Raising Bridges !

     It’s the bridge that crosses the Middle River on Sunrise Boulevard in between Border’s Books and Keno Jewelers. Some of the people want the government to raise it higher. Other’s want it raised even higher! Some even want a drawbridge. 

     At a meeting held tonight at the Gallery One (the old Doubletree Hotel at the Intracoastal on Sunrise), not a contrary opinion to raising the height of the bridge could be found. About 60 people wandered around a meeting room looking at charts and drawings and sitting at tables writing opinions that would be turned into the authorities.


                                                                The Bridge

     John Fiore, County Planner (and former Mayor of Wilton Manors) who was answering questions at the meeting, summed up the crowds’ reactions perfectly; ” if it’s built higher, seems as everyone will walk away with a smile.” 

     It seemed the only question left unanswered at the meeting was “how high?”.
Most in the room seemed to think that it should be able to be raised to at least the height of the N. Federal Highway Bridge, which is some 6 feet or better higher than the Sunrise Bridge. This would allow much bigger boats to reach homes in Coral Ridge, Bal Harbour, and on to the City of Wilton Manors. Fiore estimated that a 32′ boat, without radar, could then clear the bridge at high tide.

     A petition was circulated by some that the bridge should be converted to a drawbridge, which would allow boats of unlimited heights up the river. The petition read “think positive, think progressive, replace the bridge with a drawbridge.” Only about 12 people had signed that petition. 

     One drawback? The Florida Department of Transportation has only budgeted about $8 million to repair the bridge, and a total replacement would be much more expensive. Better bring a paddle if you want to be upriver anytime soon!

Obama Support Growing ?

     Up until now, the Maytag Repairman has been getting more action in Fort Lauderdale than the leading Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama.
     There has been lots of examples of how weak his support has been. In the Presidential Primary in January in Broward, Hillary Clinton whooped Obama 57% to 32%. And in the grassroots efforts, things have not been much better. Take the Obama House Parties, (events at supporters houses to spur support for Obama). To say they have been lightly attended is probably an understatement. “Let’s just say we had lots of leftover meatballs”, said Cindy Smith, wife of mine and an Obama supporter who helped host an Obama Party last month.

      But now that it’s beginning to look like Obama may be the inevitable nominee for the Democrats, things are beginning to shift. The County is still a strong Clinton County, and Fort Lauderdale one of the Clintonest parts of it, but many of the Party leaders are either announcing their support for Obama, or are now declaring that they are prepared to get behind him should he be the nominee.     
               Commissioner Ritter speaking at her brunch for Obama

     The Broward Obama support is being loosely led by the dynamic duo of County Commissioner Stacy Ritter and her Tallahassee lobbyist husband, Russ Klenet. Ritter and Klenet were bit by the Obama bug last year, and have traveled to many States to work for the Obama for President primary battles. Most recently, they sponsored a well attended Sunday morning brunch at their swanky home in Parkland.

     The brunch drew about 50 from around the County, and included many Broward notables, including fellow County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, and leaders from Margate, Lauderdale Lakes, Fort Lauderdale, Coral Springs, and other Broward Cities. Also supporting Obama are Coral Springs’ Mayor Scott Brook and Commissioner Roy Gold, Lauderhills’ Commissioners Bates, Holness, and Benson, Lauderdale Lakes’ Levoyd Williams, Oakland Parks’ Murphy, State Reps. Thurston, Jenne, Waldman, and Gibbons, and infamous local attorneys Mitchell Berger and George Platt.

      The Broward County Commission is said to boast at least four Obama supporters; Ritter, Jacobs, Keechl, Lieberman and possibly more. The Fort Lauderdale City Commission has only one Commissioner supporting Obama, Commissioner Carlton Moore. Mayor Naugle has been a supporter of Huckabee, Rodstrom has been a big supporter of Clinton, Hutchinson hasn’t decided yet and Teel didn’t reply to an inquiry.


Another Mayoral Candidate ?

                                             Meet the Colonel


                   U.S. Air Force  Lieutenant Colonel Earl Rynerson (Ret.), thinking he may want to be the next Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, to be exact.

     Rynerson, 55, has been exploring the possibility of adding his name to the growing list of Mayoral candidates. He started by sending out his extensive resume  to all the City’s Neighborhood Presidents, and meeting with the local leaders that responded.  

     His biggest shortfall? Nobody knows who he is!

     Though Rynerson admits that’s so, he isn’t bothered by the detail. He points to his successful military career, (Desert Storm Veteran), his well documented successes in the business world, and his service in San Francisco as a ranking member of the Human Rights and Social Services Commissions as proof that he’s got the right stuff.

     Rynerson has lived in Fort Lauderdale with his partner Michael since 2001. He started on the Las Olas Isles in Fiesta Way, then Seven Isles, and finally landed in Victoria Park, where he has started an anti-crime watch program in response to the recent violent crime there. He says he has spent most of the last seven years getting his business, Clad Tile and Stone, profitable, and now that that’s been accomplished,  he’s ready to jump in and get the City going in the right direction. 

     He says he “has an itch” to run for Mayor, and has been deeply troubled by the direction the City has taken. He calls the current Mayor, Jim Naugle, “nut-job Naugle”, and says the City is in serious need of an “image polishing”. Rynerson believes that the first job of a Mayor should be to “make people proud of their City”. He also says the Mayor should be the Spokesman for the City, build consensus, and be a mouthpiece for a diverse City.

     Rynerson is no wallflower, and was embroiled in some controversies in San Francisco while serving as a Mayoral appointment to the Social Services Commission. He was chastised by Homeless Advocates when he called for reduced welfare payments to the Homeless, calling the stipend “drug and alcohol allowances”. He shows his independence in other ways as well, as evidenced by him forming his own Political Party, calling it the Leadership Party.  

     He  has formulated some opinions on City issues, though he says he wants to meet with many citizens and their groups for imput. He’s troubled by what he sees as an inflated budget, but is also concerned that the Police are not resourced enough. He says any City employee jobs that pay over $200,000 a year “would be suspect”. On growth and redevelopment, he says he thinks redevelopment in the right spots are good, and he singles out the Sistrunk corridor and the Riverwalk as areas that could use help. He says the Riverwalk area has begun to “look crappy”. 

     Rynerson says he will make a solid decision on whether to run in a couple more months. When asked about the substantial opposition he will face if he gets in, he says, in what appears to be his forthright manner, “we don’t need another carreer Politician for Mayor of Fort Lauderdale”.

     Looks like it could be an interesting year for Fort Lauderdale. 

Police / City Management War Escalates

     The unsuccessful attempts of the City Commission to reach a contractual agreement with the Fraternal Order Of Police has blood boiling throughout the Department and consequences for the City. 

      The Police, who have been working without a contract since last year, have taken their frustration to levels not seen since the early 1990’s, when work slow downs and  major morale problems caused the City to reach the ominous title of “the Most Crime Ridden City in America”.

     The fight has now centered around City Manager George Gretsas and David Hebert, an Assistant City Manager charged with overseeing the Police. Gretsas and Hebert do not have the authority to end the contract impasse, that job falls squarely with  Mayor Naugle and his City Commission. But the FOP has targeted the City’s Management over the stalemate, claiming unfair labor practices, intimidation, and officious interference with their duties. Last week, the rank and file held a nearly unanimous “No Confidence” vote on the City’s Management.

                                  Cops in Happier Times
     Some of the signs of the ensuing battles of the war:

     1.) A chart, showing the pay increases of the Manager and his command staff compared to rank and file Police Officers, being circulated throughout the community – 

Name          Last year’s Pay       This year’s Pay         Increase

Gretsas        $294,399.00         $315,210.00           7.07%
Scott            $202,846.00        $213,183.00           5.10%
Gunn            $198,902.00        $213,019.00            7.10%
Hebert          $191,584.00        $209,257.00           9.23%
Roberts         $192,292.00        $205,850.00           7.05%

Police Officers   from 2003          This Year          Per Year
                               $60,216.00            $63,897.00          1.22%
      2.) and more telling, some of the sharpest of vitriol showing up on a Law Enforcement Chat Blog (LeoAffairs.com) from some Officers about the Police Brass and City Management…..

     on Police Chief Roberts …. ” The chief was not considered since we consider him garbage and the anti Christ “

     on Assistant Police Chief Carter …. ” He hides behind a little gay man and licks his shoes”

     on Assistant Manager Hebert ….

 “David H repeatedly reinforced the philosophy of don’t let the door hit you on the way out. His condescending attitude spread like stage 4 cancer and he cannot be told anything. He was one of the main reasons I left.”

      It’s time to settle these disputes, resolve the Contract, and get back to solving the problems that face the City. Who will step up and lead?



Blacks and Whites in Fort Lauderdale

     The Nation is talking about race. The talk has been generated due to the possibility of the first African-American President, or more accurately, the first Mulatto President (Senator Obama’s father was Black and his mother White).

     And talking about race is important, and uncomfortable. We baby boomers grew up in an America where the color of one’s skin did matter. We still remember the race riots of the 1960’s, the assassination of Dr. King, and forced busing.

     On the other hand, there is no question that the Country has come a long way since then. There are the most obvious signs: it is no longer socially acceptable to utter racial epithets, (the “N” word has been erased from usable public language), and most folks now disregard bigots and racists. And there are the more substantial improvements, such as more attention to inner-city schools, and better opportunities of upward mobility for Blacks.

     So all this got me thinking about our town, and how much progress we have made in the issue of the racial divide. And it led me to the map below. It describes the demographic make-up of our City – by geography.

     It shows that though we may have made progress in disregarding color as important to the judging of one’s character, we still don’t live together.

     This is a map of the City.

     The darkest area in the map is where most of the Blacks in Fort Lauderdale live. Those boundaries are basically west of Federal Highway, between Broward Blvd. and Sunrise Blvd., and run to the City’s western border at US 441. Some of the neighborhoods in this section are 90% or more Black. 

     The lightest areas on the map have the fewest concentration of Black citizens. Many of these neighborhoods are as much as 95% or more White. The medium shades on the map are diverse to some degree, but generally are either predominately Black, or predominately White. 

     Does it matter? ….Will it change over time?…. Does it need to? ….I’m curious what you think. 

Reviewing the City Charter ? …Maybe !

     What does this Thursday’s Fort Lauderdale Charter Review Board meeting and a train wreck have in common? 
     Hopefully nothing, say most members of this highly important City Advisory Board. But many members are concerned about the prospect for success, considering the Board’s membership, the wide range of issues that it could face, and the question of whether the Commission will even take their recommendations they might reach seriously.

      The Board is charged with reviewing the Charter, a document that spells out all the rules for the structure of running the City. Thursday, it could discuss, among other items, moving the City’s Elections to November to coincide with the country’s Presidential Elections. This would increase the length of the Commissioners’ and Mayors’ terms from three to four years. Other items being mentioned in the community include adding at-large Commissioners to the dais, adding a Commissioner to represent the Beach, changing to a Strong Mayor form of government, and allowing the Mayor and Commissioners to directly hire and/or fire the Police and Fire Chiefs.

     The Board will finally meet Thursday, after meetings were postponed due to members’ schedules. The Mayor and Commissioners each have one appointee. The Charter Board, like most of the City’s Boards, is advisory in scope, as it’s conclusions and recommendations can be accepted or rejected by the City Commission.

     Here is the type AAA roster of the Board –

     Dan Lewis – is one of the County’s most well known Political Consultants. He was a Commissioner in Miramar and a former Fort Lauderdale Mayoral candidate. He says he is “not optimistic” about the Board’s chance of success. He says the Commission will “do whatever it wants to do, regardless of any work done by the Committee”. Lewis, considered a probable Chair or Vice Chair of the committee, due to his stature and experience, says he intends on reintroducing the recommendations that the Commission ignored the last time the Board met. The previous Board sent the Commission a list of 19 suggestions, and at least three items were adopted: a City Code of Ethics, an independent Auditor, and the ability of City Commissioners to appoint there own assistants.

     Judy Stern – Probably the County’s most infamous political strategist, is widely expected to lock horns with Lewis. The two have history together – not at all good. Their relationship has been called a “political blood feud” , as evidenced by Judy’s comment on Dan… “Dan is a Madman”. and Dan’s comment on Judy …”Judy is trying to sell out the City”. Hopefully, this history will not portend the fireworks that could be coming.
     Chris Fertig – one half of the City’s power team of Chris and Mary Fertig, became famous when the duo wrestled the Broward County School Board into treating the eastern schools in Broward County better. He says he has “high hopes” that the Board can reach a consensus on some important issues. He thinks he can help keep the focus on progress. But when asked if he thinks the Commission will take their recommendations seriously, Fertig replied, “only if they agree with them!”. Fertig had floated the idea of a shift to a Strong Mayor form of government during the Board’s last effort, but said it was DOA. He doesn’t know if it will reemerge this time around.

     Susan Tramer – a former City of Fort Lauderdale Planning and Zoning Director, and Broward County Planning Council Director, is known as a reflective and bright policy wonk, and could be one of the calming influences on the Committee. She is married to Downtown Development Authority attorney John Milledge.

     Dr. Ron Wright – a former Broward County Medical Examiner, Forensic Pathologist and Attorney, has recently returned from India where he was testifying in a murder trial. The Board’s recent postponment was to accomodate Dr. Wright. He says he hopes the Board’s strong set of personalities won’t stall progress. He also said that the Board’s expected effort to endorse a November Municipal Election is “probably the right thing to do”. Asked to comment on the chances of the Board having a successful term, he said he hoped so, but that he didn’t know if he would be “holding his breath”.

     I’m taking the Doctors’ advice and continuing to breathe! ….



Nutty Naugle Cuckoo Countdown Clock

   just in case you missed it…
           an Editorial from the ………..

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

March 12 2008

ISSUE: Mayor Naugle an embarrassment again.

The Jim Naugle Countdown Clock should be ticking in earnest now.

        The Jim Naugle Countdown Cuckoo Clock
                         (363 Days and counting !)

On March 9, 2009, the mayor — we use the term very loosely — of Fort Lauderdale will be term limited out of his job. Good riddance to the man who has thoroughly shamed his city.

Naugle’s latest flap occurred last week, when his column in the city’s bi-monthly publication — paid for with taxpayer money — was discontinued. This was after his latest subject matter, men having sex in parks, continued a shameless harangue he has been on for quite some time, and upset some colleagues and residents.

Naugle, as is his wont, refused to apologize, simply stating he was angry about the column, too, because he wrote it in October when it was “timely.”

Earth to Naugle: your bile-spewing rants against one particular group in your city were never timely. They were only humiliating and insulting.

And that was never more true than last week, when the column came out just days after one gay person was killed and another was beaten in Fort Lauderdale. Naugle wasn’t to blame for those incidents, but he should have shown a little class by holding a press conference condemning the attacks in the strongest way possible.

Remember, this is a guy who was holding press conferences about once a week last summer, using any excuse for another rant about men having sex in park bathrooms. But he never bothered to publicly vent against the brutality against two citizens. That would have taken leadership. Silence is what we got. Very weak, but Naugle hasn’t given reason to expect more.

In case the mayor hasn’t noticed, Fort Lauderdale is a sophisticated city of over 150,000 — people of all races, ethnicities, and yes, sexual orientation. Sadly, he is the public face of that city.

Happily, it is March, 2008. The Countdown Clock is at under one year and counting.

BOTTOM LINE: Thankfully, only one more year of this !

First Candidate files for Cindi Hutchinson’s Commission Seat

     Today marks one year from Fort Lauderale’s first-ever City Election where term limits guarantee a new slate of characters. 

     The election will take place on March 11th, 2009. Term limits restrict the Mayor and Commissioners to (3) three-year terms. But the law was not retroactive, so this year finally retires Mayor Jim Naugle with 23 years on the City Commission, and Commissioner Carlton Moore with 20 years. Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson was voted in the year term limits became law, and is term limited at the nine years she has served. She is running for the Mayoral spot.

     So far, two candidates have filed to run for Mayor: Hutchinson and Representative Jack Seiler, a former Mayor of Wilton Manors, and currently a State Representative for District 92. Three candidates have filed to fill Moore’s seat. Yesterday, the first candidate to announce a run for Hutchinson’s seat got in the race.

                                     Coleman Prewitt

     The candidate is Coleman Prewitt, a 41 year-old lawyer and Downtown resident in the Las Olas Grande. Prewitt says he is jumping in after being “turned off by the current Commission,” and feeling that the City needs a new direction. He says he feels the City is at the “end of an era”, and looks forward to “taking the City into the future”.

     Others are expected to join him in the race for the open seat.

Commissioner Carlton Moore’s Replacement?

                               Meet Bobby DuBose

                                                  Bobby eating with Tim at Betty’s Soul Food
                                                    Restaurant on Sistrunk at N.W. 22 Road
        I met up with Bobby for breakfast recently. I wanted to find out for myself why there is a growing buzz surrounding his candidacy to replace Carlton Moore on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. Moore is term limited and running for a County Commission spot currently held by John Rodstrom.

     I came away thinking that there are good reasons for the buzz! I was impressed.

     First off, DuBose, 37, is easy to meet. He seems well grounded and comfortable in his own skin. He is self-employed as an insurance adjuster, and he points to his self- employment as a bonus ( it gives him the flexibility he’ll need to serve as a City Commissioner). He is married, and has a three year-old son (who he says is “going on seventeen”). He didn’t miss a beat when questioned on the issues facing the District and the City, and wasn’t afraid to admit that he didn’t know enough about an issue to comment. 

     DuBose’s civic background seems a bit limited, although he was a leader in the local branch of the NAACP, served on the City’s Marine Advisory Board, and has been active as a member of his Dorsey Riverbend neighborhood.

     His supporters make quite an impressive list. The support runs from Congressman Alcee Hastings, former State Representative Chris Smith, Representative Perry Thurston and  Representative Ari Porth, to Art Kennedy and Margaret Birch and a host of other well known names in the area.
      Also, in what could be a more telling show of support, the well known Downtown Lawfirm of Blosser & Sayfie  has scheduled a fundraiser for him at their Las Olas office.  Commissioner Carlton Moore is NOT on the list, but DuBose says that is due to Moore’s focus on his difficult race for the County Commission.

   Here is an array of issues with Bobby’s answers:

     TWO-LANING SISTRUNK BOULEVARD – DuBose says he is OK with the compromise making the road three lanes, as he felt it was more important to “get something done” than fight to the death for the two lanes.

     N.W. 7th AVENUE – SISTRUNK REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT – DuBose says that issue is a ‘hot one”, and feels that the “will of the people is not being addressed”, particularly in reference to the community’s insistence on a “decent” grocery store. Expect DuBose to revisit that issue if he is elected.

     POLICE ISSUES – DuBose says the community’s relationship with the Police “needs alot of work”, and that there is a “disconnect”. He says he will work hard to “bring the sides together”. He says that crime in the District is a “HUGE” concern of his, (he ‘s a skeptic of the City’s claim that there’s been less crime in the area), and says that he will organize more anti-crime walks in the community. He feels that there are “two sides” to the Police Contract dilemma, and that he would need more facts to know how it should be solved.

     CITY MANAGER Gretsas – He says that the “verdict is still out,” and that he has heard mixed reviews and wants to wait and judge the Manager’s performance for himself.

     GROWTH – DuBose is a proponent of Redevelopment, “especially in District III”. He says that we can’t be an “old dinosaur”. He points to a healthy tourism industry as a reason to continue to redevelop the beach and the downtown. 

     MAYOR Naugle’s GAY BASHING – does not agree with the Mayor on his position on the city’s gay population. 

      There are two other candidates who have filed to run for the District III seat, but neither one could be reached despite repeated attempts.

     One thing is for sure. DuBose will have some mighty big shoes to fill when Moore retires after 20 years representing District III. I’m suggesting a new gym membership and some training in boxing!

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