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Letters for August 8, 2002

Please don't shake the booty: Is Ashley Fantz kidding us? I believe the quote from her July 25 story,"Caged Swelter," was: "We are real dancers. We put on a real show. Anyone who sees us knows that." I've seen these girls perform. I may be an out-of-towner, but I didn't see dancing or a show. I saw trashy girls in trashy clothing shaking tits and ass. They have no idea what real dancing is.

As a classical dancer of 17 years I am offended at the thought of being put in the same category as these quasi-strippers.

Tonya C. Davis

Lorain, Ohio

Do, however, move that writing instrument: I never feel the need to respond to a story, but "Caged Swelter" made a huge impression on me. Ashley Fantz wrote beautifully and with an honesty that is rare in journalism. I kept thinking as I read that it would make a powerful docudrama, or novel, or movie, and that with her ability to touch the heart of the story, she could do it well. But in the end... I just wanted to say well done.

John Newnham

via the Internet

The IRS is on top o' this scam: Susan Eastman's July 25 article, "The Wheel Deal," was right on. The car donation business is expanding like crazy and getting much more aggressive. To get these donations, the agencies feed donors misinformation about their responsibilities to the IRS.

As you can imagine, with anything involving the IRS, there are very specific regulations concerning these car donations. The person donating the car is responsible for any failure to comply. Basically, any car worth over $5000 has to have an independent appraisal. You cannot value these cars using eBay, blue books or Miss Cleo.

In addition, the "charity" cannot issue or pay for the appraisal.

John Delaney

Fort Lauderdale

And little ornithological know-how: Mike Clary's July 18 article, "For the Birds" and the sub-headline: "Should 2700 little sparrows be allowed to hold up the reclaiming of the Everglades?" is a title in search of a story. Mr. Clary offers no proof for this proposition.

Indeed, a far more accurate, if less controversial article would have highlighted how the crisis over the highly-endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow has jump-started long-dormant restoration projects, stopped harmful flooding, and torn down canals blocking free flow of water in the Everglades. After all, the sparrow is recognized as an "indicator species" for the health of the larger Everglades ecosystem.

The reason that far more has not been done to help the sparrow and restore the Everglades to date -- and why flooding continues in the water conservation areas -- has nothing to do with the sparrow. Rather, the drainage needs of a small enclave in the Everglades known as the 8.5 square mile area, along with agribusinesses, have stopped flows into the east Everglades, where water used to flow. As for the link between the sparrow and management of Lake Okeechobee mentioned in the article, it is a myth not confirmed by any agency on any side of the issue for two years now. Mr. Clary does the public a disservice by his inaccurate and irresponsible reporting.

Bradford H. Sewell, senior attorney

Natural Resources Defense Council

New York City

Pledge... to face the weirdness: I found Bob Norman's July 11 article on Michael Newdow ("First Pledge") very interesting. I have a bachelor's degree in mathematics. I'm also an agnostic who enjoys spiritual/religious philosophizing. I would be very interested to read the so-called "A Mathematical Proof of the Non-Existence of God."

Jason D. Knight

Fort Lauderdale

To face the weirdoes: Mr. Norman's article on Mr. Newdow vis-à-vis hate mail and threats has been going the rounds of cyber space. I am a retired lawyer, grandfather, a World War II combat vet who was an atheist in a foxhole and still is an atheist. I'm not afraid of the label.

Norman's bravery in facing up to the wackos is admirable. America needs more reporters with your courage.

Rationally yours,

Jerry Billings

Portland, Oregon

To face the facts: I just read a forwarded copy of "First Pledge." Those were definitely some very funny replies. I know the authors were serious, but they were still funny. Thanks for reporting the facts. Please keep doing it.

Charles K. Clarkson

Stephenville, Texas

Kick 'em in the press... or maybe paddle them: I read with interest Chuck Strouse's July 11 column, "Pinged," on the total neglect of the U.S. Open (table tennis tournament) held recently in Fort Lauderdale. I found unbelievable the lack of pre-tournament press and zero coverage. I can name at least ten people who wanted to see top-quality table tennis and who would have gone every day if they had been informed.

This is a continuation of the lack of foresight of the news media. There is a substantial immigrant population who are tuned to a wider variety of games than is the American public. They were done a disservice. I am a believer that the media is in conspiracy with the four major American sports to virtually lock out every other game. Think World Cup football -- and the game is football, not soccer. Pity the press.

Louis Davis

via the Internet

But hey, he gets the gist: Michael Mills' July 11 article, "The Jury Is In," was well written and demonstrated an understanding of what Florida artists are communicating to their audiences. Using an adjective like "droll" was in agreement with my opinion regarding the Terminator and Natural Selection pieces.

Thank you for including my painting, My Mother's Ear Rings. Mills's reaction to my work was more or less exactly what I was communicating -- the amusement of how the masses view a nude and in particular, a nude with accessories adorning her flesh-toned body. However, there is also a deeper meaning. I was painting about how women are viewed in this society, and I was painting about the burdensome plight of a female in our culture.

On a critical note, my name was misspelled. It is Judy Stevens Sayfie and not Rudy Stevens Sayfie.

Judy Sayfie


Blowing off steam: I was going to refrain from writing, but I couldn't help myself. In regard to the July 11 Bandwidth, I have to clarify some items that Jeff Stratton either changed or left out. When I spoke with him after the column was printed, he essentially blew me off.

First, let me say that in the first conversation that I had with Jeff (which took place after his original column about the situation regarding Hashbrown), I told him that I thought Bob Pignone was a lot of things but that Jeff was barking up the wrong tree if he thought that the problems with Hashbrown were racially motivated. Bob is equal opportunity.

Then Jeff asked me what problems I had with Bob. I told him of what led to the last straw. Jeff chose to trivialize the event by saying that our problems started over 50 bucks. This is not true! Are our problems with each other personal? Yes!

My question is: What was this column supposed to accomplish? As a member of a band that played the Poor House for a long time -- and I think that even Bob will admit that we did a good job -- I believe it is one of the better venues in Fort Lauderdale. I am sad to no longer be playing there. My relationship with Jay Hemple and the rest of the staff was always great, but as Bob said, our problem was personal. One last thing, in response to Bob's remarks: It takes one to know one.

Dr. Lee (Lee Lowenthal)

The Regulators

Fort Lauderdale

Or fly outta here: The residents of Pompano Beach should not expect that the State Attorney's Office will make a full, honest, and impartial investigation of the alleged violation by Mayor Bill Griffin of the criminal law. ("Seeing Red," Bob Norman, July 4). The potential charges that should be probed relate to Griffin's voting to approve the Swerdlow proposal to build the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a stadium seating 2500, and two buildings of more than 40 stories on the beach.

Commissioner George Melcher filed a criminal complaint against Griffin that alleged the mayor voted to approve a variance for John Knox Village while a director of the village. If the variances were denied, Griffin would have lost three contracts and the profits from it. If Griffin completed the construction work on the three contracts he had with John Knox Village, he would have been criminally indicted and found guilty of a conflict of interest. Griffin avoided prosecution by taking advice from the state attorney's office.

On March 30, 1998, Robert Rigel, the director of John Knox Village, sent a "Dear John," letter to assistant state attorney John Countryman. The letter referred to their recent conversation and stated: "Bill Griffin of Griffin Construction will have voluntarily transferred three building permits to another contractor within 72 hours in order not to imply any conflict of interest."

In a letter dated April 9, 1998, to Countryman, marked "Personal and Confidential," Griffin stated: "Please be advised that, so as not to appear to have a conflict, I have decided not to do any contractual work for John Knox Village, Inc., Pompano Beach, Florida, during my term as either commissioner or mayor of the City of Pompano Beach."

Countryman prepared a close-out memo dated April 17, 1998, in which he stated that Rigel advised him that the residents of the three units at John Knox Village had selected Griffin as their contractor. It went on to say: "While Mr. Griffin's decision not to abstain from voting on the issue could be questioned, his written statement that he will not do work for John Knox Village in the future and his decision to withdraw as contractor on all existing projects would appear to have rectified any ethical issues that might have arisen from that vote. There is no evidence of criminal conduct on the part of the mayor...."

After both Melcher and I filed ethics complaints against Griffin, Griffin's politically influential attorney, Stuart Michelson, made the serious mistake of admitting that Countryman had advised Griffin to assign the three contracts and agree not to perform any more work at John Knox Village while he was a commissioner.

I advised Countryman orally and in writing that his actions were improper. Instead of acting as a prosecuting attorney who represents the public interest, he placed himself in the position of acting as Griffin's personal defense attorney by advising Griffin on how to avoid criminal prosecution. Griffin's attorney, Michelson, had no reason to lie. Countryman, backed up by State Attorney Satz, refused to testify about the facts.

Edward Stanton

Pompano Beach

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