Letters to the Editor

From the issue of February 1, 2001

Government of the Cronies, by the Lobbyists, for the Special Interests

Pardon me for being paranoid about Homestead Air Force Base: As happy and relieved as I am over the decision not to transform Homestead Air Force Base into a regional airport, I am still troubled by the idea, as reported by Jim DeFede ("Victory!" January 25), that half the airport is to be handed over to Miami-Dade County with the condition that it is not developed into a regional airport.

Miami-Dade County Commissioners and our "beloved" Mayor Alex Penelas have a long history of disregarding the laws of the land and the will of their constituents. One only has to look at the downtown waterfront, the American Airlines Arena, the proposed new Miami Marlins stadium, the Miami River beltway, and countless other examples of the dichotomy between what they promise to do and what they actually do, to understand that Miami-Dade County and Penelas cannot be trusted to uphold the promises they make or fulfill the will of the people they are supposed to represent.

The question becomes not what will happen to Homestead Air Force Base but how long until Penelas and the county commission fly in the face of a federal order (when have we seen this before?) and allow the base to be turned into a regional airport.

It is clear that our government is a government for lobbyists, special-interest builders, and political cronies. I am sure they will not let little things like the environment, a federally mandated order, or common sense keep them from destroying South Florida. It is only a matter of how long it will take to weasel out of yet another promise.

Greg Doster
Coral Gables

Government of the Investment Bankers, by the Connected Developers, for the Contractors

Pardon me for being cynical about public housing: Susan Eastman's "Welcome to the Cruel World" (January 18) shows that government rarely gets it right. To use an example from her story about public housing: $54 rent and $60 for a smoke detector? What's wrong with that picture? As a former board member of the Miami-Dade Housing and Finance Authority and the owner of some apartment buildings (I do not seek out government rent subsidies), I know one thing for sure: The last thing on government's mind -- when it comes to housing the poor -- is the poor.

Low-income housing has become a bonanza for connected developers, contractors, and investment bankers. These buildings are usually built or acquired at prices at least double those built or acquired with private funds. But the high cost does not mean better construction; usually it means quite the opposite.

Housing, feeding, and meeting the medical needs of the poor has become an industry in this nation. The problem is that it's not really about solving the scourge of poverty or helping people through a rough time; it's about maintaining a huge bureaucracy and feeding the connected influence peddlers and their clients with taxpayer money.

America's so-called war on poverty was declared about four decades ago. Unlike Adolf Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, Slobodan Milosevic, or Saddam Hussein, poverty has not fired a single shot or launched one Scud missile, yet today the government seems to be losing that war. No government has ever solved the problem, and none ever will. In fact governments historically have shown a knack for creating and perpetuating poverty. Assistance to the poor is best left to those who do it out of true compassion, not to obtain a paycheck or a lucrative contract at the expense of taxpayers.

Emiliano Antunez
Miami

Bad Governments Don't Make for Good Solutions

And pardon me for sermonizing to Richard Bliss: With regard to Susan Eastman's article "Distant Neighbors" (January 18), I submit the following response:

One of the earliest uses of the word chutzpah in a Florida legal decision was a 1986 opinion of the Third District Court of Appeal. I am happy to say it was right on point: Murdering your wife and then suing because the life-insurance company refuses to pay up qualifies as chutzpah, in my view.

Richard Bliss's three-ring binder, brimming with complaints to county officials and code-enforcement officers about his neighbors, is a triumph of chutzpah over common sense. A person who rats out his neighbors to zoning inspectors and then gets into trouble himself for allegedly constructing a boathouse without a permit (among other violations) might, for lack of better judgment, feel he has been wronged. But he can't turn such wishful thinking into a sympathetic article without the services of a very creative writer.

Before contacting the county, Mr. Bliss could have thought about whether it was right to impose on his neighbors the cost, risk, and pain of protracted litigation. Mr. Bliss might also have profitably pondered his own culpability and considered what he might have done to better his neighborhood.

Instead of trying to squeeze Mr. Bliss into the image of a victim of conspiring bureaucrats, Ms. Eastman might have focused her article on how a confused person, who clandestinely conducts photographic surveillance, patrols his property like a border guard, and flies provocative flags, ended up being cast out of the very Eden he sought.

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