The Avenue Don't Get No Respect
I would like to thank John Lantigua for his objective coverage of the Washington Avenue nightclub problem ("Conflict in Clubland," May 21). I think the article presented a fair picture of the issues that confront us here, and even touched on their causes -- the decades-long neglect of this street by our city government. As a member of the mayor's Washington Avenue Task Force, I will be submitting the article for inclusion with the documents to be attached to our final report.
Yes, we do have a few bad nightclubs, and the city does need to find a way to get rid of them. But to punish all clubs and bars for the sins of a few is clearly unfair. And for the city to dredge up an outmoded 1940s definition of nightclubs as "restaurants with dance floors" and to suddenly require that all clubs "put in kitchens within 30 days or close your doors" has outraged everyone.
The problems of Washington Avenue are not limited to clubs and bars, nor do they necessarily stem from the clubs and bars. The biggest problem we have is with the youth gangs that cruise and hang out along Washington on weekends, many of them [too young] to get into clubs and bars. This problem started when they were driven off Ocean Drive. Soon Washington became their new turf.
Despite our protests and appeals to city officials (going all the way back to 1993), nothing was done by the city to stop this from happening. It got so bad that earlier this year we were forced to appeal for help to then-County Commissioner Bruce Kaplan. Thanks to him, within a matter of weeks we had 60 Metro officers working Washington Avenue on the weekends.
Yes, the extra policing is definitely helping, but our question to the city is, Why did you let this get out of hand in the first place? Why have we had to lose so many good restaurants and clubs because of your failure to properly maintain and police the street? Why do you keep the street so dirty and rundown? Don't you know that the slum conditions you impose upon us encourage and play host to bad elements, and discourage good business? We get no answers to these questions.
The vast majority of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs on South Beach are good and properly run businesses that form a vital part of our economy and our attractiveness to visitors. These businesses don't create problems. They create excitement for visitors and jobs for residents, not to mention a major portion of the city's revenue from resort taxes and sales taxes. Frankly, they deserve better treatment from the city than they have been getting, and so does Washington Avenue.
David Kelsey, president
South Beach Hotel and Restaurant Association
Best Invitation to a Bloody Nose
The "Best of Miami" (May 14) mentioned Best Ancient Chinese Secret and Best Boxing for Nonboxers. Why do we still try to make ancient secrets out of nothing? Tai chi is a wonderful exercise for health, but it is not effective as a fighting art. To be a fighter, a person must practice fighting skills. It's hard enough to defend against one person. How are you going to deal with more than one? You need experience as a street fighter.
As for cardio-boxing, if you want to learn real boxing you must learn in a realistic setting, with the proper equipment and personnel. I welcome these people to go a few rounds at my tiger den to prove my point.
Best Cute New Winner
How could Best Name for a Hair Cuttery not be Curl Up-N-Dye, located in South Miami?
Best Idea That'll Never Fly
The "Best of Miami" was interesting and most informative. I am not much on promotions, but I suggest that a small pamphlet containing listings from the issue -- just the name, phone, and address of the winners -- would be useful to individuals and could probably even be sold. People could keep a copy in their car or at home or the office.
Your Best Alternative to I-95 was particularly interesting to me. It is a route I often take, though it is recognized by few people.
Thanks for naming Libreria & Distribuidora Universal the Best Spanish-language Bookstore. We work so hard. New Times's recognition means a lot. We have very proudly displayed the beautiful award on our wall.
Best Idealized Future
I wish to express my deepest thanks and appreciation for my inclusion in the "Best of Miami" Personal Best for 1998. It is predictable that my stand in relation to Cuba would be considered controversial in Cuban Miami. I am convinced, however, that the road to normalization leads to a hopeful future for the relationship between the United States and Cuba, and for all of us in South Florida.
My stand -- and the goal of my program -- is clearly also for a more open Miami, an end to the corruption, and a search for a healthy unity of South Florida's political and ethnic diversity. All of which would only benefit our community. With New Times's recognition, you have helped us on that path.
Francisco G. Aruca
Best Category Manny Expects to Win
I want to commend New Times on the "Best of Miami" issue. A colossal piece of journalism, it seemed to sparkle, to fuse with me as my curious eyes hovered over everything from the best food in Miami to the Best Marlins Player to Best Transvestite Strip Club Gone Straight. I do, however, have my reservations about the issue -- namely, that New Times did not include Best Letters to the Editor.
I now know why this publication is still in existence, and why it will be well into the 21st Century: because it brings out the best, and at times the worst, in people. I would like to nominate New Times as the best non-kissass publication in Miami. Hats off.
You See Green, They See Greenbacks
Regarding Jacob Bernstein's article "The Final Harvest" (May 14), Dade County has precious little land that still retains a rural flavor. And once the farmland is gone, it's gone forever. What is sad is that we could lose this last corner of land that fulfills a basic need -- food.
Meanwhile whole areas of our inner city stand waiting for revitalization. Miami should learn a lesson from Boulder, Colorado, which has contained development by buying a green belt around the city. Farmers and ranchers still thrive, while land values both inside and outside the city increase.
Why can't the Dade County Farm Bureau understand that preservation will be good for farmers? Or are its members more interested in turning a fast profit than farming?
Consider It Paved
I don't live in South Dade and I don't farm, but my friends and I do drive down several times each year to buy strawberries and squash and great tomatoes. The Redland area feels like a special place to me. Why not bed-and-breakfasts, bike rides, and strawberry shakes? There must be a way to preserve it. Must all of Dade be developed?
Now Entering Coral Gables, Have Your Passport Ready
It's amazing, isn't it? Politicians never learn. Don't bother to get both sides of the story, to verify facts, or even to explore the possibility of wrongdoing on the part of a city employee. Just cover your ass. As Tristram Korten reported ("Chop a Trunk, Go to Jail," May 7), Coral Gables city administrators have a well-known reputation, and it isn't for being open-minded, flexible, or remembering who they work for.
More than a hundred people stopped by while I was working on the tree-trunk sculpture that led to my arrest, and not one of them had any negative comments (this included at least a dozen city employees). As for threats made when I was confronted by city employee Troy Springmyer, I wasn't the one with my fists clenched, turning purple with rage. As for Springmyer being in fear for his life, he stands three to four inches taller than I, outweighs me by at least 40 pounds, is half my age, and was in my face.
Let's get real. If he was afraid, why did one of his own men have to tell him to "back off"? What constitutes inappropriate behavior on the part of a city employee? Is it appropriate to threaten to destroy my work out of spite?
Hurray for the "City Beautiful," even though it isn't a part of this great land of ours, where freedom of expression is a right, where a person is innocent until proven guilty, where it's a crime to bear false witness, and where the majority rules. And where a trash tree is considered more desirable than a work of art.
Editor's note: The Dade State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute Wiseman, a general contractor who had been arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault.
Oh, Those Crazy Cubans (Heh, Heh...)
The subject of Mike Clary's April 30 article "Our Man in Havana" (why is La Habana never spelled right?) came up during a meeting of our organization. It was decided that someone should write a letter. So here it is.
We are not outraged! Rather (not Dan, please), we are mildly amused by Mr. Clary's lack of knowledge regarding the matter that is central to the ethos of this community. It's like, do you live in Miami, man?
The problem is not with the subject of his article. Most comments regarding Max Lesnik were on the order of "Who?" Neither is the general tone of the article a major problem. It was received with the usual resignation we reserve for most of what is written in English about Cuba or Cubans: "Estos americanos no aprenden ..." One of our members attempted a synthesis of both the article and its subject: "There's no business like show business."
But I will get to the point. You know how we emotional Cubans (elbow in the ribs, wink) like to beat around the bush. (Not George!)
Mr. Clary does violence to historical truth when he writes that Mr. Leonardo Viota was the author of the "ubiquitous bumper sticker 'No Castro, No Problem.'" He makes not one but two crass errors in such a short statement, probably a journalistic first. Mr. Viota had no special role in the adoption of the motto "No Castro, No Problem" other than being at that time (1994) a member in good standing (and sitting) of our organization. We would like to make clear that he no longer stands or sits among us.
The other crass error is to suggest that such a sublime motto could be authored. It was not! It was extracted like a gem, polished, and nurtured. It was discovered (in Hollywood-style fashion) by Mr. Tony Garcia, a member in good standing and sitting of Agenda:Cuba. It was adopted by our organization in as democratic a vote as Cubans are capable of holding (elbow in the ribs, wink).
By the way, please refrain from using the word ubiquitous when referring to anything Cuban. Though the figures are not in yet, we may be genetically incapable of pronouncing that word. Come to think of it, Mr. Clary probably cannot pronounce it either. Try it fast three times.
After reading the article, we decided to refer to it as "Someone Else's Man in La Habana." We want Mr. Clary to keep up his good work (or whatever it is he's doing). As an incentive, we will mail him a "No Castro, No Problem" T-shirt.
Pedro L. Solares
Marti + Marx = Miami Murder
After reading Mike Clary's excellent article on Max Lesnik, I felt I had to add a few comments. Social democrats have long been a part of the Cuban exile community, though they are obviously outnumbered by the gusanos. In the early 1960s Manolo Ray coined the phrase "Fidelismo sin Fidel," meaning Castro-style reforms without a Castro-style dictatorship. Cuban social democrats often talk of "the revolution betrayed" (Trotsky's denunciation of Stalin) to argue that Castro's revolution was just but his rule has been unjust.
When Karl Marx died in 1883, Jose Marti, in exile in New York, gave a speech in which he praised Marx as an "ardent reformer, uniter of men of different peoples, and tireless, powerful organizer ... a man driven by a burning desire to do good. He saw in everyone what he carried in himself: rebellion, highest ideals, struggle." If Marti spoke those words in Miami today, he would probably be killed, just like Luciano Nieves and Eulalio Negrin.
Mel and the Bad Old Days
It looks like Mel Richard is leading us back to the future. As chronicled by Arthur Jay Harris ("He Did a Job on the Mob," April 23), Richard's exploits in the exciting times of Miami Beach in the 1940s and 1950s reverberate to this very day. Political corruption, infiltration of criminal organizations, and turning a blind eye to illegal activity continue to be our local pastimes.
Mel Richard is larger than life, and he brought great credit to his community. Thanks for the fascinating bit of history, Mel.
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Benedict P. Kuehne
Bless This Rancid, Stinking Carcass
In response to a couple of letters defending Santeria as a "beautiful religion" ("Letters," April 16), I have some remarks. For people who carry cell phones, brandish credit cards, and drive around in automobiles to embrace a Stone Age faith is truly incredible to me.
I wish whoever is leaving all those shopping bags full of dead chickens on the railroad tracks near my house would cut it out! It's my understanding that Santeria has a 500-year history. There were no trains back then. So what's up with dumping dead animals on railroad tracks? Out in horse country, whole sheep carcasses are discarded on other people's property, always in the dead of night. They stink for about two weeks. What kind of people look to find salvation in littering other people's land with their decomposed offerings? This is not the essence of beauty to me.
John E. Brown