Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Police Memorial Dedicated at the Port of Miami

Today Miami-Dade County unveiled a statue dedicated to those police officers who serve above and beyond the call of duty at the Port of Miami. The nearly life-size bronze sculpture by world renowned artist Bobby Brittero depicts a police officer being carried away by fellow officers after succumbing to fatigue brought on by working between 60 and 90-hours overtime during a two-week pay period. His last words are immortalized at the base of the statue: "Just One More Truck..."

"These police truck inspectors are our first line of defense against terrorism," a county spokesman said on condition of anonymity. When asked why he wanted to remain anonymous, he replied, "Do you know how much these guys make? Because of overtime, they're pulling in between $170,000 to $180,000 a year. Including their base pay, that's costing the county-- you and me-- over $18 million a year. Critics say these jobs could be handled cheaper by security guards. It's controversial, man."

According to the Miami Herald, many of the officers have been assigned to the Port because at some point in their careers there comes a time when "'they need to be sent somewhere where they aren't interacting with the public on a daily basis. This was one of those places,' said Capt. Gary Shimminger.

'Every organization has its Siberia,' added Sgt. Norberto Gonzalez."

Aside from the fact that fatigue may hamper their job performance in keeping Miami safe, we think the county's program of removing potential "Dirty Harries" from the street and sending them to "Siberia" probably more than pays for itself when one considers how much money the county won't have to pay out in lawsuits brought on by citizens who have been manhandled or shot by the same people who have sworn to serve and protect them.

Of course the downside to this program is that it might encourage more police officers to rough up the public to get to "Siberia." Only time will tell.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Miami Comics: The Incredible Meshugena

You really gotta love this place. A day doesn't go by when elected officials or city or county bureaucrats don't do or say something really, really stupid. Case in point: The Miami Herald reported today that although most of the contributions to the strong mayor campaign came from within the county, Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto wondered out loud if some of the donations might have come from "international left-wing agitators" who might want to see voters usurp his and the commission's power.

For the past few months, seven of the commissioners have done all they can to embarrass our county by trying to stop the referendum calling for a vote by the county's citizens on Mayor Carlos Alverez's proposal. Using every legal tactic it can to block the referendum-- and getting smacked aside the head by every court the matter has been taken to-- including the Florida Supreme Court-- they had the temerity a few weeks ago to hire an outside attorney-- at the public's expense-- to battle the issue one more time in the courts. That earned "the seven" the first MVB Poopy Head hat awards.

According to Matthew L. Pinzur of the Herald, at the October 17th meeting, Souto "wondered aloud whether international left-wing agitators could be gaining influence in South Florida." Despite our admitted group therapy sessions with a shrink, what follows is something even we couldn't have come up with if we tried, Commissioner Souto's own words:

"When you have...so many left-wing governments in Latin America at the moment, so much money-- are you talking about Venezuelan money? Are you talking about Castro? There's no money in Cuba for soap, but there's money for spying.

"There's some things happening in Miami-Dade County-- I've been saying it over and over and over again.

"I'm watching. I'm watching everything and everybody, and let me tell you I don't like what I'm seeing."

The next day he added this at another meeting:

"When our guys-- not the left-wing people, but the people who are in favor of democracy and who Reagan was supporting-- when those people get on the offensive and kick the hell out of the other people, where do you think they went?

"You think they went to Alaska? You think they went to Russia? No, my friends. They came here.

"They're in Texas, they're here. They came across the border."

Commissioner Souto, we don't know what the hell you're trying to say, or how in God's Good Name you got elected, but in appreciation of your efforts in keeping an eye on those godless left-wing bastards who are trying to infiltrate our way of life, we salute you with your second Poopy Head hat award. You and Commissioner Natacha Seijas now have two Poopy Head hats each-- more than any other commissioner. Congratulations and thanks for the laughs!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

MVB Flashlight on: The International Toy Center in Miami

Before MVB existed, we were always a "gadroach" (see here). We mailed and emailed anyone in the public or private sectors about ideas we had regarding south Florida. Aside from former City of Miami manager Joe Arriola who emailed us back about our idea of making the Miami Arena part of a "megaplex" that included a hotel and a baseball stadium that straddled the MetroRail tracks (here) and (here), we rarely heard from anyone. (Arriola in his fashion, told us in no uncertain terms we were nuts. How he knew we were seeing a shrink in group therapy was and still is creepy).

For nearly two years the toy industry has been looking for a permanent home. The International Toy Center (ITC) is basically a huge merchandise mart for toy companies. Headquartered in NYC for over a hundred years, everything was running smoothly until it lost its lease. It's been looking for a permanent home ever since and has entertained suggestions from civic leaders in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Dallas to mention just a few. Although there is a strong percentage of toy executives who don't want to leave New York, there is also a growing percentage that don't really care. They just want a permanent building to display their wares and have access to a large convention center once a year to stage their humungous toy show. Right now, that happens in the dead of winter every February at the Javits Center.

To us, moving the ITC to Miami is a no brainer because it has everything they need: rents within their budget and access to a large convention center, i.e, the Miami Beach Convention Center. Since manufacturing has basically moved overseas, it is no longer necessary to be located in the industrial northeast. At one point, the ITC was looking for nearly a million square feet of floor space. Omni Mall had that and more. Times have changed since then. Omni looks like it may be torn down to build multi-use towers. Now the ITC is looking for a minimum of 300,000 square feet. In desperation to find a building, they may settle for one built in 1903. Part of the leasing program for that building includes:

• Leases of five, seven and 10 years will be offered ranging from $39.20 to $44.20 per square foot, depending on the length, with increases of 2 percent to 3 percent, depending the term, after the first year.
• The landlord will provide basic showroom build outs at no additional cost. In the alternative, the tenants may design the space themselves and receive and $35 per square foot "cash contribution," along with the landlord's base building work.
• Included in those rental amounts, $1 per square feet will revert back to the NYTT.
• Tenants will split the cost of the building's electricity plus a 10 percent fee, and pay for their own cleaning services.
• Tenants will also pay a pro rata portion of future real estate tax increases and fuel increases above the 2007 calendar year level.
• Tenants will have one option to extend their leases.
Space allocations will be made largely on a first come, first served basis, along with other considerations, such as space demands.
The landlord will also provide a 2,000 square foot multi-purpose space to serve as a buyers' lounge, conference and media room.

One of the location's drawbacks-- besides being one freaking old building-- is that it isn't near public transportation. In fact, if the ITC takes that space, they plan to provide a shuttle service for its tenants to the closest subway entrance.

We believe the ITC can do much better in Miami. It has been months now since we last contacted Mayor Diaz's office. The last thing we heard was that his staff was working on it (sadly, as much as we respect County Mayor Carlos Alverez, we got no reply from his office). Hopefully they actually are "working on it." Hopefully they believe there is still a chance to lure the ITC to Miami. According to the latest dispatch from "Playthings Extra," an e-newsletter for the toy industry, everybody wants a decision made on a permanent location ASAP-- but not all of industry executives care if that location is in New York.

In June we contacted RTKL architects who are designing a stunning tower called 600 Brickell. It has more than enough space for the ITC and is conveinently located near MetroRail and the People Mover. We suggested RTKL get in touch with the ITC. Hopefully they have because if they leave it up to the City and the Beacon Council to attract new business, it probably won't happen.

One thing Miami doesn't have is a lot of headquartered globally known brand names. Bringing the headquarters for hundreds of toy manufacturers from all over the world to downtown Miami will be a good thing for all who live here because it will focus the attention of leaders of industry on Miami and it will bring people who can actually afford to buy some of the 40,000+ chi chi condos planned for downtown. With our climate, and access to the world through MIA and the Port of Miami, it only takes a little effort on the part of the City and County to send a delegation to New York to make the convincing pitch. Other cities already have and since it's not too late, we should too.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Deeper Meaning in Roach Droppings

MVB has received numerous comments regarding our masthead. Since the recent addition of the palmetto bug and the eye, questions have gone up with most of them asking, "WTF?"

So, instead of taking time out to answer each individual question, we have decided to explain its deeper meaning in this posting.

MVB is a digital gadfly regarding all things Miami and the Beaches. To emphasize our south Florida roots and our not so pretty approach to just about everything, we have chosen to make the Florida palmetto bug, one of the most vile and disgusting creatures known to man, MVB's symbolic gadfly, or "gadroach," if you will. Although it may be viewed as an object of scorn, it is also begrudgingly admired and feared for its agility and speed in ducking a death blow and then rocketing up your leg to hide in your undies; its ability to fly at the most unexpected moment only to land in your hair causing you to swat yourself silly with the newspaper you had rolled up for it; and its will to survive because no matter how much insecticide you spray on it, it's hard not to admire the little six-legged horror as it flips onto its back and does its death dance, giving you the finger with all six legs while struggling to hold on as best it can to the thing God programmed it to do in this thing called life.

We want to run through the political BS as only a palmetto bug can, fleet of feet, to land in the hair of the Poopy Head hat wearing clowns and make them swat themselves aside the head with a rolled-up Miami Herald or, if they don't read the rag as many are canceling their subscriptions nowadays, to grab some electronic device reflecting an MVB posting and use that instead.

Like all good gadroaches, we have an agenda and particular point-of-view. Its visionary focus is on architecture and the arts and the search for common sense solutions in the public arena that will make living here better for everyone. And, like all good gadroaches, we will eat through anything in that public arena to get to the truth and the self-serving greedy bastards pretending to be public servants.

Look! There's one now trying to hide behind our masthead! Good luck, dude! You can run but you cannot hide! And straighten that Poopy Head hat for crise sakes!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What's with the "N-Word," anyway?

Just like most thoughtful Americans, white, black, or some color in between, we have a problem with the "N-Word." We personally don't use it. Never heard it bandied about the house when growing up. So it comes as no surprise when anybody with a brain and a heart to go along with it gets bent out of shape when they hear one of their state reps has used it repeatedly. Florida House Republican Ralph Arza admits doing it and, like Mel Gibson's recent tirade against Jews, blames it on alcohol since none of them have a prejudiced bone in their bodies. Gibson can make amends in Hollywood by making sure his next film is a hit at the box office because money always trumps morality there. Arza's got a bigger problem. Unless he can singlehandedly reduce taxes, create affordable health insurance and housing, and make all schools "A" schools tomorrow, he will most likely find himself shunned in Tallahassee by his collegues and the public in general. And rightly so.

The N-Word will always be America's most sensitive noun. Thanks to our history, it will follow us where ever we go the rest of our lives-- just like "Holocaust" and "Nazi" stalk the Germans. It's America's own private bugaboo, always lurking in the dark behind our backs ready to pounce at the first opportunity to embarrass our public and private selves; to make us see the truth about ourselves, that no matter how much we want to be, Will Rogers we'll never be.

To get a sense what kind of power the word has over us, even Howard Stern, the planet's champion of the profane and man's baser instincts, would dare not use it on his radio show. Unless, of course, he might be interviewing a rap star. In that case, the word's strength is weakened and somehow made more acceptable with a gangsta rappers intonation: nigga.

So why then does our politically and socially sensitive country turn its judgemental gaze away when rap stars use it repeatedly in their songs? Why is that tolerated? Why aren't people up in arms about that-- especially when those songs are making the rappers filthy rich while poisoning the minds of their legions of fans? White guys have little or no street cred with rappers, especially old white guys in positions of power. That leaves it to black America to speak up. Aside from Bill Cosby, who has railed against the N-Word and the bankrupt culture gangsta rap glorifies, who else has? Has Oprah? Reverends Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or Run? Loud and long enough to be heard? Where is their collective national voice? Could it be liberal political correctness and the desire to appear hip supercedes speaking out? Why is it we only see and hear them when a white bigot uses the word? Silence implies a double standard, that it's okay for "us" to use the word, but don't try to drop one of them bombs on us if you're white. If anyone has an answer, would you please let us know?

Yes, we're all for staging press conferences and getting behind a microphone to show our contempt or to issue a statement that records our disgust like politicians have done in the last couple of days. But we'd really be impressed if they could muster a modicum of that collective public distate and channel it toward the bigger danger of gangsta rap where the N-Word flourishes unrepentant.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Free Shawn Beightol!

It's been 10 days now since the Dade County Schools strong-armed him out of his teaching position as a much loved chemistry teacher at Krop high and "reassigned" him to the "maintenance depot." Mr. Beightol, who is running against the current teachers union president, allegedly made the mistake of using the schools' Internet to post messages to fellow teachers that were considered to be of a "political nature."

Give us a break! MVB thinks Mr. Beightol ought to sue them for infringing on his 1st Amendment rights and defamation of character just for starts. Last week, we caught a TV interview with students outside the high school. Seems the substitute teacher hired to replace him while he wastes away at the "maintenance depot" doesn't do anything except read the newspaper. Parents should be outraged. We urge them to raise holy hell to get this guy back into the classroom before all of their kids fall too far behind.

Readers who feel as outraged as we do, can click here. It will open the Dade County schools website. You can find the School Board button on the left. Dr. Martin Karp reps Mr. Beightol's school, but it probably wouldn't hurt to let all of them know how you feel.

And remember our rallying cry, "Free Shawn Beightol! Free Shawn Beightol!"

UpDate (11/1): Mr. Beightol was "freed" after 17-days from "Guantanamo North" as he called it on Halloween and put back in the classroom where he belongs and should never have been removed in the first place. Unfortunately, in an email from him, the charges brought against him have been taken to the state level. Talk about intimidation tactics. If there is justice in the world, perhaps forcing the issue like this will come back to bite the school board on its collective fat asses when the state orders all school boards to back off and backs Mr. Beightol and all teachers in exercising their First Amendment rights.

SoBe Undies Finder

We have to admit, we hadn't given women's underwear much thought lately until we read "Sex and the Beach", one of our favorite blogs. But leave it to Manola Blablablanik to set us straight about the ever-shrinking garment. In her October 18th posting, "Cultural Debriefing," Ms. B, the blogosphere's most talented and sensuous Renaissance Woman, takes us on a hilarious, whirlwind romp through ladies underwear from 1930 to the present from the unique perspective of a Cuban-Jewish woman.

Seeing how the latest styles in ladies panties might get lost if thrown on the carpet, we were inspired to come up with a solution in finding them. Now, with the tested and approved "SoBe Undies Finder," a woman never has to wonder if what she is wearing is really her underwear or just lint.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I Want My Monorail!

Today Las Vegas Monorail launched their "Ambassador Program." Nearly 20 showgirl ambassadors were paraded before the media in classic outfits "reminiscent of old-time Vegas cocktail hostesses." They will be working around Vegas to answer questions regarding the monorail and other aspects of "Sin City."

In 2004, seven stations opened on the 4-mile long route. According to the press release, the system includes nine Disney-style trains with four cars each on a single rail line traveling up to 50 mph. The system can handle 3,200 people per hour. Since the monorail is electric, experts believe it has "reduced traffic by more than four million automobile trips and improved air quality by reducing carbon monoxide output by up to 135 tons each year."

MVB has advocated making the BayLink between Miami and Miami Beach a Bombardier/Disney-style monorail for a host of reasons which can be read here by clicking the web page on the right. Dade County probably would have had a rubber tired monorail today if it hadn't been for the fact that its consultant, Kaiser engineers, pushed steel rail in 1974. We think all of us are in agreement that MetroRail is an ugly, noisy, monstrosity compared to the sleek, futuristic Disney monorails. With MetroRail extensions planned west and north, we would hope that someone with a little vision might want to take another look at the 30+ years proven solution in Orlando-- if not for the whole building program, at least for the BayLink extension.

Babes In Arms With Arms

We found a song called "Armaggedon Girl" by Alta Dustin that is evocative of the thoughts below. Use it as background music.

Miami's own B-2 stealth bomber babe, Captain Jennifer Wilson, the first woman to fly a combat mission, got us to thinking-- which is never a good thing. We were reminded of that famous iconic Times Square kiss caught by famed shutterbug Alfred Eisenstaedt. It happened over 60-years-ago when Japan surrendered unconditonally on August 14, 1945. Two million people flooded Times Square in celebration of the official end of World War II. One of them was a sailor, the other a nurse. He didn't know who she was and didn't care. He grabbed her as she was walking by and gave her a kiss she-- and the world-- will never forget. Eisenstaedt caught it, Life magazine printed it and the rest is history. Time magazine calls the photo "one of the ten greatest images in the history of photojournalism." We agree. Everytime we see it, it reminds us of the war our fathers fought and the men and women who sacrificed without complaint during that dark time.

As we said in our earlier posting, it also reminds us how much has changed, how much we've changed. Not all of it has been for the better, but when it comes to giving women equal rights, it's all for the good. Which got us to thinking that if that photo were taken today, it might have looked like our lead picture-- including its deliberately androgynous take on the subject.

Regarding Eisenstaedt's photo, we discovered:
  1. The sailor now lives in Plantation, FL. Carl "Moose" Muscarello is in his eighties now. A retired New York City detective, Mr. Muscarello made headlines a few months ago but for something quite different. He thwarted a burglary in his own home by jumping on the back of the bad guy and bringing him down with a choke hold. Cool. Our kind of guy. In 2004, he was reunited with the nurse he kissed, Edith Shain, as both were honored at the first annual Times Square "V-J Day 'Kiss-In'." The couple reinacted the kiss in front of thousands in the exact spot it happened over 61-years ago.

  2. During the festivities, a life-sized sculpture depicting that famous kiss was also on display. The work, "Unconditional Surrender," by J. Seward Johnson is truly worthy. With a little Googling, we discovered that there is a 25-foot version available in three price ranges. For $542,500.00 you can have it in painted Styrofoam. For $980,000.00 you can upgrade to painted aluminum. And for those who can really afford it, you can have a painted bronzed version at $1,140,000.00, shown here when it was on display in St. Petersburg.

  3. For those struggling to live in expensive South Florida but would still like to buy a piece of history, autographed Life magazine photos by Muscarello and Shain are available for $2,799.00.

Too bad we don't have a Times Square. Maybe someday the plaza spanning Biscayne Boulevard and linking our new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts will become the South's Times Square. Maybe we will name it the "New Times Square," symbolic of just about everything regarding our time and place in the New World. Maybe when the Miami Herald sells its building and "leaves the room," the Beacon Council could persuade the New Times weekly paper chain to relocate from Phoenix to Biscayne Blvd. They could hang a big neon sign on the outside of a new office tower overlooking the Performing Arts Plaza with a nice electronic "zipper" sign wrapping around the building flashing us the latest news. It would remind the world that there's a really "New Times Square" in town and it ain't in New York.

If that ever happens, maybe someday we'll see a picture of a young American woman in a bikini representing fun and sensual south Florida kissing a sailor coming home from the world's last war, a war American girl warriors helped win.

UpDate (8/5/07): The Miami Herald reports that a famous forensic artist believes another man was the real "Times Square Kisser" but for us MVB True Believers, we know it was and always will be our own Moose Muscarello.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Most Dangerous Woman in the World is from Miami

Jennifer Wilson is the first woman to fly a B-2 stealth bomber in combat. It happened on April 1, 2003, when the then 30-year-old Air Force Captain flew a combat mission for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Way to go, Jennifer! The boys here at MVB are real proud of you! You da bomb!

As an aside, it's amazing how much things have changed in 40+ years. Sending American girls to fight our wars is still hard for us to grasp because some of us here at MVB are old enough to have had dads who fought in WWII and Viet Nam, wars in a time in history that never could have imagined women in combat. If a woman saw combat back then, it was usually the aftermath of a skirmish in a MASH tent. Now we learn that, among other things, they are flying the world's most advanced bombers on combat missions. God bless them all and keep up the good work. Like the old Virginia Slims cigarette ads said, "You've come a long way, baby!"

Shipping Container Homes Update: A Florida Connection

Peter DeMaria, the architect responsible for championing the reuse of Intermodal Steel Building Units (ISBUs) aka "shipping containers" for housing, has a Tampa connection. Tampa Armature Works, an 85-year-old Florida company, makes the ISBUs to Mr. DeMaria's specs and ships them to California. If you believe as we do that the ISBUs can be an economical and aesthetically pleasing quick fix to public housing and would like to learn more and see how they are made and installed, please click this link to a Bob Villa video. The 6-chapter video chronicles the building of hurricane resistant low income housing using ISBUs in St. Petersburg. It offers an exciting and informative look at how the ISBU exceeds the Florida hurricane building code and will squash any reservations about using them here. The chapter on the NASA spray-on ceramic is quite fascinating. The thin coating has an amazing R-factor of 20 and is shown being sprayed on site.

MVB believes using the fruits of NASA technology and recycling shipping containers is a viable quick-fix solution to closing the affordable housing gap and supplying much needed public housing in Dade County and urge its usage.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Great Seal To Steal: It's only your money!

The Herald called it a "small step" when the County Commission unanimously approved building the $1.2 billion Port of Miami tunnel this week. MVB sees it as a "giant step" to fleecing the public from traditional "unforeseen rising construction costs" to your run-of-the-mill kickbacks. Even the looming shadow of Boston's notoriously corrupt, over budget "Big Dig" and the county's own track records of the $200 million cost overrun for the Carnival Center and its horrific mismanagement of the staggeringly huge MIA project estimated to be $1 billion over budget couldn't persuade them to think before committing to a project some experts believe will only fail. If only as much thought were put into this by the commissioners as is being put by them into the Island Gardens project on Watson Island-- a private investment delayed numerous times, sometimes over the silliest things like whether or not it will suck up too much water from the mainland (see October 15th posting).

Still, there is a bright side. The county has to come up with their share of public dollars which is an eye-opening, heart-stopping $900 million. The county figures it can dig up $600 million by:
  1. Using $100 million set aside from a general obligation bond approved by voters in 2004,
  2. $114 million from local transportation fees (always an ambiguous place to find money),
  3. $47 million "in the form of right away donated by the port" (whatever that means since the port is owned by the county-- it sounds like a plan to pay for something we already own).

If the City of Miami, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., throws in $50 million, our local contribution will still be $300 million short. Not to worry, the brains behind this cockamamied idea figure they can get that money by:

  1. Charging tolls to drive into the port,
  2. Increasing user fees for cargo and cruise ships.
Another set of experts has said that those tacked on fees will make the "port less economical than Port Everglades, its Broward County rival." Which means shippers will turn to Ft. Lauderdale-- ironically solving the Port of Miami's problem of moving goods to and from the port.

A little research showed that most containers coming into the Port of Miami are delivered only to Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties-- not the rest of the U.S. Although we don't pretend to be economists, we think common sense tells us that those increased tolls and operating fees will be passed on by the shipper to the manufacturer who will pass it to the consumer as more expensive goods. Usually, when something like that happens, the cost of living rises. The cost of living in Dade County alone has created a shortage of workforce housing. If it continues to rise unchecked, where will we find our teachers, tradesmen, cops and firemen, retail and wholesale workers? The only ones who will be able to live here are the lawyers, doctors, bankers, and real estate developers. But how will they continue to function without their paralegals, nurses, secretaries, and real estate agents who can't sell their projects?

Oh, but we digress which is our wont.

Condsidering how much it costs and how much can go wrong with this project-- hell, it's not even above ground for crise sakes and look what happened to those that were-- you'd hope our commissioners would have been more cautious before leaping into the money pit. For instance, as we have been harping on more than once, did anyone consider ramping up use of the rail line to the port? In the middle of the night when downtown Miami is "sleeping"? Wouldn't that relieve pressure on the port?

Despite what some people might think of Johnny Winton, the City of Miami commissioner was against the port tunnel project. We can only hope a majority of Miami commissioners feel as he did. Without their support, the port tunnel will only remain an underground pipe dream.

Because the stink is so staggering regarding the county commission's vote on the port tunnel, the traditional MVB Poopy Head hat just won't do in conveying our overwhelming disappointment. We asked our publisher, Verticus Erectus, to break down and actually draw something like a political cartoon instead of ripping off pictures from the Internet to Photoshop-illustrate previous postings. So, in homage to the work of Don Wright, the great political cartoonist of the Miami News whom Mr. Erectus has sorely missed since 1988 when the paper went under,* we offer up our first real political cartoon albeit with some Mr. E's Photoshop B.S.

* Why the Miami Herald didn't grab Wright when they had a chance will always be a puzzlement-- like the time they yanked the comic strip "Arnold," the junior high school kid with the really big nose. Wright had already won a Pulitzer for the News, the rival hometown paper just down the road. He was and is clearly the most influential political cartoonist of his generation. Both missteps will forever be the Herald's loss.

UpDate (12/13/08): Christmas comes early with the announcement that the tunnel project succumbs to a well-deserved death when the state and Bouygues Travaux Publics can't agree on terms. Hurray!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cirque du Soleil Miami Redux

Now that Cirque du Soleil has withdrawn from trying to strike a deal with the City of Miami Beach by turning the Jackie Gleason Theater into a permanent Cirque show, perhaps they may want to cast their sight across Biscayne Bay at downtown Miami at the Miami Arena. MVB has been championing this site for a long time to anyone who will listen. Since Glenn Straub bought it in 2004 for $28 million dollars from the county (it cost tax payers $52.2 million in 1988), nothing has really been done with it. Aside from the fact that the building could easily adapt the Cirque's unique tents to its shape through stressed canopy construction, the Arena already sits in the City of Miami's designated entertainment district. Having a permanent Cirque du Soleil in downtown Miami would offer another reason for cruise ships to make Miami a destination instead of just a point of departure. Think about it: bringing tourists and their dollars into Miami gives them, among other options, a chance to see a Cirque show at the arena; a ballet, symphony, opera or a Broadway musical at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts and, depending on the season, a Miami Heat basketball game at the American Airlines Arena. Not too shabby. At least it beats a stop over in the Bahamas at the straw market-- or any other destination we can think of.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Jones for a Jitney

In another example of how to keep the cost of living from falling in Dade County, the City of Miami and the state want to spend $200 million of our hard earned tax dollars on an outmoded form of public transportation called the streetcar. Once found in most U.S. cities, they were fazed out of existence by the 1940's for a variety of reasons, chief among them being they crowded the same streets they were designed to serve and impeded traffic flow. In this current plan, the powers-that-be want to run lines north, south, east, and west from Government Center in downtown. We think the idea is ludicrous because:
  1. The first hurricane will rip the ugly overhead power lines to shreds making it a $200 million investment going nowhere when you need it the most,
  2. Because they share streets with cars and are locked to a path of steel rails, they will become an impediment to drivers-- especially when they break down in the middle of the road,
  3. The cost is obscenly high-- like the parking fees at the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts
For a fraction of the streetcar costs, MVB suggests:
  1. Bringing back the jitney-- and not any new fangdangled modern version either. We want the always colorful, open-air Rastamons jitneys, Bahamian, Philipino, and Haiti style Island Nation jitneys. Make the jitney fare lower than the regular bus fare but include free rides for senior citizens, annual passes, and the use of credit cards to encourge riders to hop on board. Make it a rule that all the jitneys must play "Island"/reggae music loud enough within reason that it can be heard on the streets,
  2. Hire real live Island people to drive the jitneys. Pay them a living wage with all the benefits public transit drivers already get from the county. It's all about appearances and it will give deserving people meaningful employment. Let them park their jitneys at home to keep the bueracracy and its associated costs to a minimum,
  3. Contract with local mechanics in garages along the routes to maintain the jitneys instead of burdening the already strapped transit maintenance division.
Initial upfront costs will be for purchasing the jitneys and hiring drivers. If someone makes them here, contract with him to build them-- keep the money in the county. If not, import them from the Islands. They don't all have to look the same, that will be part of their low-tech, easy-to-maintain charm.

Probably the most important feature of our plan aside from the fact that it can be implemented quicker, cheaper, and with less hassel-- no streets need to be torn up-- is redirecting the enormous amounts of money from designing, building the rail lines, and buying the streetcars, to putting it into the hands of people who need permanent jobs. For example, instead of hiring only a few streetcar operators, the county could hire fifty or more jitney drivers which, on a social level, helps keep families together when one of the parents has a good permanent job with benefits. Fifty jitney drivers at $30,000.00 a year would cost the county $1,500,000.00-- maybe $2 million including benefits per year. That's enough to employ jitney drivers for 100 years. Of course there are the costs of buying and maintaining the jitneys, but come on, that won't even be close to funding a streetcar system.

We predict tourists and locals will flock to the jitneys and that Miami will become as famous as San Francisco is for its cable cars. We believe the world will also take note of the unique way we used fiscal common sense (a rare thing in the public arena) in solving part of our public transportation problems by incorporating low tech solutions that included:
  1. Helping the marginally employed get a step up to the middle class by creating jobs and
  2. Creating work by transferring maintenance to the private sector.
Finally, killing the $1.2 billion port tunnel and this $200 million streetcar notion ought to bring down the county's high cost of living to levels that will allow a struggling workforce to hang on and remain residents.

Dade County Schools Use Strong Arm Tactics to Intimidate its Teachers

We don't know Shawn Beightol. Unlike Will Rogers, who never met a man he didn't like, we've met plenty of men we didn't like (and a few women too) so we're pretty cautious about who we choose to befriend or say we like. But we like this guy because he reminds us about one of the things that defines an American: he's standing up single-handedly against the bully on the block. Mr. Beightol is a high school chemistry teacher who is taking on the 800-lb gorilla known as the Dade County School Board. A United Teachers of Dade (UTD) union steward at his school, he is campaigning against the current president of the UTD. Seems the schoolboard doesn't like the idea of him using his school computer for sending emails that were "political in nature." In fact, they didn't like it enough to have school security guards meet him in the parking lot when he showed up for work Monday morning to stop him from entering the school. For his audacity in using the school email system, he was reassigned to the district's "maintenance depot."

Talk about a heavy handed response. It looks like the school board is trying to intimidate its teachers. Except for the fact that the board isn't sending him to Siberia to work in the salt mines, it reminds us how dictatorships handle people like Mr. Beightol. It also looks like a violation of Mr. Beightol's First Amendment rights on a public forum because no matter what legalese the school board uses to justify their behavior, that interschool email system was bought and paid for by public dollars-- and if he wasn't trying to pick up underage girls or boys, who cares.

We hope Mr. Beightol sues the schoolboard and wins the election. Many of the teachers are demoralized from low pay and having little or no say with school administrators. It is our opinion that the teachers should have gone on strike years ago for "more pay and more say" (our slogan, but feel free to borrow it) because it is the only action that will shake up the board and get the community's attention.

But, Mr. Beightol isn't even suggesting something as radical as a teacher's strike. He's only advocating "work to the contract" which means no more working overtime without pay (for a schoolteacher, that basically means not supporting after school activities). We don't blame them. As long as teachers behave like that, they'll never get any respect.

What's going on between the teachers negotiating a new contract with the school board is pretty much what is going on with the world trying to negotiate an anti-nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea. Unless the world gets serious, nothing is going to happen. Unless the teacher's play hard ball, nothing significant is going to happen. Going on strike will reverberate all the way to Tallahassee and force our lawmakers to face the truth: either pay the teachers what they're worth and incorporate their ideas in the classroom, or be prepared to face a catastrophic social event they brought on themselves and the public will inevitably hold them accountable for.

For all of those who wonder where the money will come from to give teacher's a realistic pay hike, MVB suggests that they can find some of the money by scrapping the cockamamied Port of Miami tunnel project. The state has allocated $600 million toward the $1.2 billion cost. That $600 million would sure go a long way in keeping teachers in this state and recruiting new ones. So, don't let us hear the money isn't available. It's there and you'll be surprised how quickly it and other money turns up when teachers exert the strength found in their sheer numbers.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What's the Real Reason Commissioner Seijas wants her Water-- Could it be... COMMUNISTS?

At first, when commissioner Natacha Seijas voted last week to postpone making a decision on granting a permit to the $480 million Island Gardens project because she wanted the developer to come back and prove to her that it wouldn't suck up too much of the county's precious water supply, we didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Actually, we started out laughing and then began crying uncontrollably because we know that as long as we have representatives like Ms. Seijas, as a business community we will never be taken seriously.

"I am worried that the high volume of fresh water the marina would use might result in the demand for potable drinking water not being met," Ms. Seijas said with a straight face.

So, with that pronouncement, the developers, and representatives from the City of Miami-- including Mayor Manny Diaz and City Manager Pete Hernandez-- were all told, after three consecutive postponements, to come back one more time. To be fair, Ms. Seijas was joined by other commissioners, who, after five years and 40 public meetings, still have questions about the project. But it was her monkey wrench question that caught our attention and, after recovering from our crying jag, made us ask, Why?

Our research has turned up two possible reasons:
  1. Ms. Seijas needs the water for "her" pool and for irrigation. It seems she has some major projects going on in her district in west Dade. Amelia Earhart Park is getting a new sports complex with four soccer fields and a new aquatic center. Of course, the soccer fields will need to be watered heavily to keep them from turning brown and an "aquatic center" by any other description is nothing more than a big freaking pool.
  2. Ms. Seijas, a fervent anti-Communist from way back, secretly doesn't want the Island Gardens project to go through because Chinese Communists will be operating the Shangri-La Hotel, one of two hotels included in the Watson Island development. The luxury Shangri-La Hotel chain is based in Hong Kong and the Miami unit will be the first in the U.S.-- unless of course the developer can't prove his project will suck dry all of her precious water.
Still, you got to give the developers credit for being patient. They've been working diligently since 2001 in getting approvals from various city, county, state and Federal agencies regarding all matters from protecting the environment to protecting the views of a few disgruntled homeowners on Venetian Isle. But it is still not good enough for the obstructionists sitting on the county commission. If this kind of behavior continues, it will become increasingly difficult to attract businesses, large or small, accustomed to conducting their affairs in a professional manner that are not subject to the ditzy whims of a few elected officials. As much as we would love to bestow an MVB Poopy Head Hat to the other commissioners who voted yet again to postpone granting a construction permit, we can't just give them away willy-nilly. No, they have to really earn them or else the "award" becomes meaningless.

So, thanks to her "Dr. Strangelove" take on the matter, we bestow upon Ms. Seijas her second MVB Poopy Head Hat, which, for all those keeping count, puts her at the top of the heap.

(Please note MVB has stated previously that, although we are not enamored with the design of the Island Gardens project-- we think it lacks the defining grand architectural gesture that Miami sorely needs and deserves for that prime piece of public real estate-- our aversion to BS is stronger and we will continue to call it like it is.)

Nobel Peace Prize Winning Answer to Miami Public Housing Crisis

It's called "micro-credit." Thirty years ago, Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus, began making loans as small as $9 to help beggars start small businesses. Finally on Friday, after several years of being nominated and passed over, Mr. Yunus, 66, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Congratulations! It's about time.

"Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. " Micro-credit is one such means."

Exactly. And bankers are at the gates to changing the world on a grand scale if they take up the challenge. Embracing the ideals of democracy is one thing, but unless the poor are given the opportunity to get a bank loan to help them step up into the middle class, democracy will never be all it can be.

"You cannot go on having absurd amounts of wealth when other people have problems of survival," he said. "If you can bring an end to poverty, at least from an economic point of view, you can have a more livable situation between very rich people and very poor people, very rich countries and very poor countries. That's our basic ingredient for peace."

To a certain extent, it sounds as if Mr. Yunus is describing Dade County. With the average price of a home creeping toward $300,000 and a "workforce" struggling to find an affordable place to live, a micro-credit loan to the lowest guys on the stepladder of upper mobility can only help all of us. Otherwise, expect chaos.

If only the rich can afford to live here, where will the vast majority live? Where will the teachers live? The police? Firemen? Plumbers? Electricians? Carpenters? Cooks? Retail employees? Over time they'll move out and won't be replaced. For them to hang on, they will need innovative solutions to the problem. As a concept, micro-credit loans would have to be tweaked to work in an "industrialized" nation. Besides helping break the cycle of poverty where generations of a family are stuck in public housing and dead-end jobs by giving them micro-loans to "follow their dreams," micro-loans will also benefit the lower middle class struggling to pay its bills. Of course, a micro-loan isn't aimed at paying off credit card debt on non-essential items that have nothing to do with housing and holding a family together.

We don't pretend to know where to draw the line or how to administer such a program, but the first step to solving the problem is to acknowledge that micro-loans are part of the solution-- that and incorporating MVB's "foothold homes" idea. From a banker's point of view, that proposal is even more radical: Give the poor in Dade County the boarded up public housing units in exchange for the Habitat for Humanity principal of "sweat equity," where first time homeowners take on the responsibilities of repair and maintenace in exchange for the keys to the "unit." With a "foothold home," the poor get a helping hand to step up to becoming part of the middle-class while taking from government and placing upon themselves the burden and expense of repair and maintenance. Some might need a micro-loan to do this, that's where government and business come in, working together to pull it off.

Friday, October 13, 2006

And the MiamiVision Bob Enzyte Big Idea Award goes to...

Click the button for Enzyte theme music.

Jorge Perez, CEO of the Related Group, for his latest and greatest Big Idea: Loft 3, the first really affordable workforce housing in downtown Miami that you would actually want to live in. Starting at $159,000.00 you can live downtown where all the action is. Loft 3 is a 32-story, 495-condo tower at 201 NE Second Ave right across the street from MetroMover and Miami-Dade College. It's just a five-minute walk to Bayfront Park and the American Airlines Arena. A little longer walk will take you to the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. Can you imagine, by living at Loft 3 you can take the money you save not having to pay exorbitant downtown parking fees and put it toward your mortgage. For the really daring, or those use to living in Manhattan and who work downtown, dump your car and put that extra savings toward your mortgage too. Soon you'll be able to hop the MetroMover, stop by the new Met 3 project, take in a movie, pick up some groceries at the Whole Foods market there and then jump back on board the MetroMover for a short trip home. Can you dig it?

But wait, it gets better. Besides the usual perks you would come to expect for any new project in south Florida such as 24-hour manned security and high speed elevators, its 28th floor recreation deck includes a fully equipped fitness center (including a "cardio theater" and separate weight training room), spa, sauna, a great room, outdoor barbecue area, and a heated swimming pool and wet bar. And, in an effort to remain true to its name, Loft 3 units will come with a minimum ceiling height of 10-feet. Not too shabby.

For those who can't wait to buy a condo-- and who fear like we do that these allotted "workforce housing" units will be scooped up before you know it (70% of the 495 units will be priced under $300,000-- not all of them will be $159,000.00), click here to be one of the lucky first to put your money down (5% at contract, and another 5% at groundbreaking sometime next year).

The award ceremony again took place at Churchill's in Little Haiti. Mr. Perez was serenaded by the Bud Light Singers (and the Churchill regulars sitting around the bar) with a fine rendition of their hit song "Real Men of Genius," modifying it, of course, to squeeze "Jorge Perez and his Loft 3 development" into the lyrics. Trust us, it really was something to see and hear and if you weren't able to make it, you truly missed something special. This time we are also happy to report that, unlike the previous event (see here), Mr. Enzyte kept his pants on throughout the entire evening. Way to go, Bob!

UpDate (10/27): The Herald reports today that less than a week after opening only 80 units are left. 415 condos were sold in less than a week. Amazing!

UpDate (5/1/07): The Herald reports today that 33 of the 102 units set aside as "affordable" (between $99,000 and $216,000) were resold within a year of closing with at least one fellow, Al Lorenzo, who was the campaign manager for Mayor Manny Diaz, flipping it within a month for a markup of $92,100. Of those 102 "affordable" units, only 6 remained in the same hands for more than a year but none of those six list them as their home address within the city. As it turns out, it looks like no one from government cared to check to see if the applicants were buying to live there because it was something they could afford or buying to invest and, in some instances make a quick profit.

MVB finds this so embarrassing and disappointing. In the end, it appears none of these set-asides were bought by people who really need them. The article reminds us that the Related Group got taxpayer's subsidies of $1 million from the City and $300,000 from the county to encourage it to create affordable units in the building which makes this even sadder. When it comes to Miami, don't let anyone tell you it isn't about money. It looks like the greedy can never get enough of it and will even "abuse the system," as Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado so rightly said. Let's hope this will encourage the City and County to devise safeguards to assure affordable housing goes to those most deserving instead of those with the best connections. And, we can only hope Jorge Perez, winner of our Bob Enzyte Big Idea Award had nothing to do with any of it.

Other "Big Idea" winners: Shaya Boymelgreen, Carlisle Development Group and Carrfour Supportive Housing, Bruce Rubin.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Give the teachers a raise for crise sakes!

If school superintendent Rudy "Jabba the Hutt" Crew earned his $45,000.00 bonus last year, then his and the sycophantic school board's exploitation of the indentured servants to Fanny Mae, student loans, and a rising cost of living who are slogging it out in the classroom trenches surely earned their paltry 2,000 bucks. The average Dade County school teacher has to work 14-years to earn Crew's one year bonus. That brings his compensation up to $350,000 not including perks-- right up there near the President's ($400,000). If he lasts through his six-year contract, he will be earning $440,000 a year.

A substantial raise across the board will encourage those veteran teachers not to give up hope and join a growing number of their slacker colleagues. A raise will help recruit the non-jaded, still idealistic college graduates who will make important contributions to our community as educators down the road. A raise will help both groups cope with the high cost of living in Dade County. In fact, it may even help keep them in a county where the average home price has risen to $225,000 (HomeInsight). With starting salaries beginning at $34,200, good luck.

Yesterday's teacher protest for a wage increase is the first sign of a bigger problem facing all of us living here. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, Dade County, as the 4th largest school district in the U.S., is at the forefront of a nationwide crisis in education. According to a 2000 report by the Office of Strategy Planning from the Florida Education Department, the state "will need 12,000 more teachers per year than are projected to be supplied (italics included)." But Miami Dade compounds the enormous task by asking teachers to teach in a system being pressured by other factors that you won't find in most of the U.S: overcrowded classrooms where English is a second language to many students with some arriving at their high school desk illiterate in their own language and the demoralizing and dreaded FCAT.

Again, from the same report sited above, reasons for the teacher shortage are attributed to:
  1. Increasing numbers of teachers entering retirement,
  2. Pre-retirement-- 9% of new teachers quit in their first year while 1-out-5 quit within the first 3 years,
  3. New class size limits set by the state coupled with a growing population.
Reasons for teachers leaving:
  1. Low salaries are at the top of the list,
  2. Lack of support from the administration,
  3. Student discipline issues,
  4. Lack of input and decision making powers.
These reasons for teachers "cutting class" are not new but it seems a younger generation of new hires won't put up with it. Especially when they find themselves teaching the FCAT.

The Florida Comprehensive Assesment Test means well. Since 1999 it has been used to measure basic reading, writing, and math skills of kids in grades 4, 5, 8, and 10. Test results determine a school's "grade" of A through F. Dade County consistently gets the most "F" graded schools because it has the largest population of kids who speak a different language-- usually Spanish or Creole-- at home-- not the language the tests are given in. Still, across the state, test scores have risen. Unfortunately, teacher and student enthusiasm for learning has dropped because implementing FCAT in neighborhood schools where the language is primarily not English requires "teaching for FCAT," i.e, focusing on the test and allotting time during the school day to hammer home the basics in order for kids in those schools to catch up to the average performing kid everywhere else. The process includes rote memorization of facts and extended periods of the school day allocated to improving reading and math skills at the expense of satisfying a child's innate curiosity about the world or to explore his or her creative impulses. Art? Music? Fogedaboudit! Drudgery and repetition of the same-ol-same-ol becomes the norm until the point where both teacher and student don't want to come to school. The worst thing FCAT brought to the classroom is the killing of the human spirit but how do you measure that?

MVB would suggest the following 12 less-than-politically-correct solutions to the problems of teacher deficit and teaching kids.
  1. Get rid of bussing. The millions of dollars saved there can be channeled into teacher salaries,
  2. Sell the school busses to third world countries or turn them into an artificial reef for schools of fishes,
  3. School bus drivers can go to work for Metro Dade transportation as bus drivers-- this sandwiches in with the expansion of newly funded bus routes,
  4. The school bus mechanics can go to work for Metro Dade transportation as bus mechanics-- this compliments employing competent mechanics to keep the newly funded bus routes operating,
  5. Kids will go to their neighborhood schools,
  6. Those neighborhood schools will be segregated by sex-- boys in one wing, girls in another from elementary through high school,
  7. The worst schools will get the best teachers and substantial "combat pay" to teach there,
  8. Kids won't be coddled. Disruptive kids will be removed from the classroom,
  9. Chronic disruptive kids will be sent to a single elementary, middle, and high school "reformatory" where they can either languish or visit a classroom to really learn. Parents are responsible for getting them to those reformatory schools. There is no bussing, remember-- and no free rides. If they show improved social skills, they may return to the classroom,
  10. Take the millions used in keeping social misfits from killing themselves and others in the classroom through counseling and other programs and channel it into programs aimed at finding and helping the brightest and most creative kids achieve. (Remember, the misfits can continue to kill and maim each other in the reformatories-- they just won't be intimidating kids who want to learn in a regular classroom),
  11. Bring back teaching the trades in every high school because not every kid is college material,
  12. Reduce the administrative bureaucracy (and bloated salaries) and pay teachers a wage that tells the world that as a community we know without their indispensable work with our kids, chaos and anarchy are but a thin blue Timmony line away from destroying what we call Paradise.

Of course, our first suggestion will get blown out of the water by the Feds who require it for desegregation and the Fedfunds attached with it. But Dade County is different from most of the country. Aside from the more affluent shoreline communities, for the most part English speaking whites have fled. Where once there were white neighborhoods and cities during the beginning of desegregation in the 60's, there are now black and Spanish speaking communities and cities. The City of North Miami is a microcosm of the county. It is basically a Haitian city-- except along the shoreline which is mostly white. Significantly, Dade County also reflects the best statewide FCAT scores: the highest rated schools are in predominantly white neighborhoods because the main language there is English. Still, we haven't demanded the removal of FCAT. It has its purposes-- especially in creating future semi-literate English speaking citizens. What we are emphasizing, however, is focusing on kids who want to learn instead of those who don't. Not very politically correct for sure, but probably a lot more realistic.

UpDate (9/11/08): After months of heated acrimony between Crew and some members of the board, he resigns under pressure with the board buying out his contract for $368,000.

UpDate (9/12): Alberto Carvalho, a former teacher in the Dade County schools, accepts the board's offer to become its next superintendent.

MVB B.S. Detector: Seven Miami Dade County Commissioners

Today marks the introduction of the MVB B.S. Detector. His job is to spot it and scoop it so you don't. He's your first defense against the smell coming from City Hall.

Yesterday, Miami Dade County commissioners voted 7 to 5 to endorse a lawsuit against a referendum on the strong mayor proposal-- a suit in which the commission itself is a defendant. The lawsuit seeks to toss out more than 123,000 petition signatures calling for Mayor Carlos Alverez's strong-mayor referendum.

Why are these seven commissioners (henceforth to be known as "The Seven") supporting a lawsuit against themselves and have said "Screw you" to the 123,000+ signatures from their constituents? Because if the Mayor's idea ever gets to a vote, they are afraid it would win at the polls and take power away from them. They justify backing this lawsuit because of the petition's wording. Instead of asking signers to read through an official 40-page text, the petition was circulated by Citizens for Reform with a 71-word summary. A group called Citizens For Open Government, whom the commission is backing, lost their previous battles in lower courts to squelch the petition drive in its present abbreviated form. Even the Florida Supreme Court has backed the lower court judges on this matter. But that won't stop Citizens For Open Government or "The Seven" from trying one more time when the final hearing comes up October 23rd.

But thumbing their seven collective noses at the Florida legal system isn't good enough for "The Seven." As a further example of their mad grab at retaining power, they have hired, at the public's expense, a private law firm to battle the matter at that court date. Instead of using in-house attorneys which would have saved the public money, they hired a private law firm which will charge us $325 an hour for its partners' work and $200 an hour for non-partners. MVB wonders if "The Seven" would have hired an outside law firm if they themselves had to pay the bill?

Talk about the public getting double bitch slapped aside the face from self-serving politicians. They can pretend they're only trying to protect us from politicizing the hiring and contracting all they want but, from what we can tell by looking over their past performances, instead of having many hands in the till, a strong mayor form of government ought to cut those greasy palms down to only one at best-- and that looks like an improvement to us.

Finally, MVB finds their attitude appalling and, like Howard Beale from Network, "we're mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore." Back then, before there were personal computers and blogs, the crazed network news anchor exhorted his viewers to throw their windows open, stick their heads out and scream to the world that they were "mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore!" Well, we're throwing up the digital window on our blog, picking up the B.S. and throwing it right back where it came from. We don't know if a strong mayor form of government is any better than what we already have, but we sure don't like seeing power corrupted officials acting like demagogues when it comes to the wishes of the public. We also don't know if any of "The Seven" have any shame, but if they do, perhaps after seeing themselves wearing MVB's "Poopy Head" hats*, maybe, just maybe they'll think twice before behaving so badly in public. Like the old saying goes, "if the hat fits, wear it," we bestow upon Bruno Barreiro, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Dennis Moss, Dorrin Rolle, Natacha Seijas, and Javier Souto MVB's first "Poopy Head" hats:

*Poopy Head hats supplied by It's A Poopy Head World.

MVB B.S. Detector
sponsored by Poop-Freeze

Monday, October 09, 2006

MVB "Africanized Bee" identifier

Recently there has been much discussion about an invasion of "killer bees" in South Florida. As a public service to our loyal readers, MiamiVisionBlogarama has created a "Killer Bee" identifier that you may save to your computer, print out and cut to fit into your wallet or purse. Referred to by apiologists as "Africanized bees", they can be traced to 26 Tanzanian queen bees accidentally let lose by Warwick E. Kerr in Brazil in 1957. Mr. Kerr, also known by his colleagues as "Mr. Klutz", had interbred European honeybees with bees from southern Africa when the legendary "Girl from Ipanema" walked by one day and he forgot to close the door to the beehive as he followed her to the beach. Feared for their aggressiveness when disturbed, the Africanized bees, like most living things found in nature, have worth and meaning and should be left alone to live out their Frankenstein existence. Although they are smaller than normal bees, they can be identified by
  1. Their gray "hoodies".
  2. Their bling "K" necklace (nectar deposits).
  3. Their "music", a sound "sampled" from regular bees that incorporates a distinct beat as compared to the more commonplace "drone".
  4. Their "dance" as they "hip hop" from flower to flower. Occasionally, when O.D.ing on too much nectar, they will spin on their backs in what scientists call "break dancing".
  5. Their tendency to drag their abdomens behind them when walking which
  6. Requires them to constantly "hitch up" their abdomen with their hind legs.
Still, if you should stumble upon a hive-- which are more often found in underground cavities-- please follow these rules of engagement:
  1. Don't "dis" them. Show them respect.
  2. Look them in their compound eyes otherwise they will know you fear them and show you no mercy.
  3. Slowly back away. (Some apiologists suggest that when all else fails one should consider mimicking their behavior by "flashing territorial signatures". This is done by facing the swarm and spreading the fingers in your hands and "bouncing bee-like" away as you retreat).
Please note that "Africanized bees" have multiplied over the last twenty years into pandemic proportions. Today, the Africanized bee can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

When Miami gets too crazy for you, try some "cloud climbing"

Afraid to open your mouth anymore in Miami? Worried that you might offend the hypersensitive who live there? Get away from it all by leaving the sunbaked nutcases far below with their obsession with Miami-style political correctness by becoming a "cloud climber."

Our resident cloud climbing expert Eddie "Hilarious" Hillary has been climbing clouds for years, beginning as far back as the 1980 Miami riots. While people were being murdered in the streets willy-nilly, Eddie was blissfully unaware of it all, thirty-five thousand feet above the mayhem in the clouds.

"Most people don't know that Florida-- and especially Miami," he said in a recent interview from a hanger at Tamiami airport, "has the largest mountain range in the world with peaks that consistently dwarf Everest by as much as 10,000 feet. The Cumulonimbus Range is much more exciting, however, than the Himalayans. The CR is constantly moving and changing. You never know what will be rising on the horizon each day. The best time for climbing these shape-shifters is in the afternoon if you want the complete roller coaster experience of 50-mph+ updrafts to heights of 39,000 feet or more. Plus, for all of those adrenaline junkies out there, nothing beats hanging onto a cloud when it suddenly becomes a thunder storm. You haven't lived until you've had speed limit hail smack you up side the head when you're holding on to a windblown cloud by one hand. And lightning? Fogedabouit! I learned a long time ago never to climb with any metal objects on me. All of my cloud climbing gear is made out of Kevlar. You'd be surprised how the smallest amounts of metal will conduct electricity-- but after a lightning bolt zeros in on your zipper, you'll never forget your Velcro fly pants again."

As Eddie winced and groped himself while looking longingly into the clouds above, MVB asked: "Is thunder a problem?"


"IS THUNDER A PROBLEM?" we shouted.

"I'm sorry, I can't hear you," he replied. "I'm a little deaf. If you've climbed clouds as long as I have, it comes with the territory. Trust me, you don't know what thunder is until one of those clouds explodes next to you. That's why I wear industrial quality headphones every time I climb. Once you get rid of the metal, the Bose sound canceling phones are the best even though they might be a little bulky to wear-- but hey, we're talking about our hearing here. Right?"


"For sure, Verticus Dudecus. That's why you're here today. The DPs are back, man! I've been trying to climb the fabled and elusive DP twin peaks of the CR since the first time I saw them in 1997."


"Yeah, the Dolly Parton ba-ba-ba-zoomies of summer. We call them the D1 and D2s for short. I checked this morning's weather report with "The Weather Station's" own ba-ba-ba-zoomie weathergirl Elita Loresca-- our sport's Patron Saint of Cloud Climbing-- and she predicted favorable conditions this afternoon for exactly these kind of rare cumulonimbus bra-busters. Here," he said, while thrusting a 8-by-10-glossy into our hands, "this is me in 1997 when I first spotted them over Opa Locka."


"Damn right they are. I've been looking for them ever since."


"Very carefully," he drawled, loving the moment for as long as we would let him.

"FUNNY!" we quickly replied. We had things to do. "SO, ARE YOU GOING TO SHOW US OR WHAT?"

"Well, first off, like any extreme sport, it's best not to do it alone. Say hello to my leetle frein. Jose, come over here."

We turned and saw what appeared to be our Mayan gardener walking toward us out of the shadows of the hanger. He was wearing a parachute rig as big as he was and his head was leaning to one side, struggling to hold up the video camera mounted on the helmet.

"Say hello to Jose Sirrius."



He extended his little brown hand and we shook it.

"Jose is documenting me perfecting my chuteless jump style."


"Yeah, man, it's the only way to jump onto a cloud. Talk about feeling free."


"So I've been told but I ain't that Loony Tunes. I've got little Jose here to save my wind-whipped ass if anything goes wrong."

We looked down at Jose and he tried to smile. He reminded us of Tattoo from "Fantasy Island." But a little taller. We wondered if he could save anybody, much less someone hurtling toward the earth at over 125-mph.

"He's gonna take the pictures for you."

With that, Eddie grabbed his metal-free climbing gear and headed out towards something called a PAC 750XL, a propeller driven airplane with no side door. Within minutes, we were climbing toward the famous D1 and 2s and freezing our asses off.

Slapping ourselves to keep warm, we shouted over the roar of the engine and the hurricane force winds screaming outside the door: "HOW HIGH ARE WE?"


A thought struck Eddie and made him sit up straight. He turned to Jose and shouted, "WHOE, LITTLE BUDDY, DID YOU PACK MY OXYGEN MASK?"

Jose smiled and nodded.

Eddie smiled and stuck his fist out so Jose could hit the top of it. Jose just kept nodding his head and smiling. "NO, LITTLE DUDE, YOU GOTTA HIT THE TOP OF MY FIST LIKE THIS."

Eddie took Jose's hand, balled it up into a fist and bounced it against the top of his fist.

"THAT'S RIGHT," he shouted encouragingly.

We turned to look out the window and saw our reflection. We exchanged knowing, anxious glances and saw a trembling smile spreading slowly across the glass as we began to have second thoughts about this whole undertaking .

"BESIDES FORGETTING YOUR OXYGEN MASK," Eddie continued, "THE LAST THING YOU WANNA DO IS MISS THE CLOUD. RIGHT, JOSE?" Eddie elbowed Jose and the two exchanged what appeared to be certifiable smiles.

We swallowed hard and tightened our seatbelts as they edged closer to the open door. From what we could figure out, Eddie was planning on throwing his climbing pack out the door and then jumping after it-- without a chute. Oh, yeah, it also appeared that they couldn't communicate worth a damn. And it had nothing to do with the infernal racket reverberating all around us. The guys couldn't speak each other's language. This is bad juju whether you're standing on solid Miami terra firma or flying 20,000 feet above it. At that point we decided to cancel the demonstration but we were too late. Without any warning-- not even a "One, Two, Three"-- Eddie threw out his climbing pack and followed it out the door. As it turned out, even little Jose didn't expect it. He was nodding his head and looking at us with an uncomprehending smile when we shouted and pointed at the door. When he turned and saw Eddie was missing, he fell backward as shocked as we were. He looked like a beetle that had been knocked onto its back and couldn't right itself. The parachute assembly and camera mount were holding him down. We unbuckled our seatbelts, helped him to his feet, and threw him out the door. Hearing his wussy scream trail after him was not a good omen. Still, as it was discovered later, the little undocumented alien (now on the run) was able to get a great shot of Eddie closing in on the twin peaks (see photo).

Unfortunately, we are deeply saddened to report that Eddie "Hilarious" Hillary missed his objective. From what we can tell, Jose thought Eddie was supposed to go left but he went right instead-- right past the always beckoning, never attainable, deliriously elusive, 40-thousand-foot D Cups of the legendary twin peaks of the CR. All we have of our crazy, mixed-up friend is the last picture Jose took of him living life the only way he knew how: fearlessly and without any common sense. Eddie's in the center of that hole in the cloud (see arrow). If you close your eyes, and think real hard, you'll be able to see him waving back up at you shouting with glee as he reinacts the favorite scene from his most favorite movie of all time: "Dr. Strangelove." Yes, that's Eddie, slapping the bomb with his cowboy hat and shouting for all he's worth as he zeros in on the center of the Miami Circle:


Which reminds us of the importance of being able to communicate with each other as Miamians; be it from high above God's green earth, or on the streets of our fair burg, we really need to get on the same language page. Sometimes, as you can see from this cautionary tale, it could mean life or death-- for us and our beloved city.

Memorial Services will be held Monday, October 9th at 11:00am at Van Orsdel Funeral Chapels, 3333 N.E. 2nd Ave. In lieu of flowers, Eddie's sole surviving family member, his little brother and world-famous stunt man Harley "Hocky Puck" Hillary, has asked that donations be given in his brother's name to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps Border Fence Project. With special permission from the county commission, burial will be held at 1:00pm in the center of the Miami Circle followed by an open bar reception at Tobacco Road with live music by the Dixie Dawgs Unleashed.

Not a Good Sign: Miami Herald Executive Editor makes a front page apology today

Tom Fiedler, Executive Editor for the Miami Herald, should know better. He's been here a long time. You just can't go around Miami calling your distractors "little Chihuahauas nipping at our heels". Especially if they are Cuban Chihuahauas.* We hate to say it, but Mr. Fiedler might be the next Herald executive on the politically incorrect hit list to take a fall in Miami. On Monday, Publisher Jesus Diaz resigned because, in part, he stirred up local Cubans when he fired a handful of Hispanic journalists who were getting paid by the Feds to write and speak for Radio Marti, a clear violation of something. Fiedler may be joining him where ever men and women like them go when they get on the wrong side of Miami-style political correctness. Why? In today's Herald, they're already printing letters calling for him to "resign or be shown the exit to your newspaper." We hope that he will at least wait until they stop marching up and down Calle Ocho in protest because that amuses us to no end.

*Yes, MVB at least knows Chihuahauas aren't from Cuba but it sounds funny to say it and read it so there to all of the hypersensitive readers of this posting.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The "Big Dig" is coming to Miami

MVB has a hard time understanding Miami's rush toward replicating Boston's infamous "Big Dig" tunneling project. It was announced today that plans for building a $1.2 billion truck tunnel connecting the Port of Miami to Watson Island are "falling into place." You'd think public servants everywhere would have learned something after watching what happened in Boston. That debacle, which started out costing $2.5 billion in 1985, turned out to be, according to CNN, the "most expensive highway project in America". Its final cost is an estimated heart-stopping $14.6 billion in public dollars.

For our "little tunnel", the state has already set aside $600 million for its 50 percent share in the deal. Unfortunately for us, county managers, the same ones who oversaw escalating costs for MIA and the Performing Arts Center, figure they can raise $489 million. That leaves a $111 million funding gap.

Hooray! MVB hopes they never find the money.

Why? Because the solution to solving trucks coming into and leaving the port is already there. In fact, it's been there since the port opened in 1964. It's called a "rail line." If Sir Manny and the boys will step aside, you can see the railroad tracks in the picture. That vertical structure at the end? The railroad tracks raised so boats may pass-- a position they've been in for years. Why? We think it has something to do with the powerful trucking union but we can't prove it. If the rails are used to move shipping containers to and from the port, why do you need truckers?

MVB is not concerned why the rail line isn't being used anymore but we are suggesting that it be brought back "online" in conjunction with the trucking operations. Our solution is to move thousands of shipping containers by rail in the dead of night when it will be less disruptive to the emerging "new downtown".

The irony here-- and there is always irony and silliness when you talk about Miami-- the rail lines run to an existing off-site container storage facility near the airport-- the same site most of the truckers are driving to to drop off their shipping containers. Why are the truckers driving there? So that the shipping containers can be transferred to...freight trains.

What we find amusing-scary is one of the solutions the county is considering in closing the $111 million funding gap: charging a toll for all cars, trucks, and busses that would use the tunnel and the Port Boulevard-- which is now running pretty smoothly without a toll. We thought the whole idea was to make port operations more efficient. Why then would you consider throwing a roadblock in the form of a toll booth into the picture? Won't vehicles start backing up like they do all over Dade County where there are toll booths? This doesn't make any sense at all. Of course, as always, any fee will be passed along to the public one way or another. Shippers using the port will inevitably pass along those tolls and fees to the consumer in the form of more expensive goods.

If any of this makes you scared or "mad as hell and you're not going to take it anymore" angry, feel free to use the city, county, and state links provided on the right to email your sentiments to your respective public servants. By doing so, you may be able to bring down the county's cost of living if you can convince them that any talk about digging a tunnel is "crazy talk." Right now the county is ranked as one of the most unaffordable places to live in the nation because of the escalating mortgage, rent, and insurance costs. It's so bad, we can't even recruit executives much less a workforce population to teach our kids and work in our hospitals. How will building an unnecessary $1.2 billion truck tunnel make Dade county a more affordable place to live? How will it bring the cost of living down? If anyone is out there and actually reading this and knows the answer, please comment. MVB would like to know.

UpDate (11/23/06): According to Miami Today, Miami-Dade cargo carriers and cruise lines "warned the county last week not to increase port fees to pay for" the tunnel. Shipping executives said "higher port fees would price Miami-Dade out of the market."

UpDate (12/13/08): Christmas comes early with the announcement that the tunnel project succumbs to a well-deserved death when the state and Bouygues Travaux Publics can't agree on terms. Hurray!

UpDate (12/23/2010): Miami Today reports the tracks linking the Port of Miami and the Hialeah freight yards will finally be used by 2013 thanks to a $28 million federal grant.