Letters from the Issue of , 2002

Political battles, toppled trees, and downtown denizens

Democracy: It's All About Tough Choices

A District 7 voter ponders his options: After reading Francisco Alvarado's article about the county commission race between Xavier Suarez and Carlos Gimenez ("The X Man Returns," October 21), I say wow -- what an impressive list of political heavyweights backing Gimenez, all of them either being paid by Gimenez or contributing to his campaign. And they unanimously badmouth Suarez. Gee, how could anyone vote for Suarez after reading the comments of all those swell guys?

Which one to vote for? Do I go with Gimenez, backed by all the politicians, lobbyists, consultants, and money? Or do I go with Suarez, backed by no-names, the Sierra Club, $25 contributors, and a bunch of volunteers?

Hmmm.... I guess Xavier's the one.

Emilio Calleja

Coral Gables

I Think That I Shall Never See

A thing so wasteful as destroying that tree: I shuddered and was deeply pained as I read in "The Bitch" about the unnecessary destruction of the large banyan tree in Miami Beach's Flamingo Park ("Banyan Chainsaw Massacre," October 21). Any experienced arborist, horticulturist, or landscape architect should have been able to advise the parks department's Kevin Smith regarding appropriate methods for saving the tree. The notion that a tree blown over by a storm cannot be saved is an egregious supposition, akin to arguing that your arm should be removed because it suffered a compound fracture.

Simply because a portion -- normally slightly more than half -- of a tree's root structure has been uprooted (called "pit and mound") does not mean its survival potential is "at best 50-50," as Smith said. That's a very subjective observation unlikely to be sustained by scientific data or by practical experience.

After Hurricane Andrew many trees that suffered the "pit and mound" phenomenon were in fact reset. In our own garden, we reset four massive live oaks ranging in height from 35 feet to 50 feet. Twelve years later all of them are vigorous, healthy trees, providing shade as well as habitat value and connectivity within the larger regional landscape.

The roots of the banyan should have been neatly pruned, and the pit from which the root ball emerged should have been carefully excavated, enlarging and deepening it. A well-designed planting mix could have been placed in the bottom of the pit. The tree should then have been rigged (experienced crane operators know how to accomplish this) and gently raised up and placed back into the pit. With the crane holding the tree upright, a suitable quantity of fertilizer should have been blended with the prepared planting mix and backfilled around the root structure. The banyan then could have been braced with a series pressure-treated timbers. Finally approximately one-quarter of the existing canopy should have been removed.

In light of these observations, I would respectfully suggest that Mr. Smith made a costly and unsound decision to unnecessarily destroy a tree that was of high functional quality and financial value to the landscape of Miami Beach.

Ted Baker, fellow

American Society of Landscape Architects

Kendall

Editor's note: Ted Baker is an associate professor with Florida International University's graduate program in landscape architecture.

Memories of Clint O'NeilLively music, good friends, charming banter: In her item about the death of WLRN-FM host Clint O'Neil ("Dead Air," October 21), The Bitch noted that on-air host Michael Stock did not mention his passing. A week later, on October 17, Michael did mention Clint's death on his program, Folk & Acoustic Music, and played Bob Marley's mother singing "Three Little Birds" in memory of Clint and his show, Sounds of the Caribbean.

I had the pleasure of seeing Clint quite often on Sunday mornings for about thirteen years when I was reading the Miami Herald for the Radio Reading Service at WLRN. He would usually be in the parking lot talking to friends and musical artists who'd been on his show. His music was lively and his banter unique. He will be missed.

Fred Hermes

Coral Gables

The Puerto Rico Conundrum

They can't be prosecuted but they sure can contribute: Regarding Tristram Korten's article "Powers That Be" (October 14), how dare State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle insult the public's intelligence by making us think she was unaware that the daughter of her politically active contributor, Sergio Pino, had a felony case pending at her office. I guess we're so blinded by lies and corruption that we are just supposed to ignore the obvious and believe the charges were really dropped because the arresting officers never showed up when summoned. According to Korten, the Miami Beach Police Department has records showing the subpoenas arrived late.

But Kathy has her fiancé, David Efron, who is very active in her campaign, standing by her side. Through Mr. Efron's Democratic Party connections and Puerto Rican business and legal circles, Rundle's campaign has raised more than $450,000, some $40,000 of it from Puerto Rico. My god, Puerto Rico? As Korten reported, Rundle's office has no legal jurisdiction there and she received no contributions from there during her 2000 election. So what possible benefit could they have by contributing to her campaign? She says, "I never really realized how many Puerto Ricans own and do business in Miami-Dade. They are incredibly supportive." Give me a break.

Belinda Davis

Miami

Hon, Will You Please Take Fido to the Museum?

And don't let him chew on the Picasso: Errol Portman, in his letter entitled "Museums Belong in Bicentennial Park" (October 7), devoted a good part of his energies to making the case for a new Miami Art Museum. But the question is not whether there should be a new Miami Art Museum; it is whether a museum should be built in the only park of any size in downtown Miami.

In deciding where to put a new museum, Miami has the advantage of being relatively young. As a result, a good part of the city is underdeveloped, particularly downtown. A staggering number of vacant lots, decrepit buildings, and unused warehouses can be found just one or two blocks off Biscayne Boulevard. Why not use some of that land for a new museum? The city recently auctioned off the Miami Arena to a real estate developer. Why not use that instead of Bicentennial Park? Why take a one-of-a-kind resource that, once built upon, can never be brought back?

If Miami is to become the "world-class city" Portman looks forward to, there must be a substantial amount of downtown development, including a considerable increase in the density of people. Downtown must be a place where people can live, work, dine, and entertain without getting in their cars -- a fundamental principle of the urban lifestyle. All these people are going to want a place not too far away where they can stroll, walk the dog, have a picnic, or throw the ball. Portman thinks a condo pool or a sliver of grass with a bench along the sidewalk should be enough. I disagree.

Chris MacLeod

Miami

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