Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wings Over Miami- You better get out there to see it soon, or you may miss it forever. This is a local museum at risk. Loss of this facility would be a shame of historic proportion.

I have covered many “did you know” columns before. This one is to try to grab your attention about a jewel that we are at risk of losing. Please, make this a case of support for its success rather than ‘sorry I missed it.’ Please read on.

Out in Kendall, there is a little museum that hidden on the west side of Kendall-Tamami Executive Airport. It is not fancy or even pristine, but it is what I consider one of the best little museums in our county. This museum is filled with flying aircraft, both vintage and warbirds. It is a living museum, ever changing as the planes come and go.

Wings Over Miami Air Museum was birthed in the empty hangar of the old Weeks Air Museum after local resident and airplane collector, Kermit Weeks, moved out up to Poke County with his collection. Four pilots and warbird lovers created the museum and it has been in existence for the past 11 years.

The museum regularly offers classic and warbirds aircraft in flight as well as in the hangar. There is no other similar museum south of mid-Florida. It fills a need within the South Florida community for an active aviation museum.  Both children and adults are able to view first hand planes they have only experienced through video and publications.

Wings Over Miami requires a hangar and a safe place on the runway to fly its planes. From its current location, the museum can safely walk school children to Miami Dade College’s School of Aviation for a peek and to the FAA Control Tower for a view of world from its top. Flight schools can bring in little planes for the children to sit in as they let their imaginations fly.

This coming Saturday, the museum is hosting a female WWII pilot’s memorial service. There will be veterans of all ages, from WWII to Korea to Afghanistan, and from all military services coming together in this working hangar to show their respect for WASP Helen Snapp. A service such as this could be held in a church, but what better way to honor a fallen pilot than to surround them with the very planes they flew?

Now this museum, filled with wonderful artifacts of aviation’s past, is under pressure from the county to not only pay $6,200 a month rent ($74,000 a year), but thousands of dollars in penalties,  interest and principal on late payments from years back.

As someone with a brother in active military service, I can’t help but wonder about how will we treat our veterans and their history if we cannot even help a little museum like Wings to survive in a county as large as ours?

Our future veterans, represented by The Tamami Composite Civil Air Patrol, which is housed in the museum, flys air search and Homeland Security Missions from the museum. They are at the museum at least once a week; all 135+ members of the group’s youth and adults. They maintain an office on site and use the entire museum for their activities. These are teens who are learning Air Force military skills and adult pilots who volunteer their time and skills to provide security for our community and South Florida. Their history of supporting the Coast Guard goes all the way back to Miami Beach in WWII. The organization is multicultural, multigenerational and has both female and male cadets. It reflects the up and coming pilots that will fly the new generation of planes and warbirds.

I recall the campaigns for bond money for parks and museums. Museums in Dade County, seem to be moving around all over the place at taxpayers’ expense. Waterfront venues, huge buildings, large parcels are no problem for county taxpayers.

Why is it that we have money for the MAM, the Science Museum, and Children’s museum all with their bay front views, but not for a museum that simply does what it does best without asking for free rent?  How many of the county museums have free or a $1 rent while the aviation department continues to push the rent up and the museum out of its home along with the nearby Bay of Pigs Memorial?

Of all the departments in the county, I cannot imagine one that would be better suited to help fund and nurture an aviation museum than the Miami-Dade Aviation Department. Sure, Wings is not the Smithsonian, but then the Smithsonian doesn’t have the charm of being an honest-to-God working aviation hangar.

This museum has been self-sustaining for as many years as it can be. How many other county museums have lived 11 years without funding assistance?  All the museum’s fundraising goes to the county either as rent or to keep the doors open. It can’t grow, it can’t develop programs and it can’t do repairs because it’s funding goes directly to maintaining operations. The board has paid over $417 thousand in rent alone to MDAD since 2007.

Over the years, the board of directors and the museum pilots have paid thousands of dollars in personal donations to the county aviation department to keep those planes in a publicly accessible hangar. They have put their time and money into making this unique history stay alive for the community. However, with the excessive county debt hovering over their heads, the museum is going to come to a quick end if we don’t step in help with donations, some time and talent.

What can you do to help the museum?  You can help stabilize it by contacting the Aviation Department Directors to let them know that Wings is important to this community. You can call or email the county commissioners and the county mayor. You can donate cash; you can buy an annual family membership.

This is our children’s heritage and our parent’s legacy that Wings Over Miami is seeking to preserve. Give them a hand. Do something now, before it is too late. or

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

4th Annual Bike Day, Saturday, March 2nd, at Pinecrest Gardens. Bike events are great community events.

This Saturday, March 2, 2013, the Village of Pinecrest and School Board Member Dr. Larry Feldman present the 4th Annual COMMUNITY BIKE RIDE DAY!
CLICK HERE to view the official Pinecrest e-blast for more information for this event.  The event will be held beginning at 9:00 AM and lasts through 11:30 AM.  The event will be held at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Road.
There is a bike helmet give-away to the first 100 participants.  The actual bike ride (4, 3 and 2 mile bike loops) begin at 10:00 AM.
Pinecrest and Cutler Bay have been dong quite well with their family bike events.  See Annual Hometown Harvest Bike Ride draws nearly 100, by Gary Alan Ruse Date posted: January 7, 2013.
Cutler Bay’s traditional fall event, the Hometown Harvest Bike Ride, returned for its sixth year on Sunday, Dec. 9 2012, It attracted nearly 100 riders. The purpose of Cutler Bay's annual ride is to provide a fun family event, promote bike safety and encourage more people to use bicycles as transportation.
Palmetto bay used to hold bike rides.  I again offer to volunteer my time to assist in getting this event back on the road.  The initial Palmetto Bay council thanks resident Eric Tullberg for his invaluable assistance in putting these rides together for Palmetto Bay in the past.  See my prior article on past Palmetto Bay Earth Week events, including Eric Tullberg's successes in leading the past Palmetto Bay family bike rides: Reflections on Palmetto Bay's Earth Week celebrations. Pinecrest's April 10 celebration

Monday, February 25, 2013

Just for fun II - NBC's Parks and Recreation – Mayor Ron Swanson on Government

Have you ever watched NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”? I occasional catch the show and wonder who has been spying on small town politics. He has a joke for you.

Parks and Recreation takes place in the fictional town Pawnee, Indiana.  There are various segments that really make me laugh.  I am presenting one such clip here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Make your backyard a wildlife habitat - Home & Garden -

Make your backyard a wildlife habitat - Home & Garden - Miami
Just in case you missed it.  Click on the link immediately above to read the February 16, 2013, Miami Herald Fairchild column that will improve the livability/enjoyability of your home oasis. Previous Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden columns in the Miami Herald have raised the issue that we can help rebuild our ecosystems with proper gardening.

The positive impact to your homes are numerous. More than simply aesthetic, properly adding shade can bring down your home cooling costs, make your back, side and front yards for liveable as well as actually increasing your property values. 

Also see my prior Monday, April 2, 2012, post: 'A must read: Miami Herald’s "The wildlife is in the backyard".' Numerous photos are posted of what you can attract or maintain in your yards through proper planting. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A traffic circle for 136 and Old Cutler? Palmetto Bay should get on board. Surrounding Palmetto Bay residents should be engaged

There is an exciting multi-governmental project pending, one that everyone in Palmetto Bay needs to be aware of and understand the profound and long-term implications.  Pinecrest passed the following resolution at the Tuesday, January 15, 2013, Pinecrest Regular Council Meeting.  It was surprising that there were no elected officials, not the mayor nor any of the council members, from Palmetto Bay present before the Pinecrest Council to speak in support of this resolution/project.  This joint project will involve Miami-Dade County, Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay.  It deserves a serious public discussion.

CLICK HERE to view the January 9, 2013, Pinecrest Manager Report, the Pinecrest Resolution of support and the proposed Interlocal agreement, all total six (6) pages.  Obviously, the Palmetto Bay capital plan and operating budget will need to be amended to reflect the proposed direct and ancillary costs. Thre are many details contained in these documents that will provide greater understanding of the scope and costs of this project.

Pinecrest has been very active in involving its residents on public works projects. The proposed traffic circle at SW 136 Street and Old Cutler in no exception.  This project has been in discussion for many years and was originally brought up while I was mayor along with Mayor Vrooman of Cutler Bay and County Commissioner Katy Sorenson when the Cutler Bay traffic circles were originally proposed.  Now those Culter Bay traffic circles are moving forward to completion so new areas can begin to move forward.

Pinecrest discussed this project at both their December, 2012 and January, 2013, regular council meetings, yet we have yet to hear anything officially presented at the Palmetto Bay council meetings. Pinecrest neighbors have been engaged. In fact, information is that some neighborhoods have signed off on the project already, that their street will be protected during the construction. 

This is an exciting project, but it will have profound short term impact on the Old Cutler Road commuters for the period of time that it creates an intense bottle neck right at Old Cutler at the entry point into Palmetto Bay.  Residents should be engaged so that they can have their input early rather than springing this one them and needlessly raising the ire of area residents who will have temporary cut throughs and detours directed through their area.

I hope that this current Palmetto Bay Mayor and Council do not let this project drop. The public should be engaged and this project should be made public at the Committee of the Whole meeting held (tonight) on Wednesday, 2/20/2013.

Monday, February 18, 2013

NCAA enforcement: Time to admit your "lack of institutional control.” Miami Herald article: External review: Some NCAA staffers acted inappropriately in Miami Hurricanes inquiry. Statement issued by UM President Donna E. Shalala

External review: Some NCAA staffers acted inappropriately in Miami Hurricanes inquiry - UM - 

It takes a strong person to admit fault and move on. Unfortunately for the UM (as well as for other NCAA members) the NCAA enforcement division is not strong enough and insists on moving forward to win at all costs. This has obviously become personal for some members of the NCAA, even to the point of throwing some of its staffers under the bus (see Report: NCAA VP of Enforcement fired over Miami investigation, reporting that Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA’s Vice President of Enforcement and Mart Emmert’s hand-picked choice for the position, has been fired as a result of her role in the improper conduct that occurred during the investigation into Nevin Shapiro’s associated with Miami) 

I have to raise the question as to whether it is time for frustration to turn to anger and action. The NCAA appears lose more credibility every day. It is time for some internal soul searching into its own obvious lack of institutional control and settle up and then engage some outside entitles to investigate and make substantive changes to the way the NCAA does business, but it is time to stop compounding their errors. 

Susan Miller Degnan reports that the NCAA case involving the University of Miami will continue — just without about 20 percent of the information the governing body of college athletics has deemed tainted because of “improper conduct” during its investigation.

Obviously ignoring the taint and the UM’s good faith self-imposing of sanctions; the NCAA Enforcement President announced the NCAA’s intention is to move forward with this case, when asked when a ruling in the Miami case might come down. “There is still a lot of information that is available that has in no way been tainted by this incident. In terms of timing, I’m not going to guess when that occurs. I know everyone is trying to get it done as quickly as possible.”

UM President Donna Shalala expressed her unhappiness about the entire situation in a lengthy written statement released Monday evening: 

Statement from President Donna E. Shalala 

University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala made this statement concerning the external Enforcement Review Report the NCAA issued earlier today regarding the improper handling of its investigation of the University of Miami.

"The University takes full responsibility for the conduct of its employees and student-athletes. Where the evidence of NCAA violations has been substantiated, we have self-imposed appropriate sanctions, including unilaterally eliminating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for our students and coaches over the past two years, and disciplining and withholding players from competition.

"We believe strongly in the principles and values of fairness and due process. However, we have been wronged in this investigation, and we believe that this process must come to a swift resolution, which includes no additional punitive measures beyond those already self-imposed. 

CLICK HERE to read the full statement issued on Monday, February 18, 2013.


Happy Presidents' Day - a short history

Presidents' Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February. Sadly, by some, it is better known commercially as the Presidents' Day Sale where we celebrate and save with great deals! Providing for an extra 15 - 20% off plus free shipping (online)!
A short History of Presidents’ Day
Presidents’ Day was first celebrated in the 1880s, with the birthday of George Washington was first celebrated as a federal holiday.
Controversy: long weekends versus recognizing the actual date:
In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill in 1968. This moved federal holidays to Mondays. The intent was to provide for long weekends. There was opposition to this move, by those who believe that those holidays should be celebrated on the dates they actually commemorate.
And then there was one national day for all presidents:
How many of us remember celebrating both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays as separate events? Presidents' Day became the officially celebrated holiday in 1971, to honor the birthdays of both Washington (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln (February12). Note that Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was celebrated in many states, but was never an official national holiday (I wonder which states celebrated? Extra points awarded for those who can answer)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Sunday Drive observation: Palmetto Bay’s Coral Reef Park. Is protecting the grass more important that protecting the safety of pedestrians?

I will let the photos tell the story of what I saw on Sunday, February 17, 2013, at Coral Reef Park. This appeared to be a fully unattended SUV.  Note that the parks department has taken steps to prevent people from parking on the grass along the driveway to the East side (77 avenue) Parking lot (2nd photo - to the right - ropes and signs prevent parking on the grass, but not the sidewalks):

It is my opinion that the SUV creates more than just an inconsiderate situation for people that need to use the sidewalk running along the southbound lanes of 77 avenue.  The SUV is parked perpendicular to the street.  It appears that the vehicle was parked this way to in order to load or unload the equipment currently in use in the park. The sidewalk is completely blocked in is situated under the center of the vehicle. The driver of the SUV could have unloaded and parked in the ample parking located on site which would have been to the south of the event, rather than parking nearly equal distance to the east of this event, but the owner appears to have taken what he or see perceived to be a more convenient location.

Safety, not convenience, should be the number one consideration. From what I observed, any bicyclist, child not tricycle, pedestrian, stroller or wheelchair would have been required to actually cross over the white line into the southbound lanes of 77 Avenue to pass this vehicle. Please see the photo below to judge the proximity of the parking to the field.  It is my opinion that this SUV should have parked there, not blocking the sidewalk. When is there a good reason to block a sidewalk next to a busy road?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Close call documented. AP PHOTOS: Meteor explodes over Russia - Nation Wires - Fox News historical reference of 1908 Tunguska event

AP PHOTOS: Meteor explodes over Russia - Nation Wires -

Click the headline above or CLICK HERE to view AP photos posted online, Miami Herald of the Meteor that exploded over Russia on Friday, 2/15/2013.  14 photos are posted of the event and aftermath.

The Russian meteor event was quite a coincidence, given that Astronomers on Friday had their eyes skyward on asteroid 2012 DA14. Thankfully, this event was nowhere near the 1908 Tunguska event.  See (yes) FOX NEWS - Russian meteor blast recalls massive 1908 'Tunguska event' reporting that the site of Friday's spectacular, 10-ton meteor blast was just 3,000 miles west of Tunguska, which was the site of the largest-ever recorded explosion of a space object plunging to Earth:

That 1908 blast, which was later attributed to a comet or asteroid fragment, is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons. No injuries were reported, but some 80 million trees over 830 square miles were leveled in the blast known as the “Tunguska event.”

The meteor certainly peaks some interest in many who formerly did not concern themselves with the possibility, or probability of Earth impacts during our lifetime.  See Miami Herald: Earth remains safe for now – but what about next asteroid?  and Asteroid buzzes, misses Earth _ unlike meteor

Buy local - plant local. TAS Native Plant Sale this weekend

TAS Native Plant Sale 

February 16-17 & 23 | Tropical Audubon Society | 9 a.m.-dusk

Native Plant Experts from Tropical Audubon Society's Steinberg Nature Center will help you create a subtropical, xeriscape oasis in your own backyard. Learn which native plant species work best for your yard and see how your new habitat comes to life when birds and butterflies become part of your environment.

Regular Plant Sale days and hours:
and Sunday February 16th and 17th, from 9 a.m. to dusk
Encore Plant Sale: Saturday, February 23rd 

Share the flyer with friends and family.

to read the entire TAS e-mail update for more information.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day

See for interesting history on a worldwide holiday, all in the name of St. Valentine. Who is this saint? The site describes where these traditions come.  Click on the link to find out about the history of this centuries-old holiday.

A more recent tradition interesting factoid: Approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine's Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.

[Editor's note: The description of this holiday would not be complete if we left out the more recent tradition of the national donut chains special Valentine's donuts (noting also, that donuts are not recent)] 

Origins of Valentine's Day: A Pagan Festival in February 

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial--which probably occurred around A.D. 270--others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to "Christianize" the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
Valentine's Day: A Day of Romance 

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) *** 

Typical Valentine's Day Greetings 

In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. ****