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.

There are, unfortunately, too many instances of neighbors letting their emotions get the better part of common sense, and running to code enforcement has become a knee-jerk reaction. The results are that our quality of life deteriorates, our laws become trivialized, and our county's ability to deal with serious violations diminishes.

Let me offer a different perspective. Perhaps by taking personal responsibility and by making symbolic gestures to demonstrate responsibility for undoing any harm that has been caused, Mr. Bliss can send a better message: that we are in this together, working to make a better community for all of us.

Barraging county officials with a litany of complaints and expecting someone else to solve all our problems for us has one major flaw, which Mr. Bliss shows us: It doesn't work.

An aficionado of Robin Hood, Mr. Bliss has dubbed his property "Sherwood Forest." Far more fitting a sign, unfortunately, would be: "Castle of the Sheriff of Nottingham."

From The Litell Geste of Robyn Hode: "The proud sheriff ... said, “You traitor ..., you keep the king's enemies.' And the sheriff ... went to London town, all for to tell our king."

And that's sad.

Ronald H. Kauffman
Miami

Cinéma Non Vérité

It may not be the correct title, but it's a pretty darn good title: I enjoyed reading Tiffany Madera's article "Waiting 4 the Dough" (January 18). I thank her for mentioning me and writing about the documentary film I made about [Miami native and former UM football player] Nate Brooks. But she made a critical error in her article. The film was not titled Black with No Excuses; it was titled Big Plans. I realize she must have watched the film, and I am not sure how she could have missed the title at the opening. I would appreciate it if you would print a correction in the next issue of New Times.

Scott Alboum
Miami

Editor's note: The incorrect title was the result of an editing error, which New Times regrets.

This Commercial Announcement Brought to You by the Miami Herald Publishing Company

And what else? Oh yes, our office softball teams are awesome: Jacob Bernstein's recent story about El Nuevo Herald ("Sex! Sin! Sensation!" January 11) indicated that "its rate of return is greater than the paper that spawned it." Apparently he misunderstood the difference between incremental profitability and a true, apples-to-apples comparison. An apples-to-apples comparison of the profits and losses for El Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald, with proportionate allocation of fixed costs, shows the Miami Herald with a greater rate of return (profit margin) than El Nuevo Herald.

We are pleased with the financial performance of both newspapers, along with our free weekly entertainment publication Street, the Jewish Star Times, Herald Custom Publishing, Aboard Magazines, our direct-marketing and events businesses, and online and other units that make the Miami Herald Publishing Company the organization that best meets the needs of local readers and advertisers, in both English and Spanish.

Joe Natoli, president
Miami Herald Publishing Company
Miami

Padron: The Truth Lies Beneath the Surface

Mr. Martinez, it's time you did some digging: How about one more comment regarding Gaspar González's article ("Power Play," January 4) on MDCC district president Eduardo Padron?

In his January 11 letter to the editor in response to "Power Play," Roberto Martinez states that Mr. Padron has earned the respect of his colleagues at Miami-Dade Community College. As a long-time member of the MDCC faculty, I would like to ask Mr. Martinez when he last had a serious conversation with any of us on the faculty or staff about the climate in which we work and what we think of Mr. Padron. We are certainly among Mr. Padron's colleagues, but I think Mr. Martinez would find the respect to which he refers in short supply among us. The reasons for that are many, and this letter is not the place to air them.

Mr. Martinez, you are chairman of the board of trustees of this institution and ultimately our boss. Talk to us, sir. Find out for yourself what the reality is at MDCC. Please do not depend entirely on the varnished version of that reality you are given. The truth is quite distinct. Perhaps it is time you sought it out.

As others have done, I too must ask that my name be withheld. That I must do so speaks volumes about our situation. Fear of reprisal often is the order of the day around here. I will provide my name, position, and address to the editor at New Times for verification purposes but ask that the information not be printed.

Name Withheld by Request
Miami

Padron: Control Is Everything

And it's left us with nothing: Regarding the ongoing discussion about Eduardo Padron and whether he is good for MDCC -- the people's institution for higher learning -- we the faculty think not. How else would one explain that after previous unsuccessful attempts to unionize, the faculty finally voted to form a union at the college after being "managed" by Mr. Padron for a short while?

His use of the business model to control the faculty totally, without regard for our professional status or abilities, has led to demoralization and apathy. We truly are saddened by this. As retired MDCC professor Gabriel Read said in his letter (January 25), we have taken three steps back and are rapidly losing further ground. And I mean all of us: the faculty, the students, and the community.

Please do not print my name. We are afraid for our jobs in the present climate.

Name Withheld by Request
via the Internet

Padron: More Missing Newspapers

Free weekly enjoys surge of popularity on MDCC campuses: I work at MDCC in Hialeah. Recently I've noticed that New Times has been flying off the shelves at an incredible rate. It normally lasts for a few days. At several Hialeah locations (Twelfth Avenue, 49th Street, and others) they don't even make it through the night. I could attribute this to a newfound appreciation of your publication, but experience tells me otherwise. My conclusion is foul play.

The freedom espoused by a good percentage of our local population does not seem to extend to the press. I love New Times, and it is upsetting not finding it on Thursdays at 7:00 a.m. when it came out the night before.

Coming from a Latin-American background, I feel at liberty to denounce some aspects of my culture. Some of our countries have rarely experienced true democracy. Democracy is a culture -- it must be taught and nurtured. For many who have only rarely or recently experienced democracy, it is difficult to appreciate some of its nuances and idiosyncrasies.

For example we may balk at the notion of having the Ku Klux Klan rally in our streets, but that's the beauty of this country. Freedom of speech was made to protect unpopular ideas. I love the freedom this country gives me. As a teacher this is the openness of mind and ideas I try to convey.

Some French dude said, "I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." All I ask is that someone defend to the death my right to read it as well.

Nelson Magaña
via the Internet

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