One week of added pixie dust in Miami: The Magic City
By Michael Lewis
As historian Arva Moore Parks talks to two literary groups this week about the new edition of her book "Miami: The Magic City," I'll be wondering just what kind of pixie dust they keep sprinkling on the city.
She has well over 100 years of history to draw on for her magic show. But last week's edition of this newspaper contains grist for a pretty good-sized collection of Miami magic moments all by itself.
Start with this: While many thoughtful observers question whether the federal stimulus billions are really putting people to work or are just a money pit, the City of Miami is about to prove the latter.
The city wants to pour millions of stimulus dollars into pits in Brickell: the eight money pits developers left behind when they dug construction holes and then left what were to be massive high-rise projects below ground level as the recession got deeper.
Sure, the pits need filling. But why prove the stimulus is going down rat holes?
Meanwhile, the city is shifting its development plans at the Marlins Stadium money pit at the old Orange Bowl site.
By contract, the cash-strapped city has to build 5,024 or more parking spaces for the Marlins to lease out at whatever price. Government was planning to recoup some of that cost by building 96 residential units around the four parking garages' perimeters, at the same time shielding neighbors in Little Havana from some ugly new construction.
Unfortunately for the city's plan, housing is not exactly in short supply or major demand in these days of housing glut, so commissioners just voted for a new plan that could replace the housing with a charter school — maybe a sports-related high school — in the garages.
At least kids playing hooky at the ballpark wouldn't have to go far. Can't wait to see that curriculum, either.
For sheer gall, how about plans for the city commission to vote this month to require a license to feed Miami's homeless downtown? Seems rats in our rat holes are eating the crumbs, causing health problems.
How about the health problems of those folks who as a result of licensing don't get fed? Do we consider the rats more important?
Of course, Camillus House and others do a great job of feeding many indigent folks on downtown streets. But do we really want to make it hard for the rest of us to help too? How uncharitable.
Sorry to keep picking on the city, but there's government at work again. The city just fired its film industry liaison, Robert Parente, who was the last man left standing in a decimated film office designed to lure TV and motion picture business into the city. The city manager who fired him — and quit shortly thereafter himself — told him it was a budget cut.
But then, City Manager Pete Hernandez — still in office — reportedly asked Mr. Parente to come around after departure to help train his own soon-to-be-hired replacement.
Meanwhile, Emmy-winning Burn Notice is about to start filming its new season with nobody at City Hall to talk to. It really does need someone: it's based in the Coconut Grove Convention Center, and the city is its landlord.
Finally, the new city manager, Carlos Migoya, who was confirmed last week, and Mayor Tomás Regalado dropped by and told us they'll work like crazy to stave off bankruptcy for the entire city.
They're both so new that you can't blame them for the financial chaos that's pushing toward a $1 billion gap in pension funding and the city's operating budgets combines. They'll really need that pixie dust to get out of this one.
That's all City of Miami magic. We didn't even get to the county's $119.5 million deficit for the year that began last Oct. 1 despite a law that requires the county to have a balanced budget.
On a positive note, construction of the Marlins Stadium itself is on time and on budget, meaning that the $3 billion that county taxpayers are giving owners so that the owners can keep all stadium revenues are well spent — at least, from the owners' viewpoint.
How much more magic does this city need for one week?