DeFede and Penelas
Pardon me for asking, but could there be some perverse attraction here? I can't believe I'm writing again about one of Jim DeFede's routine trashings of Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, but his cheap shots make it hard to resist. It seems anything that happens in Florida (or the nation) can be construed in DeFede's mind to cast our "sexy little mayor" (his words, and I can't help thinking there's something more than sarcasm at work) in the worst light possible, the result being a series of articles which, as political reality, are no more worthy of paper and ink than a Jay Love flyer.
The latest rant is "Devil in a Blue Dress" (May 31), in which he stretches belief by analyzing the negative connotations that a Reno gubernatorial campaign will have for Penelas. Here's news for you, Jim: If Janet Reno runs (and I hope she does and wins), the last thing she would like to call attention to is the Elian Gonzalez affair because she needs as many votes in the Cuban-American community as she can scrape together. So her camp won't be replaying any old footage in which she's pitted against one of the community's most popular politicians (like it or not, Jim). And the other camp won't replay it either because Reno comes across as the winner.
As far as Ted Koppel's Nightline, I wondered why Koppel chose to qualify as "talking behind her back" statements Penelas made at a press conference, in the middle of a controversy the whole nation was watching, where every major news outlet was present with cameras and microphones. Maybe Koppel decided it would make better television if he could provoke a heated exchange between Reno and Penelas. Hey, it worked for Jim DeFede. I can picture him, late at night, sitting in a recliner with the remote in hand, bathed in the sickly blue light of the TV while he rewinds that scene over and over and giggles. What a sad picture.
DeFede and Reno
With those backwoods nose-pickers on the wane, she's home free: Jim DeFede writes that "historically any Democrat who hopes to win statewide office needs to capture 25 to 30 percent of the Cuban-American vote." That conventional wisdom has been changed by the influx of new Hispanic groups and other minorities into Florida. The 2000 census will attest to this. Another result of the influx: the diminished voting strength of Florida's backwoods nose-pickers. Couple that with the voting mania these new arrivals will show in 2002 and Janet Reno has a solid shot.
Reno's Rotten Job
Free weekly advised to read its own back issues: I live in the Atlanta area and about six months ago found the New Times Website. I began reading back issues of the paper. Your reporting is first-rate, though I don't always agree with your politics. Over the past few months I have been reading quite a bit in these back issues about Janet Reno and her tenure at the Dade County State Attorney's Office.
Today I found "Janet Reno's Greatest Hits" (October 10, 1990) and was absolutely appalled! Of all the "investigations" her office began against public officials during the Eighties, she could bring only five to trial? That is an outrage. What makes it worse is that, as governor, she could be the person responsible for appointing special prosecutors in situations where the locals can't or won't handle the cases.
I hope New Times will spend time digging through its own archives over the next months and remind the people of Florida what a rotten job she did both as State Attorney and as Bill Clinton's attorney general. Put aside your pro-Democrat bias and give us some really hard-hitting investigative reporting. Please?
Poor Communities Rich with Hope
Wake up and check out this quiet revolution: Regarding Susan Eastman's article "With Enough Money" (May 24), about the West Perrine Community Economic Development Corporation (CDC), the South Florida Community Development Coalition takes exception to the representation that the West Perrine CDC has not lived up to its charge in revitalizing West Perrine.
The fact is that without the work and commitment of the CDC, West Perrine would have seen little or no economic or housing activity in recent years. For the best indicator of the effectiveness of the CDC's efforts, one need look no further than the increasing property values for homes in West Perrine, which rose by more than $10,000 over the past two years.
It's particularly unfortunate that New Times chose to use Miami-Dade County's Audit and Management Services Department's audit report in evaluating Miami-Dade's numerous community development corporations without taking into account the perspective of the South Florida Community Development Coalition that the department's audit was neither fair nor factually accurate.
Readers should be aware that the audit report mentioned in the article contains significant errors and biases. In discussing one particular CDC, for example, the report criticizes an organization for delays in their production of affordable-housing projects without mentioning that the delays were entirely the fault of local government. It took more than two years (!) to issue a routine environmental clearance, which held up the entire project. Instead, time and time again, the audit report never took into account the systemic barriers, often imposed by the county itself, that CDCs universally confront in their venture-development activities in low-income communities.
A larger question is why New Times chose to focus on the perceived deficiencies of one particular organization while ignoring the overwhelming accomplishments of the vast majority of Miami-Dade's CDCs. (To view a list of recent accomplishments, please visit our Website at www.floridacdc.org.) The individual actions and efforts of any one of Miami-Dade's CDCs might seem peripheral to the casual observer at New Times, but taken collectively Miami-Dade CDCs are changing the face of our urban communities, offering hope where there was once little to none.
It's true that many of our neighborhoods, including West Perrine, are still poor and may remain so. But community-based organizations assist residents in living in more stable and secure environments in a manner that public bureaucratic agencies cannot. What is needed more than anything else is a greater degree of public-private partnerships to jump start venture-development activity in Miami-Dade's most distressed neighborhoods, where regular market forces have ceased to exist.
With neither government nor the market offering solutions to intransigent poverty and social disorganization, CDCs are learning the rough and tough terrain of our poorest communities. Each of their successes is a small miracle in its own right, and each is a building block to a greater, more just society. Take all that into account, and "gotcha" articles seem to be missing the bigger story. If New Times took the time to listen, you might notice that a quiet revolution is taking place in our low-income neighborhoods.
John Ise, coordinator
South Florida Community Development Coalition
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Three-Dimensional World, One-Dimensional Journalism
Anything to sell free papers: It really upsets me how New Times and the Miami Herald print stories only from one angle. I visited West Perrine seven years ago and it was a disaster. It is now a much more vibrant community. Why don't you write about the ineptness of the county's Office of Community and Economic Development, the Audit and Management Services Department, and the Miami-Dade Housing Agency?
There are always three sides to a story. Yes, it is possible there are problems with some projects in West Perrine, but at least an equal amount of blame can be placed on the various government agencies. You slander people and put out half-truths, and you do not approach stories from more than one angle. I know sensational journalism sells and that is your job. But you should really be ashamed of your efforts.