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.