Saturday, April 22, 2006

Coping with the heat

This Miami spring feels warmer than any in my 32-year experience of the city, and I suspect that one reason is the huge loss of tree canopy in last year's hurricanes. Not only did the storm wreck many of our trees; many others that were damaged were cut up and hauled away rather than pruned and reset in their holes.

One place where that happened was the park near my house. As I walked past this afternoon, a children's party was under way at a spot that before the storms was shaded by several leafy trees. A dozen children played in the sunshine while grownups watched from their lawn chairs. Parked at the curb were five cars and eight vans and sport utility vehicles. (Evidently there's no car-pooling in this social circle.)

We have devalued our trees in Miami, and it is no surprise that some of our lawmakers are willing to sacrifice some more of them to preserve a clear view of billboards along our streets and roads. The idea sounded so absurd when I heard it that I thought it a joke, but this is a serious proposal that the Florida Senate has already approved. Some communities protect trees; ours protects billboards. This billboard protection bill is a fine example of the skewed priorities in a state that owes its appeal to natural beauty. What can its sponsors be thinking?

The bill's progress through the Senate. I haven't found the votes on the floor, but the links near the bottom of that page do show you who was for and against the bill in committee.

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