Everglades Restoration: It's Now the Big Boys' Game

Letters from the Issue of April 25, 2002

And the little guys are needed more than ever: Joe Podgor and his record as a leader in Florida's conservation community are worthy subjects for New Times. But fundamental changes within Florida's environmental movement in the early Nineties primarily account for Joe's absence from the front line, with all due respect to his own travails as described by Mike Clary ("Adrift on a River of Grass," April 18). Those changes began with the settlement of state and federal litigation over Big Sugar's pollution of the Everglades. The settlement agreement in the early Nineties led directly to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, set into law by Congress and the president in 2000.

Prior to that settlement, ordinary citizens pushed government to action regarding the Everglades. Decades of mismanagement of fresh-water resources, beginning with the travesty of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' drainage system, had severely diminished the biodiversity and sustainability of the Everglades ecosystem. Big Sugar was using the Everglades as its toilet, flushing its pollution onto public lands. Joe Podgor was a vital and vibrant voice then. Prior to the settlement agreement, dedicated environmentalists like the late Jim Webb of the Wilderness Society had drawn up realistic solutions to restoring water flow to mimic the natural functions of the ecosystem. Once the settlement was agreed upon (not all environmentalists supported it), the role of grassroots activists changed, along with the plans on paper.

While some environmentalists saw the settlement agreement as an end to the exhausting, debilitating legal war waged by wealthy sugar barons, in fact there was no end to the lawsuits.

And political pressure, strongly dominated by Big Sugar and the home-building industry, actually increased. Major environmental organizations began making compromise a priority, building private/public partnerships and forging alliances with agriculture and development interests, all competing for the same slice of the Everglades. "Restoration" had become an insiders' game, an enormous hotel conference room, a place for career advancement, networking, and marketing of well-drilling services. It was now a green scrim behind which Big Sugar and Florida's exploding suburbs were being accommodated. Grassroots organizations and citizen activists like Joe Podgor were cut out.

But the game is not over yet. Every flaw in our democracy, as well as every ideal expressed in our Constitution, is reflected in the Everglades as clearly as towering thunderheads over a still, quiet Florida Bay. Nothing shows our strengths as a society so well as what we choose to protect. Now is the time for Everglades champions.

As Joe Podgor once said, "The Everglades is a test. If we succeed, we get to keep the planet."

Alan Farago

Coral Gables

Turk Not Murk

A transcontinental scolding: I want to let you know that the article by John Anderson about Turkish musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek ("Playing Is Praying," April 18) incorrectly used a photograph of Funky Green Dogs, the Miami-based dance-music group composed of Ralph Falcon and Oscar Gaetan (a.k.a. the Murk Boys) and vocalist Tamara Wallace.

Erwin J. Alvarez

San Diego

Editor's note: Sorry about that. Here's the Omar Faruk Tekbilek photo that should have run with John Anderson's story.

Maverick Newspaper Breaks Mold

Free weekly announces debut of "nice" issues: I looked for but did not find the following three headlines in the April 11 edition of New Times: 1) "Los Muñequitos de Matanzas Play Jackie Gleason Theater Without Incident!" 2) "Anti-Embargo Group Meets at Biltmore Hotel Without Incident!" 3) "New Times Shuts Down Due to Lack of Material!"

Oscar A. Sanchez

Coconut Grove

Hooked: I Saw It with My Own Eyes

It was at Haulover and it was ugly: Thanks to Mike Clary for his great article "Hooked on Death" (April 11). I had a chance to witness the problem firsthand just last week. I hosted out-of-town visitors who wanted to try offshore fishing, so I arranged a half-day trip on the Old Hat with Capt. Paul Lee. Captain Lee and I discussed the issue of killing fish. He pointed out that it wasn't necessary to kill a fish even if I wanted a mount.

We had a great trip and on the way back the subject came up again. Captain Lee told me that some boats really pressure the anglers to buy mounts, even killing fish needlessly so the angler would feel guilty if he didn't buy a mount.

My guests and I then stopped at Haulover Park for a picnic lunch and some kite-flying. While there one of the boats Mike Clary mentioned docked at the marina. The crew threw a large dead sailfish up on the dock and the captain began yelling at the angler because he wouldn't buy a mount. It was a very unpleasant scene. That angler will never again fish on a charter boat out of Miami. I'm betting he'll never return to Miami -- period. The captain was very rude.

Anyone going out on a charter should discuss with the captain ahead of time whether or not they want to kill a fish. A much better way for charter captains to add to their bottom line would be to sell anglers a videotape of the fight and release of the fish.

Parks Masterson


Hooked: Insecure Macho Men

Put down that bang stick and pick up a fly rod: "Hooked on Death" was a very important article for South Florida fishing. It conveyed a bold and refreshing perspective regarding ethical fishing practices. I was glad to see that the "fishermen" still living in the dark ages were exposed. The concept of conservation will one day sink in and those guys will put away the ridiculously old-fashioned safari attitude and their inferiority complexes and catch some real fish.

I've lived in Miami for only one year and have caught sharks as large as the dead ones pictured in the story. I caught these sharks from shore, using minimal equipment, and released them. Sharks are not difficult to catch compared to other game fish such as tarpon and snook, so sadly the carnage displayed in the photos doesn't even require skill. Let's see one of those meat-trolling charter-boat cavemen pick up a fly rod and land a bonefish!

Neil Whitacre


Hooked: Trolling for Sharks, Trolling for Votes

After the fish are gone there's always politics: As one who 40 years ago used to fish from Haulover Pier (no longer in existence), I found "Hooked on Death" nauseating. Then again, it's Miami, flimflam and scumbag capital of America. Why should anyone be surprised that the dead fish stink almost as much as the unscrupulous boat captains who won't tell their customers to fuck off when they demand dead mounts? I suggest these money-grubbing assholes and their customers watch ESPN2 on the weekend and learn what catch-and-release is all about.

As this area is practically fished out, haven't the money-grubbing boat captains killed the goose that laid the golden egg? I guess a life in local politics, which stinks almost as much as dead fish, is next for these captains when there are no more fish to catch. Can they stink any worse than Demetrio Perez, Joe Carollo, Miriam Alonso, and the rest of the usual Miami suspects?

Harvey Slavin


Hooked: Release Me

You'll feel and reel better if you do: Kudos to New Times for "Hooked on Death." Fishing off the coast of southeast Florida has definitely been impacted by the high-pressure fish-kill mentality that charter boats use. The story should enlighten many people outside the angling community about this issue.

Folks, unless it's a world record, let it go!

Ian Norris


U.S. Blockade Extended to Fifth OPEC Country

Miami lawmakers bicycle to work in solidarity: I truly enjoyed Kirk Nielsen's levelheaded article "Heretics in the House" (April 11). It's about time somebody pointed out the blatant inconsistency in U.S. foreign policy with regard to Cuba.

If we were to follow the advice of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, we should stop trading with China and Vietnam, as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and the rest of the Middle East (except Israel). Furthermore we should impose an embargo on these dictatorships. Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart would have to start biking to their plush Washington offices, I guess.

When are they going to realize that the embargo has not worked in 40 years and that maybe it's time to try something new, like a policy of engagement and trade? Unless, of course, el exilio is better served by the status quo.

Christer Ericsson


Tyrants Here, Tyrants There

Why don't all of you just leave us alone: "Heretics in the House" showed two polarized views of the Cuban-embargo issue. On one side are Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who would be just as tyrannical as Castro in telling us where we can and can't travel, who we can or can't do business with, while defending money pits like Radio and TV Martí. On the other side are equally enlightened individuals who would have us believe that dealing with Fidel Castro is similar to dealing with Mother Teresa, and that Castro and his illegitimate government are worthy of financial credit. Both sides have made an industry out of the pain and suffering of the Cuban people on each side of the Florida Straits.

If one opposes the use of taxpayer money for boondoggles like Radio and TV Martí, one should also oppose financial credit backed by the U.S. government that is given to foreign countries, especially when the money is never paid back. It may be okay for some fool to give Castro credit on his own dime, but for the U.S. government to use taxpayer money to back loans to Cuba, or to simply give it away to Cuba or any other country (including Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina), borders on criminal.

The U.S. government would serve its citizens better if it got out of the business of international aid and finance. These loans and grants, at taxpayers' expense, for the most part end up in the pockets of shameless rulers and their cohorts.

Emiliano Antunez


I'm Cuban, Republican, and Enlightened

And so are lots of my anti-embargo friends: After reading Kathy Glasgow's article about Radio and TV Martí ("Incessant Static," March 28), I want to contact these people at the stations who are giving a bad name to Cuban exiles like my parents. I have impeccable credentials to criticize them: I'm a registered Republican. But I also think the embargo should be lifted. (You'd be surprised how many college-educated Cuban Americans like me believe the same.)

I went to Cuba in 1992 to visit relatives. I also met people there who would be considered dissidents. Over and over I heard from them that if the embargo were lifted, Castro would run out of excuses for the poor economic performance of his regime. If people living on the island, some of whom had been to jail for their beliefs, were telling me it should be lifted, that was good enough for me. They understood the situation much better than we did in Miami because they were living it. This caused me to begin opposing the embargo.

In addition many of them back then said they stopped listening to Radio Martí because of its lack of objectivity. They are experts at listening to propaganda and so they know it when they hear it.

The biggest irony is that people like Salvador Lew, director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, and Radio Mambí general manager Armando Perez-Roura are cut from the same cloth as Castro. The perfect example to illustrate this is the manner in which they react to contrary opinions. Castro claims that those who don't share his ideas are counterrevolutionaries and CIA agents. In Miami anyone who doesn't conform to the hard line is labeled a Castro agent.

Alvaro Mora

Coral Gables

Editor's note: A reporting error in "Incessant Static" resulted in an inaccurate description of Lazaro Asencio's personal history. Asencio, who is Radio Martí's news director, was not a commander in Fidel Castro's rebel army; he was a commander in the anti-Batista rebel group led by Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, who now heads the exile group Cambio Cubano. Asencio does claim to have once been an intimate friend of Castro.


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