Paradise Lost, Again

As Miami Beach prepares for life in wartime, it's on its own

Which leaves Maurice Ferré, about whom an awful lot of seemingly intelligent folks -- from veteran civic activists to pundits -- are genuinely excited.

Why? Recalling Ferré's early-Eighties tenure as mayor, a period marked by cocaine cowboys, riots, and rampant corruption, hardly makes one pine for the "good old days." Moreover Ferré seems just as eager to pimp himself out to the lowest common denominator as any of his rivals. A review of his administration would be incomplete without recollecting his moral condemnation of the award-winning play Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, or his nearly two-year crusade to "protect" Miami by keeping the Playboy Channel off the city's cable TV system -- even vowing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Less humorous is Ferré's long-time support of the notorious exile "patriot" Orlando Bosch; he even traveled to Venezuela to visit him in prison there in 1983. The Justice Department considers Bosch the mastermind behind numerous bomb attacks in Panama and Puerto Rico, a bazooka attack in Florida, as well as the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner -- an act that killed all 73 passengers onboard. Still, the midair death of the Cuban national fencing team is apparently a valiant blow against Castro in the eyes of el exilio, and singing Bosch's praises is a solid way to shore up exile votes. As the New York Times editorialized upon Bosch's release from a Miami prison in 1990, "in the name of fighting terrorism, the United States sent the Air Force to bomb Libya and the Army to invade Panama. Yet now the Bush administration coddles one of the hemisphere's most notorious terrorists. And for what reason? The only one evident is currying favor in South Florida." It's a lesson in shameless politicking Ferré knows well.

Where have all the good times gone? South Beach empties out and looks for help
Photos by Steve Satterwhite
Where have all the good times gone? South Beach empties out and looks for help

Given all this, one continues to wonder why so many otherwise progressive-minded people have pledged their support to Ferré. Take these boosters aside and, after looking over their shoulders, they'll quietly tell you Ferré doesn't really believe all the things he says. When he declared he was "morally offended" by Prince's songs, he was just being a realist -- moral outrage goes down well with the voters. Most important, Ferré's fans add, he's the only candidate who's not literally insane. And isn't it about time the city had a mayor who wasn't nuts?

That's a hard point to argue with. But it's also a telling comment on the future of Miami that a clean bill of mental health is the chief qualification for holding its highest office. Clearly, as Miami Beach prepares for life during wartime, it's on its own.

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