If you haven't had enough post-Elian flag foolishness, consider these recent events attended by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas. Several patriots claim they were turned away from a June 3 Homestead/Florida City municipal picnic at Harris Field for the following reasons: They were (1) carrying flags, (2) driving with flags mounted on their cars, (3) toting signs or banners, or (4) dressed in red, white, and blue. (Penelas campaign spokesman Ric Katz acknowledges the top guapo attended the event, but points out his man didn't eject the flag bearers.) Not to be discouraged, several members of the aggrieved group decided to head to Penelas's campaign kickoff the next day at Tropical Park. But when they gathered at the Cutler Ridge Mall in vehicles festooned with American flags, they say a police officer warned them they would be segregated from the crowd and herded into a "First Amendment zone." Nervous but determined, they sped north. When cops at Tropical indeed tried to direct to them to a separate section, they ignored the admonition and entered the park. Now the American Civil Liberties Union is studying the group's claims. "If what they say is true, this is a blatant violation of peoples' rights," says University of Miami law professor Donald Jones. "Democracy thrives on dialogue." Replies Katz: "The police may have said things, but we know nothing about them. These people would have been welcome." Police spokeswoman Nelda Fonticella acknowledged the department sets "First Amendment areas for protests so that people don't stand in the middle of the street," but she knew nothing about the Tropical Park incident.

When it comes to bureaucratic bonehead rules, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools usually takes the torta. Witness a May 17 memo from assistant chief of maintenance and operations Freddie Woodson to his staff: "This memorandum is to remind all employees that each maintenance facility has a flagpole.... No flags are to be displayed on any vehicle in maintenance and operations property.... Please immediately remove any flags.... Failure to adhere to this policy will result in the appropriate disciplinary action. (Woodson didn't return two calls seeking comment.)

Okay, so it's hurricane season. You're ready to begin battening. Well, don't try the hatches at Crandon Park Marina. Two years after county commissioners approved a $1.8 million upgrade, concrete pilings lie in a parking lot. Improperly secured docks float on the water, waiting for a big wind to smash them into Sundays on the Bay or the nearby causeway. "Grossly neglected," comments Martin Ury, president of the marina's boat-owners' association. "We have well over $30 million in boats here." Parks engineer Orlando Blanco declines comment. Department spokeswoman Elisa Newsome blames the delays on a contractors' dispute. "A high surge, bad winds -- they could blow anywhere," warns Ury. "Brickell Avenue even."

Global warming got you down? Want to get depressed even further? Read a May 4 Nature magazine story, authored by a group including local scientist Bill Precht, which concludes temperature change and El Niño killed 3000-year-old coral in Central America. And, if recent discoveries are any indication, it's coming soon to SoFla reefs.

Miami New Times writers picked up pairs of firsts, seconds, and thirds in the recent Green Eyeshade Awards, presented by the Atlanta chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and open to journalists in eleven Southern states. Staffers Kirk Nielsen and Jim DeFede took the firsts in, respectively, business reporting and serious columns. Lissette Corsa took two seconds for features and sports reporting. And Robert Andrew Powell and Tristram Korten took thirds in the sports and business categories.

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