Time magazine revisits Florida’s problems

Jul 14, 2008

Time magazine is tackling a familiar topic in a story reminiscent of its classic Paradise Lost article.

Miami Herald--July 14, 2008

Paradise has gone missing again.

Says who? Time, that’s who.

Nearly three decades after the magazine’s Paradise Lost? cover story on South Florida’s ills gave the peninsula an inferiority complex, Time is once again warning of impending disaster in the state.

Back then it was refugees, riots and crime. Now, it is . . . well, let Time tell it:

”Greetings from Florida, where the winters are great!” begins the six-page spread, titled Is Florida the Sunset State? “Otherwise, there’s trouble in paradise. We’re facing our worst real estate meltdown since the Depression. We’ve got a water crisis, insurance crisis, environmental crisis and budget crisis to go with our housing crisis.”

That’s a lot of crises. Has the state that likes to boast of having a world-class-this and a world-class-that become a world-class whipping boy? To the contrary, those quoted in the article did not quibble with the assertion that times are tough.

”We have some flashing red lights,” Bob Graham, the former governor and senator, told The Miami Herald on Sunday.

Elaborating on what he told the magazine, Graham cited two key indicators of trouble in Florida: a decline in demographic growth and a decline in per capita income in the state compared to the rest of the country.

Time’s 1981 dissection of South Florida’s problems (the latest article deals with the whole state) was mentioned often over the years as the area’s fortunes rose and fell. During the go-go days of the condo boom, the article seemed quaint and outdated, which it was.

And then, Paradise got lost again. But is it gone for good?

Others quoted by Time agreed with the overall gloomy theme — but noted in interviews with The Miami Herald that Florida has a bust/boom history and always bounces back.

”Yes, Florida is in a mess,” University of South Florida historian Gary Mormino said. “I bet Florida will roar back. And it will be a very different Florida.”

J. Allison DeFoor, a lobbyist, lawyer and historian quoted by the magazine, agreed.

”This is not a shocking revelatory trend. This is just Florida,” DeFoor said. “It’s still going to be paradise, but it’s not going to be a cheap paradise.”