Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fidel's Death: Looking Back, Gazing Forward

       On Saturday, a WLRN panel spent two hours analyzing his death. Among those speaking were Andy Gomez of UM, Frank Mora of FIU and yours truly. Among other things, I repeated speculation of some Cubanologists who predicted some years ago that the announcement of Fidel's death would come in the late night hours of a weekend, to minimize the threat of spontaneous demonstrations. Perhaps the freshest voice was that of Nora Gamez Torres, an El Nuevo reporter who was an assistant professor at the University of Havana from 2001-2009, then got a masters and Ph. D. in London, and has become an expert on the attitudes of young Cubans. A replay of the broadcast -- from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday -- is available HERE.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Betsy Kaplan Honored

      Betsy Kaplan, who worked tirelessly for decades to improve Miami-Dade public schools, was honored at Wednesday's school board meeting with a special proclamation -- and a recommendation from the superintendent that one of the district's arts programs be named after her. Full story HERE. Video HERE.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Janet Reno: The politician who didn't seem political

    In 1998, I spent weeks profiling Janet Reno for a Tropic cover story. She grudgingly allotted me a 30-minute interview in her office at Main Justice -- uncharacteristically allowing the Q&A stretch to 50 minutes, keeping two groups of men in suits waiting in an anteroom.
    Her answers were clipped, careful. She was never much for big quotes -- her sister Maggie was much better -- but she made a major imprint as attorney general in Washington.
    Today, at noon, five days after she died, I was on WLRN's Florida Roundup show, discussing aspects of Reno's career in Miami-Dade, and it got me to thinking of her Washington career.
    Several memories stand out: The Washington press brutalized her. Full story HERE.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Miami's Media Mystery

           My take for Biscayne Times on "Miami's Media Mystery" -- trying to "survive in a digital, bilingual, Facebook world." Everything's moving toward the web -- but the money isn't there to support serious journalism. A look at print, TV, radio, the snarling blogs and an ambitious nonprofit, plus a little South Florida Russian-language newspaper that manages to get into a bit of controversy. Full story is HERE

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Novel Perfectly Timed for this Crazy Election

    A newly re-issued novel by a Miami Beach writer seems perfectly timed for this utterly divisive election cycle that has split the country into two camps that can't agree even on common facts -- if facts have any role in the campaigns at all.
    The Big Split, by John Lantigua, is an e-book available on Amazon. It is a "Novel of the Near Future" in which the gun-toting constitution thumpers decide they can no longer live with gun-avoiding, social-conscience peace people -- and so the country splits in two, with a mass migration and house swapping as the two camps decide they must live separately. For full story, click HERE.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Can Related Make It in Liberty City?

As the county commission starts today the process of considering Related Urban's $300 million plan to remake Liberty Square, questions remain on how much new buildings can do in an area mired in decades of poverty, unemployment and crime. For a thorough analysis of the social implications of Related's bid, read HERE.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dreams of the East-West Corridor, Part II

  The saga of the plans for the east-west corridor is a good example of transit history in Miami-Dade. After decades of talk, the corridor plan has become an odd, twisting route because of deals, hopes, frustrations, arguments and what Maurice Ferre calls "wink, wink" -- meaning politicians advocating one course while quietly allowing the opposite to happen. Merrett Stierheim says it all started with Metrorail being built in the wrong place. Full story HERE.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Dream of East-West Corridor

An opening for its tracks can still be seen at Government Center, built back in the 1980s, but the newest incarnation has a looping circuitous route that could cost $800 million and raises questions about whether it will be convenient for commuters. Full story HERE.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ferre: State support will happen

    While the recent state legislature rejected all Dade efforts to boost mass transit, veteran transportation leader Maurice Ferre says it's "completely wrong" to assume that the state will continue to ignore the county's transit efforts.  State support is "going to happen," he said, but it takes time -- perhaps years. Meanwhile City Commissioner Francis Suarez says he's looking for ways to move transit along faster. Full story HERE.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

State Keeps Balking on Transit

    As the quest for funding six transit corridors gets focused, one natural source -- the state -- is proving exceedingly balky in helping any of the Miami-Dade initiatives. The Legislature rejected all county attempts to support mass transit, while setting a budget so that $900 million gets spent in the coming year on county roads and highway expansion. Show Me the Money, Part 102. Full story is HERE.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Zapata: Stop Building till Traffic Fixed

    In what could be a portent for major changes in local transit and development, Miami-Dade Commissioner Juan Zapata is demanding a building moratorium in his West End district until the area's horrendous traffic woes are addressed. The LBA says that could be a disaster, but experts say that regulators should address transportation matters the same way they consider water and sewer requirements before a development is approved. Full story is HERE.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Half-Penny to fund SMART plan?

Show me the money, part 101: When it comes to discussing the future transit in Miami-Dade, a key element is the half-penny transportation sales tax -- a fund that is supposed to be overseen by a watchdog agency, which has persistently approved spending in ways that voters didn't want. When can the half-penny start funding the 12 corridors approved last week? Full story HERE.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Key Transit Questions Unanswered

 While county leaders were ecstatic last week after agreeing to move forward simultaneously on developing 12 rapid transit corridors, the politicians achieved unanimity in transit by avoiding the hard questions of what corridors should go first and how to pay for them.
    While the mayor and transit director didn't mention key figures in their talks to the MPO, the accompanying written report and slide presentation did show that there are vast disparities in how much the routes are currently used and the associated costs of creating new rail lines. The North and Kendall lines in particular could be very expensive while having far fewer riders. Full story HERE.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Liberty Square Residents: Construction Now!

While some pastors said the bidding process was so skewed that it should start over, Liberty Square resident Takeria Allen had  one word to describe when she thought construction should begin:  "Now!"
    Allen was among the hundreds packed into the Liberty Square community center on Thursday evening to hear Mayor Carlos Gimenez and other speakers explain what Related Urban proposed to do in its $300-million redevelopment of Dade's oldest and largest public housing project. Full story HERE.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pastor Demands HUD investigation

   A prominent Liberty City pastor is demanding that HUD investigate the bidding process that resulted in the mayor recommending Related Urban do the $325 million makeover.
HUD is crucial because it must sign off on any deal before construction begins. Updated with Liu comments at 12:27 pm. Correction added 3 p.m. April 15. Full story HERE

Monday, April 11, 2016

Protests, electioneering at Liberty Square

     With a mayoral election looming, a pastors' protest at Liberty Square on Monday took on strong political overtones, with harsh criticism of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, an appearance by his top rival and -- perhaps a first for the county's oldest housing project -- an appearance by fervent animal rights activist Rita Schwartz. For photos and a report on the show, click HERE. I'll have a serious analysis of Related Group's final final proposal later.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Legend Continues

November 1978, Jonestown, Guyana: Jim Jones is at bottom right, face up, belly exposed, while a San Francisco Examiner photographer walks among the dead. Photo: Tim Chapman, Courtesy of HistoryMiami
es, it’s true: He once paid for a voodoo curse on a photo editor. (“It worked!”) True: He was able to rush off to the Jonestown massacre because he had $2000 in cash in his work locker. Yes, he slashed a TV camera operator’s cable because the crew was blocking his shot. Trying to stuff a snake down a driver’s throat? Well, that’s an exaggeration.
     Now, HistoryMiami is preparing an exhibit of his work. My story in Biscayne Times is available HERE

Friday, April 1, 2016

Transit App: Good and Bad

   A new, unpublicized GPS app for Miami-Dade Transit is working: (A) Pretty Darn Good, (B) Not So Good and (C) Spot on. That's three reactions -- two from regular bus commuters and one from my own observations. Full story is HERE.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Transit Tracker Up and Running

    Real-time GPS tracking is now available for virtually all buses in the county, Transit Director Alice Bravo said Thursday. The question for riders: Is it really working? Full story, including more CITT developments, available HERE.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Three Commissioners Commit for Housing

    Three county commissioners promised Monday night before a crowd of 1,500 to push for $10 million for affordable housing in the next county budget, but a deputy mayor said the county couldn't afford it.
    The statements came during the annual Nehemiah Action Assembly,  hosted by PACT, a group representing 38 religious organizations in Miami-Dade. Full story HERE.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Big Grassroots Gathering for Housing

          As more than 1,000 persons prepare to gather next Monday to demand solutions for affordable housing, the county commission has yet to consider any major measure to deal with the growing problem.
    The meeting -- described as the county's "largest grassroots residents gathering" -- is sponsored by PACT, a Miami group that brings together the social efforts of 40 churches, synagogues, mosques and universities. Full story HERE.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Denver's Nirvana for Transit, Housing

    Denver's housing director told a standing-room audience of policy geeks on Thursday how the city has successfully attacked the two main problems that bedevil Miami-Dade: nightmare traffic and severe lack of affordable housing. The solutions fit together. Full story HERE.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Related Urban Fixes Problem

         In its "best and final offer" for the $250 million redo of Liberty Square, political powerhouse Related Urban fixed what might have been a problem: The height of its buildings. Full story HERE.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Huge Transit Sums without Taxpayer Pain

A transit board on Thursday heard hard numbers on how  properties near new corridors for rail or express bus might be willing to pay hundreds of millions because the new lines would enhance property values. Full story HERE.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CRAs: Crucial Help for Affordable Housing

Expert and Grand Jury: Use Community Redevelopment Agencies for crucial affordable housing needs. Hundreds of thousands struggling to find decent places to stay -- and they making traffic much worse with horrendous commutes. Meanwhile, county leaders want to use Omni CRA to help pay for a billionaire's science museum, after already funding another billionaire's art museum. Full story HERE.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

BayLink: "Ass Backwards"?

      Less than 20 hours after an "historic" step to create a BayLink light rail to Miami Beach, transit veteran Maurice Ferre suggested the plan was "ass backwards." City Commissioner Francis Suarez said he disliked a key component of the BayLink plan: Waiting up to seven years for federal funds. He said that would be like fixing a boat after it sunk.
     UPDATE: Ferre says projects need federal funding, criticizes the county's "traditionally divided, parochial (NIMBY)" mentality. Full story HERE.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Go for Baylink

      A little-known committee passed a resolution Thursday that could signal the start of creating BayLink -- a light-rail/street car corridor connecting Miami and Miami Beach over the MacArthur Causeway. "Truly a historic accomplishment," said County Commissioner Xavier Suarez.  "The ball started rolling today," said County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Full story HERE

Monday, February 1, 2016

Why Traffic Is So Bad

       Thanks to the voters of Miami-Dade, I have two fancy stop signs on my corner that cost $1990. Voters expected to get vastly expanded rail and bus service for a half-penny sales tax, but no -- they were voting for my stop signs.
         "If you have something whatsoever to do with transit in Miami, you should hide your head in a bag -- because mass transit is in crisis," says Paul Schwiep, chairman of the board that oversees the half-penny expenditures. See my take on transit, this month's cover story in Biscayne Times. Available HERE.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Liberty Square Bidding War Escalates

     As the battle escalates for the $200-million-plus contract to remake Liberty Square, the attorney for one of the two finalists sent letters to the county this week, saying he has  "new evidence" on why the other bidder wasn't qualified.
Albert Dotson, attorney for Related Urban, says several developments show that Atlantic Pacific Communities must be disqualified. Full story HERE

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Single Moms Back "Safe Harbor"

      More than 80 percent of single mothers interviewed in focus groups would like to live in a gated community assisted by volunteer surrogate fathers as an alternative to the usual public housing in a study by retired professor Marvin Dunn.
       The county public housing department has rejected Dunn's Safe Harbor concept. This week, Dunn presented his study to county commissioners. The study was financed by the Knight Foundation and the Children's Trust. Full story is available HERE