Letters

Some of us Cubans have realized that it is better to deal with a WASP than with an "ethnic." Some of the worst "ethnics" come from your own stock.

When the English-only crusade began in Dade County, there were very few Anglo-Saxon names on the committee. Most of the surnames came from Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe. I believe that the problem with many "ethnics" is that they want to prove to themselves and to the world that they are more American than the Americans.

We Cubans started bilingualism because we wanted to return to democracy and to reconstruct our country. We wanted to take our children along. We wanted them to stick to our roots.

The problem was that most Cuban-American teenagers reacted against their roots. They wanted to become more American than apple pie. It was useless to cram biculturalism down their throats.

However, most of them backtracked when they got into their twenties. They claim that they rediscovered their roots. In fact, many of them even became "super Cubans."

This silly English-only crusade is simply backfiring against xenophobes. They only manage to antagonize our youngsters and turn them into "super Cubans." I think it's time we leave Cuban-American kids alone.

I want to make three things clear: First, that is it obvious that no one is going to get ahead in Miami without learning English. Second, it is a matter of fact that it is an advantage to be bilingual. Finally, you might get very far ahead of everybody else in this cosmopolitan and international tourist, commercial, financial, and cultural center if you bother to become a polyglot. So it's time to drop all of this xenophobia. It's bad for business.

Alfredo P. Leiseca
Miami

The U.S. Constitution, Property Tax Appeals, Esperanto, and You
Elise Ackerman's article "Land of Opportunity" (December 28) leaves out fundamental points. For example:

Two people own land. Their parcels face each other across a road. Both properties are the same size, have the same land use and zoning, and are in the same submarket. Both receive identical tax bills. But on just one side of the road, local government adopted regulations saying 25 percent of the land must be reserved for drainage. The owner of this land loses one-quarter of his development rights after he paid to buy land that was unrestricted at the time of his purchase.

Is the value of this regulated property identical to the unregulated land across the road? What would a buyer pay for land with a 25-percent limitation on its development rights compared to land without this limitation? If a buyer would not pay the same amount because of the limitation, should the property taxes be the same?

Public appraisers cannot see this limitation when they study aerial photographs. And the information is not on the documentary stamps added up when deeds are recorded. Published comparable or market-sales data do not identify the specific and unique conditions that apply to individual properties. Because this level of detail is not readily known, mass appraisal techniques (used by the Dade County Property Appraisal Department to estimate value for tax purposes) often do not apply tax reductions permitted under state law.

The system may not be perfect, but we are not perfect. What really counts is whether property owners are protected so an imperfect system is made a little better. As Americans we are guaranteed the right to be taxed with representation. Out of sheer necessity, the general way property taxes are determined limits our right to fairness. Checks and balances, fundamental to our system of government, are re-established through the property tax appeal process.

Value Adjustment Boards use experts to hear reasons why property owners believe they are overtaxed. Dade's VAB staffers deserve praise for their professionalism. They work hard to make their system easy for owners to understand -- in effect, they are a good example of how every government department should operate. It isn't required, but the advantage of first using VAB procedures is a savings of time and money for owners. Having a VAB gives everyone representation when they are taxed -- without the costs of litigation. Both sides have the right to appeal, in court, should they disagree with the special master's decision. While it is true that some appeals do result in seemingly large reductions, one also must consider the total amount of each tax bill. Some owners pay millions of dollars in taxes. Every small percentage of overcharge can mean they might lose, unfairly, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Real questions are: "Should anyone have to overpay taxes or any other bill? Is it fair to overcharge someone?" And: "Shouldn't everyone have the right to see how their bills are calculated so they can check them for accuracy and point out any errors?"

Owners who do not appeal virtually write blank checks to government. Comparables change, property conditions change, and taxes change. Smart owners pay attention to these variables and make sure they are aware of every bill. This country was founded, after all, to stop government from forcing us to pay any taxes without representation. We should be grateful for the protections we have, and we should use them diligently to make sure we never lose our constitutional rights.

Sheila Anderson
president, Commercial Property Services, Inc.
Miami

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