Big Elk Speaks
I take this opportunity to thank New Times, writer Ray Martinez, and photographer Steve Satterwhite for the fine article on the Coral Gables Elks Lodge ("Fraternal Reorder," March 6). The members enjoyed contributing to the story and looked forward to seeing it in print. We are very pleased with the result. Our lodge is proud of the recognition we have received and excited about the prospects for further accomplishments owing to such exposure.

The Coral Gables lodge consists of men and women with a wide variety of cultural, religious, and vocational backgrounds, yet we are truly close and friendly. The form of our organization has changed very little, but the substance of it has improved dramatically. Everyone is now eligible to be a part of the Elks' rich tradition.

While the article indicates that the diverse membership Coral Gables enjoys is not universal, I am confident that changes in the Elks' national policies will leave behind for good the "Grand Pooh-Bah" mentality and the stigma attached to it.

Michael F. Kelley, Exalted Ruler
Coral Gables Lodge No. 1676
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

Behold Capitalism Unleashed!
Here we go again. Jim DeFede's column "Coming of Rage" (February 27) will bring the "Cuban-bashers" out of the woodwork. To even insinuate that Cuban immigrants are to blame for the woes of African Americans in Miami is cynical at best. Are Cubans to blame for the plight of African Americans in New York, Los Angeles, or Washington D.C.?

Until black Americans identify their true enemy, their ills will persist. Their biggest enemy is the so-called Great Society and the culture of dependence it has created. This endangers not only the black community but our nation as a whole. Government intervention in economic affairs -- based on race alone -- deepens the rifts in the community. The truth of the matter is that people will tend to favor those of their own kind; anyone who does not admit this is lying.

The bottom line is that a truly free market economy (not the overtaxed and overregulated one in which we live) would go a heck of a lot further in easing racial tensions than any government program or decree.

Emiliano Antunez
Miami Beach

Miami: It's Still Who You Know That Counts
It incensed me to read Robert Andrew Powell's article "They Owe It All to Odio" (February 20). I applaud his efforts at exposing this mess and corruption by those we have entrusted to run our city government. I just hope (albeit very faintly) that his article will help focus some much-needed attention on this crisis at city hall.

It never ceases to amaze me how the citizens of Miami have allowed their government to be taken over by unscrupulous and greedy power brokers who cultivate and dispense political jobs and favors as if they were currency. It further distresses me to see that the majority of these "friends of friends" have an obvious Cuban connection and background.

Mike W. Medlin
South Dade

Miami: It's a New Kind of Unaccountability
Bravo! Robert Andrew Powell's article underscored the deplorable burden that past and present City of Miami officials have placed on our community. As a young Cuban American, I am ashamed to admit that the root of the problem lies in the array of Cuban-American politicians who appeared to embrace the American democratic way of life but really practiced politics the "Cuban way": "Yo hago lo que me da la gana." This is the attitude that forced our parents to immigrate to the United States, and it is why our homeland today is a political shambles. Unfortunately, some people are slow learners.

The article refreshed our memories with regard to negligent and unfair hiring practices within the City of Miami, but it was not really news. This has been going on for the past 25 years. Everybody in the community suspected, commented, or knew for a fact that the city was in the business of hiring friends of friends, mostly as a way to repay favors. As a matter of fact, in the good old Cuban tradition of boasting, the hired friends would brag to anyone who would listen that they had been hired because they knew the right person in the right position. Ask anyone who has stopped for Cuban coffee at Versailles.

It is shameful that none of the city's elected or administrative officials, past and present, had the integrity to question this practice. Why have so many people sacrificed their integrity? I'll tell you why: because at least 30 percent of city positions are filled by friends of friends, even though some of these individuals, in the long run, may have proven to be competent and qualified. But even today, under the new administration, nothing has changed. City officials are not facing up to their responsibility to resolve the problem once and for all.

City Manager Ed Marquez's statement that he was not going to micromanage his department heads is pitiful. How can a newly appointed manager, knowing that the city is facing its utmost challenge, make such a statement? Doesn't he know that the lack of micromanagement by previous administrators got the city into this mess? That's the reason he was hired.

Did he forget that as city manager he is supposed to be held accountable for the various departments and their administrators? What makes him think these administrators, who chose to ignore the situation of unclassified employees for so many years, are now going to effectively resolve the issue on their own? Are our city officials serious about resolving our current problems, or is the City of Miami doomed to be the victim of politicians and administrators who lack integrity and are only looking out for their own interests because they too are "friends of friends"?

I hope to see other articles regarding this issue. Please continue to keep your eye on Miami. We need all the help we can get.

Miriam Fernandez

Miami: It's Politics, Simple and Greasy
Congratulations to Robert Andrew Powell on another fine story. His work reminds me of what 60 Minutes used to be: credible (way before General Westmoreland sued them into "hard-hitting" reporting worthy of People magazine). Powell's efficiency and preparedness were evident in "The Stierheim Report" (October 31) and even more so now as specific cases of corruption are brought to our attention -- such as the good Mr. Ramon Conte and his "working relationship" with Cesar Odio and Miami's taxpayers.

Conte was only out for his own benefit, like Odio and many others in politics. It is a filthy business where down is up and wrong is right, so it's no surprise that our government wanted someone like Conte to live and work here. Odio, Conte, and others are not and never were "patriots" -- they're out to take, not give. All the good, honest Cubans and exiles have people like that to thank for the revolution years ago.

A successful revolution requires a healthy degree of popular support and an unhealthy level of corruption and injustice. If most people are respected and have fair opportunities in health, work, and quality of life, communism has no chance of raising a credible force or even popular acceptance.

This local issue of disreputable Cuban exiles thriving in this country reflects failed U.S. policies. Our enemy's enemy is our friend -- regardless of how corrupt, worthless, or evil he is. In fact, the more so the better. That's politics, simple and greasy. What does the Statue of Liberty say? "Keep your tired huddled masses -- we'll take the broken leaders, the greedy trash, the 'patriots' and nationalists. They'll thrive here."

By the way, why would our local government need to assist in the preservation and development of archives related to Cuban history in the first place? Is that vital? Maybe we need to diversify: archives for Montserrat, Ireland, Rwanda, Thailand, Holland. I'm from Maryland and I want to "preserve and develop" archives about Maryland here in Miami -- and I think Miami tax money should pay me for this!

Will Miami seize all documents and rights to such documents collected by Mr. Conte over the course of his ten-year paid relationship with Miami? Maybe it would be better to wait and seize all rights and royalties upon release of his book.

Divided loyalties? No. There was only one loyalty for Conte as with Odio -- to self. It's the American way, right?

Dave Dillon
Coral Gables


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