How can we be doing so many right things at the wrong time?
By Michael Lewis
In government, timing is key. The right action at the inopportune time can be as painful as inappropriate action at the right time.
Why, then, are we so out of sync?
Three cases in point:
Although Broward voters approved slot machines in an initiative that required the Legislature to set regulations by July 1, the Legislature went home without acting.
As Miami-Dade moves to appoint an aviation director, the newcomer will arrive handcuffed by a master aviation plan that will be unveiled virtually simultaneously.
As high-rise condos line Biscayne Boulevard and downtown changes faster than we can take it all in, Miami begins a master-planning process for development.
None of this incompatible timing indicates ill intent. In fact, at the right time, each of these actions - or inactions - should be applauded.
Legislators who didn't set rules to permit slot-machine gambling in Broward County would merit a gold star - if they weren't compelled by law to act. But they are.
Slot machines have no more business in racetracks and jai alai frontons than drug dealers have in the schoolyard. Legislators who could halt the incursion of the slots would deserve applause.
Unfortunately, slot machines are a reality, courtesy of misled voters who will someday regret their choice. And lawmakers, however noble their motives, have no right to walk away from their duty to regulate the slots and tax them - we hope to the nth degree.
There will be slots. The Legislature needs to minimize the scourge.
As Miami-Dade Manager George Burgess prepares to pick one of four candidates for aviation director, the Transportation Committee is to meet next week to endorse a master plan focusing on the county's three general-aviation airports.
At the right time, that plan will be pivotal.
At least one of the airports, Opa-locka, is languishing yet could launch essential development, luring the low-fare airlines that are winning the aviation war.
On the other hand, Opa-locka could become a general aviation hub that attracts big-money corporate planes and spurs the county's economic development.
Or Opa-locka could be forced to lie fallow so planes wouldn't annoy neighbors. This could please officials whose constituents could kill their own golden goose in the same way misled Miami Beach officials wanted to limit tourists to reduce traffic and today are blocking rail transit to keep out unwanted visitors.
Only one choice can prevail in Opa-locka: commercial aviation hub, general-aviation magnet or languishing airport. Yet one of those flight plans is to be chosen before the aviation director, whose expertise is vital, comes aboard. Talk about miserable timing.
Finally, the exploding City of Miami, population 376,815, where more than 72,000 housing units are in the pipeline, is due both a master plan from its Downtown Development Authority and a plan labeled Miami 21, which will change the zoning code to control development - changes that won't affect the new units.
This is known as closing the barn door after the horse not only has left but is racing away at full gallop.
The city's planning efforts, while praiseworthy, are woefully late. Why did we wait until the permits were issued?
Still, some timing can be set aright.
The Legislature should return to Tallahassee to do its distasteful job on slot machines.
Miami-Dade should put the aviation master plan aside until a new director can weigh in on it. We're hiring expertise. Let's use it.
As for Miami's planning, no need to halt it. It can help. It's just a pity that we didn't look ahead a decade ago.
But then, a decade ago, city hall was heading hell for leather toward immediate bankruptcy and managed to ignore that, too.
Guess we've made progress after all.