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Friday, March 31, 2006

Critical Miamista (with addendum)

Why I’m Critical, Miami
Got all the mail, and yeah I know the stupidity of a few (God let me believe it is a few) can have an outsized effect. Still, I can’t imagine living and working full time in Miami. Not Miami as it is. I only have one life and I wouldn’t consign it to that sort of mediocrity. I know there are also people that delight in Miami’s dysfunction. It is the sort of personality trait that is common enough to keep daytime talk shows in business. (Inadequacy loves to poke fun the more inadequate.) But Miami still has all the great things that nature provided it, here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. It still has all the wonderful things that make me a part time resident and gives me hope for the city's future. And it has you good people.

I’ve discussed with all of you some of the more egregious instances of unchecked “isms” that flourish in our community. And we all know the statistics, Miami leads the nation in poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, low wages, infectious diseases, violent crime, blah blah blah. Of course these things translate into real human suffering and frustration. I feel it is my duty to hammer away at them as long as I am writing a Miami blog. Few among our small community of bloggers comment on these problems.

In the future I will push for the creation of specific programs, starting with an afterschool program. The idea of blogging is useless for me if I cannot do something positive with it. I am hoping all of you will offer suggestions and assistance. More on that in a later post.

The posts I put up are not intended to be daily updates or logs. If you revisit most posts (and I hope you do) you will find that they deal with long standing issues, offering long term solutions. Hopefully readers will imagine what Miami could be and become more active in changing Miami for the better. To make it easier I offered a group of suggestions in Miamista Has All Your Answers. I have two more to add.

Yessuh, What We Need Is That There Guvmint Re-FormCounty Charter Reform including a Strong Mayor. In one of Rebecca's greatest interviews, Merrett Stierheim explained why. (For you newbies Stierheim is a long time, some say legendary, Miami-Dade public administrator educated at Dartmouth and originally from Mineola, Long Island.) As he emphasized, the mayor of Dade is the only person elected across districts and ethnic blocs. As it is now the office of Dade County Mayor has little power. With a powerful mayor there maybe less passing the buck; less murky commission proceedings and backroom bargaining. A strong mayor is easier to hold accountable and easier to cover. (It is the reason county mayor Penelas self destructed but the commissioners skated on MIA dealings.) If successful such a mayor can actually be a statesman, uniting the entire community across ethnic and social lines.

As I previously mentioned we also need a full time, adequately paid county commission. Perhaps the greedy commissioners will make a trade- power for money. They’re use to doing that. We also need some term limits on the commission. As it is, the commission is a lifetime or until-you’re-incarcerated position.

Add to that public access to the communication and visitation logs of lobbyists. Our mayors and commissioners have interpreted Sunshine Laws so as to not include this. Let’s get this straightened out.

Hey Mister, Wanna Paper?
A reinvigorate newspaper. I’m not sure what is going to happen with the Herald but I don’t have much faith. Chuck Strouse and the New Times home office needs to grow some balls back. We need a real newspaper in Miami.

Death of the Herald, A PrimerThe Miami Herald disappeared with the departure of David Lawrence in 1999. Many blame the ugly CANF related events. (It involved CANF related defacement of property, death threats, shit placed in newspaper boxes and a lawsuit.) Tony Ridder, the owner of family enterprise Knight Ridder, abandoned Miami as the flagship paper as well as a city. Mr. Ridder, unlike the Knight family whom the Ridders purchased the paper from, never warmed to Miami. With the city seemingly on an endless slide from late 80's on, Tony moved operations to the prosperous city of San Jose.

The Herald, once esteemed, is now regularly ridiculed in the journalism industry, and was all but buried by several Columbia Journalism Review articles. The final straw there may have been Alberto Ibargüen being run out as publisher. Ibarguen made some comments about the lack of tolerance among certain ultra right wing elements that were not well received.

Death of the Miami New Times, A Primer
The Miami New Times more than picked up the slack. It was part of a national chain of alternative weeklies, each having considerable editorial freedom. California native, Yale educated editor Jim Mullins and his star columnist, Brooklyn native Jim Defede took full advantage. Defede eventually sold out, becoming a watered down version of himself at the Herald. (The irony there never stales.) MNT lost Jim Mullin after the Art Teele suicide and an office blog scandal. Seems Jim’s permissiveness burned him thrice.

Despite being a self avowed Republican with deep respect for the diversity of the city, Jim Mullin was seen as anti-Cuban and too liberal among some. Mullin’s MNT was very popular among fair minded people. The weekly was an equal opportunity exposer of scoundrels.

After his departure seemingly every MNT reporter worth their salt jumped ship. Some have wound up on the Sun Post. The Sun Post is still not making up for what the Miami New Times was. What the locally owned Sun Post doesn’t have is the investigative reporting, the resources and seemingly, the latitude New Times reporters had.

So we’re left with a handful of hard charging columnists at the Herald and Rebecca and Omar at the Sun Post. With the notable exceptions like Bob Norman, Broward’s papers aren’t any better.
So let’s get Jim Mullin, Jim Defede, Max Castro (fired from UM and the Herald b/c of right wing extremist pressure) together and get us a paper…OR A BLOG!

Appreciation Time for Critical Miami/Alesh
Alesh is one of those people who make me wonder why he lives in Miami. I am glad he does all the same. Critical Miami achieves what Miamist (which IS getting better) should have been. It’s not committed to any single aspect of local life though there are flashes of incisive criticism and observation. CM politely refuses the contentious but discusses the talk of the day, like a good cocktail party host. CM is smart and hip without being pretentious. (Note that Alesh wisely avoids reporting on the Beach club scene, choosing more eclectic, slightly less gagifying Wynwood, etc.) Finally, CM is just edgy enough to promote back and forth debate without the site becoming “political”.

You Incestuous Little BloggersOur blogging community is sort of like the Herald, Sun Post and the New Times readership- Eastside Anglos and a smattering of middle class Latinos.

Miami is fractured by ethnicity and class and the blogging community reflects it. For example, the excellent Overtown Blog continues to be our only blog from Overtown, or for that matter, the only Black authored blog. The Black and Latino neighborhoods and cities that make up most of Dade are not reflected in our blogs. East Grove, Brickell-Roads, the Beach, Broward and gentrified Wynwood make up the blogging community.

No blogs for Liberty City, Opa Locka, Carroll City, Allapattah, Latin Wynwood, Flagami, Florida City, Sweetwater, Hialeah fuck it, the Northside and most of the Southside of Dade County. In all honesty, I can’t imagine what we would get if we had blogs representative of Greater Miami. But it would help to hear the voice of our entire community.

*So for those of you who wrote me, PLEASE imagine Miami with lower crime, reasonably good government, a larger middle class, a strong economy with good wages, better roads and public transportation, great schools, great research institutions, better access to healthcare for families, after school programs for our youth, more ethnic integration, less racism and greater opportunity. Maybe not a San Jose, Seattle or Boston overnight, but just not the top of every list for negative things. And then we would truly be the Magic City.