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January 2013

Gallery owner Fred Snitzer nailed it on the head when he said that Miami needs “a more discriminating audience.”

 

bigstock_Mail_Button_1727945Clever Curators and Trite Visual Pranks: Is This What Art Has Come To?

In response to Anne Tschida’s cover story “Drawing on the Future” (December 2012): Discriminating!

Gallery owner Fred Snitzer nailed it on the head when he said that Miami needs “a more discriminating audience.”

I believe there is a lack of sophistication in the visual arts as a whole today. Miami seems to be trying to make up for lost time. Celebrated artists like Bert Rodriguez provide a good example. He’s being recognized for repeating visual pranks that have existed in other “art centers” for many years. The irony is that Mr. Snitzer represents him.

I have to admit I am saddened and disappointed in the whole art scene situation. Most of the new art I see around Miami and the country these days, especially by “younger artists,” does not interest me. It just simply looks bad.

The clever descriptions and explanations of the work at MAM’s “New Work Miami 2013” by the curators is juvenile. Clever descriptions don’t work for “real” art because all that matters is the aesthetic experience.

Kerry Ware
Miami

 

OstranderEditor’s note: As the result of an editing error, we published a photograph of Miami Art Museum director Thom Collins instead of MAM’s chief curator Tobias Ostrander, as we intended. Here is the photo of Mr. Ostrander we meant to publish:

 

 

We Wanted a Strong City Manager, but What We Got Was a Power Grab

Two articles in your December issue caught my eye. The first, “When Oversight Is Overlooked,” by Aventura Neighborhood Correspondent Jay Beskin, reminded me that, as one of the founders of Aventura, I had the pleasure of serving on the City Manager Selection Committee along with Jay. We wrestled with choosing either a strong or weak city manager. We opted for a strong city manager to ensure that city government would be as apolitical as possible.

Here is a widely accepted definition regarding an apolitical city manager: “The city commission appoints a professional city manager to oversee the daily operations of the city government and implement the policies the commission establishes. The city manager is apolitical, and the commission represents the citizens.”

I daresay few if any of us ever dreamed of our city manager taking it upon himself not only to dismiss the highly regarded Aventura City of Excellence School principal, but to then take over total operation of the school himself. This is a very disturbing precedent and could lead to more grabbing of power. It sounds like we have Egypt in Aventura!

The second article, “Tase the Season” by Biscayne Times contributor Derek McCann, also troubles me. One of the principle reasons I became involved in establishing the city was my strong belief that Aventura needed its own police department, which would be responsive to our community’s needs.

Certainly I never imagined a police department as overly aggressive as a SWAT force on ordinary citizens. Here again, we have a government agency not looking out for the best interests of the citizens it purportedly serves.

How many times have we all observed overreaction by Aventura police, with several squad cars, lights ablaze, pulling over a motorist for a minor traffic violation? All the while, they never perform community policing, including traffic control and walking a beat.

We need a drastic change of policing in Aventura, a policy that welcomes residents and visitors and engages positively with our community, rather than negatively through intimidation.

Emil Hubschman
Aventura

 

Aventura City Hall: What’s Going on Here?

I love visiting and shopping in Aventura. And I’m thrilled that Biscayne Times has expanded its delivery to the city -- you’re a great community publication, thank you.

I was shocked to read Jay Beskin’s column in the BT and in other media the ugly story of Eric Soroka, the Aventura city manager (“When Oversight Is Overlooked,” December 2012). I don’t understand how any city government can automatically give someone (Soroka, specifically, according to the story) an automatic $20,000 salary increase every single year for the past 15 years, after a five-minute review and no questions asked.

Who are these commissioners who do this? I would like to look at their own salary histories, too.

It was also troubling to read about Soroka’s wife working as the Aventura city clerk. Was she the most qualified applicant for the position, or what is going on here? In what universe do husband-and-wife teams hold top city jobs and have their son employed by the city attorney as well? It sounds like a B-movie script or a recipe for corruption.

Mr. Soroka has cost the city one expensive lawsuit already, and the worst kind of negative publicity. The details of the allegations against him are sickening. From the testimony, he is a vulgar, profanity-screeching bully who uses his power to silence his victims.

Aventura doesn’t need leadership of this kind, and thank goodness the school principal, Ms. Murphy, had the courage to fight back against him -- and win, at least from the jury’s point of view.

Mary Anne Hancock
Aventura

 

Election Shenanigans in Miami Shores? Let Me Tell You a Story…

I read with interest Bob Domlesky’s letter in the December 2012 issue (“Political Hit Squads of Miami Shores: Never Saw an Obama Sign They Wouldn’t Steal”). Mr. Domlesky reports political yard posters supporting President Obama were vandalized and/or removed by persons unknown and/or Miami Shores Village Code Enforcement.

This harkens back 25 years ago in Miami Shores. And therein lies a story.

During the late 1980s, Miami Shores’s attention was completely arrested by the so-called “barricade issue.” These were the street-end closures we see throughout the village today. Meetings were held by local groups, who then petitioned for street closures near their homes.

Someone decided closures would be voted upon by village residents in two stages. The first stage of proposed closures covered the perimeter boundary of the Shores, as well as certain subparts of the village with what seemed to be an east-of-the-train-tracks emphasis. I don’t know how it was decided which closures would be voted upon when. In any event, the first closures were approved by village vote. I’m not aware of any yard signs that were removed for that election. Ours wasn’t.

Shortly thereafter came time to vote on the second set of proposed enclosures. The second set included a proposed closure on the street where my family lived. My wife was very enthusiastic about the plan, and she was part of an active group working in favor. On the afternoon before election day, my wife and her colleagues put up approximately 100 or more yard signs in Miami Shores. The total number may have been more, but I know I paid to print 100 signs.

Lo and behold, the next morning, all the signs were gone, including those on my own front yard. No one ever explained why. Although I can’t say for sure that sign removal was the reason, in the second street-closure election, the proposition failed. For years since then, I’ve asked former Shores officials about what happened to the signs, and the matter has never been explained.

Perhaps the best explanation I heard came from a Shores resident who is long gone: The second election was essentially a sham. This explanation speculates that Shores leadership essentially bought votes for the first round of street closures by promising a second round to the rest of us. Then those who had their street closure after the first vote either didn’t support further closures or didn’t vote when the second election was held.

A closed street often has a positive impact on property values. By holding two elections, homeowners impacted in the second round didn’t have the same chance to increase the value of their homes. By dissecting common voter interests, there couldn’t be truly democratic consideration of the issue.

If the first round of closures had been the total universe to be completed, the proposal may have failed. Residences on streets in the second round of voting had to be content without street closures they considered would happen if they supported closures in the first vote. On top of all that, my wife’s signs were torn down. That’s all history now, but the taste is still bitterly vile.

Irrespective of the merits or demerits of street closures, reasonable election signs should never be pulled down. If signs are still up weeks after the vote, that’s another matter. Or if they are hateful or include swastikas or hammer/sickle symbols. Or block traffic or sidewalks, or endanger driving safety.

Gary Goodenow
Miami Shores
 

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