Sunday, January 14, 2007

Embrace our inner Third World nature? by gimleteye

US Representative Tom Tancredo and Dario Moreno squared off on the Sat editorial page of the Miami Herald, “Pro/Con”, relating to Tancredo's controversial statement that Miami is a “third world country”.

Tancredo and Moreno both have points.

Moreno is right: Miami is a vibrant and exotic mix of cultures made richer by the bleeding of Central and South America into this corner of continental North America. For all the frustrations and pressures, South Floridians have learned to live together, better, than many other places where Hispanic populations are growing rapidly—in states like Colorado.

But every time we go to the “beach” off Rickenbacker Causeway—one of the only places in the entire county that 2.4 million residents can swim without paying a parking fee—we are reminded of cities in Latin and South America that take better care of its beaches than Miami.

Miami is where the world’s wealthiest crowd at private entries to the ocean and the nation’s poorest live near the freeways.

Public officials in Miami, like our city and county commissioners, recoil from Tancredo’s comments. But they also deny their own responsibility for problems that have only metastasized on their watch: the county housing agency scandal wrapping like a neat bow around the affordable housing crisis.

In the Strong Mayor vote, next week, voters will have a chance to address the serial scandals and its cause: an unreformable majority of the county commission.

Debbie Cenziper writes in the Miami Herald’s “House of Lies”, “In the past five years, the Miami-Dade Housing Agency squandered millions of dollars on failed projects, pet programs and insider deals even as thousands of families languished in rotting and unsafe homes.”

In those five years, Miami real estate inflated into one of the bubbliest markets in the nation and local elected officials followed in a rapt attention.

County commissioners—for instance, from single member African American districts that nominally “protect” minority representation—spent their political capital seeking ways to hook up with big developers of production housing in outlying areas and no leader at any level stepped in to offer mediation or leadership. Take the Barbara Jordan "inclusionary housing ordinance", for example--written by Lennar and lobbyists for the production home builders.

Under their watch, bottom feeders overran the county housing agency.

Meanwhile, people are taking matters into their own hands, the way they do in Third World countries when they are not stopped by policemen on street corners with machine guns.

There is Max Rameau and Umoja Village in Miam’s Liberty City: the corner lot, once the location of several public housing facilities and littered with trash is the home of a growing shantytown for the area’s homeless and impoverished residents. In the midst of local political scandals, locals have empowered themselves to create housing that government has not.

“Local political leaders continue to remain stagnant in their abilities to help the city’s working class communities of color, so these communities have taken it upon themselves to combat the hardship that face them on a daily basis.”

Yes. Mr. Rameau is onto something: if government can’t take care of its poorest, give the poorest more tools to take care of themselves.

That’s what happens in Third World countries, isn’t it?

In scattered and abandoned lots of the poorest districts, local government should let 1000 flowers bloom with Victory Gardens for the poor to grow food in.

In targeted districts, local government should make it easier for individuals to build their own housing without having to jump through hoops of bureaucracy only big contractors know how or can afford to do.

Maintain only the most basic code standards, but let individuals take care of themselves because government won’t and cannot take care of them. Keep the speculators at bay.

Miami elected officials are embarassed by Umoja Village. They are crossing their fingers it will all go away, and that glory days for real estate markets are still ahead.

It’s not going to happen. All those condos going up, are going to be empty for a very long time. For tract housing developers, there is no bottom in sight. It is hard chasing a rainbow, but Miami’s elected leaders are about to find out it is even harder accommodating faceless vulture funds and unknown investors who are going to be picking at empty lots and empty buildings off-loaded by their campaign contributors.

And if voters are wise, they will vote next week for an executive mayor to begin addressing the institutionalized problems of local government that contribute to the Tancredo effect.


Reluctant Miami Resident said...

I read Rep Tom Tancredo's column in the Miami Herald. He made many valid points. I agree with him. Miami is Third World.

Anonymous said...

Is Miami Really “Third World?”

The real question is why are so many folks like the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, the Mayor of the City of Miami, the President of the Beacon Council, and others fighting mad about Miami being called a "Third World Country?"

After all, Miami is not a country. It is a great city, with history, culture, art, commerce, tourism, quality restaurants, pretty good service, and great weather most of the year. Miami is a wonderful place to live because of its location near Biscayne Bay and its subtropical temperatures that are a result of our particular geographic latitude.

Miami has missed becoming a great city because of it's mostly inept governments, glut of condo units as a result of uncontrolled overdevelopment, political corruption and scandals, high crime and murder rate, exorbitant property taxes, ever increasing property insurance rates, traffic congestion, poor urban planning, lack of adequate mass transportation system, inadequate potable water supply, vulnerable electric power grid, and flood drainage problems.

Miami's politicians and leaders have helped to provide Miami with the following distinction:

• 3rd poorest city in the U.S.A.
• 54th (out of 55) worst city for green park areas in the U.S.A.
• Glut of 40,000 homes that will take years to absorb and will result in lowering the value of everyone's property.
• Widening gap between the very rich and poor.
• The continued exodus of the middle-class.

I have visited my sister’s family in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for about 38 years. I recall when I first set foot on the Island I sort of snickered at how “Third World” it appeared to me.

I recall seeing street venders all over the place, kids would offer to wash your cars window when stopped at a traffic light, beggars were coming up to your windows and asking for change, a was shocked to see many homes with security bars on their windows, I saw soldiers at the airport with assault weapons.

I was glad to be visiting my family but I was nevertheless a little worried for them. I even felt a little superior because I was from Miami were we did not live in those “Third World” condition.

Every year that passes seems to have my city of Miami catching up a bit with Santo Domingo.

Do pay a little more attention to your surroundings when you next arrive at Miami International Airport (especially customs), take a ride in a taxi, go grocery shopping and ask for a special cut of meat, drive on SW 8th ST and especially when you are standing in line at the Division of Motor Vehicles and you are holding number 179 and calling out number 23 in Spanish.

Please look around at all the many homes with security bars on their window, notice how many poor souls are inhabiting street corners asking for change, you will notice that there are many more police and even solders at our airport.

Is Miami “First, Second or Third World?”

First World
Major industrialized non-Communist nations, including those in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan.

Second World
World's industrialized nations other than the U.S. and the U.S.S.R (Communist and socialist nations of the world).

Third World
Underdeveloped nations of the world, esp. those with widespread poverty, group of developing nations, esp. of Asia and Africa, that do not align themselves with the policies of either the U.S. or the former Soviet Union.

I guess each of us will have to determine that on our own.

I am just sure glad I speak some Spanish, play dominos and enjoy “El Rey De las Fritas” on SW 8th ST. and I hope that you do as well.

Harry Emilio Gottlieb
Coconut Grove

gimleteye said...

Thanks for taking the time to write some very interesting observations...

Anonymous said...

Harry Emilio Gottlieb -- good comments.....

Anonymous said...

Not only is first, second, and third world social constructions by the "west" or those with a "western" mindset wherever they may be living but your definitions are outdated. Did you notice that the USSR is gone?

Arin said...

So France is 2nd world just because they are socialist? They're out of debt and we keep raising the limit on our credit who has a better handle on their finances?

France??? said...

Who said that France was a third world country or that they really have a handel on their finances? Haven't they exceeded the 3% EU budget surplus for several years now? Also, don't they have that ageing population/shrinking workforce problem?