Your Elected Representatives Will Now Insult You
Jim DeFede's story "How to Save the Neighborhood" (September 24) describes a group of citizens trying to protect their neighborhood from a development that violates county regulations. Grinding down citizen opposition is a tradition-bound tactic, and in Miami-Dade County it is public sport: Important meetings that citizens take time to attend are deferred at the last moment or are placed on agendas late in order to erode opposition energy; citizens are kept waiting for hours in the cheap seats at county hall while business is done in the inner hallway.
For most people the simple act of maintaining a coherent family life when both partners work full-time consumes every ounce of effort. Identifying volunteers with extra time and energy for civic involvement is like finding gold, and public officials know this. So delay tactics and even disrespect toward citizens by public officials serve a purpose. When commissioners don't pay attention to citizens at public hearings, it means, "Don't expect much from us."
The last chapter of this particular story, involving a proposed Cadillac dealership along U.S. 1, is not yet written. But it is easy to understand why people are so turned off by government and public institutions. Why waste time voting if government is nothing but a facilitator for campaign contributors, no matter who is elected?
It's tempting to believe that a change in campaign-finance laws is the answer. But consider that Gwen Margolis and Pedro Reboredo, the two county commissioners DeFede cites as having been especially dreadful during the hearing for the zoning change, returned to office in September unopposed.
Alan Farago, conservation chair
Sierra Club Miami Group
No Contradiction, No Embarrassment, Just Fuddruckers
It might seem to some who read "How to Save the Neighborhood" that I was caught in an embarrassing contradiction. I did answer "no" to questions by residents opposing the project when they asked if I, as a former planning director for the City of Miami, would "typically put residential zoning next to industrial" or would "have car dealerships exit 100 percent of their traffic into small neighborhoods." After all, I was appearing as an expert witness in support of the proposal by [Ed Williamson's] Cadillac dealership to build on industrial land next to residential.
But Mr. DeFede failed to include my full response, which pointed out that, like the Williamson Cadillac issue, I as a director rarely dealt with hypothetical ideals but most often with land-use patterns that had existed for decades, where the only real choice was to find the best way to buffer one use from another. Moreover, I also made the point that this dealership would have traffic exit onto a major road, into a liberal commercial zone, and directly opposite Fuddruckers and Kmart. Certainly not "into a small neighborhood."
I continue to believe that in an imperfect world of difficult choices, this project offers the best possible relationship between a long-existing industrial site and the more recently built adjacent homes. I will continue to stake my professional reputation on it.
Black Knight Brightened by Scrupulous School
Jim DeFede's characterization of zoning attorney Jeffrey Bercow in his article "How to Save the Neighborhood" as "one of the black knights of zoning law" is hardly fair. Jeffrey is a highly skilled zoning attorney who knows local zoning ordinances so thoroughly that developers hire him for the results he gets, which he obtains by going by the book.
Over the years Jeffrey has been a white knight for Miami-Dade Community College, which he represented at far below his normal rate in two extremely difficult zoning matters; both had excellent results. As the college's real estate consultant for the past six years, I can personally assure you MDCC does not hire unscrupulous attorneys. The fault lies not in the skilled practice of zoning law but in city and county politics, where politicians refuse to divest themselves of zoning matters that belong in the neighborhoods in which each zoning change is sought.
Anthony Parrish, Jr.
Dead Music: Reality in Six Easy Words
I read with much interest Adam St. James's long-winded and overly analytical assessment of Miami-Dade County's pathetic rock music scene ("Live Music: Dead on Arrival," September 24). Maybe I'm naive, but I think St. James has confused readers and complicated an issue that isn't brain surgery. There are no venues at which to see or play rock and roll. Period. No clubs means no shows and therefore no scene.
It's really simple: Get a big room, remove the tables, hire or buy a good sound system, book bands, sell beer, give the bands a split of the door charge, make money, and stop pointing fingers. It's a formula that has worked for decades everywhere on the planet, so why would St. James have us believe it is so complicated here in South Florida?
It's disturbing that St. James seems to agree with the analysis and insight of Steve "The Beast" Alvin and partner Greg Baker, whose Thursday-night concerts he has crowned "the most consistent, professional, and well-promoted series in Miami." If this is true, then bands and their audiences are in trouble; their so-called rock and roll venue features a cramped, filthy room with a stage not much bigger than a queen-size mattress, a joke of a sound system, and a narrow flight of stairs up and down which bands must hump their equipment.
St. James and his boosters are even further off the mark in suggesting education as a solution. If Alvin really believes he can help by teaching an audience "to like live rock music," then maybe he needs to be taught that a crappy upstairs shoebox like Tobacco Road will never be attractive to either bands or audiences. Alvin paints himself deeper into a corner of ignorance by referring to his potential but unlikely patrons as "sheeple" who "seem far more interested in the dance scene." In a town where places like Tobacco Road or Churchill's are the premier rock clubs, it's no wonder the scene sucks.
There's money on the table for the first rocket scientist who opens a club that's production-friendly to bands and their would-be promoters. The audience doesn't have to be taught anything. This town is starving for entertainment. There's just nowhere to go. St. James could have summed it up in six words: no clubs, no shows, no scene.
North Miami Beach
Dead Music: Please Don't Remind Me
As a musician and former Miami resident, I salute Adam St. James and his well-researched article, which brought back painful memories: playing in back yards to indifferent, drunken teenagers; the horribly inadequate PA at Churchill's; the utter lack of venues.
Aside from the lack of small venues where local bands can establish a fan base, one problem in Miami is the lack of midsize to large venues in which well-known national bands can perform. The Orange Bowl and Miami Arena are accessible only to the really huge acts, not to mention being the acoustic equivalent of an elementary school cafeteria. A city without access to recognizable performers cannot propagate a music scene of its own.
Otherwise, St. James's piece was brilliant. New Times truly is the only reliable bastion of cultural knowledge in Miami. You'd never see this article in the Miami Herald. I even caught myself longing for a Thursday in Miami (I can't believe these words even as I write them) if only to read New Times.
New York, New York
Dead Music: UM In Not the Problem, Chump
I was very pleased to read "Live Music: Dead on Arrival." Actually, I should say I was initially pleased. Many of the problems concerning Miami's local music scene were finally being addressed. It is always positive for the media, as well as the community, to hear a little (or a bunch) of people expounding on a topic that is so important.
But some grossly misleading statements were made by Adam St. James about the University of Miami's music school and its musicians. Does the university really lack fresh blood? Once again we have another music editor speaking from his proverbial behind. Here is a list of the best bands in Miami, some signed, some unsigned, some having received national acclaim, and some yet to. Pay attention, now, because all the groups (and I'm sure I've missed some) are composed of University of Miami alumni, current students, or sabbatical students, from one member to the entire group. Here they are: Raw B Jae, Nil Lara, Iko-Iko, Fulano de Tal, Kynch O'Kaine, Trophy Wife, Second Nature, Raul Midon, the Kind, the 18 Wheelers, and Omar Stang.
Let's move to the next piece of brilliance from the St. James State of Musical Affairs address. He cites a WVUM-FM DJ (and UM freshman) who says that "many of UM's 700 to 800 music students are studying jazz and classical, and are more likely to seek out those types of entertainment." This reeks. A totally unsubstantiated fact! I admit, though, DJs know a couple of things: how to get to work on time, how to log tunes for performing-rights organizations, how to read copy, how many requests they receive for a given artist, the call letters, and, most important, they know what they like to hear. But they usually know absolutely nothing about real musicians, what they do, or who they go hear on their time off. St. James has successfully misled readers about what music students or music pros are likely to go see.
The University of Miami music school did see the likes of Pat Metheny, Jon Secada, and Bruce Hornsby stroll through its halls, but remember, folks, these guys were not students at the time they achieved their fame. Greatness requires nurturing. Don't fault hard-working students who frequently choose to stay "in the shed" at night honing their craft instead of going out to see the neighborhood's best high school ska band.
Because of lazy journalism, St. James came up with only three names and then accused UM of not supplying much fresh blood. The list of heavyweight musicians who are UM alumni and who play or have played in many of today's national and international touring acts would be too large to list, people who play with Bruce Springsteen, the Bee Gees, the Sound Machine, Lari White, David Lee Roth, Bob Seger, Julio Iglesias, Chayanne, Tom Jones, Ilan Chester -- the list goes and on and continues to grow. And let's not dare to drag into this the music industry or music engineering alumni, because you would need a small book to list their accomplishments as musicians, recording engineers, and record company executives.
Finally, to say that UM music professors do not encourage students to experiment with other genres is not only an insult to me and my colleagues, it also makes me want to invite St. James outside to the real world so I can rub his nose in it. Though I may sound like it, I am not a University of Miami flag-waver. We are not saints here. Our tower is built of as much mud as ivory. And I couldn't care less about the football team. But we are good at what we do.
Reading a potentially great article marred by a slew of misstatements and freshman chump philosophy was a drag, to say the least. The facts are the same as they have been for years: For myriad reasons, Miami as a whole has not supported live music. Along with St. James and all the others, I grieve over this fact. But let's keep the blame in the hands of those who deserve it -- if you can find them.
Kynch O'Kaine, guitar faculty
School of Music
University of Miami
Dead Music: Come Hear My Band!
I must vehemently disagree with Adam St. James's findings. My band, Flashback, has been performing in the South Florida club scene and on the private-party circuit for more than thirteen years. Our repertoire covers all classic rock and roll, from the Fifties to today.
No, there are not a lot of venues featuring a rock format, but the clubs that do, especially the Taurus in Coconut Grove, offer a steady stream of good rock, R&B, and jazz groups on a weekly basis.
Contrary to St. James's article, there is life beyond Miami Beach's disco DJ strip. I welcome New Times readers to the Grove to experience excellent live rock and roll venues, especially at the Taurus, where Flashback will be performing Halloween weekend, October 30 and 31.
E. Brooks Kurtz
Dead Music: Come Hear His Band at My Club!
Adam St. James himself is clearly an endangered species. His article must have been written from beneath a DJ booth in South Beach. Not only was it loaded with blatant inaccuracies, but he didn't do his homework. Our establishment, the Taurus, is listed in the New Times music section each week and in seven other publications, as are many other clubs he totally ignored.
The Taurus, located in Coconut Grove, has provided live music to hundreds of thousands of people over the past 35 years. Jimmy Buffett and the Mavericks are but two national acts whose early paid gigs were performed here. Currently there is live music Tuesday through Saturday night, performed almost exclusively by local bands. Hundreds of enthusiastic patrons hear a wide variety of rock, R&B, and jazz each night. And the Taurus is only one of many clubs to entertain local rock music lovers.
Just do the math, Mr. St. James. In recent months more than 40 bands have played at the Taurus. We would be deluding ourselves to believe that, when they're not playing the Taurus, these bands are practicing for their next appearance here. The truth is they are playing at area clubs too numerous to mention. These local bands are presented in professional settings and comprise a mix of full-time professional musicians and seasoned veterans of many backgrounds. All music at the Taurus starts promptly as billed, and there have been no cancellations. How much more reliable does it get, sir?
I invite readers to contact me to learn that Mr. St. James is dead wrong. His story's headline, "Live Music: Dead on Arrival," was just a preliminary for the most irresponsible piece of journalism I have read, and from a newspaper that I believe hits the mark practically all the time.
Bruce Wilson, co-owner
Dead Music: Hey, Where Is Everybody?
I've been disappointed at the lack of response to Adam St. James's "Live Music: Dead On Arrival." The only letter printed so far was from Jim Murphy, who doesn't even live in Miami any more! Hello, is anybody home? Does anybody really care? Doesn't anyone in the Miami music community have anything to say about what's going on? Perhaps Murphy can shed more light on this matter.
I recall an article Murphy wrote several years ago for New Times in which he discussed the vitality of the Miami music scene back in the Seventies. Talk about being proactive! Back then bands would sponsor their own dance parties, typically referred to as open houses. The bands would get together and rent a room like the Electricians' Hall on NW Seventeenth Avenue and throw a party. They would spread the word around town via flyers, posters, and local radio stations. Who needs nightclubs and cheapskate club managers when you can do it yourself?
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Unfortunately that scene became a battleground for gangs and ended almost overnight when somebody got shot at one of the events. As I've read about juvenile delinquency running rampant on South Beach, and the demise of some of the venues that used to support live bands there, I couldn't help wondering if there's a connection.
But as Jim Murphy suggests, don't give up. Let people know you are out there. You can start by sounding off right here in this letters section. I'm waiting to hear from you.