Just the Facts

     Fort Lauderdale property owners are getting screwed.

     I’ll prove it to you in just a minute. This is what is going on.

     The Sheriff of Broward County is demanding that we pay him 5 million dollars per year for Police Dispatch. The Fort Lauderdale tax payer would have to foot the bill.


                 
Sheriff Wrong !

     It’s just not right, because the Fort Lauderdale property owners are already paying the county way more than our fair share in taxes. We’ve had a deal for years with the County to pay for our dispatch, but now they are reneging on the deal.
 
    

         ahhh! … Fort Lauderdale

      Broward County is made up of 33 cities. We are the most populous city, with a population of 165,000, but a very western city, Pembroke Pines, is catching up with 154,000 people. Hollywood has 140,000, Miriamar 122,000.

                           

      Fort Lauderdale has, by far, the highest amount of property value. The total value of our real estate is an astonishing 23 Billion, the closet competitor is Hollywood, with 9 Billion, then comes Pompano with 8 Billion, Pembroke Pines with 8 Billion, and on down the line.

     Therefore, we pay substantially more taxes to Broward County than all the other cities. The average amount of taxes paid by Broward County cities is 60 million dollars a yearFort Lauderdale pays twice that at 120 million. Here’s a list of the where the bigger cities in Broward rank next to our donation! 

          
    Taxes paid to the County 
   
     Fort Lauderdale – 120 million
     Hollywood – 50 million
     Coral Springs – 37 million
     Pompano Bch – 44 million
     Miramar – 32 million
     Pembroke Pines – 41 million

     So, what does this all mean?
 
     It means we pay a ton more money into the County Coffers than we get back.
     It means the Sheriff is wrong to try and wring another 5 million dollars out of the Fort Lauderdale citizens.

     But, you ask, don’t we get things from the County that other cities don’t?   

     Good point!  

                                
                                 
       We get the traffic, which flows into the City in the morning, clogs up the roadways, runs back out in the afternoon.

                            

     And we get the Courthouse and the County’s waterfront jail, so the criminals can see where they can roam when let out the front gates.  

     The bottom line…..

     We should be treated more fairly, or maybe we should just practice saying 

        …the County of Fort Lauderdale ….ahh!

     

     

     

    


Odd Man Out !!

     It’s the first time it’s ever happened in Fort Lauderdale, maybe anywhere!

     A citizen has been voted off his island.
 
     Actually, the citizen, from the Central Beach Alliance, now has the unenviable distinction of being the only person ( that I’ve ever heard of) to have an association vote NOT to allow them to ever speak again at their meetings!  

                 

     You guessed it – Art Seitz!

     This is how I heard it went down. 
(To be fair, and for full disclosure, and because I don’t want to be sued by Art – again ! –  I wasn’t there, this is all second hand).

     ….. As usual, Art was participating in the discussion! … and participating  … and participating! Art has many great ideas, is passionate about the beach and what it could be, spends a good bit of his life trying to make that happen ….. it’s his delivery that could use some work! 

     You could say ( in my opinion), that Art has made an ART of combative civic encounters. He’s at times been rude, obnoxious, odious, even rebarbative!
        
     So, the Central Beach Alliance’s President, John Weaver, was gettting annoyed. He had been having problems getting Art to conform at other meetings, and Weaver appeared at his rope’s end. 

     He interrupted Art and asked for a motion to –

      never allow Art to talk again at a Central Beach Alliance meeting!

     
The motion then passed, nearly unanimously, with only one person opposing ! ( and I don’t think it was Art!)

     Something tells me Art will still speak up at the meetings!
    

Homeless ?…Drifter ?…..Mental ?…. other ?

     Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners said last week that they are “frustrated” with the homeless problems downtown.

          

      … Yes, we know. Frustrated still would be a better statement. And so are we. It’s time for a new approach.

     You see, the Mayor and Commissioners have been “frustrated” with this problem for their entire three year term. They have been throwing proverbial “stuff” against the wall every so often, seeing if anything would stick. Nothing has.

     Now, the yearly onslaught of homeless, cold from up north, are about to arrive..

     Here’s how the last three years have progressed for this Commission.
 
     In the beginning, it was the the First Baptist Church, ( near City Hall at Broward and 3rd Avenue)  feeding in the parking lot behind their church.

                                             
            

     Commissioner Rogers said it became “problematic”, and that the City asked the Church to stop.

                          

     After that, the City has been trying to just relocate the problem from downtown. First, it was over off Sunrise Blvd., where one blogger said they should move the problem there, because that area just “didn’t matter”. The folks around that area disagreed.

     Then it was proposed to go over in Flagler Heights, just across Federal Hwy. from Victoria Park.  You know how that turned out.

     Then it was the roving roach coach idea. The Commissioners decided to let the Salvation Army’s Mobile Feeding Unit feed in different areas, so as to not overwhelm any area. Unfortunately, the first area proposed was south of the New River, across from Rio Vista! Needless to say, that program was pulled before ever getting off the ground.

     Now, with the homeless-issue tension mounting, the Commission is once again scrambling for an answer. They asked new Manager Feldman and old  Attorney Stewart for a plan – quick !

      
          new manager

     A new approach  

     We need to try something different. Lead the way!

     In the old way of looking at it,  we have been calling all the folks in Stranahan Park, the homeless.

     I propose that we stop that and realize a few things.

     Most of the folks hanging out, waiting for a styrofoam container at the Park, are not “the homeless”, as we think of the homeless. We have a homeless shelter on Sunrise Blvd. for the unfortunate souls that lose their home/jobs etc. and need a temporary place to stay. I call these the “situationally” homeless, and they almost always find their way to the HAC (Homeless assistance Center) and are then helped, and make their way back into the mainstream. 

     The folks of Stranahan Park generally fall into the other following categories :

     The Drifters
These are the 40% that wander around the country, looking for an easy life, free food, lax laws. We should convince this group that Fort Lauderdale doesn’t fall into that category of citiesEnforcing aggressive panhandling laws, public intoxication laws, private property laws and the like should keep them moving on. Add in a couple of hundred bus tickets out of town per month for good measure.

     The Mentally Disabled – These folks may very well not have a place to stay, but it is because they aren’t able to. We should help these folks. Daily trips to the park from mental health professionals and a program to house them and monitor their needs should do it. It will cost something, but not doing it may very well be more expensive ( and surely less compassionate).



     Criminals – The bad guys like to mix in, to blend in the feeding areas. Many have warrants, some are on probation or parole. The cops need to go in, maybe undercover, arrest the bad guys and remove them. 


     Hopeless – This is an eclectic group, the toughest nut. Many are just unfortunates that need mentors, jobs, advice, and direction. Sometimes they live with their aunts, grandmothers, friends, sometimes not. They don’t travel, they live here – and there. They are often the unemployed. Most are undereducated.

      Here are a few things we could try…   First,

     Citizens need to be informed NOT TO GIVE TO PANHANDLERS!
They need to be re-directed to other ways to help the homeless. Many cities have old parking meters around their downtowns with instructions to put money there to really help the homeless.  
   
     Then, we should form a volunteer group of citizens/professionals and send them into the park daily (or any other place this group begins to congregate), with job referral/training information, affordable housing lists, veteran- issues help, legal help, mental health professionals etc.. Look at it like a Big Brother/Big Sister kind of program.
     This group of volunteers would need to have a law enforcement component attached.  The volunteers could be on call as well. The City could arr
ange a phone number –

                            CALL 1-800 GET HELP 
     
     When a problem is seen, the TEAM would be called into action…
     
    
If you were expecting a simple answer, there isn’t one. But if we keep doing the same things – we can expect the same results! 

     

      

When Is A Conflict Not A Conflict?

     Next year’s Air and Sea Show plans are inching along, but a hiccup yesterday almost sent the progress in reverse… ever heard of a” waiver of a conflict of interest?” …. I’ll get to that goofy concept in a minute ….. read on

        Here’s the weird story

         

     In case you lost track of the Air Show’s unusual history, here is a brief version…

     The yearly extravaganza, that brought millions of people to the beach each May to see acts like The Thunderbirds and The Blue Angels, was side-lined, due to fiscal matters, complaints from some citizens, and the added fact that the promoter of the event, Mickey Markoff, was caught on numerous occasions peeping into woman’s bedrooms in the middle of the night !

                                              
                                             peeping Mickey                                                

     The event left town for the last few years, but this year, the City Commission, under the leadership of my friend Mayor Jack “who doesn’t love a parade ?” Seiler, the event looks to be coming back.

     In addition to Seiler, much of the success in bringing back the event is due to one beach family.

                                       
                                           the Motwanis                                         

     Romala Motwani is the matriarch of the beach hotel family. Her husband Bob (deceased) and Romola are throw backs to the old days of Fort Lauderdale Beach. 

    
The Matwanis were there in the 1980’s, when college kids were busy throwing hotel washing machines in the swimming pools, and they are there still, trying to complete a multi million dollar Trump International Hotel !

     Ramola is one of a kind. You can find her serving on State Boards with the high munkity munks, and you can find her at a Citizen Volunteer Corp. effort, kneeling in the mud pulling weeds at a City Park.

     So on to the conflict.

     Today, the City Commission is entertaining contributing $100,000 to next year’s Air Sea event by paying for a portion of the City Police and Fire that will be required to staff the event.

     Ramola, and her son Dev, who have agreed to rescue the event, serve on two city boards. Ramola serves on the Beach Redevelopment Advisory Board
, or BRAB, and Dev is the Chair of the City’s Economic Development Advisory Board ( not called the EDAB for some reason?).

     Ramola has excused herself from any discussion on the BRAB, citing a conflict of interest. But City officials say her and son Dev still have a conflict of interest according to State Statutes. 

     But, the City was prepared to grant the Motwanis a waiver of conflict of interest!
     Two former beach area presidents were aghast. Steve Glassman called the waiver an “oxymoron”, and Fred Carlson e-mailed that maybe the beach should consider taking back their support for the event.

     The Motwanis had a smarter idea. I received an e-mail last night that the Motwanis would be resigning from their respective City Boards….. 

          no conflicts  … no waiver’s needed ! … gotta love those Motwanis!   
     

    

John Rodstrom/ term limits, and the book!

     
    
 I think you will enjoy this story …..

      ….  County Commissioner John Rodstrom  …..

         

    
Rodstrom’s the only County Commissioner who opposes term limits, and is the only Commissioner that says if his friend Bill Scherer can get them overturned at the Florida Supreme Court, he might ignore the will of the people, and go ahead and run for another term anyhow.

     I’ve been talking to Rodstrom, trying to convince him to change his mind, but not really getting anywhere   … so …. 

     this crazy thing happened this morning !

     I decided to take John a book by well known conservative George F. Will, called “Restoration“. The book is George Will’s convincing case for Term Limits.  

     Rodstrom used to be head of the Young Republicans, so I figured he might give Will’s book a look.

     I drove down to the County building, put a quarter in the meter, and checked in with the guard.

                  

      I showed him the book, and he said, that’s good, that’s good, and handed me my entry badge.

     I walked up to the County Commission hallway, usually jammed with lobbyists, but empty this morning. I figured that meant no Commissioners were home.

     I took this picture in case Rodstrom wasn’t in to take the book.

                 

     I was right, John wasn’t in. I left the book with the desk, and asked that they get it to Rodstrom.

     I went to work.

     When I stopped home for lunch, a package was in front of my door, delivered by Comet Delivery Services, hand delivered

     Yep, it was the book. And a letter from the County Attorney!

                  

     …..
the letter is signed by Joni Armstrong Coffey, County Attorney.

     It says “Vice Mayor Rodstrom has made the decision not to accept such gifts“!

     It goes on to say that “leaving an item at the front desk… would not constitute acceptance of an offered gift”.

     I’m almost speechless   ….. almost!





   

Rodstrom … Wyman …. hmmmm…

     It came as quite a surprise to me, probably most.

    

     Scott Wyman, long time, solid political reporter for the Sun-Sentinel, has done a total change-up, and instead of reporting on the doings of Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom, he’ll soon be working as her personal aide!

 

     Rodstrom is by most accounts a tough boss. She might also be the hardest working Commissioner. Leaders in her District aren’t surprised to get calls and e-mails late into the evenings and on weekends, and she seems to have burned through assistants like cord wood!

      And now Wyman will be signing on as her fourth assistant in 6 years.

     Her first assistant was Amber Van Buren, who now works as a manager at Art Serve. When Van Buren left, rumors circulated that Van Buren would talk about bad feelings with Rodstrom, but that never came about.

     Then there was Paul Falcone.



     Falcone was a former teacher of Rodstrom’s son John at St. Thomas Aquinas. Falcone only lasted months, and the rumors of a stormy employment relationship surfaced again. I called Falcone then, who told me to call him in a “a few weeks” after things cooled down, but he wouldn’t ever take my call after that.

     Then came Neesa Warlen. 
 
     The Warlen appointment drew some criticism due to the high salary she was paid by Rodstrom. Warlen made over $70,000 per year, while Mayor Seiler and the other Commissioners pay their aides in the $60,000 range.

     Warlen lasted a few years, and I’ve only heard that she is leaving to “spend more time with her family”.

     Wyman is a true professional, and a good catch by Rodstrom. I had a short conversation with him today, and he sounds really excited – ready for a new adventure! …

    I bet it will be one!
    

1 Robber – 2 Robber – 3 Robber 4!

     Let’s start off with a Granny update.
 
     She’s apparently in hiding. 

     If you’ve been following this story, Granny refused to be a victim last week, and pulled her own pistol on some robbers trying to rob her at this Liquor Fountain liquor store, Dixie Highway and NE 13th Street.
 


    

     The Cops want to find Granny and see if she can help them find all the robbers, but the Cops can’t seem to find Granny! ….

     I got a call last week saying Granny “might” be afraid of coming forward, “might” be afraid she’d be charged with something if she came forward. Says I should check on that and he’d call me back. 

     Well, the FLPD says she’s a victim, no way would she be charged with anything, but as one blog commenter said ” remember Bernard Goetz, and the subway shooting in New York?”

     Point well taken

     Anyhow, it turns out that this isn’t the first robbery at the glow in the dark orange Liquor Fountain on Dixie, or at all the other Liquor Fountains around the City, for that matter!…. 

     On June 12th, 2011, this robber, pictured below, ran inside the Dixie Fountain with a gun demanding money, but exited quick when the owner of this store pulled up his bigger gun and ran the robber down the street!


                                  
                                     29 year old Hutch Benjamin – busted

     Turns out Hutch had robbed another Liquor Fountain on West Sunrise on June 14th, 2011, and another Liquor Fountain on NW 19th Street on May 12, 2011 !

     Here’s at least part of Hutch’s rap sheet.

Charges
812.13-2A COC TO ROBBERY (ATT) W/F/ARM/D/W AWTG CAPIAS ROBBERY/FIREARM
784.045-1A-2 COC TO AGG BATTERY GRT/BOD/HRM AWTG CAP AGGRAVATED BATTERY W/DEADLY WEAPON
784.03-1A1 TOUCH OR STRIKE/BATTERY
784.021-1A(C) FLPD***11-66933 AGG ASSAULT W/FIRE ARM
775.0845(2 #1152907 WEAR MASK WHILE COMMITTING 2 DEG FEL

     Seems as though Hutch has a penchant for robbing Liquor Fountains!

     Wonder if Granny cured him of that last week ?

Update…. Granny Good Shot !

     The Cops found at least one of the robbers that tried to rob Granny Good Shot this weekend in the Fort Lauderdale neighborhood of Middle River Terrace.

 
They found the robber in Broward General Hospital with three gunshot wounds!

     Turns out, Granny’s a better shot than we knew!

                                   

     The area wants Granny to come forward. They plan on bestowing an award on her for protecting herself ( and the community), and for sending a message to the dark side that ….

               .… we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore !

     …. in addition, the neighborhood has a one hundred dollar gift certificate for Granny to Outdoor World, so she can re-up her ammunition supply!

    

Pistol Packin Granny Wanted !

       As reported to me by the area’s President



     It happened a few days ago at the Liquor Fountain, (voted most gaudy looking liquor store in the city), at the intersection of Dixie Highway and NE 13th Street.



     The Fort Lauderdale Police only have it listed, so far,  as “multiple shots fired”, everyone gone by the time they got there, but here is what the locals say happened last Friday morning, and why they’d like to find Granny and give her an award or something!






             



     A “gang” of hoodlums pulls up in the front parking lot of this liquor store, and jump from their “gold colored Dodge“.



     They immediately pull a pistol and ask a granny, who was in the lot, pushing her grandchild in a stroller, for “her money”.



     Instead of giving them her money, granny reaches in her purse, pulls out a pistol, and starts firing round after round at the thugs ( 5 shots heard) .



     All the stores and offices around rush to the windows to see what the hell is going on as the thugs run for cover, dash back in the Dodge, speed away.



     Granny reportedly yelled ( are you feeling lucky?) as they sped away ( OK, I made that part up, but the rest is true)..



     Go Granny Go !