Archive for December, 2007

Happy New Year!
December 31, 2007

I am preparing my annual “Fearless Predictions for 2008”. We will publish New Years Day. It is not pretty! I am reading “The Boys from Dolores.” The book is a must read for anyone seriously interested in Fidel Castro and the Cuban psyche. My public New Years Resolution is: “If I know it and can source it, I will post it on the NBC6 website! Happy New Year!

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Happy Holidays: time to recharge!
December 14, 2007

I am off till the first of the year. Hope you are yours are having a Happy Holiday and let’s all hope for a prosperous and joyful New Year. I’ll be in the garden. My tomatoes look a little sad but the onions are coming on like gang busters. See ya next year!

Downtown Danger: Panhandlers
December 14, 2007

I had seen the guy. He hung out at the Burger King on Northwest 17th and Biscayne. He was a real big guy, tall. He would panhandle and get aggressive about it.

Those of us who work downtown run into that a lot. The Burger King on Biscayne and the McDonald’s across from the MDCC Wolfson Campus. I have had them get in line behind me and pester for cash. Not a comfortable feeling.

This guy got into a dispute inside the Burger King. The cops were called. The guy makes a move towards the officer who hits him a a Tazer. The suspect keeps coming, tearing the Tazer darts out of his chest. He goes for the cop’s gun. The police officer gets hit, draws his weapon and fires. The suspect is hit in the arm.

For the next two hours Biscayne Blvd is shut down. It is a mess.

Earlier in the day the Haggard Law Firm announces a major settlement. $26-million for a man who was shot in the parking lot of a strip club in North Miami. No security in the parking lot.

It does not take much to connect the dots and realize that these fast food operations who invite the public in have a obligation to provide a safe environment for their customers.

In recent months there has been what seems a large increase in Downtown homeless panhandlers. Some have obvious mental issues such as the man who took on the policeman at the the BK.

The City of Miami is looking to designate a “panhandling zone.”

But you have to wonder why there are not security officers at some of these locations. At the BK on Biscayne, which is just north of the Carnival Center for the Preforming Arts, the panhandlers stand right next to the drive through ordering sign. Your window is down and they are often right there in your face. They are at the drive through exit as you stop to pull out of the parking lot.

This is not isolated to this location. Try Flager Street right around the old Courthouse.

Let’s hope none of these folks get aggressive and really hurts someone. You’d think that some of these major fast food joints would look at the judgement the Haggard firm secured and maybe hire some $10 an hour security cops.

The area north of Downtown is an up and coming area. Millions have been poured in to condos and the Arts center. No one there needs a customer getting hurt or killed.

My advice: pack your lunch.

The Almighty Dollar
December 11, 2007

There were thirty-thousand British fight fans in Las Vegas last weekend. They were spending like there was no tomorrow. They were in town for a boxing match. Their guy did not win but they had a heck of a time. The town was crawling with Brits. I was there on a short vacation and had a chance to chat with some of them. “It is the dollar man,” most told me. Sure enough even middle class fight fans were able to come across the pond, stay in great Las Vegas hotels and have money to spend. That because the American Dollar is so weak. In the case of the British their pound generates lots of dollars and they were taking advantage of it.

It was a concentrated economic lesson right in front of our faces. The bars and restaurants were full and many of our “cross Atlantic cousins” we laying down to heavy coin in jewelry shops and clothing stores. Stores like Brookstone and Sharper Image were packed. “Things here are about half price,” was the usual response from happy spenders.

I am told the same thing is happening here in the Miami area. Several mall public relations folk have told me their stores are full of European shoppers, in fact some visitors have come here specifically to shop, short stays but purchase what you want and get out of town. Staffers at the Miami Convention and Visitor’s Authority tell me that they have placed newspaper advertisements in major European newspapers touting the price advantage of flying into South Florida. Reports from Art Basel are that the Europe were spending big on fine art, they were here in droves.

This is a story we will continue to follow as tourism officials say that the weak dollar is likely to push an already busy tourist season into one of the best ever.

Bad Bridge put Radio Station staff into boats
December 5, 2007

The bridge is closed, blocked, concrete barriers are solidly in place. There is no traffic across the Boot Key Bridge just south of Marathon in the Florida Keys. The draw bridge still goes up and down to let large boats through but that’s because the bridge can’t stay up because of concerns about winds damaging the structure.

Ok, not a lot of people live on Boot Key and those who do are probably there illegally. There are some commercial fishing operations, lobsters, stone crabs, fish of all kinds brought to the shanty camps that have cropped up in the mangroves.

And then there are the Radio Stations.

The Keys Radio Group operates two FMs and one AM broadcast facilities on the key. Two of the stations have news broadcasts, the AM is all talk radio. The AM is pretty much the radio voice of Marathon, the local town station.

Before we go on, I do provide radio commentary for two of the stations. WTJV and the Keys Radio group have a partnership. This is especially evident during hurricane season when we all work closely air each other’s material.

So back to the bridge. Now the radio station staffers have to get to work by boat. And that is just the engineers and production staff. The on-air folks are doing their shows from local restaurants and other locations. We call them “remotes” in our business. But for all intents the radio stations are cut off from the rest of the world.

The State of Florida DOT sent a letter to the City of Marathon detailing a November 7th inspection which showed a critical deterioration of the bridge under structure. In short the concrete pilings are crumbling and the rebar is rusted and all but gone.

Why would a bridge built in the 1960’s be in such tough shape. Locals will tell you their theory.
They suspect the contractor used beach sand in the mixing of the concrete. Over the years, they say, the salt ate away at the steel rebar and the salt weakened the concrete. This kind of deterioration is not unique. It has been a problem with some of the older Miami and Miami Beach buildings.

Ok the radio station might have serious issues but there is more. Keys Radio Group owns a huge tower that holds their FM antennas. But along with their radio gear there is a slew of antennas that serve radio communications vital to the public safety of the Keys. The issue is getting service personnel on to the key for maintain, especially when the weather is getting ugly. The same for the Keys Cooperative Power company. Are all these maintainers going to jump into the radio stations Zodiac for a run to the Key?

Yes, that’s correct. The Keys Radio group now commute to and from the key in a Zodiac or whatever boat station owner Joe Nascone can scare up.

Nascone is talking to lawyers. By the way the cost to repair the bridge? Millions. Not much of chance of that.

So we have DJ’s in a boat.

Another story out of the Keys that makes the island chain so unique.

Chavez’s Deck of Cards
December 4, 2007

Local Venezuelans who in mass voted no on Hugo Chavez’s reform package were understandably energized by the narrow victory the opposition coalition mounted. They won, not by much, but they did and celebrations were in order. Certainly the news that many Chavez supporters could not stomach the so-called power grab had to hearten the oppositon another good reason to cheer. However Latin American Experts quickly caution that: Chavez did not lose by much, he is still very much in power until the year 2012, and he can proclaim to the world that yes indeed there is true democracy in Venezuela after all he got whipped in the election. The experts tell us that he will now pick away at the goal of turning the oil rich nation into a socialist state one drip at a time.

The best quote of the day was from the mother of a young man we interviewed. She told me that Chavez will indeed deal another card. “And,” she said, “he has a whole deck of cards.” And let me add: A whole bunch of oil.