Should These Three Firemen Go Back to Work?

Deep bow to the reader. Haven't seen you since August 24, 2000, but now we're back -- slightly altered, updating you on the lows and highs of Miami-Dade and points south, all the way to Cuba, in politics, civic matters, culture, jokes -- the news and texture of this fine sandbar and tidal washland, where we all find ourselves living ... And so to work.

Opa-locka ain't Oprah: Although it turned into a fetid talk show, with some asbestos-lunged officers of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department berating three firemen for absolutely no reason except their own rancid racism, the MDFRD finally did the right thing. A few days ago they offered James Moore, Terry Williams, and William "DC" Clark -- who'd been suspended and vilified in the aftermath of an incident in which Moore had removed a large flag from his truck and subsequently been accused of being "a Muslim," "a separatist" and "a terrorist" -- their jobs back. The offers came with only "mild disciplinary action" suggested for two of the Opa-locka Three -- Moore and Clark -- who, if they accept the department's offer, will only be verbally "reprimanded" for (in Moore's case) removing a flag in the aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon sabotage; Clark will absorb a "talking to" in regard to his "insensitive" remarks about Old Glory in the media. Williams, apparently, will get off "scot-free." The irony behind these benevolent decisions is so heavy it clanks: The original "story" of the Three, from all evidence, was blown out of proportion by some FD elders who didn't like the racially charged criticisms Moore, Clark, and Williams regularly made of the department. Uppity niggers was the unspoken but clear complaint from a national institution that houses a kind of last redoubt for white, working-class prejudice. Then Lt. Louie Fernandez, the fire department's public information officer, filled the press with wrong information that the Three had refused to "ride on a truck that flies the American flag." The final report of the investigation commissioned by Chief R. David Paulison found that they had not violated a single order or rule. Yet the Three were called "pieces of human garbage." But now all is forgiven, and the only punishment Moore and Clark will suffer -- aside from weeks of scapegoat treatment -- will be a "formal record of counseling" added to their records. The Three are consulting lawyers and may or may not be back at work as you read this.

Oh, Ros you too! Allapattah, one of the poorest sections of one of the poorest cities in the nation, has a lot of serious problems and colorful candidates to solve them in the upcoming Commission District 1 election: There's Angel Gonzalez, a big player in the Xavier Suarez-Humberto Hernandez voter fraud scandal of 1998; there is Ricky Tapia, a 22-year-old tile-factory employee with no political experience; and Liliana Ros, a 58-year-old Republican activist who has tried this road before. Ros has $$$ and some support from GOP bigs like state Rep. Carlos Lacasa and Florida party chair Al Cardenas. But her most serious opponent is none of the candidates: U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents a lot of District 1 and who's been around since 1989, is her real trouble. And the issue isn't vote-rigging scandals or grinding poverty. It's the name game. Ros-Lehtinen has dedicated inordinate amounts of energy during this campaign season to telling people not to confuse her name with Liliana Ros. Two days after Ros filed as a candidate on September 22, Ros-Lehtinen appeared on Radio Mambí (WAQI-AM 710) to say she and Liliana Ros had "nothing in common." She then called La Poderosa (WWFE-AM 670) to repeat the message. On October 4 she visited the Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Americas, which subsequently published an item pointing out that the congresswoman wanted "to avoid confusion" and "does not have relations to [sic] [Liliana Ros]." According to Ros, during the past few weeks, every few days the congresswoman has phoned one radio station or another with the same old, same old. "The good thing is that she's running out of excuses to go on the programs," Ros laughs.

In Miami it's not what's legal, it's what can be legalized. On October 21 the Elian "museum" opened to patriotic roots & toots in the Little Havana house where the photogenic boy who captivated the world was warehoused until Reno's Raiders "violently" swept in and grabbed him back in April 2000. Miami Mayor Joe Carollo was there in full election drag, hyperaware that his defiance of the nasty feds during Elian's stay could help him overcome his wife-smacking faults and get re-elected. The faithful and curious lined up in the rain to take a quick tour of the house, admiring the piles of toys that publicity-conscious companies and genuine well-wishers had donated to the little boy plucked from the sea. The Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel, and BBC all referred to the house as a "museum," but according to neighborhood enhancement team leader Ruben Avila, there has never been an application to operate a museum on the site. It would take a public hearing and a vote of the city commission to do so. Master spinner Armando Gutierrez went to some pains to point that out to TV reporters, but you know how they are. The family is simply holding an open house on Sundays and not charging the public, Gutierrez drawled. But despite Armando's "caution," if the crowds get bigger and the idea grows legs, the museo idea may float, and then neighbors near the house might begin to complain.

Why was this man laughing? Sure he got close to $800,000 separation pay for doing a lousy job, but what was it with Roger Cuevas, making an appearance at the school board just a couple of hours before they sacked him? Board members getting together in a ninth-floor conference room just missed the sight of a newly Atkins-Dieted Cuevas, fairly dancing with joy in his black designer suit, chatting up UTD rep Merri Mann and parent Susan Kairalla. The only problem: Cuevas said his wife told him she thought his breath stunk (cold turkey-breath?) The newly GQ-esque Cuevas appeared to be a whittled-down version of the more-than-robust super the school district had come to scorn, a hip homunculus who might always have been living inside the blowzy bureaucrat.... "You know why they're [firing you]?" Kairalla asked Cuevas. "You didn't get rid of [deputy super Henry] Fraind." (Fraind's separation deal, which just went through, spiriting Hank up to Alabama, is less mogul-ish than Cuevas's but a reason to smile on it's own -- including seven years of medical-insurance coverage and compensation for 272 days of unused sick leave.)

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New Times staff