Tuesday, September 25, 2007

On Values, by gimleteye

The Miami Herald is filled with interesting stories today, pointing readers like a Geiger counter to underlying values that define our the economic and political life of our city, county and state.

There’s the chief of the Carniverous Center for the Performing Arts, and a new contract bringing his compensation into the stratosphere, more than $350K.

There’s the fraudulent developer of Poinciana Biotech Park, caught reimbursing his employees for campaign contributions to County Commissioner Dorin Rolle.

There’s the developer of Platinum, the first condominium brought to completion after the market turned sour, who couldn’t auction off units because prospective buyers wouldn’t even meet his preconstruction prices.

What these three stories have in common is the matter of values, or, mis-placed values.

The Herald—on the values that guide our economic and political elite—is either a cheerleader for growth at any cost or largely silent, except for the placement in the editorial page of oppositional points of view.

But when it comes to Miami?

A $500 million performing arts center with no parking, a business plan based on cooked numbers, adjacent to valuable property belonging to the city’s only daily newspaper, never received an analysis on the overarching question: who is the audience and how is it served by the Carniverous Performing Arts Center and its highly compensated executives?

Build it, and they will come—seems to be the prevailing attitude—for everything, including baseball and basketball stadiums. For the fraudulent Biotech Park to serve poor residents of Liberty City, too.

Developer Stackhouse isn’t the first developer to sweet talk his way through somnambulant zoning and permitting councils, including city and county commissions: in fact, local government is serves them because they do, as Stackhouse was caught doing, bundle campaign contributions. Legally, and, illegally.

Most of them are not dumb enough to get caught asking their employees “how many check books” they have.

But, again, The Miami Herald might have noted, in the context of values, how the most enthusiastic supporters of Dorin Rolle, at his 2006 victory party, were County Commissioners Natacha Seijas, Joe Martinez, and Pepe Diaz—who all count on Rolle’s support for zoning changes in farmland, a “gimme” vote that serves their campaign donor base made up of suburban sprawl developers who couldn’t care less about poor people in Liberty City unless, somehow, there's a dollar to be made there.

(It is interesting to watch how the Charter Review process for Miami-Dade seems to revolve around preserving this narrow political allegiance.)

The same values lead to abandoning caution in zoning matters in the city of Miami, giving the store away to one condo developer, like Platinum, after another who shared the crack cocaine of easy credit, manufactured by Wall Street for investors who failed to discern value where next to none existed.

By failing to provide close analyses of fraudulent claims to value, the mainstream media folds itself into the meringue of entertainment that passes for news.

Don’t misunderstand the point: Herald reporters do their jobs—it’s executives and editors who fail to take an editorial stand.

(A good example is how the Tampa Tribune beat out The Miami Herald on drawing political connections surrounding the promotion of the CSX rail expansion—one spur of which is now under consideration by local decision makers in Miami-Dade County, where the political connections are equally apparent.)

This leads me to the top story of the day in The Miami Herald: how Republican leaders refuse to take responsibility for the hit campaign they launched against the mayor of Weston who successfully fought the tax “reform” ballot proposal that a state judge just ruled invalid, for confusing language.

Property tax reform, of course, was the leading goal of the past legislative session: it dominated the news day after day. Now, like the building boom that legislatures were urged to reignite, it is in cinders.

It is no surprise that the attack campaign was micromanaged apparently from Miami, by allies of Hialeah Republican, Ralph Arza. The former legislator may have sought to redeem his furious fall from grace when the hate campaign he launched against African American, Miami Dade school superintendent Rudy Crew was revealed.

The tax reform proposal, thrown out by a state judge, was crafted by Florida’s builders, developers and their lobbyists, to jump start housing markets that are tanking just like Miami’s condominiums.

The mainstream media should explain with careful analyses what political parties that appeal to “values voters” really value.


Geniusofdespair said...

you said it all today...weaved in every story....

Anonymous said...

Build it, and they will come—seems to be the prevailing attitude—for everything, including baseball and basketball stadiums.

Well. You forgot museums... I wonder how many museums we can support in South florida? Actually, I wonder how many of them are anywhere near self-sufficient based on non-governmental income?

Anonymous said...

How many museums are self-sufficient anywhere? What rubbish, how many churches are self-sufficient? We should have more museums because as a tourist location we need them for our residents and visitors, now that the condo parties are over. The problem is we are about to build a museum of art with no art or endowment, and very narrow historical museum funded by the government but pushing an ideolgical agenda.

Anonymous said...

I am still in shock those idiots on the PAC Center Board would reward dimwit Michael Hardy with a retroactive raise. Typical Miami...if you fail you get a raise. Appears Ricky Arriola, Joe's son was responsible.

Now we hear no one in Miami will write a check to the Miami Art Museum. Looks like another Coconut Grove Playhouse disaster.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the tax proposal being driven as much by the developers as I do the governments themselves. If developers would get on board to change the property tax to a sales tax, that would jump start the economy a bunch more, I'd think.
Rubio stated at one of his town meetings that he'd gone to Dade County and tried to show them how the property/sales tax swap was the best financial solution for the County, and he was summarily rebuffed.
Think about it...the proposal that may still be put on the ballot does away with Save Our Homes (a publicly driven amendment that was done out of desperation because people were being taxed out of their homes)and replaces it with something done by the legislature that provides for no real limit on how high your assessment can go up on a yearly basis(currently personal income growth is about 10% a year - nobody's saying how population growth will even be figured) AND gives people a big tax saving off of the MARKET VALUE of their residence.(not to be confused with the lower Save Our Homes current assessed value.)It also doesn't touch the valuations on business, rental, and non-homesteaded property. So...the cash cow is still there, but possibly soon with the added advantage of including your residence.
For those of us who remember before the Save Our Homes amendment was passed, people were losing their homes to unpaid taxes-especially the elderly retired people(forced gentrification anyone?), my mother was one.
Why do you think the County(any county,city) hasn't poured money into a big campaign to stop this legislation? They certainly spent enough of our tax money promoting their humongous bond issue. They know that if this passes, they will be making bundles more money in about three years and getting rid of people who've lived here long enough to learn how the "system" works. And if it doesn't pass, well, business as usual. A no lose situation.
No, this came from our elected "representatives" to fill the coffers even more. And, a bonus...anyone who owns their home but can't pay their taxes will lose their homes within 18 months and the property will, again, become County property which can be sold to their selected "buddies"or used for their special projects-like HD development.
If the legislation does pass, no matter what, you can expect special assessments to be added(probably pulled from the current ad valorem section of our tax bill)with the County whining about how they are so strapped for funds. Meanwhile the property taxes will keep going up.
The only way to stop the thieves
is to remove ALL assessments/taxes from all real property and just raise the sales tax to, say, 10%. Then the people will be able to control what they spend. The State of Florida funds all its
budget just with sales taxes.(they're kinda short this year-possibly because people don't have any disposable income to spend, huh?) Italy and most of the countries in South America fund their whole government on sales taxes-some include income tax too, but they don't tax property you've already paid for with years of hard work.And they don't take it away from you because you can't pay a property tax bill.These lucky people can even pass their homes on to their children without leaving their kids with newly assessed astronomical tax bills. Gee, passing your home on to your children. Might be that families would stay here for generations. What a concept! But then...these families with multiple generations in the same town might be too knowledgeable about the local politics to be fooled repeatedly with the same song and dance from their representatives. Hmmm...one can only dream.