Politics: They Vote with Their Feet

By Jeffrey Bradley

If any more proof of the high cost of Miami Beach’s dunderheaded autocentric mentality is needed, consider this: For the first time, Miami Beach was not selected as the NFL’s Super Bowl media center, but Fort Lauderdale instead.

Fort Lauderdale???

Seems while we’ve been busy spending our transportation capital on shoring up autocentricity — the outdated mindset that insists on making cars go faster all over the Beach at the expense of alternate forms of transportation and even of people — they’ve been concentrating on better ways of moving people, goods and services.

Consider this Feb. 10 Miami Herald article, “Broward Gets Its Shot as Host of Super Bowl Events”: “The NFL has staged 10 Super Bowls in South Florida, but this year marks the first time it has based its headquarters and most of the events in Broward County.” Nice. That’s like getting dumped by your lover because, you know, you just don’t get it.

And what was the cost of moving NFL “headquarters” from here to there? This: Nearly 100,000 of 150,000 Super Bowl visitors slept in Broward hotels (including 3,500 members of the international media). Worse, of the $153 million spent in South Florida by the NFL, players, fans and support businesses, nearly $92 million directly benefited Broward County. Wait, there’s more. At least 97 percent of their 33,000-something hotel rooms were filled by kickoff time.

They also got “most of the major, official Super Bowl-related events, like Super Bowl Saturday Night with the band O.A.R. on Fort Lauderdale beach, and Taste of the NFL, also Saturday, at the Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center,” among others, and we got, well, P. Diddy partying on South Beach somewhere… way cool, if you dig hip-hop.

Here’s the thing — paying attention yet, commissioners? — “NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the league selected Broward as host county for the Super Bowl because it was finally convinced it could handle the volume of events and human traffic [emphasis mine] that come with Sunday’s big game.” The article then lauds Lauderdale’s “…cooperation from local government officials, hotel availability, transportation, security [and ability to]… meet our needs logistically and demonstrate to us that they were prepared to host world-class events.”

“World class.” There’s a term that used to be applied to us.

Adding insult to injury: “Almost all of the stories coming out of the media center are datelined ‘Fort Lauderdale,’” said Virginia Sheridan, whose New York public relations agency represents Broward’s tourism bureau. “We’ve never gotten those datelines for football. It’s astonishing to us.”

Us, too, only not so much.

See, while Miami Beach continues frittering away the advantages it accrued by setting the bar back in the mid-‘90s when it was all the rage, and South Florida meant South Beach, Broward (read Fort Lauderdale, especially Las Olas) draws north all our cachet, cash and clientele as they smartly offer the things we cannot:

  • Wide accessible sidewalks that actually invite walking. Nothing like our own postage-size cement footpaths that are anyway half taken up by parking meters (or thingums that devour your money and spit out some parking ticket) that further discourage use.
  • Crosswalks, not sprintwalks.
  • Water taxis and pedicabs — remember those “crazy” concepts that “Would Never Work Here!” or put people into a tizzified frenzy? Well, guess what? They do work, and would’ve worked here.
  • A public transit system that by design moves people efficiently between venues. Now, would you take, say, the K bus to any of our Beach events? Oh, that’s right, you can’t: It doesn’t run anymore.
  • A streetcar (in the works). Must be they don’t buy into those ridiculous “cost” and “traffic flow” arguments against them, and understand their utility in moving people cleanly and quietly past gridlock — beyond the fact that they’re absolutely cool. Hell, we wouldn’t want anything like that interfering with our traffic jams, now would we? After all, ain’t it “all about the parking”?

 This stuff actually works. But don’t listen to us. Can you hear, though, those ever-increasing footfalls as they’re heading north?

What else, do you think, we’re forfeiting besides the millions in lost Super Bowl revenues? For instance, how much are the TV shows, films, events and specials worth that won’t be coming back this way because of our growing reputation as a hard-to-do-business-with, public transit-benighted, pedestrian-unfriendly locale run by atavistic officials? If you said “staggering,” we agree.

Of course, there are other weighty factors involved in the exodus. But how much you wanna bet if we had a dependable public transit system with a demonstrated ability to move people between venues efficiently here on the Beach, we wouldn’t be waving in the rearview mirror as time and events pass us by on their way north?

So, way to go Miami Beach; let’s continue with the same unproductive, costly and off-putting Dermerite Suburbanite autocentricity that’s, literally, driving everybody away. Yes sir, let’s do our best knuckle-dragging, bent-kneed shuffle after Broward — Broward, for Ford’s sake! — as their forward-thinking urbanism leaves us behind in the dust.

Vroom, vroom, baby.

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