Category Archives: Miami

A Mystery: Miami Property Values Seem Immune to Climate Change Risk

There’s been a lot of news recently about the dire effects climate change can have on Miami, yet not only has the risk not been priced into real estate but values are rising. What’s up? Are climate change deniers that rich, or is something else going on? Is the risk seen as so far out as to be discounted to zero?

It’s flat here, there’s a lot of coastline, and a sea level rise of only a few feet would turn Coral Gables into New Venice. Even a foot and a half — which apparently has a decent change of happening in the next decade or three — would be very bad for Miami Beach, and also for much of South Florida in that it could impact water supplies and swamp power plants.

How then to explain why none of this is priced into the real estate market? Not only are house prices mostly going up after perhaps over-reacting to the the foreclosure crisis, but so too are waterfront land prices, as evidenced by this $100 million/acre sale of the last piece of undeveloped waterfront in downtown (total price for 1.25 acres was $125 million).

Yes, it could be a bubble. Yes, it could be the musical chairs phenomenon where the buyer thinks they can flip it, or develop it, before the music stops. Or it could be that the buyers watch too much Fox News, or have their own climate scientists.

I’d really like to know what’s going on here — if only because I (co)own a house. Any ideas?

Posted in Econ & Money, Miami | 4 Comments

Weird Water Comes to Coral Gables

This strange sign popped up on an official signpost less than two blocks from where I live:

smartwatercsi

In case it’s too small to read you can click for a bigger one, or take my word for it that at the top it says, “Working in partnership to deter crime.”  Then it has a Coral Gables Police badge next to the seal of the City of Coral Gables, along with the logo for “SmartwaterCSI”.  And the sign says, “Theives Beware.  You are entering an area where Property is forensically protetcted by SmartWater®.”

If you follow the URL on the sign and click around about, eventually you get to the “about” Smartwatercsi page which informs me that,

SmartWater is an asset protection system in the form of a clear liquid which contains a unique forensic code that is extremely robust and guaranteed to last a minimum of 5 years within all weather conditions. It is applied to items of value – personal, commercial, and industrial – which are frequently the target of theft.

The non-hazardous patented liquid leaves a long-lasting identifying mark that is invisible except under ultraviolet black light. Law enforcement officials take the smallest micro-fragment of SmartWater from stolen property and send it to SmartWater’s forensic laboratories, where it is scientifically analyzed to identify the owner.

As a result, thieves who make the mistake of targeting SmartWater marked-assets face a far greater risk of successful prosecution. Ultimately, as the statistics over the past 15 years exhibit, crime is reduced and the public enjoys a safer environment.

More clicking brings me to the price list: $100 (well, $99 before tax) for a bottle of the stuff and a one-year license — apparently you have to keep paying the $100 every year to maintain your entry in their database, even though the coating is supposed to last for five years. Or you could pay $200 (per year!) for a what I suppose is a larger bottle that does your car, or at least key parts of it that don’t have a VIN. Oh yes, you also get stickers to show off you think you have lots of valuable stuff worth stealing deter really up-to-date thieves.

Nowhere on the Smartwatercsi site (that I got sent to by the sign on public land) does it reveal a secret disclosed in this video that I found by doing some Googling: apparently by calling 305-441-5760 Coral Gables residents can get a “smartwater kit” for $30 (no mention of the annual fee after that, though). I called that number and got a recording telling me I’d reached the Coral Gables Citizens Crimewatch, they were unable to answer the phone but they are there to serve and assist me in any way, so I should my name and number and they’d get back to me.

More Googling revealed a Coral Gables police press release dated Feb. 12, 2014 that says you should call 305-476-7957 for the $30 offer. (It may have come out in February but this is the first I ever heard of it.) That number took me to what proclaims itself as the Coral Gables Police Department Smwartwater hotline. I’m going to rate the hotline water temperature at only lukewarm, given that this too was a recording that wanted my name and number and would get back to me.

So what I want to know — since both Wikipedia and Bruce Schneier tells me it’s for real1 — is

  1. Are these guys paying the City for the right to put up these signs? Or is the idea that we get the 70% discount in exchange for a lot of publicity on official buildings and spaces
  2. How many people in Coral Gables have actually signed up for this?
  3. Is the $30 Coral Gables price a one-time fee, or will there be annual charges too? Is there enough to cover your car? Or at least those headlamps that get stolen so often? Do you get all the stuff in the $100 pack or just a bottle and applicator?
  4. If there are ongoing annual charges, does the City have any guarantees about future price increases? Is there a danger Smartwatercsi will raise the price of the required annual user fee (if there is one) once they have a big installed base?
  5. Does the fact that a sign appeared nearby mean someone around here actually bought the stuff?
  6. If so, did they pay the $30 or the $100?
  7. Has anyone ever paid $100/year for this?
  8. Why don’t the signs–on public land, presumably set up with the City’s permission–direct you to a web page which discloses the Coral Gables discount?
  9. If someone from Coral Gables goes to the Smartwatercsi site not knowing about the discount and tries to make a purchase, will Smartwatercsi tell them about it?
  10. Does the Smartwater beverage company know about this?

Actually, I’m kidding about the last one – a drink and a crime deterrent are sufficiently dissimilar to make a likelihood of confusion as to the mark highly unlikely, and of course the website (but not the product) has “CSI” at the end of it. Wait, does the TV show know about this?


  1. Although Bruce also came up with a great hack to misuse it:
    The idea is for me to paint this stuff on my valuables as proof of ownership. I think a better idea would be for me to paint it on your valuables, and then call the police.

    []

Posted in Coral Gables | Leave a comment

Karma?

Somehow it seems fitting that it should be the USS Miami nuclear attack submarine that got scrapped yesterday because, well, a shipyard employee trying to get out of work set it on fire, causing $700 million in damage.

Posted in Miami, National Security | Leave a comment

Annals of Town/Gown Relations

Smart university Presidents know how to butter up local government officials.

The online Herald only has the boring version of the story, UM, Coral Gables tout partnership at annual meeting, in which town and gown recited their talking points about their accomplishments in the past year. That story ends, however, with this:

The manager listed his sole complaint, and addressed it to Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs and a guiding force behind the new SAC and its rebuilt Rathskeller. “Those delicious onion rings that sustained me through my college days are no longer on the menu,” he said. Salerno was a UM student in the 1970s when the old Rat was a hub of activity and for gastronomical pursuits.

Shalala laughed, suggesting she’d look into the omission.

The followup by Howard Cohen is in today’s print edition, Page 3B, and it’s more interesting than spoken equivalent of joint press releases:

City Manager Inspires Onion Rings

For the most part, University of Miami and CoralGables officials had nothing but praise for each other at the annual meeting last week.

The exception: Gables City Manger Pat Salerno found something missing from the Rathskeller at UM’s new $46.5 million Student Activities Center.

“Those delicious onion rings that sustained me through my college days are no longer on the menu,” Salerno lamented. UM President Donna Shalala chucked, suggesting she’d look into it.

The next day, the school announced that onions rings would return as a a special menu item when students hit classes in January. Salerno has a standing invitation to come taste test.

“I will add this item to the city’s list of accomplishments for this year,” he said. “I can’t wait to eat them.”

UM says the new snack will get a new name, too: SalernOrings.

Previously:

Posted in Coral Gables, U.Miami | Leave a comment

Miami at Night

Here is a photo of Miami at night because it has pretty clouds, and because I needed a test photo to see if I’ve fixed various blog issues.

Miami-at-night

Photo by James Good on Flickr and licensed subject to Creative Commons Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works license.

Posted in Discourse.net, Miami | 2 Comments

It Was New to Me

Rumpole retells “the old joke”:

How many Miami Beach police officers does it take to throw a defendant down a flight of stairs? None. He fell on his own. Repeatedly.

(In reference to this horrible story.)

Posted in Miami | Leave a comment

The Herald Thinks a Taser Death a Week is the “Rarest” Case

I sent an email to two reporters yesterday (not a letter to the editor):

I was somewhat surprised to see it asserted (without attribution) in your otherwise fine article today (“Tasered Artist Laid to Rest”) that tasers result in deaths in the US only “rarely”. They are and have been sufficiently frequent for Amnesty International to have issued a report condemning the frequency of them as far back as 2004. A later report put the death rate at 350 over a seven year period. Is 50 utterly unnecessary deaths per year at the hands of police considered “rare”? I hope not. I’d call it shockingly frequent.

(Other private estimates come up with even larger numbers for more recent periods. See for example http://electronicvillage.blogspot.com/2009/05/taser-related-deaths-in-united-states.html)

The issue of the extent to which deaths depend on pre-existing condition is somewhat debated, but in any case it is also a distraction. Your article presents it as something of an excuse for taser deaths, but in fact if some part of the population is statistically likely to be killed by tasers, that is just another reason why they should not be used, not an excuse for taking lives.

I wonder if you would please consider running a correction, at least as regards the frequency of taser deaths in the US, and in particular if your future coverage could please be less dismissive of 50+ annual cases of what, if it happened elsewhere, we would call state-sponsored killings.

As for whoever told you taser deaths are rare: stop trusting them.

Incidentally, the online version of the article has a different text from the printed version, it says “Tasers result in death in only the rarest of cases.”

Personally, I don’t see how an average of a death a week can be called the “rarest of cases” but I’m not a hardened journalist.

Posted in Miami, The Media | 1 Comment