Letters to the Editor

Letters from the issue of June 22, 2000

Demetrio's Rules
The world according to public school board member Demetrio Perez includes exile philosophy, Elian propaganda, and old-Havana-school politics.
By Ted B. Kissell

A Stinking Pot Full of the Usual Suspects
Ted B. Kissell's article about Demetrio Perez, Jr. ("Demetrio's Rules," June 15) is the kind of thing we are accustomed to reading when New Times deals with local Cuban-American personalities: a pot of half-truths, rotten lies, and innuendo. No wonder you cite two well-known detractors of the Cuban community: Max Castro and dictator Castro's subordinate and agent Francisco Aruca.

Adolfo Costa
Miami

And Now This Word from Our Sponsor -- El Comandante en Jefe
Who died and made Max Castro the spokesman for Cubans? Just because he is part of your newspaper, please don't elect him Cuban spokesman. As for the asshole Aruca, check out his numerous visits to father Fidel. Why don't you comment on those visits and his pro-Castro stance?

Is New Times being funded by Fidel investments?

Orlando Chavez
via the Internet

Demetrio Perez: Made in the U.S.A.
When will Cubans in exile realize that as long as they have individuals like Demetrio Perez, Ninoska Perez Castellon, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen representing them, nothing will be done to benefit our homeland? I am not one of them since I am not in "exile." I'm an immigrant who became a U.S. citizen. I hope to see my country of birth rid of Castro as well as the Castros in exile (Demetrio, Ninoska, Lincoln, et al.).

Only in this land could someone like Demetrio Perez be elected to office and still have the nerve to fly the American flag upside down, which shows he does not respect this nation. He should be removed from office immediately.

I agree with recent Cuban immigrant Julian Jorge Reyes ("Equal Opportunity Dissident," June 15): The exile leaders in Miami fight from here because they never had the guts (or cojones) to do it in Cuba. I think it is time for Cubans to wake up. The policy of ignorance, intolerance, and hate is taking us nowhere. Either we change or we will keep dividing ourselves from the community, dividing ourselves from la patria.

Rita Concepcion
Miami

Editor's note: Owing to a reporting error, Ted B. Kissell's "Demetrio's Rules" misstated Demetrio A. Perez's middle name. It is Alberto. New Times regrets the error.

The Real McGuffin
Neil McGuffin was supposed to guide the Miami Beach Housing Authority into the new millennium. Instead he exposed an agency in disarray. And he lost his job.
By Victor Cruz

Subsidized Housing, America's Experiment in Socialism
Thanks to Victor Cruz for shedding light on the corruption and incompetence within the Miami Beach Housing Authority ("The Real McGuffin," June 15). It seems to me that maintaining the status quo has been the rule at the MBHA. City Commissioner Mattie Bower's description of the agency as doing a good job seems designed to provide job security for her friends, to win votes, and to promote a socialist attitude toward entitlements for the less fortunate that enable them to reside next to hard-working families paying a mortgage. This approach breeds bitterness and divisiveness within the community.

Americans generally are segregated by their socioeconomic status. For instance if you can't afford Weston, you settle for Pembroke Pines. I have no problem with helping the poor but there must be some sort of consequence for one's decisions in life. Thus I can only anticipate favorable outcomes in my neighborhood when slumlords are cut off, rent control is lifted, and Section 8 housing is abolished in Miami Beach.

Ben Groff
Miami Beach

When Bad News Is No News
I am not surprised that Miami Beach Housing Authority executive director Neil McGuffin was castigated for his lack of "people skills." Whenever someone exposes and proves corruption, inefficiency, ineffectiveness, inflated salaries, kickbacks, and the like, their message cannot be debated so their character is assaulted instead. There are no people skills that could navigate the mess that the MBHA had become over many years. Staff liked things just the way they were and the board of directors did not want their mismanagement of the organization exposed. After all it was their lack of oversight that fed the situation. Any person attempting to change that would be eaten alive. The only acceptable people skills would involve maintaining the status quo.

As a Miami Beach taxpayer and property owner, I am disgusted that the MBHA has been so ineffective over the years, provided so little in terms of affordable housing, and paid staff salaries way above and beyond the norm. Had the board supported Mr. McGuffin, there would have been a lot more cooperation from staff in dealing with needed changes. That is the type of people skills needed for change, skills that the board, in attempting to conceal its role in all of this, chose not to apply. The board did, however, choose to send a message that the mismanagement of the past was far lesser a crime than its exposure.

I think the board needs to resign and I hope Mr. McGuffin files a defamation lawsuit against the board and the city.

Donna MacDonald
Miami Beach Mayya's Demise and Other Flights of Fancy
To paraphrase Jen Karetnick in her June 8 "Dish" column: So just what is it about New Times's obsessive interest in Efrain Veiga's restaurant projects that is so overwhelmingly captivating? It seems that no matter how successful the restaurants he has opened in Miami have been, they have become the subject of vicious, sarcastic, and slanderous attacks by New Times. These articles never stopped at an objective, professional restaurant critical review. They always crossed the border into Enquireresque personal attacks.

I remember two such articles -- one about Yuca in Coral Gables, the second one when Yuca on Lincoln Road was opened. Never a recognition for the daring man who took such tremendous personal risks, who put Cuban cuisine on the map of fine dining, who had a vision that contributed to Miami's modern renaissance, and nurtured and launched unknown chefs who today are nationally praised. So now one of these restaurants has closed and New Times is, so to speak, ready to dance on its grave, just as any self-respecting failure-monger would do.

Naturally no educated reader would trust the ramblings of a paper that is so sloppy or does not allocate enough research time to determine the correct spelling of its principal target's name. For all interested parties, Ms. Karetnick was talking about Efrain Veiga not about Ephrain Vega as spelled. One mistake per word. At that rate how believable can the rest of the article be?

I suspect Ms. Karetnick relied on all kinds of dubious sources or used her fictional skills, otherwise she would have had better and more complete information for the reasons Efrain Veiga and Billy Bean decided to close Mayya at this time. At one point she quotes a "bitter insider" who sent an e-mail complaining about favoritism toward the gay scene. How can New Times stoop so low in the 21st Century, in Miami, in the current progressive atmosphere of acceptance and understanding to put any credence in such rubbish and, moreover, to publish it?

How can Ms. Karetnick even suggest that Mr. Bean's interviews given to national media had a hidden agenda -- to get the patrons in? This was too serious a matter, too private and too painful for anyone to exploit. With her insensitivity Ms. Karetnick tried to cheapen Mr. Bean's integrity, to hurt and to offend. In this regard she has handsomely succeeded. But to me it sounds like homophobia big time. In her article she is making a stew of all the little and unreliable bits of information she has squeezed out of little rats and pathetic failures who need to assign blame to others for their incompetence.

And if she really wanted to hear the truth from an insider, why not ask Mr. Veiga or Mr. Bean? Or why not ask me? I am insider enough to know what's going on but independent enough not to twist reality. I have been Yuca's and Mayya's accountant. Quite a few restaurants in Miami and Fort Lauderdale have been my clients, and I could have given her sounder reasons than the unfounded speculation and assumptions she made.

Mayya's closing was a business decision made by professionals. Yes, there were several errors of judgment. For one, Guillermo Tellez never should have been retained as Mayya's chef. Yes, he was a protégé of Charlie Trotter, but Trotter's is a much smaller operation than Mayya intended to be. Mr. Tellez did not have the organizational skills, the knowledge, and the focus to coordinate the operations of a restaurant of Mayya's size. He was unable to plan, order, and monitor the inventory. There was no talk of cutting back on the quality of ingredients, as Ms. Karetnick claimed, but there were plenty of requests to Mr. Tellez not to order foolishly, not to use five dishwashers for twenty patrons. If I were to reveal the ratios of food to sales or of payroll to sales, you would see they were way off the industry standard. This does not mean Guillermo Tellez is not a very talented chef. It just means he operates well in smaller establishments.

The idea of sample-size portions was Mr. Tellez's idea. Messrs. Veiga and Bean, relying on Mr. Tellez's reputation, allowed him to make such decisions until they backfired. The restaurant's management decided to stop relying on the tantrums of a prima donna. That's when the honeymoon ended. To be a great chef means doing more than just supervising the preparation of food.

As far as Mr. Bean's managerial and organizational skills are concerned, since my background is in Fortune 100 corporate America, I wish to inform you that athletes in team sports and people with a background in the military are the most desirable for senior management positions because of their extraordinary managerial abilities and because they are great team players. If Ms. Karetnick had taken the trouble to find out more about Mr. Bean, she would have found that he is no exception, and that in addition to his extraordinary personal courage, there is much more to him as a true professional.

I will not discuss Ms. Karetnick's assumptions and speculations about why the concept did not work. If, as Ms. Karetnick stated, the world expected a Mexican hacienda, then yes, she was right: Mayya was not the one. But neither was Yuca a bodega. And that's exactly the point Mayya wanted to make. You can be Mexican and elegant and upscale at the same time. But maybe Florida is not the place to prove it. One may lose his shirt in the process.

There are many good reasons why Mayya did not become the success it intended to be. Ms. Karetnick touched upon some of them rather superficially. Her intent was obvious: to get the gossip out, to smear, to slander. So many innuendoes, so much irrelevant information, so many wrong people quoted.

Nadia S. Edwards
Sunny Isles Beach

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