And charge him with holding schoolchildren hostage: Regarding Rebecca Wakefield's article about schools superintendent Merrett Stierheim and wealthy businessman Joe Arriola ("Bleeding Stierheim," July 4), I think it is criminal that Republicans like state Rep. Ralph Arza are trying to destroy the Miami-Dade County public schools and are holding the children hostage, punishing them and using them to further their political ambitions.
If they get their way, Florida will have two separate school systems. The first will be well funded and have the better teachers because it will be able to afford their salaries. This system will be only for the elite of our state; no one else will be able to get into these schools.
The other system will be for the rest of the children. This system will be greatly underfunded and will have very poor teachers. We will then become like many South American countries, where only the elite are able to go to school and get good jobs. The rest of the population will be poor and will become a serious drag on the state economy.
C. James Schrenker, Jr.
Ask not what your public schools can do for you -- ask what you can do for your public schools: To the average taxpayer Joe Arriola's ideas about cutting jobs and reorganizing departments within the Miami-Dade school system, along with his "inveterate distrust of bureaucracy and unions" (as depicted by Rebecca Wakefield), may appear to be a change for the better, but it is really a ploy, in my opinion, to put more power into the hands of fewer and fewer people, possibly even himself.
Rather than privatization, what taxpayers ought to consider is this: Why all this meddling by state representatives in our school system? What could possibly be at stake (besides a billion or so dollars, jobs, power, and influence) that might have produced such an outpouring of senseless jargon? Are we to go back to the old system, first managed by Octavio Visiedo, then Roger Cuevas, where apportionment of positions and contracts appeared to have been more a matter of who than how or what?
For the longest time the Cuban-American voice in this community has appeared to be more one of whining than anything else. The effort to rid the school district of Merrett Stierheim is more ethnocentric and xenophobic than it is a sincere desire to do what's best for the community. ("National search" for a district superintendent? Give me a break. The only national search that should be performed is on the connections between Miami and Tallahassee.)
I say to young Cuban Americans such as myself: Let's grow up and help the world this time, including our children. Now is the time to set our sights on something greater than ourselves. Stierheim's appointment is an epochal moment. It may mean an end to much of the corruption that we've been reading about. Let's celebrate it as such and take on the challenge and the opportunity for growth that comes with it.
Spoiled Brat Millionaire Told No, Throws Tantrum
"I want my own school district or I'm gonna scream!" Rebecca Wakefield did a very good job with her story about Joe Arriola's attacks on Merrett Stierheim, a man who has earned a reputation for integrity and honesty. She showed rather well that Arriola is little more than a spoiled child. I always question how a person got his money, and in this case it appears that Arriola earned most of his by abusing his employees.
If this spoiled child is so knowledgeable and such a good citizen, where was he when Roger Cuevas was running the school system into the ground? Arriola's friends, Edward London and Edward Easton, who were in a position to know and do something about it, did what the spoiled child did: nothing.
Now comes on the scene Rep. Ralph Arza, who also did nothing to bring down Cuevas from his perch. This group preaches privatization, which is supposed to save money but which has proved in the past to be nothing more than an easy way for your friends to make money -- in this case at the school board's expense. No, make that: At the children's expense.
The spoiled child will continue to harass Mr. Stierheim because he did not get what he wanted: control of the Miami-Dade County public school system. The fact that he will adversely affect all children in the system does not matter to him, nor does it matter to his friends in the legislature.
Have readers noticed that when a person is unhappy and not getting his way, he often raises his voice? Next, without a solution to the problem, he often resorts to using vulgarity. Does that fit our spoiled child?
John A. Brennan
Never lets actual facts get in the way of a juicy conspiracy story: It amazes me that Rebecca Wakefield could accuse me of being a participant in a "Republican conspiracy" to take over the school board. I worked very hard for five months, without monetary compensation. It is beyond my comprehension how New Times could then twist my efforts and the efforts of a very dedicated and caring staff. Her article should have been published in the National Enquirer!
I was appalled by "Bleeding Stierheim" and hope that in the future New Times includes actual facts in its stories.
And while we're at it let's talk figs: I wholeheartedly believe in historic preservation. And as a South Florida native, I have been repulsed by the demolition of a once-familiar skyline in favor of a grotesque new façade. After reading Jeff Stratton's article about the recently demolished Mediterranean Revival home on Miami Beach's North Bay Road ("A Tree, a House, a Sign," July 4), I want to applaud the efforts of Colleen Martin, attorney and member of the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board. (I formerly resided a few blocks from the demolished home.)
Regarding Ms. Martin's battle to save the large banyan tree next to her property, as a biologist I must state for the record that the majority of our fig (ficus) trees are nonnative. In fact the common banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis L.), as its scientific name suggests, is native to India and Pakistan.
It is indeed important to protect and promote the planting of native species, which are adapted to this area in terms of water-use efficiency and bird habitat. It's the coastal and dry-hammock species such as live oaks, gumbo-limbos, sea grapes, and royal palms that need our help if we are to preserve a few shards of the once-vibrant ecosystem that is our most valuable heritage.
Nicole, it's time for you to bust out: What a wonderful article by Nina Korman about my favorite local singer, Nicole Henry ("Far From Blue," June 20). Nicole is the latest in a long line of South Florida female vocalists. Local music professionals (musicians, DJs, record producers) would agree she is currently the best voice in town.
I've been in the music business in Miami for three decades and remember many others who were just as talented and just as underappreciated in their day. The first who comes to mind is Addie Williams, the nicest and sexiest vocalist I've ever met. Wanda Williams, now teaching school, was the closest Miami ever came to having its own Natalie Cole. Carol "Koffie" Kaufman was a skinny Jewish girl with a voice so powerful she could almost outshout Aretha (almost). Donna Allen had hits in the Eighties ("Joy and Pain," "Real") and still performs locally.
Now I'm hoping, along with her fans, that Nicole Henry will break out of the mold of "best local singer" and show the rest of the world her extraordinary talent.
Bo Crane, president
Pandisc Music/StreetBeat Records
May I suggest more rat excrement, the occasional sliced thumb, some judicious euthanasia, and a bit less white-trash porno: My name is Fernando Paredes Velasco. I am an attorney, a Mexican citizen, a resident of the United States, a senior citizen, and homeless. I feel compelled to write because I spend a lot of my time reading New Times. I believe it is almost a good paper. Your writers, however, keep missing "the wienie." Let me cite some examples.
Kathy Glasgow's article on the baggage handlers at Miami International Airport ("Ramp Rats' Revenge," May 30) was sympathetic to the point of disgust. Where was the objectivity? Those fellows are nothing more than thieves. They should be thrown headfirst into a vat of rat excrement and have their left thumbs cut off -- or at least threatened with it. In Mexico, where corruption is accepted, if these fellows had managed to steal bags from the wrong person, they would have had their asses straightened out quick. They should not be made into Robin Hoods because they are immigrants.
John Lombardi's article about the homeless in Miami Beach was good -- from a distance ("The Heart Goes for a Haircut," June 13). But if your writers are going to be "investigative," then damn it, investigate. I saw no real definition of those who are "career" homeless and those who are "temporarily displaced." Three-quarters of the indigent residents in Miami Beach should be given proper clothing and shelter, then put to work. The other quarter should be euthanized.
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Brett Sokol's article about the local pornography industry gave me no direction ("The XXXstasy Biz," June 27). What happens if South Beach becomes the porn capital of the world? Will they be selling fourteen-year-old girls on Lincoln Road? Will they legalize prostitution? Will it be as rampant as the Puff Daddy videos filmed on Ocean Drive? I don't care that a redneck couple from South Carolina is such white trash that they decided to get into porno movies -- and then she gets jealous. This is of little consequence. I could go on, but I won't.
As it stands, I'm homeless. I sleep on the porch of the Speedo shop on Collins Avenue near Eighth Street. I have no phone. I use the Internet in the public library and the South Florida Workforce/Hispanic Community Center. But I am a real person. Check with the people who issue food stamps or ask around Lummus Park for verification.
Fernando Paredes Velasco