Jack D. Gordon
Democratic state senator, 35th District
"The incredibly discourteous drivers in Greater Miami, especially on the expressways. The people who try to get one place ahead by switching lanes, often without signaling. I think it's worse here and I think that it has to do with a number of things, particularly the large number of tourists who don't know the roads. They're unfamiliar with the place, they're less careful. A solution could be that radio stations - that's who cars are listening to - should do some kind of public service exhortation to stay in your lane, use your signal, turn your signal off when you're not using it. There must be people in the Highway Patrol that could make up some short, simple suggestions to drivers - ten to fifteen seconds each - that they could throw in during the course of a program. `Slow down. Stay in your lane. Use your blinker if you must change lanes. Relax. If you get there a minute later, the world will not end and we'll all be happier.'"
Assistant professor of social science at Miami-Dade Community College; walking-tour guide extraordinaire
"Greater Miami doesn't plant enough shade trees to beautify this place. It would be much like a tropical paradise if we did. Paris lined its main streets and boulevards with shade trees and they don't come down before they die. We tend to blow our trees away after a decade. Several years ago, they tore down black olives along Flagler between Miami Avenue and First. Then several weeks ago they did the same thing between East First and East Second on Flagler. You just don't do that! With nature, you let it grow! It would provide beauty, shade, and also it helps purify the air. In downtown, trees would make it a little safer for pedestrians. The very simple remedy is to plant those trees, get a mindset that trees really add beauty. We know that from Washington, D.C., Paris, Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. It's never too late to do that."
Attorney, anti-smut crusader
"During the energy crisis of the mid-Seventies, gasoline service stations decided to remove from self-serve pumps the locking lever from the nozzle handle that kept the gas flowing automatically without constant hand-holding by the customer. You see, these running dogs of petro-imperialism gave us hand fatigue and gas-soaked hands to encourage some of us to opt for the more expensive full-service fill-up. Now that the energy crunch is over, one still has to crunch one's hand for the two minutes it takes to fill up, while the full-service pump nozzles are equipped, of course, with the automatic lever for the convenience of gas-station employees. Putting the levers back on the self-serve nozzles would cost mere dollars per station. Seems to me the Dade County Commission needs to get a grip on the problem by passing a county-wide ordinance requiring all Dade service stations to provide the automatic feature on self-serve pumps. Any station that refuses can't have a price differential between full-serve and self-serve gas."
"I was able to arrange a once-a-week trash pickup at the roadside, wherein I'd have designated spots for old refrigerators, stoves, sofas. So the City of Miami does that every Friday. But you know what happens? On Saturday morning the residents begin all over again, dumping their trash at the designated spots. It bugs me that our streets are never clear. You can imagine how a neighborhood looks with clutter on every block. I go through Wynwood every Sunday morning going to church, and Wynwood is ridiculous too. You know, I laugh to keep from crying. I think the only solution is for the City of Miami to cite these people. I ask that they enforce existing rules. The city needs money, and if you hit some of these people in the pocketbook, it would surprise you how they would think again when they head to the designated spot on the wrong day."
Director, Mason-Dixon Florida Poll
"I think it should be possible for people arriving at Miami International Airport to get a clean, air-conditioned taxi dispatched by someone who speaks their language with a driver who knows where they want to go. Is there anyone who has flown into Miami who hasn't had some bad taxi experiences at the airport? You've had a long flight, arrived in a hot, sweaty town, and here's a taxi that's as run down and beat up as you'd expect in a provincial Third World city. If you're a native, you put up with it and say, `Ah shit! Another Miami irritant.' But if you're visiting at your own discretion, you'll say, `Ah, gee. Next time I'll go someplace else.' What I want is not only necessary for our natives, but others who help prop up our sagging economy. Since the first native the visitor is likely to encounter is the taxi dispatcher, we should be looking for people with language and social skills, and the ability to deliver services needed to make the visitor feel welcome. The most you can expect from the drivers is to know where they are going and to have clean, air-conditioned vehicles. I suspect that the folks who shape policy in regard to taxis in Greater Miami should be able to put together a workable solution to these horrors."
Owner, Americana Book Shop and Gallery; libertarian wild man
"Big hair, that's what bugs me. Big hair on local TV news bunnies. I'm kind of a scientist, and I can measure the size of known objects on the screen, like pearls, and then calculate the width of the hair. I calculated that Penny Daniels's hair measured seventeen and a half inches across. But it's not just Channel 7, it's across the board: Channel 10, Channel 4, Channel 6. Seventeen and a half inches is like a decent Dolphins' gain! I think it should be a maximum of fifteen inches across, and after that you should have to wear a hair net. And I don't think you'd have to enact more legislation, because existing fire codes would be enough to cover violations. These things are highly flammable! I wouldn't want children around South Florida to be traumatized if one of these heads suddenly went up in flames. I think the condition is epidemic around the world, but particularly rampant in South Florida from what I've been able to discover. Fortunately, men have held the line, but you might see some crossovers within a year."
Arva Moore Parks
Historian, author of Miami: The Magic City
"There are so many people coming to Miami from all over the world. They all come thinking Miami started when they got here. I think it is our greatest asset, this constant arrival to Miami. But it makes our society a lot more difficult to understand. And part of the lack of identity that we talk about comes from a basic lack of a sense of history about South Florida. Schools should emphasize history, and I think we should make more effort to educate newcomers. We could set up courses for new executives to get them to understand the community. Businesses should have seminars for new employees moving in. Did you know we had a Spanish mission right where the Hyatt is in 1567? Twenty-eight houses surrounded by a wall? There are people who think the Hispanics are newcomers, and this kind of information might make them think twice. There's an absolute Spanish connection back to 1567, and it would make the Hispanic newcomers feel more a part of the city's history. That history helps build community."
Professor, University of Miami School of Architecture; board member, Dade Heritage Trust and Miami Design Preservation League
"The center of the city of Miami doesn't exist. It's the only major American city that doesn't have a viable central core, a central business district. No one's really taking care of it. Every major city, from New York to Boston, has the city hall in the center of the city. When the politicians walk the steets, the merchants say what's on their mind. `What about picking up my garbage?' `What about the Christmas lights?' Here we don't have that. No one wants to go downtown. I'd like to see the commissioners of Miami and the mayor get a commitment to the city center. I'd force them to walk the streets of Miami every day and, if possible, work there. We could move them into Government Center. These people never set foot in downtown! The lawyers are there, now let the politicians be there!
Director, Artifacts Artists' Group
"My concern is the lack of regard for cyclists. Technically, bicyclists have the same rights on the road as motor vehicles. But no one seems to have any respect for that at all. A lot of people seem to take their hostilities out on bicycles. In Miami, which is generally a car-oriented community, people tend to be very detached from one another. I guess a cyclist sticks out as someone expressing a little more individuality. Of course there are some cyclists who are pretty obnoxious, zigzagging through traffic. But relatively speaking, cycling is a lot less potentially hazardous. It would be nice to direct some more funding to establishing more bike routes and paths, and an educational campaign to better inform people about the virtues of cycling. And if the driver-education board gave a little more emphasis to courtesy toward cyclists, that may not hurt. Bicyclists might also make themselves visible, perhaps having lights on our bikes. Here it seems to be a sign of questionable manhood to have anything on your bike that would help others see you better."
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
Boxing commentator, writer
"I'm bothered by Miami's hair-trigger response to loss. That if Shula loses three games, he's over the hill, he's got to go. If the Heat gets blown out one game, they'll never be anything. We seem to be better crybabies than everybody else. We can't accept defeat easily. People must realize that we've had spectacular improvement in the Miami Hurricanes, the Dolphins have had a spectacular run since Shula's been here, the Heat is coming along way ahead of schedule, we now have a baseball team, that the 5th Street Gym produced a wealth of great boxers, the most notable of which was Ali. I'd like to see an affirmation of our teams. We need to settle down and get more and more of a winner's attitude, a proprietary attitude. I would say the attitude really begins with the people who create attitude, that is television and newspapers. I think their journalistic sense has to dominate over everything, their obligation is to report the facts. However, in that I would suggest that when things are going well, write very well. When things are bad, say they're bad, but do it in an encouraging fashion. You can go around holding your head and moaning about everything adverse that happens to you. Or say, `Fuck it! Whatever happens I'm going to turn it around and make it to my benefit.'"
Novelist and nonfiction writer; author of The Cutter
"Technology gone haywire: portable phones, beepers. It seems everybody's got all kinds of sounds. I've gone to restaurants and seen two people sitting at lunch together - at the same table - talking on the phone. It's very strange. Lunch is supposed to be a sacred time, a time to nourish yourself, take time off. It's like children in restaurants, crying children, a parent taking a bratty kid to a restaurant. I'd like to think you'd be able to approach the managers and say, `Look, I'm trying to have a romantic dinner here but that child is wailing.' It's the same with the phones. I'm not totally connected to these people's technology and I'm not appreciating that they're arguing on the phone behind me. In the theaters, a beeper or a cellular phone disrupts the fantasy of watching a movie. I think people should check portable phones and beepers at the door, like a portable-phone coat room. It seems to me we have a whole group of people here who don't know how to stop working."
Performance artist; teacher at Miami-Dade Community College
"There's not enough green in Miami, and what there is looks like a golf course. I just can't believe that people are made to feel comfortable by those horrible golf-course-looking gardens. Tropical foliage lends itself to sitting and dreaming, and who would want to sit on one of those golf courses? This place - South Florida - has got no terrain to speak of. What we've got is clouds and plants and it seems a shame to throw away half of what we got. If the greenery looks like a checkerboard, it's not playing with the flatness of the terrain. It doesn't complement the organic playfulness that the clouds have. The solution is simple: that everybody falls in love with their garden. It begins with people filling their gardens with plants, putting them in because they like the smell, the feel of them, the sounds they make. It can be a balcony; it doesn't even have to be land. Put in plants that you love, that kind of respond to those conditions. Connect yourself to the ground a bit more, then the garden sort of comes to life. Usually when you look at a garden, it's a self-portrait of the people that live there. And if you've cut yourself off from your body, that will show in your garden."
South Florida reporting legend of the Miami News and the Associated Press
"One of the things that troubles me is that people don't feel free to walk around the streets. People that live in good neighborhoods are afraid to go out at night. On Miami Beach in the Fifties and the Sixties, we used to walk home from the movies if it was a nice night. Or from the Fontainebleau with a date, you'd walk down Collins Avenue to Wolfie's. Maybe there should be more police patrols, the walking police tours. It's been restored in some cities, you know. People would feel safer. The more people around, the less opportunity there'd be for crime. In Paris they have police with lapel radios. In London - I go to London quite a bit - in the Chelsea area I have no compunction about walking at night. Bobbies are on foot patrol, the streets are better-lighted, and people walk around more. In Miami, you don't see anyone on Lincoln Road at night and on Flagler Street, too. You used to see it all the time."
Attorney; co-organizer, Boycott Miami Coalition for Progress
"What burns me up is that when black people in Miami play major-league baseball or have some great accomplishment in their profession or their personal life, the news media and the business leaders say and report that they are from `Miami.' But if a person commits a horrendous crime, or gets into some trouble, they report he is from `Carol City,' `West Perrine,' `Overtown,' `Liberty City.' I think that we can really make big strides in eliminating this subtle type of racism in Miami if we have one standard for reporting on where black people are from in the Miami area. I know it's a negative story when I see `West Perrine.' A lot of the subtle racism eats away at the psyche of black people more so than the David Duke sort of thing. I'm directing my appeal to the business community in particular, and the police departments. And the news media can establish some consistency. If you're going to talk about an area of Perrine, it's Perrine unless the area happens to be important. We black people also have our reponsibility. At conferences I tell them, `When you go to the University of Miami, let them know you're from Opa-locka, or Overtown. When you come back from law school, say you're from Carol City.'"
"It's the restaurants, they give you margarine instead of butter. The restaurants in Miami are kind of false in that way. They open up, they have a clientele, they get real popular for a while, but they decline really quickly. There always seems to be more concern with who's there, the decor, the lighting. But when it comes to the food.... In San Francisco, in New York, even New Jersey, you don't get that. Places with some self-esteem don't give you margarine. If the problem is price, go and charge five cents more an item. What's the difference between $8.85 and $8.90? If we have high cholesterol, then we'll request margarine. It tastes like yellow lipstick. When you start paying more at fancy places, you get your butter, usually a little frozen thing there on your plate, a little piece. It's so cold your tongue falls asleep and you don't know whether it's margarine or butter. I think that they think we don't know the difference. Butter goes with the food, but margarine doesn't. Because it has no personality, it lingers to make a point. It sticks to the top of the mouth and says, "I was here! I was here!" Try swallowing margarine. You can't.
Former editor, Miami News; former publisher, South Florida Magazine
"Badly timed traffic lights, so that you have interminable waits at a cross street where no traffic is coming. And when you finally get a green light, it releases you into a red light. The fact is that if you're going anywhere where there's congestion, you find that the congestion is exacerbated by the lights that trap and re-trap the traffic. All the lights are set so that a 92-year-old pedestrian with a walker can cross the street. It doesn't help that I have a terrible proclivity to get behind creepers. My wife says if I was driving a dog sled in Antarctica, I would come up behind an ancient Eskimo lady with a sled driven by eight crippled dogs. And I'd have to follow her to the South Pole."
Attorney, Legal Services of Greater Miami
"I go to Miami Beach a lot and when I park, I'm very careful to put more money in the meter than is needed. On several different occasions I've gotten parking tickets because the meters weren't properly timed. The first couple of times I just paid the ticket, for goodness sakes, like everyone else does. But the most recent one was the last straw. I've had to spend hundreds of hours to get the problem corrected. The city finally conducted an investigation. Turns out some car had hit the meter. One little improper parking violation can expose you to all sorts of maddening results. And I know how to work the system, I know who to call at the justice building. I don't have to hire a lawyer, I can file my own motions. So I can't imagine what it's like for anyone else. What it promotes on the part of average citizen is the feeling that the laws are not there to help them but to hinder them. It seems that both tourists and home folks are entitled to quick investigations into poorly timed meters so they could be spared the hours of labor to ensure their license doesn't get suspended. At the very least, the cities can check up on their timing mechanisms regularly."
Dorothy Jenkins Fields
Founder and chief archivist, Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc.
"We're doing so much to protect historic buildings but we're not doing much to maintain historic buildings. If we had a system that would teach the processes of restoration and maintenance of historic sites, we'd be a lot better off. It would be an easy thing to develop a partnership between the building trades, the tourist industry, and Dade County Public Schools to start a learning program in the schools. We could offer a career-awareness program in the middle schools, a skilled program in the various building trades in high school, certification programs in various junior colleges, then even undergraduate and graduate degrees. Dr. S.H. Johnson's X-Ray Clinic in Overtown is one that the Black Archives owns, and we've been trying to have it restored for the past five or six years. Whenever we try to get someone from the building trades to do the work, they say they can do it, but they can't. One architect went in thinking he was doing renovation, not restoration, and took out the original features."
Owner, Caffe Baci
"Public transportation in Miami is the worst that I have seen all over the world. I'm from Europe, from Italy. There's lanes on the roads all over the cities for only public transportation. It doesn't happen in Miami. If you're going to the airport by bus, forget about it. If you want to be there at 5:00, 5:30, you have to leave at two o'clock. I used to take the bus, at the beginning when I moved to Miami. A lot of times I had to go from home at 135th Street and Biscayne Boulevard all the way to Coral Gables. It used to take me two and a half hours. The cities in Greater Miami need to draw the lanes for the buses. This system they have in Italy, it's so smart, it's so beautiful. Here it's like hours of delay."
Dade County Commissioner
"I think we should ban coats and ties from May until December every year. Obviously South Florida is not the climate for which coats and ties were originally designed and I think our attire should reflect our environment. It would make people less hot under the collar and probably prevent traffic accidents. I think it would put us at a real advantage, because we'd be in a much better mood at negotiating sessions. Instead men could wear sports shirts or guayaberas. A simple remedy would be a revolt by all the bankers and lawyers and accountants in town. I would expect small cells of revolutionaries to begin to form, eventually joining together in a massive revolution, burning their ties on the courthouse steps. I'd only expect that after seeing that mass civil disobedience would the county commission take definitive action on banning the coat and tie. As for people who say that dispensing with ties is barbarian, I think people who make those arguments are apologists for the tie and coat industry. We've been slow to do away with our coats and ties because we're afraid of the possibilities that might occur if we were to release ourselves from our chains."
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First Amendment attorney
"Red sidewalks came into Miami Beach when some public-relations man got the idea that this was like rolling out the red carpet for tourists. But he overlooked the fact that the red dye fades in the sun, and the sidewalks have come to look very ugly. They put red dye in concrete, and it costs more than if they poured the concrete white. A simple solution would be to leave out the dye, like on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. There, builders put a little mica in the sidewalks and they sparkle in the sun - gently, not glitzy - and it looks fabulous. In a nutshell, red sidewalks are just in bad taste. I've seen it only in Miami Beach, which is in some respects the bad-taste capital of the world."
Dr. Joseph Davis
Chief Medical Examiner for Dade County
"Every year the Miami Herald goes on a campaign for a bottle bill. That has been a peeve of mine, to see those editorials in the Herald. The industries - the grocery industry and the bottle industry - rise up and shoot it down. Rather than a bottle bill, let's have a plastic and paper bill. I see fewer bottles and cans than unsightly globs of plastic and paper all over the place. All this editorializing that we should have a bottle bill is like whistling Dixie in the dark. All the aluminum cans, soda pop cans, and beer cans are already scarfed up by the aluminum salvagers. As far as glass and tin-plated cans and bottles, they've gone the way of the Dodo bird. If we're going to talk about the environment being clean, let's put a tax on paper. All these short-order food containers you see all over the place, that's what makes up 90 percent of the highway litter. I would urge any citizen to look on their way to work. Is it bottles and cans? Or is it short-order food containers?"
The Rev. Walter T. Richardson
Pastor, Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church
"I don't see very many white people willing to worship where there are black pastors. I have a few whites, but I think proportionately there are more blacks that belong to my white contemporaries' churches than whites that belong to mine. Our image of God, our perception of authority, is tainted. Whenever we see God personified, we see God as male and white. Anything that's male and white becomes easy to accept as a symbol of authority. I think that whites ought to go to black churches some time, even though it might involve some discomfort. Sharing pulpits would be one way of starting. We've talked about it but it's really gone to the talking stage and died. Sharing congregations would be good, having a group visit. For a month we had a group of 150 German tourists coming every Sunday. That was very empowering. We've gotten the pastors to pray together, but I don't know if we'd be able to get the congregations together. It would certainly contribute to improving race relations in this city."
Windsurfer; owner, Sailboards Miami
"All those quirky Miami things that other people don't like are appealing to me. It's hilarious to me when someone receives a cellular phone call in a movie theater. Or when you're in traffic and someone zips across two lanes to make a right turn and cuts you off. I love to turn out-of-towners on to this sort of thing. Or going to a convenience store and, for a joke, trying to ask for something in English, in eloquent terms, and they send you to all these different aisles. That's the kind of thing that brings tears of joy to my eyes. But one aspect of Greater Miami life that really bothers me is that there's nowhere really to get a great breakfast in Miami. Miami doesn't take breakfast seriously enough. For me, my dream breakfast is like, nutty-fresh whole wheat toast, an overabundance of hash browns, fresh fruit, avocados, an omelet with a lot of spinach and cheese, top-quality coffee, all in a pleasant environment. The solution would begin with the local breakfast establishments. It's not like someone has to open a completely new restaurant. Now there may be a place that already has espresso, but you can't get good fruit or a good omelet there. For a few extra dollars, they could get really good produce and make really delicious omelets.