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Oct 20th
Racism, Rehab, and a Recent Resignation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jack King, BT Contributor   
May 2017

Progress is slow on multiple fronts

RPix_JackKing_5-17andom thoughts.... Just when the Republican Party of Florida thinks it can’t get much worse, enter state Sen. Frank Artiles from Miami, who went to a private club in Tallahassee, got drunk, and lashed out with a racist tirade against two African-American legislators who were sitting with him. Many of you might not know that Tallahassee is one of the most racist towns in Florida.

To say that Artiles is insensitive and racist is obvious -- but this showed us is that he’s also dumb as hell. He resigned several days later.

For years I’ve heard the gossip about racial prejudices that exists with white Cuban-Americans here and in Cuba. I was there the first time in 1983, but not in Havana. No doubt the situation was different in the smaller towns, but racism existed there. And seemingly, it does here too.

After Castro he seized power in 1959, he was quoted as saying: “One of the most just battles that must be fought, a battle that must be emphasized more and more, which I might call the fourth battle -- the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. I repeat: the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. Of all the forms of racial discrimination, the worst is the one that limits the colored Cuban’s access to jobs.” (The translation comes from records of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, which after World War II was operated by the CIA.)

In response to racism in the workplace, Castro issued anti-discrimination laws and tried to close the gap between wealthy white Cubans and Afro-Cubans with a massive literacy campaign, among other reforms in the mid-1960s.

After 50 years, has it worked? Yes, I think so, but there’s work to do, as in the rest of the world. And obviously in Tallahassee too.

• • •

As I wander around the area, I note that at least three iconic places have been on the list to rehab and develop: Miami Marine Stadium, Watson Island (Jungle Island), and the Coconut Grove Playhouse. All three (and actually more) have been on lists that politicians love to talk about doing something, even though they never do seem to actually do anything.

The Marine Stadium was built in 1963, primarily for powerboat racing. It seats about 6500 and has hosted numerous concerts throughout the years, including Jimmy Buffett’s “Live by the Bay” in 1985. Yes, I was there. And yes, I’m in the video. One of the many times I got my ten seconds of fame.

Hurricane Andrew made a mess of the stadium in 1992, and it’s remained in bad shape since then. Some eight years ago, current Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado spoke of his desire to rehab the facility, but no money was ever allocated. The mayor supposedly now has some money to begin the rehab, but probably not enough to finish the job.

But rehab the structure for what? The city says for powerboat racing, but current boats are much too fast for the fairly small basin fronting the stadium. Seems like another great idea with little thought. No doubt Regalado will be gone before it’s rehabbed. Another potential promise broken due to lack of planning.

• • •

Does anyone remember when Jungle Island was Watson Island? And why the name was changed? Some of us do go back far enough to recall when Watson Island’s current tourist trap was known as Parrot Jungle and was located in Pinecrest. But Pinecrest threw them out, and the City of Miami graciously leased them a spot (a rather large spot) on Watson Island. Parrot Jungle was happy but still couldn’t pay the rent.

Then new developers came in with more money and the place became Jungle Island, and it began to look more like an amusement park than a parrot jungle. Not to worry. One thing stayed the same: they didn’t pay the rent. Not to worry, said the city, we’ll work it out. And I guess they’re still working it out.

The latest plan for Jungle Island, presented by new new owners, is a $60 million rehab that’ll have damn few animals and a lot of theme park. The owners, ESJ Capital Partners (ever heard of them? Me neither) are a local financial front for mostly European investors. I don’t know how this will work, but it seems like it’ll turn out about the same as if Waste Management bought Burger King. Strange world.

• • •

And finally, what’s going to happen with the Coconut Grove Playhouse? The 1927 movie theater, converted to live theater in 1950, has been shuttered since 2006. Right now the city, the county, and about 100 private groups are trying to figure out what to do with it and how to pay for it.

At this point, they’re well on their way to setting a world record for having meetings.

 

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