By Edna Buchanan and T. Michael Smith, Special to the SunPost
Did you ever arrive somewhere expecting a welcome, then realize you were unwanted?
Most of us have had that experience.
We did last week. We were clearly considered unwelcome intruders at the open-to-the-public Miami Beach Budget Meeting at the city’s new building at 1775 Meridian Ave.
Commissioner Deede Weithorn chaired the event, scheduled to start at 2 p.m. When it finally began at 2:30:
- There were too few chairs for the public.
- Little or no air conditioning in a stuffy room.
- The lone microphone did not work and the city officials deciding how to spend our tax money did so seated at a table, with no sound system. No one past the first row or two in the audience ever knew or saw who was actually speaking — even if they could hear them.
- There were not enough copies of the facts and figures for taxpayers who attended. A man distributed a few then suggested we “share with others.”
Can it be that there is no copy machine in that modern mid-rise, parking garage building full of city departments and offices?
If so, Office Depot, and a Kinko’s were mere minutes away. But apparently the little people, we residents, taxpayers, and voters, were not worth the effort.
They did everything but padlock the bathrooms to make us leave.
When a longtime resident and taxpayer in front of us turned around after a hour and forty minutes and swore, “I’d sooner go to the roof and jump off, than sit here another minute,” we agreed and took our leave.
Shame on them. They succeeded.
Shame on us. We left. We must all resolve to make the effort to scrutinize and question every decision city officials make about our money and our futures at this crucial time in city history.
Remember, back in the nineties they persuaded us to vote for general obligation bonds by promising much needed improvements to our neighborhood. When the bonds passed, they said they’d break ground on our neighborhood project in Fall, 1998. Later, in ‘01, they swore again that the promised work would soon begin. It never did. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Why aren’t their pants on fire? What happened to our improvements – and all that money?
And don’t believe it now when they say residents will not pay the new resort tax hike they are urging you to support. Think about it. When you buy a meal, a drink, etc., how will the cashier know you are a resident and not a tourist? Don’t vote for it! You are paying now!
When you shop at a Publix, a Walgreen’s, etc., on the Miami side of the bay, check your receipts. You’ll see that you pay less tax than at those same chains in Miami Beach. In addition, identical products are often more expensive on the Beach. When I asked a Miami Walgreen’s manager why an $18.95 item I bought at his Biscayne Blvd. store is always $21.95 at Miami Beach Walgreen’s, he explained that “store managers on the Beach can and do charge higher prices at their discretion because, you know, it’s Miami Beach.” Made sense to him.
Ever see lower gas prices on the Beach than across the bay? Never. We already pay tourist prices, tourist taxes. We pay higher taxes for less quality of life.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Don’t let them fool us again.
As we left the “budget meeting” we couldn’t help but note the “art” on the walls. Bad photos in cheap frames. Bleah! Whatever happened to Art In Public Places which required that a small percentage of a public building’s cost be devoted to art?
There is spectacular public art at the Stephen P. Clark Center, at 111 NW First St., and at the Medical Examiner’s Office at One Bob Hope Rd. But not so much at the Beach’s new Meridian Ave. office building where the sleekest, brightest, and most attractive piece of art is the coke machine in the lobby. Where did that money go?
Buchanan, the “Queen of Crime,” is a Pulitzer-winning journalist and novelist. Smith, her husband, is a retired investment banker and author. The couple live in Miami Beach.