On the Marlins Stadium, the Performing Arsht Center, and other pending monuments to vanity, Eye on Miami feels like the smart kid who regularly raises his hand when the teacher asks, who has the answer? and then pays for it later in the school yard. In our case what that means is that the views we express on this blog, where there are no advertisers calling to complain to the publisher about "negative" stories, rarely make it to the Herald.
"Who could have predicted that the cool landmark (ie. baseball stadium) would look out of place so soon?" (Hand goes up.) We did.
I recall a conversation with Tom Fiedler long ago. Tom was the former managing editor of the Miami Herald. A great guy and, for the record, a much more talented writer on politics than newspaper manager. We bumped into each other in a bus on Key Biscayne, from the general parking lot out to the Lipton tennis tournament in the late 1990's. It was so long ago Roger Federer wasn't even famous yet.
Tom was an unabashed enthusiast for a downtown stadium, along with the rest of the Herald brass. The idea had been percolating and Tom had written in support. I told Tom, my view was that Miami had better things to spend its money on. Like reorganizing Bayside Market and the waterfront to create some kind of durable urban fabric, or, wastewater and water projects that were obvious, glaring black holes.
We know how that turned out. Is anyone surprised that Miami Dade has violated the terms of its 1990's era settlement agreement with EPA to clean our waters? (This would be a good place not to raise your hand.)
Now taxpayers owe Billions and are sitting with a cool billion in debt on various monuments that are poorly sited and scarcely deliver on the promise the harmonious civic life that the cement and steel Growth Machine demanded.
On the other hand, there is Miguel Cabrera, bless his soul: .330, 44 homers and 139 RBIs.
Cabrera has been the AL's best hitter since leaving the Marlins in a trade after the 2007 season. Now he is the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yaztremski. One of the points of view we regularly express at EOM is that what Florida does best is destroy value. But I'm not going to draw that analogy with the Cabrera trade.
I used to have a baseball card of Yaz and somewhere lost it along the way.
The same will be true of these bone-headed commitments of tax payer dollars. Behind them are a thousand controversies, protests, petition writing, and imploring by civic activists. These stories are largely unwritten and unpublished by the Herald and other mainstream media as they happen. The perpetrators (also called 'winners'), elected or lobbyists, will do their time in the public sector, pay bills and mortgages, perhaps for homes and houses they should not have bought and could not reasonably afford, piling hunger into the void. Robertson writes of the dismal scene unfolding in Little Havana, "The City of Miami made ham-handed attempts to recruit upscale restaurants and retail to its parking garage storefronts in a neighborhood where such businesses made no sense. They remain empty." Duh.
"Hindsight is 20-20", says Robertson, perhaps anticipating or nodding our way. But this where we get to raise our hands again: in the big picture, decision makers use the same excuse.
Having a critical view that draws an analogy between the Miami Marlins and our wider, community issues is not a case of backseat driving or Monday morning quarterbacking. It is also not strictly negativity. To know where you are going, you have to understand the past.
Of inconvenient truths, this one stands out. It may also account for the words left unsaid at the recent presidential debate on the economic crisis: "We could have seen it coming." Some of us, did.