Friday, January 11, 2008

The skeptics' corner, by gimleteye

No more Carnival Center of the Performing Arts, I called Carniverous. So there you have it. No more front page reports of budget deficits until the $30 million gets drawn down. Nearly half is going to pay back the county. So it's $15 million, provided there are no strings attached.

But the gaping hole in the budget was only the outward manifestation of reality that could not find an audience.

And $15 million isn't going to solve that problem. The Performing Arsht Center was built as though traffic considerations were no concern. Actually it is the other way around: because you can't get there and can't park easily, the Performing Arsht Center is of no consideration.

On this point I'll stop being a skeptic, if someone can explain how to get to the PAC from the north or south on game night for the Heat on that crappy little off ramp from 395 that funnels four lanes north and four lanes south on 95 down to two lanes. Throw a museum in, costing another few hundred million. Maybe most of Miami Dade County will just stay home.

But winning me over is going to require even more than fixing parking and traffic. You have to invest in local artists, arts and arts education in order to cultivate an audience for the arts. In this respect, the Performing Arsht Center is mainly good for donation bricks. Don't get me wrong: it's wonderful that the Cleveland Orchestra is in town for a month but filling those halls so that budget deficits aren't a permanent feature of the PAC meant applying a little creative thinking about building the constituency from the ground up.

To get really angry about the absence of creative thinking in Miami, you have to take a boat ride on the Miami River.

The context is the horrendous mess that Miami and elected leaders like Mayor Diaz, city and county commissioners allowed to be made of zoning for condominiums along the river. Jorge Perez, that civic leader, and the recent column by Rebecca Wakefield on Perez' Related Group, published in the Sunpost come to mind.

I hadn't been up the river in the past eighteen months or so until last weekend. What is most striking about the massive development that has occurred in those condos teetering toward foreclosure is the way in which the public space along the river was surrendered to private corporations.

The immediate point of complaint is how developers like Perez succeeded, through their land use lobbyists and attorneys like Greenberg Traurig, in erasing the setback for a public right of way to a strip about as wide as a piece of dental floss.

There is only one feature that separates Miami from Hampton News, Portsmouth, or Port Elizabeth: Biscayne Bay and the Miami River. The way that condo developers and their money have wrecked public access to the Miami River is the worst legacy of the building boom that no longer exists.

Put another way, the footprint of terrible development and zoning decisions will long outlast the current crop of politicians, insiders, and civic leaders. In this respect, the Performing Arsht Center will be a testament to misguided investment priorities for a very, very long time. Perhaps until sea-level rise.

I listened to donor Adrienne Arsht on WLRN last night, in a message to the people that came out garbled, "The next generation may be standing on my shoulders, but what I hope for is that every citizen of Miami Dade will give of their time and energy to the important causes like the arts, or medical issues." She didn't say anything about the environment.

Future generations may have to stand on this generation's shoulders because we have done nothing, really, to stop sea level rise as a result of man-made impacts of global warming.

It is a curious omission that Miami's civic leaders never mention the environment. Or environmental groups, that have been sinking under waves of public indifference in south Florida for a long time.

The Miami Herald writes a good story on Governor Charlie Crist and the environment, in advance of this weekend's Everglades Coalition conference, "the largest meeting of environmentalists in the state".

The comment that stands out belongs to Eric Draper, of Florida Audubon, who for some unfathomable reason is the go-to quote for the state's newspapers: "He's turned out to be way better than we ever thought", said Draper, the environmental leader who also embraced Governor Jeb Bush who in turn embraced Audubon and froze out every other environmental group in the state.

"Crist has opened doors that were shut to conservationists for several years after relations with Gov. Jeb Bush turned nearly as chilly as a Greenland glacier--largely over an overhaul of Everglades pollution standards." Ultimately, Mr. Draper and Audubon signed off on those standards. Is there any political status quo that Audubon will not embrace?

I'm sore on this point for some very good reasons, having to do with the continued rampant pollution of the Everglades and the failure of environmental groups to take a strong enough stand to penetrate the layers of public indifference thick as a tortoise shell.

Just last week, the octogenarian environmental leader Juanita Greene-- retired journalist for the Miami Herald-- addressed the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District, and asked the elite group comprised mostly of Jeb Bush appointees if they had heard of the US EPA report on pollution of the Everglades recording pollution levels up to 2006, that was published last summer.

The Governing Board is the final word on the conduct of the state of Florida with respect to the so-called restoration of the Everglades.

Ms. Greene was shocked, that no one on the Governing Board had heard that EPA had analyzed the District's own data on pollution: "During the November 2005 sampling event approximately 27% of the Everglades marsh had a surface water phosphorus concentration greater than 10 parts per billion. However, during 2005 soil phosphorus exceeded 500 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), Florida’s definition of "impacted", in 24% of the Everglades, and it exceeded 400 mg/kg, CERP’s restoration goal, in 49% of the Everglades. These proportions are higher than the 16% and 34%, respectively, observed in 1995-1996."

10 parts per billion is, of course, the long fought-over phosphorous standard that Big Sugar fought and fought and fought, finally dragging along Audubon, the Florida legislature, and everyone else in a terrible compromise embraced by Governor Jeb Bush and the 2003 legislature that allowed for "mixing averages" and numerical hocus-pocus to substitute for hard, fast requirements.


out of sight said...



Don't you get despondent over this stuff?

These days you never can tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. And many with power positions seem to overlook that they have an obligation to study the facts and digest all points of view. That is part of the job and if it does intrude on your personal life... Oh well, you agreed to the position, so do it or quit. Novel concept, isn't it?

I guess it all comes down to MONEY talks.

At the Nuke hearings, people came in flocks and spewed what wonderful corporate citizens FPL was to the community. The Alliance for Aging was there..."great partners for us" they proclaimed to the commission. That was MONEY speaking. Their Executive representative had no clue what this hearing was about. He spoke to what FPL does for them, NOT for the need for a power plant. I wonder if the Alliance Board of Directors and Advisory Board has even given a thought to what happens to their seniors in case of a nuclear event.

Nope. Money talks.

Anonymous said...

A big thank you to Adrienne Arsht is in order for her philanthropy.

But there's also the matter of the $10 million Carnival is pulling back from their bequeathment to allow the name change.

out of sight said...

Lovely. Carnival is going to do that?

It is wonderful Ms. Arsht has the ability to do such a great thing. It helps the taxpayers out greatly.

I heard someone say recently that all these things voted for in the bond issue has to be built, whether we can maintain them, staff them or even open them once they are completed.

I wonder if this is solely our politician's will that is driving the projects (libraries, museums) forward or absolute legal reasons? I think to build something using bond money or tax dollars that can not be used in the way it was intended is a violation of the public trust and the elected officials fiduciary responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Let's be serious. Carnival is taking $10 Mil back from the Performing Arts Center and from the huge smile on Mickey Arison's face he is overjoyed to get Carnival's name off that money losing financial disaster.

And let's be serious. The PAC Center is losing $15 Mil per year, maybe more. Adrrienne Arsht is going to have to donate $20 Mil every year.

And why put Miami-Dade County in the name? Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. The City of Miami is going to be paying the bills. It was Miami-Dade County that managed a $200 Mil project into a $525 Mil cost overrun disaster.

And on the subject, Miami Art Museum and Miami Science Museum are supposed to raise $100 Mil each. Both are sucking wind. Since neither has an endowment who will pay for their proposed museums? Two more pending disasters?

When will the taxpayers revolt?

Anonymous said...

"The way that condo developers and their money have wrecked public access to the Miami River is the worst legacy of the building boom that no longer exists."

Gimleteye, As far as I know, access to the Miami River in the downtown area has been lousy for decades. While the new condos likely did not improve it much, they certainly did not make it much worse. The new developments are, at least hypothetically, supposed to be providing walkways along the river for public access.

Anonymous said...

The real issue here is the overall disastrous (lack of) planning/foresight for virtually EVERYTHING that is "accomplished" by Miami-Dade or City of Miami government.

Anyone who's been to the Center realizes that parking makes attendance at events unlikely AND that the supersteep balcony seating makes attendance by a) women in high heels and b)anyone over 50 or with any kind of balance problems extremely unlikely. Who approved that kind of design? And what kind of oversight was involved? Once again - government creates unfixable problems at OUR expense.

We need to vote out any/all incumbents at EVERY opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Sea level rise..Ha! another dope...
I guess the panic is good cause then I can get a nice pad on the beach when nothing eventually happens by the time I retire.....

Anonymous said...

Our $450 Million dollar Carnival Performing Arts Center will so have its name changed.
The bragging rights went to Carnival for the past two years for the sum of $20 Million.
Now Adrienne Arsht wishes to up the ante to $30 million and the good people of Carnival have requested to receive half of their one time gift
in return.
Isn’t it a bit rude to take back a gift?
Perhaps Carnivals next ship should be named after an Indian Tribe!
Most world-class cities honor those individuals that have made significant contributions to that community and earned their place in the annals of its history.
Miami, well not so much!
We name schools, streets, parks and public buildings after the pals of the commissioners and those individuals that have donated massive funds to help reduce the losses that our government mismanagement has generated.
Philanthropy is to suppose to be the altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.
It is not meant to be a vehicle to have ones ego stroked in public!
Isn’t it time that we stopped naming public building, parks, streets and schools after people that really have not earned the right to be honored in such a grand manner!
Let’s stop this practice from continuing before our commissioners sell the right to Miami to one of their pals and then we shall all have to change our mailing address to Jorge Perez Miami.
Harry Emilio Gottlieb
Coconut Grove

Anonymous said...

Also To Anonymous stated above: Vote out any/all incumbents at every opportunity!
Rember also: TERM LIMITS

Anonymous said...

"Who approved that kind of design? And what kind of oversight was involved? Once again - government creates unfixable problems at OUR expense." Who approved that design were the same type of people that approved the MIA expansion.

Geniusofdespair said...

Speaking of altruistic...
if you missed it, go to YouTube and look at Bill Gates Last Day (Unedited version.) Very funny. Now this man is altruistic, and funny to boot.

Anonymous said...

Miami-Dade County so screwed up the PAC Center, now called the Arsht Center that it cost $600 Mil, up from its $220 Mil budget. These same idiots (minus Bill Johnson who now runs Port Authority) now plan to build two massive unneeded museums on Bicentennial Park. For $600 Mil. Neither museum has any money.