Miami Herald blew it when it blew ‘racism’ whistle in Palmetto Bay

I’m not going to mince words when it comes to the article that the Miami Herald recently posted on its website.

It was “click bait” pure and simple. The Herald comes out with a lot of great stories like the assassination of the Haitian president and the Surfside condo collapse, but this one they got wrong.  

Herald reporters wrote an article about several changes in the Village of Palmetto Bay zoning code, focusing on a provision requiring that any business that wants to put in a window on the exterior from which food and drinks are dispensed would have to get a permit. The online version’s headline? In today’s news environment, so often it is “get it published ASAP,” “be the first and we’ll deal with it later” mentality.  

“‘Either stupidity or racism’: Is Palmetto Bay really trying to ban Cuban coffee windows?” 

The answer in the article was a clear “No.” Certain changes to a business in Palmetto Bay require a permit. Want to change out exterior doors? You’ve got to have a permit. Want to replace plate glass windows? You need a permit. And guess what? If you want to swap out a static window for one through which you’re going to sell food and drink, you need a permit.  

It’s not discrimination. It’s a matter of health and safety. Say you want to put a service window on a wall the sits on a public sidewalk. If the sidewalk is too narrow, it might force pedestrians to step out into traffic to go around the crowd milling about the window.  

The application would require an applicant to answer a few more questions, like giving details on how deep the sidewalk is. 

The village’s planning director, Maria Pineda, was clear in her answers to the reporters’ questions. The existing windows can stay — there’s no need for them to do anything. Any new business that wants to install one will need to get a permit. That’s it.  

The Herald seems to have realized its mistake. The headline on the print version that went out in Sunday’s edition was changed to: “Is Palmetto Bay really trying to ban Cuban ventanitas? Village says no.”  

So why all the fuss?  

It’s because there’s a village election for mayor coming up in November 2022. There’s a developer PAC called “A Better Palmetto Bay” that’s pushing to see that Mayor Karyn Cunningham doesn’t get reelected.  

The “stupidity or racism” quote comes from ousted council member David Singer, who was beaten in the November 2020 election by Steve Cody by a margin of 498 votes. The Herald article describes Singer as “an incendiary figure.” 

I don’t blame either reporters, or the bad headline on the digital edition or credit them for the change in the print edition. Headline writing is an editor’s job and the Herald editor that came up with that first headline that was, to be generous, grossly misleading.  

But as sure as it will regularly rain in the afternoon in Palmetto Bay, the attacks from Singer and the others through this PAC will continue. I’m just glad that around 3:05 in the afternoon in Palmetto Bay I’ll still be able to get my cafecito.


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