Letters from the Issue of October 30, 2003

About You're Toy Story

It was swell, but why the mispellings? We got word from Miami toymakers Friends with You that Celeste Fraser Delgado's story was published, and so we checked it out on the New Times Website ("Revenge of the Misfit Toys," October 23). It was a really nice piece overall, but I do have to mention two mistakes concerning our company, DGV. First of all, our company's name is Die Gestalten Verlag, which barely resembles the way it was written in the story: Die Gerstelleng Vertung.

Also, at least on the Website version, the name of our magazine, bersee, only appears as bersee. Maybe the correct spelling appeared in your print version and this is only a Web error? I can only hope so.

DGV publisher and editor-in-chief Robert Klanten really put quite a bit of thought into answering Celeste's questions, so it's disappointing that the spelling was so sloppy. Maybe New Times can at least have the corrections made in the Internet version of the article.

Helga Beck

Die Gestalten Verlag

Berlin, Germany

Editor's note: The Web version has been corrected. We regret the errors.

Caution: Creative

Radio Station Ahead

Hacks in suits prohibited beyond this point: In reference to John Anderson's story ("Tuning Out," October 23) about the cancellation of Steve Malagodi's Modern School of Modern Jazz and More and Ital-K's weekend Sounds of the Caribbean radio programs on WLRN-FM (91.3): Mr. Anderson fails to mention that these are just the most recent of many despicable program changes that management types such as Ted Eldredge and John LaBonia have visited upon our community over the past few years. I won't list all the fine local and national programs that have disappeared from the WLRN airwaves because the list is way too long.

Mr. Anderson asks Ted Eldredge (WLRN station manager) if the station is heading toward becoming an all-news format. Eldredge would not confirm or deny the possibility. For an answer, all you have to do is tune to the station at the top and bottom of any hour and hear: "This is WLRN, 91.3 FM, your NPR news station."

The plight of community radio here in South Florida and all across the nation is created when you combine an apathetic public with hack radio-management and consultant types. These management and consulting drones mean nothing in the scope of art and shouldn't have the right to be within a hundred miles of any creative outlet.

Who needs local radio programming anyway? My car's CD player works real good. So to the leaders of WLRN radio and television, I say thank you for showing us just how mind-numbing and boring radio and TV can be.

Steve Alvin


A New Campus

for the Modern School

You might pluck Malagodi's petals, but his roots go deep: Thanks to John Anderson for attending the Modern School of Modern Jazz October 12 funeral show. But I must say that he quoted the most embarrassing part of my monologue -- the clumsy alliterations and mixed metaphors of "Kandinsky and cows," "bovines and Braxton," and the reference to WLRN's "primitive processor." I did, however, appreciate the mention of the opening poem, Ginsberg's "Pull My Daisy." Anything that steers people to the great Ginsberg's work is a wonderful thing.

For your information, the bouquet of music and poetry that was the Modern School of Modern Jazz and More on WLRN-FM (91.3) will soon be airing on WDNA-FM (88.9), beginning in November.

Since they've pulled up and paved over my daisies to put down a parking lot at WLRN-FM, the flowers will grow elsewhere.

Stephen Malagodi

El Portal

Poor Miami: Pay Up

Living wage dying for help: Kudos to Rebecca Wakefield for her continuing work on Miami's persistent poverty rate ("We're Still Number One!" October 16). The Community Coalition for a Living Wage has been advocating for the city commission to pass a living-wage ordinance for more than a year.

The coalition is increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress on the part of the city administration and commissioners in moving toward the living-wage goal: All city employees and all employees of private companies that profit from the city shall be paid wages that exceed the federal poverty line. Concerned Miamians and South Floridians can become involved in the living-wage efforts throughout South Florida by calling us at 305-576-5001, ext. 41.

John Ise

Biscayne Park

Poor Miami: Squeeze Out

With new condos at those prices, only the rich will remain: In his introduction to Rebecca Wakefield's "We're Still Number One!" Jim Mullin hit the nail on the head when he noted that luxury condos are replacing affordable housing. But it is not just the poor who are suffering. The middle class has been affected as well.  

For more than two years I have been searching for a new home in order to be near my job in the downtown area, but all I see are ads that offer new condos for "only" $500,000 to $3 million. Who can afford that? And they have the nerve to use the word "only," as if such prices were within anyone's means. The last straw for me came when a new rental apartment building was erected just a few blocks from where I presently live. Since this is a lower-middle-class neighborhood, you might think the prices would be modest so people who live in the area could move in. Well, you thought wrong. It's another luxury building, and no one who lives around here could possibly afford it.

Prices are getting so high that I see no other alternative but to move south to Homestead or north to Broward. If all the poor and middle-class people migrate out of the county searching for housing, I wouldn't be surprised if Miami-Dade became the next Fisher Island.

Mercury Rose


Poor Miami: Stifle Success

Here's a plan that works too well to survive: Rebecca Wakefield's "We're Still Number One!" missed the one bright spot in the city's failed housing efforts: Wind & Rain's use of the city's "soft second" mortgage program for first-time homebuyers in West Coconut Grove. Together the city and my for-profit company have put thirteen families (average income $20,000) into new houses on scattered lots. The result: almost one million dollars in equity buildup for these families, most of whom could barely come up with the $3000 required down payment.

The model for this success is astoundingly simple. First, you use a for-profit, at-risk developer with zero subsidy from the taxpayers. That way you don't have to worry about fraud or failure. Second, you allow the developer to pick and buy the lots to be developed (from the hundreds -- or thousands -- of vacant lots in the city and county that are abandoned and trash-ridden). That way the guy who is at risk picks where he'll risk his time and money instead of a politician looking for a headline. Third, you mandate that the house to be developed must be good enough in every way to appreciate in value over time. (Wind & Rain builds three-bedroom, two-bath homes with a large front porch.) That way you not only help the family getting the house, but every other house on the block, to share in the appreciation that new construction brings to a neglected neighborhood. Fourth, you require the developer to put together the financing, build the house, find and qualify the buyer, and obtain the certificate of occupancy before the city puts out the first nickel in mortgage subsidy.

This model worked thirteen times in the West Grove (see before the city terminated its "soft second" mortgage program, supposedly for lack of funding. Now, admittedly, a $40,000 "soft second" mortgage is a serious subsidy by any account. "Soft seconds" are second mortgages (at 0 to 3 percent, which may or may not be forgivable in whole or in part) that are combined with market-rate first mortgages. The blended rate of the first and soft-second mortgages brings the monthly payment down to about the same level a family is paying in rent and which is all that Miami's cash-strapped working poor can afford. But compare that to the $800 to $1300 per month in Section 8 rental-voucher subsidies routinely paid out by the county to absentee landlords. That much money -- $800 to $1300 per month -- is enough to pay the mortgage interest on both the first and soft-second mortgage, pay for insurance and cover taxes, and still give the taxpayers a refund of up to $500 per month.

So, you might wonder, why doesn't the City of Miami (and the county) start working to replace its rental subsidies with homeownership-mortgage subsidies? It's a good question, and only partly answered by the obvious political equation: Apartment developers make campaign contributions while homeowners vote for whom they please. It has more to do with a mindset that poor people should rent until they are ready to become homeowners. This is downright silly. Any family headed by a husband and wife, each of whom works 40 hours per week at minimum wage, 50 weeks per year (that's about $20,000), is ready to own their own home. They've shown the discipline and initiative to be helped to buy the one thing that will give their family a chance at financial stability -- the single-family home.  

How are these families any different from the WWII veterans who took advantage of the GI Bill to buy their first homes, and by so doing created the great American middle class? Why did we stop supporting what obviously worked so well?

Let's make a change -- now -- and lift Miami from the housing doldrums into the spotlight of national acclaim by going from being the poorest city in America to the richest, all by doing something so simple.

Anthony R. Parrish, Jr., president

Wind & Rain, Inc.

Coconut Grove

Poor Miami: You're Hired

Solve the problem one person at a time: I read with interest Rebecca Wakefield's "We're Still Number One!" article on the three ladies who are our civic neighbors ("Meet Your Neighbors One Year Later"). Naomi's story caught my eye because of her son, who is unable to find a job as a mechanic.

My husband (Michael Stoklosa) and his partner (Mike Giroux) own an automobile shop called M&R Auto Repair Shop just north of the Falls and are always looking to employ mechanics. They would be very interested in talking to Naomi's son about a job as a mechanic. I am hoping Rebecca can pass on this information and the telephone number included.

Elena Stoklosa


Editor's note: Mrs. Stoklosa's message has been forwarded to Naomi, the struggling Haitian immigrant who did not want her real name used in "Meet Your Neighbors."

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