OpEd: Critiques and Criticisms have to Be Credible

photo credit: Brendon Lies

So week after week we give Sal Torre, our Wilton Manors Gazette columnist, an opportunity to communicate with you about local issues of consequence.

Week after week, he finds a way to criticize the Pride Center at Equality Park. No one expects everyone to agree with him, because if you all did, he would not have finished about 15th in the City Commission elections back in 2014.

Nevertheless, our goal at SFGN is to give our bi-weekly curmudgeon a chance to paint a portrait of our community. Unlike Voltaire, he does not think all is right with the world.

Wisely, sarcastically, but intelligently, Torre uses his pen with cutting precision to carve up, dice, and slice those he does not agree with. But in our last issue, so desperate for self-pleasure is he, that the best he could do was take out the Pride Center because he did not like the design of their website. 

Give me a break. 

If you want to dispute the Pride Center on its advocacy of an affordable housing unit on its campus, OK. If you want to argue they could do a better job serving the needs of the LGBT community, go at it. We are giving you the right to write.

However, spending the first half of your column critiquing the ephemeral visual design of the Center’s website is beyond crazy. I mean, Sal, they are offering counseling sessions to young drug abusers, meeting rooms for senior citizens, delivering programs for community groups, hosting life memorials for those lost, aiding hundreds through HIV life initiatives, and acting as a central train station for all matters gay in South Florida, and the best you can do is take out their website?

No, actually you did more, didn’t you? 

Laying sabotage to their website was not enough. You also wrote, “We have been insulted and treated badly by the Pride Center. They have allowed an illegal business to operate on their campus. They have turned a blind eye to the concerns of their neighbors for years.”

You were writing about the gym they rent space to, I guess. But wait, it was the City Commission that voted 3 to 2 to allow the Pride Center to grant exemptions to their tenant. Why not chastise the city commissioners?  

And the business is not “illegal,” per se. If you want to say there are impermissible zoning violations that must and should be corrected, say that. Gee, it’s trafficking in weights and gym equipment, not heroin and ecstasy.

We all have a writer’s license to embellish in order to make a point. I get it. What I don’t get is calling out the Pride Center for being a neighbor who has turned “a blind eye to the concerns of the community.” 

They have transparently gone before the City Commission with their plans and legions of supporters month after month. They have won and prevailed on point after point. That is not to say they should have. But they have done it transparently, openly, and in the light of day. This paper has written about it. You have written about it. 

You may disagree with the results, but the majority of the City Commission apparently does not agree with you. They have apparently allowed the very gym you are pissed off about to expand. Last week, we did a story on that as well. 

Looking the story over, it’s slanted towards the critics — your side. We used quotes from the participants of that City Commission seven times in that story, but five were from the minority who lost the vote, instead of the majority that won. 

Maybe we gave the wrong impression to the readers. 

You can’t always blame a reporter for that. The squeakiest wheel sometimes gets the press ink. The critics shout the loudest. For all I know, the majority of city residents are happy with the outcome. I don’t know. As a lawyer, I have represented psychics, but I don’t pretend to be one.

Anyway, the world needs critics and curmudgeons. Keep on trucking. You have a voice here, but so do those who don’t see it your way. They are invited onto these pages as well.  

To our readers, let me say this. 

Not every story will be perfect, and not every ending will make you feel good. But if it makes you feel and think and want to make a difference, we will have done our job.

We are fortunate to have a community newspaper open and receptive to controversy and criticism, and willing to rock the boat. 

We are lucky that we have columnists who are critical, editors that are thorough, and leaders who are thoughtful. We even have publishers that criticize our writers, and vice versa. It’s OK. Everyone has a place at the table. Opinions are not expressed for you to agree with. They are there for you to challenge.

STONEWALL PRIDE

Meanwhile, we just finished an awesome weekend in Wilton Manors, escaping a rainfall that could have been a catastrophe for the parade. It was one of the largest ever, infusing our city with pride and revenues on a hot summer day.

We also apparently paid for enough security to guard Fort Knox about ten times over. Was it organized chaotically or concretely? Was it run correctly or incompetently? Those are things for another day. 

Still, everything from the deployment of resources to the decorum of the day needs to be evaluated and reviewed to ensure that the annual event is an accomplishment we praise, rather than an enterprise we regret.

So Sal, go to work. But do me a favor. Look at what the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group actually did on this past Saturday, not at what their website said they might do. 


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