Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012: TTFN

By Sylvia Gurinsky

To quote the great Andy Rooney, "I'm a writer, and writers never retire." But I am going to take an indefinite break on the Sunshine Statements blog.

I started this blog in 2007 to continue writing full-length commentaries about important issues.

Well, life has taken a different turn. In 2008, I left full-time journalism and took a job at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida (now HistoryMiami). I was at a career crossroad.

I decided to take the road historians travel by. My work as an educator and CityTours guide at HistoryMiami is evolving into a new, enjoyable career. I am examining where that will take me, and I anticipate that writing will be a part of that. For instance, I'm considering a new blog about South Florida's historical sites.

As for journalism, I will continue to write the occasional column about issues of the day for the Jewish Journal and other papers. From time to time, I will continue with #SunStatement Twitter posts (There's too much going on for me to stay silent.).

If matters get dicey enough, I will post here (Heck, Bill Moyers keeps coming back; why can't I?).

I am continuing the YesterTube classic television blog and #YesterTube tweets, and hope to turn that into a successful (read: money-making) venture at some point.

I have enjoyed writing here for six years, and I thank you for your interest and feedback.

So, as the kids say: TTFN (Ta Ta For Now.). And thank you.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday November 5, 2012: I Want My V-O-T-E!!!!

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The anger felt at the stymieing of early voting by Florida's undemocratic brick wall named Rick Scott illustrates that a lot of people are finding their constitutional right very important this year. (Let's hope they find it just as important in 2014, when they have a chance to throw Generalissimo Scott out of the governor's mansion.)

It's also illustrated in the efforts in New York and New Jersey to make sure that those affected by Hurricane Sandy have the ability to cast votes, even if their polling places were damaged or destroyed.

There's no question about what's at stake, on all levels, in every part of the ballot. A presidential election whose candidates present two very different paths. The same with a congressional election. A legislative election that presents an opportunity to make a dent in Florida's one-party rule. A list of amendments that threaten to strip Floridians of basic freedoms.

And local races, resulting in the first line of defense - or despair - for voters.

Yes, it's a long ballot, no matter where you live. Yes, it takes a long time to get through. And yes, lines to vote will still be long tomorrow.

But it is an important constitutional right. Think about people all over the world who have stood for hours in line to get the chance to use that right for the first time.

And use it tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday October 31, 2012: Remembering What We Do

By Sylvia Gurinsky

It took a hurricane.

Late last week, as Hurricane Sandy was headed toward the northeastern United States, the country looked as if it was headed toward a repeat of the contentious 2000 presidential election.

That still might be the case. But because of Sandy's damage in the eastern U.S., passions have been tempered a bit, for now.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been a loyal campaigner for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee. But Christie's main priority now is getting his state rebuilt and New Jersey's citizens into safe situations - regardless of the source. That source is currently President Barack Obama and the federal government.

They are working together toward that goal, as will representatives of New York, Connecticut, West Virginia and other states affected by Sandy.

It is what Americans of all stripes will do as they donate money and resources to help those affected by the storm.

In remarks delivered just a few minutes ago, Obama mentioned Americans pulling together to help others. "It's what we do," he said.

Indeed. And while it's a tragedy that it took a hurricane to do it, Americans remembered that we are one nation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday October 24, 2012: Letter - And Request - From A Marlins Fan

Dear South Florida,

I've been a Marlins fan since July 5, 1991 - the day Major League Baseball officially awarded a franchise to South Florida. I'm part of a family with four generations of Marlins fans, with enough invested energy to have the right to speak out.

I've watched the star-crossed history of this team - the tragedy of its first president, Carl Barger, dying at the 1992 baseball winter meetings, the tragi-comedy of Wayne Huizenga's sell-off of the 1997 world champions, Jeb Bush's "no" to John Henry's efforts to secure financing for a stadium site, Bud Selig's complicity in the mess (including the yanking of the 2000 All Star Game)  and the machinations that resulted in the current Laurel-and-Hardy administration of the Marlins by Jeffrey Loria and David Samson - culminating in this year's disaster.

While Larry Beinfest did engineer trades for Dontrelle Willis and Juan Pierre, Dave Dombrowski - whose Tigers (including former Marlins Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez) are headed to another World Series - gets a lion's share of the credit for building the Marlins team that won the Series in 2003.

Any hopes for Marlins fans since then have been inevitably crushed. Joe Girardi led a young team to an overachieving 2006 season and won the National League Manager of the Year Award. But he insulted King Jeffrey the First by disagreeing with him, and all Girardi has done is take the New York Yankees to the postseason most years since.

I didn't think much of Fredi Gonzalez as a manager here, but he's done decently with the Atlanta Braves during his first two years there. Maybe it's what he's given to work with.

Beinfest and Mike Hill have gone from decent decisions a few years ago to mediocre/bad ones with most young players recently.

Manager Ozzie Guillen was fired, but Beinfest and Hill should go, too.

So should Loria and Samson, kings of self-denial.

So the request goes to my fellow South Floridians - or at least the few of you who fall into the category of very rich baseball fans.

There must be at least one among you who knows how to run a baseball team properly, to hire the right people and let them do their jobs, and bring a quality team to a quality ballpark (Loria got the "quality ballpark" part right, at least.).

For this fan, for others who are loyal fans despite the circus of the last two decades, please step forward and buy this team.

Always with hope (I'm a baseball fan, after all),

Sylvia Gurinsky

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 11: Vote Yes on Florida Amendments 2, 9 & 11. Vote No on All Others

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The Florida Legislature is up to major mischief with the majority of amendments on the November 6 ballot.

So to keep it simple: Vote Yes only to Amendments 2, 9 & 11 - the amendments that would extend homestead exemptions to military veterans who didn't live in Florida at the time of their deployment (Amendment 2), to surviving spouses of veterans and first responders who die on duty (Amendment 9) and to low-income seniors (Amendment 11).

The rest - Amendment 1, which trashes the Affordable Health Care Act; Amendments 3, 4 & 10, which will further limit the state's ability to raise revenues in tough times; Amendment 5, which encroaches on the powers of the state court system; Amendment 6, which steps on health privacy rights; Amendment 8, which further muddies church-state separation and Amendment 12, which needlessly adds a layer of bureaucracy to the state university system's Board of Governors - should all get a No vote and a trip to the scrap heap.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday September 13, 2012: Let Example of Stevens' Mourners Outshine Haters

By Sylvia Gurinsky

It increasingly looks as if terrorists pre-planned the attacks in Libya and Egypt for the week of September 11 and are using a film made here as an excuse.

But that's not the only pre-planning going on. It's easy to wonder whether Nakoula Basseley Nakoula had a strategy of his own - not only against Muslims, but also against Jews.

The Justice Department identified Nakoula as the filmmaker of an online, anti-Muslim film that's been seen as a trigger for the violence. Nakoula, who is on federal probation for bank fraud charges, has apparently been playing dodgeball over the making of the film.

Initial interviews identified the film director as a "Sam Bacile," supposedly an Israeli-American who got $5 million in financing from other Jews. That identity and money trail has been disproven, but there's no question that the millions of Jews both here and worldwide who will be attending High Holy Days services during the next two weeks have been put at risk by those early reports. That makes this an act of anti-Semitism as well as anti-Islam - and possibly makes the release of the film a hate crime that crosses the limits of free speech.

At the very least, actors who worked on the film have come forward to say they were misled about its intent, so fraud charges might be involved as well.

The fact that the film apparently has an ally in Terry Jones, the anti-Muslim nutcase from Gainesville, makes this plot even thicker.

Such hatred needs an antidote. One can be found in the Libyan people who came out and expressed grief and remorse at the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, who did so much to support that country. Their mourning for a man who exemplified the term "public servant" is cause for hope.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August 21, 2012: Still Learning Lessons From Andrew

By Sylvia Gurinsky

We hope we won't be spending this Friday's 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew biting our nails over Isaac, which is now in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

But the fact that we're looking eastward symbolizes the closer attention we pay to hurricanes now.

When Andrew hit Aug. 24, 1992, South Florida had avoided a direct strike from a hurricane since Betsy in 1965. That meant that two generations had moved to the region not knowing what such storms could do.

They learned the sad lessons of poor building codes, a lousy insurance system and the lack of basic supplies to get by.

Some of those lessons - aided by the eight hurricanes that crisscrossed Florida in 2004 and 2005 - have taken root, particularly with a toughened building code and improved supply and emergency systems. Other lessons are slower: Floridians are still fighting over their insurance, and elected officials who should know better still aren't letting homeowners get the best possible coverage at the best possible price.

The best lessons that this community took from Andrew were in the support systems that sprung up after the storm. South Florida is very quick to help others affected by weather events, both in the United States and around the world.

Here's to the lessons staying put for future tropical visitors. While we hope Isaac avoids us, it's good to know we haven't forgotten Andrew.

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012: How Much Does Honest and Fair Voting Matter To Voters?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Florida's primary election is tomorrow, following days of early voting and absentee ballot mailings.

Again, there have been issues with voter fraud in Miami-Dade County - where arrests relating to absentee ballot fraud have been made.

There has also been angst across the state over the purge of voters who are not supposed to be on the rolls - a purge that's included voters who are supposed to be able to vote.

Look for more anxiety and shenanigans - sometimes together - as the general election draws near. And look out for them, too.

There are those who sometimes wonder whether Floridians care enough about cleaning up voter fraud, or reforming the system fairly.

If they don't, they should be asked this question: Do you really want another 2000 election?

If not, they should have their say - and make sure all Florida voters who are legally registered can do the same, honestly and fairly.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 31: South Florida Should Start Olympic Dream With Pan Am Games

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Aside from rooting on local athletes every four years for the Summer Olympics, South Florida gets the opportunity to evaluate its own chances of hosting the world some day.

They've gotten a bit better during the past four years.

Actually, they've gotten a bit better during the past four months, with the Miami Marlins' new stadium and now the opening of the Metrorail extension to Miami International Airport.

A first logical step to South Florida's Olympic dream would be the Pan American Games and the Parapan Am Games, which Miami has already bid on a few times and will likely do so again for 2019 or 2023.

Some factors would have to change, though.

Factor 1, of course, is the situation in Cuba, which probably won't let an entire Pan Am or Olympic team come to the Miami area anytime soon. Compound that with some Florida and Miami-Dade County politicians who won't put out the welcome mat. One can only hope this issue is resolved favorably by the next decade.

Factor 2: The economy would have to improve locally, statewide and nationally.

Factor 3 is probably the most important for a successful bid at any time: Regional cooperation. In this case, a Miami bid cannot just mean the city of Miami or Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties don't even have consistent weather at times, much less consistent agreements over how to address logistical issues.

Among the four counties, there should be plenty of facilities appropriate for such a competition. There must be cooperation to match.

South Floridians already know this community can throw a party. Now's the time for elected and civic leaders to join forces to convince others that a three-week welcome to the athletes and fans across the Americas will be a successful one.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 24: Time For U.S. Gun-Obsessed Culture To Change

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Perhaps President Barack Obama doesn't want to be reminded of his 2008 statement about certain voters clinging to guns. But he was right.

At some point, it's become more important to so-called gun-rights advocates to have their guns, period, than to have them for the priorities of safety and hunting. That has been exploited by the National Rifle Association, which has gotten politicians from both parties to bow for their money and cower to their will. All of the above has translated into legislation or loosening of legislation that helped lead to last week's mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

The entertainment industry people mistake for liberal is actually the NRA's best friend, having spent decades glorifying movie, television and video game violence and shootings. They've slacked off at times after violent attacks, but then picked right up again.

Only a traffic citation was on James Holmes' record before he was arrested for murdering 12 people and injuring 59 others at a movie theater early last Friday. That was why he was able to purchase guns and ammunition through the mail so easily.

Holmes may have been re-creating a scene from the newest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," in the massacre. Despite plenty of warnings and discussions, directors still film such scenes in glorious Technicolor, with glittering makeup given to the baddies - without any thought of possible consequences. And while it's true that most people who watch films, shows or video games won't go out and commit such violence, many still become desensitized to it.

But the biggest problem is still the nature of guns in this country as more security-blanket than genuine security - a nature of obsession. An atmosphere that has made it more important for Person A to have any kind of weapon than for Person B to be able to go into any public space and be sure no one will fire that weapon at them. An atmosphere that caused Florida lawmakers to try to put a gag on doctors asking about guns in a home until a federal judge put a halt to that law. An atmosphere that has cost many good men and women votes at the ballot box because a lesser opponent will supposedly protect the Second Amendment.

That attitude doesn't protect anyone. It sure didn't in Colorado last Friday.

We are horrified at the occasional news of a similar massacre overseas - such as what happened in Norway a year ago. But such events are a rare occurence in other countries.

Here, they are much too common - not just mass shootings such as last week's, but the shootings that are a nightly occurence in many inner cities - inner cities being restricted from enacting laws that would take guns off those streets.

How many more shooting deaths and injuries do we have to take in the United States because of this obsession? How many more families have to mourn?

Would an NRA representative, an elected official who accepts gun lobby dollars or a producer of a bloody film look members of the families affected by last week's tragedy in the eye and continue their shpiel?

Or would they be willing to listen to those families, for once?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 19: Is Iran Giving Israel an Excuse To Attack?

By Sylvia Gurinsky
Israel's great statesman Abba Eban was alternately quoted as saying that the Palestinians, or the Arabs, "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." It appears Iran can be added to that list.

Hezbollah, one of Iran's terrorist surrogates, may be behind yesterday's bus bomb in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists, the bus driver and the bomber, and injured 33. It's one of a series of attacks or attempted attacks by Iran and company targeting Israel or Israelis worldwide.

For months, there has been talk that Israel would try to bomb Iran's suspected nuclear installations to prevent the creation of a nuclear weapon. For the most part, the world community has tried to stop such an attack, with the idea that a pre-emptive strike by Israel would lead to no good in the long run.

A pre-emptive strike would not. A retaliation is another story. When Israel loses its own, it retaliates.

The terrorist attacks are giving Israel what it didn't have: A concrete excuse to attack Iran.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17: Sniglets on 595, Coconut Grove Playhouse and a Personal Note

By Sylvia Gurinsky

There wasn't enough notable warning for the people who got stuck around Interstate 595 in Broward this weekend.

News stations went on and on about the I-595 construction and some closings, but weren't specific enough. Neither were Detour signs on site, leaving many motorists frustrated.

North Broward and South Broward basically got cut off from each other in a central meeting point, since University Drive and Pine Island Road were closed at I-595.

Do better, Florida D.O.T.


The saga of the Coconut Grove Playhouse is as dramatic as some of the plays the structure has presented - and apparently not close to being solved in a satisfactory way yet.

The latest twist comes from a creditor, Aries Development (with an appropriately named executive, Gino Falsetto), which says it wants to build a new theater behind the historic front of the 1926 building and add retail, residential buildings and an underground parking garage, according to The Miami Herald. Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff is once again making his constituents wonder just whose side he's on by supporting the proposal.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who has been trying to settle a county takeover of the historic theater, has reached a bump with this move.

Now, Florida House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez Cantera of Miami is trying to persuade Attorney General Pam Bondi to exercise a clause so that the state can take over the theater.

Let's try this, everyone: Sit down at one table - maybe over a nice lunch - and resolve this in a way that will fully preserve, restore and reopen the building to the public. Sometime in our lifetimes would be nice.


Finally, a personal note: Sunshine Statements and the Twitter #SunStatements will  end after the November election.

I've been in a career evolution that's been taking me away from journalism. It is in the best interests of that evolution that I will end the continued blog and tweets, though I will likely pop in now and again to comment on something of extraordinary community interest.

More to come.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday July 10: We Want Our Health Coverage, Governor Scott

By Sylvia Gurinsky

As Florida Gov. Rick Scott and others (Texas Gov. Rick Perry among them) do their best George Wallace-at-the-schoolhouse-door imitations on not enforcing the health care law, perhaps a lesson from the classic television show "The West Wing" would be persuasive to Floridians, if not the man who is supposed to lead them.

It comes from a first-season episode, "Mr. Willis of Ohio." One of the subplots features Donna Moss (Janel Moloney), faithful assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), pressing her boss on the budget surplus (Remember when there was a budget surplus, both real and fictional?).

"I want my money," Donna repeats throughout the episode. None of Josh's reasons moves her from her position.

Thanks to Aaron Sorkin's writing, Josh's logic made sense, but so did Donna's argument. Scott's rationale for not implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act makes no sense.

Scott refuses to even do the most simple part: Setting up a registry through which consumers can determine the best and most cost-effective insurance, and purchase it.

A cynic might suggest that Scott is trying to protect his buddies in the health care industry as much as he's trying to score tea party points.

A realist could suggest Scott will further bankrupt the state with his refusal to participate and Florida probably will wind up in more costly lawsuits because of this.

But the rest of us, millions of Floridians, will say something for which Donna Moss would be proud:

Governor Scott, we want our health coverage. We want our health insurance access. Either cooperate, or get out of our way.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26: Jungle Island Needs To Untangle Its Financial Mess Before It Gets a Dime More

By Sylvia Gurinsky

A beloved tourist attraction for parrots has been gradually turning into the home of the white elephant.

Once upon a time, this story was simply supposed to be about more meeting and banquet space.

That was the argument Bern Levine made almost two decades ago about why Parrot Jungle needed to move away from its legendary Pinecrest site. A majority of Miami voters bought the argument in 1995, when they approved Parrot Jungle's relocation to Watson Island.

Parrot Jungle grew, with plenty of banquet space - but also with lots of animals beyond parrots and other birds, and changed its name to Jungle Island in 2007. And the admission price skyrocketed.

What hasn't grown is the attendance level. Its average number of visitors hasn't ever approached the 725,000 Levine once projected - even before the economy collapsed in 2008.

But still, Levine wants more from the city of Miami - more money and a hotel. Oh, yes, and the relocation of the city's Japanese Garden, which was created on Watson Island in 1961 as a gift to Miami from the founder of Japan's Ricoh Corporation and which has already been restored at least twice, after municipal neglect and hurricanes.

Aside from the plan's many faults, Levine's got lousy timing. Miami's still recovering, both from the economic crisis and the public debacle of providing much of the financing for the Miami Marlins' ballpark.

And Levine's spent a lot of time cashing in on the goodwill of South Floridians who have fond memories of the attraction Franz Scherr opened in 1936.

Now it's time for Levine to give back that investment. Jungle Island doesn't deserve one more dime from the city - or to continue to grow - until its money management and administration improve. The city of Miami should say "no" until then.

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 25: North Miami Should Say "No" To Strip Joint

By Sylvia Gurinsky
WPBT-Channel 2's potential new neighbor on Sesame Street may be brought to you by the letter "X."

Many years ago, the area of Northeast 20th Avenue in North Miami in front of the PBS affiliate was named in honor of the network's beloved children's program. Now, however, the deceptively-named Sunny Isles Eatery wants to open an alcohol-serving strip joint - also deceptively called a "gentlemen's club" - close to the station.

North Miami would have to change a law that prohibits alcohol being served in such places for this to happen.

Actually, city council members shouldn't change that law.

But one council member, Scott Galvin, inexplicably supports this project as a potential job creator. What a choice from a man who works with Junior Achievement of Greater Miami, an organization that's supposed to teach young people about entrepreneurship.

Is this what you have in mind for them, Councilman?

Even worse is the location choice. Channel 2 is in an industrial/warehouse section of North Miami. There are any number of businesses the city could - and should - try to get for that neighborhood. For instance, how about businesses that match with Channel 2, which is also the headquarters of Comtel, a video production facility? How about high-tech businesses?

Then there's the matter of what's over the railroad tracks and Biscayne Boulevard to the east - Florida International University, David Lawrence K-8 Center and Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High School.

(Yes, it's true that the corner of 163rd street and Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami Beach has a similar club; that doesn't mean North Miami has to join the party.)

Whatever joins Channel 2 in the area should match the employment and economic needs of the schools, not of a red-light district.

North Miami should say no to a change in law and to the Sunny Isles Eatery plans.

Otherwise, with apologies to the memory of Mr. Rogers, WPBT, a good citizen of North Miami for more than 40 years, will likely be asking another city, "Won't you be my neighbor?"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday June 11: Delay MAST Academy Expansion Decision

By Sylvia Gurinsky

With the school year just ended, students and families looking forward to a relaxing summer don't need any surprises. Many at MAST Academy seem to be getting one.

The Marittime and Science Technology Academy is located in the former Planet Ocean site on Virginia Key. It has been a magnet school, with its students selected by a lottery.

But students living in Key Biscayne need their own high school. There is little space on the island for one. Students have been going to Coral Gables High School, Booker T. Washington High School and other local schools.

The school district is pondering whether to approve a major facility expansion on the land that includes MAST. The expansion would provide a high school for Key Biscayne residents and relief for the existing K-8 center.

The argument made against it by many in the MAST community is that having a regular school would undermine the unique nature of their school. Those who support the project point to other schools that have included successful magnet programs.

This is too important a project for either the school board or the Village of Key Biscayne to rush to a decision on. Perhaps a compromise can be worked out. Or perhaps another site, such as the soon-to-be vacated Miami Science Museum buildings on South Miami Avenue, can be put into the picture - particularly now that the MAST program has expanded beyond the original campus.

All the students involved - from MAST and from Key Biscayne -  are worth the patience needed on this matter.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 6: Back To Work For "One Community"

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Education is the engine by which all relevant industries in Miami-Dade County run. Those who have put together the latest report by One Community One Goal realize that:

Link to reports

As they did during the late 1990s, community leaders putting together that report have targeted seven industries for economic improvement. The report also acknowledges the advantages of the county's environment and cultural atmosphere.

Among the recommendations: Have Miami-Dade Public Schools and local universities and colleges actively participate in the formation of job creation plans.

Proposals include the creation of a Future Fund for economic development, the expansion of international and homegrown businesses and the recommendation of improved transportation infrastructure, including the development of light rail. There are ideas for strategies to encourage workers to stay in the community, or at least maintain connections. Communication with the public is strongly emphasized. The final report gives examples of what other communities are doing for economic and employment success and calls the upgrading of Miami Beach's convention center "critical."

A number of the ideas depend on changing the behavior of government that has a tendency to deal with friends and media that has a tendency to focus on the flashy. Changing that behavior will be the most difficult part.

The key word throughout the report is "sustained." Miami-Dade County  has a maturing community. By now, it should be able to develop beyond economic whims and political turf wars.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday June 5: How's Your "Money-Saving" Looking Now, Scott Supporters?

By Sylvia Gurinsky
Congratulations, Florida. Thanks to your 2010 election of Rick Scott as governor and continued swayed nature of your legislature, this state has broken financial records - in the money it's spending on lawsuits challenging reasonable federal laws and on the money it's spending fighting lawsuits for inane laws it's enacted.

The latest example comes from the state's decision to purge thousands of voters from the rolls (Sorry, Governor, a purge is what it is, and there's no other way to label it.). The stated idea was to kick out undocumented immigrants and others who aren't officially registered to vote. But, of course, it's the innocent who get hurt - and victims of this purge have included a longtime Florida resident who is also a World War II veteran and faithful voter. Even native Floridians haven't been immune.

Naturally, the purge has triggered a legal challenge.

So add it to the money the state is spending to defend other misguided or unenforceable laws - like any that restrict business dealings with those who do business with Cuba, which oversteps federal policy.

Speaking of the feds: Add in the money Scott and company have spent fighting the 2010 national health care law, money for upgraded rail and other transportation projects and more that could truly help this state.

Scott and his friends in the Florida Legislature call it doing what they need to do. Those who know Florida better call their legal wrangling what it is: Government waste.

Many of the voters who supported Scott in 2010 did so on two theories: That he would create jobs for Florida and save the state money.

He hasn't been directly responsible for the first. He's been downright irresponsible on the second.

How's that supposedly money-saving choice looking now, Florida?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24: Don't Want Urban Beach Weekend, Miami Beach? Then Say So

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Roadblocks. Photos of license plates. Proof of residency. Welcome to the police state of Miami Beach - at least for this weekend.

All this cost to taxpayers and inconvenience for everyone will be because of Urban Beach Weekend, which inexplicably takes place a  a time that should honor those who have served this country in uniform. (That's only one of the ironies about this event; the other one is that this seems to be the one weekend in the year that the city opens up to African-Americans, who have never seemed to have a strong welcome otherwise.)

What started with various concert and nighclub promoters more than a decade ago has expanded into a logistical nightmare similar to the Spring Break that visited Fort Lauderdale from the 1960s through the early 1980s - but with violence such as the shooting that killed a driver early last Memorial Day.

Some have mentioned a $1 million profit for this weekend in the past, according to a Miami Herald article. But $1 million doesn't mean much when a city spends almost $2 million in security. Little like this has been seen since the city hosted the two presidential nominating conventions in 1972. Somewhere in heaven, legendary beach Police Chief Rocky Pomerance, who knew how to deal with those 1972 crowds, is probably shaking his head.

Meanwhile, the roadblocks and checkpoints will inconvenience others who would come to the beach for other purposes not connected to Urban Beach Weekend. Many city residents are heading for the hills.

Participants in the musical events say the police procedures make them feel unwelcome. That may be the idea.

But city leaders should at least be honest about it.

If they want Urban Beach Weekend to remain, they should make visitors feel at home (and perhaps suggest a more appropriate weekend than Memorial Weekend).

If Miami Beach doesn't want the event to remain, its leaders should say so. Spending almost $2 million is a costly method of saying, "Go away."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday May 8: Public Input a Must For University Task Force

By Sylvia Gurinsky
After slapping Florida's higher education system with one hand, Gov. Rick Scott is making a show of reaching out with the other.

Scott approved a budget by the Florida Legislature that chopped university funding - and also signed into law the political creation of Florida Polytechnic University.

Now, he is putting together a task force to study the university system.

So far, the appointments made by Scott and the Board of Governors, which oversees the university system, are North Florida-heavy. Lawmakers have yet to appoint their choices. Here's a suggestion: Look to the south, including the areas of Florida International and Florida Atlantic universities.

Also look to former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham for advice. As a staunch advocate of Florida's university system, no current or former politician knows more about it.

Once the task force is established, members need to make sure the public - particularly those who have a direct connection to universities - have strong input. Having hearings at all 11 existing universities wouldn't be a bad way to start. Neither would posting items of note at social media sites, so the biggest investors in higher education - the students - can see them and comment.

Heaven knows what Scott's motivation is for setting this task force up now. Floridians need to remind him who Florida's higher education system really belongs to. In whatever way, make your voices heard.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday May 1: Any Way To Get Smith & Scott To Stop Standing Their Ground?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

How politically charged has the aftermath of George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin become? Florida's elected officials can't even get together on one way of determining the quality of the "Stand Your Ground" law.

State Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, has just announced the results of a task force he convened. Meanwhile, another task force - the official one - organized by Gov. Rick Scott has recently begun its work.

One reason Smith - likely the Democrats' leader in the Senate next year and with probable political ambitions beyond that - got so impatient was that Scott dragged his feet on the task force matter.

Once Scott got going, he appointed mostly people who are supportive of gun rights laws - hardly an objective panel. Whatever they conclude, it will split the state once again.

"Stand Your Ground" can be described not just as the law that got Zimmerman into this mess, but also as the current attitude of politicians like Scott and Smith - standing their ground for their political objectives, but not inclined to really take the steps required to fix the problems with this law.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday April 3: Time To Address Coded Racism

By Sylvia Gurinsky

African-Americans spent 300 years trying to be freed from slavery. They spent the next 100 years trying to gain equal rights to white Americans.

There's no question that blacks have made significant progress - capped in 2009 with the inauguration of President Barack Obama. But the events leading to the shooting death of young Trayvon Martin and the aftermath are an indication of what still needs to be accomplished.

Did Martin's race play a role in George Zimmerman's ultimate decision to shoot him? That's one question being asked about this case.

Other questions are being asked about the coded racism that is still on display all over, not just against African-Americans.

It takes many forms: There's the "birther" movement against Obama and other politicians, such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. There's the "DWB," or "Driving (or shopping, or walking) While Black" syndrome. There are even anonymous comments such as those critical of today's naming of Lourdes Lopez, who is Hispanic, to succeed Edward Villella as artistic director of the Miami City Ballet.

In the background are the words of Martin Luther King from that August, 1963 day - his dream about his "children being judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." King meant that dream for everyone, of course.

Also in the background are Obama's words from March, 2008: "The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American."

The death of Trayvon Martin gives all Americans a chance to revisit the meaning of those words.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13: Get City Residents Involved in MB Convention Center Re-Do

By Sylvia Gurinsky

In 1983, the city of Miami built the James L. Knight Center and the Hyatt Regency in downtown in order to lure top conventions and speakers - even from across the bay, in Miami Beach.

That decision paid off big time last April, when President Barack Obama delivered a commencement address for Miami-Dade College graduates at the Knight Center.

In different circumstances, Obama might have delivered that speech at the Miami Beach Convention Center, which hosted three presidential nominating conventions from 1968-72. The facility originally designed by Morris Lapidus was once the gold standard. But even after a major 1980s expansion, it stopped attracting many top-drawer events.

That's why the city of Miami Beach is interested in another renovation of the convention center - with this one including a luxury hotel. The initial idea would have a new complex built on the land that currently includes the convention center, the Jackie Gleason Theater and Miami Beach City Hall.

Already, there are stirrings of concern from across a city where voters are often wary of major developments. Anything that is proposed will have to be put on the ballot.

At the very least, a new convention center/hotel complex should be of a design that complements the New World Symphony's facility across the street. Care should also be taken to pay tribute to the past of both the Convention Center and the Gleason Theater.

The best way that can be done: Make sure Beach residents are fully engaged in the process, from design to funding to voting.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6: Support Daniela? Support the DREAM Act

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Darn right Daniela Pelaez should be able to stay in the United States, finish her education and do the work she wants.

So should every other young person in her shoes.

Daniela, this year's valedictorian at North Miami Senior High School, faces deportation to Colombia, from where she came at age 4, because she does not have proper papers. She dreams of going to medical school and becoming a heart surgeon.

Many are supporting her cause - including her classmates, teachers, Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and numerous local politicians.

Among those politicians are needle-threaders such as U.S. Rep. David Rivera and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, both of Miami. They support Daniela, but won't support the DREAM Act, which would let thousands like Daniela stay in this country.

Like Daniela, those thousands of others whose parents brought them from the countries where they were born have no recollection of those countries, and no memories of anything other than growing up as Americans. They are certainly not to blame for their immigration status.

In fact, also like Daniela, most of those young adults are trying to make productive lives for themselves in this country. They should have that right in every way.

Amnesty for immigrants of long standing has been supported across party lines by figures ranging from former President George W. Bush to current President Barack Obama.

Everyone who supports Daniela Pelaez should also support the DREAM Act. Rivera and Rubio, the children of immigrants, should top that list.

Monday, March 5, 2012

March 5: On Iran, Israel Can't Afford To Miss

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Even a fly in the room would likely want to escape the tension in today's meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is as adamant about Israel's need to attack Iran's nuclear facilities to defend itself as Obama is about the need for more time for sanctions and diplomacy.

Israel has another factor to consider: Its chance for success.

Israel no longer has its previous reputation as the underdog country able to overcome the big armies of its neighbors. Another previous reputation for success - most notably with the July 4, 1976 rescue of airplane passengers held hostage in Entebbe Airport in Uganda - has also taken a beating in recent years.

Israel's battles with Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in 2009 showed that the Jewish state was found wanting in the protection of its soldiers and the communications and skills of its military leadership.

What Israel has to do in Iran is much more difficult, and even tougher than its successful mission destroying a nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. It doesn't help that, unlike with the Iraq mission and others, Netanyahu and others in the Israeli government can't seem to keep their mouths shut about what they want to do.

Publicity doesn't make for successful missions. Discretion and smart decisions do. In recent years, Israel hasn't shown enough of either in its politics or its military leadership.

Israel may ultimately decide to launch a military strike on Iran. If it does, it better not miss. Doing so will be catastrophic to Israel most of all - for many reasons.

Netanyahu should try actually listening to Obama, who knows something about successful military operations.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 1: Remember Tallahassee Hypocrites In November

By Sylvia Gurinsky

This is addressed to the people of Florida.

That's because it's pretty obvious - judging by this year's session of the Florida Legislature - that addressing anything to their elected representatives in Tallahassee is a futile effort.

Not only have many lawmakers tried to interfere with everything from how Floridians choose to pray - or not pray - to what happens between patients and doctors, but they're also hypocrites.

How else to explain requiring drug testing for other state employees and exempting themselves? How else to explain their criticisms and legal challenges of the health insurance plan President Barack Obama signed in 2010 - and keeping their own insurance premiums low while they let the premiums of most of their constituents skyrocket?

Because the legislature is having trouble coming to a budget agreement, they may be in Tallahassee beyond next week's scheduled end of the session - which means more time for them to do damage and mischief, such as gutting child care for Florida's poorest families:

Lest we forget, there's an election this year.

If the lawmakers responsible for this hypocrisy are running for re-election, throw them out. If they're running for anything else, don't vote for them.

Don't forget, Florida. Remember in November.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday, February 14: Bureaucracy In Healthy Eating Dollars Hard To Digest

By Sylvia Gurinsky

A few days ago, first lady Michelle Obama was in South Florida celebrating the second anniversary of her "Let's Move" initiative that promotes healthy eating and lifestyles.

But the way federal money meant for healthy lifestyles has been spent is giving plenty of people indigestion.

Miami New Times has published an article and a chart detailing how federal stimulus money intended for healthy programs has been spent:

From feds to county to cities, not enough has been spent on nuts and bolts - or nuts, fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods - and too much has been spent on planning and aspects that are very loosely defined as support systems.

Dollars were allocated to the Miami Police Department for training school crossing guards "to promote child physical activity by providing safe routes to and from school"; to Miami-Dade County's Parks and Recreation for accessibility to park land and street planning changes and to the city of North Miami for "Share the Road" signage, among others.

Too few dollars were allocated to farmers' markets and community gardens. New Times mentions the delays to some farmers markets.

Among those shut out entirely were Roots of the City in Overtown, which could have used the dollars to expand - and perhaps avoid the political whims of former Miami City Commissioner Richard Dunn, whose posturing caused the Roots garden to be closed for a while.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Miami-Dade Health Department needed better organization for the allocation of money. The first key to a healthy diet is changing eating habits - which includes making healthy foods more accessible. That should have come first.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday February 8, 2012: Syria Crisis Needs NATO Intervention

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Some would say that a new Cold War has developed between Russia and the West over Syria. But there's nothing remotely cold about the increasing number of casualties from the crackdowns dictator Bashar al-Assad has inflicted on the Syrian people.

Last Saturday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice reflected perfectly the world's frustration over Russia and China blocking international efforts to improve the situation in Syria. Both countries keep saying No to the UN.

That leaves NATO. Russia is a partner country to NATO, but not a member, and thus couldn't block the international organization if it decided to take action in Syria.

There's certainly precedent for NATO to act - in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s, and in Libya just last year.

The civil conflict in Syria has been going on for almost a year, and gets bloodier by the day. How many more lives will be spent before something is done?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday February 6: Improved Exercise & Diet the Answers In Sugar Battle

By Sylvia Gurinsky

How does this country solve its obesity/poor health crisis? Some are saying it's time to regulate sugar, much as alcohol and tobacco are regulated.


The problem is not that sugar isn't regulated. Sugar was around long before Americans started having serious health problems. But fast foods and processed foods weren't around, for the most part, until the 1950s. And an increased emphasis on both is where many of the problems lie - along with a decreased emphasis for children on physical education and recess in schools.

Unfortunately, school administrators have been looking for places to cut budgets and increase student preparations for tests. Phys Ed and recess have been among the first programs cut in many places.

That means numerous children don't get the exercise they need. Combine that with the many hours kids spend in front of televisions or computer screens, and you have most of the reasons they grow up into adults who are in bad shape.

And for most adults, the lack of time is a problem. That leads to more fast food meals and frozen dinners at the expense of naturally prepared meals - and health.

Almost 60 years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the organization that is known today as the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. With such programs as First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign and former President Bill Clinton's efforts to get healthy foods into schools, there's no question of continued efforts to lead Americans to healthier lifestyles.

But regulation, in this case, is no answer. Sugar doesn't need to be regulated - just managed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31, 2012: Human Rights Court Must Hear Haiti's Victims

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Once again, Haiti's lack of understanding of the rule of law has let down its people and the course of justice.

This time, the fault lies with Investigative Magistrate Carves Jean, who recommended that former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier be tried for corruption, but not for human rights abuses that include murder and torture.

Duvalier ruled from 1971-86, when he was driven from power and into exile in France. In the wake of the chaotic aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that destroyed so much infrastructure and government in Haiti, he returned last year.

The United Nations would like to see a trial for Duvalier. But so far, there has been a disappointing silence from the United States.

While one might suppose the U.S. is interested in Haiti's self-determination on all issues, the matter of the Duvalier regime's murder and abuse of thousands of Haitians transcends that.

If anything, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be taking the lead in calling for an international tribunal on the atrocities committed by the Duvalier regime. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights should hear this.

The victims of "Baby Doc" Duvalier's thuggery deserve their day in court.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday January 16, 2012: Occupy Folks Should Learn From Dr. King

By Sylvia Gurinsky

They've proved the first points by staying.

Now, the people representing the Occupy movement should try moving - specifically, marching.

All over the country, state legislatures are making moves that could be good - or not - for job and economic situations. That means the people's voice should be heard.

The Florida Legislature can hear those people more clearly if they're standing in front of the Capitol Building in Tallahassee, rather than sitting inside the tents next to the Miami-Dade County Government Center in Downtown Miami.

If the goal is to communicate the need for more jobs, for a more even playing field for American workers, for better opportunities and so forth, it's time to do so at the state level.

It's also time to do so by registering to vote - and by registering to run for office.

Today, the United States honors a man who was instrumental in encouraging both - marches and involvement in the political process - as ways Americans should use to make themselves heard.

"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy," Dr. Martin Luther King said in that famous August, 1963 speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Get out of those tents. Get involved.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tuesday January 10: Get Wise To Florida Legislature's Redistricting Games

By Sylvia Gurinsky

This was a bad time for a recall of Excedrin and Gas-X: The start of the Florida Legislature's 2012 session.

No doubt the Tallahassee gang will cause plenty of headaches and heartburn during the next two months - starting with redistricting.

Lawmakers are already trying to figure out how to get around the will of voters. In 2010, Floridians, of course, decided that the redistricting process should be de-politicized as much as possible, and that districts should be drawn without favor to political parties. It's already led to some pathetic scenes - doubtless the most pathetic being efforts by Republicans to give a "safe seat" to U.S. Rep. Allen West, who doesn't even live in the district he represents now.

Equally pathetic are the various paths Florida residents have to travel in cyberspace to access the proposed maps. The main website is . Once you get there, see if it's possible to find the proposed redistricting maps in less than three steps. You already know the answer.

The real answer is that you have to go to the Florida House website at
and click on the "Bills" section to see proposed maps.

Then go to the "Representatives" section at the top of the page, find your representative and make your voice heard on redistricting.

Because if that's what it takes simply to view a map, think of what the legislature is doing to mess with what the voters asked for in November, 2010.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday January 5: Israel's Wake-Up Call

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin didn't do it. But perhaps the harassment of an 8-year-old girl - and of various girls and women - has given Israel its wake-up call about the dangers of its extremists - and the complicity of its government in letting this behavior go on.

The level of observance of the thugs responsible for harassment, segregation of women on buses and other wrongdoings is less important than the fact that they're not acting like Jews at all. There is no derech eretz in their behavior.

There's only hypocrisy in the behavior of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Many will never forget the anger of Leah Rabin at Netanyahu for his role in encouraging the atmosphere that led to her husband's murder. This time, in order to keep his seat, Netanyahu has made numerous deals with the devils - the right-wing parties - and allowed them to skip responsibilities to pay taxes, serve in the army and take on many other duties of being an Israeli citizen. Numerous people supported by those parties don't even believe in a state of Israel, and providing any government financial support to them makes no sense.

The Israeli Knesset should end such subsidies and start a true government reform process so prime ministers won't be held hostage by fringe parties.

Other political leaders have simply used the harassment issue for their own gain - most notably former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who blew chances last fall to be on the correct side of the economic inequality protests and the release of Gilad Shalit. She doesn't come off as a true believer, only an opportunistic one.

It's ridiculous that a country whose third prime minister was a woman (Golda Meir) should have moved so far backwards in the 38 years since her tenure ended.

Meir once said, "Whether women are better than men I cannot say - but I can say they are certainly no worse."

Many Israeli men and women have shown the better with their courage in fighting the extremists. It's up to them to lead their elected government to do the same.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday January 2, 2012: Iowa Campaign an Insult to Intelligence of State and Some Candidates

By Sylvia Gurinsky

After tonight, no doubt, the majority of Iowans will breathe a sigh of relief that they don't have to go through THAT again for another three-and-a-half years.

Regardless of the result, one thing is clear: The campaign leading up to tonight's caususes may not be the ugliest ever, but there is no glory about it.

That's because both the media and a number of the Republican presidential candidates did plenty of dumbing down and moving around on important policy issues.

With the exception of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, candidates in the category of "those who should know better" - namely former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich - have bent over backwards, forwards and sideways to appease right-wing voters in ways that compromise their views on issues.

Gingrich has so many positions on climate change that he may turn into a human weathervane. Romney - once the governor of the state with the best public television station (Boston's WGBH) in the country - reached the ludicrous last week with his wish to commercialize PBS. (A dishonorable mention goes to Romney's son Matt, who said his father would release his tax returns when President Barack Obama releases his birth certificate - a cheap shot, as well as undignified and probably not in the Mormon code of behavior).

As for the media, good luck getting anything from the Washington corps (That includes you Gwen Ifill and most of your "Washington Week" colleagues.) that's not their version of what ESPN does with the NFL playoff picture. Plenty about who's polling well, plenty about who wins and who doesn't. Almost nothing about what it means to the average voter.

Iowa residents and Americans in general have been insulted and trivialized. What they haven't gotten is any better idea of which of the Republicans might be best qualified for president.

Look out, Florida. They're heading here.