Letters to the Editor

Ferré: Can This Leopard Change His Spots?
Not if history is any measure of the future: Ashley Fantz let Maurice Ferré off the hook too easily in her profile ("That Old Familiar Face," September 13). Ferré is a man who, once upon a time during his early campaigns in the Seventies, supported financial disclosure for public officials. Yet he (and many others) evades these requirements at every turn.

Ferré says he is a changed man today. Is he really? Let us see how he has defined himself. His $70,000 fine for campaign violations dating to 1981, upheld by every court in Florida, was only paid off in 1996! And why? His county commission salary, the only income he could not hide, was being garnisheed. The balance of $56,000 was only paid off in 1996 and then only because Ferré wanted to run for county mayor that year.

And guess what? While a county commissioner in the Nineties, Ferré didn't seem to have a problem accepting privileges from American Airlines that should have, at a minimum, been reported as gifts on his disclosure forms. But of course they weren't. He simply does not report much of anything. Upon his departure from the county commission office after his defeat in 1996, Ferré actually asked to take with him his office furniture and computers paid for by taxpayers. I suppose this only makes sense since the man has no reportable income.

Maurice Ferré is still very much the same as he has always been -- a conniver of the worst kind.

Leonardo Cordero

Ferré: Does This Emperor Have Any Clothes?
Not if you look at him closely: It is interesting, in Ashley Fantz's article about Maurice Ferré, that she takes us back to the 1983 election for mayor of Miami. She recounts how attractive Ferré appeared in his campaign commercials that year. He is described as well dressed and looking like a star on a television soap opera. His campaign slogan: "I want to be the mayor for all the people."

Well, folks, the 1983 election for Miami mayor easily ranks as one of the city's nastiest, most ethnically divisive campaigns ever, perhaps exceeded only by the previous 1981 election for Miami mayor. The central star in both was Maurice Ferré, master of local ethnic divide-and-conquer political campaigns. Recall that these were particularly turbulent years in Miami. Ferré certainly contributed his share of fuel to those fires.

The article asked if Ferré evoked positive feelings. The answer is no. This emperor is without clothes.

Reinaldo de Villiers

Ferré: Is He a Testament to Corruption and Cronyism?
In a word, yes: Back when Miami was awash in drugs, drug lords, drug money, the Miami River Cops, and other scandals, who was mayor? Maurice Ferré. Like the late butt fungus Steve Clark, Maurice Ferré is a man who never met a dollar he did not like or an ass he could not kiss.

Bringing Ferré back into Miami government would be just another sad moment for a city that has nothing to be proud of regarding its government. Miami is a testament to why democracy does not survive in Central and South America. Corruption and cronyism is what it's all about.

Alberto Batista

Bonding Agents
If you didn't love this place you wouldn't be on Audubon's board: We at Tropical Audubon Society regret Jacob Bernstein's article "A Fissure Runs Through It" (September 13). It contained statements that were either incorrect or untrue.

Our board of directors is made up of private citizens with diverse backgrounds and interests. The common ground we share is our intense love for South Florida and the environment. If any individual did not share this fundamental bond, he or she would not be on the board of Tropical Audubon Society.

The organization will continue to champion environmental causes with the help of Dick Frost, former superintendent of Biscayne National Park, and eventually with a new executive director. Tropical Audubon is a leader not only in environmental advocacy but also in education and member activities. We are proud of our role in the local community, the integrity of our board members, and our potential to shape environmental policy in the future.

Joe Barros, president
Tropical Audubon Society

Wrong Incident, Right Reaction
And it's among the reasons I resigned from Audubon: I am writing to correct one small error in "A Fissure Runs Through It." The article references an incident with Tropical Audubon board member Amy Kimball-Murley and reports that I was unaware of her role as consultant to the Port of Miami when, as executive director of the organization, I briefed her on our response to the port's illegal dredging of sea-grass beds near the critical wildlife area of Virginia Key. The story quotes me as saying, "I didn't appreciate giving away my whole strategy."

In fact at that time I was aware she was a consultant to the port. I also found myself sitting across the table from her at various port meetings regarding this and other port issues. The incident I referred to happened some years earlier, when Ms. Kimball first joined Tropical's board. She made a phone call to my office and requested that I brief her on our strategy regarding the redevelopment of Homestead Air Force Base and our general strategy regarding Virginia Key. As I recall, I dutifully explained our strategy on the airport and also explained that we were attempting to find a way to restore Virginia Key to its former natural habitat while opposing any further commercialization of the island. In addition I explained our opposition to any further use of the island by the port for disposal of spoil material from dredging projects.

It was not until after I was nearly finished explaining these issues that I learned from her she was a port consultant. And it was not until much later that I learned that she was engaged to be married to Jim Murley, who at the time was secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs. This was significant because Mr. Murley's department was, at that time, actively supporting the application of the Homestead airport-conversion proposal. We were locked in an intense fight with the department over that issue. It was in reference to that incident I said, "I did not appreciate giving away my whole strategy." I stand by that conviction today.

Don Chinquina
Palm Beach Gardens

Hot Heads vs. Level Heads
Guess which ones I prefer working with at Audubon: Don Chinquina and [Sierra Club activist] Barbara Lange are perfect examples of hard-line environmentalists. It's their way or no way.

On the other hand, [Tropical Audubon board member and former president] Karsten Rist is an environmentalist who realizes there are ways to solve environmental problems by compromise. That's a win-win for all. I have had the occasion to work with him on Everglades restoration. There are times he has been very stubborn on issues, but ultimately he compromises with what's best for all.

William H. Losner


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