Letters from the Issue of March 18, 2004

Civic demons, bad dentistry, and hip-hop culture crash

An Angel's Blessing

Free weekly praised for publishing potty-mouth cartoons: I want to thank Francisco Alvarado for his journalistic aggressiveness in reporting the latest chapter in the sick saga of North Bay Village's political chaos ("The Avenging Angel of North Bay Village," March 11). The two disgusting cartoons that were purportedly sent to me by North Bay Village Police Chief Irving Heller, who is still under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, reflect a city government that has spiraled out of control. These profanity-laden and offensive cartoons, which New Times had the guts to print, tell the raw truth that no other paper in South Florida had the journalistic courage to do.

Francisco, whom I have nicknamed the hangman for his take-no-prisoners reporting style, would have made a great public-corruption prosecutor, given his ability to dig out the facts in a timely fashion and succinctly describe them. The head of the State Attorney's corruption unit, Joe Centorino, could take a few lessons from him.

The impact from his stories has been invaluable in the fight against public corruption. I continue to receive numerous e-mail messages at my Websites (www.dumpdugger.com and www.ditchdorne.com, which concerns Mayor Alan Dorne) from New Times readers who have been motivated to come forward with new information regarding not only questionable activity by politicians and employees in North Bay Village, but also in other parts of Miami-Dade County.

Fane Lozman

North Bay Village

Secret to Global Improvement in a Word

And the word is -- cloning:Congratulations to Francisco Alvarado for having the courage to write about Fane Lozman and his fight against those North Bay Village characters. I'm sure sooner or later justice will be served and they will pay for everything they've done.

If we could have more individuals like Mr. Lozman and the people at New Times this world would be a better place. Thanks for a great job. May you continue to have the courage to denounce the bad things that happen in Miami.

George Palmas

Miami

Open Wide

This won't hurt a bit (heh, heh): I think Rebecca Wakefield's article on the new dental HMO for kids on Medicaid only scratched the surface of what is wrong with the system ("Cavity Depravity," March 11). Once again a politically connected businessman, Michael Fernandez, stands to gain at the expense of the very patients the system was designed to help. The explanation given -- that the change was mandated to reduce fraud -- rings hollow when no effort was made to include providers such as Dr. Luisa Utset-Ward and Children's Hospital, who have served this population for so long.

As Medicaid is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, I suspect this "pilot program," which has no built-in review except for that performed by Fernandez's own HMO, will be coming under some federal scrutiny.

The tragedy of this is that the children who do not have the option of using the private system will ultimately pay for this experiment.

Malcolm M. Major, M.D.

Plantation

Rotten Deal, Rotten Teeth

But what do you expect when politics mixes with health care? Thanks to Rebecca Wakefield for the disturbing article reporting HMOs taking over the dental health care previously administered by Medicaid.

Consequences: Children are neglected and HMO honcho Michael Fernandez buys huge mansion on the waterfront. She could not have said it better.

I agree with Dr. Alan Friedel, first vice president of the Florida Dental Association: This only means adding another layer of administration, which means another useless layer of wasted money. Sad, and nothing we can do.

Matthias Muenzer

Brookline, Massachusetts

Can I Vote Twice?

Because I'd like to see twin county mayors: So, as Tristram Korten reports ("Who's That Man Behind the Badge?" March 4), Carlos Alvarez is saying bye-bye to the Miami-Dade Police Department, where he's served as director for these past several years, to enter the mayoral contest. So he's served the public in the role of police officer for 28 years total. Good record as a cop. Good record as chief: Didn't use any credit cards he shouldn't have; didn't use his position for personal gain; and not afraid to go head-to-head with this town's political machine. Not a bad choice.

Korten mentions his competition: County Commissioner Jimmy Morales; businessman José Cancela; attorney and former county Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who has just played a principal role in opening up to development what's left of South Miami-Dade farmland -- and with no infrastructure in place. Is anyone missing?

Isn't Jay Love, another businessman, also running? And what, pray tell, has happened to school board member Marta Perez? From time to time Perez takes positions that aggravate some of her fellow board members. She is something of a loose cannon, the kind of person political professionals don't want to see in office.

If the voting public wanted to stick it to the lobbyists, the entrenched interests, and those who want to use public money for their own gain, Carlos Alvarez or Marta Perez would be a hell of a choice.

Alan Rigerman

Northwest Miami-Dade

Can I Recommend a Candidate?

You only need one vote, and that's for Marta: Though I was pleased to read Tristram Korten write about Carlos Alvarez's position against the influence of powerful lobbyists in Miami-Dade politics, I was disappointed that he didn't mention Marta Perez as a candidate for Miami-Dade mayor.

As a member of the school board, she has proven that she too stands firm against corruption and will not be influenced by big-money interests. As a teacher in the Miami-Dade school system and a concerned citizen, I have watched Ms. Perez stick her neck out by taking unpopular positions against those who seek to undermine the county's taxpayers and ultimately the education of our children.

Her record in education is exemplary. She is an intelligent forward-thinker and an honest, caring, and ethical person. She should be given careful consideration for the position of Miami-Dade mayor by voters and by New Times.

Darron J. Burke

Aventura

A Hip-Hop Education

I want my students to understand there's more to it than materialism, misogyny, and misrepresentation: Man, do I have qualms with Mosi Reeves's column about hip-hop's negative messages ("Mind Games," February 26). Not because I think he's wrong, but because I think he's absolutely right.

As a young Latino male growing up in the Nineties as a military brat, I identified more closely with hip-hop than with my Latin roots. Hip-hop became my culture. I knew about break dancing, popping and locking, and graffiti, as well as DJing and emceeing. When I heard Chuck D's quote about hip-hop being the young black man's CNN, I took that to mean "the young urban man's CNN." To me it was language, culture, philosophy, emotion, catharsis, revelation, and many more things all at once. Now I'm a twenty-something hip-hop male, digging real hard to find something of relevance in my culture.

As a high school teacher, I find Reeves's essay relevant on multiple levels. I see how hard it is to find music that explores the deeper themes of being human in this world, and I see the effect that mass marketing and consumer capitalism are having on today's youth. It seems wrong to me that Mos and Kweli, today's most widely known "conscious" and skillful rappers, are still relegated to spots behind rappers like Loose Change and Smelly.

Every day I'm trying to expose my kids to new and relevant music. I give them journal topics from songs like "How Real It Is," in which New York native and former school teacher J-Live says, "A lot of kids wanna show they've got heart/So they wild-out, skip school, and trade book smarts for street smarts/But ask yourself, 'Even if you've got one target, ain't you better off with two darts?'"

Or Kweli's lyrics from "K.O.S. (Determination)," where he says, "At exactly which point do you start to realize/That life without knowledge is death in disguise?" My kids, as interested in hip-hop as they all are (regardless of color, creed, or culture), just aren't able to decode the meaning of those words. They don't know they're supposed to think about what they're hearing. As far as they're concerned, music is only about shaking ass at the clubs until you're ready to go home and shake the bedboards.

In the remix of "School's In," J-Live says, "What the hell does choppin' trees have to do with culinary/That's the spirit kid/Analyze the lyric from the moment that you hear it see/Cuz most don't have the skill to/Utilize their ears' function as a garbage-filter." To me, that's a prime example of what's going wrong with hip-hop these days. We have an art form based primarily on language being mass-marketed to an audience that, for whatever reason, isn't capable of decoding that language. Couple that with the hip-hop industry's extraordinary penchant for materialism, misogyny, and misrepresentation, and what you get is a society of kids who can dance well, devise plans to get rich quick and hit lots of skins, and acquire ridiculous amounts of material goods while being utterly lost when it comes to getting along in the world without the help of others. It's a damned shame.

My students seem to be hypnotized by the fallacy that minorities can only make it in two ways: as entertainers (rap stars and athletes -- let's give credit for this one to America's media conglomerates) or as hustlers. But how are lowly high-school teachers going to battle the radio and television for influence over the kids' minds? My pudgy, dreadlocked, pierced, nondesigner-wearing self isn't going to compete with J-Ho's ass or Shitty Scent's gems or a Gucci gun belt.

I've said nothing here that Mosi Reeves doesn't already know, but I'm aware of how valuable it is to be aware that someone is reading your words and feeling your quandary. No doubt about that -- I see it every day. Take heart, though. There are those like Reeves and myself who are out there trying to make some changes. And there are emcees out there like Kweli and Mos and J-Live and a whole army of others who are taking quiet, careful aim at the hip-hop industry and blowing off bits and pieces where they may.

Sometime in the future hip-hop will balance itself and there will be viable markets for all these different styles and viewpoints. Until then we'll keep "walking through the darkness, holdin' our torches."

Jason J. Crespo

Miami

Posers Beware

Janelle has a word for you: Sorry it took me so long to write this but I just wanted to see if any of the head honchos over there at New Times noticed how Kris Conesa's article about the commercialization of the (now-expensive) Marley Festival ("Who the Cap Fit," February 5) influenced the other publications in our fair city. The Herald ran articles in the business and weekend sections saying the exact same stuff as Conesa, with that Heraldconservatism spin we all know and love. (That was sarcasm!)

Anyway, just wanted to say: Kudos to Kris Conesa and New Times for staying ahead of the game and fuck those other posers trying to emulate the best.

Janelle Sola

Miami

Erratum

Owing to a reporting error in "Information Society" by John Anderson (March 4), Smile Faucet was incorrectly described as a design studio. It is a seasonal video magazine. New Times regrets the error.

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