Letters from the Issue of May 27, 2004

Proud white trash, neocon conspiracies, and clueless reporters

So when Humberto Guida, your paper's most-developed Homo sapiens specimen, heard that the Miami Beach City Commission was going to vote on an essential ordinance that would plug a loophole permitting places licensed as restaurants to turn themselves into noisy nightclubs in areas zoned residential, he decided not to pass up an opportunity to prove to the world -- and his editors -- that he could write well enough to connect a trivial subject with a satirical predicate.

In my mind's eye, I can plainly see Humberto approaching the jammed city commission chambers. Pushing aside several elderly ladies (that is, women over 30), he spots his old pals Carmel Ophir, Michael Capponi, and Roman Jones, surrounded by their flacks, lawyers, and camp followers. Looking at his watch, Humberto says crisply: "Somebody brief me. You've got 60 seconds!"

Ophir steps up: "Listen, your theme is the young, the beautiful, the healthy, and the hip versus the old, the ugly, the diseased, and the ignorant." Humberto nods. Ophir continues: "Look, use phrases like 'the theater of the absurd,' 'the elderly,' 'a meeting rife with hilarity,' 'residents whining about dog doo,' 'pompous commissioners,' 'a Monty Python kind of circus.' Then top it off with a memorable quotation: 'Club life made Miami Beach, so why are the old, the ugly, the diseased, and the ignorant trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?'"

Humberto nods enthusiastically: "Yes, but who made that brilliant statement?"

In grave tones, Capponi replies: "I did. Don't you remember?"

And that's how Miami New Times usually covers politics in Miami Beach.

Morris Sunshine

Miami Beach

Spoilers Are So Passé

Let the runoff decide: While Brett Sokol's column "The 3% Man" ("Kulchur," April 29) plays on the controversy of third-party and independent-candidate participation in presidential politics, he fails to mention the proverbial elephant in the room. The "blame Greens for splitting the vote and spoiling the election" circus is an utter distraction. The real spoiler is our election process. Its features include unusually high qualification thresholds, bans from public debate, and a plurality voting system.

In our current system, three or more candidates competing for a single seat can result in the winner having less than a majority, and the majority of the electorate actually opposing the "winner." This "minority rule" system ascribes "spoiler" status to any candidate or party that would take votes from either of the two major-party contenders, thereby splitting the vote. This forces many of us to vote strategically for a "lesser evil," or for whom we deem "electable," rather than for our preferred candidate.

Fortunately a solution is within our reach. It's called instant runoff voting, or IRV (see www.fairvote.org). IRV is a much more optimal alternative. It's a ranked choice system that is gaining momentum around the country. Simply rank your preferences first, second, third, etc. The winner must receive a majority. Count all the first choices. If one candidate receives a majority, the election is over. If no candidate receives a majority, the low vote-getter is eliminated, and the ballots are retabulated. If your favorite candidate has not been eliminated, he or she is counted in the retabulation. If your favorite has been eliminated, your second choice is counted in the retabulation. The process continues until one candidate accrues a majority.

It's done in just one visit to the polls. The real support behind independent and third-party candidates can be seen because people are no longer fearful of voting for them, since there is no risk involved. The spoiler effect has been eliminated.

Preparations for an IRV ballot initiative are in the works here by a political action committee, Citizens for Instant Runoff Voting in Florida (see www.cirv.org). It's high time we have no more excuses why third parties can't play. A broader public discourse is desperately needed in American politics. Let's restore majority rule, create more political choice, and eliminate divisive "spoiler" politics, all at the same time. Bring on IRV!

Steve Showen


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