By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Celebrities did what they were supposed to do -- look remote and beautiful, and throngs of Miamians massed outside VMA ground zero as well as indoors in the several thousand hard-to-come-by seats did what they were supposed to do -- represented with matching his-and-hoochie wife beaters, got drunk, fell out from the heat and excitement, and clamored for autographs from Wim Wenders and Michael Jackson.
Having arrived -- as instructed by her Moonman-motifed ticket -- two hours early for the ceremony, The Bitch was already bored by the time it started, a state of canine mind alleviated briefly by the presence of Lil Jon and Ludacris. But what was really horrifying was the big chunk-o-crowd booing Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry, daughters of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Aside from the fact that a good portion of the booing beachbillies probably aren't even registered to vote -- how freaking rude! (By the way -- P. Diddy: What's up with your newly-adopted "Vote or Die" sloganeering? Are you going to track down and suffocate nonparticipating citizens with Sean John windbreakers?) It's not like Vanessa and Alexandra -- who, though clearly frightened, prevailed with dignity and clear, steady voices -- were up there playing crappy, archaic, guitar-based rawk, as was Jet, who wish they were the Hives.
Arsenic-Laden Dust in the Wind
"I live ten blocks north of the project and I have bird baths, which I rinse every morning, and every morning there is a layer of dust and dirt covering those bird baths. And the same thing has been happening to all of my neighbors since they started construction over there."
That's Luis Penelas, chairman for the Buena Vista East Historic Neighborhood Association (and mayoral brother), talking. "Over there" is the future site of Midtown Miami, the 56-acre condo-retail-tropolis that will rise on the former Buena Vista railyard, the pampas that lies just south of the now-dustier-than usual Design District. "Most of the dust is going directly west. Here it's all low-income housing and young families and whatever," he fumes.
Dust is an unpleasant inhalant, but even more so when it originates from an official brownfield, which most railyards present and past, including this one, tend to be. Arsenic (from pesticides used to keep vermin out of railcars) and lead (from diesel used to fuel train engines) are among the contaminants. So Penelas called pollution experts at the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM). They told him that before construction began the developers had indeed cleansed the brownfield enough to bring toxic chemicals in the soil to legal levels (unless perhaps someone wants to build a day-care center on the site). Hence the citizenry is not breathing arsenic-laden dust, they assured him (and The Bitch). However, DERM experts also told Penelas that the construction crews should have been using "dust suppression measures," also known as trucks with water tanks and big hoses.
As a result of Penelas's complaint, a DERM compliance officer visited the site and communicated the grievance to the construction manager. DERM officials are confident the water trucks will be used at Midtown Miami in the future. But Penelas remains miffed. "Why did it take a neighbor to complain for this to happen?" he huffs. "Are we going to have to keep an eye on everything?"
Well, yes. "Certainly we do not have enough inspectors to go around to every construction site in the county to monitor for fugitive dust," asserts DERM's assistant director Alyce Robertson. Especially not if the site is a brownfield infused with arsenic.
A Final VMA Aside
Rich people, long known for not cleaning up or doing the cooking in their own homes, have now become too lazy even to live in them. A party ostensibly given by former Calvin Klein model Tyson Beckfordin honor of the terribly expensive Mercedes Maybach was actually thrown by a company called Villazo Villas. The agency organizes events at chi-chi addresses (the Thursday-night affair was at a waterfront palace on Palm Island), takes a cut, and then hands over a site-rental fee to the absent owners, who presumably are out of town while the caladium trampling is going on.
New Simmering Disaster: More People, Fewer Jobs
Bruce Nissen, director of research for Florida International University's Center for Labor Research and Studies, conducted a study, the findings of which were published in August, on how the Sunshine State is performing in creating new jobs for its burgeoning population.
Nissen's analysis examined recent short- and long-term job-creation figures, rates of unemployment, and the quality of new jobs (and of those disappearing). The report says the state is faring poorly on many economic fronts, and contains some seriously gloomy assessments, including the following:
"In the 40 months since March 2001, by July 2004 Florida had gained 263,500 jobs. This is a job growth rate of 3.7 percent. While this may sound impressive, it is in fact inadequate, because during the same period Florida's working-age population (ages 20-64) grew by 6.6 percent. To keep up with the growing population, jobs would have had to also grow by 6.6 percent, which would have meant 472,800 jobs, not 263,500. That translates into a shortfall of 209,300 jobs. ...On this measure: POOR PERFORMANCE."