Separating the Indicted Wheat from the Indicted Chaff
In Kirk Nielsen's article about Humberto Hernandez ("A Merciful Court of Public Opinion," November 13), a retiree said voting for Hernandez was like voting for Raul Martinez. But there is a difference.

Mayor Martinez was charged with nine counts by the government. Mr. Hernandez has 23 counts against him. Of course, Mr. Hernandez is not guilty until proven otherwise, but it will be a lot easier for the federal government to prove something with 23 counts. Hernandez's case cannot be compared with Mayor Martinez's, even if both faced trials and elections.

The political ignorance of Miami voters is a disgrace. Time will show how wrong they were.

Miriam Mata

A Mercifully Bad Map
An inaccurate map reduces the credibility of the story it illustrates. In "A Merciful Court of Public Opinion," how far north of Flagler Street does SW 27th Avenue extend before it becomes NW 27th Avenue?

And what is South Dixie Highway doing cutting through Overtown? According to other maps, it doesn't exist north of the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Thomas W. Talmadge

Castro, Penelas, Suarez -- What's the Dif?
As I read Kirk Semple's article "The Rise and Fall of Miamiland" (November 6), my blood began to boil. I'm an American citizen born in Cuba and raised in Miami. When I became a citizen, the question of whether I was in agreement with the U.S. Constitution did not come up. After 40 years of exile, you would think that Cubans who live here in "Miamiland" would have a greater appreciation of the First Amendment. It seems to me that some of my compatriots pick and choose from that precious document to further their own means.

Castro, Penelas, or Suarez -- what's the difference? Maybe we are not ready to take Cuba back from Castro. We still have a few lessons to learn.

Ileana Gonzalez

Latest Ethnic Slur: Cubans Have No Sense of Humor
I am outraged at New Times and Kirk Semple for such an anti-Cuban, racist article. You have successfully managed to stereotype an entire community of people as a bunch of bigots. Why don't you write another story on how all blacks are criminals? Or about how all Jews are cheap? Or better yet, a story about how all homosexuals are nothing but AIDS-spreading pedophiles? You might as well; that's what you've done with the Miamiland article.

Mr. Semple's story complains that Cubans ruined this city. Why not write about how white Europeans murdered all the Native Americans and stole their land and ruined this country? There's a real story.

Cubans have done a lot of positive things for this community, yet you're focusing only on a few mistakes a few Cubans have made. They do not reflect the entire community. I, for example, am an honest, taxpaying, Constitution-obeying, business-owning Cuban American, and I am outraged. You owe the community an apology!

Marcelo Lecours

Getting Tough on Luft
Paula Park's article about the issues surrounding Miami's waterfront properties and the vision of planning director Jack Luft was informative ("Parks & Profits," October 23). Some issues, however, could have been more effectively viewed from a variety of perspectives.

That Mr. Luft has been a devoted public servant cannot be denied. Encountering him on many occasions, I have observed an individual intensely dedicated to doing the best for the citizens of Miami. But many of Mr. Luft's arguments for development of the city's water-related properties are driven by the notion that city-owned land must generate a financial return. It is just such logic that sadly moves Mr. Luft from reasonable steward of the landscape into the realm of just one more bureaucrat intent on plundering our community's natural and aesthetic resources for the city's financial gain. Generating income from the mismanagement and inappropriate development of unique sites is clearly an undesirable solution to that problem.

Mr. Luft notes that "there are a lot of laws ... to protect the frogs and the turtles and the trees" but adds that he does not see "the same level of protection ... for the urban environment." These are not laws to protect wildlife; they are based on the awareness of nature's interrelationships and the recognition that the integrity of the system must be protected.

Mr. Luft also notes that "to bring in the private sector you have to complement those public-sector objectives that are not economically viable.... Why are they putting executive corporate suites in basketball arenas?" The metaphor is flawed. More corporate suites for arenas merely make existing profits more gross; they are not the difference between success and failure. It follows, then, that an economic return on city-owned land is not based on the best and most cost-effective use of that land but rather on its potential to generate more income ("profit") for the city -- at a cost that must be measured not merely in dollars but also in social, aesthetic, and environmental costs.

Mr. Luft falls victim to the collective nuances of the "publicrat" in describing the Virginia Key campground site as an "80-acre battered and environmentally barren piece of ground that is not going to mushroom into a primeval forest by itself." Mr. Luft reveals here his lack of knowledge of research into environmental issues. The lessons of Harvard Forest and of Hubbard Brook (Yale University) speak legions about forest and woodland renewal when damaged sites are left to their own devices. Although Virginia Key may be downtrodden, it is erroneous to characterize it as lost and barren. With time it will again become viable as a natural area, left to its own devices and given the absence of human disturbance and intervention.

Mr. Luft's proposal to reduce the size of the proposed campground from 154 acres to 80 acres is admirable. But the more compelling issue, one that does not appear in any of Mr. Luft's comments, is that of habitat fragmentation. One of the great dangers to the few significant natural areas remaining in South Florida is continued fragmentation. This condition -- in which smaller and smaller pieces of natural areas are created by dividing larger, more consolidated parcels -- results in a lack of connectivity in habitats. This condition in turn reduces wildlife populations, a most important consideration, in that wildlife is often the vehicle by which seeds of native plant species are moved to "barren" sites such as Virginia Key.

Overall I would agree that Virginia Key should have a public-use component. But that component should grow not from manufactured economic projections and the city's heretofore haphazard fiscal management. Rather it should grow from an informed and detailed investigation that embraces all the essential disciplines, absent a preconceived notion of financial opportunism.

Ted Baker

City Planner Luft: Oxymoron of the Week
Is this Jack Luft -- city planner, defender of public properties -- the same man who supported the basketball arena on one of the last parks and public lands left in the City of Miami and who bent over backward to get unanimous approval of the city commission to construct an office building for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau on Watson Island?

Miami has to be the most poorly planned city in the nation, not that Luft had anything to do with its beginnings. But in his 28-year tenure not much has changed to improve it, other than a sorry Bayfront Park -- which is people unfriendly.

Because of the lack of continued planning, vision, and the will to do anything about its problems (and employing the all-time favorite excuse, "It's run-down beyond our control"), officials are selling instead of fixing. Unfortunately for generations to come, the only thing that distinguishes Miami from cities like Atlanta -- the bayfront -- will soon be gone forever. Instead of signature downtown parks like Chicago's lakefront, we will have only buildings, arenas, stadiums, and whatever other crazy ideas they come up with.

Juan Valdes-Pages
Coral Gables

Guardian of Miami's Best-Kept Secrets
I read Jen Karetnick's review of da Ermanno ("Use Your Noodle," October 23), and I don't believe she ate at the same emporium I have frequented regularly since the first week it opened.

Had she reviewed the restaurant when it opened, I could accept a comment about uneven or slow service, which is to be expected in any brand-new establishment. Of course, at the same time she would have had to comment on the hospitality of our host, who poured wine freely to all his new customers and even joined us for complimentary glasses of port after dinner.

But I find Ms. Karetnick's comments about the cuisine to be totally invalid. Salads, which are made to order for every guest, are served at room temperature so that diners are spared the diminished flavor of refrigerated lettuce. This is innovative and refreshing. I have had "Ermanno's appetizer" often, and I don't understand Ms. Karetnick's disenchantment with this dish.

The comments about the entrees, particularly the seafood, are totally inaccurate. The shrimp napoletano is outstanding; I order it regularly and with pleasure. Friends of mine commented that they recently ordered the calamari fra diavolo and found it succulent. The truest test is that I have invited numerous guests from outside the neighborhood and they have all been so impressed by the cuisine and the ambiance they have added it to their own lists of favorite places to dine.

While Ms. Karetnick's view of our neighborhood is totally skewed, I'd like to thank her for her comments, because she has ensured that da Ermanno's will remain one of Miami's best-kept secrets; I will never have a problem getting a table at one of the city's finest Italian restaurants.

Maria Theresa Emas

Slam My Neighborhood Restaurant, but Leave My Neighborhood Alone
Jen Karetnick's review of my restaurant was interesting and amusing. Interesting because it gave me insight into what improvements I should make. Amusing because most of my customers disagreed with her opinions, including new customers who came because of the review.

I have one serious complaint: Ms. Karetnick did a great disservice to the community of the Upper Eastside. The description of Biscayne Boulevard was totally uncalled-for, especially in an article that purported to be reviewing a restaurant. This portrayal of the neighborhood will discourage people from patronizing the stores and restaurants that have opened here. These new businesses have seen the potential of the area and are changing its image. The last thing they need is a description totally out of proportion to reality.

Crime has been reduced and will be reduced even more when people feel free to come to our businesses. It is also interesting that the New Times office is not far from the restaurant, in a neighborhood similar to ours.

Ermanno Perrotti


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