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Miami's fiscal crisis: Look at the bright side

December 5, 1996

An Open Letter to America from the City of Miami:

As everybody knows, our city is in the throes of a financial crisis. The media coverage has been so gloomy that tourists, newcomers and investors are being frightened away.

It's time to clear the air, set the record straight and take the bull by the horns. The bad news: Miami is so broke that the state of Florida has stepped in to try to stave off bankruptcy.

The good news: Our days of harebrained spending, bumbling management and corruption are temporarily over, because there's basically nothing left to waste, misspend or steal.

Heck, we're in the hole by 68 frigging million buckswho'd try to rip us off now? Which brings up the first of several ugly misperceptions that must be addressed.

Misperception 1: The entire city is corrupt.

Flatly untrue. Not one current Miami commissioner or administrator is under indictment, house arrest or the regular supervision of a parole officera record we're darn proud of.

Most city employees are honest and hard-working, except for a few deadbeat relatives and cronies of politicians. So what if there's an ongoing criminal investigation. Don't tell us the FBI never body-wired any informants at your city hall!

Misperception 2: The city infrastructure is a disaster.

To begin with, "disaster" is a relative term. Miami hasn't been flooded by a hurricane or leveled by an earthquake. Most nights it's not even on fire.

And if it was, we've still got plenty of skilled firefighters on the payroll, at least until March or possibly April.

Misperception 3: The city is a dangerous place to live.

Oh, come on. If Miami was so unsafe, would Madonna and Sly Stallone own homes here? No way. Not even with their high-voltage fences and beefy bodyguards.

And don't forget Pat Riley. He could've coached an NBA team any place he wanted, but he chose Miami. Why? Not just because of the incredible contract he got, but because he wanted to be in a city that offered his family the very finest selection of high-voltage fences and beefy bodyguards.

Misperception 4: The city is unsafe for visitors.

Contrary to what you've heard, the streets of Miami haven't been overrun by gangs and drug dealerswell, most of the streets haven't. Pat Riley's, for example.

And we've still got hundreds of experienced police officers on the payroll, at least until March or possibly April.

Misperception 5:The city is a risky place to invest money.

Once more, "risky" is an awfully broad term. Perhaps you just like adventure. Maybe there's some riverboat gambler in your blood. Come on down and take a chance on Miami.

Given the negative publicity, it's understandable if major corporations and commercial investors are apprehensive about the city's ability to provide basic services, such as garbage pickup.

Be assured we've got some of the most efficient garbage collectors on the whole Eastern seaboard, at least until March or possibly April.

Misperception 6: The city is about to be abolished.

Again, the word "abolished" can mean so many things. Remember that Miami is more than just arbitrary boundaries on a road mapit's a state of mind.

Say, for the sake of argument, that the city charter is dissolved. The magic wouldn't die. Miami wouldn't suddenly disappear. It would still be right where it is today, smack dab between the airport and the beach.

Which means you suckers still have to drive through the place, regardless of what happens in March or April.

Take over city; commissioners won notice December I, 1996 | Kick Ass: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen | Suarezs act won play on Wall Street December 4, 1997