Miami's Only Daily: Afloat in a Sea of Clueless Readers
New skipper decent, honorable, gelatinous: While I have always considered the Miami Herald to be the enemy of the people of South Florida because its ivory-tower types care more about what's good for the Herald than what's good for the people, I do think that if anyone can "humanize" the beast, it might be Tom Fiedler, its new executive editor.
The Herald is lucky that so much of its readership remains clueless about really good journalism. One example of bad journalism is how the Herald never ties Miami-Dade County Manager Steve Shiver to the financial debacle known as the City of Homestead. Shiver must have been up to his elbows in that stinking mess when Alex Penelas saved him by foisting him on all Miami-Dade citizens. Only New Times has provided us with the truth about Shiver and what a fiscal scumbag he must have been as Homestead headed toward insolvency.
As Jim DeFede noted in "Bad News" (August 9), while a decent and honorable man, in the past Tom Fiedler has been as hard-hitting as a Kraft marshmallow. Let's see Fiedler in action when Tony Ridder and other Knight Ridder stockholders put the financial squeeze on the paper's resources once again, and then watch the few good journalists left at 1 Herald Plaza scurry like rats off a sinking ship. Even Fiedler can't save the Titanic.
Miami's Only Daily: Less Bootlicking, More Butt Kicking
New skipper advised to consider red-baiting political career: In thinking about why the Miami Herald is in "the fight of its life" (as noted in the headline to Jim DeFede's article), has anybody considered the possibility that it may have more to do with the culture of Miami (a town where the literary community's logo may as well be BMW) than with the Herald's management policies? Issues of public interest will never usurp Miami's principal theme: how to look out for numero uno.
With respect to the Herald needing to do a better job covering local government, though, it's true. I know people who have been screaming bloody murder for years, only to have the Herald turn a deaf ear. One has to wonder why people are more apt to learn about public corruption on Channel 10 than in the Herald. These are the kinds of things that put the Herald out of touch with the common citizen, and why little newspapers like New Times, which is literally touching lives, are skyrocketing. My prediction is that not even an Anglo like Fiedler will be able to turn things around for the Herald. He'd do better by denouncing Castro and running for mayor.
Let me say this loud and clear: What the people of Miami really want is less adulation of those who are breaking the law, and more truth. Then maybe the Herald will start to see a little money. In the meantime I'll just continue to gossip with New Times in my spare time.
School District Oddfellows
Put these three together, stand back, and duck: A chill came over me while reading Rebecca Wakefield's story "Tornillo Toasts Your Health" (August 9). Once again this insightful reporter reminds me of the "Danger Ahead" sign that appears outside the headquarters of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools when you bring together a determined union leader like Pat Tornillo, a suspect lobbyist like Ric Sisser, and members of the school board to try and somehow fairly treat this county's school district employees when it comes to meaningful health care insurance.
Board members now have an opportunity to put fairness and good conscience above playing into the hands of the usual political heavies. Unfortunately one would have serious doubts this board can rise to the occasion.
I Don't Want Your Stinking Health Plan
So let me donate my premiums to the cause: So Pat Tornillo says Miami-Dade County Public Schools employees should "have the right to make the decision about whether they want to continue using HIP [Health Plan of Florida]." I'm glad he feels that way. This is one employee (and United Teachers of Dade member) who thinks HIP is no choice at all. I don't want HIP. Never have. In fact I'd be happier if my employer didn't offer me any medical insurance at all.
I've contacted the UTD and school board the past three years at benefits-election time, repeatedly requesting to "opt out" and be given the right to choose no medical insurance whatsoever. Why? My husband has always paid for a "family policy" through his own employer, which covers me and my children and which is far superior to any of the paltry plans the school board has ever offered.
The Miami-Dade County Public Schools has never given its employees "the right to make the decision about whether they want to continue using HIP," as Tornillo claims. Currently if you refuse to make a choice, you're automatically enrolled in HIP by default. Even if employees can prove they have coverage elsewhere, they are forced to accept medical insurance they neither need nor want -- costing the district (and taxpayers) more than $3000 per year per employee for insurance that a large number of us have no use for.
Think of how many thousands of dollars in monthly health-insurance premiums could be saved if the dozens and dozens of employees like me, who are already covered by spousal insurance, could elect to opt out. I for one wouldn't even ask for the saved sum in salary. I'd much rather that the $330 monthly the board would otherwise kick in for my medical insurance be poured back into my own children's woefully overcrowded classrooms, or into the classrooms of the children in the decades-old middle school where I work (which is currently operating at about 150 percent capacity). Either that or give me a true "cafeteria plan" in which I can pick and choose what options I need in coordination with what my husband's employer offers.
Instead, because I can't opt out, HIP is now my "primary" medical insurer, forcing the superior coverage I have through my husband to take a back seat. I've had six HIP doctors in three years, because so many physicians drop out of this plan before you can even get a second appointment with them. (So much for the continuity of medical care Tornillo speaks of.) And it isn't just MDCPS employees who are dissatisfied with HIP. As my latest doctor recently told me: "I'm dropping HIP, so find someone else within the next couple of months. HIP pays us less per office visit than you'd pay your stylist for a haircut."
Jo Ann C. Nahirny
Whining columnist urged to zip it: After Jen Karetnick's first foray into the world of adults-only dining ("Ever Too Young," July 12), I thought she would get the message. Although her kids may be angels, her wrath was against those who don't want to dine with anyone's kids. Point taken, by the public at least.
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But with her second installment ("That Age Barrier Redux," August 9) she has made it something personal, which shows her thin skin and lack of professionalism. It would seem she expects every restaurant to take her bad reviews in stride, yet if she gets knocked for her out-of-place "Kids Are Me" mentality, she cries like a child herself.
Jen, get with it. Use your "Dish" column to educate those parents who have made dining with somebody else's kids a nightmare. Grow up and take the criticism like an adult, just as you expect from those whose life savings may be invested in the restaurant you trashed.
While I don't own a restaurant, I do appreciate good, balanced reviews, and I think Jen's snipes at Gatsby's -- without dining there -- were out of place and just plain childish.