Letters from the Issue of July 22, 2004
You're being replaced by some real business pros -- Miami-Dade's county commissioners: As Jim Mullin correctly implies in "Down in Flames" (July 15), the reasons given by the Miami Business Forum for terminating the referendum drive to create an independent airport authority were never robust. In fact they may have left the unfortunate perception that the Forum "emerged from this political fight as losers, battered and bruised."
But the decision is symptomatic of a much broader, deeper problem that some county commissioners fail to understand: The efficient management of engines of economic growth, such as Miami International Airport, cannot be achieved under a system that concentrates all the control but none of the responsibilities in the hands of commissioners.
Their economic immaturity is amply demonstrated by their inability to connect the dots linking a slow, public bureaucracy to the inevitable drag on the optimal functioning of a business such as the airport. Would Carnival Cruise Lines, a superb engine of economic growth, be as successful as it is under the management of a public bureaucracy? Highly unlikely.
Unfortunately commissioners' reluctance to change the present system of governance shows a clear determination to maintain their institutional empires while willfully ignoring the heavy economic price, particularly job losses and slower growth, the region will pay if the airport fails to make further gains in competitiveness and productivity.
For those of us who believe that an independent airport authority is essential to the long-term economic well-being of the region, this is only a temporary setback. Short term, however, Mr. Mullin's pessimistic assessment cannot be ignored.
Hugo Enrique Bargioni
In with the developers -- as always: Alfredo Triff's article "Out with the Old" (July 8) was a totally inaccurate portrayal of the development occurring in Miami's core. The oft-seen phenomenon of an artistic community reviving a marginalized neighborhood is not occurring here in Miami. In Miami it is large-scale developers, not the artists or the residents, who are determining what this redevelopment will look like.
Let's not equate Miami with New York or other urban centers. It doesn't hold. Urban revitalization in other U.S. cities was never the product of artists or community-development initiatives, but rather a strong economy that facilitated upward mobility and investment. The young, well-educated artists in communities Mr. Triff referenced (SoHo, East Village, Williamsburg) predictably morphed into upper-middle-class professionals. The areas they revitalized were simply refurbished, not redeveloped. By contrast, in the areas that are being redeveloped in Miami's core, artists and locals are being kicked out and buildings are being razed to make way for redevelopment.
Redevelopment requires a much more careful approach than refurbishing old buildings or revitalizing old areas. This is where Miami has failed to a great extent. There has been a lack of protection for historic buildings, cultural and historic integrity of design, or even basic light and air and density provisions. Scant attention has been paid to the corresponding needs accompanying an influx to Miami's downtown, such as improved transportation, new schools, and so on.
The schools may not be needed just yet anyway. Miami real estate development is part of a national speculative market fueled not by need or actual relocation. Instead it is the product of a sputtering stock market and unprecedented low interest rates. But Miami is unique in that many of the buyers are not locals but out-of-towners, affluent buyers from the Caribbean basin and the Northeast priced out of other markets, looking to take advantage of a nationwide real estate boom.
This is dangerous because there is a very weak local rental market. With a recovering stock market and rising interest rates, this money will move back into the stock and bond markets and owners will be looking to unload their properties. The patchwork of uneven, poorly planned redevelopment will remain, and the city's residents will be left with the consequences.
I'm hoping for the best but let's not forget that any underutilized downtown and inner-city ghetto of today was the sparkling but poorly executed development of yesteryear.
John Santiago Stella
But you wouldn't know that from reading The Bitch: One of Miami's leading volunteer civic activists, Bob Flanders, was unfairly characterized in "The Bitch" column of July 1. He was called an apologist for developers. That would surely come as news to the developers who've opposed many of our efforts at controlling growth along the Biscayne corridor. The Upper Eastside Miami Council (UEMC), of which Bob Flanders is a co-founder and vice president, unanimously endorsed the height limitations recently passed by the city commission. We fought against developers who wanted much higher limits. Ironically one of the developers turned to Bob at the city commission meeting when the height limits passed. He sneered, "Congratulations, you've just ruined the boulevard." So much for being an apologist for developers.
Bob Flanders is also volunteer chair of the city's Parks Advisory Board, as well as the Bond Oversight Board. Few volunteers have worked so hard over so many years (and so successfully) for Miami's improvement, but reading "The Bitch" column reminds me that no good deed goes unpunished. There will always be some who want to assassinate a good person's character because they disagree over a single issue, like the outstanding Kubik development that most of us supported and which was passed unanimously (and emphatically) by the city commission.
It's also ironic that the attack on Bob came just after he successfully led, for the seventh year in a row, the Upper Eastside Fourth of July celebration in Legion Park. It should be noted that Bob, along with the UEMC, saved the Legion Park Community Center from being turned into a school for troubled children. Now it is a true park building with active programming which also serves as a true community center. The UEMC's "Friends of Legion Park" committee is now working to establish a farmer's market in the park by this fall.
I could recount two decades of Bob Flanders's civic leadership, but I'll just leave it at this: The Florida Department of Transportation's design for reconstructing Biscayne Boulevard through the Upper Eastside is nearly done. This has been a UEMC project for the past seven years, and now construction is on the horizon. The Metropolitan Planning Organization even appointed the UEMC as official design partners with FDOT. So a few years from now, when you drive along the new boulevard -- with new stoplights, streetlights, a landscaped median in parts, new crosswalks, and new sidewalks and landscaping -- remember to thank Bob Flanders, who like the rest of the UEMC, has devoted years of volunteer efforts to resurrecting Biscayne. It hasn't just happened all on its own.
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