Behind Every Condo Tower

Letters from the Issue of August 11 , 2005

Real people made real decisions to destroy the West Grove: Initially I was excited to see the New Times had decided to report on the deconstruction of the black community on the west side of Coconut Grove in Kirk Nielsen's story "Fables of the Reconstruction" (July 14). After reading Mr. Nielsen's article, however, I felt that all he had contributed was a 3000-word pity party, an ineffectual shaking of his head at the tragic "tale of doom" that has befallen the residents of this neighborhood. He did not even try to reveal how the agreements reached by Miami's power players -- politicians, urban planners, and developers -- directly undermine the quality of life in the West Grove. He also chose not to address the various activist organizations that have made it their mission to keep the West Grove in black hands.

So what Nielsen described for his readers was a battle that had already been lost, a battle in which blacks are victims, incapable of challenging the process of gentrification. Based on Nielsen's story, blacks can only complain: "There goes the neighborhood (insert deep sigh)."

He did nothing to suggest how West Grove residents could unite to fight. Fight who? Who is to blame? According to Nielsen from the very first line of his article, it is the condominium boom that is butchering the black Grove. Stop blaming condos for the demolition of a community! Real people created this boom. Real people decided to butcher their neighbors in the West Grove. When will someone have the guts to throw the political curtain open and reveal the actual people who are butchering the Grove?

Jasmine Naylor


Sleepy Old Miami

It's gone forever, for which you can thank the Cubans: In his letter "Voting Republican Can Induce Delusions" (July 21), Ronnie Fox is all over the board in attacking Cubans living in South Florida, so I'll take his assertions one at a time. He seems to take issue with another reader's statement that Cuban Americans helped turn Miami into a vibrant, thriving city. He mentions overpopulation as if all of our city's troubles have to do with Cuban immigration. Miami is a magnet for people from all over the world and all over the nation. That is nobody's fault. It's ridiculous to deny the role Cubans had in transforming Miami from a seasonal resort town into a viable metropolis.

As far as politics go, Mr. Fox seems to think Cubans have a monopoly on corruption. Sure there have been corrupt Cuban-American politicians, but the truth is that Cubans did not create or perfect political corruption in South Florida. As far back as the days when Meyer Lansky and organized crime ruled, there were corrupt politicians down here. Before any Cubans had any real positions of power, we had scandals like that of schools superintendent Johnny Jones and his gold plumbing. The ongoing list of non-Cuban corruption among local politicos is a mile long.

Mr. Fox denies that the Cuban-American vote was instrumental in the election of George W. Bush in 2000. Let me remind Mr. Fox that Florida's electoral votes went to Bush by virtue of 537 votes out of almost 6 million. That means if only 269 Bush voters had voted for Gore or stayed home, he would have been president. Let me also remind Mr. Fox of the news reports, during the late Nineties, before Elian, that the monolithic Cuban-American vote was beginning to warm to the Democratic Party. Even if he doesn't believe that, he must recognize that the Elian Gonzalez affair surely induced a high voter registration and turnout effort among Cuban Americans. Perhaps Gore opposed sending the boy back to Cuba, but his ties with the Clinton administration, the failure to do anything about the Brothers to the Rescue shootdowns, and the catastrophic "wet foot/dry foot" policy all left Cubans with a nasty taste in their mouths.

Mr. Fox doesn't understand why Cuban Americans are overwhelmingly Republican. He says that "if it weren't for Kennedy, both Cuba and South Florida would have been reduced to a smoldering radioactive ruin." Let me give him a history lesson. Forgetting the fact that Kennedy abandoned the 2506 Brigade by pulling its air support at the last minute, we would have never had a Cuban Missile Crisis if Kennedy had not stopped the U2 flyovers of Cuba; instead he proved what Khrushchev already thought, that he was weak and inexperienced. Here a Soviet satellite state was being set up 90 miles away and we were completely surprised there were missiles in Cuba, even though "those crazy Cubans" had been saying it for some time. So President Kennedy got caught with his pants down and negotiated away U.S. missiles in Turkey and agreed to never invade Cuba or allow an invasion to be launched by others from the U.S.

The few Democratic administrations during the past 46 years have all been catastrophic for the U.S. regarding Cuba policy. Castro played Carter like a cheap fiddle, and I've already mentioned the disastrous Kennedy and Clinton administrations. The reason we're hearing more and more about lowering the embargo lately is because Castro is finally running out of lifelines. Cuba's credit rating is garbage; the regime owes money to every country with which it does business. Cuba is currently able to buy all the food and medicine it wants from the U.S. on a cashup-front basis. But embargo opponents want Castro to have credit, a farm subsidy boondoggle in which he and U.S. farmers win and Cubans and American taxpayers lose. No thanks.

Mr. Fox sounds like an uninformed hater who wants his sleepy little Miami back. Unfortunately for him there's no putting the genie back in the bottle. So he's either going to have to learn to live with and try to understand Cubans or he's going to be miserable.

Henry Gomez


Arthur Teele, Jr., and "Tales of Teele"

New Times editor Jim Mullin suggests there are certain circumstances under which the acceptance of public office necessarily carries with it a renunciation of the right to personal privacy ("In the Aftermath," August 4). I take issue with his supporting reasons. His explanation for not winking at Arthur Teele's private conduct is based on the public disclosure of audits, criminal investigations, and talking witnesses. I agree that one of the best watchdogs of the public purse can be a free and vigorous press. My concern, however, is that his rationale is sufficiently elastic in its application to justify a no-holds-barred approach. By his own admission, very little in the State Attorney's investigative report about Teele was fully substantiated. Given the persistent anti-gay prejudice in this community, it was disingenuous for him to present an analogy between extramarital heterosexual and homosexual encounters.

Let others judge Teele for his shortcomings. Let us instead consider the evident gusto with which certain journalists report alleged wrongdoing. To that group, the need to be first to tell the story is more important than the need to treat the subject (target?) as innocent until proven guilty.

Mullin's comments lend urgency to the need for more frequent and open debate about ethical guides that might inform our judgments outside the narrow parameters of public scandal and private sexual morality.

Mervyn M. Solomon


In "Tales of Teele" (July 28) reference was made to my client, A-1-A Employment of Miami, which placed A-1-A in a false and demeaning light. Francisco Alvarado's story stated, "The CRA [Community Redevelopment Agency] hired numerous personnel through A-1-A ... with questionable backgrounds and dubious duties." The implication that A-1-A provided personnel to the CRA with questionable backgrounds and dubious duties is not true. The CRA referred to A-1-A individuals the agency wished to hire. The City of Miami contract, in which A-1-A was a successful bidder, did not require A-1-A to conduct criminal background investigations on the referred personnel, nor did the CRA verbally request such background investigations.

The fact that the CRA sought out an employment agency capable and qualified to extend payroll services and workers compensation insurance to selected personnel is not an unusual practice. In fact it is standard in the staffing industry for employment agencies to provide such services as a convenience for the client.

In addition, A-1-A as an employment agency does not and did not dictate the job responsibilities of personnel hired by the CRA. To suggest that A-1-A was somehow responsible for the duties performed by personnel selected and hired by CRA is also not true.

A-1-A Employment of Miami has a reputation for providing personnel who meet and exceed all qualifications specified by its clients. The company has earned that reputation through a proven history of placing qualified personnel in many businesses across the state. "Tales of Teele" tainted A-1-A's well-deserved reputation for dignity and integrity. Most troubling, however, is the fact that the article was not only distributed throughout the South Florida area but also worldwide via the Internet. The amount of harm to our client cannot be measured.

Valerie Kiffin Lewis, Esq.

Fort Lauderdale

Editor's note: The passages in "Tales of Teele" to which Ms. Lewis objects were reprinted verbatim from a police investigation into Arthur Teele, Jr. The investigative report was released to the public May 4, 2005, by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.

Miami is a unique and picturesque place with a vibrant nightlife, a fantastic culinary palette, a blossoming artistic community, and charming neighborhoods, many of which are being revived. So is it all that surprising that in a city with so much going on, a real-life telenovela has unfolded before our very eyes?

Art Teele was for many years an exemplary public servant, but as with all politicians and public figures, what they do is not as important as what they promise to do. Teele was able to ride into town and become a local hero for African Americans and the impoverished -- no small feat. Perhaps what many of the angry readers who've written to New Times didn't realize was that the majority of "Tales of Teele" consisted of direct passages from the investigation of Teele by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.

The real climax of this story is not Teele's tragic, self-inflicted death but the overwhelming response and reaction by the public. Interestingly more people were worked up about the exposé of Teele's personal life than they were about the criminal allegations. Perhaps the only detail that truly bothered them was the idea Teele could have engaged in sex with a transgender prostitute. Strangely enough, it wasn't the fact he might have done it as much as it was the fact you printed it that got everyone up in arms.

I am still unsure if we should hold our public figures to a higher standard than we do ourselves, but solicitation of a prostitute (regardless of gender), drug use, fraud, extortion, and bribery are against the law. At the very least we must demand that our elected officials abide by the very laws they help to create and enforce. When that doesn't happen, it is clearly news fit for print.

Kareem Tabsch


When you become a public official, you have to keep a straight line. Anything can be made public, even your love life.

All religions condemn suicide. In the Catholic religion you are not forgiven -- you go to hell. Do all of these people who were in the streets for Art Teele in Overtown realize they were praising a person who is now a servant of the Devil? Teele condemned himself for stealing money from taxpayers and he condemned himself for eternity by committing suicide. Keep on praising him and you may follow.

Carlos Balasino


It's about time local journalists stepped up to the plate and wrote stories their editors aren't afraid to publish. Art Teele may have masqueraded as a savior and hero to his people, but last time I checked the qualifications for sainthood, no one was canonized for soliciting prostitution, doing coke, and ripping off the poor.

I commend Francisco Alvarado for writing a story that exposed Teele for what he was -- an egotistical megalomaniac who cared for no one, so much so that he was willing to publicly embarrass his son and wife so he could satisfy his sexual and chemical cravings.

As for the moronic fools who blame the media for contributing to Teele's cowardly suicide, where were his supporters when he was being charged with federal crimes of mail fraud, money laundering, and locally threatening a public servant? None of Teele's advocates wanted much to do with him then.

If anything, I thank Teele for saving me some money. Imagine what it would have cost taxpayers to keep him happily incarcerated.

A. Winter

Miami Beach

Francisco Alvarado must not blame himself or allow himself to be blamed by others regarding Art Teele's cowardly way out of the problem he got himself into. Mr. Alvarado's job is to report the information as he gets it and verify this information.

By his actions, Mr. Teele stole from the very people he was supposed to protect -- the black community. This was not about race but about greed.

Hold your head up, Mr. Alvarado. Mr. Teele took his life -- not you.

Karin Logan


Francisco Alvarado is a man among men, not intimidated or afraid to tell the truth to those who do not want to hear it. For those afraid of the truth, tough. A silent majority of the community is proud of Alvarado.

There was no way to sugarcoat the story of Art Teele and the corruption that consumed his life and destroyed his legacy. Teele had trashed that long before he pulled the trigger.

History repeats itself, especially with new generations of corrupt politicians in South Florida. Let this be the latest wake-up call. When you see Francisco Alvarado snooping around, it is time to get a good lawyer, track down some money for bail, and make sure your estate is in order.

Fane Lozman

North Bay Village

Leaving one's brains on the floor of a newspaper lobby makes quite an impression. I hope no children where there to witness this coward's self-destruction and act of terrorism. If he loved Miami so much, why did he stain it with his blood?

Sandra McHugh


Thanks to Francisco Alvarado for having the courage to report the facts. That's his responsibility as a reporter -- to report facts, not to tell people what they want to hear.

He didn't pull the trigger; Teele did it to himself with every crooked and corrupt thing he did. When people say, "You have blood on your hands," Francisco must take it with a grain of salt. That simply isn't true. I hope he has peace and knows within his heart that his hands are clean.

It upset me to hear the things people were writing about Francisco. People can be so foolish and get carried away so easily. I'll pray for him so he can have peace and put this behind him as just another story.

Sarah Feliz



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