Monday, October 25, 2010

October 25: Alvarez Is Dense - But Recall Effort Is Overkill

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Is this really necessary?

A year and a half before Carlos Alvarez' second and final term as mayor of Miami-Dade County is scheduled to end, a costly election to determine whether he should be recalled apparently will take place. If voters say yes, another costly election will be held to fill the county mayor's post for that year and a half.

It will cost a lot less to let Alvarez finish his term.

But businessman Norman Braman started this recall effort because of disgust over Alvarez' support of a budget with a tax increase in a recession - while certain county employees continue to get raises. There is also an effort underway to recall Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Audrey Edmonson, Dennis Moss, Natacha Seijas and Bruno Barreiro for approving the tax increases; a sixth commissioner who said yes, Katy Sorenson, will be leaving her post right after the election.

In announcing that he had enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot, Braman made the point that Alvarez is an honest man and not guilty of corruption.

Alvarez is politically dense, though. After the criticisms of last year, when he gave raises to a number of his employees, Braman and many other county residents argue that he still doesn't get it.

The question is whether that denseness is worth this recall effort. In this case, the solution may wind up costing a lot more than the problem.

Friday, October 22, 2010

October 27: Loyalty Oath Just Isn't Jewish

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his cabinet and many members of the Knesset have short memories.

In various forms, they're supporting a measure that would require people new to Israel to take a loyalty oath. The argument is that other countries, including the United States, require loyalty oaths from new citizens.

But the equation changes in Israel for several reasons, including the Arabs who live there, Jews who currently have an automatic right of return and people from other countries - both Jews and non-Jews - who have gone there seeking a better life and have been a viable source of labor.

It changes for one more reason: What the Jewish people are supposed to represent.

Loyalty oaths represent a number of sad moments in Jewish history, including forced actions by the Nazis and the high number of Jewish-Americans in show business who lost their jobs and their livelihoods because they were targeted by McCarthyism during the 1950s.

Again, Israel's leaders seem to have forgotten that - and that measures similar to those they're proposing helped generate the conditions that led to the call for a Jewish state in the first place.

The proposal for a loyalty oath by many of the leaders of the Jewish state just isn't in keeping with how a Jew is supposed to act.

The Anti-Defamation League and _____________ are absolutely right to criticize the move by Israel's government to make citizens sign a loyalty oath. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his cabinet and many members of the Knesset evidently have short memories - about what the Jewish people went through in the Holocaust, about what Jewish Americans went through during the McCarthy era, and about what Jewish American support means to Israel.

October 26: Sarkozy Blew It

By Sylvia Gurinsky

French President Nicholas Sarkozy tried to reverse his softening support by going hard. Now, he's got little support.

If the way he treated gypsies angered not just many in France but also across Europe, then his plans for raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 for budget reasons really tipped the pot.

Like Social Security here, France's pension system is the program with the "Don't Touch" sign. In polls, a majority of the French people have supported those who have gone on strike and used other forms of protest. Though the French parliament is expected to approve Sarkozy's reforms, strikers are expected to continue their efforts.

The last time France had strikes this serious, the legendary Charles de Gaulle was president. Sarkozy was already no de Gaulle before these troubled last couple of months, and with an election looming for him within the next two years, he may face the same fate - defeat - if he doesn't soften his hard line.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October 21: Harassment Can Take Many Forms

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The phone call Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, made to Anita Hill to ask for an apology for Hill's accusations of harassment by Clarence Thomas in 1991 is, to use a phrase I dislike intensely, a "teachable moment."

It serves as a reminder about harassment in the workplace, and the uphill battle those who endure it must still wage.

Nineteen years ago, Hill had to deal not only with the issues of whatever Mr. Thomas might have done when they both worked in, of all things, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but with a United States Senate under Democratic control that just didn't get it. Their confirmation of Thomas is still one of the great head-scratchers.

Things improved for a while. But in this age of hyper-partisanship, people are more likely to take Mrs. Thomas' phone call as a political act, rather than the continuation of a nightmare that began for Hill during the 1980s. Hill called the police and the FBI after the early-morning phone call from Mrs. Thomas.

What can the rest of us learn? Harassment can take many forms - and harassment in a phone call should be fought just as mightily as insulting comments on the job.

Friday, October 15, 2010

October 15: Candidates Playing "Duck, Duck" and Other Sniglets

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Shame on Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott and U.S. Senate candidates Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist for not clearing their calendars for debates sponsored by the League of Women Voters that were to air on PBS. The league and PBS were forced to cancel the debates.

Dishonorable mention goes to Pam Bondi, attorney general candidate, for ducking an interview with my friend and former colleague Michael Putney when she came to WPLG-Channel 10 today to tape her two minutes of free airtime given by the station.

What are your excuses for ducking, candidates? Doing your nails? An urgent doctor's appointment? Late catching an episode of "Dancing With the Stars?"

You're running for the right to serve and represent the people of Florida. That means they come first.

Scott, Rubio, Crist and Bondi have proven they can string together coherent sentences, so there's no good reason for skipping out on debates or interviews. It just makes them look gutless.


If a debate that takes place at 7 p.m. airs past everyone's bedtime, does anyone see it?

That's what's been happening with crucial debates in Florida for governor and U.S. Senator. In both cases during the last two weeks, ABC (senatorial candidates) and Univision (gubernatorial candidates) have stuck the debates after 11 p.m. The excuse: Anyone can catch it online.

The most loyal voters are the elderly, who are more likely to use traditional media sources, including television. They're not likely to stay up past 11 p.m., but they certainly have just as much right to see what the candidates have to say as everyone else - and a right to the convenience to see it.

Election time is when television stations really owe a public service to viewers. In this case, Univision and ABC and its stations aren't providing it.


Rick Sanchez' firing from CNN comes about 20 years too late.

He should have been fired - and maybe more- from WSVN-Channel 7 in 1990, when he hit a pedestrian outside Joe Robbie Stadium after a Miami Dolphins game. Police officers inexplicably let Sanchez go home to get his driver's license when they should have cited him for that and tested his blood-alcohol level then and there.

Shame on them and on all, including viewers, who have laughed at Sanchez' dog-and-pony show over the last two decades. It's not funny anymore, particularly for those in the Jewish community who are the latest target of his ignorance.


Will KCET really offer a public service to its Los Angeles community without a PBS affiliation? Doubtful.

KCET, which has been a PBS affiliate for more than 40 years and produces "The Tavis Smiley Show" for the service, announced abruptly its decision to cut ties. Fortunately, there are three other stations in the area that will pick up the slack.

Equally inexplicable is the continuing suggestion that commercial and cable networks do what PBS does.

That's ridiculous. No one else has programs like "Frontline," "The Charlie Rose Show," "Nova," "Nature," "Live From Lincoln Center," "The American Experience," "American Masters" or the "Masterpiece" and "Mystery" rosters.

PBS is an oasis that needs to be preserved.


Good for Major League Baseball for being proactive for once and planning to review the umpiring in this year's postseason.

In fairness, the tension level for umpires to get calls right goes up when the stakes are higher. But the selection and training processes do need to be reviewed, particularly with more postseason games being played. The best teams deserve the best umpiring.


Farewell to Bobby Cox, whose Atlanta Braves lost to the San Francisco Giants in their divisional series, but who departed with typical grace.

It says something that Ted Turner, once the Braves' owner, called his early firing of Cox a mistake, and later hired him back after Cox had led the Toronto Blue Jays to their first division title. Cox, who got his start as a player and coach with the New York Yankees, managed to match that success as a general manager, then a manager - first signing and then leading the nucleus of a team that had an astounding 14 consecutive playoff appearances (13 as division champion), four World Series appearances and one championship, in 1995.

The only question about Cox and the Baseball Hall of Fame is: How soon?


It seems like there should have been more tributes to "Cathy," the 34-year-old comic strip that had its last run Oct. 3.

Millions of women commiserated with the regular girl who went on and off diets, tried on seemingly millions of clothes and shoes and was under pressure from her mother for years to marry and have kids.

Many would say the strip lost some of its relevance after Cathy married long-time boyfriend Irving. Perhaps creator Cathy Guisewite agreed, and from that came the decision to end the strip. She ended in a logical way, with Cathy telling her mother that she's expecting a baby.

So now, Cathy moves on with her life. Those of us who will miss her have just one thing to say:


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October 14: Miracle in the Mine

By Sylvia Gurinsky

It's a time to rejoice.

The 33 miners in Chile have been safely rescued. They are heroes simply for the grit and grace with which they survived. Their families, their rescuers and those who planned the intricate removal of the miners are also heroes.

But it's also a time to face the reality of the mistakes that led to them being stuck in the San Jose mine for two and a half months. The neglect and cut corners that caused the mine collapse and near-catastrophe must be addressed. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has promised a full investigation and that such a thing will never happen again in his country.

American politicians and mine owners should take note. The failure both of elected officials to regulate and of owners to follow the law has led to numerous deaths in U.S. mines in recent years. After the miracle in the mine in Chile, there's no excuse for this country to get it wrong anymore, either.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 20: Do Not Transfer Control of Miami's Parking

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Just a reminder about that mischief the Miami City Commission placed on city ballots about eliminating the city's Department of Off-Street Parking and transferring control of the responsibilities and money to, well, itself.

Just vote No.

No on transferring the authority from an agency that has run it well to a city commission that will run it into the ground.

No on transferring the authority to a city commission that's addicted to big money from developers with dumb ideas (See the double electronic billboards plan near the Arsht Center.).

No on transferring the authority to a city commission with a mayor who was ready to eliminate funding for the crown jewel that is the Gusman Center For the Performing Arts.

Just vote No.

October 19: Broward Measures All Worth "Yes" Votes

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Voters in Broward County will be deciding on various local ballot issues, most of them regarding ethics reform. Anyone who's been watching or reading news accounts of Broward politicians being led away in handcuffs will know why reforms are needed.

The first measure would actually push back the meetings of the Charter Review Commission and the Management and Efficiency Study Committee to once every decade, instead of once every six years - to make things more efficient.

The second measure would have the county code of ethics overriding any municipal codes. That would set up uniformity in the process.

The third measure would make county officers - the sheriff, the property appraiser, the clerk of courts and the elections supervisor - subject to the county ethics code.

The fourth measure would create an inspector general's office to investigate misconduct and mismanagement.

The fifth measure would expand the Truth In Millage notice to show the portion of property taxes attributable to the county officers mentioned in the third measure.

Broward needs all the help it can get cleaning up its government. A "Yes" vote on all of these measures would start the process.

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 18: What the Tea Party Doesn't Mention: Unemployment

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The Tea Party mentions the deficit a lot. The Tea Party mentions social issues - usually against better judgment and advice.

What the Tea Party doesn't mention is how its candidates for political office would get Americans back to work.

The economy is undergoing its greatest transition not only since the Great Depression, but also since the turn of the 19th century to the 20th, when manufacturing replaced agriculture as the primary moneymaker in the United States. Many economists seem not to grasp this yet, so how about candidates who don't have an economic background?

Well, here's one example: Joe Miller, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alaska, wants to eliminate federal unemployment benefits because he says they're unconstitutional - even though his wife once collected unemployment benefits after leaving a job.

Gives you a real warm feeling of encouragement about what might be coming Nov. 2, doesn't it?

President Barack Obama warned as early as just after his inauguration that jobs would be the last thing to come back in the economy. It's understandable that anxious voters are grasping for anything that sounds good.

But remember the old saying: It it sounds too good to be true......

A lot of what the Tea Party is saying - and not saying - is too good to be true.

October 13: Principal Cause Of Miami Beach Flooding Is Overdevelopment

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Developer Russell Galbut, whose family has a long and storied history in Miami Beach, is interested in building a shopping and retail center along Alton Road that would incorporate the long-shuttered South Shore Hospital and could help the area.

He may have to build it on stilts.

It hasn't been raining most of the last week, but parts of Alton Road and other areas of South Beach have experienced flooding.

High tides have been getting much of the public blame. Global warming certainly deserves a share of the blame.

But 30-plus years of overdevelopment in South Beach without the infrastructure to match should get most of the blame - along with the many elected officials who approved all that development.

Up through the 1980s, one could enter Alton Road from MacArthur Causeway and not experience any flooding. This writer should know; I went to school in the city for eight years.

Many current Beach residents who came from other parts of the country and the world apparently haven't been here long enough to remember a flood-free history. But they do say that it's never been this bad. And Hurricane Paula now lurks in the western Caribbean Sea, with heaven knows what effects in store for South Florida.

Right now, relief in terms of an updated water and sewer system seems to be roughly a year and a half away. That's not soon enough.

South Florida has been starting to recover the tourists lost when the economy collapsed. But the possibility of having one of the region's crown jewels under water more often isn't going to help that recovery - and will badly tarnish that crown jewel.

This is an emergency. City leaders, as well as Miami-Dade County and Florida environmental management workers, need to figure out a solution now. Stopping new developments in the area until the infrastructure catches up might be a necessary start.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October 12: Don't Let Balanced Budget Pipe Dream Turn Into National Nightmare

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Because the Florida Legislature's biggest skill is making trouble, it added a straw measure to this fall's election ballot: Should there be a constitutional amendment balancing the budget without raising taxes?

Wouldn't it be nice? Of course it would. But one needs only to look at the last nine years to understand why it would be unrealistic:

Two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the continuing war against terrorism. The catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. The economic collapse. The Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Stuff happens, as the kids like to say. Unplanned stuff. If your country is called the United States of America, lots and lots of unplanned stuff. Try handling all that unplanned stuff with a balanced budget requirement and no hikes in taxes or fees.

While balanced budgets are realistic on a state level, a permanent ban on tax hikes even there would instantly cause 50 budget disasters.

On a federal level, it's a pipe dream. A No vote on the straw ballot issue would mean voters are facing reality. Wake up and vote No.