So I Said to Donna Shalala...

Letters from the Issue of October 14-20,2004

One billionaire's recollection of the first presidential debate: In reference to The Bitch's observations on the presidential debate at the University of Miami ("Definitive Gaze," October 7), those of us who were fortunate enough to attend the event also were able to listen to a few other speakers that evening.

Most of us were bused to UM's Convocation Center a couple of hours before the debate. This allowed ample time for identity verification and security screening, which went quickly, owing to the abundance and efficiency of law-enforcement staff. Everyone was in the debate hall by approximately 7:30 p.m.

Once in the hall we were not permitted to leave. Unfortunately we were now at the mercy of the event organizers, who could not resist their fifteen minutes in the sun. We heard from four or five of them. Other than Jim Lehrer, who confined his discussion to explaining the debate rules, the others conveyed nothing that seemed to be of interest or importance to anyone in attendance.

However, the unannounced speaker I most recall is Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton and now president of UM, who took the most time but conveyed the least information. She began by mentioning that the governor of Florida was there, without mentioning his name. She then went on to introduce by name three former mayors and many other friends, all of whom seemed to have little to do with the debate.

She also went on to proclaim that she was giving up her seat at this debate to a student. We were trapped. We had to listen, though I doubt anyone recalls what else she said.

The reason I do is because after the debate, as we were all queuing up to leave the hall, lo and behold, who was standing beside me but Ms. Shalala. I found this interesting because a couple of hours earlier she said she was giving up her seat to a student.

I couldn't resist. I bent over and whispered in her ear: "His name is Bush." She turned and said, "What?" I replied, "Our governor. His name is Bush." She obviously knew what I meant and testily replied, "Well, I did mention he was here. How could I not? He has an office on my campus!"

Anyone have any doubt who the students of this university are being encouraged to vote for on November 2?

Richard J. Egan

Boca Raton

Editor's note: Richard J. Egan was appointed by President George W. Bush as ambassador to Ireland, a position he held from September 2001 to January 2003.

Alvarez: First Exposure

We need more about the cronyism and nepotism: New Times is to be commended for finally telling the truth regarding the tenure of former Miami-Dade Police Department director Carlos Alvarez, now a candidate for county mayor, something other media entities in this county have so far failed to do.

Tristram Korten's article, "Dissent Within the Ranks" (September 30), is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg regarding a documented pattern of poor decision-making and political expediency that have turned a once excellent police department into a mediocre one, one in which cronyism and nepotism prevail.

Hopefully this article is just the first among others that will expose Mr. Alvarez for what he really is and what he truly stands for, something the residents of Miami-Dade County can ill afford.

Charles Miller

Fort Lauderdale

Alvarez: Crime Fighter

Don't trust a small group of dissidents: I differ strongly with Tristram Korten's "Dissent Within the Ranks." During Carlos Alvarez's tenure as director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, there was a significant reduction in crime, crooked county commissioners went to jail, and many corrupt county employees, contractors, and others who were stealing our hard-earned money were put in jail.

Korten's article states that more than 200 officers, some six percent of Miami-Dade police officers, are against Mr. Alvarez. I'm more inclined to trust the remaining 94 percent of officers in the department.

Please don't print my name. I don't want problems with any of those officers who oppose Mr. Alvarez.

Name Withheld by Request


Alvarez: Irresponsible

He s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d the truth: I don't know Carlos Alvarez. Never even met him. But as a Miami firefighter, I would never vote for him because of what he once said. After the big anthrax scare and the emergency management of a bio-hazard incident, Alvarez proclaimed, "We're more than ready." Everyone in the business knew at that time that we were far from ready for any massive biological incident. How responsible is that?

Sorry, but I'm too close to retirement to have my name published.

Name Withheld by Request


Alvarez: Mr. Integrity

And I have a message for those cowardly cops: It was with great amusement and dismay that I read Tristram Korten's article "Dissent within the Ranks." A few issues need to be addressed for the story to be more complete. As a labor leader who has proven not to be shy when it comes to oppressive and poor leadership wherever it shows its head, I can unequivocally assure your readers that Carlos Alvarez's style is not that of favoritism and retaliation. On the contrary, I have personally seen him avoid actions that may have given the appearance of favoritism. I have also seen him get emotional when forced to make the tough, unpleasant decisions that have a lasting effect on employees' careers, especially when it meant terminating their employment. He is firm but always fair.

That's not to say that the Police Benevolent Association has agreed with every single decision. But at the end of the day, what sets Alvarez clearly apart is his integrity.

Even without having been at the meeting where Mr. Korten interviewed the dissident officers, I can pick out most of that cast of characters. They are individuals who have themselves practiced what they now accuse Alvarez of doing. And while I disagree with Bobby Brown, Bernardo Bestardo, and Juan F. Fernandez, their decision to exercise their right to speak is admirable. As for the rest of them, they always seem to hide while slamming others. They are nothing more than cowards. And the higher their rank, the bigger the coward. Be sure to tell them John Rivera said that!

John Rivera, president

Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association



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