Archive for March, 2008

Real Estate: “How low can you go?”
March 31, 2008

“It is an excellent deal and in Coconut Grove for under $500-thousand. This is as good as it gets.” That was the killer sound bite in a recent real estate story I turned for NBC6. It was almost desperate. Tony Scornavacca Jr. was the real estate agent who made that comment as he walked by our camera. It was not a response to a question. He just said it out-loud and I put it on TV because one sentence told the whole story.

Scornavacca represents Michael Mahar the owner of the 3 bedroom one bath cute-as-a-bugs-ear North Grove home. Mahar has done a lot to the 1940’s home. There is the professional kitchen-Mahar is a chef-with slate floors, lots of french windows, a nicely landscaped back yard, “this owner has done everything perfectly,” says Scornavacca.  

The story we were producing was based on new statistics that dubbed Miami as the worst performing real estate market in the country. The Magic City was tied with Las Vegas as the nations biggest real estate loser.  The index produced by Case-Schiller told the story of the Mahar house perfectly. The asking price for the home had dropped at a steady pace.  At one time two years ago it could have fetched $620-thousand dollars.  “It has been a tough two years, just watching it drop and drop and now I have to sell it.”  Michael Mahar gave you the sense that he was trapped. That’s a word I hear more and more these days. It comes from people who need to make a move, want to go on with their lives but can’t.  They cannot sell their homes. The market is absolutly flat unless you are looking for foreclosures and it is those homes and folks that have just walked away from homes that cut into the potential of Tony Scornavacca finding a buyer for Michael Mahar’s home. 

We kind of produced the story like those shows you see on HGTV.  In the back of my mind I was thinking that the TV exposure might just lead to a sell.  It was a bit of an experiment. The price seemed right to me, a pretty good deal, “no way this baby won’t sell,” I kept telling myself. The story aired,  it looked pretty good, I waited two days to call Tony Scornavacca. “Did you get any bites?” I asked. “Just one call from another real estate agent congratulating me on getting on TV and giving the house exposure,” Tony told me.  Apparently the caller also said he might have a client that was interested, but that was it and the agent never called again.

The home gets very few visits from prospective buyers, maybe a showing once a week. An open  house pulled 7 or 8 couples.  Tony thinks that what buyers that are out there are waiting for absolute rock bottom before they make a move. Meanwhile Michael Mahar continues to be frustrated, not a buyer insight, the only solace is……he is not alone.

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Tomas Regalado for City of Miami Mayor
March 28, 2008

My political insider whispered in my ear that Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado will announce officially that he is running for mayor. Word is the long time commissioner will toss the hat in the ring next Wednesday, April the Second. The even is set for the front of city hall. Mayor Manny Diaz has termed out and one wonders where he will surface. Regalado has often been a powerful gadfly on the commission.  Wonder who will come out of the woodwork to take him on?

Connecting the Dots: “Picture worth a thousand words”
March 15, 2008

The people of Cuba may hear about changes, they may now be able to purchase electronics, they may soon, if the word on the street is true, actually be able to go into hotels that have been forbidden for them for years, but the bottom line people still want to get out. Three people floated and rowed from Mariel, Cuba and wound up on Hutchinson Island in Palm Beach County. They were eleven days at sea in 3-5′ swells. They got here the old fashioned way.

st_lucie_2.jpgThanks to Babalu Blog!

Cuba: The young and the restless, connecting the dots
March 14, 2008

“Raul talks and does not say anything. Raul is not doinig anything.”  That comment from a young man sitting on the curb on 96Th street in Bay Harbor Island.  He an 17 other young Cubans had just landed on a dock next to one of the small cities many canals.  The were all young all fresh from Cuba likely having paid smugglers a hefty sum to bring them across the Straits of Florida in a overcrowded go-fast. 

The next day five of seven young Cubans who had defected from the Cuban National Under-23 soccer team showed up in Miami to meet with a immigration lawyer. Said Jose Miranda, “I have reached the top of the sport in Cuba and so did the other guys, when you reach the top in Cuba where else do you go?”  For these five young men I talked to their quest was very much about the future.

I could not help but remember a blog that I had recently discovered. Written by a young woman named Yoani Sanchez. She very much like the soccer players, and the young folks who landed in Bay Harbor Island.  She too laments about the future and notes how the aging Cuban leadership longs for the past. Every anniversary, every date of significant revolutionary events is remembered, celebrated, people pour into the streets praising heroes long dead.  Sanchez notes there is, in Cuba, never a celebration of the future:

“All of those references to that which was and we must evoke, contrast with the little time we dedicate to talk about the future. The big anniversaries remind us that today -about several years ago- something happened or someone died. Most of these acts happened forty, fifty or a hundred years back, while a void of events covers our closer periods. Those of us less than forty years old have not participated in almost anything, but have been just spectators of the glories of the past. Passive consumers of the fattened repertoire of dates past.”

Several years ago the professors at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American studies told a group of NBC6 journalist that the Cuban Youth would be the biggest challenge to the Castro Brother’s regime. The told us how the Cuban Youth had no tie to the Castro Government, how they were just rudderless and restless, and, they added, the Castro government would throw the youngsters a bone or two to keep them out of the streets. 

Sure enough as we encountered the young soccer players the announcement came out of Cuba. Citizen would now be allowed to purchase computers, microwaves, DVD players, up to 24-inch TV sets, electric rice cookers and a host of other electronic items which were no allowed for sale on the island.  A gesture to be sure because most of the items are out of reach price wise for the average Cuban. But for sure a sign Raul Castro is aware of the issue of the unhappy youth.

Some how at the end of the day it came to me, no matter how many DVD players or rice cookers the Castro Brothers were going to put on the market, everyone of the defectors I had met in the past day or so would have come anyway.  A new microwave or electric rice maker was not going to get in the way of the future.

How about that HD-TV on WTVJ!
March 6, 2008

Got to love the new WTVJ in High Definition. The picture jumps right out of the TV set.  I have to admit there were three TV set milestones that I will never forget, one is the first time I saw HDTV and that was in Japan, at the Sony Lab, where a  number of us were given a sneak peek at the new technology.  That was back in 1989. It wowed me. The other two events? Seeing the black and white Indian Head test pattern for KIVA-TV, Yuma, Arizona  in 1952. Like magic there it was  on a tv set my dad had bought in Los Angles and brought home and hooked up. That was a pretty big deal for tiny Yuma.  And then of-course their was the first time I ever saw color TV. That was in a store front window in the Imperial Hardware store in Downtown Yuma.  Wow! Color!  Now HDTV on WTVJ. It is another first for the station we all call “TVJ.”  Going back to the late 1940’s, first newscast in Florida, first TV station for that matter, first live broadcasts, then first news live shots, first to convert to digital news gathering and now first in this market with HDTV. Kind of neat and does it look good! Soon we will have our field cameras in HD. The crisp video will enhance our news gathering efforts.  Details now lost in the analog cameras will be crystal clear. Better to look at, better to see, a new frontier in television.

Florida Gambling-Not Ready yet!
March 6, 2008

Test!
March 6, 2008

Hank Tester testing the new blog system!