EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT/Theft appears to be Miami’s vice
Recently, a Brinks truck overturned in Miami, spilling upwards of $1 million in cash, coins and food stamps. If it had had the good sense to turn over in, say, Coral Gables, you would never have heard the story except maybe in a “good citizen” sort of context that described how residents sent their maids and gardeners out to help the driver pick up the cash. (If those people are going to steal money, they do it the old fashioned way — they embezzle it.)
But, no, it turned over in Overtown, one of the city’s more impoverished pockets. Police estimate that half-a-million dollars was picked up and toted off.
The world was outraged. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.
This is a city in which stealing money is as popular an activity as sun-bathing, as common as black beans and rice. This is a city that, partly because of mismanagement and partly because of felonies, could run out of operating cash sometime soon.
In 1995, the city’s disgraced finance director, who pled guilty in an insurance shakedown scheme, noticed a $25 million shortfall in the budget. No problem, he reasoned. We passed a $72 million bond issue this year. We’ll just take $25 million of that and stick it in the ’95 budget. A nice idea, but that, as any reputable finance director and most ordinary bozos like me know, is illegal.
In ’96, the disgraced former city manager was taped griping about having to live on a paltry $116,000 a year, this in a city with the fourth poorest residents in the country. Additionally, a disgraced (the adjective du jour in Miami, as you can tell) city commissioner pled guilty to trying to extort $200,000 from a computer company.
So now there’s talk that this proud city may cease to exist. Voters will decide sometime late this spring whether Miami should become a part of Dade County. No one knows what would happen to the name.
Interestingly, the city’s more upscale communities — like Coconut Grove — have, in the past, expressed interest in breaking away and incorporating themselves. They’ve never been able to because, by law, they need Miami’s permission first. If there’s no Miami, there’s no need for permission. And if that happens, suddenly it doesn’t look like such a good deal for Dade County. It would be sorta like sitting down to a banquet and only getting the carrot and raisin salad.
Meanwhile, tsk-tsking about the folks who ran off with all that Brinks cash makes no sense. After all, they learned from the best.