Monday, May 27, 2013

What is it with Golf
2-13-13 WOSO Commentary

Although there are excuses for not meeting my 14 handicap golf goal during 2012, the fact is that golf has been the hardest sport I have played.

I was on the Harvard College varsity ice hockey team, one of the few sports in which Harvard can compete with the best in the nation.  If I could put a moving puck in the net while skating, avoiding being hit physically, and avoiding the attempts by the opposition to stop the puck’s flight to the net, then surely, I should be able to hit from a stationery position, a stationery ball, to a stationary target with only stationary natural beauty being sometimes in the way.

So why has it been so hard to go beyond being a good player with an 18 to 20 handicap to a slightly better one with a 14 handicap? 

There are more, but let me give you three reasons why golf is so difficult.

1.      The golf swing is highly technical and varies with the club. Mastering the swing with the different clubs takes study, practice and patience. Minor mistakes in many aspects of the set up, club selection and swing will magnify themselves incredibly, whether it is a 250 yard drive, a 10 yard chip, or a two foot putt.
2.      Golf designers put hazards all around in every hole to make you nervous regarding an errant shot, and to have you struggle deciding whether to take the longer, safer route, or the more daring, direct one to the flag in order to save a stroke.
3.      A really bad golf shot can ruin your score for the day. That lost ball that went out of bounds into the woods cost you two strokes that is on your scorecard for that day. Missing a shot in hockey or basketball will normally have little or no consequence. This irreversible consequence of a bad golf shot works on your mind in awful ways.

Stay tune to see if I reach my 14 handicap goal during 2013.

4-24-13 WOSO Commentary

Don’t we all wonder what really brings happiness and well-being?

A few weeks ago, a University of Pennsylvania Wharton study by Dr. Albert Mannes concluded that, and I quote, “Bald men are perceived as more masculine, dominant and possessed of more leadership skills.” They are also perceived as more responsible and sure of themselves.

That same Yahoo web site day also had a report on the 2012 State of Well-Being by the Healthway Gallup Series regarding who in the US were the happiest based on a number of criteria.

Utilizing a composite of top ranking criteria, the happiest person would be a tall, Asian American, 65 years or older, resident of Hawaii, married with children, religious, and a business owner earning more than $120,000 per year.

As a short, bald, Hispanic, I find the tall, Asian American and dark hair criteria completely superficial, especially when it is contradicted by the eminent Wharton study on the benefits of baldness published that same day.

You can argue that the other criteria are also superficial, but since I believe Puerto Rico and Hawaii have a lot in common and I generally meet the other criteria, I am personally happy to know that I have a right to be happy.

This is Jorge Gonzalez wishing you happiness and well-being.

Unity and Action
12-12-12 WOSO Commentary

The killing of the young public relations person in Guavate as chillingly described by one of the four participants is mind boggling and for me is another example that stiffer penalties will not work.

Similar to the assailants of the young Dutch student from Baldwin, the killers were involved in car jacking and murder which brings in the FBI, the Federal Court, discretion in denying bail, and the death penalty.  The casualness with which they decide to find someone to car jack – “Es un buen día para un car jack” or “I need money to pay the rent” is indicative of how little they consider the consequences either because they believe they will not get caught or because it is just not an important consideration.

We all know that in the long run education and economic development are the real answers, but in addition to addressing these two areas that will take time, what do we do in the meantime?  I do not frankly know the answer, but others have implemented plans that have worked so we do not have to reinvent the wheel. We need a plan under which all decent citizens unite and we need a plan that is implemented. Martin Luther King once said, what worries me is not the screams of those who are bad, but the silence of those who are good. Taking this a step further, I would add, what worries me are not the acts of the criminals but the inaction of the law abiding citizens.  We need to unite; we need to act. 
Tourism Proposal
5-15-13 WOSO Commentary

When it rains like cats and dogs almost continuously for some 9 days straight as has been happening in Puerto Rico, I think of those poor tourists who come to Puerto Rico to enjoy the warmth and sun. I saw some of those gloomy faces at the Marriott Hotel last week when I went to our San Juan Rotary luncheon.

I can empathize with them since one of my more stressful experiences relate to those trips I take in order to enjoy a particular activity like skiing, golf, or scuba diving. A European ski trip with my son’s family who live in London was saved by snow on the very day we arrived, and a scuba diving trip to Belize a few years ago was luckily only for a long weekend since the swells made any kind of ocean sport impossible for over a week before our arrival and about a week after we left.

My Puerto Rico tourism proposal would be that we guarantee the warm sun.

Should the temperature go below 68 degrees, or should it rain for more than 4 hours between 9 and 5, the tourist would be given a credit equal to 75% of the agreed room rate. This credit could be applied to the hotel bill for room and other hotel charges during the reserved stay, or for an extended or future stay. 

Upon booking reservations, the person would pay a nominal amount per room per day such as $1 fee, or 1% of the daily room rate. The principal reason for the charge is in order to separate the sun seeker from other travelers.

The 25% charged would cover basic room expenses and my guess is that the 75% credit would be spent by most in the hotel bars, restaurants, gymnasium, spa, etc., so that the effective costs to the hotel would be negligible.  

The tourist stress and gloominess would be substantially reduced, and I think Puerto Rico would be a unique and huge attraction.       
Time Shares
1-16-13 WOSO Commentary

Pinky and I own three time shares and continue to analyze whether these were good decisions.  

Time shares vary greatly with some tying you down to a specific location and/or calendar time period. These I would never consider or recommend. Thus what I want to discuss today are time shares like ours that are flexible as to location and time. 

On the plus side of time shares is that they incentivate one to take vacations because you have prepaid a major portion of a vacation’s expense. Last year we used our Melia time share to go to Barcelona for a week with our son and his family who live in London, our Manhattan Club time share to go to New York City for a week where we spent some days with our daughter and her family who live in Williamstown Massachusetts, and our Diamond Club time share to go Morocco. At the beginning of this year we went to Disney with most of our children and grandchildren (we were 13 of a possible 16). I doubt these trips would have been taken without the time share incentive.

The other plus side is that time shares normally are purchased with a certain place in mind. When we visit The Manhattan Club we know the suite and its amenities, we know the location near Carnegie Hall and the surrounding facilities from supermarkets to restaurants to subway and bus stops to museums, etc., etc. In a place like NYC that for us is always overwhelming, it is nice to have a known base from which to work from.

Another plus is that as a time share member one receives special treatment and there is a certain amount of collegiality with the other members one runs into.

Finally, time shares tend to make experimenting somewhat less intimidating such as the. Marrakesh, Morocco week we enjoyed very much.     

On the negative side is that economically speaking time shares do not make great sense. There is rarely an increment in value primarily because there are many time share owners continuously putting their units on sale. This is probably because they are not able to take vacations due to time or economic constraints. At the Manthattan Club, for example, all units were sold out more than 10 years ago but there continues to be a vibrant sales office handling purchases and resales.In addition, the annual charges for maintenance, property taxes, insurance, etc. can come very close to equaling what it would cost to pay the normal rates at the same facilities or similar nearby facilities of equal quality. I had thought that rates for hotel or resort facilities similar to the time shares acquired would, over time, go up in price in Manhattan, Orlando and Spain, but they have not done so.

Also from a negative side is that finding availability for places one wants at the time one wants normally requires advance planning in the order of 9 to 12 months and if one wants to experiment with new places then a lot of time and effort is needed to make all the arrangements.  
11-28-12 WOSO Commentary

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I did …combining volunteer work, exercise and family – it does not get any better.

The morning through lunch was spent at the San Juan Marriot at the Thanksgiving luncheon organized and paid for by San Juan Rotarians and headed by Sol Bravman as part of our community service activities.

Some 600 children from the 11 islandwide chapters of Boys and Girls Club and from the Instituto Psicopedagíco enjoyed the traditional thanksgiving lunch preceded by musical presentations provided primarily by other children. The lunch is served by volunteers with the cooperation of the Hotel staff whose General Manager, also a San Juan Rotarian, and his wife were present. Their two children helped decorate the ballroom with balloons and were part of the serving line of volunteers. We did not break last year´s record of serving the 600 children in 14 minutes, but we were close.

A very positive moment was the joint participation of the outgoing and incoming Secretaries of State, Kenneth McClintock and David Bernier. I emphasize JOINT because they came in, presented, joined the service line and left together. A great message for the kids and something we direly need more of in Puerto Rico where collaboration by political leaders on behalf of our community is a rare commodity.

In the afternoon I walked by myself a wet and empty golf course in Dorado as I worked to meet one of my New Year resolutions of lowering my handicap to 14. I met my weight goal of 155 pounds by Thanskgiving. I do not think I will meet my year end golf handicap goal of 14, but I am sure going to try.

In the evening my wife Pinky put together a spectacular dinner for the 9 family members in Puerto Rico – we missed the five in England and the three in Massachusetts.

God, Papa Dios, has been far too good to me and I only pray that if and when He asks me to face a real adversity that I am able to do so with resignation and grace. God bless you all. 
Technology and Crime
1-9-13 WOSO Commentary

Recent murders in the US and Puerto Rico highlight the role of technology in crime that can be for good or evil. On the evil side, technology has taken a black eye respecting  violent video games and the unrestricted sale of assault weapons; on the good side is the enormous potential that technology can have in preventing and resolving crime.

The savage murder of a mother asphyxiated, stabbed and burned by her adopted son and his friend because she disciplined him too much brought home the insensitivity created by video games. When the police officer asked the son´s friend if he had felt any fear, the matter of fact answer was that he thought he was playing the video game Grand Theft  Auto IV in which the player scores points in carrying various violent criminal acts, . The very weak defense of the video game developer was that murder of a mother was not one of the crimes in the video game. This response is indicative of the insensibility to the problem.

The use of assault weapons in the Newtown Connecticut elementary school massacre brings to the forefront once more the controversy between firearm proponents led by the National Rifle Association and those like myself who understand there needs to have reasonable controls. A recent Business Week issue had a report that epitomizes how far the NRA will go to oppose any gun control measure. In 2007 Philadelphia, with a death rate of one person per day (sounds like a good rate in comparison to Puerto Rico, right?) wanted the state to implement a measure requiring persons to inform the police within 24 hours if their guns are sold, lost or stolen. The goal of the measure was to curb those who buy guns and sell them on the black market. The NRA fought this at the state level and after two years Philadelphia decided to pass this measure via a city ordinance. The NRA argued that this had to be legislated at the state level so this city ordinance has not been enforced.  In fact, the NRA has promoted legislation in Kentucky and Florida that penalizes local officials who promote or permit gun control measures. According to Business Week, and I quote, “under the Florida statute, municipal leaders who let any existing gun ordinances stand or who adopt new ones can be fined $5,000. They also can be fired by the Governor.”  Wow!

On the other hand, we all know that technology can be utilized positively to fight crimes. We have recently seen how cameras at ATM’s, public streets and plazas, and commercial locales have effectively identified criminals. Basta Ya has developed a program that permits an eye witness to contact the police on a confidential or non confidential basis with crime information. Another Puerto Rico group has developed a program regarding the location of illegal dumps. I foresee the day when cameras will be able to readily identify perpetrators, and provide the evidence to facilitate successful prosecutions with live videos of what took place and the contemporaneous testimony of witnesses.

Let’s continue to invest and promote privately and publicly in good technology that prevents and resolves crimes. We certainly have the incentive. We certainly have the talent. Do we have the will?  
5-1-12 WOSO Commentary

Politically speaking, there are three forces in Puerto Rico that create the silo effect whereby there is little or no dialogue in terms of working together towards the common good.

The first are the political parties themselves who look fully within to satisfy the core base and reject any dialogue with those outside their party, In fact, should a leader meet and dialogue with the opposition as Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi recently did with the Governor that core political party group gangs up on the politician to argue that this weakens their party and strengthens the opposition. 

The second related force are those radio and television programs that cater to specific political groups so that the listeners are only interested in hearing their side of the story on why they are right and the other side is wrong.  

The third force are the lobbying silo groups with substantial funding and voting clout.   

Incidentally, the US suffers from these same three forces that create and maintain the silos impeding dialogue that would result in common sense, middle ground positions that everyone can live with and that allow us to go forward.

This is Jorge Gonzalez hoping you avoid the silos. 

Property Tax Reform
2-6-13 WOSO Commentary

Everyone knows that property taxes in Puerto Rico are very low as compared to the States.

At a recent San Juan Rotary meeting, Sergio Marxuach of the Center for the New Economy proposed increasing real property taxes as one of the measures to help cover our budget shortfall of some 1.1 billion. His arguments are persuasive.

First of all real property cannot be hidden. Although Sergio did not get into this, similar to the States, we would need to develop an efficient process to ensure that assessments cover all real property at their fair market value. I do not know how they do it, but Florida adjusts it assessments annually, and from what I have seen, the new rate is very close to what a professional appraisal would establish.

Secondly, the tax would be progressive falling on those who can best pay and we could continue reasonable incentives for home ownership and productive use.

Thirdly, the tax would incentivate putting inactive property to use, especially if you incentivate productive use.

Finally, although Sergio did not mention this, the municipalities would share in the increased revenue thereby helping resolve their deplorable financial condition that we have been hearing so much about these days.    

The reform should be implemented in stages over a period of years, but at the end of the day, property taxes need to be a more important and updated component of our Puerto Rico tax system.

New Year’s 2013 – Resolutions
1-2-13 WOSO Commentary

Did you have personal and business resolutions for 2012? How did you do? I read the other day that we do not meet 90% of our New Year resolutions.  Not a very good success rate, right?

Of course, the main reason for not fulfilling our resolutions is probably the lack of sustained effort, but utilizing my weight goal of 155, there are other possible reasons.

First of all, is the goal concrete and measurable? That I will lose weight is too vague and certainly not measurable.

Secondly, is the goal realistic? From 197 pounds five years ago I had reached 160 when I established this new goal of 155 for the Monday before Thanksgiving (I weigh myself once a week each Monday prior to exercising and breakfast and jot down my weight).  It was going to be tough because I do not remember ever weighing 155, but given where I was, it was going to be tough but achievable.

Thirdly, is there a concrete strategy to achieve the goal? My forty pound weight loss over five years has been based on eating less, eating healthier and doing more exercise. No fad diets. At no time did I shoot for huge weight loss. Initially, the strategy was to lose no more than 1 pound a week. I would also have 6 month periods with the goal of maintaining the newly achieved weight level. This last goal of 155 pounds was 5 pounds over 6 months. The strategy was the same - eat less, eat healthier and do more exercise.  

Finally, the commitment has to be complete. Frankly, at the beginning of November, I did not think I was going to achieve the 155 goal because trips in September to England and Ireland and in October to Vermont, resulted in my going up to around 167 pounds. Only pride and commitment permitted my weighing 154.4 on Monday, November 26th.

I hope you were successful in your 2012 goals and I hope you have new goals for 2013 that are concrete, measurable, and realistic. I trust you have a concrete strategy for meeting your goals and finally I pray you have the commitment to fulfill them.

Hopefully, at the end of 2013 you will be among the 10% who met their goals. Now that is an achievement, right?  

Fondo de Mejoramiento – San Lorenzo
5-22-13 WOSO Commentary

Last Sunday my wife and I enjoyed immensely Fondo de Mejoramiento’s trip to San Lorenzo in which we visited the plaza and the surrounding historical buildings. We were greeted by the Mayor’s representative and the Plaza tour was by an architectural student from the Politécnico undertaking a study of this unique plaza. Although Ana Paulina did not grow up in San Lorenzo, her father lives in San Lorenzo and she is the granddaughter of Fe Leonor Borges, a music teacher for whom the excellent historical museum is named after.

The museum has excellent exhibits in six rooms covering the Taino’s, the municipality’s history, its economic and architectural developments, as well as San Lorenzo’s leaders in religion, the arts, music (Chayanne is from San Lorenzo), politics and sports. It is a small museum, but well organized in a very pleasant building. My only constructive criticism is that as often happens throughout Puerto Rico, the exhibits are only in Spanish. This lack of English descriptions is ironic since many of us identify San Lorenzo as a municipality that for many years voted for the statehood party, regardless of huge victories in favor of the Commonwealth party. Also ironic is that the present Mayor in his third term is from the Commonwealth party.   

San Lorenzo is known as the Samaritans and prides itself in the assistance and hospitality its people offer visitors and those in need. Its population of approximately 42,000 is spread out over a huge area of green hills.

One feels the sense of pride in its people and so it was not surprising to read in Sunday’s El Nuevo Día that its high school was one of three schools in Puerto Rico receiving the award of excellence.

Next week we will be going with Fondo de Mejoramiento to Cerro Punta, the highest peak in Puerto Rico, and the following week to Coamo. Please call 787 759 8366 if you would like more information on these and other tours. These tours are a great opportunity for those who want to practice their Spanish and experience the real Puerto Rico.

Bilingualism is a two way street. Que tengan un buen día y hasta la semana que viene.  
Fondo de Mejoramiento – San Lorenzo
5-22-13 WOSO Commentary

Last Sunday my wife and I enjoyed immensely Fondo de Mejoramiento’s trip to San Lorenzo in which we visited the plaza and the surrounding historical buildings. We were greeted by the Mayor’s representative and the Plaza tour was by an architectural student from the Politécnico undertaking a study of this unique plaza. Although Ana Paulina did not grow up in San Lorenzo, her father lives in San Lorenzo and she is the granddaughter of Fe Leonor Borges, a music teacher for whom the excellent historical museum is named after.

The museum has excellent exhibits in six rooms covering the Taino’s, the municipality’s history, its economic and architectural developments, as well as San Lorenzo’s leaders in religion, the arts, music (Chayanne is from San Lorenzo), politics and sports. It is a small museum, but well organized in a very pleasant building. My only constructive criticism is that as often happens throughout Puerto Rico, the exhibits are only in Spanish. This lack of English descriptions is ironic since many of us identify San Lorenzo as a municipality that for many years voted for the statehood party, regardless of huge victories in favor of the Commonwealth party. Also ironic is that the present Mayor in his third term is from the Commonwealth party.   

San Lorenzo is known as the Samaritans and prides itself in the assistance and hospitality its people offer visitors and those in need. Its population of approximately 42,000 is spread out over a huge area of green hills.

One feels the sense of pride in its people and so it was not surprising to read in Sunday’s El Nuevo Día that its high school was one of three schools in Puerto Rico receiving the award of excellence.

Next week we will be going with Fondo de Mejoramiento to Cerro Punta, the highest peak in Puerto Rico, and the following week to Coamo. Please call 787 759 8366 if you would like more information on these and other tours. These tours are a great opportunity for those who want to practice their Spanish and experience the real Puerto Rico.

Bilingualism is a two way street. Que tengan un buen día y hasta la semana que viene.  
Tips, Commissions and Fees
1-30-13 WOSO Commentary
Have you analyzed if the tips, commissions and fees you pay make sense? Let’s take three examples – waiters, real estate brokers and lawyers.

I submit that the standard waiter tip of between 15% and 20% based on the value of the meal often makes no sense. Two of you go to a three hour lunch at a modest restaurant, have three courses, a $25 bottle of wine, coffee and an after dinner drink. The waiter really worked and did a great job, including the recommendation that you share the appertizer and dessert because the servings are very generous thereby saving you $4. The tab comes out to only $50. You pay the 15% tip of $7.50 which is the norm at this modest restaurant.

That evening the two of you eat at a very fancy restaurant, have just two courses and the same brand of wine which now costs $50. The tab comes out to $200.  You give the high end 20% tip of $40 as expected at very fancy restaurants even though the waiter did nothing out of the ordinary for the two of you. You have followed the norm, but have you not seriously under tipped the first waiter at $7.50 and over tipped the second at $40?

A second example are real estate brokers who are paid a commission based on a percentage of the sales price without any reference to the time and effort invested, nor more importantly, whether the final sales price is close to the asking price.

Let’s take two examples in order to illustrate my point.

In case A the property is sold for the $100,000 asking price. The brokers efforts over three months involved some 100 calls, 25 visits to show the property to prospects, and 10 hours working with lawyers, banks, the notary public, CRIM, etc.,. The typical 5% commission is $5,000. The broker, who spent around 100 hours and obtained the desired asking price, is compensated at $5 per hour.  The broker would have been better served by obtaining a quick sale at $80,000 involving some 10 hours of work for a commission of $4,000 thus earning about $40 an hour.

In case B, the asking price is $1,000,000 and the property is sold for $800,000 to the first prospect.  The sophisticated seller and buyer handle all closing issues so that the broker only shows up at the 20 minute closing to pick up the 5% commission check of $40,000.

Was not the first broker underpaid and the second substantially overpaid? A fairer commission would phase in the percentage in accordance with the price achieved so that in the second case the commission could be 3% on the sale price up to $800,000, 4% on the amount above $800,000 up to $900,000, 5% on the amount above $900,000 up to $1,000,0000,  and 20% of the amount above $1,000,000. Under this formula, the commission on the $800,000 sale would have been $24,000 which is still very generous given the time and effort expended, but we all know that real estate brokers very often receive no compensation despite great efforts  If the sales price had been $1,100,000, then the commission would have been $24,000 plus $4,000 plus $5,000 plus $20,000 for a total of $49,000.

Lawyers are normally paid based on the hours invested. The formula incentivates putting in more time instead of resolving the client’s problem expeditiously and effectively. Over the last few years there has been a movement away from purely hourly billing towards what is called alternative billing based on incentivating efficiency and success.

 For example, the lawyer and client agree that the legal fees for a particular project could vary from a low of $50,000 to a high of $100,000. The lawyer would agree to charge 10% below the lawyer’s normal hourly rate but would receive a $15,000 success fee if the project goes through. In addition, the lawyer would receive 20% of the amount not billed up to the $100,000 budget limit. Thus, if the lawyer billed $60,000 and the project closed, the lawyer would receive the $60,000 plus the $15,000 success fee plus $8,000 for billing $40,000 less than the upper budget limit for a total of $78,000. The client closed the deal and arguably saved $22,000 in legal fees.

This example comes from an actual case I handled in the past and I believe demonstrates how creative alternative billing formulas can work well for both the client and the lawyer incentivating efficiency and success.

Although some clients still prefer hourly billing, this is a rare exception and not the rule for my consulting clients.

Escuela Nueva Juan Ponce de Leon
5-12-12 WOSO Commentary

My interview with Ana María Garcia that you just heard was in April and a few weeks ago I had the opportunity of visiting the school again in connection with an open house they were celebrating. During the tour of the school two things stood out. First of all there was great order and everyone spoke in a very low tone. After the tour I was explaining to my sixth grade tour guide the Model UN Program and another student guide standing nearby very respectfully requested that I lower the volume of my voice. In other words, I was being taught a Montessori lesson. Incidentally, my guide has already contacted me for further information and by coincidence,  her e-mail arrived while I was attending the Model UN Conference at the Cayey campus of the University of Puerto Rico.

The second thing that stood out was there ambitious goals to take the school to the next level with new programs in art and music, after school and summer camp, as well as new buildings.  There was a presentation on some of the programs and buildings the school needed and we were asked to become Friends of the School.

Besides the School in Barrio Juan Domingo, Ana María is also involved in spreading the successful formula to other public schools throughout Puerto Rico and so she also needs support in this endeavor developing tutors and teachers in the Montessori system and educating on how the schools need to fully integrate with its community.

Many of us are looking for concrete ways in which we can help our community and this is one. You can contact the school at 787 512 6494 and the foundation via its web site at

For information on the Model UN Program for the public school children, you can contact me at 787 587 9957 or access our web site, UNA USA PR.Org.

Get involved; don’t sit on the sidelines or bleachers; become a player in helping improve our community.

English in Iran
5-8-13 WOSO Commentary

My wife and I returned last week from a two week trip to Iran sponsored by the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

The impressions were many and they will be the subject of at least two Business Resolutions programs that I invite you to listen to commencing next week, as well as a series of essays that I will be posting on my JRGCPRC web site.

As most of you know, at the Governmental level, the US and UK are two of the three countries Iran most distrusts and criticizes. The third, of course, is Israel. Nevertheless, almost all important signs, descriptions and instructions that are important to tourists (road signs, product labels, museums, religious, and historical site descriptions, major restaurant menus, etc.) are written in Iran’s official language, Farsi, as well as English, and an excellent English at that.

In addition, our group was universally met with great enthusiasm by young and old wanting to practice their English and learn what the US as a country, and we as individuals, thought of Iran. Pinky and I have never felt more welcome in our travels. Our Iranian tour guide explained to us that according to Iranian religious and cultural traditions going back some 3,000 years, visitors staying and passing through Iran are to be welcome and protected.   

While we were away in Iran, my commentary in favor of bilingualism aired on Radio WOSO. It is ironic to find that a country like Iran is doing a far better job than Puerto Rico in recognizing that English is today’s global language of communication. Shame on us!
Death Penalty II
3- 27-13 WOSO Commentary

In last week’s commentary I expressed my opposition to the death penalty in the Alexis Candelario Santana case despite the horrendous and heartless murders he committed of 22 persons, including family members and completely innocent persons. As we now know, Alexis escaped the death penalty because one juror prevented the necessary unanimous verdict.

Our local Constitution prohibits the death penalty, but like in so many other areas of law, the federal law prevails over local law as part of our Commonwealth compact with the United States. Those jurors had to decide on the basis of federal law. In the case of Alexis, the defense was able to show a neglected upbringing in poverty, a slight possibility of rehabilitation, some momentary indications of remorse when some in his family, especially his only daughter, testified that that his life was important to them.

In other words, the murders were horrendous and he is one mean man, but the case was not perfect, which is what is going to have to happen in order for a 12 person jury to decide in favor of the death penalty in Puerto Rico. The Federal Court system will have another chance at bat with the case of Lashaun Casey who murdered the anti-drug federal agent, Jesús Lizardi Espada.   

I have to applaud the determination of that one person who voted for life imprisonment in this case. In my personal opinion, except for self-defense, we should not kill another human being. In my view, we should allow for rehabilitation and be in the position to forgive those who repent as Christ forgave the convicted murderer dying with him on Calgary.  

This is Jorge Gonzalez wishing you a religiously significant Easter weekend.

Death Penalty
3-20-13 WOSO Commentary

For those of us who do not believe in the death penalty, the Federal Court case of Alexis Candelario Santana presently before the jury really puts one´s principles to the test.

Here is a person who has murdered 22 people, including 9 innocent persons in the 2009 La Tómbola massacre. Among those murdered was an 8 month fetus in the mother’s womb (the epitome of innocence). He also murdered the only son of a first cousin who was his grandson. Some 10 years before La Tómbola massacre, Alexis had murdered this same first cousin´s brother. 

Alexis was found guilty of the 9 La Tómbola murders, conspiracy to distribute narcotic drugs, and possession of weapons despite prior convictions.

No friends or family members attended the initial trial and he has showed no remorse throughout. El Nuevo Día reported yesterday that during his first cousin’s testimony Alexis bowed his head and closed his eyes “as if affected by the declarations.”  This seems to be the first showing of some humanity in this man.

Puerto Rican juries have voted against the death sentence in the prior four cases. The vote for the death sentence has to be unanimous and it will be interesting to see if this will be the first case. For reasons I will elaborate in next week’s commentary, by which time we should have a decision, I do not favor the death penalty, even in this horrendous case.
Cuco Somoza
4-3-13 WOSO Commentary

Last Thursday my wife and I attended the standing room only funeral mass for our dentist of some 30 years, Francisco (Cuco) Somoza, who died of cancer.

Cuco was the perfect professional and went against the grain in what I call Puerto Rico’s medical UNCARE appointment system.  Cuco’s office gave you an appointment for a specific hour and Cuco received you punctually at the scheduled time with a warm smile and expert dental services.

Although all my doctors in Puerto Rico are similarly friendly and effective regarding their medical advice and treatment, the majority give appointments for a given day on a first come, first serve basis. The way I have dealt with this uncaring system in the past is to patiently make various calls towards the end of the day in order to determine when I can arrive and be attended to with the least amount of waiting time. The risk is that my last call is too late and they can no longer take care of me which is precisely what happened to me last week.  

Because I needed to schedule an operation prior to our trip to Iran scheduled for April 15th, I could not risk missing another appointment and thus played the system in the normal way, that is, arrive very early and patiently wait for various hours.

I arrived at 7:10 am to sign up on the sheet put up by the first patient arriving around 6 am. I was number 16 on the list. Because the office opens at 8 am and the doctor arrived between 8:30 and 9, the first person on the list saw the doctor around 9 so his waiting time was some three hours.  I saw the doctor at a little after 11 am and so I ended up waiting some 4 hours.

In closing, all I can say is that I will miss my punctual and affable dentist, Cuco Somoza, very much!
Punctuality in Puerto Rico
4-10-13 WOSO Commentary

In my commentary of last week I praised my dentist Cuco Somoza for giving and punctually honoring medical appointments thereby going against the general medical practice in Puerto Rico of giving appointments on a first come first serve basis.

A person who heard last week’s commentary remarked that we Puerto Ricans are not punctual. I wholeheartedly disagree. Let me give you some examples.

Puerto Rico Symphony concerts start on time and those who are a few minutes late sit out in the lobby missing the first of three pieces that make up the program. Few people are late. Compare this with the popular music concerts at the Choliseo that one never knows when they will start other than that they will not start on time

The same thing happens in churches. Few arrive late when the priest makes it a habit to  begin the mass punctually. In those churches in which the priest gives latecomers the opportunity to arrive, the churchgoers come in later the next time, the priest waits longer, and one never knows the real starting time.

San Juan Rotary Tuesday luncheons start punctually at 12:30 and end at 1:30. There is rarely a latecomer.

Our family business Board starts punctually at 7 am with all 13 persons from management and the Board present at the agreed time.

Puerto Rico passengers arrive on time for their flights since we know the flight will leave without us and there will be personal inconveniences and monetary consequences.   

I could go on with many other examples indicative that the immense majority of  patients in Puerto Rico will be punctual if appointments are scheduled and honored by the doctor with consequences for those who are late, or do not show up at all. 
Closing the Deficit by Effective Enforcement
2 -27-13 WOSO Commentary

In addition to reforming and updating our various tax laws, we need to effectively enforce our existing laws. For example there are a large number of properties that have been improved and have not been assessed. Surely investing in bringing these properties into the tax system is an economic no brainer.

The same can be said for the IVU or sales tax in which only some 40 % comply whereas in the US this figure is in the mid 60%. Recently, some businesses who have not deposited sales taxes collected have had their bank accounts attached.  This is a great first step. When it is determined that this non deposit is intentional and unjustified, then an effective second step is to bring a criminal action.

We all know that there is serious underreporting of income in Puerto Rico. There needs to be put in place mechanisms to detect when income reported does not match the wealth accumulated and the life style of the taxpayer. I would require taxpayers to file under oath a simple balance sheet describing as of December 31st their assets and liabilities similar to what one provides a bank for a loan.

Effective enforcement of existing tax laws, including criminal actions, will generate substantial revenue, ensure that everyone pays their fair share, and convey the needed message that all laws need to be obeyed.  

Christmas 2012 - Mas Christ
12-26-12 WOSO Commentary

I trust you had an enjoyable Christmas. Did you keep Christ in mind?

In Spanglish, Christ  Mas  or mas Christ would lead us to increase the inclusion of Christ in Christmas.

One of the things that irks me the most is to see Christmas written as Xmas, akin to K-Mart or Wal-mart or Walgreens. All great retail chains that I respect very much, but Christmas is a religious holy day (in addition to a holiday).  With Santa Claus, and the gifts, there needs to be the remembrance of the birth of the Christ child.

My wife Pinky is a German descendant (Bauermeister) and for the past three years we visited the Christmas markets in Bavaria. Bavaria is very Catholic and it is said that Santa Claus comes from St. Nicklaus (Sankt Nikolaous) a bishop whose death is celebrated on December 6th in Germany.

The  merger of many cultures makes Christmas a very complex combination on which a very lengthy book could be written with respect to each country, including Puerto Rico.

Of course, in Puerto Rico, we still benefit from our dual culture and for some on our Island, gifts are given on Three Kings”s Day and not Christmas that is more religious. Unfortunately, this tradition has been overwhelmed by Santa Claus (formerly Saint Nicholas) and there is no turning back.

Although we cannot resurrect Three Kings’ Day to what it once was, we can make sure that the religious importance of Christmas is not entirely overwhelmed. It is up to us. Mas Christ.  God bless you.

Applauding Good Service
1-23-13 WOSO Commentary

It is said that comments regarding a bad product or service spreads out to at least 8 persons whereas communications on good products and services are rarely communicated. In order to somewhat balance this scale, I would like to describe my recent very positive experience.

I had given my brief talk to the public school students attending the Model UN Conference at the UPR Cayey campus and had an early lunch with the UNA USA PR Executive Director, Ricardo Arzuaga, My next appointment was a golf invitation for my brother in law Guillermo Estella in appreciation for his handling so well my new consultant technological issues. My Chrysler Sebring would not start nor would the transmission move out of Park. About three years ago I had a similar problem involving a plastic part that had to be replaced. It was about 11:30 am and I was a good hour and a half from the Dorado Beach golf course.

I called the service department of Flagship Chrysler, a Bella Group affiliate, and we confirmed that it was that same plastic part and that I would need to have the car towed to the dealership on the western side of Bayamón. He gave me the name of a recommended towing company but I remembered that my insurance policy provided for emergency assistance. Sure enough, with my car registration was the Antilles Insurance Assist number and a list of the emergency items covered, including towing services and car rental if the car had to be left at the dealer for repair.

I called Antilles Assist and in less than an hour the tow truck arrived. Not only did the tow truck arrive on schedule but Antilles Assist proactively followed up to confirm that I had received timely and competent towing services. The young tow truck driver was very efficient and friendly. He took the car and me to the Flagship Chrysler. Tow trucks are relatively slow and quite rough, but you can’t have everything.  

Although both the tow truck driver and the dealer offered to drive me back to my apartment in the San Patricio area, I still wanted to go ahead with the golf date at Dorado Beach and so the two options were to rent a car at the Bella Group Car Rental desk at the dealership or have my son in law Guillermo pick me up since the dealer is on the way to Dorado Beach.  I decided to rent the car since my car would probably not be ready until at least Tuesday. In addition, it sounded like my car insurance would reimburse me for the rental car for up to 4 days and $300.

The process for accepting my Chrysler and renting the Honda Fit took about 20 minutes, and I was soon on my way to meet with Guillermo at Dorado Beach where we got in 12 holes of golf.

The Bella Car Rental person mentioned that there would be a daily insurance charge unless she received by fax or e-mail on Monday a certificate from Antilles Insurance. I called Doris Amoros at Anglo/Antilles Monday morning with the request and in about an hour she copied me on the e-mail to Bella Car rental. The person at Bella Car confirmed by phone that she had what she needed from Antilles.   

On Monday morning around 10:30 am the Flagship Chrysler person called to advise that he had to order the part which would arrive the next day and that the car would be ready on Wednesday.  I had asked them to check on a couple of other minor matters and to provide the recommended maintenance items for the mileage. He reported on what they had found and gave a quote which I accepted. Luckily on Wednesday afternoon we had a family activity in Dorado and we were able to deliver the rental car and pick up the Chrysler Sebring on the way to Dorado.       

In short, these are three service companies (Antilles Insurance affiliated with Anglo Puerto Rican Insurance Corp, the towing company Antilles contracted, and Bella Group with its two affiliates Flagship Chrysler and Bella Car Rental) that gave me outstanding service – they responded in a timely matter, provided an estimate of cost and time to accomplish the service, and met their estimate. The service was courteous and it was clear that they were experts in their area of service.

Service like this converts what could be a negative and stressful experience into a positive one. It needs to be applauded at the personal/private level with those who rendered the service and at the public level in order to balance all the negativism one is peppered with all the time.  We must not limit ourselves to criticizing the bad, albeit constructively; we need to applaud the good. Both are necessary and help make us more effective.   
3-13-13 WOSO Commentary

It seems that every new administration faced with the need to raise funds comes up with the strategy of offering an amnesty. This administration is headed in the same direction.

I am totally against further amnesties for the following three reasons:

First of all, I am convinced that there are citizens out there that accumulate debts in order to pay when the periodic amnesty appears. I would call them amnesty payers. Others who are relatively up to date stop paying pending invoices in order to take advantage of the amnesty law.

Secondly, amnesties are unfair to those who timely comply with their obligations and this unfairness will lead some to not be as responsible.

Thirdly, if we want a society of law and order, then we have to enforce strict compliance with all our laws.

Bottom line, amnesties hurt Government cash flows in the long run, incentivate irresponsibility, and do great harm to the creation of a society of law and order. 

In closing, I want to clarify that my anti amnesty position is not to say that tax evaders who voluntarily come forward, or taxpayers who are facing financial hardships, should not be able to negotiate reasonable plans in accordance with the particular facts of each case.   

Active Aging
2-20-13 WOSO Commentary

A recent article in El Nuevo Día of February 4th titled “More Stress, Longer Life” confirms what I have read and how I continue to focus my life. Although the common understanding is that a life without stress is the principal ingredient for a long life, studies going back as far as 1921, indicate the opposite -.those who said they avoided stress, took things easy, and retired early had the tendency of dying younger.

We all know persons who generally live a stressless life with precious few commitments. We should not judge, and we must accept that they are indeed happy. Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling sad that talent and experience is not being put to use for the good of the community.

As I see it, we need to do what makes us happy, but thank God, this El Nuevo Día article reafirms that commitments, challenges, and social involvement, even though they often create stress, are favorable traits that lead to a longer life. More importantly, these traits lead to a better society. 
3-17-13 WOSO Commentary

Bilingualism is one of those things that we in Puerto Rico should all be for and yet we cannot unite to accomplish something that is clearly good for everyone. .  

For some unexplained reason the NPP has never successfully implemented the vision of a bilingual Puerto Rico. Is not the ability to speak English well a necessary step if we are to become a State? 

If I headed the Popular Democratic Party and wanted to win over some of the statehood advocates and the undecided votes, would not a successful program to have everyone learn English be a real plus?  

English is the global language of commerce and at least for the forseeable future, the most important language to know if one wants to communicate with others around the world.  I will never forget approaching a discussion of business lawyers from the Scandanavian countries and discovering that the conversation was in English.

We want to attract vistitos to Puerto Rico and yet our road signs are exclusively in Spanish, even those signs that point out an imminent danger for the driver.

I know that bilingualism cannot be accomplished overnight, but what baffles me is that no attempts have been made to reach a consensus on the topic nor to start implementing in a major way such a vision. For the good of our children, I hope we can reach a consensus soon on this.

Este es Jorge Gonzalez deseando que pases un buen dïa!  


Chinese in San Lorenzo

My commentary of last Wednesday May 22nd was on the excellent experience my wife Pinky and I had upon visiting San Lorenzo with the Fondo de Mejoramiento. My only constructive criticism was that the excellent museum did not have the description of the exhibits in English. As you know from past commentaries, I have been harping on the need for Puerto Rico to be a bilingual society in which our young and old feel comfortable in both Spanish and English.

In Monday’s El Nuevo Día, there was an interesting article on a recent program at the Municipality’s new virtual library that brought a Chinese professor to teach 20 public high school students Mandarin over a ten week period. At the end of the ten weeks, the students had to write a 70 word essay in Mandarin explaining their experience with this new language.

What I found particularly interesting was that the Chinese professor does not speak Spanish and so the course was in English and Mandarin. The students, therefore, received a very practical experience on the importance of English.

The experience was a complete success and the course will be offered again in August and extended to 10th graders..   

One has to applaud the Mayor of San Lorenzo for this bold initiative that utilizes three languages to open horizons for its students. Bilingualism should be our very doable goal; trilingualism should be our dream. Que tengan un buen día!.