Tongue Lashing
I applaud Office Depot for its "English first" policy with regard to South Florida customers ("Remember: The Customer Is Always American," December 7).
In Elise Ackerman's article, a Spanish-speaking cashier was quoted as saying, "It's because not all the employees speak Spanish, and they feel bad if they don't understand." Too often, unfortunately, it's not only employees who become frustrated when cashiers and clerks carry on in Spanish at important points of customer contact such as the cash register. As Office Depot obviously realized, many non-English conversations among employees tend to be of a personal nature, and not all that conducive to positive customer relations, not to mention good retail. At the very least, these conversations often are used to make the customer feel unwelcome -- or at best irrelevant -- in the private world of cashiers and clerks who seem more interested in carrying on incessant chatting with one another than in saying "hello" or "thank you" or otherwise acknowledging the presence of the customer.

Employees speaking to each other in Spanish are also likely to be interrupted by Spanish-speaking customers, regardless of the order of service, and that conversation always seems to take precedence over the business being conducted in English. It's not unlike showing up at somebody's office in person and sitting there waiting while they take one phone call after another. Surely English-only speakers are due some measure of courtesy in a region that bends over backward to accommodate dozens of transplanted nationalities and their linguistic preferences.

Sandra Baksys
Coral Gables

Judy! Judy! Judy!
I have just returned to Miami to find Judy Cantor's article "The Long and Winding Road" (November 30) awaiting my scrutiny. I must say that I very much enjoyed the writing. The research proved to be very enlightening, and I appreciate the energy that she spent on the topic of the South Florida Art Center. I hope to read more stories by Judy Cantor. Her talent is definitely an asset to the staff of New Times.

Conrad Hamather
Miami Beach

Studio Space: The Final Frontier
As a long-time resident of Miami Beach, I feel that the South Florida Art Center has not received the credit it deserves for its role in the revitalization of Lincoln Road in particular and South Beach in general.

It's Lincoln Road's unique "living museum" quality that makes it special and not just an ordinary shopping mall. The art center's open studios have given me a chance to interact not only as a customer but also as a student of contemporary art. To replace the working artists' studios with cutting-edge exhibition space, as suggested, is unnecessary.

Name withheld by request
Miami Beach

Kramer: The Yahoo Factor
Thomas Kramer sexually assaults women because he cannot do otherwise ("The Continuing Adventures of Thomas Kramer," November 23). To people like him, a woman is little better than a hole to be plugged, a useful breeding animal. Our redneck population is large enough as it is. Do we need a German millionaire adding to its numbers? After reading Elise Ackerman's article, Deliverance rang more than true.

Angela S.H. Garcia
Miami Beach

Herald: The Daily Grind
As Jim DeFede points out in "And the Survey Says . . ." (November 2), the Miami Herald has had a problem supplying what its readers want A and what its readers ought to get A for some years now. This has been shown by: the cancellation of the popular Tropic cartoon Callahan; saturation coverage of Latin America in the English-language Herald; too much fawning on pillar-of-the-community types and too little about interesting ordinary people (welcome exceptions being back-page pieces in "Neighbors" and most of Dave Lawrence's columns); and insipid in-house columnists (always excepting Robert Steinback, Carl Hiaasen, and Tom Fiedler). Until very recently, coverage of our northern neighbor Canada was virtually nonexistent. Coverage of most of the rest of the world is still very sparse, and a lot of the international news that appears in the Herald is reprinted from the New York Times. I don't need that -- I already get the Times every day. Thank goodness!

The Herald doesn't need an extra reporter at Miami City Hall; the city makes up only a small part of Dade's area and population. What is needed is better, more thorough, and more critical coverage of our mostly deplorable local governments, and without always calling up and quoting the same few sources. The Herald's long-time reverence for Metro-Dade government in particular has a distorting effect on its coverage -- in spite of occasional good investigative pieces.

The Herald should not rely solely on the desires of its readers, but on what readers ought to get: an education about their community and the world. And the paper should also stay with what it does well -- "Neighbors," sports, cultural and arts coverage. As for oohing and aahing over our few local movie stars, it would do well to leave that to People magazine and the National Enquirer.

Richard H. Rosichan
Miami Beach

King Midas in Reverse
Congratulations on New Times's editorial decision to feature Miami Beach's non-Hispanic candidate, Matti Bower, on the cover of your October 26 issue. That alone, I'm sure, caused her defeat at the polls A just like when you featured Miriam Alonso twice in 1993.

Since the Miami Herald endorsed Bower, and the political elite/power-broker cronies that run Miami Beach backed Bower, it is safe to say that the decision to put Bower on your cover is obviously strong political medicine, sort of like castor oil for a candidate's chances to win.

Therefore I strongly request that when Miami Beach Commissioner Neisen Kasdin either runs for re-election or for mayor, the political geniuses over at New Times feature him on your cover -- at least three or four times.

Harvey Slavin

Vote Early and Often
Kirk Semple's article "Mistaken Identity" about the recent Miami Beach elections was most perceptive. There is a way to have fair and equitable representation on the Miami Beach City Commission, while at the same time guaranteeing the least amount of bickering. The city should be divided into six districts A from First Street to 89th Street, where Miami Beach ends. Each district should hold its own individual primary election, selecting its two top vote-getters. Then those two should face one another in a citywide runoff election. Presto: Six commissioners, one representing each district. Simple, plain, no strings attached.

The mayor's seat would be the only position contested on a citywide basis in the primary. Fair enough!

Are the commissioners ready to treat their constituents properly? Are they ready to enter the Twentieth Century, let alone the Twenty-First? Perhaps we will have them thinking, and that would be commendable!

Ronald Rickey
Miami Beach


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