Goodman: Serena’s meltdown was thievery, too

Serena Williams of the U.S. and Naomi Osaka of Japan at the trophy ceremony for the U.S. Open after Osaka defeated Williams in the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, Sept. 8, 2018. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

Serena Williams put on a deeply disappointing display on Saturday. Her unconstrained anger over an umpire’s call ruined the U.S. Open women’s tennis singles final and completely deflated the stunning victory of a 20-year-old champion who has idolized the legendary 36-year-old icon all her life.

Yes, the chair umpire robbed Serena of a game, which basically put the uphill match out of reach for her. But Williams robbed the newcomer Naomi Osaka of something irreplaceable, the joy she should have had in winning her first Grand Slam and the clamor and attention that should now be washing over this rising star.

And yes, I know that double standards based on sexism exist in tennis, and that Palm Beach Gardens’ most famous resident could be absolutely right that umpire Carlos Ramos was excessively hard on her because of that. That’s the view of the incomparable Billie Jean King, who applauded Serena for standing up for women, and of the six-time U.S. Open champ, Boca Raton’s Chris Evert. That’s how it looked to my wife, watching TV with me as the incredible sequence of events unfolded on Saturday afternoon.

The hard-hitting Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins laid out that case with blunt authority:

Ramos took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him.

My reaction was different. I was really stunned that Serena exploded — and then wouldn’t let go. Ramos did start things off by making a questionable call: that the struggling champ had been getting signals from her coach in the stands. Ramos penalized her with a warning.

But Serena immediately turned it into a judgment of her honor and character. “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose,” she pleaded.

Never mind that the infraction was no indictment of her behavior, let alone her character. It was against the coach for gesturing. Ramos might have cooled things down right then if he had pointed that out to her.

Then, a little while later, Serena hit a backhand into the net, an unforced error, and smashed her racket in fury. Sorry, that’s not championship behavior. I hated it when John McEnroe did it, and I hated to see her do it. And she made it no more palatable by dressing it up as an act of sisterhood: Hey, women should have every right to be as obnoxious as the men!

It so happens that Martina Navritalova, no slouch as a warrior for women’s dignity, agrees with me, writing: “We cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with. In fact, this is the sort of behavior that no one should be engaging in on the court.”

For throwing the racket, Ramos properly charged Williams with a penalty. This second infraction cost her a point.

The context: We were in the second set. Williams had lost the first set, soundly, 6-2. She was losing this one. She wasn’t moving around the court well. Her serve was failing her. And Osaka had nothing but poise. The young Japanese-American-Haitian who got her training in Fort Lauderdale, now on the Arthur Ashe Stadium stage before a worldwide audience, was firm, focused, fluid and hitting with accuracy.

But Williams couldn’t drop it. She approached the chair and demanded an apology — which, c’mon, was never going to happen. Referees don’t do that, no matter the sport.

Then she went completely off the rails with a rant about being a mother and raising her daughter to “stand for what’s right for her.” Serena now seemed to me like someone carrying too heavy a load, not just a tennis champ chasing records for all-time, but a very self-conscious role model out to show that she could bounce back from a maternity leave, be a standard bearer for a new-model kind of strong, black femininity and perform at the highest level of her sport, all at the same time.

Even after the match resumed, and Osaka won another game, to lead 4-3, Williams resumed the argument and called Ramos a “liar” and “a thief.”

That was it. Penalty number three. Which meant Serena lost a full game. Just like that, it was Osaka, 5-3, and needing to win just one more game for the championship trophy.

Was that fair? Not really. Ramos could, and should, have played it cooler. But the real problem was that Williams should have got hold of her emotions before that final outburst.

It seems to me that you can’t win at anything if you don’t put your emotions on hold and focus on the challenge at hand. (Sure, the anger worked for McEnroe, but he is that unusual psychological type, the person who blows up and then feels calm and rejuvenated, no matter how anyone else around them feels.) Most of us can’t function well at all when we’re clouded by rage.

The fact is, bad calls happen. They even happen to great athletes. The job of the athlete is to compartmentalize it. Put it aside. Put yourself back in the match.

Then, after you’ve lost or won, complain and campaign all you want.

Is this hard to do? Hell, yes. I doubt that I could banish my anger from my mind if I thought my integrity had been impugned. I would be beside myself with rage. But I’m not a champion. She is. You only get to be a champion of Serena Williams’ caliber with very strong mental discipline – which she has had to employ for years, given the umpteen obstacles she was forced to overcome to dominate in such a white person’s sport.

Serena, the six-time U.S. Open champion, did not have that discipline on Saturday. In front of a crowd that really, really wanted to see her regain the crown for the first time since 2014.

All this said, I wonder why women’s tennis doesn’t insist on female umpiring. If pro-male bias is so insidious in this sport, then why not take the decision-making out of men’s hands altogether?

Christie: 2018 election: Florida’s environment don’t get no respect, no respect at all

Although Florida’s economy is heavily dependent on the environment, most political candidates are loathe to put, and keep those issues out front during a campaign.

The state’s environment could use a little more respect from political candidates this election season.

For the past several weeks, candidates have been trying to figure what issues are most important to voters. With some individual races as tight as they are, every hopeful running — be it for county commission or state senate — knows hitting on that one topic that resonates with voters can move the needle just enough to eke out a win. (Well, that and spending a lot of money on the campaign in the last couple weeks.)

RELATED: Post endorsements for the 2018 primary elections

But what are those hot-button voter issues?

Is it education? We do have a flashpoint issue in school security. There’s is also the much bigger issue of our K-12 public schools being in the bottom fifth in the nation. And Florida’s horrendous teacher pay has actually resulted in a shortage of about 4,000 teachers statewide to begin the 2018-19 school year.

Is it the economy? We do have this issue that, despite all the jobs created the last several years, too many residents complain they need two or three of them to make ends meet. That’s what happens when most of the jobs created are minimum wage. Meanwhile, the cost of housing is going through the roof in many places like, well, Palm Beach County.

Is it the environment? Or as I call it, “the Rodney Dangerfield of primary ballot issues.” Voters are witnessing a red tide causing massive fish kills, and manatee and turtle deaths up and down the Southwest Florida coast. They are watching the ongoing green goo affectionately known as “toxic blue-green algae” find its way into the backyard waterways of Treasure Coast residents. And of course, there’s that long-term, existential threat to our very way of life that everyone fears but few want to talk about: sea level rise. (That’s right, I said it.)

RELATED: The Environmental Issues Facing Florida This Election Season

In a survey released by the USA Today Network and Florida Atlantic University in June, voters said the environment was their No. 3 concern after economy and school safety, respectively. But unlike these first two, environmental issues cannot seem to get and/or maintain traction on the campaign trail.

How can that be, one might ask, when dead manatees are floating into marinas? How can that be when water is submerging roads and parks during King tides? And how can that be when several Martin County beaches — Jensen, Stuart, Bathtub and Hobe Sound  — are the latest to close as blue-green algae and red tide continue to spread throughout the state of Florida.

Venting on social media by irate residents about red tide and blue-green algae has gotten so bad that law enforcement is on edge.

A 250-pound Goliath grouper floats in the water in Sanibel, where red tide is killing millions of fish in Sanibel. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

And on August 13, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over the ongoing toxic red tide bloom.

“The red tide, which grows offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, has drifted toward the coast and is being blamed for killing scores of animals, including manatees, turtles, and thousands of fish,” reported Palm Beach Post staff writer Kimberly Miller.

But around that same time, when he had the opportunity to confront Treasure Coast residents about the blue-green goo that’s ruining their fishing and boating, Scott elected to do the equivalent of a boating flyover — leaving residents and their questions hanging.

Algae in the Caloosahatchee River beside the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam in Alva, Fla. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

The governor-turned-U.S. Senate candidate isn’t much different from his political brethren on this front; though most can seem to muster a bit more face-to-face compassion. Still, when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phillip Levine tried to ride his sea-level-rise street cred to the top of the ticket, it didn’t work that well. Sure, voters like that stuff. But who can focus on an environmental threat when another candidate is accusing you of being a supporter of President Donald Trump, and guns are blazing at high school football games?

As a result, the environment gets pushed to the back-burner in a state that built its image off of sunshine and beautiful beaches. The state’s three-legged economy — tourism, agriculture and real estate — is so dependent on the environment that every storm season holds the potential to lay waste to all three. Witness: Hurricane Irma.

But so short is our attention span in this era of breaking news that environmental issues, even when they are staring us in the face daily — again, I mention toxic red tide and green algae — can’t keep a politician’s attention. Today, for example, in the wake of a mass shooting at a gaming tournament on Sunday in Jacksonville, gun control is the topic du jour.

Sigh… maybe it will be different in the general election campaign.

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Christie: Does Sanders, Bondi harassment mean our incivility has finally gone too far?

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi voices her support for then-candidate Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Not unlike a lot of opinion journalists, for years I’ve been harping on the lack of civility that increasingly permeates our public discourse.

Immigration, NFL protests, gun rights, you name it, we are somehow unable to have a civil debate about it. From a South Carolina congressman yelling, “You lie!” at then-President Barack Obama during a State of the Union address to this past weekend’s heckling of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at a movie theater.

We’ve got to find a way to get past this. For our own sanity. And Thanksgiving dinners. And kids’ soccer games. And movie openings.

On Friday night, a group of protesters accosted Bondi outside the screening of the new documentary about Mister Rogers at the Tampa Theatre, questioning her about her recent actions on health care policy and her stance on immigration.

RELATED: Pam Bondi confronted by protesters outside Mister Rogers movie

A video of the confrontation, taken by progressive activist Timothy Heberlein of Organize Florida, shows several people shouting down Bondi as she leaves the theater escorted by law enforcement after seeing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

This followed news, of course, of the most infamous incident of the weekend: senior White House spokeswoman Sara Huckabee Sanders being tossed out of a Virginia restaurant by the owners.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary, speaks during a press conference on June 14 the White House briefing room in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Sanders, who has not engendered the most support from the liberal side of the political spectrum as a lightning rod for the ire of Trump haters, said over the weekend that she had been asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant because she worked in the Trump administration. She added that she “politely left” after the request.

The restaurant’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, later told The Washington Post that her staff had called her to report Sanders was at the restaurant on Saturday night. Wilkinson said several restaurant employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military.

RELATED: The owner of the Red Hen explains why she asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave

Sanders’ tweet created a firestorm on Twitter, with many conservatives and Trump supporters, including her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chiming in with criticism of the restaurant.

Where does it end? We seem to have reached the point of no return when it comes to incivility among our citizens. And now, many folks are asking folks to pump the brakes.

Again, growing incivility in our discourse has been an issue for years — much of it racially charged for political purposes by Obama’s election, police shootings, etc. But we’ve apparently gone beyond vocal disagreements over abortion rights to not even sitting next to one another in a restaurant or movie theater, filling prescriptions at the same pharmacy or buying a wedding cake from the same baker.

A primary reason for things reaching this new level, whether some of us want to admit it or not, lies at the feet of President Trump and his almost daily divisive Twitter rants in the name of not being politically correct.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) at a news conference where House Democrats called for an end to separating immigrant families, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

The trouble is liberals or progressives are no longer content with turning the other cheek. Beyond the protests and calls to action on everything from Confederate monuments to women’s rights to gun rights, the left-wingers now seem as energized as their counterparts on the right under the Obama administration.

It’s now commonplace to hear Trump supporters and Republicans — who still approve of the job he’s doing — ask for folks to “just give him a chance.”

“Fat chance,” say an increasing number of liberals. “Like the chance you gave Barack Obama?” they reply.

If we’re not quite down the rabbit hole here, we’re getting uncomfortably close. And we don’t need folks pushing us even further.

Maxine Waters, the Democratic firebrand congresswoman from California, chided a crowd this weekend to “push back” against Trump supporters wherever you see them, “in a restaurant, in the department store, in a gas station.”

We don’t need that.

But Bondi wasn’t much better. She went on Fox News Sunday to boast of not backing down from protesters — with appropriate police backup of course — and suggested, “The next people are going to come with guns. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Yeah, real helpful.

RELATED: Trump attacks ‘filthy’ Red Hen, the Virginia restaurant that asked Sarah Sanders to leave

And then there’s the president himself, who once again took to Twitter to dis the restaurant that booted Sanders.

President Donald J. Trump (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

“The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

“I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” he added.

It was unclear Monday whether Trump had ever visited the establishment — the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, which is 50 miles northeast of Roanoke near the Shenandoah Valley — or how he would have determined its level of cleanliness.

The Red Hen passed its latest state health inspection, in February, without any violations.

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He later also went to Twitter to take some sophomoric jabs at Waters.

As I said earlier, the president can shut a lot of this down or at least put us on a path back to civility with his own words and actions.

The question will he, or maybe we’ve already gone to far down that rabbit hole.

Goodman: Do you see President Trump as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize?

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a campaign-style rally in Washington Township, Mich., on Saturday. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

Is there a Nobel Peace Prize in President Trump’s future? The man who talked about “shithole countries” and warned North Korea, and its leader “little Rocket Man,” of “fire and fury like the world has never seen”?

Sen. Lindsay Graham thinks it’s possible. The South Carolina Republican and former Trump critic said that if there’s a successful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Trump should get the credit.

“Donald Trump convinced North Korea and China he was serious about bringing about change,” Graham said Friday. “We’re not there yet, but if this happens, President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”

And so does Harry J. Kazianas, director of the conservative Center for the National Interest.

President Trump’s tough stance against a nuclear North Korea and his success in winning approval of international economic sanctions against the North at the United Nations that have crippled the country’s economy clearly succeeded beyond expectations in pushing Kim to the negotiating table.

Streeter: Writer’s criticism proves age is just a number, not a sign of maturity

CNN Headline News’ Asheligh Banfield came under fire for criticizing a woman who accused actor Aziz Ansari of date rape.

When my niece was about 13, her two favorite insults were “That’s old” and “Well, I’ve never heard of it.” We heard them mostly when she didn’t like whatever pre-2000-era song was playing on the car radio. It tickled us, because imagining that anything that’s escaped your seasoned and vast 13-year-old frame of reference is irrelevant is the height of hilarity. Girl, you can’t even drive or be out after dark without an adult. You’re funny.

While that attitude is hilarious when you’re 13, wishing your aunt would stop playing The Bangles in the car, it’s less cute when you’re a 22-year-old professional journalist who can’t come up with any better clapback at another journalist who disagrees with you than “Dude, you’re old.”

Because if you’re lucky, 22-year-olds, you’ll be old one day, too. And that’s a good thing.

I’m talking about Katie Way, a writer for a website called Babe.net, which I had never heard of before last week, a fact that doesn’t automatically make it irrelevant because I’m mature enough to know that I don’t know everything. Way wrote an explosive story about a sexual encounter between actor Aziz Ansari and an anonymous photographer called Grace, which has been characterized as everything from assault to a bad date. I’m not going to debate that point, because I wasn’t there, and if even the two people who were can’t decide on what happened, heck if I’m gonna try.

But CNN Headline News anchor Ashleigh Banfield had a lot to say about it, and after an impassioned on-air “open letter” in which she accused Way and “Grace” of carelessly belittling the #MeToo movement with a hap-hazard takedown. After Banfield’s clip went viral, Headline News reached out to Way, whose response was not only, as she wrote, “an unequivocal no,” but an attempt to highlight Banfield’s irrelevancy that just proves her own immaturity.

Way’s rebuttal does detail her “disgust” that Banfield never attempted to speak to her or “Grace” before blasting her on TV, and reiterates “Grace’s” bravery at speaking up and adding to the conversation. But too much of the email is a shockingly juvenile taking of umbrage with the fact that someone as old as Banfield, “someone I’m certain no one under the age of 45 has ever heard of,” would dare have an opinion. She attacks the older reporter as a “burgundy lipstick bad highlights second wave feminist has-been” and reiterated that “no one my age would ever watch your network.”

Oh, good burn, sweetie. Obviously if you wouldn’t watch it, it’s trash.

Aziz Ansari arrives at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. The publication of an account by a woman identified only as “Grace” detailing her 2017 encounter with comedian Aziz Ansari intimated that Ansari deserved inclusion in the ranks of abusive perpetrators, yet many readers _ women and men _ concluded the encounter amounted to an all-too-common instance of bad sex during a date gone awry. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

I am hoping that if Way had a moment to think about how she was responding before hitting “Send,” that she would have realized how dumb and unprofessional she sounds. See, Katie, you have a right to defend your work, and to defend “Grace.” But 50 percent of that defense is that the person criticizing you is too old to matter. And that’s petty and unhelpful. In case someone hasn’t told you yet, Ashleigh Banfield has interviewed world leaders. She is on a national network. She has almost 80,000 Twitter followers, a mark of success that perhaps someone your age might appreciate.

She may be someone you’ve never heard of, but a lot of other people have. And the fact that you think that she’s nobody because you don’t know her is rich, since a lot of people never heard of you or Babe.net before this Ansari story, either. Of course you disagree with her take. So do that. Talk about what you think is a lack of ethics. Talk about her professionalism. Talk about how you think “Grace” has been disrespected. Talking about her highlights and her lipstick means you’ve run out of argument.

Here’s the thing — being 22 and having a public platform is great. Having that sort of energy and passion at any age is something to be proud of. But if you are lucky, Katie, and all the other Katies out there who throw out “old” as a pejorative, you will one day be 30. And 40. And, as Banfield is, 50. And you will have made mistakes, and gotten a few wrinkles, and stopped recognizing half the names on the MTV VMA Awards. And hopefully you will have become accomplished in whatever field you chose, and have gained some wisdom.

Aging, if you’re lucky enough to actually not die before your time, is not a sin. It’s not bad. It’s just the natural order of things. There are many foolish 45-year-olds, and many wise 22-year-olds. All age says is how many birthdays you’ve had. It doesn’t automatically define how smart you are, how cool you are, or your worth as a person. Your ability to take criticism and not lash out at people? That’s another matter.

Because you know who was 22 years old once? Ashleigh Banfield. And you know who’s not gonna be 22 years old next year? You. Youth is not forever. But immaturity can be if you won’t listen. Don’t let that be you.

Christie: Where are the #MeToo kudos for the good guy non-harassers?

CARTOON VIEW SCOTT STANTIS

The way the #MeToo movement has taken off has men in pretty much every industry quaking in their boots these days as they search their memories for any incident that could have been construed as sexual harassment by a colleague.

“Well I certainly didn’t grope anyone, but was that flirtatious comment or hug over the line?” they might ask themselves.

In truth, it’s probably a good idea. Every man has arguably been guilty of borderline boorish behavior at some point in his life. Much of it — depending on the perceived infraction, of course — attributable to being young and stupid.

However, this excuse tends to fall to the wayside the older and more mature a man is, right? Yes. Definitely.

RELATED: Commentary: From ‘Me Too’ to ‘Not One More’

RELATED: Commentary: #MeToo isn’t the right answer to sexual misconduct

That all said, a legitimate question has arisen about those men who managed to keep their boorish behavior — and hands — in check because they were “raised right”. Those male colleagues who actually encouraged their female counterparts in their careers.

With so much bad boy behavior being brought forth, are these good guys getting lost in the din?

The following op-ed from Post reader Karen Coody Cooper raises that point. Do you agree?

POINT OF VIEW: A long time coming

There is a long history bringing us to this moment where society is finally listening to women speaking out about sexual assaults from men in the workplace. Whether this movement can accomplish change hangs in the balance. Those who think women should just get over it seemingly want to give men a free pass. Admittedly, there are degrees of harassment, and this new movement will succeed only if we are collecting evidence and analyzing degrees of egregiousness.

After finishing my undergraduate work in anthropology, the dean of my department gave me a night class to teach. I felt he was demonstrating extraordinary confidence in my abilities. Instead he just wanted an excuse to see me during evening hours and invite me to a hotel room. My dilemma was that if I declined, he would probably not hire me again, nor provide stellar recommendations, or mentor me when hurdles arose. He should have been the one who could advise me on what to do in this situation. Was my career going to end before it began?

Too many young women, initially aspiring to build careers, have deserted workplaces when a male, assigned to mentor, instead moved to conquer. We need to make sure that women report any improper behaviors directed at them. Exit interviews should include asking departing employees if they experienced sexual harassment. I regret not reporting two different occurrences. Looking back, I believe in both instances, the perpetrators were repeat offenders. Our silence serves only to abet those who will harm others. Too often, we move on with our lives. Now, this movement compels us to speak, and to encourage others to speak.

Most men and women from time immemorial partnered their attributes and bonded with respect for each other. Some men, however, never develop empathy or respect for women. Some men continue to see women as conquests.

We need to thank those good men who won’t be patting our butts, the men who are supportive colleagues in the workplace, the men a married woman can have lunch with and know there won’t be come-ons, and male department heads who understand discrimination and will listen when we report the guy who keeps leaving suggestive notes on our desk. We can’t do this alone, but we can transform the world if we, men and women, work together toward the goal of ridding the workplace of sexual harassment.

KAREN COODY COOPER, LAKE WORTH

Christie: Do Palm Beach County Millennials really want micro-apartments?

Billionaire developer Jeff Greene’s seemingly abrupt decision to scrap his much-anticipated plans to build Banyan Place is doing nothing to stifle concerns about a reputation for not following through on big project ideas. (The Palm Beach Post)

Well, that was disappointing.

I’m talking about billionaire West Palm Beach developer Jeff Greene’s seemingly abrupt decision to scrap his much-anticipated plans to build a 12-story, 348-unit micro-apartment project called Banyan Place.

Yep. Greene — handing ammunition to critics who say he doesn’t follow through on big project ideas — is telling all those West Palm Beach Millennials who were looking to him for some relief from Palm Beach County’s workforce housing crisis to look elsewhere. At least for now.

“I jumped the gun,” he told the Post’s Tony Doris. “I should have done a lot more research before I went through the entire entitlement process and spent a lot of people’s time on it.”

RELATED: Plan for downtown West Palm micro apartments is scrapped

No kidding. Greene announced this project back in February, and has jumped through all the necessary zoning hoops to get final city commission approval in June.

Not that it means that much to South Florida Baby Boomers, who tend to like their space. But their kids and grandkids — read Millennials — are not thought to be as picky in that regard.

Greene says the projected rents — about $995 to $1,200 a month for 340 to 560 square feet — are just too low to make sense; especially when you add in upscale kitchens, bathrooms, and washers and dryers.

But is it possible that when it comes to space, the county’s Millennials don’t fall too far from the family tree when it comes to elbow room? Especially if you’re asking for $1,000 for what is essentially their bedroom in their parents’ home (sans mom’s home-cooking to boot)?

Greene said the projected rents for Banyan Place — about $995 to $1,200 a month for 340 to 560 square feet — were just too low to make sense; especially when you add in upscale kitchens, bathrooms, and washers and dryers.

Maybe.

But “at end of the day,” Greene told Doris, “I ran numbers. If you have a choice of a small room with no view, or a 30-story building with views of everything, (it) can’t compete” with other nearby projects about to be completed near the downtown West Palm Beach Brightline station.

“I’m stepping back now to see how they all do.”

Greene’s right about competition. The city, behind Mayor Jeri Muoio, is experiencing something of a renaissance as it seeks to make itself more attractive to Millennials. Take 312 Northwood, the new apartment complex that just opened at the corner of Dixie Highway and 23rd Street. A few weeks after the doors opened this summer, the building was already 25 percent full, with residents paying between $1,400 to $1,850 for one and two-bedroom apartments, and some apartments as high as $2,300 a month.

Developer Neil Kozokoff expects the property’s 100 units — 75 of which have views of the Intracoastal Waterway — to be fully leased by the end of the year . At that point, he’ll consider building 102 apartments on land he owns nearby.

Greene said he is moving forward with his One West Palm office/hotel/condo towers at 550 Quadrille Blvd., a two-building, 30-story project that would include the city’s biggest Class A office tower.(Contributed)

Those aren’t “micro-apartments.” But TBCG Capital Group’s five-building project on the west side of Northwood Village is planning some. The 3.5-acre tract dubbed the “anchor site” will also include offices, retail space, townhouses and apartments — including workforce housing.

Whether Greene’s decision to cut bait is just a Jeff Greene thing or a competition thing, there’s no denying that the city’s and county’s issues with affordable housing for a burgeoning young white-collar workforce is at crisis levels.

Not only can 75 percent of the county’s households not afford the median price of a single-family home, but rents north of $1,800 per month for a typical 1,100-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment have kept many young professionals from moving out of their parents’ homes.

RELATED: Editorial: Builders must continue to step forward with workforce housing

That’s why Greene’s decision, though understandable, is disappointing.

Aggressive ideas like micro-apartments are needed if West Palm Beach and other local municipalities are going to make a dent in this burgeoning crisis. In fact, West Palm Beach has staked the future of its downtown on shelved projects like Greene’s, which had the added bonus of a pedestrian passageway on its east side, connecting Banyan to Clematis Street through the courtyard of popular Subculture Coffee. That 20-foot-wide strip of land currently dead-ends, preventing any connection between the boulevard and the popular entertainment street.

Whether micro-apartments are the way to go remains to be seen. The concept seems much more of a Northern, big city phenomenon, but might work in tandem with high-speed rail, as leaders in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami believe.

Developers need to continue to step forward with fresh concepts, and cities need to continue to offer incentives for them to do so.

Here’s a suggestion: Talk to Millennials, many of whom are now well into their late 20s and 30s, and find out what they really want.

Goodman: Gov. Rick Scott, friend of the environment, LOL.

Gov. Rick Scott applauds with guests after announcing funding for freshwater springs and Everglades restoration as a part of his 2015 state budget, during a visit to the Florida Audubon Birds of Prey Center, in Maitland, Fla. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank)

Rick Scott as defender of Florida’s lands, air and waters? Seriously?

The Florida governor whose mantra is jobs, jobs, jobs?  Who rode to office on a wave of tea party support and has pushed for limiting government and gutting regulations, including those that protect the environment, in the name of giving business a freer rein?

Yet here he was this week, proposing to boost spending on Florida’s natural resources and environmental programs by $220 million.

The $1.7 billion environmental package for lawmakers to consider in 2018 includes funding for the state’s springs, beaches and parks, along with $355 million for Everglades restoration, $50 million to help the federal government speed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee and $50 million for Florida Forever, the state’s most prominent land-preservation fund. (News Service of Florida)

And on Thursday, he touted news that his good friend President Donald Trump has ordered expedited federal spending on the Herbert Hoover Dike. Although, this might not fall under the category of “environment” so much as “disaster avoidance,” given the life-threatening dangers of a shaky levee in a major hurricane; we’re only a few weeks removed from when it looked like Irma was going to rake the center of the state and roar over Lake Okeechobee.

 

It’s almost enough to make you forget that Scott launched a thousand late-night TV jokes when his administration scrubbed the words “climate change” and “global warning” from official communications, according to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Because, you know, Florida doesn’t have much coastline to worry about.

It’s an easy guess why the governor is now making sure that we all know that he cares a great, great deal about our natural resources. The 2018 race for U.S. Senate is warming up. And Scott, his second term coming to an end, is expected to try to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who has won the statewide office three times already. Current polling shows they’re virtually tied.

Florida voters are as divided as the rest of the country on most issues, but we’re in general accord when it comes to protecting the environment. Just look at 2014’s Amendment 1, which established a huge fund for land and water conservation by setting aside a portion of an existing real-estate tax. It passed with 75 percent of the vote.

In Scott’s two victorious races for governor, by contrast, he couldn’t win 49 percent of the vote.

So painting yourself as an environmentalist is good politics in this state. The trouble is, Scott has a record that looks like this:

  • With the Legislature’s help, he ordered water management districts to slash their property tax collections soon after taking office. The South Florida Water Management District, which oversees Everglades restoration, had its budget cut by almost half. It operates with less money today than it did in 2008. Experienced scientists and engineers who did solid work for the water district are gone.
  • In 2011, Scott abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw development and tried to promote rational growth. To Scott, the department created too much red tape for developers.
  • Under Scott, Florida has eased up on enforcing rules against polluters. The Department of Environmental Protection has opened 81 percent fewer pollution-regulation cases since 2010, the year before Scott took office, according to Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
  • That $50 million request he’s now making for Florida Forever land conservation purchases? Big deal. Until the Great Recession, the program got $300 million a year. Since Scott’s reelection in 2014, his requests for the program peaked at $25.1 million. Even after  voters passed Amendment 1 in that 2014 landslide, budget allocations haven’t surpassed $15.2 million, and this year Florida Forever was zeroed out. All of these sums look pretty paltry when you consider how much money Amendment 1 generates from the documentary-stamp tax. For next fiscal year, it’s an estimated $862.2 million.

There was another time when Scott talked a lot about the environment. That was 2014, when he was running for re-election.

He campaigned “on a $1 billion, 10-year environmental blueprint that in many aspects mirrored the environmental spending amendment that was also before voters at the time. The platform item included plans to request $150 million a year for Florida Forever.” (News Service of Florida)

Once Scott was returned to office, that $150 million a year never materialized.

There’s a reason that Democratic foes are calling Scott an “election year environmentalist.”

Florida needs leaders who are every-year environmentalists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodman: GOP’s split on Trump forgotten when it comes to coddling financial firms

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., left, and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., right, neither running for reelection, have lashed President Donald Trump with scorching criticism. Here they are in 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

Disarray? What disarray?

Yesterday, political reporters and pundits were panting over the bare-knuckled, full-throated criticisms of President Donald J. Trump by two Republican senators: Bob Corker, of Tennessee, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Jeff Flake, the junior senator from Arizona whose political idol is conservative icon Barry Goldwater.

It was unprecedented to have two Republican stalwarts lambaste a Republican president in such dire terms, especially on the same day.

Corker: Trump has “great difficulty with the truth” and “the debasement of the nation is what he’ll be remembered most for.”

Flake: “Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is, when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.”

This all points, the pundits said, to a great schism between the Trumpists who hold the party regulars in fear, and the liberated few who have been freed to speak against the unclothed emperor because they have opted out of re-election.

And yes, it does speak to a great split between those willing to denounce the danger of Donald Trump’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior,” as Flake called it, and the many toadies who may shudder in private but who shut up in public for the greater cause of passing big tax breaks for the wealthy.

But just hours after Corker and Flake enunciated these noble and necessary statements, they joined with 48 of their fellow Republicans for a nighttime debate and vote to repeal a banking rule that would let consumers band together to sue their bank or credit card company to resolve financial disputes.

Or as it’s also called, GOP business as usual.

A vote from Vice President Mike Pence shortly after 10 p.m. broke a 50-50 tie to strike down the new rule, a major effort by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help consumers fight back against god-awful practices of financial institutions. The bureau is the watchdog created by Congress after the 2008 economic crisis.

One more legacy of the Obama years gets reversed.

The New York Times explains:

The rule, five years in the making, would have dealt a serious blow to financial firms, potentially exposing them to a flood of costly lawsuits over questionable business practices.

For decades, credit card companies and banks have inserted arbitration clauses into the fine print of financial contracts to circumvent the courts and bar people from pooling their resources in class-action lawsuits. By forcing people into private arbitration, the clauses effectively take away one of the few tools that individuals have to fight predatory and deceptive business practices. Arbitration clauses have derailed claims of financial gouging, discrimination in car sales and unfair fees.

The new rule written by the consumer bureau, which was set to take effect in 2019, would have restored the right of individuals to sue in court. It was part of a spate of actions by the bureau, which has cracked down on debt collectors, the student loan industry and payday lenders.

The vote was a big gift to that credit card company that’s hitting you with hidden charges. As the Washington Post put it:

The rules would have cost the industry billions of dollars, according to some estimates. With the Senate’s vote, Wall Street is beginning to reap the benefits of the Trump administration focus on rolling back regulations it says are strangling the economy.

Richard Cordray  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“Tonight’s vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” Richard Cordray, the director of the consumer bureau, said in a statement. “As a result, companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax remain free to break the law without fear of legal blowback from their customers.”

The only two Republicans to join Democrats in voting against the measure were Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

Every other GOP member of the Senate, however they feel about Trump, fell in step when given the chance to coddle Wall Street. That includes Sen. John McCain, who made thinly veiled criticisms of Trump in a speech on Oct. 16 that warned against “half-baked, spurious nationalism.”

John McCain (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

You can be sure they’ll do the same thing when it comes to serving up big tax cuts to corporations and rich individuals (unless the so-far-unseen tax legislation contains details unacceptable to some members, as happened with health care).

The Consumers Union and several veterans groups, including the American Legion, lobbied to keep the rule. As well they should have, because class-action lawsuits are a way of putting a spotlight on misdeeds by businesses that would otherwise get little attention. They also allow groups of people to reclaim small amounts of money they otherwise wouldn’t have the time or money to go after.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader in the Senate, is not the most articulate of politicians. But he hit the nail on the head as the Senate neared its vote:

“Once again, we’re helping the powerful against the powerless.”

Christie: PBC school teacher may have answer to post-Hurricane Irma blues

John I. Leonard High School teacher Xi Bajipura (standing second from right) hamming it up with other shelter volunteers and residents. (Photo courtesy of Xi Bajipura)

As we continue to dig ourselves out from under about 3 million cubic yards of debris, the memories of our time with Hurricane Irma remain fresh on our minds.

A friend of mine is fond of saying that many Palm Beach County residents are still walking around in a post-Irma funk… like folks just aren’t quite themselves yet.

Easy to understand, right? I mean between the loss of power, messed up traffic lights and above-mentioned vegetation debris still piled up on many neighborhood streets, it can be hard to put Irma behind you.

RELATED: Hurricane Irma: Employees question county shelter staffing policy

For a smaller group of residents, there was also the time spent at the 15 country-run shelters. The Post, last month in the days following Irma, spoke with a handful of county employees who were none-to-happy to be “volun-told” they’d have to work in shelters before, during and after the storms.

Shelter residents at John I. Leonard High School doing stretching exercises during Hurricane Irma. (Photo courtesy of Xi Bajipura)

The Post’s story got lots of attention; much of it negative toward the county as readers felt for the county employees who obviously didn’t want to work at the shelters despite being paid double time-and-a-half to do so.

Well, that’s something that County Administrator Verdenia Baker will have to contend with going forward given that she has made it clear the new policy of requiring county employees to staff shelters will not be changing — at least for the remainder of this hurricane season.

It might surprise some, however, that there were shelter workers who actually did want to be there; helping friends, neighbors and strangers get through the storm.

To that end, Monday’s “Point of View” column from Xi Bajipura — “Pooja Patel” to her friends — was a pleasant reminder that no matter the inconvenience to our own personal lives, that we can be here for one another. That our county’s diversity is not a burden, but a blessing. And that there is more that unites us than divides us.

It’s just possible that the ESE VE instructor in the Social Sciences at John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres. her uplifting words may bring many of us out of our post-Irma daze. Let’s hope so.

Her column is worth repeating. So here it is in its entirety:

What I witnessed in the four days serving in John I. Leonard High School’s shelter stretched my heart to how deep love can swim in times of crisis.

Imagine uprooting yourself from the comforts of your home, bed and safety in the midst of a devastating hurricane not knowing if there would be a home on your return. This cracked open the window into how refugees must feel except there is no chance of returning home.

About 2,100 people of all backgrounds and ages entered the gates of John I. Leonard. There was richness in life experiences and cultures. I met beautiful families and students of mine from Pahokee, Belle Glade, Haiti, the Caribbean, Bangladesh, Iraq, Guatemala and South America. All were united under one roof in Greenacres.

Despite conditions and finite resources, evacuees offered water and food to each other and volunteers. They shared their limited blankets, pillows and air mattresses to those who came with no bedding. They helped lift elderly from the ground. They aided the disabled using the restroom in the dark.

For the first time in some time I felt that Americans were united above politics, religion, nationality and income. I could breathe in the vastness of humanity, its unlimited greatness.

Residents who sheltered at John I. Leonard High School during Hurricane Irma made their own checkerboards and game pieces to play. (Photo courtesy of Xi Bajipura)

With unconditional care, volunteers built community in the special needs and physically challenged unit. Our 19-hour volunteer shift around the clock helped us become family to our guests. We organized karaoke and Zumba classes with seniors, including a WWII veteran, amputees, and those with special needs, dementia and PTSD. We played checkers on a homemade checkerboard that one evacuee made with cardboard and Sharpie markers. Guests quickly drank so they could offer their caps and pill bottle tops for game pieces. We told stories and listened. We sent positive vibes of prayers and love to all those affected by hurricanes. One evacuee has already started planning activities and games for her next stay at the shelter.

John I. Leonard High School shelter volunteers Jim Lynch (left) and Xi Bajipura. (Photo courtesy of Xi Bajipura)

“When I first entered the shelter, I thought that I was making a big mistake. I never had a reason to stay at a shelter before. I thank God for the volunteers who made my experience at the shelter a memorable one of joy and unity during a difficult time. Let’s not forget that a few of the (horror) stories were true, but we all worked together to create an environment where God is welcomed,” said Inger Hogan, a disabled Zumba instructor who shared her passion for dance with seniors.

No matter where you come from, how much money you have, what religion you practice or what you believe in, natural disasters don’t discriminate. As humans we are all connected by natural forces that go beyond the surface. Hurricane Irma reminded us of humankind’s fragility yet beauty. I have so much gratitude for my ability to bond and serve in ways I did not know were possible.

XI BAJIPURA, GREENACRES

Amen.