Politics: Clear the Tracks! Rick’s on a Roll(over)

Well, we all figured it was only a matter of time before the Slick Rick Demolition Express came a-barrelin’ down the tracks at breakneck speed, splintering and demolishing every bit of progress in its path, hurtling the Sunshine State that much farther into the recesses of a medieval darkness.

We just didn’t count on the locomotive running so on-schedule.  Or so bat-out-of-hell fast.

Here’s some of what your governor did in recent days to confound his critics and attempt to turn back time and, with it, the state’s advance into the – synchronize your timepieces – 21st Century:

For his choice to head the state’s Department of Community Affairs – which oversees land development and manages growth – Slicky Ricky provoked environmentalists to crap their pants en masse and dread a rampant raping of natural resources these next four years when he tapped none other than – who else? – an executive of one of the state’s largest land development companies.

Oh, and who also happened to contribute $25,000 to Slick’s inaugural shindigs.

Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, damned the appointee to the Herald this week:  “I can’t think of anyone who would be less appropriate for that job.  He has been at the heart and soul of the most destructive developments that the Panhandle has seen.”

And now he’ll be in charge of development for the entire state.  Smart one, Ricky.  Reeeeeal smart.

For his choice as head of the Department of Environmental Protection, Slick selected – who else? – a shipbuilding executive.  I can kinda see the connection:  Water.  It’s what ships rely on.  So, hey!  That must qualify him for the job!  Boy, Slick, you’re clever!

Slick’s regulatory transition team recommended that local governments be prevented from enforcing stringent restrictions protecting wetlands.  Also, that decisions regarding permits put job creation and economic development on a par with clean air and water concerns.

All you remaining manatees may want to use this time to evacuate to safer waters.  Ditto all you other wildlife species.

As one of his first executive orders upon assuming office, he dictated that all new rules and regulations of state agencies under his purview be approved by him first – immediately colliding with fellow Cabinet members, including the attorney general and CFO, who have said they will undertake that responsibility for their own agencies themselves, thank you very much.

A “power grab” by the governor, as one political science professor put it.

In another order, Slick paid lip service to workplace diversity but neglected to include sexual orientation in the state’s non-discrimination policies for state workers.  Gay and lesbian rights activists were shunned and stunned.

Local policies ensuring protections already cover over 50% of Floridians, Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith told Florida Agenda, but it “is time to ensure full equality exists statewide.”

Don’t hold your breaths.  Not while Tallahassee Slicky is engineering the Demolition Express down the rails like a speed demon at the helm of a locomotive with no brakes.

Boy, oh, boy, can’t wait to see what he’s got planned for next week.

AH, THE SMELL OF ROSES.  AND FISH.  AND SHIT.

I’ve detected some fishy things of late about two of our local papers.  Trouble is, they weren’t wrapped around any halibut or flounder at the time:

The Lead, for its Jan. 7 edition, offered an otherwise commendable article (“Taking Stock”) querying all six Miami Beach city commissioners plus Mayor Bower about their hopes and aspirations for the new year ahead and their summations of 2010.  But at what cost to its journalistic integrity?

Deeper into the same issue were quarter-page- and half-page-sized ads for Matti and all the commishes (minus one, Ed Tobin), bidding readers New Year salutations.  All innocuous and tame.  Or were they?

I’ve a problem with doling out ad space to public officials unless – as everybody else is expected to – they pay for it.  Which I don’t suspect the Lead asked these seven to do.  If it was a quid pro quo arrangement (we’ll give you the space, even create the ad for you, if you’ll agree to give us your ten cents-worth and talk to us for our article), well, then, the Lead has certainly compromised its journalistic integrity to an extent.  Not a big deal, but, still, a deal.

And in this current climate – with a governor who spurned editorial board interview requests from every paper up and down the state during his campaign and who has already gotten off to a piss-sour note with reporters by limiting their access to him and throwing obstacles in the paths of those seeking official records, not to mention the stonewalling to which local officials ever-increasingly treat us – public officials don’t exactly deserve favors from the media.  Especially complimentary ones.

Let’s turn now to that new bi-monthly, The Miami Beach News, that masquerades as a community paper (from South Miami-based Miller Publishing, which is a virtual publishing behemoth, churning out community papers in our region for communities as diverse and widespread as Aventura to Pinecrest) but is little more than a mouthpiece for the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

The paper proclaims that it’s “published in cooperation with” the MBCC, which makes it sound like Miller is an independent entity working alongside the Chamber, when, in all actuality, judging from its handful of issues so far, it looks like the publishers have as much as vacated their offices and workstations for the day and turned the whole operation over to the Chamber.  (Oh, so that’s whatcha mean by “cooperation”.)

If you didn’t catch their latest (Jan. 12-25), here’s its margin-to-margin, front-page banner headline, as rah-rah-rah and “everything’s coming up roses despite the manure pile that our economic garden is buried under” as one can get:

Chamber of Commerce
Exceeding All Expectations

The feel-goody headline tops an article, minus a by-line, that lauds new Chamber chairman Jason Loeb for doing just about everything short of finding a cure for cancer and capturing bin Laden.  (As congratulatory as it is, I wonder, did he ghost write this himself?)

He’s surpassed ambitious goals!  He’s generating electric energy in the boardroom!  His vision!  His passion!  His innovative way of thinking!  His leadership skills!

Upon finishing this eulogy – I mean, article – one realizes that the headline writer meant “Jason Loeb Exceeding All Expectations”.

But he/she might be saving that for the engraving on a future Chamber award-banquet plaque.

Elsewhere, on page six, is a story by a free-lancer (who, in her post-article synopsis, boasts she’s “proud to be a Sister Cities International Goodwill ambassador” for the city).  But what catches the eye is the strange inclusion of the registered trademark symbol – ® – after every instance where she mentions Art Deco Weekend, even, awkwardly enough, in the headline.  It quickly becomes annoying.

Go back to journalism school, dear; journalists don’t incorporate the ® in anything they write about – that’s employed solely by ad copy writers and business lawyers.

Then just below her article is a sidebar item about an Art Deco Weekend guided coach tour – sans ® – proving that editorial consistency either doesn’t exist or is unimportant to MBN’s editors.  Speaking of which (according to its masthead, which for some inexplicable reason is missing from the current issue when it was there in past ones), the paper doesn’t list even an editor among its staff.  Oh, so that explains it.

At least MBN hasn’t got any ads promoting expired offers from their advertisers, as were being absent-mindedly run a while back.

But you can still have fun counting the number of times Chamber president (and city commissioner) Jerry Libbin’s happy mug appears throughout each issue (7 in this one!  I think that’s a record!).  My favorite:  Jerry greeting Mickey Mouse at 16th and Collins.

Yes, he could be out saving a local merchant from going out of business, and, yes, he could be listening to another grump about unfair regulations, code enforcement, or tax levies, but you can’t pass up schmoozing with the Mouse!  Certainly not if there’s a photog tagging along to immortalize it for the Chamber’s – I mean, MBN’s – next issue.

Ah, it’s nice to know that in these jittery times the Chamber has its priorities straight.  Even though the fragrance of the roses often seems overcome by the stench emanating from the manure pile.

About Charles Branham-Bailey

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