Judge Finds for “Chainsaw Steve” … An Update!

                                 

      You might remember Steve from a previous post. He is a businessman, artist, and resident of a neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale called Poinsettia Heights, and he recently gained a new “A.K.A.” for trying to protect his neighborhood….. He’s now forever known as “Chainsaw Steve”! 
         
     This is how his new name came about.
 
     He was just plain fed up with 5 convicts that had taken up residence along the RR tracks near his business and home off NE 13th Street. The neighborhood was having a major spike in crimes like burglaries and car break-ins that just happened to coincide with the felons arrival in the area. 

                          Here are two of those career felons:

                  
                   “Cross Eyed Mike”                             “Shorty”
     
                     
     Chainsaw’s real name is Stephen Sticht, and he first made news a decade ago with his artistic efforts with the “Bluebikes”. He and his group of “avant garde” artists painted dozens of old throw away bicycles blue, and hung them all over town in the most unusual places. It was Fort Lauderdale’s version of Chicago’s Cows.

     After hundreds of calls to the local Police asking them to remove the thugs from their base along the tracks, and getting nowhere, Steve took action.
 
    He powered up his now famous “Chainsaw”, and made his way down the FEC line until he found the “Camp”. It had to go! 

    Buzz buzz buzz buzz, and the “Camp” was gone. The Felons were upset! They called Public Defender Howard “Help me Howard” Finklestein and filed a complaint. 

    Shame on you “Help Me Howard” for listening to this rotten gang of criminals.

     A restraining order was granted to the felons by Judge Jorge Gonzalez (shame on you too!) , and Sticht was ordered to stay away from the felons’ residence (the tracks !)

    Sticht spent thousands on lawyers, many sleepless nights, but thankfully, in the end, justice was done.

     Judge Matthew Destry deserves a compliment for sending the felons packing…… hopefully to another RR line far, far away!

     



    

Fort Lauderdale Mayor’s Race…. An Analysis

     And now there are four,

     
four candidates that is, running to be the next Mayor of Fort Lauderdale. My initial guess was that there might be 7 candidates in the race before it’s all over, so maybe we’re just a little more than half way there! 

    The latest to jump in is former Commissioner Dean Trantalis.

                               

     Trantalis served only one term as the Commissioner for District Two. That District is a very complicated district that includes some of the city’s richest citizens that live along Las Olas in the Isles, and some of the poorest that live in South Middle River along Sunrise Boulevard.

     Trantalis was known as a cerebral Commissioner, quite thoughtful, but with little tolerance for the little gritty details that Commissioners face daily. When he announced that he would not run for a second term, it was widely believed that he had lost his taste for the job, and was pining for his private life back.

     Now, Trantalis says that he decided not to re-enlist because “with matters seemingly taking the right direction, it seemed safe to step back from politics, having served my public”. 

      He added, “unfortunately, so many of these [his] accomplishments began to crumble”, so he has to get back in to straighten things out. And he says he can be effective as Mayor, bring respect for diversity back to the City, and fix the Commission that is “plagued with petty bickering”.

      Trantalis has always enjoyed the support of a large voting block within the Gay and Lesbian community, and he became a champion of the slow growth movement in the City during his years on the dais, but it seems unlikely that he will be able to muster enough votes citywide to win.

    The other three. 

                                 

     Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson, the first candidate to get in, has served on the City Commission for nearly 9 years. She is term limited, and there was speculation early on that she would run for County Commission John Rodstrom’s seat, but settled on a run for Mayor instead.

     Hutchinson probably has the highest percentage of “name recognition”, an important barometer that political pundits look at to gauge the chances of success in any political campaign.

     Hutchinson has a reputation as a hard worker, is always prepared for City Commission meetings, and may be the most prolific among her colleagues for new ideas and proposals.

     But many think Hutchinson’s front runner status and apparent momentum stalled months ago when it was revealed that she had sent campaign materials from City Hall and initially lied about it.



                                

     Representative Jack Seiler   might be taking the front runner status away from Hutchinson.

     He is holding his first big fundraiser tomorrow, and seeing who shows up might be a good indicator of whether he is gaining the lead.
 
     Up until now, most of the local heavyweights and campaign contributors have been signed on with Hutchinson, but if Seiler’s party is peppered with enough of those important locals, it might spell a turnaround in the race. In politics, momentum (the Big Mo!) is everything.

     Seiler’s detractors say what he really wants is a big job in State Government, maybe Attorney General or even Governor, and that a stop along the way as the leader of the biggest City in Broward County might act as a nice resume padder!

     Other’s say that Jack is an interloper that really lives in Wilton Manors, but that is no longer true as Seiler and his family moved into Fort Lauderdale last month.

                               
     Lawyer Steve Rossi is the bus bench and other public infrastructure advertiser guy that quietly got into the race and hasn’t made much of a stir. I don’t expect much “Big Mo” here.

     And the other three that will make my prediction of seven ultimate candidates for the next Mayor of Fort Lauderdale?

     Stay tuned!

Citizens Plan Police and Fire Blow-Out

     All the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men might not be able to mend the fences and cure the bad blood between the Cops and the City, but the Citizens of Fort Lauderdale think THEY can !  …


     

                                     
      
    
 That’s why the Citizens are throwing a party. A big blow-out, a Shin-Dig you won’t want to miss! It’s being organized by the Council of Fort Lauderdale Civic Associations.

     Ever wanted to watch the Cops raid a Crack House and tackle the bad guys, or stand by as the FireFighters save an accident victim trapped in their smashed and smoldering car.
     You’ll be able to at this creative celebration.

      Do you think that recognizing the Cops and FireFighters that put their lives on the line daily is something you could be part of? ……….  then read on …… 

     You’ll remember that the City and the Public Safety Unions recently finished a bruising year-long battle over pay and benefits. It got ugly, real ugly. It’s unclear whether the Unions or the City eventually won. 

     But one thing is clear. The Citizens could have been the losers.

     Morale in the rank and file was heavily damaged.

     It’s hard, if not impossible, to quantify what consequences poor morale might deliver. But in the case of Police and FireFighters, it could mean life or death, and the Citizens are not waiting for a study. They are throwing this party to let Police and Fire know they’re appreciated.

     So put this on your calendar.

               Police and FireFighter Recognition Night
                 … on National Night Out Against Crime …

               Tuesday,  August 5th ….  5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

              Holiday Park…….Fort Lauderdale, Florida   

     
And if that’s not enough, everyone gets fed for free! If you need more information, or want to help with this event, send an e-mail to the Event’s Chairperson (me!) at Tim@TimSmith.com, or call me at 954-822-4727……..

              
 


     

     

      
      

     
      

State Rep Candidate Explains His Criminal Record !

     Politics is one nasty business.

    
And for one of the candidates for State Representative, District 92, this week proved just how nasty it can get.

    I received a call. It was a well known, behind the scenes political operative. 

    He had the goods on State Representative Candidate Mark LaFontaine, and he wanted me to have them – (I guess it had something to do with this blog!) He asked if he could meet up with me and give me the documents. 

                    

     I told him to meet me at a local coffee shop in twenty minutes. If the matter was bull, at least I’d get a cup of Joe out of it. It wasn’t bull. It was pretty serious stuff. 

     LaFontaine’s most recent problems were in 2005 and 2006 : A Default Judgement in a civil lawsuit, an eviction from a rental apartment, and driving on a suspended licence.
 
     The most serious charges are old, from 1992, and include an arrest during a domestic dispute for Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, Resisting Arrest with Violence, and Trespassing.

     I know Lafontaine, and I like him. He has been a civic activist for a long time. He is mostly known as the Boy Scout / Eagle Scout that fought the Boy Scouts of America for keeping gays out of their organization. He has guts.

     When I called him to tell him what I had been given, he didn’t collapse, and didn’t seem all that surprised. I offered him an opportunity to explain, through this blog, why voters should still vote for him knowing of the problems in his background. 

     His explanation follows:


                                       Character Counts
                                         By Mark LaFontaine,
                         Candidate for Florida Legislature, District 92


     It’s always interesting to see the type of character a person exudes as an individual, especially when that person is a candidate for public office.

     As an Eagle Scout and military veteran, I want to be sure that voters know that I am an open book when it comes to my past. Since I filed for the District 92 House seat last year in March, I have invited voters to research me on the Internet, and to read about my past history, my present civic activities and my future goals for the community when elected as the next Florida State Representative for District 92. 

    The character traits that I cherish most about myself are my honesty and integrity.

     I admit, and this is not news: I have a few knocks against me.  But in the interest of full disclosure, let me be up front about what they are, lest voters get swayed by misleading direct mail. 

     The truth on Mark’s “domestic dispute”.
     In 1992, I had a domestic dispute with my longtime partner over a personal issue, which was verbal in nature. The police arrived at our apartment and asked me to leave — I refused. I was then jumped on, beaten (suffering two cracked vertebrae) and arrested, spending about 5 days in jail, clothed only in a pair of jogging shorts and placed in the “AIDS faggot” cell. The police report indicated a series of events that did not take place, resulting in 4 serious charges. In fact, my partner at the time was told to sign the statement or face imprisonment himself.
     The two most severe charges were dropped because they never happened, and I plead “no-contest” to the others based upon the advice of counsel. There was no conviction under the plea deal and adjudication was withheld.  I dispute the charges in the original report and have a sworn affidavit from my former partner declaring what happened and what didn’t, although I agree there was no excuse for those actions that happened when I was in my early 20s.

     The truth on Mark’s “traffic issues”.
In 2003, I was involved in a car accident where my vehicle was “T-boned.” At no time was I cited, ticketed or arrested.  I had had a drink or two for my birthday, but no DUI was reported. The police officer at the scene stated that he smelled no alcohol and that I was coherent and alert.
     As is typical in these situations, there was a judgment against me personally from the other drivers’ insurance company, and my license was suspended and my registration delayed. I was not made aware of this judgment until 2006 and in fact was led to believe that my insurance company – which is now out of business — would pay the claim. Once notified, I took immediate steps to make monthly payments and am pursuing my legal options against my insurance company for full settlement of the claim.

     The truth on Mark’s “eviction situation”.
After Hurricane Wilma, several tenants, myself included, told the management company of our Fort Lauderdale apartment that we were not able to pay our rent due to the lack of business/work immediately following the hurricane and its devastating effect on the local economy.  Everyone who was here then remembers what it was like for several weeks – no school, no work, no electricity or phones.  I knew my clientele of mainly small businesses would be back on their own feet themselves and all would be taken care of within the month. The management company took an unusually hard line against us tenants, and said that anyone who was late would be evicted. The management company had my last month and security deposit for the outstanding rent, which they kept.  No funds were outstanding when I moved out of the building. I will note that my subsequent landlords have always been paid on time, as they will all attest.

     What this all means.
Let me be clear, I take full responsibility for my actions and what has happened to me over the years. I’m human and I’ve made mistakes. I get kicked down and pick myself up again.  That’s why I have a direct connection to the voters. Real people have real problems, and they want to support someone who has lived and understands their problems.

     As an accountant, my clients rely upon me to manage their financial situations and to guide them in their decisions. While my personal life has had some bumps, my clients have praised my professionalism and dedication to my work. This will be true of the community as well.

     I can stand before the voters and say, “Here’s the situation.  And here’s how I fixed it.”  That’s the approach I’ll take if you elect me. 
I could have had my records expunged or sealed so they were hidden, but actively chose not to.  I have nothing to hide.

     I’m proud of the campaign I have been running — a positive, issues-oriented campaign that has reached out to voters throughout the district.  I have major supporters, including US Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who recognizes that my accounting and financial experience, my military service, and my work in the Broward community will provide District 92 with a well-rounded representative.

     As a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, I needed to pass an intensive background screening by the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard in order to receive my security clearance.  All of these issues were raised, discussed and deemed not worthy of concern at the highest levels of the US Government.

     The bottom line: If you want a Representative who is honest and with content in his character, then vote for me.
                                           Mark LaFontaine


     
     So there it is. I’ll be interested in your comments…. ciao, Tim

    

Rodstrom Answers !

     A first of it’s kind, interview by blog. 

     You’ve been waiting. The Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom interview follows.  

                              
                        A two-fer ! John and Charlotte Rodstrom


Tim,
Here are my responses and thank you for your patience as you know last week we had some issues at City Hall.


Question #1:  So Commissioner, you have really been working hard for your District, you have had some successes and some failures.  What are you the proudest of accomplishing so far and what disappoints you the most?


1.  Yes, Tim I have been working hard but that is why I was elected.
 I have had many successes and few failures, some of my proudest accomplishments are:
*  The acquisition of the SMRCA passive park, which I was able to obtain through the Land Preservation Bond Fund.
*  The Beach Master plan and Zoning in Progress (ZIP)
*  The new zoning category RS-8A which provides protection from   McMansions in existing neighborhoods
* Street enhancements for Progresso Village
* Birch Finger Street parking
*  Finalization of the Las Olas Gateway project.
*  I am also very proud of the relationship I have with our residents, police and code personal.  I have worked towards our goal for safer and better neighborhoods.
*  The preservation and relocation of the Stonewall Library to Art Serve.
Some on going items include: moving the historic Anne Beck House to Middle River Terrace Park in order to serve as a community and education center.  In addition I am seeking land acquisitions to the Middle River Terrace Park and Sistrunk passive park. The Flagler Greenway Project is moving forward, and we are in the process of obtaining A1A Scenic Hwy designation, as well in the planning stages for the re-development the Hall of Fame Recreation Complex, I will continue to work with neighborhoods to facilitate the under grounding of utilities for neighborhoods that desire this through special assessment, I am continuing the crime and code efforts as well as developing ways to provide economic development on 13th Street.


My disappointment was when the H.O.M.E. Inc. project was rejected by my colleagues.  This project would have served as the catalyst for redevelopment in Middle River Terrace and on 13th Street.
I will continue to press this issue because I am committed to projects like this which the community greatly needs.


Question #2
You are the newest member of the Commission, but after 2 years on the job, is it everything you thought it would be or not, what would you change?


2.  The job of serving as the District Two representative is everything and more I thought it would be.  I truly enjoy the work and the results I have achieved. The only thing I would change would be the speed and efficiency in which government operates.  Government works much slower and less efficient than I work. I am developing ways to achieve more timely results in the future.


Question #3
There has been criticism that you and your husband John should not both be in elected positions at the same time.  Do you think that criticism is valid?


3.  I have not heard any criticism, quite the contrary the residents seem to be very pleased with how things have worked out.  The correspondence I receive reflect that my residents feel they have a stronger voice on more levels.  In addition my husband’s colleagues on the County Commission have been very responsive to my district’s needs.  I have a great working relationship with county government and the county staff.  Having that connection has helped me to serve my constituents very well.


Question #4
During your campaign, you were quite critical of the development community.  Now that our economy has slowed and Real Estate values have plummeted, has your opinion on development changed?


4.  No, I have always believed in quality not quantity when developing in the city I love.  The economy and the real estate market have fluctuated for years but once a building goes up it remains for a lifetime.    I served on the City Planning and Zoning Board for three years and I saw projects pass that should have never been approved. There is a need for re-development in parts of my district and other parts like the Barrier Island which needs to be protected.


Question #5
Would you comment on the performance of the City manger in your opinion?


5.  My comments are now part of the public record as it relates to the City Manager.  City Commission conference meeting June 3rd stated under commissioner reports. 


Question #6
Are you running for re-election?  If so, when do you expect to announce that?


6. Yes, I am running for re-election and I plan to announce before the end of the summer.  


Question #7
Will you be endorsing any mayoral candidates?


7.  It is too soon to tell but probably not since I will be running for re-election and I will be on the ballot at the same time, however I will reserve that right until filing. 


Question #8
Is there anything you would like to add?


8.  Yes, I have enjoyed working for District Two and I wish to continue, I only ask that residents continue to support my efforts.  Thank you again for your patience with my responses and for giving me the opportunity to do your BLOG interview, this was great.


Sincerely,
Charlotte



     OK Readers, hope you enjoyed Rodstrom’s interview! Who do you want next ?… Let me know …… Tim 



 

Big Name about to Jump in Mayoral Race?


     It’s been a long time since Fort Lauderdale had a Mayor other than Jim Naugle. A long, long time! 

      Naugle joined the City Commission in 1985 and was elected Mayor in 1991. He has served longer than any Mayor in the history of the City (six consecutive terms). Naugle is finally term-limited due to the term limit law that was proposed by me in 1997, (everybody say thank you Tim!) and passed into law by referendum of the Citizens. The term-limit law passed by about 80 %. 

     The election for the new Mayor is early next year, and has already drawn two big name candidates – Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson, and State Representative Jack Seiler. Also in the race is lesser known attorney Steve Rossi, and a handful of others have told friends that they are considering running.

     Now it looks like another big name is about to get in.


                                    
                        former City Commissioner Dean Trantalis

     Trantalis served only one term as Commissioner of District II and it looked like he’d had enough of Politics, but I had been hearing rumors. Rather than hunt Dean down by phone, I just walked into his Law Office on Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors a few days ago. I asked if Dean was in, and a voice rang out of his office …” Go Away”. He recognized my voice! And there was little chance of me going away! We talked for awhile and he told me he had been seriously exploring getting in the Mayor’s race. Dean’s official response to my question follows:

       “I have been speaking with numerous friends and advisors as to the purpose and viability of my running for a position on the City Commission. As the political landscape continues to evolve, and as we identify what goals this city has the power and opportunity to achieve, I am reviewing what role I might play in this process.” 

 

                                                                           DEAN


     Trantalis’s entry into the race would surely change the dynamics of the race. Some of his former supporters have already committed to either Huchinson or Seiler, and it’s not certain if they would jump ship and support Dean.

     Damn it’s a good year to be a Political Blogger!

Citizen Snubbing Update !

     The Citizen’s proposal is on life support.


                                                  

     Which is an improvement from last week!
 
     You will remember that the Citizens had banded together and worked on a proposal to make changes to the Development Code (all the rules for building anything in Fort Lauderdale), that would make the next bunch of homes and townhouses that get built fit better into the neighborhoods. The Committee was a broad spectrum of all the Citizens, about 100 of them. 

      
They met for over a year, and worked out a plan…… a great plan!

     The proposal wound it’s way to the City Commission for consideration.

     They liked it, sent it to staff.

     They hated it, stalled it, moved it around in circles.

     Another year later, it finally arrived back at the Commission, and the Commission was to pick a consultant to study it ( Caution: watching government work can be painful!).

     They didn’t pick the consultant. They squashed it without comment.

     The Citizens were about to revolt! And it’s an election year.

     At the next meeting, Commissioner Teel brought it back to the Commission for reconsideration.

     It got tabled until the next meeting! Are you dizzy yet? Maybe that’s the point!

     Stay Tuned ! (if you dare).