Fare Thee Well

To the point: As of this post, I’m stepping down as a writer for Miami Metblog.

It’s been fun doing this, but it’s time to move on. I’m not a person who goes out a lot or pays much attention to events in the area so that right there limits the amount of content I can produce for this blog. Metblogs in other cities are also collaborative efforts between many writers, and Miami has only had me since I signed up with no sign of any one else being sought or volunteering either; that takes away from what the Metblog idea’s supposed to be. Lastly, I just have other personal projects to pay attention to, so priorities had to be established.

Thanks to Metblog for the opportunity. Thanks to South Florida Daily Blog for promoting this blog (probably the biggest source of readers). And thanks to everyone who dropped by to read my (irregular) ramblings here.

If you’d like to keep checking out what I’m up to, you can find me on Twitter as @Highmoon, at Highmoon’s Ponderings (my personal blog) and Slow Bike Miami (my bicycling blog).

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Goodbye North Beach, Hello South Beach

After seven years of living in Normandy Isle, in North Beach, I’m moving down to South Beach.

I’m trading this

For this

What, you thought I’d put a pic of neon-drenched Ocean Dr? I live next to Flamingo Park, and that’s more the South Beach I’m interested in, the quiet village that lies almost inexplicably between Alton and Washington, where I can bike everywhere and little is more than 8 blocks away, 10 at most.

North Beach is the forgotten and neglected child of Miami Beach and frankly I’m glad to be out of there. I wish luck to Commissioner Jerry Libbin in continuing to represent North Beach’s interest. Me, seven years were enough. I’m ready for a change.

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Miami #1 in Attractiveness, #29 in Intelligence

MiamiJust saw this come through the @CityofMiami Twitter account:

A new gimmicky list released by Travel & Leisure ranks America’s Favorite Cities, including Miami. The verdict? Miami has the #1 spot in Attractive People. That’s our best score, our top draw, we have beautiful people. Of course, we also scored #29 in Intelligence, making it our worse feature.

Basically, according to the T&L poll, we have a city full of beautiful and vapid people.

And before anyone whines, remember this is the image we ourselves put out to the world. Need I remind folks of Bravo’s very short-lived “Miami Social?”

To be a bit fair, the poll says “Miami,” which means that it really includes all of the Greater Miami area, including Miami Beach, Coral Gables, and who knows what other Miami-Dade micro-city as well.

Is this something to be proud of, really?

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No Fishing From Bridge (Except For You, Of Course)

fishbridge01

In general I’m a very laissez faire kind of person; do your thing as long as it’s not illegal and it doesn’t bother other people. When it breaks those two qualifiers, I tend to get grouchy. Like now.

I travel the JFK/79 St Causeway between Miami Beach, North Bay Village and Miami daily, both on car and on bike. On every bridge along this route there is a sign that clearly, in plain English, states NO FISHING FROM BRIDGE. There is no way to misunderstand that message. And yet, daily, at all hours of the day, there are people on each of the bridges, with rods or lines or nets, that apparently have a card that grants them an exception from this mandate.

I honestly don’t care that they fish (I personally would think twice before eating anything that came out of the waters around these islands, considering the amount of pollution clearly visible in the water, but hey, knock yourself out), but come on, it’s clearly stated on the sign that you can’t do it from here! Plain and simple, you and all your equipment are in the way of pedestrian/stroller/bicycle/skateboard/rollerskate/etc traffic. It’s just the same as if you were doing it from one of the lanes on the road. Of course, there’s also the issue of fishing lines and flying nets squarely in the waterways, and while most of these bridges have clearly marked channels for boats to go through, there are tons of idiots that have an exception card for that as well and cross under the bridges wherever they choose to.

fishbridge02

What bothers me is that I have never, in 7 years of living in this area, have seen any cop do anything about it. I mean, there’s a bridge right across from the North Bay Village Police Station and people fish right in front of them with impunity. Nothing. I don’t know that this is a ticketable offense, but at least get them moving from there.

I’ll lay a bit of blame on the cities as well; find these guys a place with public access to the water so they can go and fish there. We live near the water, fishing is just a reality of our way of life, so just embrace it and make it safer for all. Miami Beach just recently opened a small park in Normandy Isle, at the south end of Trouville Esplanade, with access to the bay for the walking public, a fantastic move on their part. Why not do something similar for fishing? The City of Miami should rehabilitate the wooden pier at the south end of Pelican Harbor Park which was partially destroyed during a recent hurricane. North Bay Village should also find a couple of spots to grant public access to the water (how about one of the two empty lots next to the Western Inn?), both for fishing and for the general public.

I’d love to say that I expect some improvement here, but I tend to take the cynical route and not expect anything. Still, I’d love to see the cops enforce the No Fishing From Bridge rule and for the cities to find ways to channel this activity to proper areas.


Autumn Sky

As I rode my bike to synagogue this morning, I thought I felt a slight, very slight, coolness in the air. As I got to top of the drawbridge and looked at the sky, I knew it wasn’t a tactile hallucination: there’s a cold front going through!

That is a bonafide Autumn sky right there! In Miami, where every season is just a variation of Summer, any glimpse of an actual difference is greatly welcomed, especially by me as Autumn is my favorite season and I just don’t get to experience it practically at all.

The Sun Sentinel reported on the “cold” front, during which temps will go down to — get ready — 88 degrees in Miami! *sigh*

Oh well, at least the sky looked beautiful during my bike commute this morning, and I always appreciate that.

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No More Bike Miami?

It started this morning with a status update on the Bike Miami page on Facebook:

Bike Miami Days Team: Working hard to bring Bike Miami Days back on Sunday, October 4th. That’s just around the corner… will you help us get the word out?

Cool! There’s been rides all summer, but we weren’t sure when the whole-day events would be back. Shortly thereafter, however, a blog post comes through the RSS feed from the Bike Miami Blog, being echoed almost immediately as a comment on the status update above (fourth comment down):

UPDATE: Friends, we apologize for the over-excitement. Bike Miami Days is seeking sponsors to cover the extensive costs associated with keeping this event FREE, FAMILY-FRIENDLY and FUN, all of which requires a great deal of services and financial support that we do not yet have. If you or your business would be able to sponsor the Set Up, Clean Up, Sound, Public Service Aides and Police or any other part of Bike Miami Days, please contact the Coordinator here. Thank you.

Baffled, I sent an email to the aforementioned coordinator, Kathryn Moore and after a short phone call she gave me the bad news: there’s just no money for a Bike Miami Days.

The October date was to be covered via private sponsorship, but the company in question seems to have pulled out, leaving the event still missing the close to $25,000 needed to hold the 6-hour event. This money, for the most part, pays for the City of Miami police officers present at the event, as well as other costs associated with closing a huge chunk of Downtown Miami.

The City of Miami just released also it’s proposed budget for the 2010 Fiscal Year, and try as I might, I cannot find any mention of Bike Miami in the future tense; it is mentioned a handful of times as part of the past year’s accomplishments, but nothing’s there about future iterations of the event. Add to this the fact that Bike Miami has been the brainchild of the Mayor Diaz administration, and that his term comes to an end in November, and it is easy to see how this community event could fall prey to the shifting political winds in Miami.

Plainly, this sucks. Here we are, just a couple of days ago celebrating the first victory of Miami 21, and now the event that is meant to foster the bikeable lifestyle Miami 21 seeks to facilitate is in danger of not happening. After coming from the dumps in the rankings of Bicycling Magazine’s Most Bikeable Cities two years ago to where they actually declare Miami a BikeTown less than a month ago, could it be that we’re headed for another nosedive?

Any private company/non-government organization/individual donor wants to sponsor part or all of Bike Miami Days, please come forward, please speak up.


Miami 21 Passes First Reading!

In a (dare I say it?) historic moment for Miami, the City Commission, after an 8-hour session, voted 4-1 to in favor of Miami 21 (Commissioner Regalado was the sole “no” vote, surprise surprise).

The plan now needs to face a barrage of amendments and scrutiny from various groups as it embarks on its way to change from a 500-page document into a blueprint for new urbanism and sustainable city living. It then has another date with the City Commission for a second reading at a date yet to be determined.

I was bracing for the worst, jaded as I am by politics, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the plan passed. I WANT to see Miami 21 be put into effect; we won’t go far into our future with things as they are right now. It’s proven that the current zoning code doesn’t work, so let’s give this one a try and who knows, maybe we will have done the right thing for us and those that come after.

To the rest of Miami-Dade, I hope you’re watching closely, cause we, the residents, will be expecting proactivity from you as well in the near future.

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Miami 21 – Round 2

Back in August 6th, the ambitious and forward-looking plan known as Miami 21 was presented to the City of Miami Commissioners for a vote. It should have been a day of celebration, yet it turned into a bittersweet stalemate when one of the up-to-then supporters, Commissioner Joe Sanchez, voted “No” on the plan, achieving a 2-2 result (the fifth City Commissioner was undergoing surgery that day), citing weak “zoning laws litigation” reasons for his vote. Since a 2-2 vote does not actually mean a defeat, Miami 21 has a new chance to go before the City Commissioners, and that is happening tomorrow, September 4.

Residents of the City of Miami that support Miami 21 are urged to attend the public hearing at City Hall, starting at 10 AM. This is a case of “the more, the merrier,” and Mayor Manny Diaz wants you there, as he has made known via the Miami 21 Facebook group and other media.

Miami 21 presents a new zoning code known as form-based code which seeks a more organic separation of zones and encourages mixed-use spaces. It would be a great simplification on my part to give a layman’s interpretation of Miami 21 as a plan that seeks to create spaces that are people friendly and encourage walkability/human-powered transportation use instead of the blocky urban sprawl Miami (in general, not just the city) has tons of, and yet I would not be that far off the mark.

Miami 21 also represents a precedent for all of South Florida, arguably the most populated area of our state, as we move into the future; it is a plan to which other cities can look as they work on new urban designs for our congested living spaces. I know I would love to see Miami Beach follow a similar route to what Miami is doing on the other side of the causeway, for example.

Support Miami 21 tomorrow at City Hall, and if you’re not a City of Miami resident, spread the word about Miami 21 and its innovations towards a more livable city to everyone you know. Who knows which city will be the next to be inspired to follow suit.


Brief Updates from MBHQ

You’ve no doubt by now noticed that the sites got a bit of a re-design and some things got changed around last week. We wanted to highlight two changes to make sure everyone knows what changed.

The first and biggest is COMMENTS! Registration is no longer required to post a comment on any post. Of course if you already have an account you can still login to ensure your comments are attributed to you, but those who don’t can now post a comment without any long term commitment. Also, on the right you can see some of the recent comments so you’ll always know what the active discussions are. This was the most requested thing we’ve heard from people since our last redesign and we’re excited to see where it leads.

The next change is also something that was heavily requested, and that is a change to the ADS on the sites. You’ll immediately notice fewer of them, but what might not be as obvious is those smaller square ones to the right are specific to this city only and are being sold for a flat rate for a period of time rather than a confusing CPM/traffic/network model. Depending on the city, these range from $7-$175 for a full week. If you purchase one, during that time your ad will be the only one in that spot and will show on every page. We set these up both to make it easier for smaller local businesses to get their ads on our site, and also to help us bring in ads that relate better to our local audiences. Also, keeping these sites online is expensive and every little bit helps.

There are a bunch of other things we changed but we’ll leave those to you to investigate and take advantage of. Hope you like it, and we look forward to seeing you in the comments!!

Love,
The folks at MBHQ

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Farewell Miami Beach Castle

miamibeachfireWoke up to see the news from @MiamiHerald on my Twitter feed: The mansion known as Capt. Burke’s Miami Beach Castle, located on 4462 North Bay Road, was completely engulfed in flames early today. The house was currently on sale for $6.9 million and I swear that if I had had money to burn and clean my butt with, I would have bought it in a heartbeat.

The Miami Beach castle boasted iron gates, gargoyles, turrets, towers, parapets, a draw bridge and a 65,000 gallon salt water moat filled with sand sharks. It also had fantastical sculptures inside, like a dragon by a small pool. Not that I knew all this before today. The castle was, sadly, abandoned when the previous owner up and died from an overdose (The Herald has the whole sordid story) and was left to languish in very expensive solitude.

This castle was not far from my house, and whether it was driving to get out of the Beach, or (especially) riding my bike, I would take a moment, whenever I could, to stop by and marvel at this utterly bizarre gem and wish I could go inside. This place should not have been left unused; this place should have been rented out for events, films, videos. This amazing strangeness should have been an attraction in Miami Beach. Frankly, this place should have been the site for many roleplaying game conventions. Can you think of anything more fitting than playing Dungeons & Dragons here?

I am utterly bummed by this loss. In a city with more than its fair share of expensive and massive monuments to ridiculosity, the dark-stoned, gargoyle-guarded castle of Miami Beach stood uniquely apart. Maybe I only speak for myself, but it shall be missed.

See photos of the house and fire at Herald.com.

Also see these photos from the real estate listing at NelsonGonzalez.com. I can’t help but think this listing will soon be taken down.

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Miami Social Starts Tonight on Bravo

Bravo TV’s newest docu-drama series, Miami Social, starts tonight at 10 pm EST. Here’s the show description from the website:

Miami is an international cultural melting pot filled with the young, gorgeous and wealthy looking to live the good life. South Americans, East Coasters, native Floridians…everyone comes to Miami for the sun and fun – it’s a city that specializes in people that work hard and play even harder. In Miami Social, Bravo will follow a successful group of friends who are some of the most connected and interesting young professionals in South Beach, as they go from the city’s night life, to the board room, to magazine offices where they lead their intertwined lives.

Let me take a deep breath.

I honestly wish Bravo and the cast of Miami Social all the best in this new series, but I can tell you I am not particularly interested in the series. I don’t care one bit for the image of Miami as “party central home to the beautiful people,” and that’s all I’m seeing here, at least based on the info on the site and the promos on TV. I try my best to highlight the side of Miami that is more than that stereotypical perception, and a show that reduces the city merely to the socialite games of South Beach instinctively bothers me.

I’ll give the first episode a chance to be fair, but it has an uphill battle to gain me as a regular viewer. I mean, who knows, maybe there is more to it and I’ll end up having to eat my words (which I would happily do, so you’d read about it here as well). We’ll see.

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Luau Night at Grapeland Water Park

Just a quick post from Puerto Rico, copied from the City of Miami website:

Grab the family and check out Grapeland Water Park, 1550 NW 37 Avenue. Luau Night means tropical fun for an affordable price $5 admission per person, the event runs from 8pm – 10pm and will include limbo contests, water games and at 9pm a special hula show that includes a hula lesson, fire dancer and Hawaiian music.

This is a great chance to relax in the park and go on a mini-vacation. For more information call 305-960-2951.

Also check back on July 18th for Jurassic Park, our monthly outdoor movie at Grapeland Water Park, you can dive in and watch the movie while floating in the pool.

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Food, Inc. Opens in South Florida

The film “Food, Inc.” has now opened in various locations across South Florida:

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL: Gateway 4
  • North Miami, FL: Intracoastal 8
  • Palm Beach Gardens, FL: BMC PGA Cinema 6
  • Miami Beach, FL: South Beach 18

Food, Inc. presents a documentary-style look at the food industry of the US, and what exactly is happening behind those happy farms that provide us all with our food. From the movie website:

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

I’ve been hearing about this film for a while thanks to some friends in Seattle who run a locavore website called CookLocal.com.Local foodie website Miami Dish also ran a story on the movie recently; I recommend checking this site also for local shopping info.

I intend to go see it, fully aware that it will affect how I eat, what I eat and how/where I shop from now on. I think everyone should as well (especially before it is bumped off the theatres by the latest blockbuster to come). Most people will ignore it, as usual, but if a small percentage can be affected and made to change their shopping/eating ways, I think we’ll be on course for a better tomorrow. Frankly, I hope many Miami/South Florida people go see and perhaps like that we’ll all work towards improving the availability of locally-grown foods.


In Puerto Rico Again

I’m in Puerto Rico once more dealing with a family thing, so posts here will go on hiatus until I get back to Miami. Check the South Florida Daily Blog for your fix.

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Miami Tops U.S. City for Cycling Events Thanks to Bike Miami Days

With yesterday’s Bike Miami Days, the last of the inaugural season, The Miami Herald reports that Miami becomes the top US city in regards to car-free cycling event days with a total of 7, one per month since November, 2008.

Booyah!

The last Bike Miami Day of the season was fun, even if less attended than any I have been to (mind you, I missed Feb, Mar and Apr). Those that were there, however, had a grand old time partying at the steps of the Courthouse and riding around Downtown Miami. It was hot, probably the main reason why Bike Miami Days will go into a hiatus over the next four months, and by 2 PM the event was pretty much over. The hiatus, I think, will allow people to build up excitement for the event once more when it returns in Oct, not to mention that it will give time to the Bike Miami team to do a post-mortem of the event so far and find ways to improve on what has been, by any account, a surprise and runaway success.

Many thanks to Mayor Manny Diaz and his entire team (especially to tireless Bike Miami online dynamo Kathryn Moore) for seven wonderful months of cycling wonderland, for giving me the chance to fall in love with Downtown again and for the first time, all on two wheels. You know I’ve already set the date aside in the fall.


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