Letters

NO POLITICS, NO HERESY
In "Politics and Power" (August 14) a reference was made to the Gay and Lesbian Youth Group of South Florida, Inc. in a quote attributed to Greg Baldwin. This quote is in error. As president of the youth group, I wish to make a correction.

In the article, it was suggested that the youth group participated in the debate over Club Body Center and that we attended the county commission discussion. In a larger sense this also might suggest that the youth group is a political organization. The youth group was formed in 1982 to provide peer counseling and social activities for young gays and lesbians. We offer one of the few places where young gays and lesbians can meet in a caring and supportive environment. This has been our mission for almost ten years.

The youth group is one of the oldest and largest gay and lesbian organizations in the southeastern United States. In Florida we were the first gay and lesbian organization to become incorporated. Greg Baldwin was one of the lawyers who helped us to do this. The youth group was then granted 501(c)(3) tax exemption. This IRS designation means that we are exempt from corporate taxes. In return, organizations under this status (gay or otherwise) are not permitted to be "substantially involved" in politics or the endorsement of political candidates.

The youth group is open to everyone, regardless of political ideology. Therefore it would be incorrect for us to take an "official" stance regarding political issues. We feel that there are many organizations through which our members can express their political voice. For us to become "political" would only lead us away from our mission.

We encourage our members to be aware of the community around them and to take a stand for what they believe in. Some people in our community feel that a gay and lesbian organization without politics is heresy. We disagree, and after ten years of success, I think we've earned the right to do so.

Byron Scott Jones, president
Gay and Lesbian Youth Group of South Florida

PENROD RETURNS VOLLEY
Yes, the pros have packed up their volleyballs and split Miami Beach, but it is not because of Penrod's, as Bill Barrere said in your article ("Where Have All the Spikers Gone?" August 14). They left Miami Beach because of the more profitable tournaments on the West Coast.

As owner and general manager of Penrod's Beach Club on Miami Beach, I appreciate the opportunity to clarify certain accusations made in your article regarding beach volleyball on South Beach. It is always great to receive free publicity, but I strongly believe your loyal readers deserve to know the facts.

Years ago, when we signed the concessions lease with the City of Miami Beach, we presented the city with a comprehensive proposal on how Penrod's was going to promote Miami Beach, and beach volleyball was one of the many activities included. We did not invest in volleyball courts because of Mr. Barrere. Penrod's did not set aside a "little" cash, as Mr. Barrere said, to build six courts. Those courts have professional nets and are professionally maintained.

When we first started promoting beach volleyball on South Beach, we thought that by bringing in the pros from California, the sport of beach volleyball was going to take off in Florida, but we were wrong! It became such an expensive venture that we had to make certain changes. Let me explain why.

California professional players such as Sinjin Smith and Karch Kiraly will not fly to Miami for less than a $30,000 cash prize. This amount, plus advertising and setup, airfares, hotel accommodations, meals, et cetera, make the budget for this type of event more than $40,000, all of which we would have to provide if Penrod's could not find sponsors to help offset the costs.

When Florida pros get to rank at the levels of the California players, guess what - they pack up their volleyballs and split Miami Beach to head to California! Why? Because they make beach volleyball their number-one source of income.

Then we started sponsoring women's beach volleyball tournaments with great players like Jackie Silva (as seen on ESPN). But even though the investment was about $10,000 less than the male pros, the back-up of local attendance was not present.

Taking into consideration that Florida is about ten years behind California when it comes to the sport of beach volleyball, this huge investment brought very little financial return for the sponsors. I'm sorry we must contradict Mr. Barrere's comments about the "fun seekers and beer drinkers" who packed Penrod's and took to the courts "en masse," whose sheer numbers "overwhelmed more serious players." What a joke! Our community is not fully aware of the sport. Beach volleyball is quite different from the volleyball we all played in school. So when we advertised these topnotch professional players, it was not a big deal for our local residents. Penrod's has an obligation to the community at large, and Mr. Barrere and his colleagues are just a few.

It is true that the Penrod's name got a lot of coverage by getting all these pros down to Miami for tournaments we sponsored, but it is also not true that volleyball helped us put money in the till. On the contrary, promoting our own professional beach volleyball tournaments ended up being cost-prohibitive for Penrod's.

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