By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Your Elected Representatives Will Now Insult You
Jim DeFede's story "How to Save the Neighborhood" (September 24) describes a group of citizens trying to protect their neighborhood from a development that violates county regulations. Grinding down citizen opposition is a tradition-bound tactic, and in Miami-Dade County it is public sport: Important meetings that citizens take time to attend are deferred at the last moment or are placed on agendas late in order to erode opposition energy; citizens are kept waiting for hours in the cheap seats at county hall while business is done in the inner hallway.
For most people the simple act of maintaining a coherent family life when both partners work full-time consumes every ounce of effort. Identifying volunteers with extra time and energy for civic involvement is like finding gold, and public officials know this. So delay tactics and even disrespect toward citizens by public officials serve a purpose. When commissioners don't pay attention to citizens at public hearings, it means, "Don't expect much from us."
The last chapter of this particular story, involving a proposed Cadillac dealership along U.S. 1, is not yet written. But it is easy to understand why people are so turned off by government and public institutions. Why waste time voting if government is nothing but a facilitator for campaign contributors, no matter who is elected?
It's tempting to believe that a change in campaign-finance laws is the answer. But consider that Gwen Margolis and Pedro Reboredo, the two county commissioners DeFede cites as having been especially dreadful during the hearing for the zoning change, returned to office in September unopposed.
No Contradiction, No Embarrassment, Just Fuddruckers
It might seem to some who read "How to Save the Neighborhood" that I was caught in an embarrassing contradiction. I did answer "no" to questions by residents opposing the project when they asked if I, as a former planning director for the City of Miami, would "typically put residential zoning next to industrial" or would "have car dealerships exit 100 percent of their traffic into small neighborhoods." After all, I was appearing as an expert witness in support of the proposal by [Ed Williamson's] Cadillac dealership to build on industrial land next to residential.
But Mr. DeFede failed to include my full response, which pointed out that, like the Williamson Cadillac issue, I as a director rarely dealt with hypothetical ideals but most often with land-use patterns that had existed for decades, where the only real choice was to find the best way to buffer one use from another. Moreover, I also made the point that this dealership would have traffic exit onto a major road, into a liberal commercial zone, and directly opposite Fuddruckers and Kmart. Certainly not "into a small neighborhood."
I continue to believe that in an imperfect world of difficult choices, this project offers the best possible relationship between a long-existing industrial site and the more recently built adjacent homes. I will continue to stake my professional reputation on it.
Black Knight Brightened by Scrupulous School
Jim DeFede's characterization of zoning attorney Jeffrey Bercow in his article "How to Save the Neighborhood" as "one of the black knights of zoning law" is hardly fair. Jeffrey is a highly skilled zoning attorney who knows local zoning ordinances so thoroughly that developers hire him for the results he gets, which he obtains by going by the book.
Over the years Jeffrey has been a white knight for Miami-Dade Community College, which he represented at far below his normal rate in two extremely difficult zoning matters; both had excellent results. As the college's real estate consultant for the past six years, I can personally assure you MDCC does not hire unscrupulous attorneys. The fault lies not in the skilled practice of zoning law but in city and county politics, where politicians refuse to divest themselves of zoning matters that belong in the neighborhoods in which each zoning change is sought.
Anthony Parrish, Jr.
Dead Music: Reality in Six Easy Words
I read with much interest Adam St. James's long-winded and overly analytical assessment of Miami-Dade County's pathetic rock music scene ("Live Music: Dead on Arrival," September 24). Maybe I'm naive, but I think St. James has confused readers and complicated an issue that isn't brain surgery. There are no venues at which to see or play rock and roll. Period. No clubs means no shows and therefore no scene.
It's really simple: Get a big room, remove the tables, hire or buy a good sound system, book bands, sell beer, give the bands a split of the door charge, make money, and stop pointing fingers. It's a formula that has worked for decades everywhere on the planet, so why would St. James have us believe it is so complicated here in South Florida?
It's disturbing that St. James seems to agree with the analysis and insight of Steve "The Beast" Alvin and partner Greg Baker, whose Thursday-night concerts he has crowned "the most consistent, professional, and well-promoted series in Miami." If this is true, then bands and their audiences are in trouble; their so-called rock and roll venue features a cramped, filthy room with a stage not much bigger than a queen-size mattress, a joke of a sound system, and a narrow flight of stairs up and down which bands must hump their equipment.