Letters to the Editor

From the issue of December 28, 2000

Democracy, in fact, is about choice: the choice to vote and support whomever we choose, the choice to go to church wherever we choose, and the choice to agree with Janet Reno's decision to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father. You may choose to disagree with me, you can choose not to be my friend, or even stop speaking to me, but you do not have the right to harm me or my family. As far as I am concerned, those who use force to try to change my mind are no better than Castro. They will not be satisfied until everyone who has a difference of opinion, or religion, or politics has left Cuba -- whoops, sorry, I mean Miami.

Name Withheld by Request

These Single Moms Have Limited Patience
Especially when it comes to government bureaucrats: As technical-assistance provider to residents of Gwen Cherry Apartments, including those involved in the effort to rehabilitate the Allapattah Mini Park, I wish to clarify a few points in Kathy Glasgow's story "Park Raving Mad" (June 22). Some readers may have formed the impression that the community group demanded too much or was too impatient, stemming perhaps from their naivete about government processes. Actually the members of group did their homework before embarking on their quest, and they were well organized. Unfortunately people get frustrated by bureaucratic inertia and tire of the process involved in moving the bureaucracy to action, particularly in low-income communities where they lack the influence of money and personal connections to the sources of political power.

The group's success, however, helps to demonstrate how people can affect change in their communities through collaboration and grass-roots organization. The residents were not being impatient, just insistent. Life-long experiences fed their skepticism about commitments from public officials. Until a certain level of trust is reached, that tension will often be present. It was never personal, and the group expressed sincere appreciation for the attention and support they received from Miami Commissioner Willy Gort and parks director Alberto Ruder.

It is important to note that the mini park was a derelict property, dangerous, and unusable for many years, during which it received no resources from the city. When the neighborhood's improvement plan was not only accepted but also expanded upon by city officials, doing anything less would seem incomplete. If the mini park hadn't already existed, surely the group would have focused on how to get their children to and from Curtis Park more safely. They must cross a five-lane arterial with high-volume truck traffic and no pedestrian-crossing zones. At this point few if any parents around the mini park allow their young children to take such a risk. Many of the single mothers are working and caring for infants and toddlers, so they are not usually free to accompany other children.

Volunteer work was not a concession by residents. On the contrary, when the community group members presented their proposal to the city, they favored involvement as a partner to make it happen. Since it is a City of Miami park, they looked to the parks department for principal responsibility. Building working partnerships with other organizations and universities, however, only strengthens the neighborhood. Perhaps this experience will model how public-park agencies can facilitate partnerships within communities to develop parks, maintain them, and program activities to serve community needs.

Larry Georgeson,
social service director


Chronicle of an Election Foretold
For good reason I plan on voting for Rundle: Tristram Korten's article on State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle ("Friendly Fire," October 26) should be required reading for all Miami-Dade residents who will cast a vote for this important position.

It is scary to think that a union bully like Police Benevolent Association president John Rivera, coupled with an emotionally unstable prosecutor from Broward County, could end up directing law enforcement efforts for South Florida. With many segments of our multicultural community already convinced that some police officers are not interested in their welfare, do we really need a state attorney like Milian, who makes it clear he is more interested in physically assaulting his adversaries than in achieving justice? With Rivera calling the shots, what level of confidence will residents have should they need to report allegations of police abuse to Mr. Milian?

It is truly disingenuous for Mr. Milian to piously say, "...The lesson I learned [growing up in Miami] was that the rule of law is essential to a civilized society," and then demonstrate his newfound knowledge by resorting to physically and verbally attacking those who may oppose him. Do we really want a State Attorney whom a panel of district court judges described as follows: "Even if this [incident] had been one isolated instance of an emotional outburst, Mr. Milian's conduct would be deplorable. Unfortunately this instance is not isolated."

Finally, Mr. Milian has little (if any) administrative experience in directing the daily activities of an office the size of Miami-Dade's. Being a successful prosecutor does not necessarily require the same skills as that of the office administrator. It's unlikely that a teacher who has been successful in elementary school would be judged qualified to suddenly become the system's superintendent. Especially if that teacher's main base of support was headed by the president of the teachers' union. While the State Attorney and the local police departments need to work together, neither side should be beholden to the other for its welfare or existence.

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