Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 14: Sniglets On Legislature Shenanigans, Election Runoffs and Barry Bonds

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Once again, the Florida Legislature is overreacting to a tragedy - and compromising public safety and the public's right to know in the process.

In replicating the hysteria that closed all autopsy photos to public release after the death of race car driver Dale Earnhardt during the 2001 Daytona 500, lawmakers are supporting bills that would close all video depicting the killing of people after the deaths of police officers in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The main argument against it is media sensationalism. Sensationalism is sickening. But it's even more sickening when an injustice can't be uncovered because of roadblocks.

With this law, it would have been a lot tougher to uncover the fact that in 2006, two state boot camp guards beat teenager Martin Lee Anderson to death. That revelation, via video, led to the closing of those camps.

That doesn't matter to State Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach. According to Elaine Silvestrini of the Tampa Tribune, Garcia said: "For those of you that think there's a First've got to consider that there's a victim and sometimes the rights of the victim gets trampled for the First Amendment."

There is a First Amendment, Mr. Garcia. And sometimes victims' rights - and public safety - get trampled by elected officials who want to obscure it.


This week's Coral Gables mayoral election may provide a preview of the May 24 special Miami-Dade County election for mayor in one respect: The winning candidate, as in Coral Gables, might very well have less than 40 percent of the vote.

It's a good argument for implementing instant runoff voting in all state and local elections. Instant runoffs would mean voters wouldn't have to suffer through additional weeks of mean-spirited campaigning if the leading candidate doesn't cross the 50-percent threshhold.

Voters would simply rank all of the candidates in a race in order of preference; if the leading candidate gets less than 50 percent of the vote, the computer would go to work.

Money spent on either retrofitting current computers or getting new ones with instant runoff capability would mean money savings in the long run by communities that don't have to cough up for multiple elections. It could also mean a higher quality of candidates and winners.


Let history decide on Barry Bonds? It would be better to let Major League Baseball decide, much as it did with Pete Rose.

One of baseball's shining, if heartbreaking, moments was Major League Baseball's release of the Dowd Report in 1989. The report detailed Rose's gambling activities, including confirmation that he bet on baseball - an illegal action in the sport. Rose was banned from baseball, a ban that continues today.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig bears much of the blame for the steroids epidemic in the sport during the 1990s and early part of the last decade, in the sense that he didn't take definitive steps to stop it until Congress had gotten on his back. But he can take responsibility - and earn the goodwill of fans who believe in the game's honor - by enlisting an investigator to draft a report both about Barry Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens, who soon will be going to trial.

Selig owes it to the fans, to players like Hank Aaron - still regarded by millions of baseball fans, including this one, as the official all-time MLB home run champion - and, yes, to Bonds and Clemens that the entire story comes out.

Baseball has faced up to its scandals in gambling. Such action is still needed to close the book on the Steroid Era.


This blog and the corresponding SunState tweets will be on hiatus until May 11. Happy Passover, Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

Monday, April 4, 2011

April 13, 2011: Miami Starting To Appreciate Overtown's "Roots"

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency seems to be starting to get the message: Let Overtown's garden grow.

Last week, CRA members met with retired Florida International University professor Marvin Dunn, who oversees Overtown's successful Roots In the City program, which includes a vegetable garden. There are still disagreements over money and other logistical issues, but some positives have emerged.

The biggest one is that Roots In the City will not be lumped together with a Liberty City garden that was in such bad shape at one point that nearby residents called it "the graveyard," according to the South Florida Times.

That suggestion had been the result of, at the very least, miscommunication by Miami City Commissioner Richard Dunn (no relation to Marvin Dunn) and the CRA. At the very worst, there was the suggestion that Richard Dunn was attempting to do the kind of strong-arming that's gotten most of his District 5 commission predecessors in so much trouble. He says otherwise.

There are still errors to be corrected. For instance, the City of Miami has no mechanism in place yet for supporting permanent farmer's markets, which Roots In the City definitely is.

But the city is finally moving in the right direction.