Letters from the Issue of November 15, 2001

The Fun-Loving Spirit of Miami's Caribbean Carnival: Price-gouging, pepper spray, and personal insults

 Thugs, Dictators, and Freakin' Communists
No surprise that the first two are local boys: Thanks to Kirk Nielsen for exposing Otto Reich, the thuggish Bush administration nominee for assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs ("Waiting for Otto," November 8). And as reported in the same issue in "Riptide," a big thumbs-up to Dan Christensen of the Daily Business Review for his updates on the Federal Election Commission's pursuit of Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald will not say peep on these subjects. It's called pandering and writing in the name of profits for Knight Ridder. And don't forget the Herald always recommends this dictator Diaz-Balart for office. We Cuban Americans are not all a bunch of Elian radicals and Cuban Archie Bunkers. As the son of Cuban immigrants, I can see how Cuba was governed and how the press behaved in the past. No wonder a freakin' communist came to power.

Thank you, New Times, for being one of the few objective papers in this town. It does not go unnoticed.

José Medina
North Bay Village

Island Paradise Faces Titanic Struggle Over Future
Regardless of who wins, Key Biscayne's days as a sleepy hamlet are long gone: Though Jacob Bernstein's article regarding Key Biscayne's civic center was factual ("If You Build It, They Will Come Unglued," October 25), I believe the discussion would benefit from a slightly different perspective.

I believe the Coalition to Rescue Paradise, which opposes the new civic-center project, is a minority group doing whatever it can to stop what the majority wants. From the beginning of the incorporation movement on Key Biscayne, whenever projects were planned -- like buying the nine acres for the Village Green -- some citizens said we could not afford it or that government had no business imposing this on the "majority" of the citizens. Many of those same people are part of the present group of naysayers. One of them, a past council member, voted against buying the Village Green because he thought it would only be used by vagrants. The Village Green is now universally hailed as the jewel of the village; last year it even won New Times's award for Best Public Park in "Best of Miami."

Another coalition member is still preaching, after ten years, against having our own fire department, saying we should have kept the county's department. The Key Biscayne Fire Department has been awarded national accreditation and is acknowledged to provide excellent fire and rescue services at a fraction of the cost of county services. Several elections and even referenda on various issues were prompted by the naysayers to enforce the so-called majority opinion. Each of these referenda was overwhelmingly rejected by the true majority.

It is not only municipal officials who want the new civic-center complex; ostensibly so do the majority of Key Biscayne's voters. Unlike the Coral Gables protest, Key Biscayne voters have already spoken on the issue. The election just last year put three incumbent council members and the mayor up for election against a slate of candidates. The civic center was the main issue. In the primaries the opposition managed to get one candidate elected with just 640 votes in a lightly attended primary election. I was the incumbent council member who was eliminated. The opposition shocked the village by coming in 1-2-3 in the primary, with the incumbents bringing up the rear. But in the regular election, with the highest turnout in history, voters overwhelmingly elected the two remaining incumbents and the incumbent mayor, all of whom supported the civic-center project.

Members of the Coalition to Rescue Paradise are living a fantasy when they say, "We want to stay a sleepy hamlet." How can we stay a sleepy hamlet when we have to deal with the impact of two major developments that were given development rights before the incorporation of the village? How to stay sleepy when the original Mackle houses, designed for one-car families, are being demolished and replaced by multimillion-dollar mansions with five cars in the family? Key Biscayne is no longer a sleepy village because of the increasing value of property and because more people with families want to live here.

The village council is providing civic services commensurate with the demands and needs of the voters and residents. The council has replaced a total civic planning vacuum under Miami-Dade County with a carefully conceived plan that has been discussed in dozens of workshops and hearings. Even Scott Bass, a councilman who opposes the civic complex, told the public that they were asleep during all these meetings. They only came forward at the eleventh hour. Councilman Jim Peters says, "We as elected officials have been flat-ass irresponsible." I believe that someone is indeed being irresponsible, but it is neither the majority of the village council nor the majority of voters on our island paradise.

Gregory Han
Key Biscayne

The Fun-Loving Spirit of Miami's Caribbean Carnival
Price-gouging, pepper spray, and personal insults: This is in response to Celeste Fraser Delgado's article about the problems at this year's Miami Caribbean Carnival ("Everybody Party, Nobody Pay," October 18). I was born and raised in New York City but my heritage is rooted in the Caribbean. Two years ago I moved to Miami. I love Carnival with every bone of my body. I travel to Trinidad and New York City each year to attend their festivals. Before moving to Miami, I religiously attended Carnival here with my sister and friends. Like many other New Yorkers, I found it was a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle.

What happened this year hurt my heart. Thousands of people traveled from across the globe, even after the tragedy of September 11. I heard so many disappointing stories from countless individuals who were mistreated at hotels, overcharged, maced, and disrespected. I myself got caught in the melee outside the carnival, where men, women, and children were pepper-sprayed.

After a weekend of renting cars, eating in restaurants, and spending outrageous amounts to attend the parties, you don't charge $15 to attend Carnival. What does a family of four or more do? The Miami Carnival would be nothing without the participation of the visitors from other states and countries.

Sunday night, after being pepper-sprayed and treated like a common criminal, I still made the attempt to attend a party at the Seville Hotel in Miami Beach. The promoter started the night charging $10 and ended up raising it to about $35. The parking for visitors was $20 per vehicle, although the sign out front claimed a lower rate.

These events will cause individuals to boycott future Carnival events in Miami. The amount of dollars spent, especially in times like these, will disappear. Governor Bush pleaded with people to fly again and support tourism. Well, the businesses, government, and municipalities have to do their parts as well.

Lisa Williamson
Miami

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