[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: May 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Spanish and English in Miami

Few topics generate as much resentment in Miami as language. Namely, the alleged lack of English spoken by many of the residents of our fair city.

The Miami Herald has published an AP piece headlined In Miami, Spanish Is Becoming the Primary Language which pretty much accepts the notion that English is spoken by only a few mostly bitter Anglos, and those people are often mistreated for not speaking Spanish. The comment thread following the article is even more illustrative of this.

However, if you've followed this blog for a while, you know that this is one of my hot-button topics. And I categorically disagree with those who insist that in Miami, it's Spanish or Bust.

I understand that there are a lot of people here who can't (or perhaps won't) speak English well enough to carry a basic conversation. I realize that many jobs require Spanish-speaking employees which makes it difficult for non-Spanish speakers to find jobs. All this creates an uncomfortable atmosphere for some, which is perfectly understood.

I also know, based on personal experience, that a lot of the complaints that English is not spoken in Miami are greatly exaggerated. In most areas of town, people will try to communicate with you in English if they sense that you don't speak Spanish (being a Hispanic with non-stereotypical Hispanic features gives me a unique insight into this, believe me). In my job, I do FAR MORE Miami public outreach events in English than in Spanish, even in areas where you would think you would hear no English.

Mixed Hispanic/Jewish/Anglo/African-American/Caribbean families are so common in Miami (including my own family) that we take it for granted. The language of local government is English. Need I say more?

Interesting that the Herald, which should be the local expert in this matter, chose to publish an article by AP which is so one-sided.

I won't continue to rehash all of my reasons, as you can check out previous posts down at the bottom for my feelings on this topic, but before I do, let me quote three comments left at the Herald site which pretty much mirror my view and experiences (and proves that intelligent people actually do read the Herald):

Come on, people! As someone pointed out, Spanish-only people have terrible trouble finding "decent" jobs. I am a gringo and look like it but speak fluent Spanish and believe me when I say that wherever I go (and that since 1984) in Miami, people make huge efforts to speak English to me, and keep doing so (struggling mightily) even when I speak Spanish! Public services? All speak English, be serious! Miami is the greatest little show on earth, somme toute. Don't believe me? Try Des Moines or Salt lake or Cleveland or (sorry, all have huge Hispanic-Latino populations also but can't compare to this place)...

This story is 20+ years old. Listen to the children of Hispanic immigrants in school, tune in to the Hispanic music stations. You get a lot more English than you'd ever imagine. Lots of Hispanics flee Miami too. Is it the language? ethnic issues? traffic? cost of living? Even for a wire service story this one is too simplistic. The Herald SHOULD know better.

In 2007 Dade county gained 2% non-hispanic whites and lost 4% Hispanics. The trend is already changing. 18% white non-hispanic and 60% hispanic. Of course you are going to hear spanish alot (sic) in most of Miami the city is most hispanic, but Spanish is far from being the primary language, its just one of the primary languages. Cities are still run in english, everything is in english, spanish is sometimes used but as a secondary form not primary. Very few times will I encounter someone that doesn't speak english, I live in Hialeah and speak no spanish and almsot never does sopmeone (sic) not speak english, I might be greeted in spanish alot (sic) but the conversation continues in english. Anyone that says otherwise is just exagerating (sic) the fact and being too tempered.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oppenheimer Bashes Talk Show Hosts

When Andres Oppenheimer writes a column on immigration, my head starts to shake instinctively. His latest column on purported "fear-mongering and reckless journalism" by conservative cable TV hosts such as Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs, is no different in the sense that there is a lot I disagree with him on.
Bravo! A new study has found widespread fear-mongering and reckless journalism by cable television hosts such as CNN's Lou Dobbs and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who have made a career of bashing Hispanic undocumented immigrants and their home countries.

Also good news: Likely Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told me in an interview last week that he shares concerns ''about the anti-immigrant tenor that I have seen in some of the broadcasts,'' which are helping create a climate of hatred against Hispanics.

The study by Media Matters Action Network, a watchdog group, says Dobbs, O'Reilly and CNN's Glenn Beck serve up steady anger, resentment and myths ``seemingly geared toward creating anti-immigrant hysteria.''

Among the myths perpetuated in these broadcasts are the notions that undocumented Hispanic immigrants are responsible for a crime wave in the United States, that they consume a disproportionate amount of social services and don't pay taxes, that Mexicans are somehow conspiring to take over the United States and that undocumented immigrants are bringing leprosy to the United States.

Oppenheimer is using a study by Media Matters Action Network to back up his claim, or did he merely write a full column which basically agrees with the study without providing much in the way of personal analysis. I think the latter is more accurate. What is revealing is that Oppenheimer fails to point out that the Media Matters Action Network is a partner project of Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group. Too bad Oppenheimer didn't provide that little nugget of detail. Another red flag was raised when he considers Barack Obama's concern for the "anti-immigrant tenor" of the shows "good news". I suppose he might also consider the Fairness Doctrine "good news". Just guessing.

Here is the closing of the column, with my overall thoughts following:

My opinion: These wild broadcasts are a shame on reputable networks such as CNN and Fox News and an embarrassment to our profession. They should either ask these Hispanic-phobic showmen to present both sides of the story, or present their shows as ''opinion'' talk shows.

For the record, this column -- like all my columns -- is published under the label ''in my opinion.'' These television networks should air these shows under equally unambiguous labels.

As someone who watches The O'Reilly Factor and Glenn Beck regularly, I can say without reservation that Oppenheimer is dead wrong is labeling these guys as "Hispanic-phobic". In fact, the more I think of it, the more embarrassing it is for Oppenheimer to make that accusation. I can't speak for Lou Dobbs since I don't watch his show.

Are O'Reilly and Beck critical of illegal immigration? Do they show stories of illegals committing heinous crimes? You bet. But I have yet to sense a palpable Hispanic-phobia in either man and believe me, my radar is well-tuned to pick that stuff out. Beck sometimes veers in that general direction, mainly because he shoots from the hip more than O'Reilly, but primarily because he's not as polished and likes to embellish. However, I don't sense any real strong negative feelings on his part.

I can tell Oppenheimer doesn't watch either show regularly because not ONCE have I EVER heard either of them make a general statement about Hispanics being inferior or prone to crime. In fact, I would challenge him to come up with an episode, just one, in which either man made a sweeping anti-Hispanic statement.

Another reason I know he doesn't watch either show is his last statement that "for the record, this column -- like all my columns -- is published under the label 'in my opinion.' These television networks should air these shows under equally unambiguous labels." Both O'Reilly and Beck go out of their way to mention that their shows provide commentary, and their stories and shows reflect their beliefs. In other words, "their opinion", just like Oppenheimer. Besides, both hosts frequently invite guests from both sides of the issue (countering another erroneous Oppenheimer observation) and in many cases Hispanic guests from both sides.

I'm afraid this is all part of the backlash to the anti-illegal-immigration movement that is often just as unreasonable as those few Americans who really hate Hispanics. Since when does criticizing illegal immigration automatically mean you're Hispanic-phobic? Just because Beck and O'Reilly cover stories about illegals committing crimes (they also do stories on good ol' American criminals), comment on how these guys come from countries with violent cultures (unfortunately in most cases this is very true) or talk about "reconquista" groups (they do exist - just see footage from any pro-immigration rally out west) doesn't make them racist towards Hispanics, nor does it imply that they don't provide context when they do these stories, when in fact they do. Their fault is in not being politically correct enough to please groups such as Media Matters.

As Bill O'Reilly would say: Mr. Oppenheimer, wise up!

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I'd like to add to the story of the doctored image of fidel holding up a Barack Obama "progress" poster that Henry posted on yesterday. You know, the one that Joe Garcia's all indignant over.

Here's the text from the press release sent out by the Joe '08 campaign and linked at Henry's Babalu post above:

"At a time when our nation faces true challenges, I am appalled that the Republican Party would use a doctored image of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to scare voters. This is the Diaz-Balart style of politics that uses the suffering of the Cuban people to avoid addressing important issues affecting families in our community, such as the rising cost of fuel and lack of funding of schools".

OK Joe, here's what I think. It was a parody, which basically means that it's an exaggeration of the truth. Your response clearly shows that the image and its message struck a nerve, similar to the one Bush recently struck when he made the comment about appeasers while in Israel. In other words, you understood the message that the image intended to deliver. You have a lot of explaining to do to this constituent about how YOU feel about having unconditional talks with murderous dictators such as raul castro. Perhaps you're scared that if you come out and state that you don't agree with Obama's belief that unconditional talks should be held, your party will be upset at you and you'll end up sounding too much like Diaz-Balart. If you come out and state that you agree with Obama, then you can kiss the Cuban-American vote good-bye. It's a tough choice, but if you ask me, the first choice is best.

Speaking of avoiding other issues, Diaz-Balart did a nice job of explaining his views on those other issues in a recent El Nuevo Herald article. I'm sure you saw it, Joe.

Garcia campaign spokesperson Amy Araya added this:

"The Republicans should know better than to use photoshop to play on the stereotype that our elderly are misinformed and easily scared. Cuban-Americans are smarter and deserve better than this from the party that currently occupies the Oval Office".

Ahh, a clear attempt to pander to the viejitos that are key to who will be elected. Believe me, the viejitos clearly know what's going on. If there's a topic they are keenly aware of, it's Cuba. Ms. Araya's attempt to steer them Joe's way won't work unless there's real meaning and substance to Joe Garcia's message, which is highly questionable at this point. Also, we have your typical "we know what's better for you" comment from the Democrats.

The next 5 months will prove to be quite interesting, to say the least.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Thinking of a tribute on this special day, I could think of no better way of commemorating it than to recycle a post I originally posted on Memorial Day 2005.

It is about the soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Have a great day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nice To See You Again

Sundries is back in business. Has been for about a month now. And the South Florida Blogosphere is all the better because of it.

Welcome back, Victoria.

Not So Fast

Rick confidently cranks out a post today which claims to be a serious blow to "hard-liners" support for travel and economic restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba. How in the world are we nasty "hard-liners" going to stomach this news, let alone admit to it on the World Wide Web?

Sounds convincing, if you go by the BBC article that Rick used as basis for the post. Ahhh, but there's a catch (surprise, surprise), my faithful readers. The smoking gun letter apparently written by the Ladies in White to Barack Obama, and paraphrased by the BBC, was actually written by one of its leaders, Miriam Leiva and her husband Oscar Espinosa Chepe. Their letter was independent of another letter that the group sent to Barack Obama which carried a somewhat subtle but important difference in tone and focus.

Here's a link to an EFE article published yesterday by El Nuevo Herald and translated by yours truly. See for yourself (emphasis mine):
The Ladies in White, relatives of the 75 dissidents imprisoned in 2003 in Cuba, sent a letter to Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama yesterday, in which they affirm that their relatives are neither mercenaries nor agents of Washington, as the island's government claims.

"They are neither mercenaries nor agents of the United States, a claim Cuban leaders brandish as a way to utilize the confrontation between our two countries as a pretext to justify the problems which exist here, oppress the people, implant fear and confuse international public opinion", said the message.

"We have high hopes that you can contribute to the immediate and unconditional release of the 55 that remain in horrible health conditions, and that the 9 under house arrest (conditional release) due to illness are not sent back to prison", adds the letter which was released in Havana yesterday.

The Ladies in White aspire "that the more than 200 Cuban pacifist political prisoners be released".

They explain to Obama that since July 31, 2006, when (f)idel (c)astro delegated his charge to his brother (r)aul after half a century in power, "a situation exists in the island not seen in 50 years".

"We consider that if the authorities propose real changes, they should begin with the release of our relatives whom have committed no crimes", assure the Ladies in White.

"Their aspirations - the message adds - are to promote the development and well-being of the Cuban people in a peaceful and democratic environment and with respect for human rights."

They recall that (r)aul (c)astro - who assumed the presidency this past February 24 - "has recognized the existence of serious problems in all areas of society, has predicted structural and conceptual changes, still without specifying, and has called on people to express their opinions and criticisms."

According to the Ladies in White, many of their relatives "warned about these and other problems independently".
One of the group's founders, Miriam Leiva, and her husband, economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, sentenced in 2003 and released for health reasons, sent another letter to Barack Obama in which they applaud some of his initiatives with respect to Cuba.

Among them, they cite the elimination of the travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans to visit the island and for sending economic assistance to friends and relatives.

"We aspire that the restrictions are progressively lifted. It would be a positive result which would promote the end of this confrontation..., which has been very useful for the most conservative sectors of the Cuban government in order to justify the national disaster and oppress the people", Espinosa and Leiva added.

"We are confident that your election as president in November will initiate an era of realistic politics towards Cuba", state Leiva and Espinosa, and they add that these changes in U.S. policy - "would be an important aid to a transition to democracy".
Those of us who follow these things know that Miriam Leiva has always been an outspoken critic of U.S. policy towards Cuba. That's fine, and I applaud and admire her bravery in her efforts to confront the Cuban regime. Therefore, the letter she and her husband sent to Obama should come as no surprise whatsoever. The letter written by the Ladies in White as a whole essentially sends the same exact message that us disgusting and revolting hard-liners are always screaming: Release the political prisoners! Reinstate Human Rights! In other words, their focus isn't on U.S. policy, but on the regime in Cuba, where it ought to be.

As I've said before, it wouldn't break my heart to see the travel restrictions relaxed. If we want to send more money to our relatives in Cuba, great. But when Cubans abroad send remittances to Cuba in record numbers which Cubans on the island are using to buy up all those DVD players, when Cuban-Americans circumvent the restrictions and visit their relatives in Cuba, all without effecting significant and lasting change in Cuba, I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with Ms. Leiva when she thinks that eliminating the restrictions will kick-start democracy in Cuba.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Travel Makes No Difference

Quite a bit of news the past few days regarding U.S. policy towards Cuba: presidential candidates meeting with Cuban-Americans in Miami, op-eds in the Miami Herald and yesterday's decision by President Bush to authorize the sending of cellphones to Cubans on the island.

A central theme of this involves the relaxation or total elimination travel restrictions to Cuba. Personally, I don't see the point in severely restricting travel, particularly the once every three year policy we have now. I do, however, understand the valid reasons for restricting travel (less money in the hands of the regime, highly questionable effectiveness of "increased person-to-person contact, among others).

Michael Putney, in his editorial yesterday for the Herald, advocates "straight talk" regarding Cuba, and insinuates that allowing Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba would "put pressure" on the regime and COULD lead to political reforms.
The travel ban on Americans is also largely a fiction. Thousands travel to Cuba every year through third countries. U.S. visitors get a paper visa that they surrender upon leaving; their passports aren't stamped in Havana. The U.S. Treasury Department is more vigilant, but it's still easy to go to Cuba.

Yes, I know the Cuban military runs the tourism industry and makes a nice profit on their hotels and restaurants. It's also true that tourists from Western Europe and other democracies have been visiting Cuba for years without producing any large-scale political or social change. But wouldn't an influx of American visitors, including Cuban Americans, put tremendeous pressure on the Raúl Castro government to open the door wider to market reforms, which could possibly lead to political reforms? That's the U.S. strategy with China; why not Cuba?

That's the part of the reasoning I don't understand. Putney accurately states how the lax enforcement of said regulations already allows Cuban-Americans to visit Cuba either through third countries or through humanitarian groups which are exempt. Not to mention the hoards of tourists who visit Cuba from other countries. If increased person-to-person contact is supposed to bring real political change, then why hasn't it happened yet? Simple concept, but one that pro-travel proponents can't seem to answer without making excuses. You see, the strict travel restrictions haven't always been in place, yet what was the end result of the increased travel "back in the day"? Opinions are opinions, and facts are facts.

Another fact: Cubans don't need daily visits from family in Miami to know of their situation. This explains the record number of Cubans wanting to leave the island.

Like I said above, I would be in favor of a relaxation of the travel restrictions, even if it means that the regime pockets more dough. Seeing a close relative for the last time is something that we should place as a higher priority than preventing the castros from acquiring wealth that they will acquire through other means anyway. But I'm not under the illusion that increased travel by Cuban-Americans would directly or even indirectly lead to political change. Believing that would be naive thinking on my part. Unfortunately, many anti-hard-liners would rather take a position which sits at polar opposite to the "traditional" exile thinking than to honestly consider its impacts (or lack thereof). To these folks, it's easier to demonize than to rationalize.

Most hard-liners and non-hard-liners would likely agree that real change in Cuba has to come from the inside. So then, why the insistence that outsiders from Miami or elsewhere visiting relatives in Cuba will lead to raul and his minions to change their minds? They can visit all they want as far as I'm concerned, but let's not kid ourselves either.

What Is A Hardliner?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Real Clucker

Rick revealed to his readers a couple of hours ago that, indeed, his "Cuba Nostalgia Challenge" was a hoax.

This may have been a surprise to some, but the small but hard-working staff here at el 26 knew it hours before Rick's post.

My crack staff went out on a mission to see if Rick was really out playing golf early today instead of visiting Cuba Nostalgia. The guys were a little bored waiting for Rick, so they started to hack their way around the course. Sure enough, about an hour later, right there on the 14th at Grand Palms, was Rick.

Don't believe me? Then take a look for yourself.

Quince Años

(Cross-posted from Babalu).

I had the pleasure of spending about 4 1/2 hours at Cuba Nostalgia yesterday. As usual, it was great to meet up with the other Babalu contributors, meet several of our daily readers, and pretty much soak up the ambience that makes Cuba Nostalgia what it is.

Every year I go, I pick up something new. Sometimes it's subtle, sometimes not so subtle. Standing in front of the Babalu booth asking people to sign the petition for the release of Cuban political prisoners, a few older men came by and mentioned to us that they had been prisoners in Cuba. "Quince años". "Diez años". "Veinte años". These men had spent a good chunk of the prime of their lives in jail for standing up for what they believed in. For freedom from a tyrannical beast. Many of them probably missed seeing their children grow up or missed out on their parents' waning years. What a crying shame.

After the men stopped by, told their stories, and proudly signed the petition, a few of us would talk about the strength that these men must possess to spend their prime in prison and still be able to stand proud today as elderly men.

This is the kind of story that you won't hear many "anti-hard-liners" talk about. You see, it's much easier for some to criticize the United States and the "historic" exile than it is to think about those who actually suffered the injustices of the castro regime. Some made it out alive, many did not. Even those that are around today to tell their sad stories have been scarred in ways I can't even begin to imagine.

Don't get me wrong: it's perfectly fine to honestly evaluate, and even be critical of our policy towards Cuba. But too many people spend way too much time railing against people on this side of the Straits and way too little time thinking about those who suffered and the regime which caused said suffering. It's this inbalanced perspective that's most frustrating in our efforts to get the word out about people such as Oscar Elias Biscet, Yoani Sanchez and all the other brave Cubans who don't have the time or luxury to criticize the United States or the "historic" exiles without first evaluating why they're in the state that they're in.

So you may be asking...what lesson did I learn this year?

Simple, and not so subtle.

Never, EVER take freedom for granted.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Night Fishing, Rickenbacker Causeway

(Click image for larger.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

For Crying Out Loud...

'Cause apeing the Daily Kos twice a week just isn't enough.

At least he didn't call Bush a "POS".

More on the UDB

Another rare mid-week post 'round these parts...

Looks like someone in the Miami-Dade County commission is on the right path regarding the UDB line.
Adding a new wrinkle to the debate over sprawl and the South Florida environment, the chairman of the Miami-Dade Commission wants to draw a permanent development boundary in rural West Dade.

The county already has a line limiting growth, known as the Urban Development Boundary, but it is designed to be moved when commissioners believe expansion is necessary -- which they did last month, despite controversy and a mayoral veto.

The new line, proposed by Chairman Bruno Barreiro, would create a development-free zone beginning somewhere west of the current boundary and extending west into Everglades National Park.

''There has to be a substantial buffer to the Everglades,'' Barreiro said during a speech to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, a South Beach civic group.

Unlike the current line, which can be moved every other year by a two-thirds vote of the commission, Barreiro said the permanent line would be enshrined in the county's charter.

Creating it that way would require a referendum, as would any subsequent changes. new line would not replace the UDB; the area between the two lines would remain largely off-limits now but could be cleared for development in the future.

Barreiro, who voted to move the urban boundary last month, wants to hire experts to study the area's unique ecosystem and suggest where the line should be drawn.

It's only part of the issue, and doesn't address poor zoning and planning inside the line and overall commission ineptitude, but it's a start.

Read the entire article here.


Immigration = Assimilation

Here's yet more evidence that the recent wave of (mostly Hispanic) immigrants are assimilating at a faster rate than their early 20th century counterparts.

Note that the Duke University study was published by the Manhattan Institute, a "conservative think tank". So much for the fear of a cultural upheaval spread by conservatives such as Tom "Miami is Third World" Tancredo, Pat Buchanan and Laura Ingraham.
A wide-ranging and provocative new study of immigrants' integration into U.S. society has concluded that newcomers today are assimilating more quickly than their predecessors did 100 years ago -- with Cubans, Vietnamese and Filipinos among those leading the way.

Those darn pesky Cubans are at it again. If that's not enough, also consider that the study finds Miami-Hialeah to be ahead of cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston in assimilation trends.

The report also found wide variety in assimilation among U.S. metro areas, with the Miami-Hialeah area coming out only slightly better than average among top immigrant destinations. Metro Miami had a lower assimilation index than the leaders, New York and San Diego, but fared better than Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston in the study. Assimilation in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood-Pompano Beach metro area, not so large an immigrant gateway, outpaced all the above.

Though Cubans scored well above the national average of 28 on Vigdor's assimilation index, other principal nationalities in Miami, including Haitians, Brazilians and Nicaraguans, pulled down the local score.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Marlins Make Commitment

I could say a lot about the Marlins' signing of star shortstop Hanley Ramirez to a long-term contract.

I would, but Greg Cote nails it. Every single sentence.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another Look at the Urban Development Line Argument

The debate surrounding the UDB (a.k.a. The Line) is often pitted as pro-conservationists vs. greedy and corrupt developers and the corrupt and inept county commissioners that support them. In many cases, these characterizations are true, but they do very little to solve our urbanization issues.

It's because of this that, as this post illustrated, I'm not a big fan of the way the UDB is drawn. I like the concept, but the execution stinks on both sides of the issue.

A central theme of my argument was that the UDB has an unintended consequence, it actually encourages greater "sprawl" by not allowing smart zoning and development on the fringes of the line.

This article I stumbled onto while researching this topic is also very skeptical of the UDB, and offers some intelligent and sensible ways to solve our urbanization issues while at the same time protecting our nearby sensitive natural areas.

It's well worth a read. Check it out here.

Raul's Crocodile Tears

Raul Martinez is upset that Radio Mambi programming director Armando Perez-Roura doesn't like him too much and isn't shy about it. The Herald has the scoop here.

Grow up, Mr. Mayor. Last time I checked, radio commentators had the right to express their opinions on issues and political candidates. Not everybody has to like what they have to say, but a veteran politico such as Martinez can't be serious when he claims that he's upset that Radio Mambi commentators are critical of him.

Martinez claims that it's the unsubstantiated attacks on him that he's upset about, and that he hasn't been given "equal air time" to dispute the attacks. OK, I think radio commentators have a responsibility to not allow or encourage the broadcast of unsubstantiated attacks without an appropriate response. Martinez has a point there. But in the end, this is less about that and more about a fight for votes in an election where he rightly sees himself as the underdog. That's my feeling.

Should Radio Mambi have invited Martinez himself to appear on the show instead of Alberto Milian? Perhaps, but Milian is an intelligent and influential person in South Florida politics. He's no slacker. Martinez himself called into the show a few days later, and I have seen and heard him numerous times on local TV and radio, more so than his opponent Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

My conclusion to all this is that Raul is whining because he's no longer the big shot mayor who ruled over Hialeah for many years. He can no longer run around and sucker-punch and verbally insult constituents anymore. He's running for a bigger prize, and with that comes the occasional pot shots and accusations that, whether in good taste or not, are part of the game that Raul Martinez has known and played all too well.

Raul Martinez: cry me a river.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hold The Line

Yesterday's approval by county commissioners (via a veto override) of two projects just outside the Urban Development Line (UDB, or The Line) surely will continue to draw plenty of criticism for an apparent lack of concern for urban sprawl and environmental issues.

I see both concerns as legitimate. What I do question here is the significance of "The Line". The UDB is intended to keep sprawl from consuming the Everglades, but in reality it is an arbitrary line set by county officials which is actually a pretty good distance east of the Everglades National Park.

Let's consider the two projects approved yesterday. One is a Lowe's at Tamiami Trail and SW 137 Ave. For those of you not familiar with that area, it is a location which is pretty much built up with homes and commercial centers to the east, south and southwest. To the north and west (where the Lowe's will sit) we have a cement plant and lots and lots of environmentally disastrous melaleuca trees. Is this what we're holding the line for?

What's better for that site: endless strands of melaleuca, or a Lowe's that will serve the thousands of homes in that area? That's something the hardline Hold-the-Liners should consider.

The other site is a commercial center on Kendall Drive and SW 167 Ave. Again, an area with homes and businesses just to the east. The only difference here is that there are no melaleucas in the immediate area, just old strawberry fields.

Don't get me wrong, I am in favor of limiting sprawl as much as reasonably possible. But an unintended consequence of the arbitrary line and efforts to limit sprawl by not approving projects literally steps on the other side of the line is that we are perpetuating the old problems that sprawl brought to our area. It's not the sprawl itself that is bad, it's the lack of planning that went along with it that is damaging. What is better for people who for many good reasons choose to live in the far western suburbs: a 20-minute traffic-clogged commute to the nearest store, or a shorter drive, bike or walk to a commercial center? I think the latter option should be the desirable one.

I would be very much in a favor of an urban development line that has real meaning and purpose. One that takes into consideration the needs of the community and the needs of our environment. One that can't be simply moved at the whim of a county commissioner. The community needs to get together and agree on something that makes sense and serves everyone's interests. It's not easy, but until we do this, we're going to continue with battles over things such as building a Lowe's in a melaleuca forest.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Pitts and Hiaasen on Wright/Obama

Two columns published in yesterday's Issues and Ideas Herald section on big-mouthed racist preachers, and the politicians who can't shake them off.

Carl Hiaasen wants us to remember that whites have their own "gasbag" preachers. Thanks for the reminder, Carl. Hiaasen wants to associate John McCain with the same problem Obama is having with his "crazy uncle". Besides political expediency (which is deplorable but something we're too accustomed to), there's no parallel to be drawn between whatever support McCain has garnered from Jerry Falwell and John Hagee, and Obama's embracing, and subsequent separation, from Jeremiah Wright.

Leonard Pitts is much more to the point and more dead-on accurate in his attack on Wright. For one of the few times, I agree with most of what Pitts had to write.

I really hope this is one of the last posts on Wright that I will write.