Mayoral Candidate Steve Rossi – he’s looking at you !

     He’s Steve Rossi, and he’s a member of an elite club; “Candidates for Fort Lauderdale Mayor” . There are two others besides Steve that are already declared, Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson and Representative Jack Seiler.  And at least two others are exploring getting in the race, local businessman Earl Rynerson, and former City Commissioner John Aurelius.

     Steve would be one of the relatively total unknowns in this mayoral race, if it weren’t for bus benches, bus shelters and billboards . As you see here, Steve’s serious looking mug is staring at us daily at any number of intersections around the City, the County, even the State. His firm estimates that his likeness resides in over 100 locations, including billboards as far away as Sebring and Key West. It’s a big part of his marketing strategy for his Law Firm, and Rossi figures it might just serve his mayoral efforts as well.

                        


                                 
    
      And Rossi will need the additional exposure, and more, as the other two declared candidates are very well known politicos. Undaunted, Rossi says that might be a positive for him, as the country “seems to be in a mood for change”.
 
     I spoke with Steve by phone yesterday in a tightly scheduled phone conference. He appears extremely organized and disciplined, and apologized for calling 11 minutes late. He schedules his day like a surgeon, and stopped a few times during the interview to leave himself reminders to check on issues that we talked about.

     But with all the structure, Steve isn’t all that opinionated. He say’s he likes meeting people and “asking them what they think”. He says he is a “sponge” for information. 

     He has formed an opinion on current Mayor Jim Naugle, (who hasn’t ?). He says that he doesn’t know him personally, but that ” it would be nice to have a mayor that doesn’t create controversy”. On City Manager Gretsas, he says he doesn’t know enough yet to comment.

     Steve says he is starting his campaign in earnest soon, and expects to be at all the usual forums, where citizens will actually be able to put a voice to the bus bench pictures!

     
    

Big Beach Buildings … Part II

     Last weeks’ unanimous vote by the Fort Lauderdale City Commission for the new beachfront mega-hotel  “Ocean Wave”,  has many of the citizens wondering just what is going on. The picture is starting to get a little clearer.

     The unanimous vote seemed odd due to the “Read My Lips”  declarations of at least three of the Commissioners that the days of approvals for such buildings were over. Mayor Naugle and Commissioners Teel and Rodstrom had run on anti-beachfront development platforms and won their elections handily for doing so.

     When I wrote about that inconsistency last week, folks inside the beach’s political structure called and wrote to help me understand. They say that to find out why politicians change their minds, go peek at the minds of their bosses, John Q. Public.

     Some beachfolk tell me that the Central Beach Alliance is trying to change their image. The organization has been known for years for their fierce stands against beach high-rises, although nearly all of their members live in beach high-rises. Some told me that the souring economy has many worried that the progress made in removing the decrepid buildings of yesteryear on the beach will ACTUALLY STOP !

     Then their are the cynics! One beach condo leader tells me that the changes in opinions are more sinister. He says that the supreme leader, Steve Glassman, has his eye on political office himself and is making nice with the development community to help him in a future run. Glassman has been spotted dining with at least one local developer. Glassman says he is amused and flattered.  The same insider postulated that there may be others within the organization with “undeclared interests”

     May the games begin!

Big Beach Hotels Now OK ?

     The times, they are a-changin!

    
It was just a few years ago today, Mayor Naugle and his crew vote nay…
     The big hotels were out of style, they guaranteed they’re gone awhile…

     But it’s introduced to them and they say, a big new hotel, we say YEA!…
     We’re  Mayor Naugle’s Big Giant Hotel Band !!! ………
                          …………………………………..

     But all goofiness aside, the days of raucous Public Hearings about proposed new Beach hotels might be over.

     Here are a few of the comments from the three vote anti-redevelopment majority a few years back;

     Teel: “another example of another building on too small a lot …10 lb.s of sugar in a 5 lb. can …..  
      and, “I think were are going to regret jamming on these buildings along the waterfront…..            
 
     Rodstrom: If you’re a developer, I’m not your candidate…..
     and “I’ll fight the greedy developer”……

     Naugle: I heard a clear message during the campaign, I can’t support going forward…

     
     But t
his week all five members of the City Commission voted in favor of a new beach mega-hotel, the Ocean Wave. The Wave needed special votes to approve it, because it’s length (325 ft.) and height (245 ft.) exceeded beach development rules.
            
                  
                                  artist’s rendering of Ocean Wave
                    

    Here are the comments from the Commission before their affirmative vote this week on the Ocean Wave;

    NO COMMENTS ! ……  looks like the times, they are a-changin……..

Activist Gone Wild !

                                    Politics 101, Subsection 2, Line 4 :

                There are some activists that you should try and never piss off! 

     And today, for City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson, that basic rule of political survival is being tested by a man named Cal Deal. Deal is a long time neighborhood activist that has made a mission out of stopping Hutchinson’s current mayoral run. Deal’s antipathy towards Hutchinson began years ago, when Deal says Hutchinson “played dumb, misled, and tried to cover up her involvement” when a local businessman got permission to turn a City green median into a parking area that would benefit his organization. And it’s just gone downhill from there.

     Deal has a website solely devoted to the demise of Hutchinson. He says he is just  “waiting for her to drop out of the City’s mayoral race”. 

     Today Deal added the following video to his website, which shows Commissioner Christine Teel publicly accusing someone on the Commission [Hutchinson] of violating their new ethics law.

                        
                                   to see the video ….. click here –                          http://www.fortlauderdaleobserver.com/#youtube

     
     Deal says he is not letting up, and by the looks of his website, FortLauderdaleObserver.com, it appears that is so. Hutchinson Campaign Manager Stephen Gaskill, is reported to not be concerned with Deal and his antics. But for Hutchinson – yikes! –  that’s got to hurt.


                                                                                                                                       










                     

Happy Jack!

     Politicians running for Elected Office usually have some good weeks, some not so good. For State Representative and Fort Lauderdale Mayoral Candidate Jack Seiler, last week was a dandy!
                    
                         
                                          Happy Jack!

     Mostly, Seiler’s good fortune came at the expense of his chief rival in the Mayor’s race, City Commissioner Cindy Hutchinson.  Hutchinson took a political bruising last week when fellow Commissioner Christine Teel announced at a Commission meeting that she had proof that one of her colleagues was guilty of breaking their new Ethics Law, and that colleague turned out to be Hutchinson.        

     The resulting flap, played out in the blogs (see previous posts here), and then the local newspapers, set Hutchinson’s campaign back to a still undetermined spot.     

     Enter Seiler. While the Hutchinson scandal was roiling, Seiler was in Tallahassee doing the people’s business, far away from the local trenches. Seiler entered the Mayoral race last month, but announced that he will not begin his campaign until the current session of the Legislature is finished.
     
     Seiler has been gaining local notoriety by being recognized as the only member of the House of Representatives to vote against moving up the ill-fated Florida Presidential  Primary. It was House Bill 537, cast last year, and the result was 115-1, with Seiler being the lone no vote. At the time, Seiler was quoted as saying  “Florida doesn’t need [the] Presidential Primary to be moved up to be relevant, we’re already the four largest State”. Since then, Florida has been penalized for the move, with no clear way forward. This surely will play out as being one of the best moves of Seiler’s State Political career.

     The Mayoral race in Fort Lauderdale will take place early in 2009. There are currently three contestants; Seiler, Hutchinson, and local lawyer Steve Rossi, who is relatively unknown except for the hundred or so bus bench ads that beam his image. Local businessman Earl Rynerson has opened an exploratory committee, and former City Commissioner John Aurelius is said to be also eyeing a run. Many pundits expect the race to get even more crowded.

     Seiler should relish last weeks’ good news. It most probably put him in the  “front runner position”. And it’s well known that political front runners have some good weeks, some not so good!


Crackhead Crackdown Showdown Update !

     The substantial criminal records of the men who yesterday received a restraining order from Judge Julio E. Gonzalez Jr. against a Poinsettia Heights man, were obtained today by Tim Smith’s Fort Lauderdale. 
 
      They are sometimes called the Railroad Track Gang, not so lovingly, by residents in the four neighborhoods surrounding NE 13th Street in Fort Lauderdale. They have been holding up in makeshift campsites along the RR tracks, and some are suspect in the areas’ recent surge in crimes. They had complained to the Public Defenders Office that local businessman and artist Steve Sticht, had chased them with a chainsaw, posted wanted posters of them, and threatened to kill them. Sticht, a member of one of the area’s anti-crime committees, says that is “all bull”, that he just cut down one of their many campsites, dubbed “Camp Crackhead”, after authorities were either unable or unwilling to accomplish it. 

               Here are the  men and some highlights of their rap sheets:

                                

                                 Steven Charles Newton (42)
                                             a.k.a. “Shorty”
                         
                                           
Multi State Offender
                                 Total Felony Charges – 15
                                 Total Felony Convictions – 5 
                                 Total Misdemeanor Charges – 9
                                 Total Misdemeanor Convictions – 2
                                 Total Failure to Appear – 3  
                                 Total Incarcerations – 5
     ( charges include Burglary, Larceny, Cocaine Possession, Resisting Arrest, Cocaine-Sell, Trespassing,among others)

                                     
                                      
                                                Michael Scarola (39)
                                             a.k.a. – Michael Carpece, 
                                                        – Cross Eyed Mike

                                             
Multi-State Offender
                                     Total Felony Charges – 11
                                     Total Felony Convictions – 6
                                     Total Misdemeanor Charges – 20
                                     Total Misdemeanor Convictions – 11
     ( charges include Burglary, Larceny, Cocaine Possession, Lewd/Lasciv, Prostitution, Trespassing, Shoplifting, Resisting Arrest, Drugs Sell, among others. 

                                            
                                               

                               
      
                              &nb
sp;                James Earl Brown (38)
            
                                               
Total Felony Charges – 7
                                       Total Felony Convictions – 3
                                       Total Misdemeanor Charges – 4
                                       Total Misdemeanor Convictions- 0   
                                       Total Failure to Appear – 5
                                       Total Incarcerations – 0
     (charges include Burglary, Larceny, Fraud, Cocaine Possession, Cocaine-Distr, Trespassing, among others)           

                                  
                                       
                                   Terry Dwayne Hampton (41)

                                          Total Felony Charges – 2
                                          Total Felony Convictions – 1

        (charges include Cocaine Possession, Drug Equip, Trespassing)

     
These men have a Protective Order in place against Sticht, which orders him to stay away from their residence, which in this case we assume means “Camp CrackHead” on the FEC Railroad line! Another hearing is scheduled  on April 17.
 


                                          

Judge Orders Protection for Neighborhood Crackheads !

      Broward County Judge Julio E. Gonzalez Jr.,  Monday, ordered Court Protection for a Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods’ known felons and crackheads.

     In a move that stunned neighborhoods that have been under siege from street criminals over many years, Judge Gonzalez, acting under the request of the Broward Public Defenders Office, ordered local business man and neighborhood crime fighter, Stephen Sticht, to stay away from the areas’ admitted drug addicts and suspected burglars.

     According to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper, some of the men he was ordered to stay away from had felony convictions for cocaine possession, prostitution, lewd and lascivious conduct, burglary and grand theft.  The Judge also ordered Sticht to “surrender any weapons that he had to Law Enforcement”. Sticht was accused by the felons of “posting wanted posters ” of them, chasing them with a chainsaw, and threatening to kill them. Sticht denies all of the felons’ allegations. Sticht says he used his chainsaw to decimate the “crackhead camp” that they had built along the RR tracks. Sticht’s neighborhood, and those surrounding it, had experienced a marked increase in burgularies, (homes and cars), as well as many other crimes since the encampment arrived. City Officials had not been successful in eliminating it.
      
   


                                               

                                                                      the brochure

    
On Tuesday night, at the Council of Civic Associations monthly meeting, (an advocacy group that fights for neighborhoods), Judge Gonzalez had operatives handing out his reelection brochures. Some in attendance, keenly aware of Gonzalez’s ruling earlier in the day, were drawn to the last line of his brochure that claimed he was “devoted to family and community”. One attendee was overheard asking, “is that the criminal community, or our community”. 

     A formal hearing on the matter is tentatively scheduled for April 17th, where many in the affected neighborhoods hope that the Judge will decide that he is devoted to the law-abiding members of their neighborhoods, not the criminals.

    

Another Commission – District 4 Candidate !

      His name is Romney Rogers, age 55.

     And he filed papers today to run for the open Commission seat in District IV, being vacated by the term-limited Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson, who is running for Mayor. Rogers had originally toyed with the idea of jumping in the Mayoral race also, but settled on the District IV Commission seat instead. District IV is the area of the City that covers most of the Downtown, the southern most portion of the beach, the 17th Street corridor and other areas south. 

     Rogers is new to Politics, but his family is not. Romney’s grandfather came to the area in 1925, and was one of the first Congressional Representatives for the Fort Lauderdale area. His uncle Paul also served in Congress. Rogers is a local lawyer who lives in Rio Vista, just down the street from the current Mayor Jim Naugle.

     The District IV race has been expected to be crowded, as open seat races generally are, but so far the only other candidate in the race is another local lawyer, Coleman Prewitt ( see a previous post on him).    

     Rogers says he is getting in the race because “he loves Fort Lauderdale”, and figures it’s his time to give back. He said he feels some “overwhelming excitement” today, but knows he will have “alot on his plate” in the coming months. He says he is prepared for a vigorous campaign, where he expects to have to raise gads of money and meet thousands.
 
     Rogers has a solid background in the City, having been the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, member of the Historic Preservation Board, member of the Police Pension Board, and a past President of Stranahan House Inc.. When asked if he thought the decade long fight by Stranahan House to stop the Icon Condominium from being built next to the Stranahan House was over, he replied “I hope not”.  

     On other issues, he says the City Commission should be “sensitive to market conditions” when considering how to end the Police Contract stalemate. One of the main barriers to a contract is that Fort Lauderdale Police are amongst the lowest paid Cops in the County, and many are leaving our force for other Police jurisdictions. He says he “likes the City Manager personally” and thinks he is “trying hard”.          

     Asked about his long time friendship with Mayor Naugle, and whether he holds the same views that have made the Mayor nationally infamous, Rogers said “Jim is his own person, but the bottom line is a Commissioner is there to serve all the people, and respect all the people”, and Rogers even quoted the Bible, saying ” respect everyone, love the brotherhood….. but fear God”.

PostageGate Update

     She did do it !

   
I just got off the phone, (again), with City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson. She called to apologize to me for lying during our phone call this morning, and was about to come clean to the press. 
  
     She is guilty of the infraction of using the taxpayer’s money to mail campaign literature after all. The allegation by fellow Commissioner Christine Teel is true, and Hutchinson, just minutes ago, sent out the following statement.


For Immediate Release                                              Contact: Stephen Gaskill
Thursday, April 3, 2008                                                      

                              STATEMENT OF CINDI HUTCHINSON

There has been an allegation that an envelope with materials regarding my Mayoral campaign was sent from City Hall and then returned because of an addressing error. I am issuing this statement to set the record straight and apologize for this mistake– I used a city envelope, label and about $4.00 in postage for my campaign needs. I am sorry that some may have the perception that I didn’t live up to the standards that have characterized my eight years as a City Commissioner. Throughout my tenure as a City Commissioner I have prided myself on the trust that our residents and those working in the Commission office have felt towards me and I have always focused on providing positive leadership for our City. This momentary lapse of judgement underscores my commitment to work harder to retain the trust of our citizens. I am sorry, and this will not happen again.


     I’m pretty mad and disappointed that Hutchinson lied to me this morning, particularly knowing that I was about to share it with you. I can say that I am not going to guage her entire political career on this one misjudgement, but what will ultimately be more important to Hutchinson is what the voters think. 

PostageGate !


                              Did she do it? She says unequivocally no !

    
Things are deteriorating at City Hall. The City Commission, devoid of any leadership since Mayor Naugle went insane some years back, is left with a disjointed group of Commissioners, following the beat of their own drummers.


  
                                    

      Some of them despise one another, and that played out last week when Commissioner Christine Teel dropped a bombshell during a City Commission meeting, accusing Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson of mailing campaign flyers for her Mayoral campaign from City Hall, using taxpayer money. Doing so would not only be an infraction of the law (currently punishable by a $100. fine under the City’s new ethics law), but a giant bonehead move that would seriously undermine her current political endeavors.

     I talked to Hutchinson today at some length and she says it didn’t happen, at least she didn’t do any such mailing, and that she “is on it”. 

     What I’ve been able to find out, (which has been tough with the top-secrecy surrounding the issue), is that an envelope did appear in the City Commission offices, returned due to a bad address, and inside were Hutchinson for Mayor flyers, originally sent out of that office.

     This is where it gets dicey.

     No one will say where the secret envelope is. Seems to me the investigative process would start with the Department of Professional Regulation which has been completely “mum” on the issue, citing confidentiality clauses. Noone there would even state whether their office was involved in such an investigation, whether they had heard about the issue, even if they had ever seen a stamp!

     Some things are certain to me. Evil things do happen in Politics. When I first ran for City Commissioner in 1997, I was blackmailed and told to get out of the race or else. Florida Department of Law Enforcement, secret wiretappings, and an arrest of a sitting City Commissioner for Felony Extortion resulted (read the best seller Politics 101, I was Robbed, Mugged, Blackmailed, and Ignored, So I Got Elected and Made a Difference, available at Border Books or directly from me!), so I personally know how nasty it can get.

     So that gets me back to Hutchinson. When she told me without hesitation that she did not do it, I strongly encouraged her to go to the State’s Attorney’s Office and demands an independent investigation into political dirty tricks. I hope she shouts from the roof of City Hall that she is innocent, take a polygraph if neccessary, scream that she is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. 

     Any less will have me wondering.