April 26, 2008

Commissioners Demonstrate their SLEAZE.

The Miami-Dade County Commission is seriously considering allowing skank developers to destroy more of the Everglades because, apparently, they can't see any reason not to.

Sure, the South Florida Water Management says that there isn't enough water to support new development in that region, and construction in that area will pollute our existing water supply; the Biscayne Aquifer. The aquifer is refreshed from water filtering down through the ground along the eastern reaches of the Everglades - exactly where the greedy scumbags developers want to build.

Sure, the Florida Department of Community Affairs vetoed the idea, and submitted reports that show that development not only will have a negative impact on the immediate area, but the county as a whole.

Sure, a vast majority of the county's population is vehemently opposed to this action.

So what is the compelling reason to ignore professional advice and voters wishes?

"(where) it does say is we need a compelling purpose?''
- Commissioner José ''Pepe'' Diaz

That's a flat admission from a commissioner that the County Commission isn't acting on our behalf, but is making stupid decisions because it can. This is exactly why people call Miami-Dade a Banana Republic.

And make no mistake: more western expansion is stupid.

There are basically two kinds of projects under discussion: one involves housing, and the other involves Lowe's, the home improvement chain.

Miami leads the nation in Urban Sprawl. Sprawl occurs when developers create new housing tracts beyond current living space. This spreads out the population, which doesn't sound too bad until you consider that most of the jobs stay back in the downtown areas. Developers lure potential homeowners to the far reaches of sprawl by dangling lower costs; the property costs less because it's not really in a terribly desirable location. Suckers people buy the homes because they ARE so cheap. The ultimate result is that the fabric of community is torn up because everyone is spread very thinly over a wide area. School costs increase because students have to be transported farther to schools.

Ah HA! This is where a drooling moron County Commissioner will say "But wait! The Skank Developer has promised to BUILD a school! And we need more schools anyway!"

They gloss over the fact that the school would be built as part of the new development.

And while it's true that we DO need more schools - or at least more classrooms - we don't need them in the Everglades. In fact, the schools we already have out in the western reaches of sprawl are underutilized. We need schools downtown, and back in core communities. A school built in a development we don't need will also be under-attended. It will only become a drain on our school system since it will cost more to staff it, and to supply it. And since there won't be enough students in the area to fill it AND the schools downtown are overcrowded, the School Board will try to solve both problems by busing students out west. In buses that use diesel fuel at $4.50 a gallon.

Which is why the Florida Department of Community Affairs has told the Commission to reject the requests to move the UDB.

Lowe's wants more stores in Miami-Dade County. And honestly, so do I. So does anyone who has had to deal with the utter disaster that Home Depot has become in the last decade.

So as Lowe's was shopping around for land, it found that it could buy land outside the Urban Development Boundary for a lot less than land inside the UDB. That's because, of course, you can't BUILD on land outside the UDB.

And Lowe's knew that when it bought the land anyway.

So now they are crying to the County Commission that they've spent a lot of money, that Miami-Dade needs more Lowe's, that the people who chose to live far away from all the core communites with their shopping centers really, really NEED a home improvement store near them.

Of course, the suckers idiots ill-advised consumers knew they would have to drive some distance back to the big shopping centers, just as Lowe's knew it couldn't build on the land it was buying.

If you like drinking water (or even simply having access to it); if you hate being stuck in traffic, if you hate seeing your property taxes climb while schools fail to educate our children, and if you believe that our County Commission should make decisions based on "compelling purpose," you need to call your commissioner and raise some hell.

And drop a note to Lowe's while you're at it. Tell them what I told them: if they open outside the UDB, you'll stick with the loathsome Home Depot.

April 23, 2008

Update on Tri-Rail funding

I've been keeping track of Florida House Bill 1245: Regional Transport Funding and Senate Bill 1512: Relating to Transportation and Transit Authorities. Basically, these bills would secure a portion of fees tacked onto car rentals in South Florida, and deposit them into the operating accounts of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.

It's important to residents of South Florida to ensure that Tri-Rail continues operating at its full capacity, especially in the face of $4.00 a gallon gasoline. I've already gone on the record with my own savings. It's not chicken feed. If you're commuting across county lines, you can save some serious money by taking the train.

House Majority Leader Adam Hasner sent me the following update:
Today, the Florida House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 1245 - Regional Transportation Authorities. The bill will now move to the Florida Senate for consideration. I encourage you to continue your commitment to helping secure funding for Tri-Rail by contacting Senator Steven Geller and ask him to pass House Bill 1245.
You might make the assumption that Adam Hasner contacted me because I'm particularly active in politics: I assure you, I am not. I don't belong to a political party, I don't have funds available to donate to candidates; I'm just a working stiff who drives a used car and rents an apartment.

So how did I come to get updates from the House Majority Leader of Florida? I filled out THIS FORM, conveniently provided by the South Florida Regional Transport Authority. That automatically sent a letter to all the representatives for this area. Ron Saunders, the rep for District 12o, suggested I email Rep. Hasner, and I've been in the loop ever since.

We truly live in an amazing country, where any of us can have a direct impact on those who are making our laws and governing on our behalf.

So join me in contacting Senator Geller. It's past time for South Florida to secure its mass transit system.

April 20, 2008


Rick at South Florida Daily Blog has selected my post "If We're Opening the Door..." as this week's South Florida Post of the Week.

In honor of this event, and in keeping with the basic premis of the nominated post, I think we should push for THIS new tag:

April 19, 2008

My Dinner with Uncle Stew (and Aunt Stacy)

Wednesday, my cell phone started buzzing; it was a text message from my Uncle Stew.

That's cool in and of itself; my mom will email, grudgingly. She doesn't like it much, but she'll do it. She prefers to call. At least she stopped calling in the early morning. My dad, on the other hand, is very comfortable with email. They both have cell phones, although I'm not sure that Mom's is ever on. She calls from it, but I don't think I've ever reached her on it.

Neither of them text.

Anywho, it turns out that he and his wife my Aunt Stacy* are in town, how about meeting for dinner?

We met at the Cardozo Hotel. Uncle Stew discovered it awhile back on another trip, and he and I dined there last year. I like the fact that there's a municipal parking garage right behind it; once I fight the ridiculous traffic coming over the McArthur Causeway, it's nice to know that I'm going to be able to park close the restaurant.

As I step out of the garage, I notice a truck full of lighting gear, and some people milling around wearing radios. Another film shoot, but it looks small, so I assume it's a commericial, or something related to the Cosmo Bikini shoot.

I join Uncle Stew and Aunt Stacy at their table on the sidewalk. Within moments, our server Lucy had a fresh mojito in front of me, and we poked through the menu as we caught up.

"She's inside," my uncle confides. I look at Aunt Stacy, who beams at me. I look back at Uncle Stew.

"Gloria. She's inside, " he expands. "I've told Lucy to have her stop by."

"Ah!" I say. "Of course." The Estefans own the Cardozo. "Was she with Emilio? He owes me money!" My aunt and uncle laugh, but it's true**. I put change in the meter when he parked out in front of my last theater. I'm not holding my breath; I couldn't have bought a soda with it.

So I tell my little story about the TV show he produced a few years back, and how they shot some footage at the Miracle Theater one afternoon.

Aunt Stacy orders the marinated skirt steak, and I can't pass up the Duck Ropa Vieja. Uncle Stew was going to order the Mongolian Steak, but re-thinks it when I place my order. "I'd like to try something more Cuban," he murmurs, "but I don't know if I can eat "old clothes!" He finally decides on the Cuban Rub Pork Chops.

Just after we placed our order, a parade of well-dressed people being herded by radio-ensconced handlers filed past us and up onto the porch. Almost immediately, a crew starts setting up lights and microphones.

"Hey," I say, "It looks like they're filming something here!" My aunt and uncle are intrigued. My uncle immediately flags down a production assistant. "I'm willing to work for scale," he offers. "Don't worry, " th P.A. says without missing a beat, "We'll just cut you out of the frame." My uncle comes back with a counter offer: "OK, no pay. But get my good side!"

They haven't mentioned what they're filming. I explain that we get a lot of action down here: BURN NOTICE tapes here, and a couple of movies. Commercials, lots of stuff.

Uncle Stew asks me if I've ever seen The Man. I look blankly at him.

"You know - " He pulls off his glass and intones "Drive by; (puts glasses on) MIAMI style!"

"Oh. David Caruso. Nah, they don't really film here."


"Oh, they do a few weeks of establishing scenes, but they don't spend a lot of time here. Apparently, some numb-nuts thought it would be cheaper to film most of it in LA," I tell him, "They were supposed to shoot here - Caruso even bought a house here - but they sold us out. It's not like Miami Vice."

"Huh, I did not know that, " he said.

"BURN NOTICE manages it: I have a lot of friends who have worked on it. Unlike CSI, it gives you a real feel for Miami." I'm looking around at the crew: I know a handful of local crew, and I'm hoping to see someone I know to ask them what's being shot.

A crowd starts to gather, and police men show up to keep pedestrian traffic moving. Another P.A. speaks into her radio: "She's here. No, she's right here, now!" An SUV stops at the curb, and not five feet from where I'm sitting, Jennifer Aniston steps out, and furtively makes her way into the Cardozo.

My aunt and uncle are still looking around, trying to see anyone famous.

"Uh, guys - that's Jennifer Aniston!" I tell them. Not too loud; I don't want to start a frenzy.

"Where?!?" my aunt asks.

"There - in the tan dress with the pony tail -whups! She's inside."

"Was that really Jennifer Aniston?" my uncle demands.

"Yes. This must be that movie she's filming. MARLEY AND ME. They've been filming for weeks. The co-star is, um,...."

"Owen Wilson," my uncle states.

"Yeah, that's it!" I say.

"No, that's Owen Wilson, right there!" And sure enough, Owen Wilson is walking down the porch, and takes a seat at a table by the corner of the porch. Two gaffers are perched on the railings, securing lights to the awning, and taping filters over them, and placing reflectors just so.

FYI, here's a picture showing 1. our table and 2. the table used in the movie:


The crowd is getting thicker, and photographers are trying to get some shots of the action. The cops start working the gawkers, with the help of some production assistants who keep repeating "please, just keep moving ahead, no flash, please, thank you!"

Watching the Stars

Dinner arrives. My ropa vieja is just what I needed, mildly spicy, and the duck gives it a creamy texture. Aunt Stacy seemed happy with her flank steak. Uncle Stew, however, didn't fare so well. "God. This is awful." We look at him. "no, really - this sauce - it's terrible!" Aunt Stacy dabs her fork into it and tastes it. "Eww!"

But Uncle Stew decides to tough it out. We each offered him a sampling of ours, but displaying our family stubborn streak he replied, "No, I ordered this. I'll make do."

"Uncle Stew?"


"She's right behind you."


"Gloria - she's right there."

By the time he turns, she's got her back to him. This goes on with mild comic effect for a minute or so, before she's finally in profile. I recognize Emilio sitting to her left, across from Owen Wilson.

An assistant director scurries around, telling the extras*** to "LOOK like you're talking - but DON'T talk. DON'T make noise. Look at each other, but DO NOT look at the camera, or their table!!" The production assistants make their way through the crowd, asking people to put down their cameras "until after," and urging pedestrians to keep moving. The assistant director apologizes to us for interrupting our meal. But we don't mind; the mix of mojitos and having diner on a movie set was actually quite pleasant.

The action starts, Jennifer walks down the porch, Owen introduces her. CUT! RESTORE!

She does it again, this time she sits. Our Mojitos are replaced. Did I mention that they are really, really good?

Suddenly, the four stars are working their way back along the porch, stopping and shaking hands with all the extras*** along the way. Aunt Stacy tries to get a shot with her Blackberry, and so does Uncle Stew. But people and extras*** keep getting in the way.

Production Assistants are scurrying around, trying to stop people from taking pictures; "Please, no cameras!"

"Did you get it?" asks Uncle Stew. "No... no... nothing came out!" she mutters. "No one is ever going to believe us!"

"I got it," I say.


"I got it. I got Jennifer and Gloria, anyway. It won't be great, but I got it on my phone camera."

And here they are. And it's not great.
Jennifer and Gloria
But it is them.

Within moments, the crowds were gone, the crew was gone, and our dinner plates were cleared away. We reflected on the evening over single malt (Dalmore) and good cigars (Habana Leon). Yes, even Aunt Stacy. It's the twenty-first century, don't ya know.

* it's still new to me; they've only been married a few months, and she's younger than me. I don't think I've dated anyone as young as she is, and now she's my aunt, and sometimes I slip. (BTW - way to go, Uncle Stew! Woo hoo!)
** no, it's not true. But it's a good story, isn't it?
***yes, 'extras'. not 'background artists." fuck you, you're extras. i've done plenty of extra work, it is what it is; deal with it.

April 18, 2008

GREAT concert this Sunday, April 20

One of the cool things about my new job at the Broward Center is all the great acts that come through here. It doesn't mean I can get tickets to them (sorry to everyone who wanted WICKED tickets), but I can let you know when something special is coming in.

Sunday, we have a great show: Jake Shimabukuru with Future Man and the Black Mozart Ensemble.
Jake Shimabukuru is a solo act, and he's been compared to Jimi Hendricks; but his instrument is very different from Jimi's. Experimenting with various guitar effect pedals allows Jake to create sounds never thought possible on the tiny four-string, two-octave instrument.Jake, you see, plays the ukulele.

Future Man (Roy Wooten) has played with the Flecktones for years. The Black Mozart Ensemble is composed of young virtuoso violinists and cellists under the direction of Futureman. The music is complemented by the addition of hip hop artists, and actors/narrators. The music of Black Mozart has a message for the ears, eyes and moves of today’s modern world. Futureman states that this composition, The Black Mozart is a personal statement of New American Classical Roots and Dance Music with social aspirations that embraces all races of humanity
This is a clip from their show up in Jacksonville last night:

There are still lots of tickets for this event; come on out to the Broward Center on Sunday night and check it out. This is going to be a hot night of music!

April 13, 2008

If we're opening the door...(updated)

As long as the drooling morons in Tallahassee our elected officials are open to idiotic ideas allowing religions to prosletyze through state offices, let's let them know what other plates they will HAVE to approve if they put out even one plate that endorses a religion.

Here are my proposals:

First, the ones we should expect, and only a few will protest:



Here's where some people will start getting upset

Wicca (Goddess Worship)

And this is where the real trouble starts:

Church of Satan (Satanists)

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarianism)

April 12, 2008

Florida Budget Priorities

Since the idiots in Tallahassee our elected officials seem to be having a problem understanding what their priorities should be, I thought I'd put together a list for them to refer to. So here they are, in order of importance.

This must be Number One, before anything else on a rational budget. You can't thrive in the world without an education. You need a good education to get a good job, or to understand the world around you. To solve our problems we must understand them; and the problems we'll face tomorrow will only be more complex. Our schools must not be treated as a baby-sitting or warehouse service; our children must grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow. We must prepare our children to face the problems facing them, and that means fully funding our schools. Remember, in a few decades your children will be taking care of YOU.

We must be safe. If you do not understand this, you should not be in public service. We need to know that our laws will be enforced, and that help will come in an emergency. Our police and fire departments lay their lives on the line for us, the least we can do is make sure they have the equipment they need to do that job. A police officer shouldn't be alone on patrol. Firefighters need to have gear they can rely on, and paramedics need to have the supplies they need to save lives. We also need to ensure that they can pay their bills, and that their families are provided for if the worst should happen. Cutting their budget is like cutting off your arm or leg, or that of someone you love.

Without clean water, you have nothing. We must stop dumping sewage in our oceans; this contaminates our oceans and destroys our fisheries. We must stop further destruction of the Everglades; most animals know better than to destroy their own homes, and it's time we learned at least that much.

We must carefully regulate the use of our fresh water supply; we can't continue to squander drinking water on our lawns, golf courses or the estates of a privileged few. We're literally flushing our most precious resource down the drain. NOW is the time to ensure that we'll continue to have fresh water in the future. With prudent management, we should never have to worry about the taps running dry.

Apparently some of you missed the 1970s and the two crises that should have alerted you to the fact that the supply of oil is finite. We should have been building our cars and trucks with an emphasis on efficiency; instead, you've allowed Detroit to foist bulky and inefficient SUVs on us. The result is that instead of building up a reserve of decades that would have stabilized both supply and price, you've left us at the mercy of foreign powers. Gasoline is rapidly climbing towards $4 a gallon on average. It's becoming too expensive to drive our big, gas-guzzling cars, and even the more efficient cars are becoming increasingly costly to operate.

Yes, it's great that we're starting to see hybrids that get greater mileage, but not everyone can afford them; and even if we could, we still don't know how long the batteries will last and how much they'll cost to replace.

No, we must stop focusing on accommodating automobiles; we must not expand their infrastructure, we must not widen our highways, or add new routes. It's time to get cars OFF the road. And we do that by giving would-be motorists better options; and that means buses and trains.

It's time to design transit systems that WORK. We can't look at the broken half-formed poor excuse of a system now in place and claim that it teaches us anything. Learn the lessons Tri-Rail teaches us: once the double-tracking allowed trains to run every half-hour during rush hour, ridership shot up. People will use public transit if it is reasonably convenient for them to do so. This has been proven around the world time and time again. We are no exception to that. It's no longer viable to use the excuse that other places had it longer, or that it was cheaper then: it really wasn't. It used up just as much resources then as it would now.

We need to act now to solve tomorrow's fuel crisis. Our economy will collapse if people can't afford to get around town. Businesses are already seeing a drop in patronage as people stay home more. People on the lower half of the economic scale may soon have to choose between putting gas in their tank or putting food on the table. Some are already there.

The simple-minded Republican solution of cutting taxes will not get us out of this mess. Neither will hand-outs. We need to set clear and logical budget priorities, and exercise prudent administration of our tax monies.

We shouldn't underwrite businesses that make enough to pay their own way; our sports franchises make a lot of money for themselves, they don't need a dime of tax money. Expenditures at the state level must reflect value for the entire state; at the same time, the state needs to make sure that a fair proportion of funds return to their county of origin.

The legislature needs to stop wasting our tax dollars debating bad law, such as the bill forcing women to pay for ultra-sounds before having an abortion; our legislators are not doctors, and have no business dictating unnecessary medical procedures. It's wasteful and a clear abuse of power. How much has this stupid debate cost the taxpayer so far? Such behavior will not get us out of our budget mess, and should be stopped immediately.

There's a lot I left out of my budget discussion; that's because we need to concentrate on the four areas I laid out above. Everything else must be dealt with AFTER these four key areas.

The next time we're adding frivolous amendments, we should consider adding practical ones: preventing budget cuts in the areas outlined above except under very proscribed and specific circumstances.

April 11, 2008

A picture of some jerk in an Audi

running the light

And another thing...

Gas and diesel fuel reached a new high price today, according to AAA. The spike in diesel costs is particularly significant, because that drives shipping costs: even if you don't drive, it will drive up the costs of goods.
"There's just not enough supply to meet demand ... and that's driving prices higher," Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Ill., said of diesel's surge.
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
Fuel costs are only going to go up, and there is nothing that can be done to reduce them - that ship has left port. But we CAN take steps to reduce the costs of commuting and traveling. And that means getting us out of cars, and onto buses and trains. And if you're pulling money OUT of trains and buses, it means that you are working AGAINST the best interests of the American people.

Fund Tri-Rail, not Highways.

A few months ago, I did some budget review, and discovered what transit experts had been saying all along was true; it's cheaper to leave your car at home. And that's true now more than ever.

A few years ago, when I looked into using Tri-Rail, it did cost less than driving, but only by a small margin. Now that gas prices are up to $3.45 a gallon, that margin has drastically increased.

Unlike too many of you, I don't drive a gas-guzzling SUV. I have a very basic Chevy Cavalier, and it gets about 28 miles to the gallon in South Florida Traffic. I live 30 miles from where I work. When you factor in tolls, maintenance, and insurance, I spend about $12.00 a day to drive to and from work. I can make the same trip via bus and Tri-Rail for $6.50.

Let's crunch the numbers; I'm saving $5.50 a day, times five days a week is $27.50, or about $118 a month. Over the year, less my two weeks vacation, that's $1,375.00 in savings.

That really isn't chump change, is it? It's like getting an extra couple of weeks' salary for me.

And if you're driving an SUV, or big-ass gas guzzler, you'll save more than me.

(As far as I'm concerned, the ONLY reason to drive an SUV is if you're hauling crap over uneven terrain and to help fund terrorist organizations in the middle east. But that's another blog entry)

I'm not the only one who has discovered this; Tri-Rail ridership has increased 32% from last year, which translates to 10,151 passengers a day.

The other day, a co-worker was trying to figure out how to get her sister to the Miami Airport from Aventura in rush hour traffic without missing several hours of work to do it. I handed her a Tri-Rail schedule and made her day. She went from having to spend three hours in traffic to dropping her sister off after a five minute trip. And her sister's train ride will only be about a half hour.

The problem is that we elect personable people who really aren't very bright. They look at the traffic on our roads, and conclude that the problem is that the roads are too small. So they make them wider, or build new ones. And the result? Traffic gets WORSE.

You see, the problem isn't that the roads are too narrow, or that we don't have enough of them; the problem is that there are too many cars on them.

Now, if our elected officials had any intelligence at all were paying attenction, they would study the results of their past actions:
  • widening highways: worse traffic.
  • double tracking Tri-Rail: increased ridership
  • adding "alert" signs to I-95; increased traffic delays as drivers slow down to read signs
  • adding trains to Tri-Rail: increased ridership
And here's another fun fact for you: voters keep voting for trains. We voted to create Tri-Rail, we voted to expand Tri-Rail, we even voted to mandate the creation of a high-speed train service to run from Miami to Tallahassee as a part of the state constitution.

To me, that says that a vote against trains is a vote against the voters. But then, I'm not an idiot politician elected official.

Tri-Rail has a petition drive going: click this banner to add your name:

You can also check out Transit Miami.

April 4, 2008

Bus Stop; A Butt-Clenching Experience

I discovered that the bus that runs a block from my house gets me to the train almost as quickly as I can drive to the station. Of course, you have to have a strong sphincter to wait for the bus along Le Jeune road. See this picture? I’m sitting on a bus bench, those are my feet, and that’s an SUV zipping by at 40 mph.

Imagine trying to roll a wheel chair along the side walk. Bike? Forget that. And the side of the road isn’t any better; not only does the lack of a bike lane leave you sharing a lane with an SUV doing 40 mph, the gutters into the street drains are at such a steep angle that it’s very easy to slide down into the grates. It’s stupid dangerous.

I'm willing to bet that the sidewalks along LeJeune road fail to meet mandatory requirements as dictated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I'm baaaaack.

I've been remiss in my blogging lately; I will be posting my views on the Grove over at the Theater Scene in the next day or so. And I'll be posting new stuff here.

So look out, blogosphere; I'm back.