Thursday, May 29, 2008

May 29: Get off the bus, Mr. Barreiro and Ms. Jordan

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro once had a reputation for not saying much. No longer.

Barreiro, unfortuantely, has spoken volumes in recent weeks with some of his ideas. Now it's a half-penny sales tax increase for transportation for the November ballot. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't include a proposal to eliminate fares for Dade's public transportation. Fellow Commissioner Barbara Jordan also supports it:

It seems, at least so far, most of their colleagues don't agree, and it should stay that way. This is nothing but a gimmick, pure and simple.

Dade needs funds for a good transportation system. This is not the way to get them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 28: Too Little, Too Late (Mostly)

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Regarding former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's new book and sharp comments about the Bush Administration: Never has so much been written so late to do anything about it. McClellan will make his money, but it won't help the rest of America.

However, one group could learn: Journalists. McClellan is absolutely right in criticizing the press for not being critical enough in the leadup to the war in Iraq. It is reporters' job to always ask questions and seek the truth. Always.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May 27: A Clear Explanation of the Economic Crisis

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Here's a link to probably the best explanation of the current economic crisis I've seen. It's an article in the May/June issue of Columbia Journalism Review, which commendably has gone back to its roots and stopped trying to be a political journalism magazine:

It can't get much clearer.....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May 21: Salute to a Pro

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Just wanted to give a tip of the cap to Dwight Lauderdale, who retires tonight.

Dwight has worked at WPLG-Channel 10 in Miami for 32 years as an anchor and reporter. Having worked with him for 13 of those years, I know he is a professional in every sense of the word.

As a reporter, he has covered the earth-shaking (the 1980 McDuffie Riots), the useful (his "Getting Out Alive" stories of the late 1980s) and the moving, including a late-1990s trip to Cuba that included a report about the island's Jewish community and an interview with my grandfather (He and producer Todd Templin did not know at the time that the man was my grandfather, until the story ran and I told them.).

Dwight sat in the anchor chair for such stories as Hurricane Andrew and the Elian Gonzalez custody battle. And he worked with some of the best, including Connie Hicks, with whom he co-anchored South Florida television's first 5:30 p.m. newscast, and the late, great Ann Bishop, with whom he worked at 6 p.m.

One ad campaign said "It's not a good night without Ann and Dwight." Plenty of South Floridians agreed.

Thanks again, Dwight. Good luck.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 20: Ted Kennedy's Words

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Originally, following last night's PBS rebroadcast of part 2 of its "FDR" documentary, I was going to focus on his 1933 inauguration speech. That will keep for another time.

With get well wishes for Sen. Edward Kennedy, here's a link to his eulogy for his brother, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968:

Thanks to the Al's Morning Meeting section at the Poynter Institute's Web site, which has the link and more information about Edward Kennedy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

May 19: It's the Fuel Economy, Stupid

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Will this country get the first president in 30 years who does something serious about fuel economy?

The last one was Jimmy Carter. For all his mistakes, his energy policy wasn't one of them. Laugh as the country did at his "Thermostat at 78" and other provisions, there might not now be a global warming crisis if his White House successors had stuck to what Carter laid out.

Ronald Reagan and both Bushes abandoned any sound energy policy completely. Bill Clinton did listen a bit to his vice president (Al Gore) - who, recall, knows a little bit about the environment - but also had too much of an ear for big business.

Well, there's no longer a choice. Actually, there is. Do the current presidential candidates want to save the planet, or don't they?

Here are the policies, courtesy of the Dayton Daily News:

Of the current candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton may have the best energy policy, especially the recommendation for cars with fuel standards of 55 miles per gallon.

Sen. Barack Obama recently mentioned a 35 mile-per-gallon standard in a speech; the Daily News article says he recommends double the current rate. When one has an SUV that chugs along at 10 miles per gallon, double isn't quite good enough.

McCain's lack of specifics on his fuel standard policy also isn't good enough.

(Incidentally, neither is his insistence on sticking to the Republican Party line supporting nuclear power. If it's put in bombs to kill, and if it has killed (Remember Chernobyl in 1986?), why should Americans still want it in their homes?)

The candidates know precisely what has to be done to help Americans avoid those rising fuel bills and protect the environment. The question is whether they have the political backbone to do so. This November, the answer from voters frustrated with gas prices should be: It's the fuel economy, stupid.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

May 15: There IS a permanent development boundary in Miami-Dade

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro has suggested creating a permanent development boundary line through a referendum.

Two problems: One, there already is a line, though he and many of his fellow commissioners don't respect it. It's called the Urban Development Boundary.

Two, Barreiro's proposal, surely to no one's surprise, would put the line west of the current UDB.

Here's a Miami Herald article about his proposal:

Here's a better idea: How about Miami-Dade residents circulating a petition for a ballot measure that would set the current UDB in stone; the county cannot develop west of the UDB under any circumstances. That one would merit voter approval. Barreiro's plan would not.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May 14: It's the neighborhoods, Mayor Diaz

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Good for the Miami-Dade County appeals court judges who said no to a three-tower condominium project next to Miami's Mercy Hospital:

It seems that ever since Manny Diaz became Miami's mayor, he's been an advocate of building "up." It works - to a point. But the growing cluster of half-filled buildings dotting the city's skyline is an indication that it's time for him and the city commission to focus on other ways of attracting new residents.

How about revitalizing Miami's oldest neighborhoods?

Downtown Miami, once the Magic City's focal point, has yet to truly come back to life; the question of Macy's future at the old Burdines site still hangs in the air. Little Havana, which could be a great walking neighborhood, continues to struggle. Plans to revitalize Overtown are stop and start. That's just for beginners.

Mr. Mayor and commissioners, go ahead and take a look at those good plans for neighborhood revitalization from previously appointed task forces. Do what former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas tried to do with the county's economy during the 1990s: Set up a summit, put people to work and figure out the best way to bring those neighborhoods back to life. It's better than building a lot of castles in the air.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

May 8: Note to South Florida electeds: Wise up on public transportation

By Sylvia Gurinsky

This isn't what supporters of public transportation in South Florida had in mind when they were campaigning for regional cooperation.

All Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties seem to be cooperating on these days is their efforts to scale back contributions toward Tri-Rail. Miami Today has reported the Federal Transit Administration could sue the three counties and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority if money and routes are cut:

The excuse of elected leaders in the three counties seems to be that the Florida Legislature didn't do its share for Tri-Rail. No, it didn't. But that's no excuse for local governments to shirk their duties to taxpayers and members of the public who ride the rails.

Those numbers are increasing, by the way, with each price hike at the gasoline pump.

So are the numbers of riders on public buses, but that's not stopping the Miami-Dade County Commission from not going the extra mile, so to speak. Most have voted to eliminate or cut back on 16 routes that don't get enough riders, according to the county.

It may cost the county more to fight potential lawsuits over the lost routes than it will save by cutting them. It may cost commissioners their political futures, too, at a time they really need to show their commitment to improved public transportation.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May 7: Lack of grace by Walters and McGovern

By Sylvia Gurinsky

A television newswoman had an affair with a married senator more than 30 years ago. Any revelation of this at the time would, she says, have cost them both their careers. She reveals it now for no apparent reason other than to sell a book. There are gasps for the tabloid item, but no real questions from those in a position to ask about her journalism ethics during those six years. Why?

The newswoman, of course, is Barbara Walters, who has written in her autobiography about an affair she had with former Sen. Edward Brooke, R-Mass., while she was the co-host of NBC's "Today Show."

If a relationship is public, as Walters' later relationship with Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia was, there are checks and balances. A reporter does not cover a person with whom there is a personal, romantic relationship. Period. Full disclosure.

Here's Scott D. Pierce's take on it in the Deseret News:,5143,695276926,00.html

So what happened during those years? Brooke had to make major decisions on the important issues of the day, including the Vietnam War and civil rights, while Walters covered those issues. Did the two intersect? Did Brooke and Walters cheat the public interest?

I agree with Pierce; it's time for Walters to show some grace for once, and walk away.

*Not backing Hillary 1,000 percent

Speaking of a lack of grace, there's former Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota, who has a pretty bad history of changing his mind. In 1972, after backing his running mate, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, "1,000 percent," Democratic presidential nominee McGovern then ditched Eagleton, who had undergone shock treatments for depression.

Now, McGovern, who had endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, has flipped his endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama and called for Clinton to leave the race.

Loyalty evidently isn't a big thing with McGovern. Of course, in 1972, voters proved they weren't terribly loyal to him, either, even in his home state.

Monday, May 5, 2008

May 5: Remember the damage done in Tallahassee

By Sylvia Gurinsky

"I've been over and over this stuff. It doesn't add up. Who does these books? If I ran my office this way, I'd be out of business."

-Murray Blum (Charles Grodin), "Dave"


It's not just a matter of who does the books in Tallahassee; it's who makes the decisions. The answer, of course, is the Florida Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist. The legislature has done its damage for the time being and left Tallahassee, leaving Crist to use his veto pen.

Perhaps Dave Kovic, the presidential stand-in played so well by Kevin Kline in the movie "Dave," could have told his friend Murray that another factor comes into play when a government does the books - politics.

Most people putting together budgets leave their dollars for the most urgent in those budgets. For any logical Florida resident, the most urgent needs are in the classroom, in social services, in law enforcement, in health care. Of course, "logic" and "legislature" don't often go together.

The cuts are painful for school districts, for police and for the truly needy this year. They're less painful for friends and campaign donors of Florida's elected officials who continue to get tax breaks. Want real tax reform? That's where to begin.

But this, of course, is an election year, which means that's not going to happen. The lawmakers who slashed the education budget are betting that teachers, parents, advocates for the needy and police - who all vote, incidentally - won't remember these deeds in November.

Here's a recommendation to all those voters: Remember. Take an aspirin and some bicarbonate now that the legislative session is over - and then contact the governor to use his veto pen wisely. Remember again this fall - at the ballot box. Maybe Murray Blum will run for the legislature.