Letters from the Issue of June 10, 2004
A Family in Perfect Harmony
It's the Lord's work, and the Lord loves pedal steel guitars: I am the eldest daughter of the Lee family (the one next door to Mom) and am writing to say how much I enjoyed reading John Anderson's story about steel guitars and the music at the House of God churches ("Steel's the Show," June 3). Jonathan Postal's photography was excellent and vividly captured the essence of the story. John Anderson's words were truly elegant and gracefully described a culture and lifestyle that has meant so much to me for the past 46 years. I'm sorry I didn't get the opportunity to meet them when they visited my mother's home. I'm usually the one who stays busy behind the scenes. When they were at the church, I was busy in the office there. So when they came to visit Momma, I was probably at work somewhere as well.
Thanks to New Times for selecting the Lee family and highlighting the Lee boys and the history of our family's musical background. Before my brother Glenn passed away, I remember him introducing me to a beautiful young lady (sorry I can't recall her name) who was a New Times staff writer interested in doing a story on his ministry. I am grateful that New Times followed through on this project.
I am so proud that Alvin, Keith, Derrick, Earl (my son), Lil Alvin, and Roosevelt found the strength and courage to get organized and share our music with the world. My dad and Glenn would be so happy with this work they're doing.
My youngest son Jonathan will hopefully soon join the group as a vocalist. He is just completing his associate's degree in drama at Miami Dade College. I am indeed a proud mom, sister, and aunt who is bubbling with delight and joy. On behalf of my mom and the entire Lee family, thank you from our hearts.
Robin V. Lee
Gold Teeth and the Sambo Syndrome
Free weekly updates its catalogue of racially offensive images: It seems like every two years or so you people at New Times do something brazenly ridiculous when it comes to portraying images of blacks. A few years back you ran a front-page caricature of Sean "Puffy" Combs, complete with a gaping Sambo smile, which brought to mind the racist pre-Civil Rights-era drawings of watermelon-eating blacks. The May 27 issue didn't stray too far from the stereotype. Though it did pull from 21st-century stereotypes, the cover photo was a mocking representation at best. A gape-mouthed Lil' Jon, flossing his jewel-encrusted gold teeth, is a remix of the old standard.
I could only assume the editors were attempting to capture the exuberance of Memorial Day weekend in Miami Beach, which draws thousands of mostly black hip-hop aficionados. But the crowds that visit the Beach for the three-day weekend aren't all gold-toothed, grinning, rapping stereotypes. We're a diverse and eclectic group. And clearly, we're a group that has considerable buying power. We're a group of mostly young, black, professional music lovers who can afford to fly down to Miami, spend an insane amount of money to stay on the Beach, go to clubs, and enjoy ourselves. Most of us are college grads or current college students. We're not the stereotypes the front-page image would suggest.
While I am highly disgusted by the choice of images on the front page, I do commend New Times' coverage of Overtown and Liberty City and the problems we face there. I just find it amazing that a paper that can tell the rich story of Overtown with such reverence could also turn around and slap a stereotype of blacks on the front cover -- twice. The problem, I am convinced, is the lack of diversity at New Times. For a publication of its size, it's shameful that the paper doesn't have one black reporter on staff. Perhaps if New Times took the time to make its staff look more like the community, these inconsistencies would not occur.
Another Bad Rap for Miami
Just what this town needs -- a rapper as dorky, cheesy, and sucky as Pitbull: In "Dirt Hustlin'" by Mosi Reeves (May 27), he writes about rapper Pitbull: "His primary appeal is pure lyrical talent...." Are you freaking kidding me? Jacki-O raps better than this east Hialeah boy. And I'm serious about that. I remember one of his many cheesy lyrics: "Y'all look at these skies and think paradise. I look at these skies and think 'what a disguise.'" Lyrical talent?
As for Lil' Jon being sincere about him and not just riding the Latin bandwagon, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, but judging by Lil' Jon's earlier collaborations, you wouldn't exactly want him to be the talent scout on your record label.
This much is clear, Pitbull really sucks. It's a shame he's found fame with those lyrics and that corny accent. And what drives me crazy is that stupid laugh in the background when he raps some rhyme and thinks we all should be laughing along with him. Yeah, call me a hater, but you can't tell me he has some "lyrical talent." His delivery is all right, but his voice is so weak you have to double it. Plus he's just real dorky. "Hustle and grind?" What's he been hustling? Granizados and churros? Give me a break.
I don't wish him luck because he does not represent Miami's talent level at all. I've heard ten times better. Jacki-O is lyrically more talented than this dude; nasty and raunchy, yes, but creative in that realm. Pitbull sucks the big one.
And While We're on the Subject of Bad Raps
Here's a modest proposal for our hip-hop friends: To the whining, talentless hip-hop "artists" who are incessantly complaining about this alleged surveillance by The Man: Who gives a shit if they're building files on you? You built your farcical lives around your tough talk, wannabe-gangsta attitudes, ten-pound gold chains, and tricked-out, tinted Navigators, being oh-so-smoove holding that pistol sideways on your album cover -- and now you're surprised you actually got the attention you so craved?
Shut the fuck up about it. Or better yet, shut up entirely and spare us any more of your shitty music.
The Laws of Love
If Jay Love were county mayor, first thing he'd do is nix every law that cost him a penny: I just finished reading Tristram Korten's column on county mayor candidate Jay Love ("To IRS With Love," May 27) and would like to bring an omission to the attention of Mr. Korten and his readers. Mr. Korten's coverage of Jay Love's IRS problems gives Miami-Dade County voters a small taste of what to expect if Love is elected mayor. While ignoring the United States Code by not paying taxes is noteworthy, it is not the only solid example of Mr. Love's willingness to skirt the law for his own pecuniary benefit. For another prime example all you have to do is take a sniff of his well-known Kendall-area restaurant, Hooligan's.
You may not know this, but Hooligan's is one of the only restaurants in Miami-Dade County that serves food and allows cigarette smoking despite a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants. How is this possible, you might ask? Is Mr. Love's establishment exempt from the law that was passed by an overwhelming majority of Florida voters, many of whom are residents of the very county that Love seeks to lead? No, he is not exempt, although he meritlessly claims to be. This great state has repeatedly advised Mr. Love to disallow smoking in his eating establishment and he has repeatedly ignored the state's demands.
Since banning smoking in restaurants is not good for business, Mr. Love has decided to ignore state regulators and the voters who gave them authority to ban smoking in restaurants. This sort of logic seems to be par for the course for this mayoral candidate, who, according to the IRS, is also unwilling to contribute his rightful share of income taxes. Hell, if it isn't good for Love's bottom line, why should he comply with the law? If banning smoking in Hooligan's is going to decrease sales and business, then smoke up. Who cares what the voters want, anyway. If paying taxes means you will have less money to spend playing politician while getting free press for your restaurant, then don't pay 'em. This seems to be Mr. Love's take on things.
I for one will not be complicit in putting a scofflaw into the county's highest position. I can only wonder what this place will look like if Jay Love is elected mayor. Who knows, perhaps we would be better off. Hell, who wouldn't be better off if they didn't have to adhere to state regulations or pay their share of federal income tax?
Love and the Law
So what if Jay Love filed for bankruptcy, so did Abraham Lincoln: I must say that I was both shocked and disappointed by Tristram Korten's unabashedly biased and sensationalistic article (rather, hatchet job) about Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate Jay Love. A few observations, Tristram:
Jay's allegedly questionable record as a businessman: Apparently Jay was savvy enough to arrive in Miami virtually penniless and subsequently build up a successful four-restaurant chain. Doesn't that require just a tad bit of business acumen?
Jay's tax issue with the IRS: Thousands of individuals and businesses in the U.S. are audited each year by the IRS. Many of these audits result in discussion and negotiation between the taxpayer and the IRS. Many of these issues represent differing interpretations of the tax code and/or arcane accounting technicalities. Many such audits and negotiations end up in favor of the taxpayer. Jay's case was settled out of court, as are many such tax cases. So what? Get over it. You might be audited one day, Tristram. Are you certain you're "on good terms with the IRS"?
Lien on Jay's house: IRS liens on taxpayer property pending resolution of tax issues are not uncommon. When the Miami Lakes Hooligan's began to fail (not of Jay's doing but rather after he sold the business, it might be reiterated), Jay was placed in the difficult position of trying to save it. He was, after all, the guarantor. In doing so, he put his personal assets at risk. Again, so what? The case was settled out of court.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing: It's called "damage control," idiot. Many capable and successful people have been placed in untenable financial situations not of their own making. It's important to point out, for example, that Abraham Lincoln filed for bankruptcy in 1833, but subsequently became one of this nation's greatest presidents. Would you accept Lincoln as a viable candidate for public office?
Jay's ideas: Gee, imagine a candidate who actually has ideas, who, as Tristram wrote, makes "refreshing comments amid candidates who dance around hot topics," who "vehemently refuses to take lobbyist contributions," and who "seems to sincerely care about things like the state of our public schools and promoting affordable homeownership." Isn't this election about ideas and issues? It seems that some journalists are more interested in tabloid-style character assassination rather than coverage of issues that might require sound, balanced analysis and writing. (By the way, drop the gratuitous sarcasm and blatant misrepresentations, such as "he loves children!" "rejigger[ing] his finances," and "skirting taxes.")
Jay's never having held public office: Isn't about time we have someone represent the people who isn't a career politician beholden to lobbyists? There are many capable individuals with varying career backgrounds -- businessmen or educators, for example -- who can and do serve in public office and bring fresh ideas to government.
One final recommendation for you, Tristram: I recommend for your reading pleasure the Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics.
Solution to Miami-Dade's Lack of Affordable Housing
Abolish the bureaucrats: The horrors suffered by affordable-housing developers Jerry Flick and Ed Gorman, as described in Forrest Norman's "House of Horrors" (May 27), unfortunately aren't isolated incidents. They are just two examples of how Miami-Dade County government itself has become the biggest impediment to increasing the supply of affordable housing.
The path to creating more affordable-housing stock does not lie in myriad government programs accompanied by an army of make-work, clueless, and arrogant bureaucrats drunk with power. The only way to ensure an increase in the stock of affordable housing is to drastically streamline the process for permitting, bring impact fees back down to earth, and curb some of the exorbitant fines levied by the county, which make many inner-city lots unbuildable. As if all that weren't enough, the zoning in some areas looks as if it was fashioned by Timothy Leary while on one of his acid trips.
Unfortunately the political leadership in Miami-Dade County seems to be devoid of knowledge and/or courage when it comes to this issue. Large developers can count on all sorts of concessions and tax incentives, while small developers don't find county government quite as cooperative. Unless changes are made (and quickly), affordable housing in Miami-Dade County will go the way of the Edsel.
Normally I'd sign my name to a letter like this, but as a small developer I am having my own frustrating experiences with the county. I don't want to be identified and risk retribution.
Name Withheld by Request
Somewhere in Kendall Stands a Great American Institution
A place where the bartenders know when to cut off soccer moms: Hey, what's going on here? I wasn't going to say anything, but this is the second week in a row I see some print in this paper that just doesn't seem right. I remember reading somewhere recently (I think it was Bill Moyers interviewing famed mythologist Joseph Campbell) about journalists having to face the task of writing about something as if they knew all there was to know about that particular something. It must surely be a challenging job.
Anyway, to the point: I would like to compliment New Times nightlife writer Humberto Guida for the thoroughness of his "BuzzIn" column about the restaurant One Ninety ("190 Degrees," May 20). Anyone who truly loves good stories knows that there are plenty in a good nightlife hangout, especially one that's been around awhile. However, I would like to invite Mr. Guida to pursue the same thoroughness with what many long-time Miamians consider a local treasure, namely Scully's Tavern, listed under the pop/rock category of the New Times club listings.
I can certainly understand that the pressures and time constraints placed on a journalist can be prohibitive when it comes to preparing all those listings. I might recommend, though, that Mr. Guida and the other writers who contribute club listings start in their own back yard with two New Times articles, dated January 31 and May 16, 2002, that will at least introduce Scully's owners, who have built the place, literally, with their own four hands, into as fine an example of American small business as you will likely ever find. This is not to mention the fact that Scully's is one of the few places in Miami where you can still hear live pop/rock music every weekend, just as it has been for nearly twenty years.
I won't belabor the point, but a club listing that begins "Drunken soccer moms and the guys who love them..." is not a particularly flattering way to present an establishment that has patronized this paper for a great many years. The most polite thing I can say in response to this myopic view is "shame on you." A prominent Scully's patron puts it another way: "Pull your South Beach head out of your South Beach ass!"
Dr. Vance Dean Moulton
Editor's note: See page 89 for a refocused view of Scully's.
My Fairy Tale Come True
Because I don't mind wearing a tutu, the world is now a better place: It was in response to Juan Carlos Rodriguez's article "Slugs for Peace: Fairy to Salve Woes with Quarters" (April 29) that I applied in person for the position of "Coconut Grove Parking Meter Fairy." They needed an extroverted personality with linguistic skills who, above all, could skate for lengthy periods and didn't mind wearing a lilac tutu.
After several meetings and screening sessions, Cynthia Bettner of Best Tourist Publications decided to hire me for the task. My job consists of saving people from getting an upsetting parking ticket in the Grove by plugging the meters with money when they're about to expire. This work for me is incredibly spiritually rewarding; I can honestly say I love it.
All this good is being spread into the cosmos thanks to the kindness of my sponsors, my own good will, and in great part thanks to New Times. I really love you guys.
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