The Reading Report
Free weekly dissected, wacky schools administrator found amid entrails: I enjoyed Jacob Bernstein's profile of state Rep. Carlos Lacasa ("The Carlos Lacasa File," July 19). I was happy to have been instrumental in his first campaign for the statehouse, which was successful. Carlos is a forthright and aggressive state legislator who isn't afraid to admit his mistakes. I also was active in former county Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla's unsuccessful campaign for county mayor last year. Miguel was an excellent commissioner who stood up for ethics and responsibility in county government. What a shame these two men are so much at odds. They're both good guys. I hope they can find a way to mend fences and work together in the future.
Comments on a few other items from last week's issue: A flick of the middle finger to letter-writers D.T. Winfield and Harry E. Gottlieb for supporting the exclusion from restaurants of people under the age of 21 and for mocking columnist Jen Karetnick. Equating young adults who are old enough to fight for their country with squalling toddlers is sheer stupidity. No Gatsby's restaurant will ever get my business!
And after reading Rebecca Wakefield's story about the sworn testimony of former school district police officer Pepe Gonzalez, I can only conclude that the continued retention of the wacky Henry Fraind by the school system is disgraceful and incredible. The school board ought to fire phony-degree Roger Cuevas and hire a new qualified superintendent who would promise to fire Fraind his first day on the job. Better yet, let's get rid of 90 percent of the current administrators and the whole school board except Marta Perez, who should become dictator of the system. Hopefully newly elected board member Frank Cobo will join Marta in challenging the horrendous status quo.
Richard H. Rosichan
Manty, Who Loves Ya, Baby?
Why, that wacky schools administrator, that's who: Regarding Rebecca Wakefield's article "Confessions of a Former School District Cop" (July 19), school board member Manty Sabates Morse immediately needs to summon Henry Fraind front and center to respond to the vicious and malicious comments he made to former school district police officer Pepe Gonzalez. And while she's at it, why not hand this Kojak wannabe his walking papers and relieve the taxpayers of this unnecessary public employee?
Alexander to Cuevas: Flunk You!
Boss of wacky schools administrator gets the ax: Last time I wrote to New Times about the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, it concerned disgraced principal William Clarke. I spent much time calling and writing all school board members and superintendent Roger Cuevas about Clarke, but still he remained employed by the district at an exorbitant salary ($91,000) even after his sexual-harassment antics cost county taxpayers more than one million dollars in lawsuit settlements. Yes, that is six zeros for this one zero of an employee!
Now Cuevas wants time to regain our trust when it is revealed he wasted many more millions in taxpayer money. I say off with his head. Can Solomon Stinson find the balls he was born with to do the job he was elected to do? Maybe we should ask Demetrio Perez to do the job -- after he clears his name. Perhaps the problem is that Roger Cuevas has the goods on these deadbeat school board members. Who knows?
Any parent with a child in this school system should demand Cuevas's resignation and an investigation of all these people. These are your kids, and this is your money.
Sleaze at Six
Let's go live to our talking head: Shame on NBC 6 for allowing a talking head to supposedly engage in the practice of investigative journalism, and kudos for Tristram Korten for exposing the sleaziness and lack of journalistic ethics of the likes of Alicia Ortega ("Double Exposure," July 12). It is obvious the reports she did on businessman Rafaiy Alkhalifa were nothing more than a farce. (I saw the reports when they aired in April.) Clearly they were done at the instigation of Alicia's father, Ray Ortega, to cause harm to Mr. Alkhalifa.
And shame on the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami for allowing a nonpriest like Mr. Ortega to be in charge of assigning priests to conduct mass at funerals. If the archdiocese lacks real priests who can do this, then the archdiocese ought to let a nun handle it. A nonpriest telling priests when and where to do mass is weird and disrespectful of the clergy.
My People Need to Get a Life
And they'd also better stop whining about being victims: I'd like to comment on Susan Eastman's article "Our Lady of the Projects" (July 5). In all honesty I don't have any sympathy for the Scott Homes public-housing residents profiled in her story. They choose to live the "ghetto lifestyle," which consists of mastering all things that lack refinement: alcohol, drugs, guns, fashion, jewelry, and so forth. I don't know why any human being would want to live like that, but then, all of us are not created equal, and so we shouldn't be surprised that such people exist.
Ultraliberals would say "Amerikkka" is to blame for the pitiful state of these people, but how does our nation benefit from having a large segment of its citizenry out of the loop? Yes, some whites work like hell to keep black people at the bottom, but the vast majority of whites and other races want black people to get their act together, and I mean that in all sincerity.
A lot of time, money, and energy is wasted because some blacks are still living in the past. Continually crying about slavery and racism is a crutch that blacks in this nation must deal with; otherwise we can never move forward. Of course some blacks may disagree with that point of view, but hating white folks accomplishes nothing in the long run. I don't wake up every morning with a gun to my head telling me to hate myself because I was born black. I consider myself a progressive militant who has forgiven white people for what they have done to my people. But I'll never forget, either.
As far as black leaders are concerned, they use the "reverse exile theory" to keep blacks poor because they're making way too much money off them, which is why they want to maintain the status quo. As in the case of Cuban exiles, so-called black leaders depend on the blind loyalty of poor blacks because without it they're powerless. If these leaders truly cared about black people, my race would be in a much better state.
Liberalism had its chance to improve things for blacks, but it failed. Now we as a people and as a nation must move away from babying black people. It's destroying my race!
Tyrone D. Kenon
My People Need to Get Out and Vote
And they'd also better start doing it often: I have some advice for Ella Lemon, who wrote in response to "Our Lady of the Projects" and in defense of the Scott Homes residents who are resisting the HOPE VI project. My advice: Get out and vote. Do not only vote in presidential elections. Vote whenever there is a local election. If you want to make a difference in your community, get involved and participate in the democratic process. This is the only power that we as citizens of this great nation have.
Unfortunately politics does play a big role in everyone's life. Don't let others decide your future or speak for you. Start by trying to make a difference. Get out and vote! And please make sure your vote is counted. If we all stand together, we can do it.
He Has Seen Miami's Future
And it's converging in Edgewater: Big Ups! Congratulations! ¡Felicidades! Konpliman! Celeste Fraser Delgado perfectly captured the future essence of urban Miami in her "Shake" column of July 5 ("There Goes the Neighborhood"). The renaissance and revitalization of urban Miami will be about the convergence of music, art, and culture across community borders.
Her story was the heartbeat before the pulse.
Marlon A. Hill
South Beach Manifesto: Stay Informed to Survive
At last some smart talk about hip-hop: In the foreseeable future I probably won't be adding any hip-hop CDs to my collection of Forties big-band music, Fifties blues and jazz, and Sixties and Seventies rock and roll, but I did appreciate and enjoy Brett Sokol's thorough piece on The Source magazine publisher David Mays ("It's a Hip-Hop World," July 5).
Amid all the ranting and raving that took place in various quarters following the recent hip-hop weekend on Miami Beach, it was extremely difficult to hear a reasoned and dispassionate explanation of hip-hop culture from most of Miami's media outlets. Brett's piece was an example of why New Times should be required weekly reading, especially by some city officials and so-called journalists in this town.
South Beach Manifesto: Forget Racism, Think Civility
And for role models consider blue-blooded New England WASPs: Art, literature, and music are subjective, and so I don't want to address the music element in hip-hop. I'll leave music criticism to musicologists and musicians. But in the "Kulchur" column of July 5, Brett Sokol refers to a meeting with David Mays of The Source magazine in Preston's, a restaurant in the Loews Hotel three blocks east of my home. I live in an integrated building with whites, Jews, Hispanics, and blacks. The management has white, Hispanic, and black employees.
At 3:30 a.m. of the Saturday during Urban Fashion Week I was awakened for the first time since Peter Thomas's "How Can I Be Down" hip-hop convention. People were screaming in cars, squatting on private property, drinking alcohol, and generally raising hell. This is a residential building on a residential block. There was a worse repeat at 4:45 a.m. Sunday morning, with the added bonus of people parked in the driveway of the building across the street (again, an integrated building), so that residents couldn't get in and out of this private property.
The following week I learned that Miami Beach concessionaires, who were born and live in this community, were attacked by hip-hop people with broken beer bottles and that one of the hotel lobbies was the scene of a fight and physical damage. Also there were attempts to rip trash baskets off poles, and when that didn't work, they were bent out of shape.
I was in my apartment the whole Memorial Day weekend except to go to the local supermarket one block away. I don't know what happened except on my block and the blocks adjacent. But what happened here was people without hotel rooms roamed the streets all night and trashed the neighborhood. The following week store owners and people here involved in the hotel industry told tales of terror and disorder.
I should add that the original hip-hop kids in South Beach who first appeared, and are still here, are the whites to be found around the Euclid Oval. This is not a racial issue. It is a cultural and class issue. The two black male cooks who own a condo on my block, the professional black lady in my building, the famous black female impersonator across the street, the black gospel and opera singer in my building are as orderly, quiet (except for the opera singer's arias), decent, and conservatively dressed as any Anglo-Saxon, protestant judge in New England with a Harvard undergraduate degree and a Yale law degree. I don't believe for one minute they appreciate the hip-hop events in South Beach any more than anybody else.
Louis Oliver and Luke Campbell, who came to Miami Beach City Hall with a "posse" that looked like extras out of a B gang movie (and certainly never saw Harvard, Yale, or even Miami-Dade Community College) are not contemptible because of the color of their skin, but rather because of their support of disreputable and illegal conduct by thugs so they can make a buck.
Three times I've testified in favor of Don Peebles's African-American hotel on Collins Avenue, despite its delayed construction blocking my public beach access for years. I've testified in favor of Peter Thomas's liquor license for a bar/restaurant a block from my apartment despite reservations because of the hip-hop events in past years.
At what point does Miami's black leadership, people like Bishop Victor Curry and attorney H.T. Smith, stop ranting and raging about racism and face some of the real issues here on the Beach?
Count LFMdeW Rosenthal e Meyerbeer W. Chudzikiewicz h.Chodkiewicz
South Beach Manifesto: Open the Doors, 'Cause Here I Come
And don't even think about keeping me out: David Flores wrote a letter to the editor about hip-hop culture in which he stated, "This is not a racial problem, since not every African American in the United States is part of the urban hip-hop subculture." He is correct; not every African American is part of hip-hop. But he is correct for another reason as well: Thousands of non-African Americans embrace hip-hop worldwide.
Did you know there are thousands of Anglo teens all over this nation who love hip-hop music? They even corn-row their hair, flash gold teeth, and wear clothes that originated (as usual) in the African-American community. Did you know there are white and Hispanic hip-hop artists? Did you know that Lauryn Hill has won several Grammys for her hip-hop music? Yet she does not promote violence or idolize ex-cons who promote murder, as Mr. Flores described black hip-hop culture. If he is uncomfortable with thousands of blacks on Miami Beach, that is his personal issue and he needs to deal with it.
Mr. Flores went on to describe Miami Beach as "a community where young couples and families mingle with gays, Orthodox Jews, and Hispanics; a community where respect is the law of the land, an alien concept to the hip-hop subculture." By that statement did Mr. Flores mean to say he doesn't mingle with Miami Beach's African-American residents? Did he just happen to accidentally exclude African Americans from his description of the Beach?
African-American labor helped build Miami Beach from the turn of the century up till today (check out what Donahue Peebles is doing), but not so long ago we had to have a special pass to come to the Beach. As an African-American female I will never ever allow anyone ever to exclude me again! I have the same rights as any American citizen to freely move about this city. Caution to all who do not remember the Holocaust, American slavery, the attempted genocide of Native Americans, and the illegal incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
If some visitors (Hispanics, Jews, Anglos, African Americans, whoever) come to Miami Beach and misbehave, they should be dealt with according to the law; thrown in jail if that's appropriate. But please, Mr. Flores, don't insult me by trying to portray everyone as law-abiding citizens except African Americans. Remember that when you start pointing a finger at others, three fingers are pointing right back at you. Have a good day!
South Beach Manifesto: I Used to Love Visiting
But why should I return if I'm only going to be insulted? I am writing this letter to express the frustration I experienced on my recent visit to South Beach. My wife and I are both African Americans from South Carolina who have visited Miami on vacation for several years and have gotten to know the city pretty well over that time. When friends ask me why I keep going back to the same place every year, I tell them I enjoy my time spent in Miami. This year, however, I noticed a distinct rudeness from many of the local Cuban residents.
This rudeness got to a point where it felt like we weren't welcome. During this visit there were many times I would say hello and would get only a bad attitude in return. Now, I don't profess to be fluent in Spanish, but a smile and a hello is universal. I have read in local Miami newspapers of some of the problems between black and Cuban residents in the past, and of some problems with the primarily young black contingent that arrived during Memorial Day weekend. But that's no excuse. Rudeness is rudeness.
Keep in mind that South Beach is no longer a getaway solely for the in-crowd. Now it's a destination for Joe Everyman. There are beaches and designer stores in other cities. The main thing that kept me coming back to Miami was the people. Considering that tourism is Miami's biggest industry, it isn't wise to drive people away. I will not spend my money where I am not wanted.
I still like Miami, but I will think long and hard before returning again.
Simpsonville, South Carolina
South Beach Manifesto: Start Planning and Stop the Decline
Otherwise you'll become just another Buckhead: As a resident of Miami Beach, over the last couple of years I've noticed a pattern that develops around certain events taking place on the Beach. It glaringly came to my attention during the Super Bowl weekend of January 2000. All of a sudden there was widespread violence at the top of the headlines -- assaults, stabbings, and fights. I witnessed a lot of this firsthand, having attended a concert featuring the hip-hop team of Puff Daddy and Mase at the nightclub then called Amnesia. That event turned into a mob scene involving at least one stabbing and several additional assaults. The concert was ultimately canceled, though the police came only after the violence had already occurred.
Only two club-employed bouncers were present at this event, even though more than 300 or 400 people were trying to get in via a very disorganized queue. Of course this degraded into a melee. Is that any way to manage an event in our community? I understood that the promoters of the event were not locals.
Once the police arrived and the crowd was dispersed, I took my guests to the News Café. Even this nonclub, largely tourist-oriented restaurant had an off-duty police officer managing the ten or fifteen people on queue for a table. Does this mean that events promoters from out of town have no clue that such security should be anticipated? If so, maybe we should make security a requirement prior to sanctioning such events. The fact that even the News Café anticipated the crowds shows that when prior notice is given, local community venues take proper precautionary action.
At the time I thought the Amnesia scene was a fluke incident, given the extraordinary influx of tourists that Super Bowl weekend. In the past year, however, several other hip-hop-themed concerts have been held, and while not necessarily on the scale of a major event, these concerts are often larger than the capacity of the nightclub promoting them. This results in huge crowds snaking around the block and spilling into the streets. Those who cannot gain entry often become rambunctious, verbally assaulting passersby -- tourists, residents, women, homosexuals, or whomever. If ultimately denied entry, a certain undesirable minority of these partygoers routinely vent their frustration by damaging property, whether it be a bar adjacent to the event, their hotel room, or a restaurant. I have seen this trend develop consistently over the past two years. Is this the level of sophistication we want associated with our city?
As we all became painfully aware on Memorial Day weekend, the Beach was not prepared for the events that transpired. I spend a lot of time in the bar and restaurant establishments around town, and the comments of friends working in these places truly shocked me: a vandalized dining room at the Hotel Astor, a wedding disrupted by an unruly mob at the Loews Hotel, destroyed rooms at the Delano. And there were multiple assaults.
The infrastructure was taxed as well. I was unable to use a cell phone the entire weekend because the networks were busy owing to all the traffic. Luckily I didn't have a road accident anywhere near the Beach. In fact the Beach was shut down -- Ocean Drive, Collins and Washington avenues, even the MacArthur Causeway. How is it that no one knew to prepare for this? I live on Collins and Eighth, and I could barely reach my apartment beginning Friday of that weekend. What if I had been moving in that weekend? I had no warning.
I saw a Japanese couple on the steps of the Tides Hotel, obviously on their honeymoon while simultaneously fearing for their safety in the mob scene that was Ocean Drive the entire weekend. What is the likelihood these tourists will ever return, much less utter a positive word about our community to others? What are we doing wrong? Why are we allowing this to happen? We must have prior notice of these events.
I regularly host guests here, about seven to ten people per month. These folks are prominent business people from the bigger cities in Latin America, North America, and Europe. They are appalled at the situation. I enjoy showcasing the Beach to visitors; it's my favorite pastime. But despite my best efforts to show off our city, the unruly mobs are impossible to circumvent or ignore.
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I admit that Miami Beach is in somewhat of a downward spiral. Gone are the days when we got a new trendy nightclub every three months or so. Gone are the sophisticated, trend-setting crowds of a few years ago. These crowds certainly disturbed the peace on occasion, but we weren't seeing stabbings, assaults, and vandalism in the headlines.
The current state of the national economy likely requires Miami Beach be more open in searching for events to bring to the city. I understand we cannot outright deny the right of any group of people to visit our community, but can we not at least require promoters to file paperwork with estimated number of attendees, an impact study of the event (waste management, traffic congestion), contingency plans for overcapacity, and an explanation of why the Beach is right for this event? In this way the residents, hotels, restaurants, and clubs can get an idea of the overall scope of the planned event and how it will impact the community as a whole. (Remember that the Beach proper is such a small place!)
If we do not take action, we will end up exactly like another community that has all but failed as a tourist destination a mere two years after its height as a trendy destination. I refer to the Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead. I spend most of my time traveling, and Atlanta is a location where I have spent quite a lot of time over the past couple of years. While it was the place to visit for many years, the recent influx of thug elements has residents, tourists, and -- most important -- businesses, running for the hills. We must do something to manage this impact on our community before it's too late.
Mitchell H. Peacock