Henceforth, Letters Regarding Office Depot's English-Only Policy Shall Be Published in Esperanto

When I read Mr. Richard Escobar's extremist letter regarding the English-only affair at Office Depot ("Remember: The Customer Is Always American," December 21) in your January 4 issue, I had no other choice but to answer.

I am an American citizen of Latin origin and I did not exactly come crawling out of a hole. Because of the way I was educated, I can write and speak fluently in Spanish and English, Italian and Portuguese, French and German, and I can also read a little bit of Russian, old Sanskrit, Latin, and Esperanto.

The knowledge of different languages has taught me to be more humble and less arrogant. By speaking other people's languages, I have been able to understand their idiosyncrasies and the richness of their cultures. If there is one sin, that sin is ignorance, the ignorance that we are all one, that we breathe the same air, and that differences have been manmade to divide and separate us. Racism, prejudices, and bigotry only lead to Bosnias and Serbias, concentration camps, hatred, and war. To promote the superiority of one race over another is not only morally and spiritually wrong, but extremely dangerous and short-sighted.

The United States is not the world. I am an American citizen and very proud of that. I am proud of our common heritage, of the countless Americans who devote their lives to helping mankind, our forests, rivers, and environment. I am proud of the brave soldiers and firefighters, I am proud of the blacks and whites, the Indians and Latins who have contributed to the grandeur of this heroic nation. I would invite Mr. Escobar to take a look at history. He is going to find many interesting surprises, and he will find that many Spanish-speaking people, such as me, have not come crawling out of a dirty hole as he so arrogantly expresses in his letter, but have given our blood and lives to more than one of Uncle Sam's wars.

It is all right to tell Office Depot employees to address their customers in English. That is 100 percent correct, but it is totally wrong to forbid them to speak their mother tongue, a very rich language spoken by millions throughout the world.

Please, Mr. Escobar, take a deep breath and look back to your roots. Read history. Remember: Bigotry and hatred only lead to wars and destruction.

Oscar Rodriguez Orgallez
Miami Beach

"Bertran" . . . That's an Esperanto Surname!
This is in response to Richard Escobar's letter regarding the English-only policy at Office Depot. How can he be so ignorant? He writes that these immigrants are ungrateful to the land that gave them so many opportunities, that they are responsible for crime, rising taxes, unemployment, and lack of housing. Well, for starters, look at his last name. He has a Latin last name. Making the comment he made about other immigrants contradicts his own roots.

Needless to say, the only people who have a legitimate gripe about this land are Native Americans. They are the ones that were driven off their lands by the first immigrants that came to this country. This land was originally their land; however, this land has received many immigrants from many different countries all over the world, for many years. That is one of the things that makes this country unique. It is a nation of nations.

On that note, he should open up a history book and become a little educated on the country that he claims to know so much about, and then he will realize who the true Americans of this country are.

Clara Bertran

¨Como Se Dice "Cafe Cubano" en Esperanto?
I think something is being missed in the discussion of Office Depot's English-only policy. It has to do with cultural context. It is often mentioned that South Florida's multiethnic population offers cultural enrichment. (I assume that the American culture is what is being enriched, but it goes without saying that the immigrant culture is being enriched by the American and other ethnic cultures as well.)

If an English-speaker goes to a Cuban cafe, it can be cultural enrichment. One would expect to hear Spanish spoken, and if the business has any business sense, English also. However, if an English speaker goes into a national chain store, be it Dunkin' Donuts, Woolworth's, 7-Eleven, or Kmart, he or she would expect to be addressed -- not to mention understood -- in English. Encountering a clerk or salesperson (sometimes the only person available) who speaks no English is not cultural enrichment. The store management that hired the employee, probably for low wages and/or unpopular hours, is the one whose policy is culturally insensitive.

Stephen Weiss
Miami Beach

With Liberty and Esperanto for All
I want to say a few nasty things regarding all this madness about English-only and bilingualism. This xenophobia is beginning to go too far.

In the same issue, a fiery anti-Hispanic letter was written by a certain Mr. Escobar (a Hispanic surname), and a passionate defense of multiculturalism and civil rights by a Mr. Clement (an Anglo-Saxon surname).

Some of us Cubans have realized that it is better to deal with a WASP than with an "ethnic." Some of the worst "ethnics" come from your own stock.

When the English-only crusade began in Dade County, there were very few Anglo-Saxon names on the committee. Most of the surnames came from Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe. I believe that the problem with many "ethnics" is that they want to prove to themselves and to the world that they are more American than the Americans.

We Cubans started bilingualism because we wanted to return to democracy and to reconstruct our country. We wanted to take our children along. We wanted them to stick to our roots.

The problem was that most Cuban-American teenagers reacted against their roots. They wanted to become more American than apple pie. It was useless to cram biculturalism down their throats.

However, most of them backtracked when they got into their twenties. They claim that they rediscovered their roots. In fact, many of them even became "super Cubans."

This silly English-only crusade is simply backfiring against xenophobes. They only manage to antagonize our youngsters and turn them into "super Cubans." I think it's time we leave Cuban-American kids alone.

I want to make three things clear: First, that is it obvious that no one is going to get ahead in Miami without learning English. Second, it is a matter of fact that it is an advantage to be bilingual. Finally, you might get very far ahead of everybody else in this cosmopolitan and international tourist, commercial, financial, and cultural center if you bother to become a polyglot. So it's time to drop all of this xenophobia. It's bad for business.

Alfredo P. Leiseca

The U.S. Constitution, Property Tax Appeals, Esperanto, and You
Elise Ackerman's article "Land of Opportunity" (December 28) leaves out fundamental points. For example:

Two people own land. Their parcels face each other across a road. Both properties are the same size, have the same land use and zoning, and are in the same submarket. Both receive identical tax bills. But on just one side of the road, local government adopted regulations saying 25 percent of the land must be reserved for drainage. The owner of this land loses one-quarter of his development rights after he paid to buy land that was unrestricted at the time of his purchase.

Is the value of this regulated property identical to the unregulated land across the road? What would a buyer pay for land with a 25-percent limitation on its development rights compared to land without this limitation? If a buyer would not pay the same amount because of the limitation, should the property taxes be the same?

Public appraisers cannot see this limitation when they study aerial photographs. And the information is not on the documentary stamps added up when deeds are recorded. Published comparable or market-sales data do not identify the specific and unique conditions that apply to individual properties. Because this level of detail is not readily known, mass appraisal techniques (used by the Dade County Property Appraisal Department to estimate value for tax purposes) often do not apply tax reductions permitted under state law.

The system may not be perfect, but we are not perfect. What really counts is whether property owners are protected so an imperfect system is made a little better. As Americans we are guaranteed the right to be taxed with representation. Out of sheer necessity, the general way property taxes are determined limits our right to fairness. Checks and balances, fundamental to our system of government, are re-established through the property tax appeal process.

Value Adjustment Boards use experts to hear reasons why property owners believe they are overtaxed. Dade's VAB staffers deserve praise for their professionalism. They work hard to make their system easy for owners to understand -- in effect, they are a good example of how every government department should operate. It isn't required, but the advantage of first using VAB procedures is a savings of time and money for owners. Having a VAB gives everyone representation when they are taxed -- without the costs of litigation. Both sides have the right to appeal, in court, should they disagree with the special master's decision. While it is true that some appeals do result in seemingly large reductions, one also must consider the total amount of each tax bill. Some owners pay millions of dollars in taxes. Every small percentage of overcharge can mean they might lose, unfairly, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Real questions are: "Should anyone have to overpay taxes or any other bill? Is it fair to overcharge someone?" And: "Shouldn't everyone have the right to see how their bills are calculated so they can check them for accuracy and point out any errors?"

Owners who do not appeal virtually write blank checks to government. Comparables change, property conditions change, and taxes change. Smart owners pay attention to these variables and make sure they are aware of every bill. This country was founded, after all, to stop government from forcing us to pay any taxes without representation. We should be grateful for the protections we have, and we should use them diligently to make sure we never lose our constitutional rights.

Sheila Anderson
president, Commercial Property Services, Inc.

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