IRP: Bark, No Bite
We of Dignity for the Disabled are recommending the termination of Dade's Independent Review Panel because it is ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Reading Jacob Bernstein's article "Why Can't We All Just Go for the Jugular" (October 2), I was amazed that the IRP was citing disabled access at Dade County's jails as one of its successes. As the person who has initiated at least three complaints against the Department of Corrections regarding accessibility and protocol used in dealing with people with disabilities, I am not satisfied with IRP outcomes.
The IRP was too eager to close these cases and did not monitor their outcomes to see if the "promises" made by the corrections department were kept, which they were not. At the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, many of the items in the complaint were not corrected and conditions got worse after the IRP complaint was concluded.
In a second complaint, this one against the Dade Building Code Compliance Department, the department very skillfully ran circles around the IRP. The complaint stretched out for months. Locations with basic access violations, identified by an IRP subcommittee, were not cited or brought into compliance. In frustration I asked the IRP just to drop the complaint, noting that the department was doing little to address the fundamental failures of the administration. I have publicly stated that this department has the status of a Third World operation. It was my highest hope that the Independent Review Panel could solve the abuses. Instead, while the complaint was current, things just got worse.
Yes, I advocate that the IRP be terminated. Then the county commission or a grand jury needs to go to work.
Denny R. Wood, president
Dignity for the Disabled
IRP: Good Luck (You'll Need It)
In 1984 my daughters, then sixteen and fourteen years old, were riding a Metro bus through the northern part of Miami Beach. The driver, without notice, pulled over and locked the passengers in. He walked across the street to a McDonald's, where he met a young woman who accompanied him inside. After a leisurely snack, he returned to the bus. My daughters were upset, and a woman in the bus was in a panic, telling the girls that she had claustrophobia. When my daughters remonstrated at the driver, he yelled and cursed at them and told the younger one: "You need something good and hard stuck between your legs."
This was only the beginning of the nightmare. Incredibly, two weeks of constant calling and letter-writing to Metro officials, administrators, transit staff, and commissioners did not produce a single follow-up response, in spite of the fact that I repeatedly provided precise information as to the number of the bus, the direction it was traveling, and the date and time. No one with whom I spoke -- from transit staff to the much-venerated late Dewey Knight -- showed the slightest interest in what had happened. Finally someone suggested that if I had an unresolved grievance against Metro I should call the IRP. I did.
Executive director Wesley Pomeroy said we would have the right to summon any Metro officials to a preliminary hearing, then go to a full hearing. The preliminary hearing was before a two-man panel consisting of Pomeroy and board member John Fletcher, police chief of Miami Shores. Among the people "subpoenaed" were the director of bus operations and, of course, the driver.
The driver, naturally, denied everything, even though both my daughters immediately identified him. The head of bus operations, when asked how long it should take to act on a complaint, refused to agree on any suitable time limit -- even one year! But the star was Fletcher. None of us had ever encountered a nastier, ruder, more abusive individual. He sat through around half the hearing muttering about what nonsense it was and then simply got up and walked out.
Pomeroy apologized profusely and explained that we would be entitled to a full hearing. I said we would attend a full hearing only if Fletcher was not on the panel. Pomeroy said he would put this up to the other panel members. He called back a few weeks later to say the others had decided that we "did not have the right" to say who could and could not sit on the panel in my daughters' case.
I gave up on the IRP and sent Metro a letter giving the required six-months' notice of our intent to sue the county. Metro sent a "risk management specialist" who interviewed my daughters and me. At that point my daughters decided they had had enough and asked me not to proceed with a lawsuit.
My daughters and I never received any kind of acknowledgement, let alone an apology, from Metro-Dade. This incident was one of several factors that inspired me to run for Metro mayor against Steve Clark in 1988.
I wish IRP executive director Eduardo Diaz and his newly enlarged board the very best of luck. He'll need it!
Richard H. Rosichan
Just Wait Till You Hear DeFede's Spanish
Under the guise of journalism, Jim DeFede's column "The Rational, Eloquent, and Persuasive Mr. Souto" (October 2) is nothing more than a cheap ad hominem attack on Commissioner Javier Souto and all the positive things he represents to the Hispanic community.
It also is a not-too-clever direct attack on Hispanics. Much like the first-year law student who is taught if you can't attack the argument, attack the person, so Mr. DeFede described Souto's commission speeches as "rambling, often incoherent tirades." Mr. DeFede also highlights Midem and Medem (quoting from Souto's speech), as if it were a crime to be unsure how to pronounce a word.
Isn't Mr. DeFede really trying to say that unless you speak perfect English, you should not dare be a Dade County commissioner? In my community Mr. Souto is a pillar, a champion of causes that we Cuban Americans believe in. I personally believe Mr. Souto is rational and eloquent.
Instead of focusing on Mr. Souto's arguments, Mr. DeFede ridicules the commissioner for holding a position that is no different from the U.S. government's position when it implemented a boycott against South Africa in what proved to be a successful attempt to isolate that country and end apartheid. Dade County had its own version of the boycott.
Somehow I don't think Mr. DeFede would have wanted to prostitute Dade County in that situation. The question he should ask himself is this: Why would he prostitute Dade County in this one?
For Mr. DeFede to criticize the content of Javier Souto's argument is one thing (though he did not do that in his article). But to try to embarrass Mr. Souto by attempting to show that his syntax and diction are less than perfect is insulting to all Hispanics.
Mr. DeFede's description of Commissioner Souto's speeches as "rambling, often incoherent tirades" is a much more accurate description of the article he wrote.
Jorge O. Diaz
Shamless Lawyers Love Indicted Millionaires
Hats off once again to ace investigative reporter Jim DeFede for his excellent article on Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko, the man of questionable wealth and dubious integrity ("The Baba Chronicles," September 25).
From the beginning, my instincts told me that the real villain of the story would be some shameless lawyer who would make false accusations against honest government prosecutors and investigators and improperly influence a battery of weak-kneed politicians.
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DeFede never disappoints. Thanks to him for revealing to us a scoundrel by the name of Birch Bayh.
John P. Askins
Deep Thinkers and Comix Readers
When I returned from out of town, I saw that the Tom Tomorrow comic was gone. Wow! That was the only good one. You people must have really searched to find the crummy new ones. Well, I can tell you I won't be picking up New Times again soon.
Maria E. Castillo