[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: July 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where Does Robert Wexler Live? (UPDATED)

It's been a couple of days since the story came out in prime time, but does anyone else find it a bit strange that a perusal of some of the bigger left-tilting South Florida political blogs found nary a mention of the burgeoning controversy involving Robert Wexler's Florida residency (or lack thereof)? Especially blogs specializing in comprehensive coverage of South Florida MSM and blogosphere news?

The Daily Pulp has the story. So do the Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post.

Perhaps they're waiting for the whole thing to blow over. Perhaps they don't think it's a big deal that Wexler doesn't live or own a home in the community he represents. Maybe they're right. But I wouldn't bet on it.

UPDATE 7/25 8:50AM...
Rick comes back with one Florida blog with a post on Wexler's residency, from Blast Off!. One local and/or regional blog that we know of thought it at least somewhat interesting to blog about.

As I mentioned in a comment to Rick at the first link, I wonder how many of these blogs, including Rick's, would have jumped on this story if you replaced Wexler with Ros-Lehtinen and Delray Beach with Miami. The answer's not hard to figure out, my friends.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Arguments For Marlins Ballpark

During much of the past year or two, I've used several posts and comments to explain my justification for a new Marlins ballpark. Henry Gomez, at his Marlins blog Fish or Cut Bait, does an excellent job in comparing apples and oranges. In other words, taking on the popular arguments that money for the stadium should instead go to the schools, and that rich sports owners shouldn't be subsidized by the public.

Those of you that are dead-set against the stadium funding (and the Megaplan in general) should take the time to read Henry's post. Interestingly enough, I went to the game last night and took my 3-year-old daughter for the first time. Although she doesn't really understand the game, the look on her face, and of the other kids in attendance, is enough of a sell for me. I feel bad for people who don't feel that professional sports can be a benefit to a community, just as arts, culture and a solid public school system are.

While we're on the topic of the Megaplan, looks like Judge Cohen is waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to make the decision for her.

A central theme of Norman Braman's lawsuit is the expansion of the CRAs into areas that don't necessarily qualify as "blight". Estimates indicate that up to $3 billion in revenue would be generated by expanding the CRAs to include Bicentennial Park and Watson Island. Of that amount, $800 million would go to the different projects that make up the Megaplan. Where does the rest of the money go? Back into the CRA community, perhaps? That's something Braman and those on his side fail to point out. Just wanted to point that out.

Lastly, I don't recall ever voting for the creation of the CRAs which up to now have been largely ineffective. Do you?

Freedom Tower Close To Becoming National Landmark

Some very good news for the building which graces the top of this blog.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Video: Miami in the Early 80s

I received this interesting and very disturbing video below via e-mail several days. The 6+ minute video looks back at the crime wave which hit Miami in the late 70s and early 80s, right around the time of the infamous Time Magazine article "Paradise Lost". A central theme of the video is the supposed role played by Colombian drug traffickers and people who came to Miami via the Mariel boatlift of 1980 in the sharp increase in homicides during that era.

A little context: the video was posted by a group called Immigration Control Florida (ICF), whose opening paragraph on their website states:
ImmigrationControlFlorida.com / ICF requests that Americans join our group to support our stated goals to save America. Our group worked to stop the 125,000 Mariel Cuban refugees that illegally invaded Miami-Dade County that destroyed Miami with 50,000 murderers, psychopaths, criminals, criminally insane, hitmen, drug pushers, and enforcers making "Miami the murder capital of the world" with 615 murders in only 1 year with so many bodies that the Miami Medical Examiner had to rent a refrigerated truck to store the excess bodies at a cost of $150 million in 1 year making "Miami a 3rd World Country" ! (U.S.News & World Report -Jan.16, 1984 - page 29).
Let me make something totally clear: I am against illegal immigration, but ICF doesn't even try to conceal their disdain for any immigrant group, in particular Cubans from Mariel. Yes, there were criminals mixed in with regular folks who came over via Mariel. Yes, there was a strain on the services the Miami community could provide, but I don't know where and how ICF got the "50,000" number they use to slime an entire community. As we know, the collective group from Mariel has turned out to be yet another in the long tradition of Cuban-American success stories, despite the initial shock of Miami having to absorb 125,000 new arrivals in Miami in only a few short months.

In short, ICF sounds like nothing more than a bunch of bigots and racists who give reasonable folks' objections to illegal immigration a bad name (as well as provide unnecessary fodder to those who feel naturally inclined to bash anything resembling securing borders).

Some of the quotes in the video are quite over-the-top and no doubt representative of the ethnic conflict which gripped Miami during that time. Riots in Liberty City in 1980, Mariel a few months later, passing of "English Only" ordinances in Miami, huge law enforcement scandals. It was a pretty turbulent time. For those of you who weren't here during that time, it's worth your time to view the video below. For those of you who feel that Miami and South Florida are currently living through bad times never seen before, the video offers some much needed perspective.

H/T Rubio for the video.

(Note: make sure to identify the journalists in the video. It's a who's-who of local and national personalities).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Myriam Marquez's First Column

Today was Myriam Marquez's debut as Miami Herald's Metro columnist, replacing the recently departed Ana Menendez.

Let's get straight to the point. I liked Marquez's first column. Some may be surprised to hear this since there was no hint of supporting terrorists or scam artists, defending of Republicans at any cost, or Cuban chest-thumping of any sort. That's OK, we'll let those poor souls figure it out if they wish.

Some highlights:

Had the U.S. government turned us away, I would have been forced to wear a red kerchief, shouting slogans about wanting to be like el Che. (A victory for this wife and mother of two sons: The boys know not to bring home a Che Guevara T-shirt from college.)

Now I have the privilege of sharing my perspective in this column three times a week, to try to explain what too often in South Florida seems inexplicable. I don't take this assignment lightly.

I'll tell it to you straight, laud what works and point squarely at the corruption and avarice that for too long has defined My-ami, our South Florida.
Don't be too quick to label. If you're pegging me way to the right or half-cocked to the left, you're letting ideology get in the way of the facts. You're missing all those shades of gray, the fine print.

I voted twice for Democrat Lawton Chiles and Republican Jeb Bush. Both were strong governors who set out to build a better Florida. They weren't perfect, but they made a difference. Independent-minded voters, that vast mushy middle, know that party labels don't determine a leader's character or competence.

I've got a lot to say about how we start to fix a state that has survived on the cheap for too long. We may not always agree, but if you care about our community, our children's future and our quality of life, we'll engage in this conversation. Because those of us who love this crazy place know we can overcome.

If there's one thing that makes you a true Floridian -- whether a proud 10th-generation Cracker defending small-town life that once graced this state or a Spanglish-speaking urbanite -- it's optimism.

South Florida's own grumpy kind of gumption.

Pessimists can move to New York or Seattle and wear black and predict doom and gloom for South Florida.

Here, we embrace wild colors and wild times and complain. Loudly.

In this Land of the Free, we all have stories about past hurts and recriminations, about dreams unfulfilled and justice denied. Count on me to demand better.
Essentially, Marquez paints herself as a political moderate with a hint of social liberalism, who's not afraid to criticize both sides of the political spectrum. Based on her track record as columnist at the Orlando Sentinel, I would say that's an accurate assessment.

Evil hard-liners such as myself can be comforted in knowing that she's been very critical of the Cuban regime, and those who choose to stay quiet about it, in columns re-published by none other than Cubanet here and here. There's also a nice skewering of Howard Dean here which is sure to drive many Democrats bonkers and make Republican hearts jump for joy.

On the other hand, we have this column demanding that pictures of flag-draped coffins of dead soldiers be released by the Bush administration. And here's a column suggesting an ambivalent, if not skeptical, view of the U.S. "embargo" against Cuba.

This is but a small sampling that I was able to gather. Whether it's representative of Marquez's future Herald columns remains to be seen, but there's no current reason to doubt it.

Herald Watch has pointed out that Marquez was the editor of the sloppy Marti Moonlighter piece of journalism cranked out by Oscar Corral back in 2006 which led to a big shake-up at 1 Herald Plaza.

Back to today's column: I liked Marquez's direct, non-condescending, optimistic tone (the exact opposite of her predecessor) which is also evident in past columns I've linked here. I also like her moderate tone and willingness to see things fairly. This doesn't mean that I will always agree with her. That's actually a good thing. But it goes a long way towards answering my hopes for the new metro columnist which I expressed here. Time will tell. In the meantime, I'll be reading and analyzing Myriam Marquez's columns with much interest.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Making Sense

The whole issue with the Florida Marlins and their quest for a ballpark is something that, besides of great interest to me, is admittedly somewhat of a personal dilemma. I am a baseball fan and a committed resident of South Florida. Thus, I am inclined to believe that a major league baseball team in Miami provides many benefits that can't simply be measured by dollars and cents. It positively impacts our quality of life, has the potential to unite a community like few other things can, provides a healthy diversion to a wide cross-section of our diverse population and attracts visitors (contrary to what some people think....I've seen it myself at Marlins games).

On the other hand, I am skeptical of Marlins' top management (namely Jeffrey Loria and David Samson) and their commitment to South Florida. They stand to benefit the most, at least financially, from a new ballpark. Public contributions to the ballpark are much greater than the team's contribution. I have to admit that this aspect of the issue makes me pause briefly.

Prior attempts to negotiate a ballpark with the Marlins have fallen flat, with both local government and the Marlins with plenty of blame to share. This is exactly why I believe the current plan is our best and probable last shot to keep the Marlins in town.

So then, how do I begin to reconcile this dilemma?

I'll let Jorge Costales of 2 Think Good explain:
I would prefer not to see Mr Loria, or any other owner, profit from projects which involve public monies. But that is not how this issue has played out all over the US. The Marlins scheduled level of contributions for the stadium are consistent with other recent deals between MLB and local governments. As such, I don't feel strongly enough about wanting to avoid the rich guy getting richer scenario [envy], to wish to see the franchise leave. So I support having the stadium built for the Marlins.
Couldn't have said it better myself, Jorge.

Quick Links

- Herald sports columnist Linda Robertson opines against public funding for the Marlins ballpark.

Key excerpts from her column:
(Norman) Braman is not arguing that the tourist-tax money going to the stadium could be used instead on our drowning school system. No one should be confused about that.

The Bicentennial Park remake, Overtown redevelopment, port tunnel, trolley and Arsht Center debt payoff have merit. The stadium sticks out like a sore thumb.

Times are hard, yet baseball is awash in cash. People are losing their homes, yet the Marlins want the people's money to build a new one.

Repeat the mantra (ed: No public funding of homes for privately owned sports franchises).

Perhaps you're not confused, Linda, but many people are mixing apples and oranges in order to make their case against public funding for the ballpark, as many recent comments and polls suggest. Also, how in the world can you say the public money to pay off the Arsht Center's debt "has merit", while tourist-tax money for a ballpark is "bad for the city"? That's a huge contradiction and smacks of elitism (ironically coming from a sports columnist).

My "counter-mantra": What's good for the arts can also be good for professional sports franchises which also represent our community.

- Miami-Dade County commissioners are ready to ask voters once again to give them a raise.

For the record, I am actually in favor of giving commissioners a raise from the $6,000 or $7,000 salary they currently make. I'm also in favor of term limits. Still, when you consider that many, if not most, of these commissioners are against the Miami Megaplan, they sure have tons of nerve to ask for voters to give them a raise. You just can't make this stuff up!

- The state puts the kibosh on development outside Miami-Dade's Urban Development Boundary.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Blog Of The Week

Guess what? Riptide 2.0, the Miami New Times' blog, named my post on the Megaplan poll as its "Blog of the Week". Not bad for a blogger who posts in fits and spurts.

Thanks to Riptide 2.0 for the distinction!

Americans and Second Languages

Andres Oppenheimer reacts to Barack Obama's suggestion that Americans learn a second language, perhaps Spanish, in a column published yesterday. Normally I only post about an Oppenheimer column when I'm ready to blast him. Not today, although there are some things I would like to mention regarding the issue of language.

I agree in spirit with Oppenheimer in that it would be good if more Americans knew a second language. The benefits are obvious. What needs to be brought out, however, is the NEED for a second language. Oppenheimer didn't really address this in full.

My opinion is that most Americans, outside of major urban centers and "border" areas such as Miami, New York or Los Angeles (to mention a few) are rarely and infrequently exposed to a second language. Therefore, is it practical to demand that someone living places such as Des Moines, Kansas City or Tulsa (to mention a few) learn Spanish? For what?

Oppenheimer (and Obama) argue that most Europeans speak a second language. That's fine, but I would argue that it's based on the unique geography of the European continent in which 47 countries (save Iceland), most with their own languages and cultures, are packed into a relatively small area. This necessitates the need for a common language for travel, commerce, etc.

In Europe, that second language happens to be....you guessed it, English. You can thank the British Empire for that. Speaking of which, a survey done in 2005 indicated that 70 percent of participants from the United Kingdom do not master a second language. Obviously, the need for a second language isn't too great in Britain, either.

The issue of Americans not knowing a second language has nothing to do with ethnic superiority, racism, lack of cultural skills, arrogance or intelligence, as some may argue. The argument that learning a second language makes us more competitive in the world market seems faulty to me, since countries such as Japan became major players in the world market by learning English and adapting to western culture, not Americans doing the opposite.

It all comes down to need. Like I said at the beginning, speaking multiple languages is wonderful and definitely opens doors. For this reason alone, more Americans should feel motivated to learn a second language, and plenty already do.

But to DEMAND it? Doesn't sound like a smart idea.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Poll: Schools Instead of Cultural Facilities

The very interesting results of an interesting survey regarding the Miami Megaplan and use of taxpayer money was published in today's Miami Herald. The poll was conducted last month by Bendixen and Associates.

Here are two PDFs with details on the survey questions and breakdown of the answers.

My summary of the results:

- Only 37 percent of respondents viewed the Marlins ballpark as a "good investment for Miami-Dade taxpayers (I thought the primary money source for the ballpark is from tourist taxes, but let's put that aside for now). Hispanics, mostly Cubans, were more likely to support the ballpark effort (50 percent overall and 56 percent for Cubans).

- Support was even lower for the other megaplan projects (Museum Park, PAC and Port Tunnel at 29, 29 and 33 percent, respectively).

- When asked if they would support taxpayer money for construction and refurbishing of public schools, the results were totally different: 65% said yes.

The numbers themselves are interesting enough, but when you read the questions they were asked (first PDF link above), it becomes even more thought-provoking. One key example: Question 2, which asked whether respondents support investment of tax dollars for the Museum Park, specifically mentions that a General Obligation Bond was passed by Miami-Dade voters in 2004 to fund construction of the museums in Bicentennial Park. If you recall, voters approved General Obligation Bond funding for the Museum Park and other projects back in 2004.

The respondents' answers to Question 2 (29% approve of Museum Park funding) contradict the election results from less than 4 years ago. Weird, but perhaps it has something to do with lack of trust in local government handling our money.

The conclusion that I arrive at is this:

Voters are understandably down on giving money to Miami-Dade government for projects such as the Marlins ballpark, Museum Park, etc., even if some of these projects will be funded by tourist dollars and not necessarily out of the residents' pockets. The latest controversies surrounding misuse of public funds for housing and transportation, just to mention a few, no doubt has soured public confidence in local government.

So then, it would also make sense if the same group of respondents viewed giving taxpayer dollars for schools as a bad idea, since Miami-Dade Schools has also been under criticism recently for misspending our money. However, two-thirds of the respondents said, "Sure let's give the schools more money". Unlike the money targeted for the ballpark, money for schools comes right out of our property taxes. Look up your last tax bill and see how much of your money you gave to our schools last year, and then think about all the teacher positions the school board is proposing to eliminate because of poor planning and budgeting (in other words, wasting OUR money). Just like the results of Question 2, this is a real head-scratcher.

The survey results would have made much more sense, and been a true reflection of our opinion of local government, had the schools question been met with the same skepticism as the components which make up the Megaplan. Also, voters' short memory doesn't help. The answer to this poll isn't that people are more apt to spurn projects that are perceived to be "low-culture", since the PAC also received low support.

All this just tells me that Miami-Dade voters, if accurately represented by this Bendixen poll, are extremely misinformed and don't really think when they go to the polls. They just react based on half-truths and sometimes downright lies, instead of taking the time to become truly informed. I'm sure this is the same across the country, but this poll really spells it out locally, in my view. I understand the strong sentiment that schools should have a very high priority in a community, since I share that view. However, it appears that people are willing to overlook true mismanagement of our tax dollars because it makes them feel good that they're investing in our schools, even if that money ends up going nowhere.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Funniest Blogpost of the Week So Far

A little levity for a wet and dreary South Florida Tuesday:

Alex of Miami and Beyond responds to my Ana Menendez farewell post by putting his usual brilliant analytical and mind-reader skills to work and diving into the real meaning behind one of my main paragraphs.

What 26 (sic) parallel means:

"Here's hoping the Herald replaces Ana Menendez with someone who panders to me incessantly, tells me how right I am at all times in supporting terrorists, scam artists and snake-oil salesmen on the radio and defending the Republican Party at all costs; while insulting the intelligence of everybody else, because nobody matters in this town but the Cubans. Somebody who withewashes (sic) when we are intolerant and antidemocratic and excuses it with our "suffering", even if the most we have suffered personally is a few blisters from standing outside Elian's house and having to pay through the nose at Cuba Nostalgia.

In other words, some pseudo columnist like those El Nuevo Herald has in spades (but not Armengol, that commie agent). Because what I really want is someone who tarnishes our image even more. I think there's still a bright spot left somewhere."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ana Menendez Bids Adieu

Coming back from a weekend away from home, I got a chance to read Ana Menendez's farewell column in today's Miami Herald. For those of you who follow this blog, you know as the Herald's super-liberal Cuban-American "metro" columnist who has an uncanny way of getting under my skin with her arrogant, exile hard-line bashing and general way-left-of-center musings (just type "Ana Menendez" in the search bar at the top and you'll see what I mean).

Strangely enough, reading her column today was an interesting exercise of mixed emotions. Despite the fact that we won't have to endure any of Menendez's columns any longer, it's clear that the layoffs and decline of the Miami Herald has deeply affected a devoted, if misguided, journalist who strongly believes in her profession. Say what you want about Menendez (and I do), but you have to feel for someone who's seeing her ship sinking.

From her column:
Three years ago, I returned to The Miami Herald after a decade away. A brilliant colleague greeted me in the newsroom with a handshake: ''Welcome back to newspapers,'' he said. ``It's like joining the railroads in 1897.''

Maybe it's our prolonged association with calamity, but journalists always seem to operate in crisis mode. For as long as I've been a reporter, the business has reeled from catastrophe to catastrophe. But it's hard to remember a more difficult time for newspapers and the people who work for them.

Last month, The Miami Herald's publisher sent a memo coolly stating the paper was ''reducing its workforce by 250 FTEs.'' That's the way it goes, even in a business that traffics in clear language: You hire people and fire FTEs.

The Miami Herald has plenty of sad company. Nationwide, newspapers have seen staggering losses of both revenue and readers. The old business models are failing, victims of technology, poor planning, and unreasonable profit margins.

The anxiety over the future of newspapers has spawned a secondary industry in plans to remake them. I leave that deplorable exercise to the experts. I have no idea how to save newspapers. All I can do is mourn what is happening to them, not just because the future of so many colleagues depends on the health of American journalism, but because our democracy does.


Earlier this year, I accepted a Fulbright grant to teach at the American University in Cairo. I return next summer, but this is my last column. I had intended it to be a light farewell.

Instead my exit coincides with a far more serious story. As I write this, respected colleagues are losing their jobs. The paper is offering workshops with names like ''Marketing Yourself with a Résumé.'' It's impossible now to say goodbye with a smile.

In many ways, I grew up in The Miami Herald. I was hired in 1991 (in the middle of a hiring freeze) and returned in 2005 in the middle of another crisis.

I can write a book about all the ways this paper has disappointed me. But I also learned a lot here: about toughness, integrity and truth. We make mistakes and we're crabby. But you will find no finer collection of idealists.
Then again, a Menendez column (even her swan song) wouldn't be complete without a healthy dose of arrogance (emphasis mine):
In the last three years, The Miami Herald uncovered massive corruption at almost every level, from the affordable housing scandal to the continuing mess at Miami International Airport to the bio-tech park in Overtown to Diddy's free plane ride to the squandering of the transit tax. ''Everyone knows The Miami Herald is the only investigative force in this town,'' an official told me recently. Damn right.

Then there is the daily work, the tireless coverage of government meetings, police, hurricanes, development. I do not have enough space to call out all my colleagues. You don't know them. But they work long hours for little pay, little recognition and almost constant abuse. My only lingering anger with this town is that too often, too many of you have taken them for granted.
Way to slap your customers in the face there, Ana.

More on my reasons for the Herald's decline below, but here's the ending:
In two months, I will face a classroom in Cairo and begin a conversation with the next generation of journalists in the Arab world. I couldn't do it if I didn't trust in what our business stands for: openness, courage and a willingness to confront power.

Many of those values are endangered here at home. But I still believe journalists are engaged in a noble endeavor. In America, that may be just a punch line. Across the globe, men and women have died proving it. This paper belongs to all of you. Take care of it.
I can only speak for myself here, but as a long-time and current Herald subscriber, here are my thoughts and opinions on the reasons for the Herald's decline:

- I don't believe anyone "in this town" has taken the Herald for granted. If anything, the reason people are bailing out and canceling subscriptions is simply because they don't like the way the Herald reports the news. It's THAT simple. Contrary to what many on my side of the ideological spectrum think, I believe the Herald attempts to be fair most of the time. Do they fail? Yes, more often than not. Sometimes they hit the nail on the head, such as in their editorials which harshly condemn the Cuban regime and strongly support dissidents.

However, many other times they roll out articles and columns which disparage a large portion of the Cuban-American community (if they did this with any other ethnic group in Miami, they would have been skewered a long time ago). Ana Menendez, Carl Hiaasen, Oscar Corral, just to name of few of the guilty parties. To these journalists, the liberal, anti-hard-line Cubans are the courageous folks confronting the powerful hard-liners, while reasonable voices from the Cuban-American right are merely part of the machine, and as such are given cursory glances at best. After a while, reasonable people on the center and right get fed up.

So when Ana expresses her disgust at Miami for taking journalists for granted, what she's really saying is that she's frustrated when people here don't buy into her ideology.

You know what? I don't mind a fair, intelligently-written article or column which is critical of the establishment, whether it's Cuban-American or other. Just give us some balance. Too often, I don't see this happening. I'm not the only one who's noticed.

- The Herald's annoying habit of finding a dark cloud in even the most positive and/or non-controversial story (read any of Oscar Corral's stories, for example). For me, reading the paper in the morning is a ritual, one I've followed for most of my adult life. This ritual can be pretty depressing when the Herald puts their characteristic negative spin on a story. Don't get me wrong, negative is OK when called for. But I like a little sugar with my cereal every once in a while.

Interestingly enough, their Spanish counterpart El Nuevo Herald presents many of their stories from a positive or neutral perspective.

- The online version of the Herald is sub-standard. Good luck trying to find a story on their web site if it's not headlined/featured. In most papers I read online, you don't have to look very hard to find a non-feature story. Just go to the appropriate section and it's there. At the Herald site, however, I have often had to use their search feature to find an article published THAT SAME DAY.

Here's hoping the Herald replaces Ana Menendez with someone who at least has an open mind and sees both sides of the story. In other words, my view of what a journalist should be. For example, find out what makes conservative Cuban-Americans, especially the younger ones, tick. Someone who understands the true fabric of this town and isn't afraid to say what's right as well as what's wrong about it.

Is that too much to ask for? For the Herald, it might be, and it might indeed already be too late for them.

I share the sentiment of Ana Menendez and her colleagues that the day the Herald folds would be a sad day. Every city worth it's salt deserves a successful newspaper.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Favor of Miami Megaplan

There are many reasons to dislike the Miami Herald, especially when it comes to some of the columns and editorials that are published. Nevertheless, even a skeptic like me can acknowledge that the Herald at least "tries" to express a balanced view of issues. It may fail at times, but the attempt is there, in my personal view.

Anyway, I mention this because of today's outstanding column by sports columnist Greg Cote on why Miamians should support the Megaplan that will bring a baseball stadium, help fund Museum Park, build a tunnel to the port and bring streetcars to downtown.

I have expressed and explained my support of this plan in previous posts, so I won't break down Cote's column in detail. I do, however, want to single out a few things Cote mentioned:
Here is local government, for all of its history of scandal and inefficiency, trying at last to think big and be big, and finally haul Miami into the 21st Century in terms of urban revitalization and renewal.
Amen. We are right to be concerned about our local politicians' history of ineptitude and corruption. We are also right to see beyond that and consider plans such as these for their merits, of which there are plenty in this case. Most importantly, it is up to all Miamians to hold themselves and their elected officials personally accountable by making sure that the plan gets properly carried out. This is the part that many people struggle with. It's much easier to complain and point fingers than to be a part of the solution, especially in Miami. It's time for you and I to step up and be more accountable for what happens in our city, plain and simple. We need to demand that our politicos do the right thing. How? By taking part in the process and making smart choices at the voting booth, for starters. Sure, this may sound too idealistic and "pie-in-the-sky" to some, but I would rather think big and dream big than to constantly throw a pail of cold water on everything that even hints at progress in this town.

This is about our civic responsibility to see the larger picture and put the public good over individual wants.

A Marlins fan should support a new, 37,000-seat retractable dome stadium (even if not thrilled about the OB site in Little Havana), but even non-fans should appreciate the benefit of how a thriving big-league sports team can knit a community.

Similarly, you do not need to be a connoisseur of opera or ballet to see that a performing arts center improves our overall quality of life, just as you do not need to
be a parent to support better schools. This $3 billion initiative, now on trial, would rejuvenate Overtown and transform Bicentennial Park into a waterfront jewel, among many other projects.

Kind of goes hand-in-hand with the accountability aspect. I totally understand some people's reservations about the plan, especially considering our politicos' track records. Believe me, I do. Solid arguments can be made against the ethical reasons for expanding the CRAs, although I don't necessarily think the expanding CRAs will be a detriment. That's my view.

However, there are two things regarding people's opposition to the Megaplan that makes me shake my head in disbelief. One is the common perception that the most of the $$ involved in this project could and should be used for our schools and for the poor. Fact is, it can't. The money for the Marlins' stadium, for example, comes from the tourist bed tax which can only be used for these type of projects (see the Performing Arts Center). We already have systems and revenue sources in place (most of it which has been decided by voters, BTW) to help schools and the poor. Want to help teachers who deserve higher salaries? Get involved and demand that the tons of taxpayer money already allocated for schools be budgeted and managed properly. Don't mix apples and oranges because no one will come out ahead if we do so.

The other misperception is the argument that voters should decide whether the Megaplan should proceed. Voters approved bonds in 2001 and 2004 for the proposed Museum Park at Bicentennial Park, a big part of the current Megaplan. The rest of the plan squarely falls in the arena of politicians and bureaucrats doing what they are supposed to be doing, which is to lead and to come up with ideas and projects to move the community forward. Once again, that pesky accountability thing pops up. We can certainly disagree with politicians' projects, but if we want a true say, we have plenty of opportunities to do so, despite the imperfections of our system.

My personal view is that the Megaplan is a visionary concept rarely executed by politicians and community leaders in these parts. In other words, it's a partnership. The potential benefits far outweigh the negatives. As Greg Cote mentioned (as has Henry Gomez), it's time for Miami to think and act big. I'm not "in business" with any of the big players here. I'm just a concerned and involved citizen that wants the best for this community, for myself and for my family. I realize the potential that exists here. I'm fairly sure Norman Braman and those on his side feel the same way I do, but in this case they're on the wrong side.

Read Cote's entire column here.