Archive for April, 2008

Diaz-Balarts, Raul, Joe and Political Hardball!
April 29, 2008

Yep! it is getting good out there. Insurgent Democrats Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia are hot on the trail of the Diaz-Balart Brothers.  The Diaz-Balarts, Mario and Lincoln, are long time Republican U.S. Congressmen from South Florida. They along with Congresswomen Illeana Ros-Lehitnen were staging a press conference touting a bill they’d introduced which allow commuters a income tax rebate on gasoline used to get to work. Nice idea and certainly in tune with the times.  The event was sure to get TV coverage. But this is political season and not everyone in the crowd gathered at a gas station in Doral was on the Diaz-Balart team. 

The were young, polite, clean and neat, the had small but high quality video cameras and a brief case full of press releases.  They were working for Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez.

Meanwhile across town in Coral Gables Martinez and Garcia were involved in a lunch with a high ranking Democratic congressman who was in town raising money for the party and boosting Joe and Raul. Most TV stations had cameras there but not reporters. 

Back in Doral the Diaz-Balart Brothers finished their presser and started working the small crowd.  The Garcia/Martinez operatives quickly passed out a lengthy press release entitled “Garcia  Campaign responds to Diaz-Balart Energy Plan.”  The release essentially ripped the Diaz-Balart Legislation and documented campaign contributions the brothers have received from oil interests.

The TV reporters scrambled to get their photographers in Coral Gables to “get sound” from Joe and Raul. Garcia was ready with short concises responses, Raul got a couple of facts wrong but was able to claim that the Diaz-Balart’s should stop taking money from the oil interests and local gas dealers. Garcia charged that the Brothers were six years late getting into the gas price debate. 

At the end of the day Garcia and Martinez were able to elbow their way into the Diaz-Balart’s press confernce with strong sound bites and scored some free TV time.  

And by the way what about that video the young campaign worker were shooting? They will likely be at every Diaz-Balart event just looking for damaging sound bites to quickly post on YouTube. That’s the way the political game is played these days, just as one-time Presidental hopeful, Senator George Allen.

A minor battle victory for the Democrats? The Garcia campaign was primed to pounce on on the Diaz-Balart Presser, it looks like Martinez went along for the ride. But not bad for an early hit.

It is early on, November is a long way off and you can bet the Diaz-Balart boys have plenty up their campaign sleeves and they too know how to play hardball in the streets and it won’t wind up on YouTube.

Live from Fort Jefferson
April 28, 2008

“So if we do this story why don’t we go live from Fort Jefferson?” That from NBC6’s chief photographer Mike Zimmer. Zimmer who, over the years, has been the architect of some of Channel Six’s more daring live shots probably had the idea in his mind from the moment he was able to obtain some exclusive video of Cuban Refugees in Coast Guard custody at the old Fort. 

Talk about a “live remote,” Fort Jefferson is 70 miles west of Key West smack in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Remote alright, you can travel there only by a couple of tourist catamarans or by seaplane.

Fort Jefferson was built to provide protection for the American shipping lanes into New Orleans and anchor U.S. presence in the Caribbean.  The 18 million brick structure  was a Union Fort during the Civil War and served as a coaling station at the turn of the 20th Century. The Battleship Maine re-coaled at Fort Jefferson before departing on the ill fated trip that ended in the massive explosion In Havana Harbor.

Anchored on a small spit of sand the massive structure with its imposing arches is a photographer’s dream. The historic Fort’s location plays out in other dreams: Cuban Refugees seeking freedom in the United States. Fort Jefferson is less than a hundred miles from the North coast of Cuba. The fort and surrounding keys are the target of human smugglers who for a big price drop their cargo on the sandy spits near the Fort. Once on U.S. soil Cubans are automatically admitted to he United States. Some come in crude boats but in the main it is the smugglers who make the night time runs to the Fort area. That was our story, how Fort Jefferson had become an alternative drop off location, usually Cubans attempt to land on mainland Florida.

Our game plan was to get out to the Fort, shoot two stories and bring the material back to Miami to edit. Our second story covered the 18-million dollar restoration at the Fort.  We took the Yankee Freedom catamaran to the Fort. That gave us a 5 hour window to shoot two stories. The Park Service had it all lined up, Mike and I have worked together for so long that we just went on what seemed auto pilot and knocked out the stories.  At the end of the day we did have a few moments to take in the big picture, the sheer magnitude of the Fort, the azure water, the red bricks radiating in the spring sun. The whole scene screamed live shot and we headed back to Miami dead set on getting it done.

Enter Rob Gibson the NBC6 operations manager who has brought us into the digital age. Rob was really intrigued with the idea and he had the equipment to get it done.  Rob had a couple of cases full of computer equipment , not alot of stuff, pretty portable. Since we had to hit a 6pm show we had to overnightat the fort, both the catamarans and the seaplane depart on in the late afternoon, too early for us.

We piled into a yellow Seaplanes of Key West Cessna. We got to the Fort just after four, off loaded the gear and headed up to the northern wall of the Fort. Rob laid out his gear, Mike set up his camera and I practiced my “in and out.”

Rob was having trouble. From my non technical prospectiveit had something to do with the satellitenot processing our signal.  I have learned over the years that there is not much use worrying about the technical side of all this. Let the experts handle it and Rob did just that. With seconds to spare he got up a signal, I went live and the rest is, well, caught on video tape! We were pretty proud of our efforts, the shot was a little grainy but the sunset flooding light into the Fort’s parade group was awsome. It was a nice moment for Mike and Rob.

We had to stay that night at the Fort, an experience of quiet and stars that seem to hang just above your head. It was awsome and the end of a great day.

We attempted to pull off a second shot during the next day’s 11am show. Rob again ran into a balky satillite but we were pretty sure that since we had a whole hour window to work with we’d get it done. But alas as it goes with news as we were trying to get a shot up there was a major news story breaking in Miami. We were cancelled, and within an hour our seaplane had arrived and were were all too soon Key West bound, lifting off from the anchorage to the west of the Fort.

The thrill and rush of coming on the air and saying “live from Fort Jefferson was one of those career moments and I was all due to the hard work and vision of Mike and Rob who know their technology and how to use it.

 

Cubans to travel………New Exodus?
April 18, 2008

There was a stirr the other night when the word got around the Cuban Exile Community that there was a move on to allow certain Cuban Citizens to travel to other countries without having to obtain the high cost “White Card.”  At this point the travel restriction ban is just a suggestion. In fact it involves a possible petition process that is much like the samein the U.S., cumbersome.  But it is out there and what it means if enacted is Cubans would be able to go to a foreign country’s embassy and apply for a travel visa. If granted the traveler could book a flight and travel to that country. This is where it gets interesting.  Say the Cuban traveler was really attempting to get to the United States and invoking the Cuban Adjustment Act it would seem to be very easy to make it into the United State from say; Mexico, The Bahamas, and for sure Canada.  No need to hire a smuggler or risk a voyage on a raft though a quick boat run from the Bahamas might be in the mix.  Certainly the cost would be far less than the standard $7-10 thousand dollars per head smugglers not charge for a perilous go-fast trip across the Straits of Florida.  To me it appears that this potential “reform” might be part of ahidden agenda. Maybe it is a hammer to be down the road to get the United States to drop the “Wet foot/Dry foot policy.”  The proposal in effect, has the potential to recreate the 1994 Rafter Exodus only without the rafts.  Cubans dead set on getting to the United States are extremely resourceful and if they have the opportunity to begin that journey legally they would certainly take advantage. 

Miami Nice………
April 14, 2008

We see it happening more and more. Someone walking up to their parked car and taking out the Miami Parking Authority receipt off their dash board and giving it to the driver who is about to take the space.  Over the last year or so the City has replaced the parking meters with a receipt based vending system. On each block is dispensing machine that takes cash or a credit card. You put in the number hours you need, a receipt is printed and you put it on your dash. The police check the expiration hour to determine if you have illegally parked. I know that I always wind up putting in for more time than I really need. I guess other folks are doing the same.  So you might have some healthy time left on the receiptwhen you depart you parking spot. The receipt has no identification that links it to a car, so transferring it from one car to another is no problem.  What I find fascinating is this is occurring in Miami where fist fights and worse have occurred between drivers over parking spots. We are a city of rude aggressive drivers when road rage is a refined art. Yet here folks are ripping off the system for their fellow driver.  I will watch for a while before I call up the Parking Authority to see if the curious “Miami Nice” behavior is impacting the budget.

How many Cubans in…………………….
April 6, 2008

My old pal Manuel Cererjio who keeps me sharp on Cuba issues sent this information to me.  There is an old saying that “every Cuban has a cousin in Miami.” Looks like you can now say every Cuban has a cousin almost anywhere in the world!

 

Cubans in the US….1,241,585
 
Population  2008
 
1,241,585
US 300,000,000
 
 
Percentage
Cubans
1,241,585
0.41386%
Alabama
2,354
0.00078%
Alaska
553
0.00018%
Arizona
5,272
0.00176%
Arkansas
950
0.00032%
California
72,286
0.02410%
Colorado
3,701
0.00123%
Connecticut
7,101
0.00237%
Delaware
932
0.00031%
Florida
840,673
0.28022%
Georgia
12,536
0.00418%
Hawaii
Not Available
0.00000%
Idaho
408
0.00014%
Illinois
18,438
0.00615%
Iowa
750
0.00025%
Kentucky
3,516
0.00117%
Louisiana
8,448
0.00282%
Maine
478
0.00016%
Maryland
6,754
0.00225%
Massachussetts
8,867
0.00296%
Michigan
7,249
0.00242%
Minnesota
2,527
0.00084%
Mississippi
1,508
0.00050%
Missouri
3,022
0.00101%
Montana
285
0.00010%
Nebraska
850
0.00028%
Nevada
11,480
0.00383%
New Hampshire
785
0.00026%
New Jersey
77,337
0.02578%
New Mexico
2,588
0.00086%
New York
62,590
0.02086%
North Carolina
7,389
0.00246%
North Dakota
250
0.00008%
Ohio
5,152
0.00172%
Oklahoma
1,759
0.00059%
Oregon
3,071
0.00102%
Pennsylvania
10,363
0.00345%
Rhode Island
1,128
0.00038%
South Carolina
2,875
0.00096%
South Dakota
163
0.00005%
Tennessee
3,695
0.00123%
Texas
25,705
0.00857%
Utah
940
0.00031%
Vermont
310
0.00010%
Virginia
8,332
0.00278%
Washington
1,101
0.00037%
Washington, DC
4,501
0.00150%
West Virginia
453
0.00015%
Wyoming
160
0.00005%
Total Cubans in USA
1,241,585
 

..and out of that crowd there are two U.S. Senators and four members of the House of Represenatives.

Roman Gastesi: New Monroe County Manager
April 3, 2008

Word out of the Keys is Roman Gastesi is the new Monroe County Manager. We know Roman well up this way. He’s an expert on sewer and water, having logged a lengthy career in Miami-Dade Government and the South Florida Water Management District.  Water and sewage are big issues in the Keys. This guy knows his stuff,  is media savy and no stranger to the legislative halls in Tallahassee.  What a nice catch for the Monroe County Commission.