Thursday October 25, 2012
I promised you people a part 2 to our election guide, and here we are, less than two weeks to election day. Lots of people have done absentee voting, taking hours and hours to research all the stuff on the ballot, so we need to figure this out. Back to the sample ballot. (Note: your ballot will look different! To get YOUR actual ballot, go to this page, type in your info, then click Sample Ballot in the second blue box. You’ll also get to see a photo of your voting place, which is kind of cool.)
You people don’t need me to tell you who you’re voting for, so I’ll keep this as short as I possibly can. Generally, I’m a fan of “anyone but the first two” strategy on this one, on the grounds that we need to do whatever we can to strengthen the voice of third parties generally. But it’s a close election that Florida is most likely going to decide. So none of that funny business. I’m still registered Libertarian, and I like a lot about Jill Stein, but no.
Now, a word to my Republican friends. I don’t think you guys are unreasonable! A lot of you see the problems with Romney, but on the other hand he looks like a Reasonable Republican in a tough situation Doing What He Needs To Do. Let me submit to you that the next president will appoint probably two Supreme Court justices, and that if Romney is elected we have an excellent chance of ending up in a country where abortion is outlawed for decades. If that concerns you at all, then consider this: the economy is in recovery. Obama has not done everything he could have done, but it’s a fact that Republicans for the last few decades have been much worse for the budget deficit, and Romney’s “cut taxes and grow the military” is a strategy for more of that.
He underestimated the recession, doubled down on government secrecy, and refuses to stop the drone strikes. But hold your nose and vote for Obama.
Your choices: Bill Nelson [D], Connie Mack ®, and two independents: Bill Gaylor and
Chris Borgia. Both the independents have a touch of the tea party about them, but Borgia is talking the “big rethink of government” talk that I think we need to hear more of. I don’t agree with all his positions, but I like the cut of his jib. He won’t win, but there’s a good argument here for voting for an independent voice.
I don’t get to vote for a congrescritter, but they’re up for reelection in districts 23, 25, 26, and 27. Look your people up on Vote Smart and figure it out.
This is the place to get smart. I can’t really help you, because everyone will be voting for different people. But keep in mind: your vote here is maybe the most important of any you’ll cast today, because there are a lot fewer people voting in each of these races and you have a real chance of swinging an election. You know all that stuff Rick Scott did that you didn’t like? These are the people who voted on it. Don’t be a dumbass — you have maybe a half-dozen people to look up. Do it. Check out Vote Smart, Ballot Pedia, and the Herald’s recommendations.
Good news: nothing too bad coming out about these people, and replacing them gives more people to Rick Scott. Yes on all of ‘em.
Board of County Commissioners, Community Development Districts, etc.
What I said for the state offices? More so here.
State constitutional amendments
See part 1 of this guide. (Short story: No on everything except maybe the Veterans stuff.)
School Board Questions, County Charter Amendments
That’ll be next week. Stay tuned for part 3! (Wow, this turned out to be surprisingly useless.)
Wednesday June 20, 2012
Folks, here’s my vision of the near future. Elections happen in November. It’s close. Florida ends up deciding the race again, as the NYTimes map suggests. The last poll, now a month old, had Romney ahead of Obama by 6 points. It’s no good.
There’s plenty of jockeying going on, what with Romney considering Marco Rubio for his VP choice and Obama’s immigration announcement. But, same as it ever was, it’s going to come down to the economy. And the economy is looking grim. The unemployment numbers get worse with each month. Europe is about to go off a cliff. Bad stuff.
My question is, what do we do about it? There are five months before the election. Most of the people reading this believe that Barack Obama needs to be president for four more years despite his legion of disappointments (highlights include the continuation of the policy of secrecy begun by GWB, the drone war, and the treatment of whistleblowers). We’re on the ground here in Florida. What can we do to persuade our fellow Floridians who voted for Obama last time but are considering voting for Romney this time that they shouldn’t? The future it is in our hands people. We need a course of action.
Saturday July 12, 2008
Tuesday May 13, 2008
An interesting article on the discussion about which schools to close due to budget cuts. Sounds to me like low enrollment + crappy school (C, D, or F school) = a good one to close. Of course it gets more complicated, because there have to be nearby schools to absorb those kids. But the worst thing you can do is to have the professional staff figure it all out, and then close all the schools they recommend except the ones where there’s the most complaining. The solution? I dunno, maybe make Rudy Crew school Dictator For Life — did you see yesterday’s post? The school board is nothing but a thorn in his side anyway.
“Here, the Mayor [of Miami, Manny Diaz] engaged in ex parte communications with Respondent during the ten day veto period following the Commission’s adoption of the Orders. Petitioners emphasize that to the extent the Mayor believed that there were adverse effects resulting from the grant of rezoning and MUSP that required mitigation through the imposition of additional conditions, the matter should have been discussed within the scope of the public quasi-judicial process and required public hearing and notice. We find that the Mayor’s communications all took place after the hearings had concluded, away from public earshot, and therefore violated Petitioner’s due process rights under the Jennings criteria.” — Good stuff, from the court documents [PDF] pertaining to the torpedoing of the Mercy development. (btw, my version of the PDF has selectable text, unlike the herald’s. It’s all in the details.)
Monday April 21, 2008
Tuesday April 1, 2008
After being unable to gain the necessary number of signatures to have the intersection in front of his house turned into a traffic circle, Marc Sarnoff got himself elected to the Miami city commission, had the rule waived, and the traffic circle got built. Good times.
Tuesday March 18, 2008
It was decided yesterday that there will not be a re-vote for Florida’s Democratic primary. The story so far (skip to next graff if you’ve been following the news): Last year, the Florida legislature decided to move our primary up to January 29th in this primary season. The Democratic National Party had previously decided that no state, except four that have historically had early primaries, could have a primary before February 5th (Super Tuesday), and threatened to not seat Florida’s delegates at the convention, i.e. to not count our votes. The conventional wisdom at the time was that since most candidates are determined on Super Tuesday, Florida’s primary would count where it mattered — by giving a candidate “momentum” — and that actual delegate votes at conventions haven’t decided a nominee in decades. Except that the subsequent primaries have been very close, and there now appears the very real chance that Florida could have been the deciding vote, leading everyone to look for a way to fix the mess.
The response that you hear often to this is, “well, Florida knew the rules when it made the decision to have an early primary.” It’s shocking how often statement to this effect are repeated without being questioned. “Florida” is not a sentient being. The decision was made by one group (Florida state legislature) and impacts another group (Florida voters). To say that our elected officials disenfranchised us and that’s all there is to it reeks. So what now? Well, counting the vote goes against the rules that were established at the beginning of the process (= not democratic). Not counting the vote disenfranchises Florida voters (= not democratic). And re-voting has been determined to be unfeasible, not to mention an affront to those that voted on January 29th (so also = also not democratic).
So what’s the solution? Well, there is none; not for this election. The whole thing is dominated by realpolitik self-interest (e.g. I’m a Barack Obama supporter, so I should be happy that Florida isn’t being counted, as it was won by Hillary Clinton). There are lessons to be learned, however, starting with the fact that the whole primary system is an anti-democratic catastrophe in need of overhaul. Other then “because it was always so,” why should Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina have a more influential voice in selecting the president then any other state? Why do some states hold “caucuses,” some “elections,” and some (I smell Texas) such convoluted combinations that nobody even tries to explain them? And what’s up with “super-delegates,” anyway?
This, my friends, is no way to elect a president. The whole system is screwed (you can tell, in part, by looking at the men it has elected for the last 40 years or so). There are lots of ways to have an election, all with their valid criticisms, but all better then this. (Interjection: And what about Ralph Nader? What’s up with him??) Let’s pick a system and go with it. Do I think that’s going to happen? No, not yet. It’s going to take a few more disasters like this first. But it’s on the way.
Monday March 17, 2008
Thanks, Brent Cutler.
Wednesday February 20, 2008
Quick interview with Miami Beach’s new Mayor’s chief of staff, AC Weinstein. No on Baylink, yes on more bike paths, vagueness on everything else.
Tuesday February 5, 2008
Larry Lebowitz on the Metrorail expansion’s serious problems: The US DoT is lowering its “rating” on the North corridor expansion and yanking is $700 million for the project, throwing the whole system into turmoil: “[T]he Federal Transit Administration will be lowering the rating because of the county’s inability to maintain and modernize the entire system after 2015. If the county can’t afford to pay for the transit system after the $1.3 billion North opens, why would it be able to do so for the $2.2 billion East-West?”
Friday February 1, 2008
Things not looking so hot for our pal John Timoney. Docked a week’s pay ($4,348, which if you’re all mathematical means his yearly salary is $226,000) plus a little extra, and he’s been persuaded to testify before the citizen’s panel, which makes recommendations to the city commission. Update: Actually, he didn’t testify. Can you believe this asshole?!
Wednesday January 30, 2008
Ye election results: YES on slot machines, YES on the property tax amendment, YES on the Miami “bill of rights,” McCain, Clinton, and of course it wouldn’t be elections in Florida without some clusterfuck disenfranchisement.
Monday January 28, 2008
Tuesday January 22, 2008
A Citizens’ Bill of Rights has been added to the January 29th elections ballot. Here is the question, and here is the ‘Bill’ itself (I think). So it looks like this crappy Herald article is wrong — it’s not “Miami voters,” it’s “Miami-Dade voters” (thanks again, Miami-Dade officials, for making this extra confusing), not an insignificant distinction. What the article does not bother to do is to explain just what consequences this measure might actually have. Update: I’m wrong wrong wrong: the “Bill of Rights” is a City of Miami thing, the County thing is something else.
Monday January 14, 2008
You know how Miami Police Chief John Timoney was driving that free SUV around for like a year? Well, the city’s Citizen Investigative Panel asked him to come before them and testify, and he was all “no thanks,” so they subpoenaed his ass, and he still refused to come, so they went to a judge, who ordered him to show up, and guess what? He still refuses. Dear Mr. Mayor: why does this fucktard still have a job?
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.
Wednesday December 26, 2007
Carlos gives us the story Miami Lakes Vice Mayor Nancy Simon and the Miami Laker, which has now resulted in the Laker’s decision to stop covering politics in the town. The pertinent Herald articles are here and here. Petty small-town political coverup at its finest.
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.
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)
Monday December 17, 2007
Whoa: Homestead’s city commission just passed a moratorium on building in the city’s eastern portion.
Can’t say I’ve ever given a thought to the plastic-wrapped plates of food that most restaurants on Lincoln Road display for would-be diners. Looks like the Miami Beach Commission has noticed, though, and decided to outlaw the practice on the grounds that it’s déclassé.
Thursday December 13, 2007
The South Florida Water Management District is working on ranking the priorities of various elements of the Everglades restoration project, so that they’ll be ready as the budget of the program gets slashed. How’s that half-full glass looking, there? (And speaking of whom, we have a Rick sighting.)
Tuesday December 11, 2007
Something called, rather ominously, “Citizens for a Safer Miami” has produced this commercial in an effort to get the Miami City Commission to pitch in it’s $50 million contribution, which is something around 5% of the overall project’s budget. What is CfaSM? Who knows — a google returns exactly one result: the Herald’s article.
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.
Wednesday November 28, 2007
“You get your ass elected to make as much money as you can get away with. Most of the time you won’t even get caught anyway. But even if you do, your fate is in the hands of some dickless entity like ‘state ethics investigators’ who in turn use their own authority to position themselves for future consideration.” — Klotz doesn’t pull punches.
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.
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
Thursday November 8, 2007
Wednesday November 7, 2007
Thursday November 1, 2007
The Miami-Dade commission has scrapped the recycling program under dubious circumstances.
Monday October 22, 2007
Monday October 8, 2007
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.”
Friday September 7, 2007
Thursday August 30, 2007
At Preservation Online, our pal Margaret Foster has a great story about the Avery Smith coral house which was partially demolished earlier this summer. The house was originally built in 1915; the demolished section was added on in 1939. Seemingly against all odds, the fight to save the house goes on. The city’s Historic Preservation Board and Miami-Dade County’s Unsafe Structures Board have both approved the demolition, so now comes an appeal to the city, followed by possible court action. Update: Fixed the link. Also, the article now carries my photo(!) which makes the historical one here obsolete, but nice anyway.
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.
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.
Thursday August 16, 2007
“We are thinking about appealing the board’s decision [to allow the demolition of the coral house] to the special master for the Historic Preservation Board. But, we’re consulting with other historic preservationists first.” — an attorney for Mitch Novick.
Tuesday August 14, 2007
Kiss the coral house goodbye: demolition has been approved.
There are problems with city-wide broadband in cities that led the way with it such as Philadelphia, and they’re trickling down to Miami-Dade, where the idea is little more then a glimmer in Carlos Alvarez’s eye. Increased projected costs, unforeseen obstacles, and the departure of a key employee.
Wednesday August 8, 2007
The Herald argues that the HUD takeover of Miami-Dade County’s Housing Agency is unjustified, because the agency was in the process of mending its ways. Of course the sentiment that it’s quite well justified will persist. More here.
Saturday, August 25th, Barack Obama will be in town, and you can get tickets to go see him speak at the Miami-Dade Democratic Party website. This isn’t a blog about national politics, but I feel compelled to say that Democrats, at least, should seriously consider going to see him. I’ll explain why as briefly as possible.
Barring some unforeseeable event that would give a Republican a chance, the next president will be either Obama or Hillary Clinton. Either one would make a good president in terms of policy, but I think Obama would be a much better leader for the country in terms of someone we have to listen to/see all the time. In a word, it’s all about sincerity. (This is something of a circular concept, because for a politician being “sincere” often means appearing sincere, but let’s let that go.) I think even opponents of Obama and even supporters of Clinton would agree that he is more sincere then she is. To me, that makes him the better choice for president.
That would be enough reason to go see him, but there’s something else. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Clinton has the edge in the race. If things go the way they look like they’re going to go right now, she’s the next president. But for now, it still very much could go either way. So you have maybe the last chance ever to see Obama talk while he (and everyone else) believes that he may well be the next president. If the reports of his oratorical powers are to be believed, this is an opportunity not to be missed. Also, insofar as his slimming chance is still substantial, your attendance (and $30 ticket price) is helping push things his way.
Tuesday August 7, 2007
“We already received testimony that the White House was very upset with Mr. Proenza raising concerns about the possible loss of the QuikScat satellite before a replacement had been developed.” — Texas congressman Nick Lampson. Proenza is still employed by the NOAA, who’s deciding what to do with him. Lampson and others want him to be made head of National Weather Service’s southern region, which doesn’t sound like such a good idea to me.
Friday July 27, 2007
“When I started my blog, people were upset that I didn’t offer my opinion. Some of the hard-line exiles felt I should be out there as a champion for anti-Castro cause. There is a concept in parts of the traditional Cuban exile community where you have to pass a litmus test of opinion to be approved of or included. But that’s a minority point of view.” — Oscar Corral, interviewed by Rebecca Wakefield. Corral has been going some great work lately, but count me among those who find it odd that he doesn’t want his blog to be “anti-Castro.” (via Herald Watch)
Thursday July 19, 2007
“That’s why I hate the [Broward County] school board. It’s lifeless, no heart, no fun, gulag central, full of paranoia, run by corrupt and dumb political whores. And this case is just adding more coldness to the equation.” — Bob Norman, on the firing of a teacher over MySpace content. (The page is set to private, but there’s the suggestion of “fired in part for being gay” here.) Update: Bob updated his post with more information.
Tuesday July 17, 2007
Major controversy surrounds the so-called ugly tomato. A man-made hybrid of some heirloom varieties, supposedly they taste much more “like a tomato” then anything else you can get. I’m not sure where the legal situation sits right now. They used to be illegal to export from Florida because of their unusual shape, though I believe the ban was recently lifted.
I spotted some at Publix the other day, and decided to try one out. Mine came individually protected in a little stretchy styrofoam net, and at $2.99/lb (I believe that’s actually a bargain for them), it set me back about a buck fifty. It came with a sticker linking to the official Ugly Ripe website, which confirms the legal status:
The new USDA rule, published in today’s [January 17, 2007] Federal Register, amends the Florida Tomato Marketing Order to exempt the UglyRipe from the shape portion of the USDA grade standards as long as the UglyRipe is grown, packed, and distributed under USDA’s Identity Preservation Program (IPP). The IPP uses the unique genetic fingerprint of a produce variety to assure that it is in fact the product claimed by its grower. The UglyRipe will still have to meet all of the other grade standards imposed under the marketing order.
This is all suitably absurd, but what about the taste? Well, I chopped up half of one into my salad, and saved the other half, which I’m munching on as I type. No worries here: it’s delicious. The skin is a little thicker then a regular tomato, and gives it a hint of leaves, and (seriously) earthy notes. I have to admit that the differences was much less dramatic in the salad. And cooked, I’d bet it disapears for all but the most discriminating marinara palate. I’d recommend picking one up and eating it sliced into wedges, sprinkled with a little salt.
Oh, and get this: the Ugly Ripe has a blog.
“Our preliminary work seems to indicate that Mr. Proenza is another victim of retaliation by the administration for speaking out on issues that Congress and the American people need to hear.” — Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. Now come hearings in congress over Proenza’s removal.
Wednesday July 11, 2007
“The National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center is devoted to and fully capable of delivering to the nation its hurricane warning program.” — Bill Proenza interviewed by Martin Merzer. (Catch the subtle dig against NOAA in the quote?) [Comments go here.]
Monday July 9, 2007
I’ve worked in a government bureaucracy, and I’ve seen people lose their jobs when they publicly said stuff that made their bosses uncomfortable, so when the shit started to fly around Bill Proenza last month, I was the first to support him. Well, new shit has come to light. SotP has been following the story (and has been consistent about sticking up for Proenza, and scathing toward his critics). Not only have more then half of the staff of the National Hurricane Center that Proenza heads signed a petition against him, but it seems that the scrutiny from above came at their urging as well. I think it’s time to give this guy a closer look, not just blindly defend him.
There are two possible scenarios here: (1) Bill Proenza is all about the integrity — he puts the public’s interests first, and is not afraid to tell it like it is, even if it pisses off those around him. (2) Bill Proenza is an asshole who has pissed off those above him by grandstanding and those below him by not focusing on the job at hand, and by making their lives miserable.
Well, the main thing that Proenza has been outspoken about is QuikSCAT, claiming that if the satellite dies, “two-day forecasts would suffer by 10 percent and three-day forecasts by 16 percent.” It turns out that this claim is based on a a mis-reading of some unpublished research. Jeff Masters tracked down the same research, and de-bunks some of the errors of Proenza’s reasoning. The study looked primarily at hurricanes out at sea (when hurricanes are within 72 hours of landfall, superior information is obtained by the Hurricane Hunters). The study only used one weather model; hurricane predictions use at least five. Masters cites a much more thorough study that found “no meaningful impact of QuikSCAT data on tropical cyclone forecasts.” In other words, Proenza’s 10/16% claim is bullshit.
Let’s look more closely at the voices from inside the National Hurricane Center that have turned against Proenza. Keep in mind that this guy has been on the job for a few months, while many of the senior staff have been there decades. 23 out of 49 employees (including all the senior staff) signed a petition [PDF] calling for his removal (some others didn’t sign because they were not around). Their wording is careful, but the underlying subtext is clear: “This guy has made working here difficult. The public is not served well when our job is more difficult then it needs to be.” Calling these people cowards is obstinate — they have nothing to gain from taking a public stand against their boss. In fact, insofar as his removal is uncertain at this point, they have much to lose.
The director of an agency doesn’t do the work there — he does some management, but mainly he’s the public face of the agency. The staff do the work. Well, the staff held a press conference Friday, and Masters has a transcript. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here’s a quote from Senior Hurricane Specialist James Franklin:
When things are really happening, we’ve got a Katrina out there or a Rita type of storms, everybody needs to stop what they’re doing and pull together and make sure our message gets out and that we’re doing the best job that we can to make the best forecast. We’ve got a lot of people pulling together to do that. That takes a certain amount of teamwork and appreciation of sense of family and he’s destroying that, he’s destroying that.
The others add a lot more specifics. I think the conclusion here is clear — Proenza is an asshole, and he’s difficult to work with. He’s wrong about QuikSCAT, but the real problem is that he’s making the situation inside the NHC difficult for the people actually doing the job of predicting the hurricanes. Those are the people we should be sticking up for, no the guy who flies around the country making wild public statements. Some of Proenza’s claims about his superiors’ priorities are probably well founded, but his job is to run the Hurricane Center, and if everyone who works there hates him enough to publicly say so, then it’s absurd not to listen. It’s absurd to accuse them of playing politics; these are scientists and they want what everybody with a serious job wants: to do a good job.
So… is Proenza going to step down? Well, Margie Kieper rounded up the news yesterday, and it seems to indicate that he will (she also has some visual demonstrations of QuikSCAT imagery, compared to imagery from other satellites). Let’s hope we get someone else in there soon enough to get the ship together before we get hit with the first storm of the season.
Update [6:25 pm]: For better or worse, Proenza’s out. Everything else aside, the way NOAA handled this stinks. “Anson Franklin, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration . . . would not say whether Proenza was ordered to take leave or voluntarily left the agency. He said Proenza is still a NOAA employee, but he would not provide details about Proenza’s status, citing privacy laws.” What a crock.
Tuesday June 5, 2007
“As any careful reader knows by now, the St. Petersburg Times and The Palm Beach Post were the only Florida news organizations that sent reporters to cover Gov. Charlie Crist’s trip to Israel. But The Miami Herald still found an enterprising way to get a little coverage.” The St. Pete Times nips in the general direction of the Miami Herald, who nips back. Feisty! They’re talking about Charlie Crist’s trip to Israel, which was kinda sorta covered for the herald by state representative Dan Gelber.
Tuesday May 22, 2007
Yesterday, Florida moved its primary to January 29th, which means it’s preceded only the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. It puts us ahead of Super Tuesday, when most of the states hold their primaries.
This sort of leapfrogging is bad for the system (humor me a second), because there’s no logical place for it to end — nobody wants to be at the irrelevant end of the process, and the greater the time between the primaries and the general elections, the more wasteful and boring the whole process gets. And sure enough, the national Democrat and Republican parties wagged a finger at Florida about doing this, and both have threatened to take away 50% of our delegates. We’ll see if they follow through.
The standard arguments for the move is that Florida is one of the most important swing states in the country, and there’s no reason for us to have near-irrelevant primaries at the end of the process. So why not just move our date to Super Tuesday with the parties’ blessing? Well for one thing, South Carolina is on January 29th. Why should they get a first say about the candidates?
But for that matter, why should Iowa and New Hampshire? This is the problem with United States presidential primaries — the whole system stinks. I’m sure folks are real nice in Iowa and New Hampshire. But let’s face it — they’re hicks! Nothing wrong with that, but why in God’s name should this ultra-homogeneous (~97% white, overwhelmingly farmers, mostly Christian) group of people play the crucial role in our election process year after year after year? The only possible defense is a feeble appeal to tradition. Please. This is no way to run a country.
So Florida’s move is selfish, unreasonable, and destabilizing. But it’s destabilizing in a good way. We’re risking our delegates to bring down this idiotic system. When Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina move their primaries to February 5th, we’ll do the same. That’ll never happen, you say? Well, they won’t do it voluntarily, sure. But If this keeps up the national parties will make them move. Having all the primaries on one day is far from a perfect system (if you want to get wild and crazy with it maybe consider the random primary proposal), but at least it makes sense.
Oh by the way, the bill that brings this change also mandates new paper-trailed voting machines. No time to think this through, though, we’re going to find some “good enough” machines that print a little receipt and it’s going to be disaster city all over again. I predict that whatever new machines they get will have immediately-obvious flaws, we’ll be replacing them again in a year or two, and I’ll be looking for someone else to sock.
Wednesday May 16, 2007
“Thus, we have made the decision to change the name, and the ‘men only’ concept, as expeditiously as possible. We have ordered the signs to be changed, and they are to state ‘Executive Grille’, with no reference to restrictions as to male or female usage. The signs will be changed as soon as our sign makers can construct the new signs.” — Letter to Roxcy Bolton from Burdine’s, October 13, 1969. More about Roxcy Bolton.
Monday May 7, 2007
The full text of Miami mayor Manny Diaz’ State of the City Address for 2007 is now online.
Monday April 30, 2007
Tuesday April 17, 2007
“My Name Is Rachel Corrie, the controversial play about a young American activist who died after she was run over by an Israeli-operated bulldozer in the Gaza Strip, has been pulled from the lineup at Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre after protests from some of the theater’s subscribers and outside individuals.” That’s what Christine Dolen says in the Herald. But see also Bob Norman’s reaction.
Thursday March 15, 2007
There’s a plan floating around to swap property taxes for an increase in sales tax. This amounts to a regressive tax — taking money from the poor to give to the rich, because the poor use a higher percentage of their money to purchase stuff and are less likely to own property. Here’s a list of how much the plan would save a few different lobbyists.
Monday March 12, 2007
This just came up: there are 32 Cities in Miami-Dade. Don’t click yet — write down as many as you can from memory first!
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!
Thursday March 1, 2007
Take two minutes now to take a quick and easy step to help secure state arts and cultural funding. An initiative for $2.47 per capita for the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
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.
Wednesday February 28, 2007
Everybody knows that building baseball stadium with public funds is a terrible idea. Currently a proposal for a Marlins baseball stadium (total cost: $450 million; Marlins ownership contribution: $45 million; public contribution (city, county, and state): $405 million) is being seriously considered. Miami Vision tries in vain to justify the concept with some interesting ideas. “A few million here, a few million there, it all adds up.”
Monday February 26, 2007
“Republican leaders in the new Legislature have enthusiastically exhumed the oft-snuffed plan to throw away $60 million of public funds on a Major League Baseball park in South Florida.” Hiaasen lets us know how he feels about it.
Thursday February 22, 2007
NicFitKid says: “A plywood wall listing the missing residents of the demolished Scott-Carver housing project. The county came in the next night and fenced off the whole property. Unsafe structure, and, oh yeah, political embarrassment (can’t be having any of those, it’s against code).” More here and here.
Alex Villalobos kills the “get out of the left lane you slow-ass” bill in the State Senate Committee on Transportation. I second his damning. And in fact, here’s his web page — whereon an e-mail address and a map of his district can be found. Maybe let him know how we feel?
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.
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.
Thursday February 8, 2007
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).
Tuesday February 6, 2007
Thursday January 25, 2007
“Here is a good question for you: There were 150,399 ballots cast in the election. If you add the yes and no votes together they total 149,335. What happened to the other 1,064 ballots?”
Wednesday January 24, 2007
Tuesday January 23, 2007
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.
Monday January 22, 2007
This is a stupid question, and I don’t really have much to say about it. I wanted to express my disagreement with the thrust of Rick’s recent series of posts on the subject without really getting into the argument, so I left a comment saying he was “out of control.” Then I was singled out (with a link, thanks!) in the most recent post, so I feel like I should at least express an opinion.
Asking whether Cuban-Americans are violent is like asking if blonds are violent. Of course it’s absurd to say that there haven’t been violent incidents in the history of anti-Castro activities in Miami. But posts like this one . . .
Are you looking for an adventurous way to spend your Friday afternoon? Wander on down to SW 8th Street and 13th Avenue to the Bay of Pigs Memorial any time after noon and check out the rally that is planned.
If you really like living on the edge, wear your favorite Che tee. And, by all means, wear a pair of good running shoes.
. . . do nothing to advance the conversation, and amount to little more then a middle finger directed towards the entire anti-Castro Cuban-American population. You want to talk about the problems within the Cuban-American community, Rick? I’d suggest starting by showing some empathy with the cause, and trying to understand where those strong emotions come from. Otherwise, you make it too easy to dismiss you as a one-dimensional anti-Cuban demagogue.
Yes, there are violent knuckleheads in the anti-Castro community. There are violent knuckleheads in any group, and when it comes to an issue that people are as passionate about as they are about Cuba, those violent tendencies have a tendency to be inflamed. Those elements deserve criticism, but I believe that criticism of that sort is more credible coming either from within the group, or from a source that has shown empathy with the group’s cause.
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.
Tuesday January 16, 2007
Carlos Alvarez on Topical Currents (91.3fm, 1 pm) today to discuss the strong mayor proposal.
Friday January 12, 2007
“How the drinking water aquifer for 2.4 million residents of Miami Dade became contaminated with benzene by rock miners does not rise to the threshold of a news story, or, relevance in the question whether or not to empower an executive mayor, is that it?” Eye on Miami is on a freakin’ rampage.
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.
Wednesday January 10, 2007
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?
Oh my God, here we go again: Plans for a new Florida Marlins baseball stadium in Miami include the use of community redevelopment money. Let me quote the first few paragraphs:
The latest plan to build the cash-strapped Florida Marlins a new stadium in downtown Miami involves using millions of dollars of money meant to improve blighted neighborhoods.
It also calls for the city of Miami to deed property to Miami-Dade County so the Marlins — which would lease the stadium — could receive a tax break. And it requires money, once again, from the state Legislature.
“They’re looking at the Park West/Overtown CRA boundary that stops a block from where the site is,” said Miami-Dade tax collector Ian Yorty, the county’s point man for stadium negotiations. “The city has plans to expand the boundary.”
Money from a Community Redevelopment Agency, by law, must be used to spur economic development in “blighted” neighborhoods. Tax money created from a CRA stays inside the district.
Word of the new stadium plan infuriated some community members, such as Overtown’s Irby McKnight, who said the CRA has yet to build a single home in Overtown.
“I’m just looking at this in amazement,” he said. “We’ll remember this on Election Day.”
Miami Commissioner and CRA Chairwoman Michelle Spence-Jones declined to comment.
But Miami Mayor Manny Diaz described using CRA money to build a new ballpark as money well spent. He believes a baseball stadium would anchor redevelopment on the downtown’s western flank, much like the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, which receives $1.43 million yearly from the CRA, has spurred development on the city’s eastern edge.
I have to say that I share McKnight’s amazement. The nerve of these people — and then the head of the CRA has “no comment” when the newspaper asks her about it? How’s that for a big middle finger to the taxpayers?
Let’s review. Baseball is a business; the government has no more business supporting it then they do paying McDonalds to build restaurants. Plus, they’re cynically bending the whole point of the CRA by expanding the boundary to include their chosen site! And if we didn’t have ample local proof that sports stadiums in fact don’t “anchor redevelopment” for jack shit (Hello Miami Arena? And the Orange Bowl was built in the 1940’s . . . last time I drove by it was located in a nice quiet residential neighborhood?), we could turn to the research, which shows overwhelmingly that government spending on stadiums is a big waste of money.
Sunday January 7, 2007
Radio and TV Marti is now broadcasting in Miami, and DeFede is not happy.
Friday January 5, 2007
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:
- Since current mayor Carlos Alvarez was not elected to be strong mayor, a court battle (groan) to determine if he is elevated to the position or if new elections need be held is very likely if the proposal passes.
- But nevermind Alvarez — the person to think of when you think of a strong mayor is Jeb Bush(!), currently living in Coral Gables. (This came out of a conversation after the meeting.)
- In the not-so-distant past, the county did have a strong mayor, though not as strong as under the current proposal.
- While changing the commission seats to be elected county-wide seems a tempting compromise, it would violate federal law(?) and diminish diversity on the commission.
- To the extent that the proposal diminishes the power of the commission, it also diminishes the voices of the various cultures and ethnicities in the county.
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.
Thursday January 4, 2007
I saw the page about the SFRAC on Indymedia, but unfortounately it doesn’t give too much information or a schedule. I e-mailed them, and here’s what I got back; still not much information, but better then nothing. I’d imagine you can google some of those names and figure out what you need to go to:
If you haven’t heard yet…the South Florida Radical Activist Conference will be this week starting with NoiseNOTBOmbs friday @ the Wallflower Gallery in downtown Miami
7:00-7:45 — Lars Din
7:50-8:10 — Carol, Critical Resistance, prisoners’ art
8:20-9:00 — I Want Whiskey
9:10-9:40 — SOFUQT (radical cheerleaders)
9:50-10:30 — The Free Chris
10:40-11:20 — Under No Order
11:30-12:30 — The Lepracy – This show will be $7 at the door and all the money will go to benefit foodNOTbombs!
The conference will be held Saturday and Sunday starting at 11am with bagels and doughnuts for those who arrive early!
10 NE 3rd St., Miami, FL 33132
Tuesday January 2, 2007
New blog: Coral Gables View. Lots of news clippings with interesting observations. Looks promising.
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.
Tuesday December 12, 2006
While clicking around the internets yesterday, I came across Rick’s post linking to Ziva’s post about Pinochet. Neither is particularly remarkable for what it says (“Pinochet was a bad dude, now he’s dead,” etc.), but interesting threads developed in the comments. It seems that there are actually passionate supporters of Pinochet walking around in our midst, and they’ve let their voices be heard.
Check out Manuel A. Tellechea’s comment — neither site will let me link to it directly, but it’s high up in both threads, pretty long, and hard to miss. This is a guy I’ve very much agreed with in the past, but here he’s just silly. Here’s one paragraph:
But the leftwing media in this country and Western Europe, which believe that countries have the right to commit mass suicide so long as it’s done democratically, as in Germany in 1933, proceeded to blacken Pinochet’s name while extolling the perennially unelected Castro as a folk hero.
Now, that’s just plain silly (even after the “mass suicide” gaffe). Nobody in the mainstream media has ever called Castro a folk hero, any more then they’ve supported the holocaust. When pressed, Manuel challenges me to find articles in major newspapers that refer to Castro as a “monster,” or a “dictator,” as they do with Pinochet. There’s at least one of the former, and plenty of the latter.
The right-wing guys always fixate on the New York Times, and of course the NYT also . . . wait a second. I’m searching the NYT site for articles that include the words “Castro” and “dictator.” Many of them obviously are mentioning Castro in passing, and talking about a different dictator but, hmm, ok — here’s one and here’s another. Whoa! What’s going on here? Here are the respective quotes:
. . . a man whom the vast majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami consider a despicable and murderous dictator.
. . . Mr. Castro, whom the United States government tars as a dictator who suppresses his people.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that one of these articles is a “fascinating” look at a pro-Castro radio station, and another is a rather positive look at a Cuban educational program, why does the New York Times always holding the word “dictator” at arms length. “Those people call him that,” it seems to say, implying (does it not?) that it does not consider him one?
Now, playing the numbers game to try to see who’s better between Pinochet, Castro, Stalin, and Hitler (that’s four murderous dictators, btw, two right-wingers and two left-wingers) is just absurd, as is the notion that American media doesn’t call Castro a dictator — most of them do. But what’s up with the New York Times?
Wednesday November 22, 2006
“No candidate anywhere in the country spent more money on attack ads and TV commercials than Charlie Crist.” Jim DeFede wonders what kind of a governor he’ll be.
Wednesday November 15, 2006
I’m glad to see that our decade-long (+) experiment with recycling is finally coming to an end. Obviously it was a stupid idea from the get-go, thinking that ordinary people could be bothered to separate their recyclables from their garbage. Update: Liveblogging the workshop: “Sejias: This was meant to be an all day workshop and we are now just two commissioners. Sometimes I’m here all by myself.“ So it’s official — nobody cares.
Wednesday November 8, 2006
Check out the Herald: As of 5:41 am, this page shows Jim Davis at 53.55%, and this page, not to mention the cover, is declaring Christ the new governor. WHAT THE HELL, GUYS — PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THIS STUFF!
I know it’s been a long night for y’all, but is nobody at the the controls over there? Update: Eddie points out that the graph represents only the voters in Miami-Dade.
Tuesday October 31, 2006
A crappy video with a few excerpts from the Governor debate last night, to which Reform Party candidate Max Linn was added at the last minute by court order. My man Chris Matthews moderated. I’m trying to find the complete video online.
Monday October 30, 2006
Here’s an issue that a lot of people are disagreeing about: the Crosswinds development for Overtown was just approved by the Miami City Commission. Since the Herald’s open comments seem to be a thing of the past, it seems worth getting into here.
What we have is a big mixed-use project, mainly residential, now approved to be built in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Hundreds of people showed up to either support or oppose the project. On the pro side, obviously, is the observation that the development would be an economic boost to the neighborhood. Those opposed (who included Arthur Teele) say that the project would hurt the character of the neighborhood, raise property values in the whole neighborhood, and kick-start gentrification.
The question is whether, with the Performing Arts Center, places like Karu & Y (here), and even historical renovations like the Lyric Theater, gentrification isn’t inevitable. Otherwise, it’s worth pointing out that the plan seems to follow Miami 21 principles; the tallest buildings are on the side of the busy boulevard (exact address?), with a height-transition down to the existing houses and apartments.
Of the 1,050 condo units in Crosswinds, 112 will be “heavily subsidized” (up from the 50 the developer was originally offering), and another 210 will be partially subsidized. Hardly makes a dent in the 1,200 new subsidized units the city wants for the neighborhood, and doesn’t really square with the 50/50 market-rate/subsidized ratio that was previously discussed, either. This is peculiar, since by my reading the city gave the developer the land.
Two lawsuits must be resolved before construction can begin, one of which was brought by the Power U Center, the folks who brought the 25-foot inflatable rat to the commission meeting. Should be interesting.
Tuesday October 24, 2006
The Corruption in Surfside, Florida blog. Wow, sounds serious. (thanks, Ed!)
Monday October 23, 2006
Carl Hiaasen taunts Republicans about the Foley/Negron ballot fubar, and doesn’t quite have the guts to say how tactless and transparently partisan it is for the Democrats to fight having a sign put up announcing the switch.
The Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. Since what goes on a polling places here is still sort of messed up, getting in touch with them and volunteering to observe (film?) polling-place closings during the upcoming election would be a most excellent idea.
Friday October 20, 2006
Rick is absolutely right: many anti-child-molester actions the government takes are completely idiotic. If you want to prevent child sex-abuse, there are experts that can tell you what to do. And they’ll all tell you that crap like this is a waste of money that could be used to do stuff that actually helps. Previously.
Thursday October 19, 2006
The ‘Get Fuzzy’ / Miami Herald controversy. Fidel Castro’s name comes up!
Jim DeFede is moderating a debate between the candidates for Miami District 2 commissioner tomorrow (October 20). 7 pm at the Bayshore Lutheran Church, Biscayne Blvd. and NE 60th Terr. You can send questions you want him to ask to firstname.lastname@example.org. (via Biscayne Boulevard Times e-mail)
Tuesday October 17, 2006
Yesterday, nearly 200 employees walked out of a Wal-Mart in Hialeah to protest changes in employment policies. “It’s the first time that Wal-Mart has faced a worker-led revolt of such scale, according to both employees and the company. Just as surprising, the company quickly said it would change at least one of the practices that had sparked the protest.” Good job, guys!
Thursday October 12, 2006
Wednesday October 11, 2006
Fuck democracy, right? That’s what the Miami-Dade Commission is saying. Enough voters signed petitions to get the strong-mayor proposal on the ballot (to, you know, let the voters decide), but the commissioners have hired outside council which will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, to see if they can ignore the petition. Oh, and of course the bill is being picked up by the taxpayers. And by the way, they already have a lawyer on payroll who specializes in this sort of thing. There’s always “how about we vote your asses out of office, how’s that for a ballot initiative?”, but this pisses me off, because getting those signatures is very arduous, and they shouldn’t be seen as something to be fought by anyone in power they inconvenience. Update: More at MVB.
Thursday October 5, 2006
Some interesting statistics from this poll [PDF link] of Cuban-Americans:
- Only 61% of those who came to the US in the 1980’s and after are registered Republican; it’s 81% for the 1970’s and before.
- Only 13% say they would return to Cuba if freedom and democracy were reinstated.
- Only 45% oppose allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba!
- Only 53% support continuing the embargo on Cuba!!
More analysis from Henry and DeFede. Questions for thought: For how many different reasons might the 13% above be a much lower number then how many would actually consider returning if freedom and democracy were reinstated? How might the group of people who refuse to talk to surveyors feel differently about these issues then those who agree to do so? And how does a pollster get their list of names and phone numbers, anyway?
Today we get homework: sift through MiamiPost’s City Hall Confidential and see if you find anything, anything of value. (via Tere, who says “When I started this blog, I considered making it an “exposing the ugly side” kind of thing. Then I realized, duh, I don’t know anyone who could help me expose jack shit.”)
Tuesday September 26, 2006
Steve makes fun of Charlie Crist, who seems to be doing very little besides deserving it.
Friday September 22, 2006
Ok, it fell to me to go to the Miami-Dade Mayor’s meeting regarding the beginnings of a plan to have county-wide free wireless last night. For the most part, it was a back-patting/grandstanding session for both the presenters and the audience participants. But they did provide a decent overview of the plan. The mayor gave a brief “this is going to be great” sort of opening talk, and then three other speakers did the bulk of the information sharing. Actually, the guy who did the research for the project, Ira (I missed his last name, and the handout helpfully didn’t bother to list the names of the speakers!!), gave most of the useful information. Even though the crowd was maybe 100, the speakers were on stage, and even the questioners had microphones, so there wasn’t much opportunity for “conversation,” per se. But here’re the salient points (apologies for the bullet point format)(and i’ll correct/amend/supplement this post as I get more information):
- The most fundamental motivation behind the project seems to be the digital divide. 49% of Miami-Dade residents have fast-access internet, 51% don’t.
- Other benefits: wirelessly controlled traffic signals, wirelessly controlled law-enforcement video cameras, various educational uses, etc etc etc (a speaker suggested remotely read water meters). Obviously the benefits multiply. I’d suggest voting.
- Kicking myself: I zoned out during the brief discussion of time-lines. But basically, some focus groups have been conducted, and the steering committee has been formed and has met once. Their second meeting is today (Friday). It’s to be webcast, but who knows where (see below)? After the steering committee process is complete, a plan will be drafted, and will go before the commission. The the process of building the thing can begin. Clearly, we’re talking about years here. Lots and lots of years.
- Security/privacy: basically, you’ll have to log in to use the system. A “regular citizen” account will have the “least secure” service, meaning little or no filtering/tracking. Contrast with a “child” account, which would have filtering similar to what is currently used in Miami-Dade public schools (i.e. unable to access porn, hate speech, and, presumably, bomb-making instructions).
- Before I forget, Miami Senior is an amazing building. Built in 1927/28, it’s a great big Gothic/classical/Romanesque building. I saw the outside, a couple of courtyards, and the auditorium, and all were impressive. Why didn’t I go to high school here?? (A few photos at the flickr: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)
- Funding: no funding from taxes(!!!). The project will be set up as a “private” non-profit organization, allowing it to apply for grants. More significant, my understanding is that they’ll basically charge some people, essentially competing with paid service providers, while the free accounts will be ad-supported. This was only very briefly hinted at, though, so some sort of confirmation would be welcome.
- A web site dedicated to the project is not quite ready, but will be launched soon (which, btw, is unacceptable. in an age when resource-less bloggers can create sites that are accessible, standards-compliant, and frequently updated, the idea that a government agency can’t throw up an ad-hoc page, and add to it as needed (even blog-like—is that so fucking difficult?), and instead gives us illegible drivel like the godawful Miami21 site, or, as in this case, nothing, is detestable. or perhaps actionable.).
Sorry for the parenthetical rant. Actually, a little information on the project is available at the Mayor’s page, here and here, although you could be checking those pages twice a day and you wouldn’t have known about last night’s meeting. Our government has a way to go.
Oh, but back to the project at hand. Of course this is sort of “duh” to me, and I think they should get rid of the “no $$ out of the tax till” concept and just fund it 100%. In the future everyone will use the internet (that’s the idea behind this thing, anyway), so what’s the point of charging some and subjecting the rest to ads? Just make it free as the air we breathe, and fund it out of the money you collect from property-owners. Whatever injustices that unleashes will be offset by reduced administration costs. This is a no-brainer. It’s obvious. Except, of course, that the sooner it happens the more it’ll cost. With every year that goes by the technology gets simpler, easier to install, more far-reaching, and cheaper. But whatever: we have lives to live. Get the shit up and running.
Thursday September 21, 2006
DeFede: “The Miami-Dade water and sewer department had 4,200 active cell phone accounts, in a department of just 2,600 employees.” This highlights the differences between how things work in private companies and how things work in government, where a “we have this money in the budget, quick—we need to spend it by the end of the fiscal year, September 30th” mentality is currently reigning.
Monday September 11, 2006
Overtown gets his copy of Vamos, and muses about Cuba. “Another woman was amazed that there was so many black people in Cuba. She asked us why there are no black Cubans in Miami. No one had an answer for that one.”
Tuesday September 5, 2006
It’s election day, y’all! Time for us to celebrate the fact that we live in a free (sort of) country, and maybe even make some changes to make that country better. Oh, but wait, these are local elections? Well, crap, who bothers with the small-time shit? Local government doesn’t do the really important stuff, and nobody knows any of the names, so why bother?
Well, of course voting in local elections just as important as in the nationals: this is about the money and decisions that are closest to us, and since (all the more reason) very few people are voting, one vote can be a really powerful voice. The way it rarely is in, say, presidential elections. Though it was in 2000 in Florida, a super-close swing state, and so, thanks again to you jerks that voted for Nader. But I digress. The question is, how do you decide who to vote for today? I present to you some possible methodologies:
- Keep up with local politics all year. Then you’ll be ready. Of course it’s too late to do that now. And by the way, I write a local blog, so I should know more then the average person about this stuff, but I’m pretty clueless.
- Just print out the Herald’s recommendations and vote down the line with the Herald (or vote down the line opposite what they recommend, you anarchist you).
- Delve deep into the Herald’s logic and decide on which points you agree with them or not. Which would be a lot easier if there were a competing
newspapernews source in town who’s recommendations you could compare against the Herald’s. God love Miami Today, but their only mention of the elections just isn’t very helpful in this regard. The New Times? Helpful . . . if you’re wondering who writes the dirt. (Ok, I admit—it’s me. What, the slick design didn’t give it away?) Biscayne Boulevard Times? Nope.
- I was going to suggest keeping up with the results throughout the day, and voting for whoever’s behind, the idea being that it’d make it easier for those who do know what they’re talking about to get those people elected, despite, say, the Herald’s recommendation. But now I’m not sure this approach is mathematically correct. After all, you might be counteracting the votes of just those well-educated voters.
So where does that leave us? I guess reading up in the Herald (And, no, the Sentinel’s coverage doesn’t say peep about Miami Dade elections.), and cursing the darkness. You should also check out the antidisenfranchisement guide at Hidden City. The official Miami-Dade elections page.
Wednesday August 2, 2006
Let’s assume for the moment that Fidel Castro is alive in fact, but dead effectively: that is, he’s sick to an extent that will make it impossible to return to power for a long while. Let’s further assume that the instability of the transfer, along with Raul Castro’s weaker political clout and cult-of-personality, make it impossible for the new leader to hold the Communist regime together. These assumptions each have considerable evidence behind them, but I feel comfortable making them primarily because the effect of their incorrectness would be little but to delay whatever the result would be. Where, then, does that leave us?
Since our current international eye is so used to looking at Iraq, it’s easy to conjure up images of civil unrest, chaos, and jostling for power. I find such predictions unpersuasive. In fact, I think the Velvet Revolution may be a much closer model of what is to come in Cuba. Whether it be in weeks or years remains to be seen, but let’s consider how the end of the Castro era in Cuba is likely to be similar or different from the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia. (For new readers, I was born in Czechoslovakia in 1974, and immigrated to the US with my family in 1980.)
The Velvet Revolution was precipitated by events from outside the country: specifically, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the overthrow of Communism in most surrounding countries. As shocks to the system go, it seems roughly equivalent to loosing the one figurehead who’s been in charge of the Communist regime of Cuba for all this time. So the spark is there. But is there any fuel? By my estimation (And this might be a fair moment to point out that I’m no expert on on this stuff. If these thoughts have any weight, they must have it on their own merit. Feel free to dismiss them as rampant speculation.), two components are necessary for a relatively bloodless transition away from Communism: a strong intellectual dissident movement, and a significant percentage of fed-up population willing to put themselves at some risk to overthrow the regime.
Dissident intellectuals? I suspect Cuba is rich with them. Witness the reports that the government has been cracking down on just such dissidents over the last few days. That Raul may take a particularly strong position against them in the first days of his rule to prove his strength. And note the plight of Guillermo Fariñas, which, for all his suffering, made it into the international press. On NPR today I heard an interview with a Havana resident described as a “dissident and economist.” Nuff said.
Fed-up population ready to demonstrate? Hmm… here’s where Cuba’s geographical situation works against it. The problem is that it’s just so darned close to the US, which provides an escape hatch for those to whom the regime is most insufferable. I mean, no, the journey from there to here is nothing if not arduous. But it’s doable. And the costs of an attempt are low. (In contrast, my family had to go through endless legal wrangling and political subterfuge to get official permission for a vacation in Yugoslavia, which for some reason had a demi-porous (read: soldiers with machine guns patrolling, but only intermittently) border with Austria.) The result is that the very Cubans who might right now be most eager to rush into the streets of Havana with a view towards overthrowing the Commies are . . . living in Miami.
Of course this isn’t intended as a slight on Cuban-Americans or on the act of immigration. (When faced with a situation, it’s only right that each family does what it needs to do.) It’s an observation: one that might explain the oddly reticent reaction of folks still on the island. The lack of protests might very well be a simple a biding of time, though.
In the case of the Velvet Revolution, more then a week went by between the sparking incident and the tipping point, which came on November 17, 1989. Basically, what is required is a consensus feeling that change is possible, and something to motivate a lot of people to get out there and make it happen. Lots of things go into something like this, and again I note the importance of dissident leaders as a motivating force. (The riot police who responded to the demonstrations on November 17th blocked all the exits except one, and every person, as they filed out, got a whack of billy club across the back. The strength of a large group of people being able to take shit like that leads rather directly to the downfall of governments.)
Weighing all of this, I can’t help but feel optimistic for Cuba. Some absurdly thoughtful comments at the previous thread make it clear that the Velvet Revolution is but one possible model of what is to come in Cuba. Another equally plausible one is China: a Communist power that relaxes financial restrictions while holding tightly on to control of society. I don’t think I need to convince anyone that the way I’ve outlined—of temporary, short-lived suffering, followed by the sweet freedom of reality—is preferable to the slow and gradual relaxing of restrictions by a still oppressive regime. But I think the the situation is right for this kind of overthrow. The idea of Communism in Cuba is so closely tied to the leader that Val calls ‘the bearded goat’ that with him gone, everyone—man in the street, soldier in uniform, party intellectual, and even Raul himself—will be thrown into enough of a state of anomie that some drastic change will seem inevitable. The inevitability of that change itself is a powerful motor. Let’s hope it gives a push in the right direction.
Wednesday July 26, 2006
Conductor has some thoughts on the Vamos decision. “For better or for worse the Miami-Dade School Board voted to remove Vamos a Cuba from school libraries. While I personally disagree with the decision, I believe the board was well within its rights to do so. [ . . . ] So now a judge has arbitrarily ruled that the book be put back into circulation and I have a big problem with that strictly from a separation of powers standpoint. As usual the courts are overstepping their bounds and making public policy.” It’s a point, although I question the aptness of the word “arbitrarily.” I think the courts’ intervention on matters like desegregation and censorship is a good thing. And Conductor never quite explains why he doesn’t consider the school board’s decision censorship. Update: Conductor updated his post, and updated the URL, too, breaking the link above! (thanks Franklin) Here’s the new link, along with a wag of the finger to Conductor and to Blogger: Cool URIs don’t change.
Tuesday July 18, 2006
Bill’s recent comment on the ‘Vamos a Cuba’ post offers an interestingperspective. He compares the book to Little Black Sambo, and claims that both books must remain available, not despite their inaccuracies, but because of them, as they are part of our history.
While the argument is powerful, and works very well for LBS, applying it to VaC is problematic. First of all, the alleged sins of VaC are sins of omission, not sins of commission. Whereas Sambo is wrong because it encourages thinking in terms of racial stereotypes, the most we can accuse Vamos of is of overlooking unpleseant truths.
Little Black Sambo does have a place in Americas history and, as such, should be presented for what it was/is therby assuring a thourghly educated populace. I would not want the book to come up in discusion, only to have my child ignorant of its meaning and its history.
LBS has a place in the history of racist portrayals of people of color, and it needs to be perserved for that reason. But the word “history” is carrying serious weight there: the book was published originally in 1899. The same does not apply to VaC, though, which dates back to 2000 – it’s not “historical” in a real sense. It is, rather, a product of the present. That is to say, LBS’s place in history is decided not so much by its publication, but by its acceptance for most of the 20th century. We have the opportunity to deny that acceptance to ‘Vamos a Cuba.’
In some sense, that’s what this fight is about – does our society tolerate accounts of totalitarian regimes that are incomplete in this fashion? Or do we hold them on par with racial stereotypes?
It’s interesting to note that VaC is not being condemned for expressing an undesirable perspective – it’s being condemned for not expressing a sufficiently negative perspective — of Communist Cuba. One could make a comparison to a textbook banned in Saudi Arabia for not expressing a sufficiently negative perspective of life in the United States. Or something. It’s also worth noting that ‘Vamos a Cuba’ is not nearly the sunny portrait of life in Cuba some believe. While the text omits mention of politics, its depiction of poverty is unmistakable.
What’s interesting about the VaC situation is that there is no reasonable compromise. Val groped around for it when he tounge-in-cheek (?) suggested placing the book in the fiction section. A more ‘reasonable’ compromise is the warning label approach (“This book presents a view of life in Communist Cuba which many find inaccurate and disagreeable . . .”), which is also so patently absurd that nobody I know of seriously advocates it. We are left with a simple leave it/remove it choice.
Blinded by passion, some folks have advocated the removal of this book. I understand their frustration. Were it up to me, I’d leave the book, but in fact it’s not up to anyone – the Schoolboard has made the decision to pull it. From a legal perspective at least, it seems pretty obvious that they fucked up royally.
Had ‘Vamos a Cuba’ stayed in our libraries, we, as a society, would have had the opportunity to condemn it as propaganda and distortion. We could have continued to discuss its failings, and let those discussions be the history of this book, not the acceptance that ‘Little Black Sambo’ enjoyed.
But there’s the rub: we still can. And we will. Despite the Schoolboard’s boneheaded move, the book is still widely availabe. And it seems pretty clear that the ACLU action will have ‘Vamos a Cuba’ back on the shelves sooner or later. Unlike the Nazis, we’re not actually burning books, and we’re not about to start.
Saturday July 15, 2006
Wednesday July 12, 2006
A little protest (maybe 50 people), possibly about this, in which case they have my unmitigated sympathy. Monday afternoon, MacArthur bridge to the Beach. (click images for flickr link)
Almost everything in this week’s issue of Miami Today is good. My favorite is Joe Arriola’s quote about the USS Mohawk: “The city deserves something big, beautiful and important,” he said. “No offense to the owner, but it looked like it belonged more as a reef than in Bicentennial Park.”
Friday July 7, 2006
Steve does Vamos a Miami.
Friday June 23, 2006
In any prospective legal challenge, the basis for the removal will be highly scrutinized to ascertain to what extent the Board made a comprehensive review and analysis of the appropriateness of this book being part of an elementary school library’s collection. The Board’s findings—as indicated by the record of the proceedings—will also be reviewed by any party challenging the Board’s decision to determine if those findings are constitutionally valid. Therefore it is exceedingly important that the Board identify with specificity the legal grounds for any Board decision, particularly any decision that deviates from the DMRC’s recommendations. Moreover, it is our opinion that even a well reasoned decision by the Board that deviates from DMRC’s recommendations will expose the Board to liability.
That’s from a memo submitted by the Miami School Board’s Attorney, re Vamos a Cuba. “Identify with specificity the legal grounds for any Board decision?” How about “There’s a passion of hate. I can’t vote my conscience without feeling threatened.” What a bunch of knuckleheads. Here’s the whole memo in stark PDF beauty. (via SotP)
Ana Menendez reports on the treatment of students who conducted a sit-in in support of striking UM janitors. “First, administrators threatened students with major charges that could get them expelled or suspended. When a who’s-who of Miami’s legal talent stepped forward to defend the students, UM quickly retreated, downgrading the complaint to ‘university offenses.’”Once again demonstrating that the University of Miami is run by assholes.
Monday June 19, 2006
Sunday June 18, 2006
Ok, it’s the trailer for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth [Crazy Flash site warning]. Well,
Conductor Songuacassal noticed something peculiar about this clip. There’s a section (about three quarters through the video) where they show the effects of rising sea levels on various parts of the world, including Florida. You’ve heard it all before, and of course it means that your condo is going to be worth much less then it is now. But so Conductor Songuacassal watched that part of the clip very closely, and he caught something strange. It seems that as the rest of South Florida sinks underwater, a little almond-shaped blob conspicuously stays above sea level in the video. Here are the two stills:
See it? Well,
Conductor Songuacassal doesn’t like Al Gore, and he suspects some weird deliberate motive for the blob:
This “used to be next President” now wants us to believe that Miami will conveniently become an island? . . . This inconvenient truth is more like a inconvenient grudge that Gore seems unable to shake.
Having recently seen a A Climate of Fear, I’m a little skeptical of this view. Still, the little blob seems improbable . . . is there some sort of hill there that we don’t know about? And just where is that spot, anyway? Well, I spent some time staring at Google Maps and the two stills, and I honestly am not sure. It looks like west Broward to me, but I can’t say for sure.
Then I find this map. It shows a more detailed view of Florida’s coastline after a 3-meter increase in sea level. For my money, I see a little almond-shaped blob just under the ‘e’ in ‘Fort Lauderdale’ that remains dry. It seems to correspond in position to the blob in Gore’s video, though I’m not sure the sizes match. But video is funny that way, with shapes sometimes blooming a little (plus, we’re dealing with a timeline).
Still, I’m not aware of a higher-elevation area in west Broward, or anywhere close to the weird little dry blob. Anyone know what’s going on here? I’m sure it’s nothing, right?
Thursday June 15, 2006
Jim DeFede wonders why Johnny Winton hasn’t been charged yet over . . . well, you remember. It’s been four weeks since the incident, and the prosecuting attorneys have not filed any charges. DeFede and others suspect preferential treatment, on account of Winton being a city commissioner. Well, maybe so.
I have another theory, though, and I’m running Johnny’s mugshot just so you can see what he looked like after the incident. The story is that he head-butted one of the cops, kneed the other in the groin, and then, after the scuffle, got loose and “fell against a wall.” That (the wall) is how he allegedly messed up his face. That’s the official version of the story. Well so OK, i’m not buying it. My theory, if you’d indulge some rampant speculation, goes roughly like this: Winton was drunk off his ass, attacked the cops, and they beat the living shit out of him, slamming his head against the wall. Doesn’t that jibe a little better with the photo?
Because I’m sorry, but if you’re drunk and attack two cops, they’ll have you under control very very quickly. How, then, do you subsequently get loose enough to wander around and fall into a wall?
If I’m right and the cops beat him up, then suddenly the lack of charges starts to make sense, no? The prosecutor cut a deal (or is in the process of cutting a deal) with Winton: we’ll let you slide if you let us slide. Works for me.
Tuesday June 6, 2006
“The Ethics Commission found that through 1999 and 2000, only 36 officials in every municipality in Miami-Dade, 12 of them elected, reported gifts of $25 or more.” Government officials are required to disclose significant gifts they receive, but they’re either getting very few gifts or choosing not to disclose them.
Friday May 19, 2006
There’s been so much grumbling about the raise that county commissioners are asking for that I’ve been waiting for someone to come up with a clear and persuasive argument for the raise. Michael Lewis to the rescue.
Thursday May 18, 2006
Wednesday May 10, 2006
An article that is nominally a criticism of the forthcoming Miami Vice movie turns out to be a celebration of the original series.
The dark and cynical “Miami Vice” blew open Reagan-Bush/Iran-Contra era America, and carved open the hypocrisy of the “war on drugs.” The show dared expose US government corruption, the CIA, covert operations, CIA involvement in narco-trafficking, and US imperialism. It dared show how rank and file cops, drug agents and whistleblowers who tried to do their jobs in earnest were manipulated, obstructed and betrayed by their own government.
Monday May 1, 2006
Critical Miami dragged its ass down to Jose Martí Park for the 6 pm vigil, the part of Day Without Immigrants for folks who didn’t think this was a good time to assert themselves by ditching work. The mood was happy and energized. More then half the flags were American, with a healthy representation from various S. American countries, even a few (very few) Cuban. Not a Che shirt in sight, although . . .
This is a little socialist party book stand. Workers’ power and whatnot. The top sign reads “No Deportations No Firings,” the bottom one, “US Troops out of Iraq, Haiti, Guantanamo, Afghanistan.”
A crappy glimpse from the I-95 ramp approach. A decent crowd, not even considering all the people on the streets for blocks around. Jose Martí Park is actually a very nice waterfront spot, though maybe oddly small for a citywide vigil. Everything seemed to go well, though, and you should have no problem catching it on your evening news, what with the TV helicopters circling overhead and TV vans parked around the perimeter. More on Dw/oI at Greener Miami.
The latest Jim DeFede report slams State Senator Rudy Garcia (R-Hialeah) for proposing a bill which would effectively shift much of the cost of water cleanup from rock mining interests to the public. Jim Doesn’t mess around – he gives Garcia’s office phone number.
Friday April 21, 2006
Why not: I’ll just feed you these Jim DeFede comentaries as they come in, they’re that good. This one’s on the mess Joe Martinez has gotten himself into.
Wednesday April 19, 2006
This is it, folks: looks like the UDB decisions are being made tomorrow. Slap on a green shirt, call in sick, and join Rebecca down there.
We accept billboards as part of our natural landscape, right? But think about it – these objects serve no purpose other then to block whatever’s behind them in the service of whatever crass message the marketers want you to see. This is not about being anti-advertising, much advertising contributes positively to our society. Magazines would be impossible with ads, and much of the internet would be behind various paywalls. Billboards are different, though, because they occupy real space: the space we all have to share, and they divide it up in a way that is unfair to real stuff. This goes even if what’s behind the billboard is an ugly building, or nothing but sky.
Now, nobody’s advocating getting rid of all the billboards overnight; heck, that might be impossible. But we as a community should be thinking about billboard reduction. (Years ago, I read a great essay that lays out all these arguments I haven’t been able to find it on the internet, but if I do, I’ll add the link here.) Update, March, 2009: How to look at billboards.
In any case, our great state legislators are taking the opposite view — not that billboards should be taken down so we can see the trees, but that trees should be cut down so we can see the billboards! Is it just me, or is it more obvious every single day that political contributions run the government, rather then a commitment to constituents? Can we please get some campaign contribution reform going, to at least cool some of this crap off? (See also Free Culture, and the harm caused to our culture by endless copyright extensions which benefit 2% of copyright holders at the expense of a potential blossoming of new creativity.)
In other news, the legislature is pushing no less then 26 bills that would curb the rights of sex offenders. Now, I’m no champion of child molesters, but there is quite a bit of evidence that most of these laws would do no good, and cause burdens on those who would have to try to enfoce them. It’s time to re-examine some of the arguments we looked at before. Is our state legislature doing anything particularly worthwhile? Maybe it’s time for them to come home.
Sunday April 16, 2006
Miamista’s back with another sprawling post. Check him out on Arriola (#2) and the Coconut Grove Playhouse closing (#7).
Saturday April 15, 2006
Once again, it’s a disgrace how our government treats people from other countries.
Friday April 14, 2006
“[I]f ever there was a person who could use a good spanking, it’s Joe Arriola.” Wow. Please watch this video; I could just kiss Jim DeFede. (via SotP)
Wednesday April 5, 2006
About 900 service workers from the University of Miami went on strike March 1, demanding a living wage, health benefits, and union representation. Of course, that wasn’t the beginning; they had been making those demands for a long time, more recently assisted by the SEIO, who set up a fancy website and organized some community pressure on the school. In particular, the pressure focused on University of Miami President Donna Shalala (who, coincidentally, was director of the Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration), who established a group to conduct a review of compensation and benefits to contract employees on February 23 (source).
Huh? She wanted to know how much her janitors were making, so she “established a group” to “conduct a review?” What ever happened to “making a phone call” to “your human-resources department?” Oh, and how long were we expecting to wait to hear back from this group? The link above says “within a month.” We probably shouldn’t be too surprised, given how these beuracracies work.
Now, the university does not employ the service workers directly; it contracts with UNICCO, which promptly set up a couple of cynical websites, including plain vanilla and blog flavor to combat the bad PR coming out of all this (the fact is, though, that UNICCO doesn’t set the wages – the school does). The blog is particularly hilarious; for example, in responding to this document, “Why the Protest Continues: It’s All About Democracy” (a petition by the UM faculty and students in support of the strikers), it says “I would like to take the time to refute their points one at a time, but since their missive is four pages long and virtually each page has a factual inaccuracy, I’ll stick to the more salient points.” The “missive” takes three screens on my monitor, with a generously-sized font, but even if true, “virtually each page” means that the author found three factual inaccuracies and couldn’t be bothered to address them all.
Anyway, Donna Shalala seemed pretty cool under fire, considering she had no authority to do what was being asked of her; for that, the university’s Board of Trustees has to vote. That they did, exactly a month after the announcement about the study. In a funny coincidence, the decision came down on the same day that the strikers staged a protest at Gloria Estefan’s house (she’s a one of the Trustees). There’s a joke here about “if you want something done, go to Gloria,” but nevermind.
The strike continues; the issue now is how the unionization of the service workers will proceed. UM students have gotten in on the act with a small-scale sit-in. And workers at other universities are talking about similar actions.
It’s nice to see that collective bargaining is alive and well. This gets into a lot of issues, including the labor market vs. housing costs, illegal immigration, and the minimum wage. Market forces are great, but the collective bargaining power of employees is a market force that has to be reckoned with. The salaries we’re talking about here are roughly half of Miami’s $35,000 median income.
Update: A few more sources, which may round out my musings:
- Ana Menendez’s column, very much pro-striker.
- Herald opinion gives credit to UM, but points out that they were partially motivated by the circumstances of the current labor market.
- Another Herald article focuses on Nova and why a similar approach would be slightly less likely to be successful there. Also suggests that the SEIO picked UM, not vice verse, and explains why (bigger university + larger work force + more public scrutiny = higher chance of success).
- A lack of support from the MIA service workers (represented by a different union).
- A Washington lawyer threatened to withhold $300,000 in pledge dollars from UM until they resolve the strike
- In the SoFla Business Journal, an article about the accusations against UNICCO.
- Direct Word-doc link to the UM faculty’s “Why the Protest Continues: It’s All About Democracy.”
- Organization links: SEIU, Yes We Cane, UNICCO, UNICCO Truth, University Truth.
Wednesday March 29, 2006
Here’s a map of downtown; let’s orient ourselves (if you know downtown, skip down a paragraph or two). We have the bay on the right, I-95 on the left; the Miami River cuts through, emptying into the bay near Brickell Key (the triangle island) and the Port of Miami (just out of the frame to the northeast). On the north side of the river, Bayfront Park sits between US-1 and the water (the amphitheater at the north-most edge). The eastern end of Calle Ocho is south of the river, as is Tobacco Road (Miami liquor license #001).
OK; let’s talk about Brickell Ave. It’s home to some of the shiniest high-rises in Miami (Pan-American financial centers), and has an almost suburban feel, lined with trees and wide sidewalks. North of the river is noisy and loud — the read downtown; south of the river is quiet and serious. If you follow Brickell Avenue over the bridge going north, [correction] you can’t even keep going straight along 2nd Avenue: the street forces you to turn right and follow US-1, because 2nd Ave is one-way southbound. [/correction]
Anyway, a developer who’s building a high-rise on 2nd avenue a few blocks north of the river is lobbying the City Commission to allow him to call his address “Briclell Avenue.” This doesn’t fly because Brickell Avenue has always been south of the Miami River. It seems to be by definition, and so it is, in a way: in the early days of Miami, there was a feud between Flagler and Tuttle, who owned the land north of the river (and had most of the power), and Brickell, who owned the land south of the river (and couldn’t so much as get a bridge built). Renaming 2nd Ave north of the river “Brickell” is a slap in the face of history (you can get more of the historical background in the Herald article). Note, also, that the prestige that the Brickell name caries has to do with being the closest street to the water — i.e., odd-numbered Brickell properties are generally waterfront properties. Not only is this not the case with 2nd ave, but the land is now nowhere near the river, not on US-1, and not particularly prestigious location from a satellite-view perspective (of course a 2nd ave address has plenty of historical cachet, not to mention a prime-ass location).
So, renaming those few blocks of 2nd avenue “Brickell” is a slap in the face of the prestige of the name, a slap in the face of history, a slap in the face of developers not needing any additional goddamned encouragement, and a slap in the face of us having a city commission to do some fucking serious work for our city, which has some real goddamned problems, and not dick around with this bullshit.
Monday March 27, 2006
“I got on my knees and said, ‘Down With Fidel!’ They started kicking and beating me, bruising my back, arm and head. They stopped when they saw I would not lose my dignity and say things I didn’t feel.” (Herald)
So says Guillermo Fariñas, who has been on a hunger strike for 55 days, after his e-mail was taken away by the Cuban regime. We are blogging about this because we agree that it is an injustice, although I’m pessimistic about the power of blogs to make much difference in this case. Why is it that ten years after the fall of most communist regimes in Europe, Cuba is still in this impossible situation?
Update: Link to Reporters Without Borders story.