Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday, November 28: Let Public Vote On Gambling In Florida

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez had the right idea, but the wrong execution.

Martinez proposed a straw poll on the issue of gambling for the Jan. 29, 2012 Republican primary ballot. His colleagues have tabled the idea, for now. In any case, the primary would not attract a representative slate of Dade voters because it's for Republicans only. (By the way, more to come on the commission's wrong-headed decision of putting charter reform proposals on that ballot.)

And the gambling issue should not just be on a straw poll. Ever since Malaysian company Genting bought the land on which The Miami Herald building rests and announced its plans for a mega-hotel and casino, the debate has popped up about what such a project will do to the quality of life in the area. In addition, other companies are circling to try to build mega-casinos of their own around other parts of South Florida.

Those affected - voters - should have the final say - not just locally, but also at the state level.

So, whether the body is the Florida Legislature or the Miami-Dade Commission, the message is the same: Let the public vote on these projects.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday, November 22: Ethics Lesson, Continued - With BTU

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The Broward Teachers Union is now learning the bitter lesson United Teachers of Dade learned a few years ago: Don't mess with other people's money.

Actually, the lessons are being learned by the people at the top: Pat Tornillo of UTD, who funded a lavish lifestyle, went to jail in 2003. Pat Santeramo, president of BTU, may follow.

Santeramo is being investigated for the way he's spent union money, particularly on political campaigns. He's been temporarily suspended from his position and could - and should - be kicked out entirely next month.

The Miami Herald has reported on how BTU's democratic and oversight processes have broken down during Santeramo's tenure:

Unions are counted on to protect workers' rights, but their influence has been declining. Corruption and mismanagement in leadership ranks are among the reasons.

The Broward Teachers Union needs to completely clean house - not just Santeramo, but anyone connected to him who was also responsible for any misdeeds. The union's look at its practices should result in true reform - to change the flunking ethics grade of its leadership.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1, 2011: NBA Should Learn From Baseball's Bitter Lesson

By Sylvia Gurinsky

It is a special irony that baseball should celebrate a most glorious time while basketball is enduring its most miserable time.

The most exciting World Series and postseason in years capped off a season with plenty of milestones for Major League Baseball. While it's never possible to know if testing technology is keeping up with the players, the sport seems to have shaken the clouds brought by steroids. In addition, it seems owners and players will quietly reach a deal to extend the collective bargaining agreement.

Not so with the National Basketball Association, which has already cancelled games through the next two weeks. The atmosphere between owners, who have locked out players, and the players' union is poisonous - and there are splits within the two groups themselves over whether to get a deal done.

As far as most of the public is concerned, the battle is billionaires versus billionaires. But the biggest cost is not to the owners, players or even fans: It's to the owners and employees of support businesses - hotels, restaurants, sporting goods stores and so forth - that feed off NBA teams. Those businesses could see layoffs and even closures because of the lockout. And no deal between owners and players will reverse that.

If owners and players think they can automatically gain back public goodwill when they finally do reach an agreement, they should look back 16 years. From August, 1994 to April, 1995, baseball endured a strike that cost a World Series and the future of baseball in Montreal, among other casualties - not to mention connecting businesses still recovering from the early 1990s recession.

The memory of that strike has lingered. Given the current economic crisis, the resentment of the NBA situation could go even deeper. Basketball's owners and players should learn baseball's lessons of 1994-95.