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Letters to the Editor

Firpomania!
Firpo Garcia has one big advantage in his school board campaign. His name is Sol Stinson.
By Ted B. Kissell

I'M HIGH ON FIRPO
Anyone who's attended that many meetings deserves a medal:
In response to Ted B. Kissell's profile of Dr. Firpo Garcia's campaign for a seat on the school board from District 7 (“Firpomania!” July 13), let me say that Dr. Garcia has run a campaign that others seeking local elective office should emulate. I have been somewhat active in the local political arena for the last several years and I can unhesitatingly say that the support Firpo is receiving is well deserved and based on a deep passion to serve the students of Miami-Dade County's public schools.

In the article some mocked his visibility at school board meetings, but what other candidates seeking any office regularly attend meetings of the office they seek for five years straight? Generally candidates come out just months before an election and claim to know everything about the office that they seek, without any type of preparation or training. Not Firpo! He has actually spent the better part of five years studying the public school system.

I respect the other two candidates in the District 7 race and believe they are fine individuals. But because of his exhaustive and continuous efforts to truly learn and understand the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system and his genuine desire to help the children of this community, Firpo has demonstrated to this District 7 voter that he is the best candidate for the job.

Nicholas C. Mazorra
Miami

SCHOOL DISTRICT GETS PRESSURE-CLEANED
Years of scum washed away after intense hosing:
The real tragedy of the Miami-Dade school board elections is that none of these candidates are worth voting for. By the time honest people manage to get elected, they've either been desensitized or they get there shortly afterward. The corruption in that school district is palpable.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars change hands every election cycle, and millions are awarded to politically connected vendors. I spent years in the belly of that beast down there, from 1969 to 1993, and know that it will take a long time using a fire hose to clean off the dirt.

Charlotte Greenbarg
Hollywood

Postcards from the Edgewater
Miami's slummiest oceanfront neighborhood could be the next big thing. It could also turn into the next condo canyon.
By Jacob Bernstein

NET GAINS
Edgewater was doing just fine, thank you:
I read Jacob Bernstein's article about Miami's Edgewater neighborhood and found a couple of areas I thought needed clarification (“Postcards from the Edgewater,” July 13). I was the area's Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) administrator from 1991 until I retired in May 1999 after 22 years. I was not under a cloud nor was I asked to leave. As a matter of fact I surprised the administration. It was a difficult decision for me to leave my career with the city, but I will admit it was the right one.

I do own two buildings in Wynwood. To this day my properties have never been cited by the City of Miami, except for one tenant who was caught selling drugs several blocks away from one my properties and immediately evicted. I don't appreciate innuendo.

I would also like to clarify that police lieutenants have very little say about the demolition of “crack houses.” These properties are identified by NET staff, police, and citizens and are submitted to the administrator, who in turn submits them to the building and zoning department's unsafe structures division, which in turn must obtain authorization from Miami-Dade County. Unless the city has accomplished miracles since I retired, it would be impossible for 40 unsafe structures to be demolished between 1996 and today, as the story claims.

I wonder if Mr. Bernstein verified all the information he received pertaining to the NET office. For example, between 1991 and 1995 crime decreased in the Wynwood/Edgewater area by more than 32 percent without the benefit of a police lieutenant at the NET office. During this period there was only one officer assigned to the NET office. The planning for this [crime-reduction] effort was done by this nonranking but very experienced officer, using fewer resources than currently available. I still question the cost benefits of having a lieutenant assigned to NET.

If I were Mr. Bernstein, I would have verified the arrests done while on duty and those done while on overtime. I would also suggest verifying the amount of overtime pay to a certain lieutenant and the reasons for that overtime. I would have looked into how the level of [crime-fighting] interest wanes when little overtime money is available.

Luis Carrasquillo
via the Internet

Jacob Bernstein replies: I did not identify Mr. Carrasquillo by name in my article, nor did I report that his two properties had been cited by the City of Miami. The article read: “...the administrator, who owned two buildings in the district, had received about half a dozen complaints on his properties about drug activity and illegal garbage disposal.”

Death of a Maiden
Déjà was a survivor in Miami's perilous world of transsexual hookers -- that is, until she met a customer named Bowlegs
By Tristram Korten

TOUGHT TO READ, TOUGH TO WRITE
The short, sad life of a boy called Déjà:
While Tristram Korten's story about the murder of Dondre Johnson (“Death of a Maiden,” June 29) was heart wrenching to read and maybe even to write, I think he delivered it magnificently well. Normally when reading articles like this I try to get straight to the meat of it. This one kept me reading and reading and reading.

I went to high school with this young man. I didn't know him personally, but I have vivid images of him carrying his instrument to and from the practice field and laughing with his cronies. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Name Withheld by Request
via the Internet

The Real McGuffin
Neil McGuffin was supposed to guide the Miami Beach Housing Authority into the new millennium. Instead he exposed an agency in disarray. And he lost his job.
By Victor Cruz

WE MAY NOT BE PERFECT
But we sure didn't deserve that slap in the face:
As employees of the Miami Beach Housing Authority, we want to comment on Victor Cruz's article about Neil McGuffin, former executive director of the authority (“The Real McGuffin,” June 15). We take umbrage at several comments attributed to Mr. McGuffin. There is no doubt that he implemented changes for the betterment of this organization, many of which we were glad to see enforced. In our defense, however, for him to claim that we as staff have a culture of entitlement and are only in it for ourselves is an insult to the intelligence of the public and a slap in the face to the many who strive each and every day to serve this very public. To use a broad brush against this agency is highly unjust.

We state with complete veracity and sincerity that many of the reported deficiencies have been and are being corrected. An astounding amount of manpower has been expended to that end by the very staff that is so often maligned. From the receptionist to the housing specialist to the inspection department; from accounting to the managers to the maintenance crew -- all have gone beyond their duty to ensure proper enforcement of HUD rules and regulations. This by no means suggests that all is well with this agency, but we have all shared in this effort to improve, contrary to myriad uncharitable observations.

Mr. McGuffin's intentions were understood and his efforts to undertake change were not always met with a 21-gun salute. But to state that change was met with resistance and obstinacy is far from reality. This staff welcomed and looked forward to the future. Upgrading the office environment, for example, was brilliantly executed. Everyone enjoyed the process of learning, and although there were some glitches, these were met with the understanding that a system without imperfections does not exist.

We too are imperfect. Still, with the upheaval of a new administration and the stress of change, plus scrutiny by several auditors and HUD, we have maintained our grace and performed our duties to the best of our abilities. We have exhibited tremendous growth throughout this past year.

Miguel Villa
Jay Maxwell
Miami Beach Housing Authority


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