Letters from the Issue of July 25, 2002

Why is "airport security" such a maddeningly frustrating oxymoron?

Benedict P. Kuehne
Coconut Grove

Hard Lessons for Aesthetic Infidels

Off with their heads! Colleen Martin and the City of Miami Beach seem to have made a good start in attempting to preserve homes and other structures with some character. Their efforts, as reported by Jeff Stratton ("A Tree, a House, a Sign," July 4), are commendable. But $16,000 in fines and the occasional rescued banyan tree won't cut it in the long run. The city needs to toughen its ordinances.

If you tear down a protected structure, Miami Beach should mandate nothing less than replacement with an exact copy, including fixtures and architectural gewgaws. The offending party should be required to replace what they have illegally destroyed. A couple of doses of reconstructive reparations might give pause to the Noah Breakstones and Franz Reuthers of this world.

Additionally the three-strikes (or two -- whatever your pleasure) philosophy might well be adapted to include something like this: The third time you've had to rebuild a Pancoast home is the last. Personally and corporately you'll be ineligible to receive a building permit from the City of Miami Beach. The regulations should apply both to owners and contractors, right down to the bulldozer driver.

After that, other municipalities in the region should take note and copy the edict. Mediterranean revival homes and other buildings, neighborhoods with character, trees, and commercial structures with human scale and details are what people want from their city. Areas with flair -- including the Gables, the Grove, and the Beach -- are beloved because they have, at their core, the human element in their planning, construction, and detailing. Cookie-cutter suburbs may be lived in, but they're hardly beloved.

Architectural and aesthetic diversity is endangered in South Florida. Every chrome-and-glass monstrosity on Brickell Avenue or in the ravaged core of Coral Gables lessens the cultural vitality of the community and rewards the public with little beyond a continuing degradation of the communal fabric. Ugly homes on barren lots do not enrich the lives of South Floridians either; they serve only those who can make a quick dollar or two. Thoughtful architecture, careful landscaping, and human-scale development can provide both a livelihood for workers and a pleasant, livable environment for all. Jobs don't mandate ugly, anti-human architecture -- greedy builders and bad architects do.

Lewis Day
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Including but Not Limited to Really Bad Writing

Are the inmates running that asylum? The Miami Herald definitely has many shortcomings, especially pandering to its advertisers and Hispanic-American readers. But Rebecca Wakefield's article about the paper hiring former New Times columnist Jim DeFede ("Buying Time," June 27) did not mention the biggest shortcoming of all: the terrible quality of writing, especially in the sports section. This includes but is not limited to typos and errors in the use of English, writers fabricating information and not doing any research, pandering to public officials and sports teams to the point of being biased, and not giving both sides of the story.

This all happens under the watch of the editors at the Miami Herald, and yet nothing changes or improves.

Jason Nall
Miami

Harvey to DeFede: Keep Your Legs Crossed

Otherwise, you traitor, you'll get what's coming to you: I've just read, in "the mullet wrapper by the bay" (the Miami Herald) that Jim DeFede, who regularly hot-dogged the Herald with relish, is now just another drone of a writer there, who in time, owing to "financial restraints" at 1 Herald Plaza, will find his very testicles fed to the sharks. His journalistic testicles anyway.

There is no fucking way in hell those assholes in the Herald's ivory tower will allow the now-compromised DeFede to operate as he did over the years at New Times -- in a straight and forceful investigative manner. There are too many skeletons in and around Miami-Dade County that, for reasons other than good journalism, are taboo at the Miami Herald. It appears that DeFede has sold out to the enemy -- at least to the Herald, which is the real enemy of the taxpayers and citizens of South Florida.

Bad luck, Jim. You deserve it. What's next, the Washington Times?

Harvey Slavin
Hollywood

Balmaseda Bashing Baffling

Maybe we're not talking about the same person: This is the first letter to the editor I've written in 35 years. It's about a friend, but it's also about the most talented journalist I know.

I was disappointed -- baffled, actually -- by Rebecca Wakefield's references to Liz Balmaseda in her story about recent staff changes at the Miami Herald. The anonymous slams in the piece are not just unworthy of New Times, they are also dead wrong.

If there is a writer who has made a lasting and substantial contribution to South Florida in the last decade, it's Liz Balmaseda. She has written with honesty, passion, and grace about the thorniest issues in our community -- from unfair immigration laws to censorship to health care for the poor -- not looking for controversy but meeting it courageously when it came.

As for early promise, we should all come as close to fulfilling ours as Liz has come to fulfilling hers.

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