Monday, November 30, 2009

Nov. 30: One South Florida Jewel Returns; Now For the Other

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Welcome back, Hialeah Park.

The grand dame of Florida horseracing returned to action last Saturday, and more than 26,000 were on hand for the welcome. Hialeah Park will host quarterhorses and not the thoroughbreds that made it famous. It will also likely rely on the gambling that other pari-mutuels now have. But a fully restored Hialeah Park has a beauty other tracks can't boast and will host more family-friendly events, such as weddings, quinces and other celebrations. The park can also host outdoor concerts.

Speaking of outdoor concerts, Miami Marine Stadium once hosted plenty of them. The facility, which was built in 1964 and also hosted speedboat races and Easter sunrise services, has been closed since Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992. The stadium is structurally sound, but covered with graffiti and in need of various repairs.

Its fate rests in the hands of the City of Miami. There are obvious reasons for the city's slowness to act - the economic crisis of the late 1990s and today - and the underlying rumble that city leaders wanted to raze the Miami Modern facility and put something tall and expensive there.

New Mayor Tomas Regalado is, thankfully, not among those rumblers; he has said he wants to see Miami Marine Stadium brought back to life. So do the National Trust For Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund, which have helped raise money to commission an engineering study to determine the cost of renovating the facility. So do many South Floridians, ranging from singer Jimmy Buffett, who performed there, to teenagers Hannah Imberman and Kira Feldman, who have been putting together a book about the stadium called "If Seats Could Talk."

Friends of Miami Marine Stadium has the latest information and ways for the public to get involved:

With one jewel - Hialeah Park - reopened, South Florida looks forward to another jewel - Miami Marine Stadium - glistening again on Biscayne Bay.


December 1 update: According to this morning's Miami Herald, it looks like yet another jewel - the Coconut Grove Playhouse - may have a second life, thanks to GableStage:

Forgive me if I still view the Playhouse's board and the Aries Development Group with some wariness. But GableStage has a great reputation in local arts. Here's hoping the organization gets to fully implement its plans for the historic playhouse.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nov. 24: Give a Bit From That Thanksgiving Feast

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Fifty million Americans - one-sixth of this country's population - worry about being able to feed their families.

That statistic, with the terrible name "food insecurity," was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture just a week before Thanksgiving. Surely, the timing is no coincidence.

A little more than 48 hours from now, millions of Americans will be sitting down to lavish Thanksgiving meals.

It's not hard to give a thought - and some food - to those going without.

Martin Luther King Day and September 11 have already become national days of service. Thanksgiving can and should be counted as one, also.

Be thankful to those who will volunteer at food banks and community centers on Thursday (and beyond), and to those who give to ensure the operation of those facilities. And if you haven't already, please give your support.


Sunshine Statements will return next week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nov. 19: More Proof That Prescription Drug Ads Should End

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Zetia. Vytorin. Vioxx.

All prescription drugs that were advertised on television, in newspapers and in magazines. All under scrutiny, or in the case of Vioxx, taken off the market because of problems.

All just more proof that there should not be advertisements of prescription drugs.

The drug companies, which have polluted television and print, are now trying to choke the Internet as well.

Not only should the FDA prohibit Web advertisements, it should also eliminate all other prescription drug ads.

Along with the studies on drug safety are other studies - including a new one by UCLA - that the ads do not make for more educated consumers, despite drug companies' bleats to the contrary.

The squeals that eliminating the ads would harm free speech are utter nonsense. This is a public health issue. The ads have done more to hurt consumers' health, not to mention their relationships with doctors.

To coin a phrase from former First Lady Nancy Reagan, the FDA should Just Say No to any prescription drug ads.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nov. 18: Would Newsweek Put Obama In Shorts On Its Cover?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is right: Newsweek's choice to put a picture of her in jogging wear on its cover was sexist. Apparently, it also violated the guidelines of Runner's World, the original publisher of the photo. And the photo was grossly taken out of its original context.

Would Newsweek put a photo of President Barack Obama in his basketball wear on its cover? Doubtful.

Would liberals who back up the magazine over the photo choice, and the showing of Palin's legs on an inside page, be singing the same tune if the face on the cover was that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Also doubtful.

(And by the way, Newsweek's executives are men. Tsk, tsk.)

There is a legitimate argument that Palin has tried to use feminine wiles - such as the wink in last year's vice presidential debate - to lure voters. She shouldn't. Looks won't stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb or make a decision on whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan. Looks won't create new jobs. Brains will.

Newsweek doesn't help matters by catering to that very argument. Their photo choices hurt every woman who has chosen a life in public service, and who still faces the challenge of trying to prove herself on the job.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nov. 16: Corruption Cleanup Requires Engagement At All Levels

By Sylvia Gurinsky

As long as there have been elections and politicians, there has likely been political corruption. But the level can depend on how much is done not only to fight it when it happens, but to prevent it from happening in the first place.

In Florida, it's been persistent. On the heels of the recent arrests of three politicians in Broward County on corruption charges comes the resignation of one Miami city commissioner and the suspension of another. Gov. Charlie Crist is calling for a statewide grand jury to investigate political corruption and ethics issues.

Crist, incidentally, is one of a number of politicians giving back campaign donations from Broward County attorney Scott Rothstein, who is accused of running a Ponzi scheme.

At the same time, former Florida Sen. (and Gov.) Bob Graham has published a book, "America, the Owner's Manual: Making Government Work For You," encouraging citizens to get involved in the government process. In speaking about the book (including a recent appearance at the Miami Book Fair), Graham, whose first "workdays" were spent as a civics teacher at Cooper City High School in 1974, criticized the reduction in the number of civics classes in public schools.

Low ethics and fewer civics classes. Likely, it's not by coincidence.

Rather than appointing a grand jury on taxpayers' money to repeat what we already know, Crist should tap Graham and other respected leaders in Florida to study and report on how to avoid corruption in the future. Likely at the top of that report will be recommendations for engaging citizens in the process - starting with close attention to whom they vote for and what the ties of those candidates are.

Clean government must begin with those who build it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nov. 12: Orlando Shootings Show Folly of Reversing Gun Control Laws

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The parking lot of the Orlando building in which one person was killed and five injured last Friday is unguarded.

Not that it necessarily mattered. Even if a parking lot guard had seen Jason Rodriguez, accused of the shootings, with a weapon in his car, that guard would have had a hard time stopping him.

That's because of the ridiculous law the Florida Legislature approved and Gov. Charlie Crist signed last year, allowing guns in cars outside businesses.

Since the tragedy at Virginia Tech University more than two years ago, in which 32 students were killed, there have been 13 mass shootings in the United States, including those last week at Fort Hood and in Orlando. Between the Littleton, Colorado, shootings in 1999 and Virginia Tech, there were eight such shootings.

Meanwhile, politicians in both major parties either stay in the iron grip of the National Rifle Association and its money, or are too timid to speak out in opposition. While they stay in the NRA's grip, they loosen gun control laws and put the public more at risk.

How many more innocents will have to die before all of that is reversed?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nov. 9: A Lot Needs Investigating At Fort Hood

By Sylvia Gurinsky


Congress will ask, and the public - particularly those who have family members at Fort Hood Army Base in Texas - has a right to know how the security system so completely broke down last Thursday.

The biggest question currently being asked is who knew that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was, at the very least, troubled, or quite possibly seeking connections to radical Muslim terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida?

The second biggest question is whether he didn't get the help or discipline he needed either because of overtaxed resources or superiors who feared being hit with accusations of discrimination.

There are other primary questions:

*If people in the area weren't supposed to have weapons, how did Hasan enter with his?

*Why did it take a civilian police officer to stop Hasan? Where were the military police?

*If military doctors are overburdened, why haven't more civilian psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and social workers been recruited to help military members and their families deal with the stresses they face?

There were warning signs years ago about a lack of resources on the homefront. Last Thursday may have been a prime example.

For all Americans, and for the dead and injured at Fort Hood, Congress must get answers.

Nov. 9: Two Corrections

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Two corrections to report, both of which have been made in their respective blog entries.

1. The first correction is to the Nov. 3 blog, in which I put the name of the wrong environmental organization that fought the jetport in the Everglades. The correct name of the organization is Friends of the Everglades.

2. The second correction is in the Nov. 5 blog, to the spelling of the first name of the Florida Marlins manager. It's Fredi Gonzalez.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nov. 5: Election Reforms For Thought - And a Word About the Yankees

By Sylvia Gurinsky

John Anderson is a one-time Republican member of Congress from Illinois and was an early example of the exodus of moderates from that party when he ran as an independent presidential candidate in 1980. He's also one of the most intelligent, rational voices about reforming the election process.

He's at it again this week, with a column that ran, among other places, in The Miami Herald:

We all know most elected officials won't vote to do anything that would compromise their own re-election chances - even if it saves millions of dollars, as this move would.

Perhaps the place to start with instant runoff reform is at the municipal level. In the coming weeks, voters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties will schlep back to the polls for runoff elections in various municipalities. Spending millions of dollars to set up another election - or elections - at a time when the thoughts of most have turned to holiday spending (if they have money for it this year) is not anyone's idea of a good time. Wasting millions of government dollars when jobs, hours, etc. have had to be cut because of the economy really isn't smart.

Techology and its cost could certainly be a factor. Most of Florida has done a cha-cha-cha between punch cards, touch screens and optical scanners since the mess in 2000. Local governments probably don't have the appetite for one more change, unless it can be proven to save money.

It's time to get those calculations from other cities that are using the instant runoff, start with local governments and then begin a petition drive to get runoff elections reinstated at the state level in Florida.

Saving money, time and political credibility could be the result.


With apologies to Andy Rooney, ever have something pop up in your brain that hadn't been an issue before?

This week, it was unions and political endorsements.

Public employees, police, fire departments and others have unions. These unions often endorse political candidates.

Is it me, or is their something wrong with potentially endorsing for - or against - someone who could be your boss?

It creates a lot of problems at work.


Finally, one must tip a cap to the hard work of the New York Yankees, this year's World Series winner (and, she cynically added, the other baseball team in South Florida). There will always be the argument that they bought a championship. But champions still need heart and the will to win, and this group had plenty.

There is no problem giving credit to someone who hasn't gotten enough: Yankee Manager Joe Girardi.

Girardi is too classy to say, as pitcher Tug McGraw (a former New York Met) said in 1980 when his Philadelphia Phillies won, that South Florida, or at least Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, can take this championship and stick it.

But one wouldn't blame Girardi for having that sentiment after 2006, in which he won the National League Manager of the Year Award and Loria then fired him because of his own thin skin for criticism. That thin skin was on display again last month, when it looked like Loria was going to dump Fredi Gonzalez, the Marlins' current manager, and then backed off after widespread public and press criticism.

Girardi deserves many of the laurels for the Yankees' fine year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nov. 4: What Does This Election Mean To Obama? Not Much

By Sylvia Gurinsky

OK, quick. Who remembers the pivotal congressional and governor's races of 1993?

Who remembers the headlines that they generated - that it was "bad news" for President Bill Clinton?

Media, be it low-tech or high-tech, has a tendency to overhype year-after elections. (A notable exception was 2001, for obvious reasons.)

There isn't a president in either political party in recent memory who hasn't managed about a half-and-half approval rating during his rookie year when there weren't extenuating circumstances. (Again, the first year of President George W. Bush needs to be thrown out of the equation, both because of the questionable 2000 election and 9/11.)

Today, pundits everywhere are talking about what yesterday's election results mean to President Barack Obama next year, to Obama in 2012, to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2012, to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012, to whatever in 2012.

All it means is: Pundits are doing a lot of talking. And it isn't adding up to very much.

Next year, the congressional midterm election will, indeed, be a serious barometer of how Obama will attempt to govern.

This election? Not so much.

Nov. 3: The Men (and Women) Who Ignore the Environment

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Money doesn't matter very much if there's no Planet Earth to spend it on.

Let that message be communicated to most members of the Miami-Dade County Commission and Republican members of the United States Congress, both of who don't seem to get it.

In Dade, the issue is the site in the Everglades once targeted for a jetport. The opposition was so fierce that it triggered the creation of the group Friends of the Everglades, and jetport plans were abandoned. That was four decades ago.

Now, despite the green movement, despite the realities of what pollution has been doing to this planet, county commissioners are looking at using the jetport site either for rock mining or oil drilling, as Curtis Morgan writes in The Miami Herald:

Guess they slept through the local history lesson generated by that semi-abandoned runway in the Everglades.

The county should either sell the land to the state for preservation or mitigate it. A quickie profit on oil or rock mining today will result in an environmental and financial loss too big to comprehend tomorrow.

Speaking of losing, only one Republican U.S. senator, George Voinovich of Ohio, was at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meeting this morning about the greenhouse gas-curbing bill, as the Associated Press reports:

As with members of the Miami-Dade Commission, the only green the congressional GOP seems to care about is money.

In so doing, Republicans holding high elected office have even ignored the wishes of many of their own conservative constituents, who see global warming and other environmental hazards as a serious problem.

Open your eyes and ears, senators.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nov. 2: Not Hard To ID FPL's Problems

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The latest odd couple features former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, the state's resident troubleshooter, as an advisor to Florida Power & Light.

Basically, Butterworth is advising FPL on what went wrong in the company's quest for a large rate increase.

It should be an easy job for Butterworth, because the rest of FPL's customers already know what the problems are.

Start in 2005 with Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, and the fact that many FPL customers had their power out for a month or more - especially after Wilma, which hit Oct. 24. Floridians have never forgotten that.

Move forward to 2008 and the official collapse of the economy, which had already been creaking and groaning in the Sunshine State since 2005. How does a company justify a 30 percent rate increase to people who are being thrown out of work and losing their life's savings?

Add recent news reports about FPL officials living it up in luxury and having too-cozy relationships with members of the Public Service Commission that's supposed to regulate them.

The message already exists. Hopefully, coming from Butterworth, FPL's leaders will finally comprehend it.