Letters from the Issue of August 23, 2007

Jail: Screwed Again

He got nailed for speaking up: As a former administrator responsible for debriefing corrections officers after major incidents such as inmate deaths — which is the focus of Tamara Lush's August 16 feature story, "117 Dead" — I have intimate knowledge of Miami-Dade County's failure to correct the sometimes inconsistent and/or incompetent medical care at the jails.

My efforts very likely led to my layoff for budget reasons, in December 2005.


Miami-Dade County Corrections Department

Beginning in August 2005, I attempted to meet with Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess, Mayor Carlos Alvarez, and Commissioner Rebeca Sosa to tell them corrections administrators clearly tried to limit what I could learn about the same allegations made in Ms. Lush's article.

On several occasions, officers told me about serious problems, ranging from poor equipment maintenance to apparent confused and disorganized application of CPR. Although no intentional abuse was cited, the officers were distraught over the lack of care.

My efforts to maintain their confidentiality, while seeking a remedy, instead resulted in my being removed from the "Major Incident" call list — essentially preventing me from learning of further system failures.

Ironically my "layoff" letter cited a reduction in critical incident debriefings as one of the reasons for eliminating my position. The one positive in this sad affair is that I was able to obtain medical care for Chris Jimenez, who's diabetic, thus possibly preventing one more unnecessary inmate death.

Joseph Fitzgerald

Melbourne, Florida

Free Weekly: Screwed Again

Or maybe screwed-up: Regarding your Metro "The Greatest Generation" (August 16): The introduction says, "So in honor of Fidel's 81st birthday this week."

I say, "In honor?" It is very obvious that you have neither honor nor any idea of what this terrorist has done — or if you are aware, then you are siding with an individual dubbed as a terrorist by our very own president. This is very irresponsible journalism. Though we all are entitled to our individual freedom of speech, responsibility comes with this right. And, my friends, it's irresponsible of you to publish such words. "In honor" of this loser. It is outright shameful! Sleep well and continue supporting the axis of evil. You publish this garbage here because you can.

Since you appear to like Castro and Cuba so much, you should move there and join in the fun.

Oh, that's right, you can't do this over there. No wonder your publication is free.

Dennis Muniz


Editor's note: Hundreds of copies of last week's New Times were stolen from newsstands — and assumedly thrown in the trash. Several people phoned to complain about this. Other callers said the cover, which pictured Fidel Castro with a birthday horn and teased a comparison of Castro and porn king Hugh Hefner, was an insult. To them — and the above letter writer — our only comment is: Hee, hee, hee.

Rudy Crew: Screwed Again

And New Times did it: I have two problems with your August 9 story, "Bad Apple," by Francisco Alvarado. First Miami New Times never attempted to contact me or my lawyer to determine that I was — as the article stated — "unavailable for comment."

Second, the story describes a guy named Rudy Crew who bears no resemblance to the superintendent for whom I worked. While I was chief communications officer, Crew reassigned more than 100 bureaucrats to classrooms so that troubled schools opened with certified teachers. He ordered his cabinet, the district's top executives, to personally contact the families of a list of potential high school truants. He asked why his predecessors planned to add only 5000 new student seats when 40,000 were needed, and then told his staff to add 15,000 that year. (They actually built more than 18,000 and another 20,000 the next year.)

But rather than continue the battle of opinions, let's stick to facts. Fact: Miami-Dade's FCAT passing rate has never been higher; that's true district-wide and in most grades. Fact: The percentage of students at the worst FCAT level reached its lowest point under Crew. Fact: In most grades, Miami-Dade's FCAT scores are at their highest, meaning students pass knowing more than ever. Fact: Passing rates in the two schools the story cited, Allapattah Middle and Hialeah Senior, are higher than ever in most grades, and are far higher than in 2004 B.C. (Before Crew). Fact: For the first time, more than half of Miami-Dade's students read proficiently and the district's median reading score beats the national median.

How could the number of F schools have risen? Fact: Miami-Dade, and the state as a whole, had more of these because the state raised the grading bar in reading and math and added a new science test. Crew nonetheless listed raising school grades in his annual performance goals. Without the science test, only six schools would have earned an F, only one more than in 2006. Fact: Miami-Dade had its highest passing rate and actual scores in science in 2007. Fact: More black and Hispanic high school students enrolled in advanced courses than ever before in 2007, and school crime and truancy were down.

As to Mr. Cousins and others with allegations to peddle, I hope New Times will be as diligent in reporting the outcome of their days in court as it was in reporting their untested accusations. Regarding his allegations against me, they are groundless and unsubstantiated by the public record.

As to Dr. Marta Perez, she neglected to mention that her Versailles dinner with Crew came six months into his administration, that it took place at 10:30 p.m., following a joint radio appearance on a show with a hostile host, and that Crew's day began at 8:00 a.m. and included back-to-back school board committee meetings.

Was he disinterested or just half-asleep?

Joseph Garcia

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Priscilla Screwed Us

Again: Things like what was illustrated in Tamara Lush's July 26 Metro, "Miami: Screwed Again," don't happen in a vacuum. Texas politics has taught me all I need to know about following the trail of avarice and cash.

My guess? Check out Rep. Priscilla Taylor and any association (visitor logs, registration, et cetera) with lobbyists who pull off the full-court press for developers and other parties interested in keeping the feeding trough of public funds well stocked for the near- and long-term. Despite the local real estate market tottering on the edge of collapse, the allure of Miami continues unabated, and folks with cash to burn will flock here to find the vibe. Ergo they will need posh digs to park their well-toned derrieres.

For all of his xenophobic charm, Lou Dobbs has hit one nail square on the head: America's middle class keeps getting squeezed. Miami's leaders ought to heed that lesson.

Gustavo Gonzalez III

Austin, Texas


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