Letters from the Issue of February 26, 2004

Public defenders, female politicians, and the digital divide

Don't You Recognize Blind Ambition When You See It?

Free weekly snuggles up to ax-grinders: Could New Times go back to attacking real mismanagement and incompetence, or do you support anybody with a personal ambition and an ax to grind ("Sustained Objections," February 19)? Is there a public defender's office in America where there is enough staffing, where attorneys are not forced to deal with cases as expeditiously as possible, where a majority of the ambitious attorneys can be kept around to work at low pay and excessive hours? Additionally there has always been support for funding law enforcement and prosecution, but precious little money for public defenders -- especially in South Florida.

Rebecca Wakefield's article included a charge that some top-level administrators in the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office do not take a large number of cases to trial. Would one suppose that the office runs itself? Or should it be run by inexperienced counsel? There is a process to become a seasoned attorney and an experienced administrator. This is the reason Bennett Brummer has been re-elected over the past 28 years.

By most reports the local public defender's office has been doing its job well, perhaps too well for many people. The Herald recently ran a multipart exposé on how often offenders are given a "free pass" by having adjudication withheld. There have been countless articles in the press about "criminals" being allowed favorable plea agreements.

So why is anyone trying to pretend that it is the fault of the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office that those indigent defendants are not receiving adequate defense? It would instead seem that the office performs incredible work with few available resources. The answer is pure political ambition by [Brummer challenger] Gabriel Martin and his friends for a job that requires a large degree of selflessness.

I would question the suitability of anyone who would blatantly attempt to use ethnic politics and capitalize on the frustration of those who toil away in what is always a difficult job.

John S. Stella

Miami

Those Telling Details

The shoulders of Arza's tattered coat were blanketed in dandruff: Why do reporters like Rebecca Wakefield insert fluff when writing about a female politician ("An Army of One," February 12)? Regarding Rosa Kasse, who is running for the state House seat now held by Ralph Arza, what relevance is her age? Ms. Wakefield doesn't mention Arza's age. What relevance is her "chipped" nail polish or her "slightly mussed hair"? She doesn't write about Arza's hair and nails.

Why can't Ms. Wakefield acknowledge that a woman is a serious person with major issues to bring forth without delving into her age and appearance? Why does she have to pad her story with irrelevant details? If Arza's appearance has no relevance, then hers doesn't either. It is deprecating to put that fluffy stuff in such a story.

Maria Roberts

Homestead

High Tech, Low Esteem

Where was the support when we needed it? Regarding Tristram Korten's article about the loss of funding by community technology center e-Equality ("Deeply Digitally Divided," February 5): Maybe his statement "It was the only tech center in town with the resources to dramatically improve computer literacy" was a little misleading. But there is no question that e-Equality had the most comprehensive and innovative digital-divide programming in Miami-Dade, and we have the demographics to prove it! (I am a former member of e-Equality's board of directors.)

The point is that this community has failed to support a program that specifically addresses the need to provide computer access and training in order to improve information-technology skills that lead to employment opportunities.

This kind of innovative digital-divide programming goes a long way toward moving Miami beyond the dubious distinction of being America's Poorest City by providing (at no cost) computer-literacy training to a community desperately in need.

Charles Byrd

Miami

Upload the Future

When will local leaders get plugged in? In response to Christine Rumbaugh's letter about e-Equality: We were committed to the notion that all citizens have a right to computer literacy and access to the benefits of technology, regardless of race, language, age, ability/disability, income, geographic location, or gender. Community technology centers are the libraries of the digital age and should be available to all.

e-Equality was the largest multiprogram community-technology center of its scope in Florida, and the only one offering a full range of programs to all citizens in Miami-Dade County. We provided beginner to advanced technology training and access for learners coming from as far away as Homestead and Northwest Dade (who often traveled to us by public transportation), six days a week, with classes until 8:00 p.m. to accommodate working people. Classes were offered in English and Spanish, with plans to offer them in Creole as well. Yes, there are some other neighborhood computer labs in the Miami area, but owing to a lack of sufficient resources, they are of limited scope and service, and not a single one is open to everyone.

I hope our community leaders will eventually see the economic and societal benefits of community-based technology training and begin to support these efforts in a far more significant way.

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