Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Big Eight

Miami-Dade County Public Schools lays out what has to happen before school can open at the school sites on August 24. From the Miami Herald:

The topic was brought up six hours into Wednesday’s School Board meeting. The criteria were the result of a closed-door meeting held Tuesday with medical and public health experts as well as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. That meeting also may have violated Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law.

“The No. 1 question on everyone’s mind is are we going to reopen schools,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who introduced the criteria. “We want to do the right thing.”

The eight criteria are:

▪ A sustained COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 10%, trending toward 5%, for 14 days. Miami-Dade County is currently over 30%; one month ago, that figure was 6%.

▪ A steady reduction in number of individuals hospitalized.

▪ A sustained reduction in ICU bed occupancy.

▪ A continuous reduced viral burden for 14 days with a decrease of virus-positive individuals.

▪ An increase in viral specific COVID-19 test availability with decreased wait time.

▪ A turnaround time for test results less than 48 hours.

▪ An increase in quantity and quality of contract tracing.

▪ Ensuring vaccinations for school-aged children. Carvalho said many parents who would’ve taken children for regular immunizations have not done so. He said the district is launching an awareness campaign.

“Based on where we are today, we don’t meet the criteria,” Carvalho said. “It is difficult to predict where we’ll be on Aug. 24.”

School officials had hoped to begin the 2020-21 school year in the school house five days a week, with mandatory masks and social distancing. The plan approved by School Board members July 1 called for smaller class sizes and classrooms in larger spaces, like cafeterias, gyms and media centers. It also allowed the school district to pivot to fully online learning or a hybrid model of in-person and online distance learning depending on data related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miami-Dade County continues to be the epicenter of the outbreak. The county is still in Phase 1 as the state reported 10,000 new cases Wednesday, surpassing a total of 300,000 cases.

School officials had said previously that physical schooling was only possible if the county entered Phase 2.

Miami-Dade is the fourth-largest school district in the country, with over 340,000 students and over 40,000 employees. The way things are going, with a little more than five weeks to go before August 24, the chances the county will enter Phase 2 are slim.

The state is ramping up funding to the schools to prepare for remote learning, but the process takes time to get the funding in place and the materials delivered in time to start classes, remote or otherwise. As Hank Tester of CBS4 reports, time is ticking away.

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The clock keeps ticking to figure out how the school year will begin in South Florida.

In Miami-Dade, the district is asking families to go online by Wednesday to declare their preference for August, which includes full on-campus learning, something virtual or a combination.

No campuses will reopen though unless the county is in Phase 2 of its reopening plan.

In Broward, four options remain on the table, though the superintendent is on record saying he sees no path to schools fully reopening in five weeks.

The governor is now changing how sees the school situation in South Florida.

“I’m not gonna dictate how everything goes… Miami is different,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “I’ve told the commissioner of education to work with these districts. Understand, we have a very diverse state. The response here is just gonna be different than other parts of the state.”

Teachers like Josh Paolino are waiting for the outcome of the Miami-Dade County Public School’s survey so they can begin planning.

“You need time to design the curriculum based on whatever model we have. Are we going to teach physically? Are we going to have a hybrid online?” he said.

Paolino is part of a group of teachers who want to make clear that “changing from online to a hybrid or schoolhouse model is not simply a matter of flipping a switch” because that “type of planning work we do changes under each model.”

“We have been told there are three possible models: in-home, a hybrid, which still needs discussion… and we have the full online model, which we are in much more favor of,” he said.

Online is favored because teachers are familiar with it and because of the health concerns – not only for kids, but for their own ranks.

“Nationwide 1/4 of all teachers have some type of underlying conditions that may affect their health when it comes to COVID,” Paolino said.

Josh brings up a great point: everyone is talking about taking care of the children, and that is a high priority, no question, but what about the employees that are in the high-risk category for Covid-19? Can the District cover the medical costs of teachers and support staff who get sick from the virus because of having to work in the schools? (Full disclosure: Josh rents a room in my house.)

The District has some huge hurdles to overcome, not the least is the clustasrophic way that the state and federal governments have dealt with the pandemic and the unconscionable attitude that it’s more important to get the economy going and schools open at the expense of the health and lives of the people who keep it running.  In short, it is true that the state is suffering mightily from the economic collapse, but it’s also hard to make money from dead people.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Slow Going

Miami-Dade County is slowly re-opening.

Anyone going back to work on Monday needs to wear a face covering, and businesses must test all staff and hire deep cleaners if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Those are two of the most sweeping decrees in an order released Friday night by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez outlining the rules that will be in place once businesses are allowed to reopen Monday.

The public schools — and the ones I work at — will remain closed to students for the rest of the school year. My office is open on a limited basis, but I can do what I need to do from home.

Everybody, me included, would like to get back to some semblance of normal.  I want my neighbors who own small businesses to get back to work.  I want the students to go back to school.  Watching graduations, weddings, and funerals on Zoom is no substitution for being there.  It’s going to take a while, and we’re probably not going to see life as we knew it again even after there’s a vaccine and everyone has been inoculated.

As for me, I’m staying put.  I’m not a worrywart, but I’m pretty sure a week from now we’re going to see a spike in new infections here in Miami-Dade.  And I’d rather not be one of them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Gathering Nuts

Via the Miami New Times:

A veritable who’s who of right-wing con artists, alt-right media hounds, and outright racists apparently plan to hold some sort of Art Basel for Grifters conference in Miami this month. An avalanche of some of the worst pundits online — including at least one fascist — say they’ll hold a “Demand Free Speech” rally Saturday, September 28, on an undisclosed yacht somewhere in the Magic City.

The event’s top billing? Serial con artist Jacob Wohl, who is charged in California with a felony for unlawfully selling investments in a company called Montgomery Assets, will apparently debate Nick Fuentes, a self-described “American nationalist” who has appeared on white-nationalist programs and at one point was recorded going on an anti-Semitic rant about a fellow conservative blogger by calling him a “race traitor” and saying he “worked for Jews.” It’s unclear what Wohl and Fuentes might actually debate, but the event seems designed more to generate protests and controversy than to conduct intellectual discussions.

The grifters have yet to announce a location for the event, likely to avoid protests before the so-called debate occurs. So far, the event pages simply states it will happen “on a four-decker yacht in the legendary Miami Harbor” and will include “heated debates, a stimulating panel, based and red pilled entertainment, food, drinks and much, much more.”

But tickets are being sold on the website 1776.shop, which is run by Enrique Tarrio, a Miami native who leads the neofascist Proud Boys group. “Early-bird” VIP tickets cost $150 for whatever reason. Among the other guests, the group says Zoe Sozo, an ambassador for the campus conservative group Turning Point USA, will also attend. This would be far from the first time TPUSA operatives have brushed elbows with far-right nationalists such as Fuentes: In 2018, New Times caught students in the Florida International University TPUSA chapter making rape jokes, sharing racist Pepe the Frog memes about Syrian refugees, and referencing “Jew hating” and neo-Nazi Richard Spencer in leaked WhatsApp chats.

The event’s webpage also appears to include artwork seemingly stolen from Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2015 New Yorker article “Miami Is Flooding.” Spokespeople for the New Yorker did not immediately respond to a message from New Times today.

And I’m going to miss all the fun; I’m gonna be out of town that weekend.  Oh darn.

This is the first time I recall hearing about such a gathering here in South Florida.  This part of the state isn’t really known for harboring a whole lot of white nationalists; that’s the Panhandle’s shtick.  It sounds like one of those scams that someone like Trump would gin up to sell more crap with his name on it.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Miami Winter

It’s currently 52 with a high of 75 expected today.  For some here that’s enough to break out the parkas, gloves, and stocking caps.  But as this photo from 2006 under similar circumstances shows, it’s always beach weather for some people.

Chill out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sunday Reading

Miami Underwater — Carolyn Kormann in The New Yorker.

In Miami, the rising sea is already an ineluctable part of daily life. Everyone is affected—whether storm flooding forces a small-business owner to shut down for a few days (at tremendous cost), or daily tides hinder students commuting to school, or the retreating coastline forces people to abandon their homes. There are other, less obvious, but equally troubling impacts. People’s increased contact with overflow water from urban canals and sewers is a significant health issue. Low-income communities of color—like Liberty City and Little Haiti—also face rising housing costs as residents seek higher ground. Some have started referring to this as climate gentrification, “a trend of underserved communities being taken over by investors and developers due to rising sea levels,” Valencia Gunder, a community organizer, explained. Historically, “low-income communities of color were forced to live in the center of the city, high above sea level. Now that the sea level is rising, that puts us in prime real estate.” Gunder is one of the many Miami residents who appear in this video series, which focusses on the high-stakes questions that arise as people begin to adapt, and the factors that help create and strengthen resiliency for what’s ahead. “Every adaptation project is an opportunity to improve our environmental quality,” Tiffany Troxler, a wetlands biologist, said. “And to improve social equity.”

As the average global temperature increases, sea level is projected to rise more than one foot by 2045, which would put a fifth of Miami underwater at high tide. While the entire East Coast of the United States is at tremendous risk, Miami is particularly vulnerable. Its underlying bedrock is limestone, which makes the effects of sea-level rise particularly insidious. “Limestone is very porous, so salt water can seep up,” Ben Wilson, an environmental scientist, said in an episode that examines the intersection of ecology and development. “We can’t just build a wall to keep salt water out.” Along the shoreline, freshwater marshes, which act as natural coastal buffers against storm surge, are collapsing because of increased salt-water intrusion. Once those grasses are gone, storm waters will flood Miami much more quickly.

The economic effects will be staggering. Tourism and property taxes—derived from real-estate development—are the region’s two main sources of income. “There are many in the business community, and even government officials, who feel we shouldn’t talk about it,” Wayne Pathman, a real-estate lawyer, said. “But it’s too late for that.” The median family income in Miami-Dade County is roughly forty-five thousand dollars—not high for a metropolitan area. The hardest-hit communities will be, and have already been, those with the fewest resources to adapt and rebuild.

“With climate change there already are winners and losers,” Jesse Keenan, a Harvard professor who teaches courses on climate adaptation, said. “The idea, as a matter of public policy, is how do we subsidize and and support the most vulnerable populations, who are very often the economic losers.” There is no easy answer. But the people featured in these videos are, at least, trying. “I love this place,” one activist told the filmmakers. “I love the people, I love the diversity and the colors and the richness. I love that cross-cultural mix we have going on here. The question is, ‘Can we live here much longer, and safely? And if so, how much longer, and how safely?’ ”

Party of Fear — Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.’’

Ronald Reagan

Now I know how the Gipper felt.

Once upon a time, you see, I thought I was a little bit conservative. Mind you, I could never side with the right on social justice matters like the treatment of LGBTQ Americans, African Americans and women, where they have always been irredeemably wrong. But I did agree with them on the importance of fathers and on the need for self reliance, a strong military and foreign-policy realism. While I support government regulation of business, consumer standards and the environment, I was even willing to listen to conservative complaints about excessive red tape.

Thing is, I still hold more or less the same views, but I’m nobody’s idea of a conservative. I didn’t change, but the definition of conservative did. And that forces a realization:

With apologies to John F. Kennedy, Ich bin ein liberal.

That will, I know, bring howls of derision from conservatives. They’ll see it as a portentous announcement of a self-evident truth — like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announcing that he is tall.

I get the joke, but the joke makes my point.

We live in a starkly bipolar political world. One is red or one is blue, one is right or one is left. But I’ve always resisted the idea that I had to choose a team and line up behind its talking points. I’ve always said no political philosophy has a monopoly on good ideas.

So I was never willing to call myself liberal. Or conservative. I liked the idea of weighing the facts and thinking a thing through for myself.

I was naïve, though. While I was holding out on a lonely island of principle, the middle space between the extremes shrank to nothing. Political identity became actual identity, and one was required to choose sides, like a kid in the slums forced to choose between rival street gangs, with conscientious objection not an option.

And the choice isn’t really a choice at all, because what used to be conservatism no longer is. When’s the last time you heard the right talk about the kinds of things — fatherhood, clear-eyed foreign policy — that once helped define it?

No, these days, being “conservative” means being angry and fearful at the loss of white prerogative. It means to embrace — or at the very least, tolerate, which is functionally the same thing — a new and brazen strain of white supremacy. It means to be dismissive and destructive of the norms of democratic governance. It means to willingly accept nonstop lies, intellectual vacuity and naked incompetence and pretend they are signs of stable genius. It means to be wholly in thrall to the Cult of Trump.

Small wonder GOP heavyweights like columnists George F. Will and Max Boot and campaign strategist Steve Schmidt have disavowed their party out of devotion to what conservatism used to be. Their moral courage makes neon obvious most Republicans’ lack thereof.

That said, one wonders if it will not turn out that these worthies are simply holding out on their own lonely island of principle, if conservatism’s headlong march toward fascism will not make them the ones who seem naïve 20 years down the line. But that’s their problem.

This column is about my problem, which I guess I’ve solved, though not without some regret for the days when I felt free to walk between political extremes and not declare myself. But in 2018, that’s an unaffordable luxury. In 2018, one of those extremes represents a danger as clear and present as any foreign adversary.

So yes, I am a liberal. Because I have, literally, no alternative.

Compare and Contrast — Musings on public speaking.

1863:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

1961:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

2018:

I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record. Because you know, look I only need this space. They need much more room. For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot of room. We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.

Doonesbury — Wasting time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Thoughts On Rails

Miami’s traffic is legendary for being really terrible.  Every time there’s a ranking of the ten worst places for commuting, South Florida, which encompasses everything from Homestead to Palm Beach, comes out at or near the top… or the bottom.  So thanks to age and convenience, I have been riding the county’s Metro Rail system since last September.  Residents 65 and older get a free pass, and the nearest depot with covered parking ($11.25 a month) is six miles from my house.  The travel time is about the same: an hour from door to door, both directions.  It saves me about $100 a month in gas and untold stress on me and the car.

Being a creature of habit, I ride the same train every morning and I usually sit in the same place; a seat that puts me right at the exit to get off and get to the Metro Mover, the mini-train that passes by my office’s front door.  I see the same people riding the train with me, and I’ve even made a couple of friends who share the commute with me.  They’re like me; mid-level employees who like to get to work early or have a schedule that gets them out early, and we take the inevitable disruptions to the train service — the cars on Metro Rail date back to 1984 and the new ones are being rolled out slowly — in stride.

I also see a lot of blue-collar workers.  There’s a lot of construction going on in downtown Miami and the train usually has a variety of men and women dressed for labor; hard hats, heavy boots, and equipment, and they’re of all ages; ranging from their twenties up to (I’m guessing) their fifties.

At 5:00 a.m. it’s a quiet ride.  Most of us are either dozing or looking at their phones, some listening with earbuds, and the only sound is the rattle of the train and the scratchy P.A. “Green Line — Palmetto” as the doors open.

There are cracks and flaws in the system.  Metro Rail was intended to cover a lot more of the county, including a line out to Miami Beach and back.  But it was halted about half-way and plans to continue or finish it have stalled.  The only new service in the last ten years was the addition of the Orange Line out to Miami International Airport.  The funds initially set aside to expand it and improve it were spent on other things, and as I noted, the replacement cars — I’ve actually ridden one — are few and far between as they are being tested and certified.  So, as one of my fellow commuters noted the other day, we’re moving really slowly to get someplace fast.

But it beats sitting in the middle of U.S. 1 and taking an hour and a half to go seventeen miles.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Monday, November 9, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sad Music Note

South Florida has a lot going for it in terms of cultural expression: good museums, a lot of theatre, and a lot of places to see and hear art and artists.  We have a Design District, an area called Wynwood that is part of the Art Basel events, and a new performing arts center that includes a concert hall, ballet stage, and a theatre big enough to stage opera and host national tours of Broadway musicals.  We’re not exactly Lincoln Center, but we do all right.  But what it can’t seem to hold on to is a classical music radio station.

About fifteen years ago the commercial classical station WTMI was sold off to a “dance” music format which was basically endless nightclub noise.  Those of us who like a little Mozart or Copland with our day had to do without.  Then in 2007 a Christian non-commercial station was sold and switched over to be a repeater for the Classical 24 format put out by Minnesota Public Radio and PRI, and classical music was back on the air calling itself Classical South Florida.  It was not a station in the sense that it had live DJ’s here in Miami or Fort Lauderdale sitting in a studio and playing the music.  Frankly, that style of radio went off the air years ago in favor of packaged satellite formats covering everything from rap to oldies.  But it was classical music (albeit a limited variety; lots of the same warhorses played over and over), and it made a nice contrast to the noise on the FM band.

Now the word has come down that Classical South Florida will end its run tomorrow and revert to the “Christian music” format.  (I have always thought that “Christian music” has been an oxymoron since the end of the 19th Century, but that’s just me. YMMV.)

I’m sorry to see it go.  I was an early supporter of the station and it provided a touch of class even if it was just a repeater.  Its demise also adds to the myth that classical music can’t make it as a broadcast format.  I’ve lived in cities and towns big and small, and everywhere else, including Denver, Albuquerque, and Petoskey, classical music was available either through commercial or non-profit outlets.  It works if it’s done right: with local people who know their music and care about what their audience likes to hear.  Perhaps that’s one reason this latest effort failed; you can only hear Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks so many times.

Fortunately there are outlets available to me via the internet, and while my cars are still mired in 20th century technology, I can listen to Interlochen Public Radio at work and at home, and the stylings of jazz station WDNA.  But it’s sad that once again South Florida shows that when it comes to class, we have a lack of it sometimes.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Marco Rubio’s Driving Record

Marco Rubio likes to portray him as someone who’s just like the rest of us.  Well, here in Miami, he’s doing a bang-up job, so to speak, of being like a lot of the drivers in Miami.  And his wife is even worse.

According to a search of the Miami-Dade and Duval County court dockets, the Rubios have been cited for numerous infractions over the years for incidents that included speeding, driving through red lights and careless driving. A review of records dating back to 1997 shows that the couple had a combined 17 citations: Mr. Rubio with four and his wife with 13. On four separate occasions they agreed to attend remedial driving school after a violation.

[…]

The Rubios have spent more than $1,000 paying traffic penalties over the years, but after Mr. Rubio was elected to the Senate in 2010 they took a different approach to handling their tickets.

Mr. Rubio hired Mr. Hanna, a Miami-based lawyer and donor, whose website sales pitch says, “Have you received a traffic ticket? Don’t pay it.” With Mr. Hanna’s help, Mr. Rubio’s last two citations were dismissed and seven of Ms. Rubio’s last eight were cleared.

I can disagree with Sen. Rubio on a lot of his policies and his views on how this country should be run and still respect him, but it’s stories like this and the “rules are for the little people” attitude that prove that he’s just a dick.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer and Schvitz

ANTIQUE_FAN_1_734_800South Florida has two seasons: wet and dry.  The astronomical calendar has summer starting around the 21st of June.  Here the wet season starts about Memorial Day, followed soon thereafter by the start of the hurricane season, which lasts until the end of November.  The air temperature doesn’t vary a lot: it can be 90 in January and in July.  The difference is the moisture: not just the rains that come on a regular basis between May and November, but the humidity.  It keeps the orchids happy, but it can be trying if you want to keep your clothes from getting soaked by your own perspiration.

I’ve lived in temperate climates of northern Michigan, alpine climates such as the Rockies, the desert of New Mexico, and in between.  I appreciate them all: snowfall in Michigan is beautiful, the mountains are magnificent, and the colors of a New Mexico sunset are beyond belief.  But I like it here, too, and I don’t mind a little schvitz as long as the hurricanes go someplace else, preferably out over the Atlantic.  And you don’t have to shovel the heat.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Marriage Equality Comes to Miami-Dade County

From the Tampa Bay Times with reporting by Patricia Mazzei and Steve Rothaus, Miami Herald:

Gay Marriage Miami-Dade 01-05-15

Miami-Dade County became the first place in Florida to allow same-sex couples to marry on Monday, half a day before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the state.

Weddings began around 1:30 p.m., less than three hours after Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the legal stay she had placed on her sweeping July decision declaring the ban discriminatory.

Two of the six couples who had sued — Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove, and Jeff and Todd Delmay of Hollywood — were the first to be married, by Zabel herself.

The couples exchanged rings surrounded by family, friends and a pack of television crews at downtown Miami’s historic civil courthouse following Zabel’s 11 a.m. ruling.

“In the big picture, does it really matter whether or not I lift the stay or leave it until tomorrow?” Zabel said from the bench. “I’m lifting the stay.”

The elected clerk of courts, Harvey Ruvin, at first said same-sex marriages would begin at 2 p.m. But once his office received a signed copy of Zabel’s two-page order at noon, he let couples could apply for marriage licenses immediately.

“All of our offices are now fully prepared to follow the judge’s order, and everyone will be treated equally,” said Ruvin, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post.

Same-sex couples are now be able to marry in 36 states and Washington, D.C. The ruling also means gay marriages performed outside Florida will be recognized in Miami-Dade.

Cheers erupted in the courthouse with Zabel’s decision. Some of the couples who were plaintiffs in the case cried tears of joy. Outside, surrounded by a throng of reporters and photographers, they held hands and raised their arms in victory.

“I feel good. I am relieved. I feel vindicated,” said Pareto, of Coconut Grove. She and her partner of more than 14 years, Arguello, arrived in cream-colored dresses, ready to get hitched. They were the first couple to obtain a marriage license Monday.

“Finally,” Arguello said. “Finally, our family will not be treated any differently.”

Outside of Miami-Dade, most Florida court clerks will start marrying gay couples Tuesday — some of them at 12:01 a.m. — following a federal judge’s order. Several counties in conservative North Florida have stopped marrying people in their offices, in part to avoid marrying same-sex couples, although they will still have to issue marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee declared the state ban unconstitutional in August, but stayed his decision through Monday to give some time for legal appeals. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, sought extensions of the stay from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, but both turned her down.

The ban was approved in by 62 percent of Florida voters in 2008 as part of Amendment 2, an initiative organized by the Orlando-based Florida Family Policy Council.

In a statement issued Monday, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said it was “deeply disappointed” by Hinkle’s decision and by the appeals courts’ refusal to grant Bondi an extension.

“Marriage based on the complementarity of the sexes is the lifeblood of family, and family is the foundation of our society,” the bishops said. “The crisis that sadly the family is experiencing today will only be aggravated by imposing this redefinition of marriage. Society must rediscover the irreplaceable roles of both mother and father who bring unique gifts to the education and rearing of children.”

Last year, Zabel was the second state judge — after Judge Luis Garcia in the Florida Keys — to overturn a 2008 voter-approved amendment to Florida’s Constitution that required marriages to be between a man and a woman. In all, four South Florida judges sided with same-sex couples who either sought to marry or divorce, or to have the state recognize their out-of-state marriage. The other two judges hailed from Broward and Palm Beach counties.

In the Keys, Judge Garcia vacated his stay Monday afternoon, but made the order effective at midnight, which means same-sex couples will be able to marry there beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin’s office plans to open at that time to marry 100 couples. First in line will be Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones of Key West, who filed the case that prompted Garcia’s ruling.

Broward Clerk Howard Forman also plans to grant licenses beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, with a mass wedding scheduled for 3 a.m.

Zabel ruled in favor of six same-sex couples from Miami-Dade and Broward, and the LGBT-rights group Equality Florida Institute, who sued last Jan. 21. They were the first plaintiffs to challenge Florida’s ban in court.

On Monday, Zabel kept her decision short: “The Clerk of the Court is hereby authorized to issue marriage licenses forthwith to prospective spouses of the same gender,” she wrote.

In addition to Pareto and Arguello and the Delmays, the other plaintiff couples were Jorge Isaias Diaz and Don Price Johnston of Miami; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price of Davie; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier of Hollywood; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber of Plantation.

Pareto’s and Arguello’s mothers, who accompanied their daughters to Monday’s hearing, later stood on chairs to see over the crowd as their daughters signed their marriage license.

Ruvin’s office had no time Monday to print new license applications, so Pareto signed as “groom” and Arguello as “bride.”

“Take lots of pictures,” said Marlene Pareto, who was tearing up. “My daughter looks prettier today than ever.”

Miami Herald staff writers Audra D.S. Burch and Carli Teproff contributed to this report.

I once said I thought Florida would be the last state to grant equal rights to everyone.  Once again, I am very happy to be very wrong.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Artists Jam

For the second time this weekend, protestors in Miami blocked traffic on a major highway. Via Tim Elfrink at Miami New Times:

For downtown-area commuters, the peak weekend of Art Basel is ending this afternoon much like it began: With 195 shut in both directions by protesters participating in the #shutitdown movement against police violence.

The protesters marched from Wynwood onto the highway around 5 p.m. This time, police had apparently already blocked off traffic before the protesters arrived.

The protests are fueled by the lack of indictments in the police killings of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, as well as local cases like the death of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, a teenage graffiti artist, at the hands of Miami Beach police.

The Miami rallies have echoed similar moves in NYC, St. Louis and elsewhere to shut down local highways.

On Friday, traffic snarled for miles in both directions as evening commuters and those trying to get to and from Art Basel events were halted by the action.

Today’s protests look to be smaller in number, but no less disruptive to highway traffic.

There are pictures of the demonstration at the link above.

Interstate 195 is one of the major links to Miami Beach from the mainland; part of it is the Julia Tuttle Causeway, and it is always bumper-to-bumper during rush hour even without Art Basel or public displays of anger.  Therefore I’m not too sure if the people got their point across without pissing off a lot of people miles away who had no idea why they were inching along I-95 from U.S. 1 to the Golden Glades.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Miami-Dade Bans Trans Discrimination

Via WPLG-TV:

After a four-hour public hearing Tuesday and months of debate, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted 8-3 to add protections for transgender people to its four-decade old Human Rights Ordinance. The move extends legal protections prohibit discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on gender identity or gender expression.

[…]

Opposition groups, mostly from the religious right, launched a campaign to squash the ordinance that included scare-tactic fliers and accusations that Communists supported the amendment.

The opponents had to be grasping for straws if they had to whip out the old Commies-are-for-it trope.  It isn’t 1950 anymore.

Needless to say, good for the county commission.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Reading

Predicting the Inevitable — Jenali Brown in The New Yorker on the reaction in Ferguson to the grand jury finding.

New Yorker 11-30-14What transpired in Ferguson last night was entirely predictable, widely anticipated, and, yet, seemingly inevitable. Late last week, Michael Brown, Sr., released a video pleading for calm, his forlorn eyes conveying exhaustion born of not only shouldering grief but also of insisting on civic calm in the wake of his son’s death. One of the Brown family’s attorneys, Anthony Gray, held a press conference making the same request, and announced that a team of citizen peacekeepers would be present at any subsequent protests. Ninety minutes later, the St. Louis mayor, Francis Slay, held a press conference in which he pledged that the police would show restraint in the event of protests following the grand-jury decision. He promised that tear gas and armored vehicles would not be deployed to manage protests. The two conferences bore a disturbing symmetry, an inversion of pre-fight hype in which each side deprecated about possible violence but expressed skepticism that the other side was capable of doing the same. It’s possible that, recognizing that violence was all but certain, both sides were seeking to deflect the charge that they had encouraged it. Others offered no such pretense. Days ahead of the announcement, local businesses began boarding up their doors and windows like a coastal town anticipating a hurricane. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a preëmptive state of emergency a week before the grand jury concluded its work. His announcement was roughly akin to declaring it daytime at 3 A.M. because the sun will rise eventually.

From the outset, the great difficulty has been discerning whether the authorities are driven by malevolence or incompetence. The Ferguson police let Brown’s body lie in the street for four and a half hours, an act that either reflected callous disregard for him as a human being or an inability to manage the situation. The release of Darren Wilson’s name was paired with the release of a video purportedly showing Brown stealing a box of cigarillos from a convenience store, although Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson later admitted that Wilson was unaware of the incident when he confronted the young man. (McCulloch contradicted this in his statement on the non-indictment.) Last night, McCulloch made the inscrutable choice to announce the grand jury’s decision after darkness had fallen and the crowds had amassed in the streets, factors that many felt could only increase the risk of violence. Despite the sizable police presence, few officers were positioned on the stretch of West Florissant Avenue where Brown was killed. The result was that damage to the area around the police station was sporadic and short-lived, but Brown’s neighborhood burned. This was either bad strategy or further confirmation of the unimportance of that community in the eyes of Ferguson’s authorities.

The pleas of Michael Brown’s father and Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, were ultimately incapable of containing the violence that erupted last night, because in so many ways what happened here extended beyond their son. His death was a punctuation to a long, profane sentence, one which has insulted a great many, and with damning frequency of late. In his statement after the decision was announced, President Barack Obama took pains to point out that “there is never an excuse for violence.” The man who once told us that there was no black America or white America but only the United States of America has become a President whose statements on unpunished racial injustices are a genre unto themselves. Perhaps it only seems contradictory that the deaths of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford and John Crawford and Michael Brown—all unarmed black men shot by men who faced no official sanction for their actions—came during the first black Presidency.* Or perhaps the message here is that American democracy has reached the limits of its elasticity—that the symbolic empowerment of individuals, while the great many remain citizen-outsiders, is the best that we can hope for. The air last night, thick with smoke and gunfire, suggested something damning of the President.

Artless Miami — Brett Sokol in the New York Times reports on why Art Basel hasn’t made Miami the art mecca it once dreamed of becoming.

MIAMI BEACH — “It was a really devastating message,” the Miami art dealer Fredric Snitzer said, recalling the personal impact when Emmanuel Perrotin’s 13,000-square-foot outpost closed in 2010. “If he couldn’t make a go of it, what I am doing here?”

The opening of the Perrotin gallery on the eve of the Art Basel Miami Beach fair in 2005 was a high-water mark for the city’s cultural scene, anticipating its imminent status as an art mecca second only to New York and Los Angeles. Art Basel itself was billed as the economic tide that would lift all artistic boats, not just for a week every December, but year-round, too. Why else would a top-tier contemporary-art player from Paris like Mr. Perrotin expand to Miami?

“This is Paris in the ’20s and that guy down the block is Picasso,” Mr. Snitzer said at the time.

Yet by 2009, Perrotin had ceased regular exhibitions in Miami, turning off the lights completely the following year. Several other leading galleries that opened in the wake of Art Basel’s 2002 arrival have also shut down, while many of the city’s most promising younger artists have decamped to New York and Los Angeles in search of greener career pastures.

More than a decade after Art Basel’s debut, the city’s cultural milieu has been undeniably transformed. But beyond the splashy galas surrounding the fair’s kickoff on Wednesday, and the expensive new centers for art like the waterfront Pérez Art Museum Miami and the planned home for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, many local artists and art dealers remain deeply dissatisfied.

Some blame rising rents that have scattered a once-cohesive art community, while others point to a dearth of local collectors and visiting Basel-ites interested in owning their work. Without that bigger pool of buyers, they say, there’s no way to sustain artists amid the continued expansion of the art scene.

“I couldn’t support myself,” said Bert Rodriguez, a conceptual artist, in a phone call from his new home in Los Angeles. After appearing in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Mr. Rodriguez became one of Miami’s hometown heroes.

Yet despite awards and commissions, he felt stuck. “All the collectors there who were going to support me had already bought my work,” said Mr. Rodriguez, known for prankish projects that include burying himself up to his neck on a museum’s front lawn. “I had tapped into every well I could, and it just wasn’t enough.”

But now that he’s in Los Angeles, he said, advertising agencies and Silicon Valley clients who once ignored him are lining up. This winter, he will get $50,000 from a company behind a new travel app to drive cross-country and “virtually” write his name across America. “I’ve made more money in the last three years in Los Angeles than in the previous 10 in Miami,” he said.

[…]

“Too many people are obsessed with chasing the next hippest, newest thing,” said Kristen Thiele, an ArtCenter board member as well as a former resident artist there. Ms. Thiele cited the core ideas first laid out by Mrs. Schneiderman: Artists need cheap studio space, the ability to sell their work — out of those same studios, if necessary — and, not least, “the genuine sense of community that comes from being surrounded by your fellow artists with trained eyes.”

There’s nothing especially revolutionary about Mrs. Schneiderman’s thinking. Still, for the Miami painter John Sanchez, it’s been more than he could have ever hoped for. Originally represented by Emerson Dorsch, he felt his rain-slicked urban landscapes were falling out of step with that gallery’s turn toward an art-theory laden program.

“I’m a realist painter,” he said. “I’m trying to paint everyday moments as beautifully as I can. It’s not rocket science.” By contrast, at the ArtCenter, just by dint of being on a heavily trafficked street, he said, “I got a vast amount of exposure to people from everywhere, not just those in the know.”

He’s since picked up both sales and fresh brushwork techniques. Having found a formula for survival as an artist, he’s hoping to move into the ArtCenter’s remaining Lincoln Road building.

“I want to be like mold,” he said, laughing. “I want to stay.”

Doonesbury — No deposit, no return.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quiet in Miami

Miami, which knows a thing or two about the tense relationship between African Americans and law enforcement, had a quiet night after the news from Ferguson.  Via Michael E. Miller at Miami New Times:

A grand jury’s decision not to indict the cop who three months ago killed unarmed teenager Mike Brown sparked protests across the country last night.

Ferguson, Missouri is still smoldering this morning after looting, teargas, arson, armored vehicles, and gunshots turned the St. Louis suburb into something resembling a war zone. Despite demonstrations in other major American cities, Miami remained calm, however.

“No, nothing,” said a Miami Police sergeant reached at 1 a.m. “It’s actually been very quiet.”

Miami-Dade Police indicated that they also had no reports of riots or protests.

“I haven’t called out any PIOs in the last few hours,” said a MDPD officer. “That should tell you something.”

Perhaps anger has given way to resignation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014