11825 S. W. 82 Road
May 23, 1980
Honorable Bob Graham,
Govenor of the State of Florida
I am a teacher in Dade County Public Schools and until now I have been a member of the silent majority!
I am very, very angry! I have talked to twenty of my fellow workers - of which four are black. Imposing a one-cent sales tax is assinine! We all agree! Why should we again rebuild another time? Those that burned their own houses and livelihoods will do it again whenever the handouts are slim!
Can you imagine how we feel? Have you ever tried to put yourself in the position of a middle-class citizen? My husband and I work very hard, pay our taxes, and are very careful to obey all laws! Now, if one listens to your newest proposal, we would be better off financially to go on welfare, loot, and burn! However, we have too much pride to take something for nothing. We must supplement the salary of our daughter and husband - she cannot be hired as a teacher because she is white - if she were Latin or Black, getting a teaching job would be very easy! The best that she can do is to work as a school clerk! Her husband is a Metro Dade Police Officer - and you know that these two salaries together cannot support a family of five. I also supplement the salary of a black aide at my school - she is really trying to support her two children, finish her education, and keep the house that she is paying for. This fine woman does not want to be a welfare recipient and I really admire her! With what is left of my husband's and my salary, we are trying very hard to put some away for our retirement. Now, I ask you, do you think it is fair that I be further penalized by increased taxation to build again in Liberty City, Overtown, and Brownsville so that it can be burned again whenever things go sour for a small section of our population?
I am very certain that you have not read this letter and even if you had started reading it, you have stopped by now. Just one other thing - I lost $1800.00 worth of furniture in the riot. It was at a warehouse being upholstered. The firm was not insured; it did not burn; instead, these fine people that you are so anxious to help, cut a hole in the building and took everything. I see no agency of the city, county, state, or federal government saying that I can recover even a part of my loss.
No longer will I be associated with the silent majority! Your proposal has indeed made me very vocal. I will try very hard to talk against this unjust proposal and everyone in the government that supports it!
Please do not bury us with more taxation!
Billie H. Wills
State Archives of Florida: Series 850, Box 13, Folder 4
Letter to Governor Bob Graham from Billie H. Wills of Miami opposing proposed 1 cent sales tax increase to rebuild the city after the 1980 Miami Riots.
May 23, 1980
On May 17, 1980 an all-white Tampa jury acquited four white Miami police officers charged with the beating death of black insurance agent Arthur McDuffie. The verdict incited a three day riot in Miami, mostly concentrated in black neighborhoods Liberty City and Overtown. 18 people died, 400 were injured. Property damages were estimated at 100 million dollars. To help rebuild the riot area, Governor Graham proposed a 1 cent sales tax (from 4 per cent to 5 per cent). Many citizens complained about paying for the actions of others, while other citizens criticized Janet Reno, state attorney if the Miami-Dade area, for not investigating the police more thoroughly.