Let's decide what will keep Miami alive after Castro dies
By Michael Lewis
What does Miami stand for? What is our ideal future, and how will we unite to achieve it?
Other communities ask such grand questions, envision potential and systematically strive to attain it.
Miami hasn't done that. Perhaps it's apathy. Maybe we don't see the value in maximizing quality of life or we lack leadership.
But possibly the barrier to determining what we stand for is that we're too busy flaunting what we're against. Miami's mission seems to be to blot out Fidel Castro. We're so against anything Castro-related that we haven't gotten around to being for anything at all.
Where else might a county stall development of a tunnel that would clear cargo trucks from a gridlocked downtown solely because the winning bidder has done work in Cuba?
Where else would cash-short schools waste a quarter of a million dollars asking a federal court to let them ban a book just because it doesn't tell second-graders that Castro is evil?
Where else, outside of Cuba, would candidates' stances on Castro determine elections? In much of Miami-Dade, it's useless to be pro-anything. The anti-Castro plank is all that counts.
Our reason for being, our mission, our vision is merely that, anti-Castro.
True, we no longer suffer the law that barred county dealings with any business or entity doing business with Cuba or even one that did business with another entity that did business with Cuba — affecting virtually every major corporation.
A judge overturned that ban — but not until it cost us an international track meet, a bid to host the Pan American Games, a deal with the government of Spain that would have put us at the forefront of airport privatizations, the hosting of the first Latin Grammys and concerts by musicians from Cuba — and gave us a reputation as a banana republic.
A years-long battle for county contracts between now-united AT&T and BellSouth cost the county millions because one company claimed to be more anti-Castro than the other.
Mayor Alex Penelas killed what could have been a national political career by standing against the US Department of Justice in the Elian Gonzalez case, the ultimate anti-Castro litmus test.
All of this is about to end. Rumor is that Fidel Castro is mortal, which will cause a crisis in Miami.
Myriad plans have been laid for economic, logistic and political reactions when he dies.
But we have planned no rationale for this county's very existence post-Castro. When we no longer unite against him, what will we stand for? What will be our mission once it is no longer to oust a hated dictator?
We could, of course, turn to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez as a Castro stand-in.
Or we might convene now to find a mission and a vision. Broward County has done it. Why can't we?
Developing a mission is a public and a private effort undertaken jointly. That takes leadership.
So far, the leadership has been Fidel Castro's, uniting us in opposition. The mission and vision have focused on his departure, which is assured.
Now we need local leaders who can unite us in crafting a vision that is not against the past but promotes a shining Miami future.
Who will step forward?