By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Witness Against the Prosecution
Jim DeFede is getting to be quite the comedian. What a sense of humor! He sounds as though he expects something to come of [Dade State Attorney] Katherine Fernandez Rundle's political inquisition ("A Primer on Prosecuting Corruption," March 20). Ha! She caught Ronnie Book not with his fingers in the cookie jar but with his arm in up to his shoulder. He was guilty of violations of state campaign finance laws that would have landed the next guy in jail. But Ronnie only got his wrist slapped, and lightly at that.
At a public forum in late 1995, New Times editor Jim Mullin asked then-city manager Cesar Odio: "What do you have to say about the perception of many people that there is corruption at city hall?" Odio got red-faced, sputtered, and threatened to leave the meeting. Apparently the word never got to our state attorney.
As the years went by and Odio consolidated all the city's finances under that nationally known accounting wizard Manohar Surana, the state attorney didn't seem to mind. Meanwhile, the rest of this local world knew that "working for the city" meant being politically connected.
In most Third World countries, small bribes to government workers, train conductors, border checkers, bus drivers, and so on have been accepted fact for many years. Workers who receive very low wages from their government are thus able to feed their families.
In this country, where bureaucrats earn up to $100,000 (or in Armando Vidal's case, much more), what is the purpose of these bribes -- oh, sorry -- these gifts? Will our county manager sell his golf bag so he can afford bread for his children? Anyway, do not worry. It is unlikely that anyone as well connected as our county manager will be investigated by our honest state attorney.
I hope Mr. DeFede keeps looking. There is sure to be some poor druggie or businessman without connections whom the state attorney can prosecute.
John A. Brennan
Scumbags R Us
Accolades to Jim DeFede and New Times for the exposes of the seemingly never-ending shenanigans practiced by the scumbags (elected and appointed) who abuse their power in the City of Miami and Dade County governments -- unethically at best and illegally at worst. I look forward eagerly each week to reading the newest revelation. Keep up the good work!
North Miami Beach
Not in My Budget, Buster
This letter is in reference to Robert Andrew Powell's article "Ramón Doesn't Work Here Any More" (March 6), [a followup to Powell's February 20 article "They Owe It All to Odio"]. Mr. Powell stated that Mr. Ramon Conte's salary was funded from the budget of the City of Miami's Department of Community Development/NET. As a matter of truth and fairness, I respectfully request that the statement be corrected. Mr. Conte's salary was not funded from budget of the Department of Community Development/ NET, but through the general fund.
Elbert L. Waters, director
Department of Community Development/NET
City of Miami
Robert Andrew Powell replies: Ramon Conte was officially assigned to the Department of Community Development/NET. In fact, Mr. Waters's departmental assistant collected Conte's time sheets, completed his payroll information, and handed him his paycheck every two weeks. Furthermore, it was Elbert Waters himself who fired Conte immediately after New Times revealed him to be a ghost employee. But it is true that -- technically -- Conte's salary was drawn from the general fund and not directly from Waters's departmental budget.
Upper-Tier Municipal Amalgamation -- Now, That Will Warm Your Mittens
I just read Robert Andrew Powell's "They Owe It All to Odio" in a copy of New Times a friend returned with from Miami. An excellent piece, my favorite kind of reporting.
I'm hoping that the reason I don't see this type of investigative work (the kind that makes bureaucracy interesting to read about) is because it couldn't happen in Toronto. Or perhaps we aren't looking in the right places. We do, however, have plenty of stories about the amalgamation of smaller cities into an upper tier of government.
I'll keep an eye on Miami's adventures. I hope Powell's story gets an award.
Edward Joseph Drass
Teed Up and Teed Off
After reading Kirk Semple's article "How Green Is Too Green?" (February 13), I am compelled to respond, as a means of separating fact from fiction. The discussion of golf and the environment has been going on for years. Certainly this dialogue can be beneficial and healthy, but only when all parties present information based on factual data, not on emotion, innuendo, and hyperbole.
The vast majority of inaccurate media reports on environmental issues results from a lack of knowledge or background on the subject. In this instance, Mr. Semple dismisses more than $12 million of United States Golf Association research by noted scientists at the nation's most respected universities. It is unfortunate that none of these individuals or their studies was used to provide background. Readers would have learned that the effect on the environment of proper chemical application on golf courses is minimal to the point of being almost nonexistent.
To go one step further, respected golf course architect Michael Hurdzan points out that "all university and Environmental Protection Agency studies show there is no solid evidence that golf courses have a negative environmental impact." It should be noted that Hurdzan holds a doctorate in environmental plant physiology. In fact, Mr. Semple blatantly omitted the positive impact golf has on the environment. Your readers would have learned that golf course turf provides oxygen and is an excellent natural water-filtering system, among other benefits.
When Mr. Semple did attempt to cite a study or provide support of its "anti-golf course" stance, he failed miserably. Much of the so-called environmentalist opposition is based on the 1991 New York Attorney General Office's study regarding pesticides on golf courses. Several subsequent university research projects determined that the study's conclusions were unsupported by fact, and were inaccurate and misleading.
Another attempt was made to use the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America mortality study to support the "golf courses are bad" contention. While Mr. Semple had the actual study in hand, he failed to note the researcher's conclusion that the results of the survey should not be used to suggest or refute a causal relationship.
Lastly, the booklet "Environment Principles for Golf Courses in the United States" should not be dismissed because only one environmental group, the Sierra Club, did not endorse the publication. Not mentioned was the fact that groups such as Audubon International, National Wildlife Federation, Save the Bay, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others signed off in support. Obviously there is widespread support for the golf industry's environmental stewardship initiatives.
It is my hope that your publication will re-examine the issue of golf and the environment, providing conclusions based on sound, universally accepted research. Unfortunately the use of qualifiers such as "may," "might," and "could" are convenient when attribution and evidence are absent. I believe another look at the issue would be of great service to your readers.
Farewell to a Dying Breed of Bigoted Drunks
I read with interest Ray Martinez's article about the Coral Gables Elks Lodge and the decline of social and fraternal organizations ("Fraternal Reorder," March 6). I am glad to see them gone from the scene. They are an anachronism and leave a bad taste in my mouth. I wish I could say they fill some kind of role in our society, but I would be lying.
I believe them to be a breeding ground for bigotry and racism, and they appear to be nothing more than a place where a bunch of drunks get together and tell war stories. I find them destructive rather than constructive. They are all offshoots of the whites-only secret societies that date well back to the last century.
The only group I have ever heard of that was in fact truthful was E. Clampus Vitus, from California, whose members proudly asserted that their only aim was to get sloshed, which they had done since the Gold Rush.
I actually believe you wasted space by even mentioning these clubs. It will not be long before they are all gone.
David T. McKibben
The "Waste" in Waste Management
I am writing with regard to Sean Rowe's article "Put a Lid on It, Pal" (February 6), which covered the Waste Management/Savon Trash Services situation. I wholly support Greg Davis in his claim that Waste Management does not honestly serve the needs of its clients. In fact, at a recent meeting our executive committee [at the Oceanside Plaza condominium in Miami Beach] had with two representatives of Waste Management, I publicly berated them for selling to our condominium services that were unnecessary and were never performed.
Six years ago the condominium board was induced to contract for pickup seven times per week. It was only recently and quite by accident that the present board investigated the matter with our head cleaning man, who is responsible for placing the garbage on the loading dock. He has not worked on a Sunday during all these years; ipso facto, there has never been a Sunday pickup.
We then delved into this matter further, only to discover that the average number of weekly pickups was four, and only rarely five. Therefore, in almost six years of Waste Management services that were paid for, fully one-third of those services was never performed. The excuse we were given was that the drivers were scheduled to make the pickups and always reported completion of the scheduled stops, which is about the lamest excuse I've heard in my 50-plus years of business experience. The net result is that we are terminating Waste Management, at an annual savings of approximately $13,000.
I don't doubt that many people would say the successive boards have been negligent in permitting such a situation to develop, but no board can be composed of members with expertise in every phase of building management and in something as mundane as garbage disposal. My regret is we didn't have Greg Davis on the scene much sooner.
I wish him well and cordially invite him to call me if I can be of any service in his dispute with Waste Management. Finally, I urge our city manager and the city commission to take into account the experience of my condominium association. I believe the penalty for such deceitful practices by any licensed trash hauler should be immediate cancellation of the license and a substitution of that company by another, forthwith.
Martin Riengold, director-treasurer
Oceanside Plaza condominium