Here's a story that will make you feel secure flying out of Miami International Airport: The man in charge of security at MIA handed his car keys to a thief.

Nelson Oramas pulled up in front of Dicey Riley's bar in Fort Lauderdale, turned to the first black guy he saw on the street, assumed he was a valet, tossed his car keys to the man, handed him a five-dollar bill, and walked off. Oh, and he left a fully loaded Browning 9 mm handgun and an extra clip lying in the back of his Miami-Dade County-leased Jeep Cherokee. When Oramas returned, guess what? The "valet," the car, and his gun were gone.

Why would someone hand over the keys to his car to a complete stranger on the street? The man standing near the bar wasn't wearing a uniform, there was no sign indicating valet parking, and Oramas didn't get a ticket or receipt back. When interviewed by Jim DeFede of Miami New Times, Oramas said, "I feel kind of silly."

No shit, Sherlock.

Oramas says he got "ripped off in some sort of valet scam," which makes us wonder why a cop with 23 years of experience who makes $130,000 a year in law-enforcement management wouldn't report the crime until the next day. Oramas, according to Fort Lauderdale police, says discovered his car was missing at about 1 a.m., but he decided to go home, get some sleep, and report the car and gun missing in the morning. But wouldn't a law-enforcement professional realize that reporting a theft quickly would give the police a better chance of catching a thief with a loaded weapon?

Maybe he was a bit inebriated when he came out of the bar and decided to sober up before confronting his fellow officers. Oramas denies that he was drinking that night. A better question might be, was he thinking that night?

If ever there were a group of people on whom journalists should keep a careful eye in Florida, it's lobbyists. They manipulate the political process in favor of anyone who pays them, so they obviously need to be closely scrutinized.

So we were surprised to learn that The Herald buddied up to a number of lobbyists, allowed them to judge the effectiveness of lawmakers, and printed the results in the paper.

The whole process of "ranking" legislators is suspect, after all. Why do citizens need to be told what to think? Why not just do stories that reveal the effectiveness of the legislators? The ratings are bogus because much of the information used in the rankings comes from lobbyists who have something to gain by praising the people who do their bidding.

Worse yet, the paper put its capital bureau chief Steve Bousquet on the panel with lobbyists like Mike Abrams (Caribbean Cruise Association) and Art Collins (Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation.)

St. Petersburg Times bureau chief in Tallahassee, Lucy Morgan, sees an inherent problem in having journalists work with lobbyists, and the idea of journalists handing out grades doesn't sit well either. "We shouldn't be in the process of giving tangible support to candidates like this on the news pages."

Herald assistant managing editor Mark Seibel says he thought the paper provided excellent coverage of the session but admitted that he wasn't comfortable having lobbyists in the mix of evaluators.

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh