Cenziper put the story together, and looks at what’s happened since. Not enough, it looks like, but it’s a very impressive story of reporter vs. corrupt government agency.

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Thursday September 6, 2007

Ye olde charter review update. So far, the panel is shunning major changes.

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Monday August 20, 2007

The charter review is underway. Video of the task force’s first meeting is up at Miami-Dade’s webcast page (for 8/14/07), and I thought I was going to have to watch it, but luckily, Rebecca Wakefield did the dirty work for us. It’s all a little disappointing: panelists with vested interests, a limited number of topics under consideration, and interesting ideas from citizens given warm dismissals. Lots of interesting information available at the task force’s page.

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Friday August 17, 2007

Wow: Mayor Carlos Alvarez has ordered Miami-Dade county staff to stop attending commission budget meetings because he didn’t like the way the commission was treating them. “The fuse apparently was lit Thursday morning, when commissioners on the Airport and Tourism Committee grilled administration staff over the dissolution of the county’s communications department and the reassignment of its employees to other offices.” Just wow.

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Thursday June 28, 2007

With 16 of its 21 seats filled, the Miami-Dade County Charter Review Task Force can get to work. Not joking: four Miami-Dade commissioners (Carlos Gimenez, Sally Heyman, Barbara Jordan, and Javier Souto) appointed themselves to the committee. I suspect that if anything positive comes from this it will be despite their participation, not because of it. In any case, the task force is supposed to submit its final report at the end of October.

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Thursday May 24, 2007

Miami Beach mayor sues Dade over petitions

claim (pdf) “It shall be unlawful for any person, entity, or elector intentionally to make or cause to be made any false statement concerning the contents or effect of any petition for initiative, referendum, or recall submitted pursuant to Article 7 of the Miami-Dade County Home Rule Charter to any person who is requested to sign any such petition or who makes an inquiry with reference to any such petition and who relies on such statement.”

So reads a law passed November 28, 2006, by the Miami-Dade County Commission. Pretty straightforward: the law makes it illegal to lie to someone to get them to sign a petition. Who could have a problem with that? Well, your suspicions might be raised when you hear that the law was passed by an embattled commission facing the strong mayor proposal, opposed by Katy Sorenson (widely held as the sole voice of reason on the commission), vetoed by Mayor Carlos Alvarez (veto overridden), and that Miami Beach mayor David Dermer is now suing the county over the law (here’s a (.pdf) copy of the claim, which includes the oridnance).

Here’s the counter-argument: let’s say you’re getting signatures to help the manatees by restricting boating speeds in canals. I’m a boater and I hate the idea. I call the cops and tell them you’re “making a false statement” about manatee populations. Next thing you know you’re in the back of a squad car, hauled off to MDPD headquarters. Even if my claim turns out to be bogus, you’ve had one unpleasant afternoon, and are going to be pretty discouraged from going back out on that corner. (And forget a countersuit — you’d have to show malicious intent.) So basically, the argument goes, this is just another attempt by the commission to consolidate their power by making it more difficult for citizens to get referendums passed, this time at the expense of first amendment rights.

Keep in mind that the referendum process is governed by the county charter (check it out, it’s a real page-turner), which by definition the commission cannot overrule. Keep in mind also that actually lying to someone in the process of collecting petition signatures is fraud, which is of course already illegal — the difference is that I can’t call the cops down to slap handcuffs on you then and there.

And keep in mind that getting a referendum on the ballot requires getting something like 100,000 signatures, which is hard enough without these bullshit obstacles. I hope the commission’s power-grab gets slapped down by the courts. But more importantly, I hope you people vote some of these turkeys out of office soon.

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Wednesday April 11, 2007

A poorly written update on the County Charter review from which I can’t figure out what’s going on.

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Tuesday April 10, 2007

Miami-Dade commissioners are cooking up a plan for Carnival Center parking. I don’t understand why it’s this difficult to figure out parking for a building that’s essentially surrounded on all four sides by parking lots ready to be built up into garages. Also, examination of the report (.pdf) reveals what a very paper-based and old-school administrative system is our county government.

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Wednesday March 21, 2007

Downtown adventure

Downtown!

This is what happened last Friday. To set it up, let me tell you that I’m usually a flake about things like returning phone calls, paying bills, and renewing my car registration. But this year I was determined to be better, so when I got the paperwork in the mail, I went right to the web site. I typed all my info in, and got some generic “we can’t process your request right now” type of message. I figured I was too early, so I let it go, and tried again a couple of times. Finally, a couple of weeks ago I realized there was some problem and I wouldn’t be able to renew my registration online. Somewhat irritated, I went to the courthouse on my lunch break Thursday to do it in person. They told my I had a parking ticket hold on my renewal! Now, I live on South Beach, so parking tickets are a part of life, but I’d paid all 3 outstanding tickets on the Clerk’s website over a month ago. Wtf?!

Well, it turns out that payment didn’t go through. Obviously I didn’t print the confirmation page, but I’ll just assure you that it sure looked like it went through. Whatever. But now I have exactly one day to fix the parking tickets and renew my registration before leaving the country until the next month, when I’m eligible for parking tickets even if I park legally on account of having expired tags. I wake up extra early on Friday and head downtown, armed with the address of Courthouse East, where the parking tickets can be sorted out: 22 NW 4th St: Easy!

Somerandomgovernment

Here’s where I parked, and if you understand Miami’s street name system, you’ll know that I was very close to my target address. Except that I wasn’t, and here’s where my own stupid mistake came to bear, because — duh — click the address above and you’ll see that I wrote it down wrong. I was a few blocks away from the real Courthouse East, but it’s a long few blocks when you’re wandering around and asking every 4th person for directions (including the parking attendant for the police station while unmarked cars are trying to get into the lot). I might also point out that “Courthouse East” doesn’t help with shit, because there are about four distinct court buildings in Downtown, most of them arranged in a North-South line!

Courthouse East

Courthouse East! (Which, in all fairness, is just east of the old, original, courhouse building.) Now we’re getting somewhere. I sure hope my parking meter doesn’t run out — it sure would suck to get a parking ticket while paying four overdue parking tickets. And don’t ask me where the 4th one came from; as far as I’m concerned they made it up.

Illegal photo!

I’m irritable, and snapping photos to relax myself. You see the security guard through the glass in this one? He came out and yelled at me that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. I told him fine, but he seemed unsatisfied and asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was trying to pay a parking ticket. I also asked him if it was against the law to take photographs, but his English wasn’t so hot, because he exclaimed, “No! You’re not allowed to take photographs!” I dropped it. The people upstairs didn’t seem to have a problem with my photographing, but now the next thing — the parking department doesn’t take checks OR credit cards! That’s right — your government only takes cash!! I think the parking department, homeless bums, and my drug dealer are the only three institutions I deal with that I need cash for anymore.

Government Business!!

Now I’m wandering around Downtown looking for an ATM, and here’s the one I found (the lady at the parking dept gave me directions, but I’m not sure if this is the one she was talking about — they were sort of convoluted). So I pay up. Oh, can I renew my registration here while I’m at it? Of course not. Miami courthouses don’t renew vehicle registrations, but she’s happy to direct me to a nearby tag agency. No thanks. I’m heading back up to Broward, where the courthouse can help me. Blah, Miami.

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Thursday March 8, 2007

“Instead of having the mayor and commissioners name a [Miami-Dade charter] review team, Ms. Sorenson now wants experts and community organizations to nominate members.” Full steam ahead!

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Thursday March 1, 2007

Michael Lewis is right: making positions such as county property appraiser and elections supervisor electable offices is absurd. This is just the County Commission trying to fight the strong mayor proposal again, and Commissioner José “Pepe” Diaz should be ashamed.

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Thursday February 15, 2007

More strong-mayor fallout in Miami Today: “[C]ommission chairman Bruno A. Barreiro revealed that he’s pushing a plan to gut the county’s budget department and bring key financial analysts directly under commission control — despite County Attorney Murray A. Greenberg’s opinion that the move violates the county charter.” Also, the charter review looks like it’s going forward.

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Tuesday February 13, 2007

The Miami-Dade Commission debates sticking it in the voters’ eye with a bill to give themselves more power over the budget. Winning friends and influencing people.

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Thursday February 8, 2007

Taxpayer-funded rides of the Miami-Dade Commission.

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Wednesday February 7, 2007

Fallout from the strong mayor vote in last week’s Miami Today: Michael Lewis discusses the charter review (which will go forward despite the vote) and Dan Dolan gets into a couple of measures the commission is passing to restore some balance to the government (in other words, I guess, to undermine the voter’s decision).

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Tuesday February 6, 2007

The legal limit for donations is $500. However, if you are a person with 50 or 100 corporations, you could legally . . . give $50,000 or more to one Commission campaign.”

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Tuesday January 23, 2007

Strong mayor: vote NO

For the reasons mentioned previously, I’ve come to realize that the Strong Mayor proposal is a BAD IDEA. Read here and here, or just consider: under the proposal, the department heads serve at the mayor’s pleasure. The department heads decide who gets city contracts. The people who want the contracts make campaign contributions to the mayor. The current system is broken and corrupt, but the path to corruption under the proposed system is much shorter. The system needs to be fixed, but let’s not do, as mkh says, “gee, this frying pan’s hot . . . I wonder if the fire will be any cooler.”

Right now, this measure is on its way to passing. If it does, we’ll be in for bigger trouble then we’re in now. So, though our friends at EoM will disagree, it’s important for you to vote, and vote no.

See also: Strong mayor debate.

Update: I just voted. The guy told me I was the second person there in the first hour. Depressing.

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Friday January 19, 2007

“A department director eager to keep his job would be mindful of which bidder was favored by a less-than-ethical mayor.” Michael Putney on the strong mayor proposal. That quote is the strongest reason to vote for the proposal, though you need to read his piece to get the full perspective. He does a really good job of looking at the issue from all sides, and finds fault with the commission, the mayor, and even the Herald’s handling of the issue. Best case scenario: reject the strong-mayor proposal, and form a panel to do an independent charter review and make a comprehensive set of recommendations, as Commissioner Katy Sorenson has called for. Update: Michael Lewis hammers pretty much the same point.

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Thursday January 11, 2007

County Commissioners launch offensive against strong mayor. This is a case of, as one guy at the debate put it, “the more you talk, the less inclined I am to support your position.” Also, Bruno Barreiro (my commissioner!) is quoted as saying, “It’s going to be tough, but I think we’ll win once we get our message out to voters.” Whenever someone uses a soundbite opportunity to deliver empty optimism rather then an argument, I realize they have no good arguments. Update: A dubious meeting.

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Wednesday January 10, 2007

More adventures on MiamiDade.gov

screengrab of a horrible online tool nobody should have to use

Sooner or later, you’re going to run into a Genious of Despair, and he’s going to ask you if you know who your county commissioner is. Time to get ready . . . except that the MiamiDade.gov website doesn’t make it easy. There’s a list of commissioners, and pages for each of them, and, hmm.. ok those link to maps of the districts, but where’s a map of the whole county? Wait for it . . . and nope: after five minutes of furious clicking and searching, I can’t find the answer. There’s a “Who is my Commissioner?” link, but that takes me back to the Firefox now allowed page. The site is borked in other ways, too — expanding menus won’t stay expanded, links launch new windows and mysterious “applications,” and I just know there’s a hidden link to a PDF lurking somewhere ready to crash my computer. Let’s play a game: I’ll give you safe Jpeg links to the district maps, and you try to figure out which one you live in with the fewest possible clicks (give yourself a pat on the back if you get it in six or fewer!). Then return to this page to decode your answer. Ready?

Nope, that didn’t work either. The URL’s to the district maps are not consistent, and some of the Commissioners’ pages don’t even give a link to the map. Surrendering, I fire up Internet Explorer, and go to this horrible contraption, what appears to be a Java-powered nightmare from the latter part of the 20th century. My computer wheezes, groans, and chuckles as I tried to pan and zoom on the crappiest of little maps.

Seriously, though, if it’s wrong for the WLRN website to be inaccessible, it’s 10 times worse for the county (annual budget: $6 billion+) government website. (Ways in which it’s inaccessible #4080: the commission map is color coded. Plus, what’s up with 13 commission seats and only 8 zones on the map?) Hello, is anybody out there listening?

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Friday January 5, 2007

Strong mayor debate

Strong mayor debate

At the strong mayor debate last night. Senator Gwen Margolis argued for the proposal, Commissioner Sally A. Heyman argued against; and Nancy Liebman, president of the UEL, MC’d. A very good meeting, and all three had a lot of interesting things to say, but it wasn’t completely satisfying, and I’m less certain of which decision is right then I was going in.

The gist of Margolis’ argument was that under the current system, county department heads who form alliances with a few of the commissioners become very difficult for the county manager to fire, since thel thirteen commissioners directly hire/fire him. She cited successful cities that have a strong mayor. She pointed out all the corruption and scandals that have plagued the government, and was adamant that a single person, accountable to all the people of the county, was the solution. On the other hand, she was short on reasons why a single person is inherently less corrupt then thirteen. Also, she seemed torn, repeating “this is about an issue, not a specific person,” but also citing the talents of Carlos Alvarez as a reason to vote for the proposal.

Heyman was very adamant that the corruption/scandal situation was not tolerable. But she argued that the solution was to enforce anti-corruption laws, strengthen the ethics committee, and weed out the bad department heads, who are the real problem. She pointed out that a strong mayor was a dangerous concentration of power, and anti-democratic in the sense that the locally-elected commission is more directly accountable to the people. She also pointed out that giving the mayor direct hire/fire power over department heads makes those positions more political (currently the non-elected county manager makes those decisions), and that those decisions are not subject to change by the commission, even by a super-majority, under the proposal. However, for all her insistence that corruption was a long-standing problem, she didn’t give a satisfactory answer as to what could be done about it, and why it hadn’t been done up to this point (she wasn’t for term-limits — surprise). And her argument that since the only legal requirements to be mayor are a minimum age of 18 and a 3-year residency in the county (vs. a long list of professional qualifications to be hired as county manager), we might well end up with someone unqualified in the job, was just bizarre. Does she not think the voters consider a candidate’s qualifications?

That’s it in a nutshell — uncompelling arguments on both sides. Some other things that came out of the discussion:

That’s the high points. Genius of Despair was there, and here’s what he had to say. MKH and Rebecca Wakefield were also present, so maybe their thoughts soon. The debate continues; the vote’s on January 23rd.

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Tuesday January 2, 2007

The strong-mayor debate is on! For: Michael Putney and Gimleteye. Against: Michael Lewis and the Sun Post [Link won’t work until Thursday. Curse the Sun Post website and click here until then.] A live-action debate takes place Thursday evening.

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Thursday December 29, 2005

Let's expand Metrorail

Ronald Reagan criticized Metrorail when it was finished in 1985, saying “It would have been cheaper to buy everyone a limousine.” These days, Metrorail serves 48,000 people a day so that (racist?) remark has been sufficiently refuted. It’s still a pretty low number, though, and the reason is obvious: Metrorail doesn’t go any-particular-where.

Now, there are lots of proposals around for expanding public transportation – everything from water-taxis to streetcars to a second Tri-Rail. There is even a super-ambitious plan for expanding Metro-rail floating around, but I’m not going to support anything quite so pie-in-the-sky as that.

I’m thinking of a second Metrorail line, which would run east-west, down to South Beach at one end, meet up with the current line at Government Center, and proceed west to the airport (or further, if possible, maybe to FIU). This would solve the problem of Metrorail not going to the airport, incorporate the free-floating BayLink idea (good grief: “To be evaluated for funding in 2016”), and generally make the rest of Metrorail make sense, by giving the system more destinations.

There are three principal arguments against this: (1) Miami isn’t suited to a large public-transportation system; (2) it’ll cost too much money; and (3) we don’t want more people going to the Beach; they’ll ruin it. To which I answer:

Maybe not (1), but tell that to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the system every day. The more people who use public transportation, the better off we are as a city and as a civilization, and the more places there are that can be conveniently reached by public transportation, the more people will use it (Metrorail is more convenient, less intimidating, and faster then regular busses, so much more likely to be used by people who have a choice).

(2) This’d less then double the size of the system, and it would leverage the usefulness of the existing stops; it’s throwing good money after (arguably) bad. Plus, what with all these condos going up in Miami, we’re in for a big tax-boom over the next few years. If we put this plan in gear, we’ll be spending the money just as it rolls in.

As for (3), people living on the Beach (of which I’m one) being afraid of their neighborhood being overrun by tourists is like being afraid of Iraq becoming a center for terrorism: it’s already done happened! Making the Beach more convenient might make it a more popular destination, but it also makes life easier for residents.

There’s all this talk of Miami being the city of the future and whatnot, and our public transportation system is lagging. It’s been over 20 years since Metrorail (line 1!) was built, and it’s high time to expand. We have the need, we have the money, and we have the momentum; let’s do it.

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