Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Friday December 16: Master Plan Needed For Little Havana

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Apparently, the current members of the Miami City Commission didn't learn the painful lessons that came to their predecessors who approved the old Miami Arena: If you build it, he may not come.

"He," in this case, refers to any high-end business owner who might have wanted to set up shop near the Miami Marlins' new ballpark. As with the Miami Arena during the late 1980s, city and team fathers and mothers hoped a new sports facility would trigger new businesses. But the devil was in the bureaucratic details.

One commissioner who obviously hasn't learned from city history is Frank Carollo. He evidently had the idea of making the area around the ballpark into another South Beach.

The Little Havana neighborhood, originally known as Riverside, was a middle-class area until after the Mariel boatlifts and Central American immigration of the 1980s. Today, the area has a mixture of middle and low-income residents.

Through the years the Orange Bowl stood on the land that now hosts the ballpark, there were a few businesses nearby - restaurants like Dairy Queen, among others.

Carollo - and for that matter, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria - don't seem to understand that the majority of baseball fans who will go to the ballpark are middle-class families. Some will want a place to eat before or after the game. High-end cafes won't cut it - especially if families can't afford ballpark food, which is quite possible.

At its best, Little Havana is a neighborhood of mom-and-pop businesses, good for strolling and dining for people from all walks of life. It's never been exclusive, nor should it be (I should know: I grew up there.).

In recent years, charming and historic bungalows have been torn down for some ugly condominiums. But other bungalows and apartment buildings from various parts of the early and mid-20th century remain.

More than 80 years of high-profile sports at the Orange Bowl didn't change the atmosphere of the neighborhood, and the new ballpark shouldn't change it, either.

But a master plan is needed to restore Little Havana's historic buildings and streets. A classic neighborhood getting a new ballpark deserves the best for its residents and visitors.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December 8, 2011: Wrong People Being Fired in Florida ALF Mess

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The mess that is Florida's administration - or lack thereof - of conditions in assisted living facilities illustrates perfectly the mess that is Florida's government in general.

As The Miami Herald, which has done an excellent job covering the ALF crisis, indicates, the good guys are getting fired:


Indeed, if there's anyone who deserves to be fired, for starters, it's ombudsman-in-name-only Jim Crochet, who is not fulfilling his duty to Floridians. He's been removing the volunteers who have been pointing attention to the problems.

Also on the "Must kick out" list are any members of the Florida Legislature - starting with State Rep. Matt Hudson of Naples - allowing ALFs to run roughshod over the rights of their patients. That also goes for Gov. Rick Scott, whose negative history with health care facilities is well known, but was ignored by too many voters last November.

Given its climate, Florida will continue to attract retirees. That's why both shoddy ALFs and shoddy administration must be cleaned up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6: Congress and the Post Office: Both Must Be Fixed

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Oh, the irony of watching the pivotal scene in "Miracle On 34th Street" when John Payne, playing the lawyer representing Santa Claus, is reading information into the public record about the glories of the United States Post Office.

There's not much that's glorious about the postal service today. You know things are bad when one of the few entities that can help you is the United States Congress, a body that's in even worse shape than the Postal Service.

Congress could approve reforms that would help the post office get out of its mess without having to slow down service, as it threatens to do next year, lay off workers or raise mail delivery prices every five minutes. The reforms could start with the proposals by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine - one of the few in Congress who still knows what her job is supposed to be - which include refunding the postal service money it overpaid in employee benefits.

Unfortunately, most of Collins' colleagues in the Senate and House are more interested in sticking to their political weathervanes than in doing anything for the good of the post office - and thus, the country.

Most of the Republicans in the House are busy being bullied by the unelected, no-tax gaulieter Grover Norquist. (Here, the word "gauleiter" is meant in the third definition given by Webster's, "a person with an arrogant, overbearing outlook or manner," which certainly describes Norquist.)

The Senate is not much better. There is weak leadership all around on both sides of the aisle.

It's going to take the experiences of businesses and customers who still rely on US Mail more than anything else to lobby for their congressional representatives to fix this. And a memo to Congress: Your jobs may depend on it.