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Miami Web News

Posted Monday Feb. 24, 2014


Commentary

Why Does PAMM Support the Destruction of Art?

Or:

“I am the Wei, the Truth and the Life”

By John Dorschner

      A Miami artist walks into the taxpayer-funded Perez Art Museum, sees an exhibit of a Chinese artist destroying an art work
and – guess what? – the Miami guy … destroys … an art work.     

      Technical score: 7.6. Originality: 0.     

      Locally, the art world and the media have blasted the criminal act, in which Maximo Caminero was arrested after smashing
an ancient vase that had been splattered with modern paint by Ai Weiwei in front of three photos of Ai dropping a Chinese vase
thousands of years old.
      
Internationally, some thoughtful commentators are asking more probing questions. Click here to see full commentary on my blog.

Posted Monday Dec. 9, 2013

A critics' choices


A $2 million display down a Wynwood side street
and other 2013 Basel moments


 By John Dorschner

     With the heart of an amateur afficionado, this intrepid surveyor set out to see as much Art Basel that he could take without paying for admission or valet parking. This meant occasionally using a bus to get to and from Wynwood, which worked just fine. Let others complain about skimpy hors d'oeuvres, crowded streets, too many out-of-towners or slow valets. I had a great time.
    Go here for highlights for a fabulous week of art.
    Go here for a video on a hidden treasure -- the $2 million Realm of the Unreal.
     
Posted Wednesday Dec. 4, 2013
Seaquarium talks with California company about possible sale


Story by John Dorschner at Browardbulldog.org

Posted Friday Nov. 29, 2013

Video Interviews with famed restaurateur Mark Soyka

     He's hitting 70. His fabled News Cafe will be a quarter century old on Dec. 2. A print interview with him appears in the Biscayne Times coming out
this weekend and at Biscaynetimes.com. Soyka was one of the first in creating energy on Ocean Drive and his opening of the Soyka Restaurant is
seen by many as a major step in rejuvenating Biscayne Boulevard.
     Video excerpts of the interviews are available through the MiamiWebNews channel on Youtube:
     -- Soyka discusses here what gives him "goose bumps" -- a passion for vintage cars that's leading to a new business venture.
     --  He talks here about how his status as a technological "dinosaur" led to his decision to keep News Cafe open around the clock.
     -- And he tells here how he left his native Israel for New York, where he met developer Tony Goldman at "whiteys' night" at a roller rink in
Bedford-Stuyvesant -- a relationship that ultimately led him to coming to South Beach, first to manage the Park Central Hotel for Goldman and then,
on a Goldman property at 8th and Ocean, creating the News Cafe, starting in a kiosk and expanding until it is the best known gathering place, with 350 seats,
on Ocean Drive.

Posted Sunday Nov. 24, 2013
Setting Up a New Video Channel

      MiamiWebNews is setting up a new video channel.
      Click here for an interview with Miami author Marvin Dunn about his latest book, The Beast in Florida -- A History of Anti-Black Violence. 
      Click here for a brief documentary on how a young designer from Virginia Commonwealth University got her one minute of fame at a cotton
industry fashion show on South Beach.
      .
      .
Posted Friday Sept 27, 2013
Updated Saturday 9/28/2013 8:11 a.m.
Why is NE 2nd Avenue such
 a mishmash of Paris and Bangladesh?

By John Dorschner
    A long section of NE 2nd Avenue has become a shining example of how government treats the haves and  have-nots.
    Some stretches could be Paris -- smooth streets, curbs, good drainage, bike lanes and decorative lighting. Other parts feel like Bangladesh -- pock-marked and bumpy streets, with poor lighting and puddles pooling in mud and gravel beside the curbless pavement.
     "It's not one United States, it's two," complains one store owner in a Bangladesh area.
     The full story, with photos, can be see on the blog miamiwebnews.blogspot.com.
  
Posted Monday 9/23/13
Nonprofits coordinating for Obamacare

By John Dorschner
      UPDATED Tuesday 9/24/2013 7:36 a.m.
      With less than two weeks to go before the exchanges open, Miami-Dade's nonprofit entities are talking about working together to get word out about Obamacare and the opportunities for the uninsured to obtain  coverage.
    "I'm feeling encouraged," Daniella Levine, head of the action group Catalyst Miami. Last month, Levine had complained "we are all  up in arms" because South Florida had lost out on a major federal funding effort to pay for navigators, persons trained to help the uninsured get coverage under measures that take effect Jan. 1.
    Levine said a key development was a coordination meeting Thursday in a Florida Blue conference room. The meeting was convened by the Health Council of South Florida, bringing together groups willing to work on the project.
    "All the groups in town were talking about what they are going to do," Levine said. "Most are doing it without getting paid -- a volunteer mobilization effort."
    That meeting occurred after Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, visited Miami and trumpeted how much the federal government is doing here to raise awareness in Miami-Dade, which has more than 700,000 uninsured according to the latest estimates.
    Sebelius brought along Karen Egozi, president of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, which has received a $637,000 federal grant to train navigators statewide. She told reporters that 50 of the navigators are slated to work in Miami-Dade.
    Levine said the volunteer effort wouldn't be as good as having more paid navigators, but some will become certified application counselors, meaning they can help people sign up through the exchange process.
    Federally funded  health clinics, universities and others are training staff to inform people about the opportunities of getting health insurance through the exchanges, where people cannot be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions.
    Santiago Leon, a Miami health insurance broker and board member of the activist group Florida CHAIN, agreed with Levine that the county's efforts are at last stepping up. "Between Enroll America, the safety-net providers, the libraries, the schools, and whatever resources we get from the official navigators, I think we will be fine.  It would be way better if we had Medicaid expansion because, as it is, people could be turned down for being too poor (!) and then tell their friends not to waste their time."
        For persons willing to volunteer to help in the enrollment process, Catalyst Miami is sponsoring a training session on Oct. 4 at Temple Israel. Levine said about 70 have signed up for the training so far.  Details at catalystmiami.org.
    Insurers say the exchanges will work if both healthy and unhealthy persons sign up.  Some critics are skeptical that the healthy -- particularly the young -- will sign up, meaning the insurers will be stuck with a pool of expensive patients.
    HIALEAH A KEY
    One key test will be in Hialeah, where the majority of adults 18-64 do not have coverage. Most residents work for small companies that don't offer coverage, and most don't seek policies on the individual market. Daniel Shoer Roth, former El Nuevo columnist, once wrote that many in Hialeah believe they don't need health insurance because if they get sick, "Voy a Jackson."
    Miami's one bidder for navigator funds, the Health Council of South Florida, didn't get a contract. Last month, the group's chief executive, Marisel Losa, said she had "no clue" why the bid was rejected when the Center for American Progress had ranked Miami-Dade as No. 1 nationwide as the community that can benefit the most from the Affordable Care act.
    Asked in an email last week whether she felt better after the Sebelius visit, Losa didn't respond.
    UPDATE:  On Monday night, Losa sent this statement: "The Health Council of South Florida, in partnership with the Miami-Dade Health Action Network and Miami Dade College, was honored to host an event for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius last week.
    "We appreciate Secretary Sebelius’ support to assist our community with education, outreach and enrollment information about the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace.
    "The Health Council of South Florida believes that working collectively is the best approach to addressing the needs of our community as it relates to navigation, enrollment and health coverage. HCSF is committed to assisting with efficient and effective implementation of Affordable Care Act efforts in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties and will continue to work with community partners and stakeholders, to help raise awareness and educate consumers about the Health Insurance Marketplace.
     "The Health Council of South Florida actively serves as a Champion for Coverage in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. HCSF will continue to work closely with national, state and local partners as a Certified Application Counselor organization assisting individuals with the Marketplace."
    END UPDATE

Posted Thursday 9/19/13
Major Overhaul Coming for Miami-Dade Bus System

By John Dorschner
     Miami-Dade's bus system is heading toward a major overhaul, with rapid "rubber-tire" service planned for lines once envisioned for Metrorail.
    Some routes -- along main "backbones" -- will get increased service, while little-used routes will be eliminated in places like Miami Beach and Kendall.
     The changes are Miami-Dade Transit's adjustments to the ambitious Metrorail extensions that were envisioned when voters approved a half-penny sales tax for transit in 2002. 
    In 2009, then-county manager George Burgess acknowledged that there was too much competition for the federal dollars needed to get more Metrorail lines any time soon. "He said, 'We overpromised," summed up Monica Cejas, a Miami-Dade Transit  staffer said Wednesday in a presentation before the Citizen's Independent Transportation Trust, the entity that oversees how the half-penny funds are spent.
    Cejas' presentation involved plans for rapid bus service along NW 27th Avenue -- a route originally envisioned for Metrorail -- that would run from a major new station at NW 215th Street to the transit center at Miami International Airport.
    The NW 27th improvements -- expected to cost $25 million to $30 million -- are already approved, with the new service starting operations in 2017. The North Corridor Metrorail line was estimated to cost $1.4 billion.
    Still on the drawing board is a more extensive overhaul of the entire bus system, which would emphase enhanced service and simplified routes in many areas of the county.
    Jerry Bryan, a Transit section chief, told the board that on Miami Beach, the number of routes could drop from 16 to 12, while building up "extremely frequent service" along a main route, such as Collins Avenue.
    In Kendall, the number of routes could drop from seven to five, with enhanced service on more popular routes.
    The changes would save Transit about $5 million to $10 million a year, Bryan said.
    Bryan said overall the change would reduce the number of lines countywide from 93 to 90. He said the idea was still "a draft," needing public workshops; input from "stakeholders," such as the CITT; elected officials, municipalities and transit unions before being approved by the mayor.
    The NW 27th plan includes a 14-acre site, already purchased with CITT tax money, for a station at the north end, with space for commercial development.
    Buses could move quickly along the corridor because drivers could control the lights along the way, with a "jump queue" system, in which buses would move into a right-hand turn lane at a stop light, trigger a green-light for buses only, cross the intersection and then "jump" back into the right lane, getting around traffic.
    Cejas said that's an alternative to having a lane dedicated strictly for bus use -- meaning that the line would be Bus Rapid Transit Lite, Cejas told the CITT board, which controls how the half-penny transit money is spent. She said state transportation officials were unlikely to approve a dedicated bus lane, and there didn't appear to be a need for it.
     She said bus drivers controlling lights will delay some car drivers, but a bus could carry 100 persons, while a car often carries only one. "We have to change the mindset. Everyone is so concerned about cars. We need to get cars off the road."
    In other business, CITT Executive Director Charles Scurr told the board that auditors had recently reexamined the transit money that had gone to Miami Lakes and Sweetwater, towns where the mayors were recently arrested on corruption chargs. 
    By law, 20 percent of the half-penny transit tax revenue goes to Miami-Dade munipalities to spend on transit. Scurr said that coincidentally Sweetwater and Miami Lakes were the only two cities in the county that the CITT has had to be demand the return of transit tax money because it was improperly spent.
    The most egregious case was Sweetwater, which Scurr said used more than $700,000 in transit taxes some years ago to purchase garbage trucks.
    Scurr told Trust members that the recent re-examination of transit expenses at Sweetwater and Miami Lakes indicated no new problems.

 
 
 
Dade Health Activists "Up in Arms"


By John Dorschner

    With newly released figures showing that 740,000 persons are uninsured in Miami-Dade, a leading county activist Thursday night lashed out at how little federal support was given to help inform Dade residents  about the upcoming benefits of Obamacare.
    Daniella Levine, head of Catalyst Miami, said, "We're all up in arms" about Miami-Dade not getting any significant federal money to finance Navigators, the program intended to inform the uninsured about how they can get coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
    The feds made $7.8 million in Navigator grants in Florida. The bulk of that -- $4.2 million -- went to a group organized by the University of South Florida in Tampa. 
    "It's a travesty," Levine said. "We're ground zero for the uninsured." She said that Catalyst Miami, whose goal is to "create a more equitable and caring society," and other groups will still work to get the message out about the healthcare exchanges, which start next year, but without the federal funds, it will be difficult to coordinate efforts.
    Levine spoke to this reporter before a Knight Foundation meeting at the University of Miami, attended by about 200 to consider the topic: "How can we make Miami a healthier place to live?"
    The event promoted the latest Knight News Challenge, which will reward $2 million in grants to those who come up with ideas on how to better bring health information to the public. 
    This reporter was one of the panelists who spoke to the audience about the huge needs Miami faces in healthcare. He said that Miami's fragmented community is far behind in coordinating efforts to help the poor and uninsured. 
    Because Florida has refused to expand Medicaid as Obamacare envisioned and because many in Miami-Dade are undocumented immigrants who by law can't receive Obamacare benefits, the problem of the uninsured is likely to be a huge problem locally for years to come.
    The reporter cited a move by the Miami-Dade Health Action Network to help provide coordinated care for the poor and uninsured by having a universal health ID card, which authenticates a person qualifying for charity care -- simplying an often-complicated process in which the poor must often go through paperwork at each facility to qualify for care. Such a card could also lead to electronic records shared by various safety-net groups.
    That's particularly important because the poor often do not have a primary care doctor and bounce between clinics and emergency rooms, with doctors having to repeat tests and gather information that could be much cheaper with coordination.
    While some communities like Tampa and San Francisco have had such coordinated efforts for years, Miami-Dade's effort remains mired in the talking stage.
     Friday morning, Marisel Losa, chief executive of the Health Council of South Florida, said that, after years of work, the Action Network is close to signing a contract for a one-year pilot on the uniform enrollment form, which will create patient  barcodes that safety net institutions can use to register patients. The group had hoped that the pilot could have been in place when people filled out financial information for the new exchanges, but that didn't work out. She said Jackson Health System, which in the past was slow to accept the concept, is now on board.
    Losa, whose organization applied with the Broward health council for a South Florida navigators grant, said she is mystified why the feds didn't give them an award. "We have no clue" why the proposal was rejected. She said that the Center for American Progress had ranked Miami-Dade as No. 1 nationwide as the community that can benefit the most from the Affordable Care act.
    Four organizations did receive grants that will in a small way help fund navigators in Miami-Dade but "they are not significant dollars," Losa said, and some of the organizations don't even have a footprint in Miami-Dade and others are specialized only in certain health areas.
      Among the other speakers Thursday night was Ali Khoshnevis, co-founder of WeRx.org -- a website that quickly helps people find the lowest price for a drug in their area. 

 
Uncertainty in South Florida healthcare industry
A regional summit revealed much concern and anxiety about what reforms are going to do to providers' businesses. Full story on the blog miamiwebnews.blogspot.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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