Published: Oct. 7, 2007 Breach of Trust
Series' findings anger readers
These are a few responses to The Poverty Peddler series:

• Thank you once again for your courageous and outstanding investigational reporting.

Your thorough exposé reveals the blatant greed and corruption of the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust and the lack of oversight. The poor in our community have been neglected and the money which was allocated to help them has been needlessly squandered.

Exposure of this scandal by Scott Hiasson, Hiaasen, Jason Grotto and the Miami Herald team is greatly appreciated. Hopefully, it will be a lesson to others not to emulate this abuse of power.

- Norma Rosenfeld

• Once again my congratulations to your organization and its staff for the commendable reporting exposing the misgivings of our elected and appointed officials. The latest series is just another example of our corrupt and inept county government. . . . Again, our "Teflonized" politicians and bureacrats do not seem to be affected (or indicted) by the many on-going disclosures of their misdeeds.

Recently, I received in the mail a notice of violation from the State of Florida for going through one of the Turnpike tolls where my transponder failed to register. The State of Florida with exemplary efficiency and dilligence was quick in sending me a notice with the photo of the rear of my car with its license plate in order to collect $1.00 for the unpaid toll. . . .

How much longer will it take for the State's Attorneys to be just as quick in sending notices (indictments) of all the violations incurred by the county government . . .

- Jose O. Morin

• I've read the four-part series on "Poverty Peddlers'' (pimps) as a lifelong taxpaying citizen and live within the Liberty City Empowerment Zone. I'm truly disgusted with what these peo- ple did. Who was monitoring/tracking the henhouse?

As they charged Mr. Dennis Stackhouse with illegal bundling, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle and Inspector General Christopher Mazzella of the Public Corruption Unit should go after these criminals that violated the county ethics rules and the federal government rules.

The concept of the Empowerment Trust, for what it was created in 1999, is still worth saving -- and can be viable for the least, the lost and the left-behind.

- Marva Lightbourne

• County corruption charter amendments that need serious voter support:

• Lobbyist language that states that a person or firm that directly or indirectly makes a contribution to a candidate who is elected will abstain from lobbying the county's elected officials and staff for two to four years.

• Apply similar lobbyist language to vendor and/or firms doing business with the county.

• Organizationally place the audit and management division under the Office of Inspector General and formally create the office in the county charter. The Inspector General Office shall be an independent office, with the executive director serving 15 years and not removable unless voted out by two-thirds of the BCC Board of County Commissioners.

• Create term limits not to exceed eight consecutive years for elected officials.

• Conduct geographic-image GIS mapping and get professional expertise on the feasbility of a mix of regional and single-member districts.

- Jaime Reyes,
Cutler Bay

• Thank you, Miami Herald, for having your I-team wade through the morass of files to document that federal, state and local officials lack the intelligence, moral fiber and motivation to supervise the expenditure of funds to assist the improverished.

Glenn Hubert,
North Miami

• Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess received the Distinguished Public Practitioner Award from the American Society for Public Administration's Southeast Conference last week. Mr. Burgess went to Nashville to pick up his award.

"As a public servant, George Burgess has been the driving force behind numerous signature projects and programs that have benefited the entire South Florida community," said Terry Murphy, president of the organization's South Florida chapter.

I hope Mr. Burgess will be back in town soon so he won't miss the Herald's excellent ‘‘Poverty Peddlers'' series [that was] being published this week. One wonders if he can find the courage to display his new award in his office, being that many of the issues raised in the series occurred on his watch.

- Sebastian Acosta,
Cutler Bay

• The Achilles' heel of the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust is furnished by the larger goal of Republican capitalism: shrink government expansion by subcontracting community needs to private enterprise. There are no people's sheriffs in this version of capitalism -- that would equal regulation and government expansion. Instead "...the government funded poverty agency loaned more than $400,000 to four businesses . . ." to create jobs without expanding government by hiring someone to watch out for our money. Is this not cut from the same piece of cloth as (a) Medicare Part B given to private insurers to "manage'' prescription costs, (b) The Iraq War where private contractors run amok while billions disappear, and (c) post-Katrina FEMA mismanagement where portable shelter rots abandoned in Arkansas fields? Why not create jobs by hiring oversight to enforce regulations? No subcontractors allowed.

Robert Dollar

• In her story on the ‘‘Poverty Peddlers,", Ana Menendez got it very right: We need a robust, communitywide dialogue on how to build prosperity and fight poverty. Without creating public understanding and will, we are doomed to continue to waste money and kill people’s trust in government. The survival of our democracy is at stake.

Fortunately, we do know a lot about ending poverty, and our community has made investments in these winning strategies. The Children’s Trust invests in children’s futures. The Dade Community Foundation invests in community groups that provide hope and helping hands. The Women’s Fund invests in programs and strategies that empower women and girls to take charge of their own lives, working in support networks or through trusted advisors. The United Way engages volunteers and businesses in understanding the root causes of poverty and other challenges and invests in programs that produce measurable results. And an increasingly effective network of organizing and advocacy groups is building strength as the voice voices of those abused "tell their truth to power."

The Herald investigations are an invaluable contribution: increased awareness of problems, including mismanagement and corruption of public funds. But our bigger challenge is to shed light on the solutions. Reading of these abuses of power, every day people despair, tune out and generalize that nothing of value can occur in the public domain. ... What is ultimately needed is bold leadership.

Imagine Miami polling showed that residents of Miami-Dade already lack trust in their leaders: elected, business, civic. They agree about the problems: poverty, lack of affordable housing and healthcare, inadequate access to economic opportunity and quality education. They also agree that our current leadership has not and cannot solve these problems.

The solution lies with all of us. When the people lead, the leaders will follow. . . .

We will be launching a new ‘‘Blueprint for Prosperity'' in November, in partnership with the Women’s Fund and others. We will issue a call for action to all community leaders, because we must build a new leadership to get the job done. We believe we can make significant progress, modeled after the United Nation’s Millennium Goals, to half halve poverty by 2015. We have identified winning policies, programs and strategies, including the important one underscored by the Poverty Peddlers series: investing in local enterprise that creates good jobs with people anchored in this community, by supporting economic development investments that build capacity at home. Mayor Diaz’ Diaz's emerging Buy Local campaign and support for small businesses is a promising first step.

The Miami Herald can be a partner, with an investigative series on what works, not only what does not work. The power of the press is a power that the people still trust, and a critical partner in our community's redemption.

- Daniella Levine,
Human Services Coalition of Miami-Dade County

• I would first like to commend the writers of this extremely informative series. Unfortunately, it is one that repeats itself yearly. The politicians and "power brokers'' who run these agencies have all been proven to be crooks, liars and, almost always, the same groups of persons. After the articles, there is a great outcry of public indignity, the whole thing goes away and starts again with a new government agency to take money from.

These people should be indicted, jailed, forced to make restitution and not allowed to hold any public positions again! However, this isn't the case. They keep doing this, denying the they "knew anything about it" and beat there their chests for a few days. There has to be a better, legal way to rid our government of these "crooks'' who become rich at the expense of the rest of the county. One of the major problems is that for every dollar they take, they give away 25 cents in bribes. Let's put an end to this once and for all!

- Dr. Irving Karten

• Again the county has wasted our taxpayers' money because of lying, cheating and lack of planning. Where was the plan for this agency? Who hired the people to run it? Where was the oversight?

I was very excited when the empowerment areas were targeted and an apparent solution was at hand way back when. Typical mismanagement came into play. Why was there not a plan to stabilize the neighborhoods to make sure that the poorer people had housing? They could have worked in conjunction with the Housing Agency. Then, why didn't the empowerment agency evaluate the needs of the neighborhood and make sure that the people had the means to sustain themselves locally?. They could have planned and funded grocery stores, medical clinics, a and job training sites in or near the people who needed them. This smacks of incompetent people running the agency and lack of oversight plans by City Hall.

Everybody is accountable for this, from the mayor to the clerks who worked in these places. I am struggling like everyone else with the taxes on my home, and they are squandering the money and do not have any concern for the problems and hardships of the people for whom this money was intended to help.

Joan E. Altomare,