Sleazy, Lazy, and Filthy Rich

The Knight of Blight
Miami developer Aristides Martinez once seemed an inner-city savior. Today he goes by another name: Slumlord.
By Victor Cruz

Ten reasons why I just love public housing:

Victor Cruz's article about public-housing developer Aristides Martinez (“The Knight of Blight,” June 22) brought back memories. For three years (1993-1996) I served on the board of the Miami-Dade Housing and Finance Authority. From what I saw, those who truly benefit from all these low-income housing programs are:

•Sleazy and lazy developers who rely not on their skill but on lobbyists and government contacts to obtain inflated and extremely profitable deals (with plenty of taxpayer money to go around)

•Sleazy and lazy contractors and builders who overcharge and perform subpar work (it's only taxpayer money, after all)

•Sleazy and lazy bond dealers and underwriters who also rely on contacts in the government for their livelihood

•Mortgage brokers and banks that peddle government-backed loans, making a commission, of course, that will ultimately have an extremely high default rate (another burden for taxpayers)

•Lobbyists (these guys are everywhere!)

•Board members, county commissioners, and county employees who travel twice a year to places like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Atlanta and stay in hotels like the Ritz. These trips are disguised as seminars, but they really serve no purpose (and besides, the taxpayers are picking up the tab).

And what about the poor people these programs are really supposed to benefit? For the most part they get what Victor Cruz described in his article. I happen to own properties in areas of Miami-Dade and Broward counties that some people would consider undesirable. I do not take one cent of government money to buy or fix these properties. From my perspective these government programs achieve the following:

•Artificially raise rents and housing prices. This is especially damaging to low-income families who do not rely on government assistance to pay their rent or mortgages

•Attract landlords who rely on government and bureaucratic contacts to get highly subsidized rents and offer minimal maintenance and upkeep

•Worsen crime situations in areas that usually have enough problems without the extra “help”

•Create a perpetual dependency on the government for housing.These programs may have been well intentioned at some point, but today they are similar to an out-of-control stampede of white elephants. The whole nation would be much better served if they were taken out of the government's filthy hands. Private-sector donations should handle it rather than force taxpayers to pay for Mr. Martinez and his cohorts' mansions in Cocoplum. Since when has the U.S. Constitution guaranteed life, liberty, and low-income housing?

Emiliano Antunez

Don't Look for the Union Label
For two years Goya Foods has waged a war to prevent its workers from unionizing. Now things are starting to get really ugly.
By Kathy Glasgow

... or stand up for the union:

Regarding the article about Goya Foods by Kathy Glasgow (“Don't Look for the Union Label,” June 22), congratulations to those Goya workers who wanted to unionize themselves and later signed an anti-union petition because, in my opinion, they got bribed by their latest manager, Mr. Bob Unanue.

Far as I'm concerned, you people are just a bunch of weak and incompetent sheep, and when the boss man says, “Bend over!” you say, “How far?”

Unions don't destroy jobs. They give workers the right to speak their minds. They discuss issues like better wages, improved working conditions, stronger benefits for workers and their families, and how to have a balanced and fair relationship with management. If you stay vigilant about conditions at your job site, management can bite you and your workmates in the rear when you least expect it.

Alberto Turienzo, [a UNITE union advocate fired from his job at Goya], had a goal: to make Goya's workers' lives better by making them stronger and having them treated like human beings. But all of you just left him like some worn-out dish rag, which was really pathetic. Do yourselves a favor and contact UNITE at Secaucus, New Jersey, and ask them about their relationship with Goya's management. It may inspire you to unionize for the better.

One more thing: If you're getting overtime pay, 401(k) plans, and health benefits, don't thank Goya Foods. Thank the union.

Craig L. Toth

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

What's the relationship between body weight and brain power?

It is really sad that a once-respectable newspaper like Miami New Times has turned into what it is now. I'm referring to Victor Cruz's article about Neil McGuffin and the Miami Beach Housing Authority (“The Real McGuffin,” June 15).

The article did not mention any of the real issues, such as the way Mr. McGuffin made an illegal Section 8 list and was planning to insert it in the legal list to benefit a specific ethnic group, or manipulation of requests for proposals, or overspending of federal money without board approval, or many other things like that, which are facts and public record but were not mentioned.

He was not fired because of his looks; he was voted out 4-to-1 by the board, and if Mr. Cruz would read the minutes or watch the videos of the meetings, he would be able to get his facts straight. Instead this cheap reporter writes a soap opera in which most of his writing is dedicated to insulting the physical appearance of the members of the board and others. What does the physical appearance of board members have to do with their ability to perform their jobs? Could it be that since Mr. Cruz could not find the corruption he was hunting for, he decided to write all that garbage? I am happy to know that the worst he could write about me was that I am a large person. Thank God that is not against the law and does not affect my brain. I can always lose the weight. But can Mr. Cruz remove the stupidity from his brain?

Another thing: When writing an article, reporters should get their facts straight. I would be very proud to be Cuban but I am not. I am Puerto Rican. And I did not say, “I have something to lose,” because I don't. What I said was: “I have nothing to lose.”

I hope the editors of this paper start doing their jobs and stop such garbage from being printed. And don't let morons call themselves reporters.

Ruth E.Pasarell, commissioner
Miami Beach Housing Authority
Miami Beach

Mr. Gayton would like a word with you:

I write to point out the cultural and journalistic ignorance of Alfredo Triff's article “Art Out on the Town” (June 15). Mr. Triff's commentary on the “Beyond the Millennium” exhibition at the Tower Arts Center discussed only the cosmetics of the exhibition's display, without any discussion or critical analysis of the works themselves. I can only imagine he is not schooled in such analysis or even in journalistic integrity. After all his article refers to the exhibition, including the works of a Mr. Pedro Damian, an artist who never even participated in the exhibition.

For your reference the artists who did participate in the opening were Marcela Santa Maria, Aldo Amador, Silvio Gayton, Raimundo Garcia, and Jesus Villareal, all internationally exhibited and critically acclaimed artists in their own right.

I trust your editorial staff will have a serious conversation with Mr. Triff about the quality and integrity of his journalism. It is he who criticized the exhibition's display as “lacking an expert eye.” I hope that, in some small way, this letter will encourage your readership and editorial staff to question and hold your journalists accountable for the validity of their professional coverage. Miami cannot and should not continue to endure a reputation as the intellectual and cultural black hole of the country.

Nelson Gayton
via the Internet

Editor's note: Mr. Gayton correctly notes that Pedro Damian was not a participant in the show at Tower Arts Center. His work was on display that evening at the adjacent La Vena del Gusto. We apologize for the error.

Hey, what's that funny smell?

When I turned to Brett Sokol's June 8 “Kulchur” column and saw Vince Martin, I was suddenly back in the old Grove, where the sandal-maker in the alley made a toy wooden train for his little boy, where I ordered a new, custom-made pair of sandals every summer, where there was funny-smelling smoke in Peacock Park, and where, in our short year in the house on Aviation Avenue, I would tug at my brothers and say, “Look, look! There's a real folk musician living right next door to us.”

Vince Martin had no clue who we were but I knew who he was, and we would watch him come and go with his guitar. I even got my brother to take me to the Flick and brave the thick cigarette smoke for the music and the ambiance and the feeling that we were where magic was happening. I particularly remember him with the “Greenback Dollar” song. I also remember another little hole in the wall across from what is now Mayfair, where we went to hear Odetta. One time this hysterically funny man comes on who says he cannot tell us his name because of his contract with a hotel in Miami Beach. A year later I'm watching TV and there he is with the same bit and it's Flip Wilson with his “Columbus Gonna Find Ray Charles” routine. Little did I know they were coming down for the weather.

On June 10, after the story in New Times, WLRN's Michael Stock interviewed Martin. I was on a friend's balcony to watch the tall ships sail out to sea and asked to listen to the radio at the appointed time. About ten minutes into it, I heard Martin talk about the old house next door to us and the landlady we didn't know either but whom we also saw from time to time. And then my friends changed the station. I had to go along, unhappily, but what can I say. Sometimes life just has to be accepted as it comes.

My brother later marveled about Vince Martin: “Sis, the jasmine, the jasmine! Can you imagine, that guy smelled the same jasmine I remember so well!” And the smell came back to us and we smiled at our youth and the joys and good memories of the past. I'm going to get Martin's If the Jasmine Don't Get You ... for my brother. Thank you for a great article!

Marina Fernandez

First came the Sex Pistols, then came Devo:

Nice essay by Brett Sokol on Vince Martin and the folk-hippie Grove of yore. Being a stickler for detail, though, I must clarify a little history about Michael Dean and Yardbird Records. Dean did indeed sell the first Sex Pistols record in Miami, as he said, but definitely not at Yardbird Records as the article implied. When the Pistols were saving the queen, Michael was the buyer at the Magic Minstrel in South Miami. I succeeded him as the import buyer for the Magic Minstrel and its sister store across from the University of Miami, Twin Sounds, both identified by storefront-window reproductions of King Crimson album covers. (As I recall there was a Magic Minstrel in the Grove in the early to mid-Seventies.)

My legacy: I sold the first Devo LP in Miami. I was fired by store manager (and former WBUS program director) Curtis Schwartz and was eventually succeeded by Michael Dean, back from L.A.

A few years later he opened Yardbird, but that was definitely after 1978. Though the new gear at Yardbird was heavy on punk, New Wave, and new romantic, he also had a pretty large inventory of vintage jazz, pop, avante-garde, and twentieth-century music. Yardbird moved to Bird Road and was bought out by Rich Ulloa's Yesterday and Today empire. Eventually Michael moved to Hallandale and reopened under the Yardbird moniker.

In the early Seventies Michael and Curtis entertained and educated me with their programming on the Magic Bus. In the mid- to late Seventies Michael and another Magic Minstrel employee named Marshall were great sources for new and old music from the U.K. and other points.

Edward Bobb
via the Internet

A Fine Mess
Georges William was fined $500 because his name was found in a pile of illegally dumped trash. Then New Times showed up.
By Kathy Glasgow

Here's lookin' at you,
ti zanmi
I am writing this letter on behalf of the Haitian community and myself. The support that New Times has given to our community has been tremendous. While other media ignore us, you have the guts to look at our problems.

The March 2 article by Kathy Glasgow about my problem with the Neighborhood Enhancement Team bureaucrat (“A Fine Mess”) was later picked up by Florida International University media students and also by Channel 10. Without you I may never have found a positive solution about the problem. I sincerely thank you.

Georges Williams


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