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Broward mayor Gunzburger isn’t a big fan of Gov. Rick Scott

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger delivered a longish report on the state of county government to the Broward Democratic Party.

She spoke to the Democrats’ monthly meeting Tuesday night in her role as mayor, the largely ceremonial post that’s akin to the county commission chairman in most places. The job makes her the public face of Broward County.

Her assessment was positive. “The state of the county, believe it or not, is very good,” she said.

A few highlights from her remarks, which you can watch in their entirety on the two videos:

The rising price of gasoline could have an impact on county government.
“I just filled my car today, and all of you have noticed how much the price of gas has increased in the last three weeks,” she said, noting the county has to buy fuel for its vehicle fleets, including buses.
“Any increase [in gas prices] that you see in your own budget affects the county budget as well, so that even if we have a flat year [in terms of tax income] it doesn’t mean we’ll be able to do everything that we’ve done this year in 2012. That’s just a warning.”

Skepticism about Gov. Rick Scott. Gunzburger referred to him as both, “That guy in Tallahassee that I did not elect” and as “the one without any hair.”
She said the governor’s pledge to create lots of jobs seemed to her to be all talk. The Democratic-controlled County Commission, according to Gunzburger, does create jobs.
She also mocked his pre-inauguration “listening tour” as something that didn’t seem to have much effect, suggesting the things he was hearing went in one ear and out the other.

Insight into Miami-Dade County’s attempt to tap Broward tourism taxes to help pay for renovations to Sun Life Stadium, the home of the Dolphins football team.
“They’re just using the stadium as a ruse. What they really want the money for is to fix up their convention center,” she explained, drawing wild applause when she said she’d never go along with diverting Broward tax money to Miami-Dade County.

Suggested the new ethics rules for local government — mandated by the voters — are so extensive the public will soon know everything but commissioners’ clothing size and weight.

Part two, below, on the continuation.

Broward Politics

Lobbyist watch: Husband of Broward Commissioner Ritter loses lobbying job with Sunrise

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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Staff writer Susannah Bryan has the following story today:

Russ Klenet, husband of Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter, lost his lobbying job with Sunrise to Ron Book in a special meeting Tuesday night.

Both men have lobbied for Sunrise at the state and local level for years.

Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan had questioned the $ 107,500 paid annually to Klenet and Book during budget hearings in September.

The city paid Klenet $ 65,000 a year excluding travel. Book has earned $ 42,500 a year excluding travel.

At Ryan’s suggestion, commissioners agreed to cut lobbying fees to $ 50,000 this year.

Broward Politics

Inspector general committee ready to pick watchdog for Broward

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 19-01-2011

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The group that will select Broward County’s first-ever anti-corruption chief will be meeting soon, and an executive search firm will help them find that perfect candidate.

I’ve reported on the somewhat troubled effort to even get a committee together to select and hire an inspector general. I’ll give you a sampling of memory refreshing links below. To sum it up, though: Some of the required participants refused to serve.

Who wants to be Broward’s new ethics cop?

On tap in 2011: a new anti-corruption inspector general for Broward

Broward hits concrete wall in effort to hire anti-corruption watchdog

Public defender Finkelstein finds someone who’s not ‘part of the corrupt culture’ for committee

Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry sent an e-mail to county commissioners on Sunday saying that the committee now has three members and that consitutes the necessary quorum for a meeting. When they convene in the near future, they’ll choose two more members.

Slavin Management Consultants has been picked to run the recruitment search.

As I said before, this inspector general will have subpoena powers and thus will be one of the most powerful appointed officials in Broward. This person will be doing nothing but looking at the elected officials on the County Commission and the city councils and city commissions in Broward, and the government employees, and looking for unethical behavior that violates the county’s new Code of Ethics.

I’ll post Henry’s full e-mail on the jump, as well as the full text of the charter provision describing the inspector general’s selection, tenure and duties.

Broward Politics

Broward political leaders mark Martin Luther King Jr. birthday

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 17-01-2011

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Updated at 11:08 a.m.

Statements from U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, about the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., are posted below on the jump.

Will update with others as they come in.

Broward Politics

Broward preservationists fight courthouse garage site

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 15-01-2011

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The working location for a new Broward County courthouse garage is not acceptable to historic preservationists in town, who are ready to stop it.

Broward County commissioners in December endorsed the site that was chosen by a selection committee, one of the first such committees that commissioners were not allowed to sit on, because of the new Code of Ethics. The site: the old Coca Cola bottling plant on South Andrews Avenue.

Click here for a memory refresher on this, and on Vice Mayor John Rodstrom’s effort to get this decision changed.

The project developer, Fort Lauderdale-based Stiles Corp., won the selection committee nod after promising to stay within budget — $ 29.5 million for a garage and covered walkway to the new courthouse. The two alternative sites: addition of new spaces on the existing courthouse (pink) parking garage and the other on property north of the Publix on South Andrews Avenue.

Libraries director Robert Cannon, who is now overseeing the county’s Historical Commission because of budget cuts and consolidations, warned county commissioners Thursday about the opposition to this site.

Read his email on the jump.

The Historical Commission passed a resolution last month expressing “serious … concerns” and calling the building “historic.” They said it is identified as a “local area of particular concern in the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

They also said it is “the oldest of two such Courtney Stewart designed buildings that remain in the entire state of Florida. The sister building located in Ocala was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in October 1979.”

Broward Politics

Broward Commissioner Lieberman: “Health issues” keeping me from meetings

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 12-01-2011

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UPDATED with statement
Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman broke the silence Tuesday and gave a public explanation, however general and vague, about why she’s not been present at seven of the last 12 regular county meetings. (Click here for memory refresher.) She’s also been largely silent at the meetings she attended by phone.

Tuesday, Lieberman once again is not physically present. But after sitting silently on the phone for two and a half hours, Lieberman read a statement before her colleagues broke the meeting to go to a workshop room.

The County Commission sound system is such that commissioners attending by telephone can barely be heard by the public, so I regret to tell you that I didn’t catch every word of her statement and am eagerly awaiting the captioner’s minutes. However, I did get the gist.

Lieberman announced that she had a health issue keeping her from meetings, but she thanked everyone who’d offered their thoughts and concerns. She also assured constituents that her office is open and running smoothly, and that constituent needs are still being met.

UPDATE: Here is the full statement:

I would like to take a moment of personal privilege and thank everyone who has called and expressed their concerns about me. As you know, I am having some personal health issues at this time. However, I want to assure the residents of my district that my office is running smoothly and I am in touch with my staff on a daily basis. I also am making sure that I am updated on all county issues. I thank you for your understanding during this difficult time and I hope to be back to 100 percent soon.

Broward Politics

Broward commissioners oppose Dolphins stadium deal

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 11-01-2011

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Broward County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to formally oppose the use of tourist taxes at the Miami Dolphins stadium in Miami-Dade County.

The Dolphins team was floating a plan to use hotel taxes from both counties to rehab Sun Life Stadium to help snare another Super Bowl. But Broward commissioners would have to approve that deal to make it happen, and Tuesday they formally came out against.

They added to their state legislative priorities opposition to HB 141, which changes state law to allow Broward to consider spending hotel taxes on the Dolphins stadium. Currently it’s not legal for a county to spend its tourist taxes in another county.

Commissioners voted to oppose “the use of any tourist development taxes collected in Broward County for any project not wholly contained in, and for the sole benefit of, Broward County residents and visitors.”

Full story on the jump page, including coverage of lobbyist Ron Book and commissioners’ concern he has a conflict of interest.

Broward Politics

Want to know who’s lobbying Broward County staff? Click here

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 07-01-2011

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Broward voters got the transparency they asked for. Broward County’s government website now has a log where anyone can see who is visiting county staff, and why.

It’s not easy to find on the county’s website, however. Let me help you out: Click here to see the Broward County log of visitors to county staff and county commissioners.

The database is searchable by the name of the visitor, the name of the person visited, or the topic. I recommend typing the last name only when searching by a person’s name, in order to get the best results.

For example, if you type “Henry” as the person visited, you’ll see pages and pages of visitors to County Administrator Bertha Henry, including someone who was just “Saying Hello.” If you type in “Mele” as the visitor, you’ll see six visits by the lawyer-lobbyist (and former city manager of Coconut Creek) to County Hall.

The original contact list went up with just the county commissioners in it. But Commissioner Ilene Lieberman put forward a ballot item — approved for the November ballot by her colleagues, and then by voters at the polls — allowing the county to add county staff to new anti-corruption laws. On December 14, county commissioners followed through, imposing anti-corruption laws and transparency requirements on county staff.

And voila, here it is.

Broward Politics

Broward Commissioner Sharief: I’m not talking to Islamic Society

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 07-01-2011

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A large, umbrella Muslim organization is not having Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief as a speaker this weekend.

Local activist Joe Kaufman claimed Sharief was speaking, and said his group would be protesting. He accuses the Islamic Society of North America of having terrorism ties and of espousing anti-Semitism.

I reached out to the ISNA, and was told that Kaufman’s claims are “hogwash.”

The ISNA is an umbrella group for many Muslim organizations. It is not on the State Department’s watch list.

“These guys say what they say,” Miramar resident and ISNA board member Asad Bayunus said.. “… They are not legitimate, and completely full of misstatements and inaccuracies. … It astounds me when I hear things like this.”

Bayunus, who lives in Sharief’s district, is in charge of this weekend’s conference. He said Kaufman’s claims are untrue and that his group is the largest, most “mainstream” Muslim group in America.

Sharief said she’s been the target of criticism over the event, even though she won’t be there.

She said she rejected the group’s request long ago because she was busy and didn’t know who they were. She had no idea her name became attached to this weekend’s event at the Broward County Convention Center.

Kaufman and his group Americans Against Hate, which describes itself as “the anti-bigotry, terrorism watchdog group,” has been circulating a news release this week that includes this statement: “AAH will be condemning any member of government who participates in ISNA’s conference. Scheduled to speak at the conference are Sunrise Commissioner Larry Sofield and Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief.”

Kaufman’s group plans to hold a protest Saturday outside the meeting. He issued corrective press releases after he found out Sharief and Sofield weren’t going to show.

Click here to see the event schedule Kaufman based his news release on. The schedule shows State Rep. Ari Porth as well, but Porth told me he withdrew after getting e-mails about it and doing some Internet research that gave him heartburn. I’ll post some of those e-mails on the jump, including one calling President Obama a “Muslim-born Pretendent.”

On the jump, Kaufman’s release, and much more:

Broward Politics

Broward Commissioner Lieberman continually absent or silent

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 06-01-2011

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Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman has some people worried, and some people puzzled. She’s been absent from quite a few meetings over the past six months. Tuesday, once again, her seat on the dais was empty. She didn’t call in to participate by phone, either.

Friends and colleagues don’t want to speculate on the record about what might be going on. But they’re concerned.

She didn’t return e-mails or phone calls about this. I reached her husband, Stuart Michelson, this morning. He hastily got off the phone, saying “I’ll try to get back to you.”

Since August she’s missed six meetings. According to the county minutes, she called in to two of them. At times, the public has been given a reason for her absence, such as the time she had the flu, for example. At the Dec. 7 meeting, the public was told Lieberman didn’t feel well.

Even when she’s been in attendance, the usually vocal and aggressive Lieberman hasn’t said much. When one of her favorite subjects was on the table, a trash deal between the county and cities, she didn’t say a peep. Colleague Kristin Jacobs had joked that Lieberman knew so much about this topic from serving on the Resource Recovery Board that they jokingly called her “the queen of trash.”

UPDATE: Though she didn’t return my calls, and her husband hasn’t called back, either, Lieberman told my colleague Mike Mayo that she hopes to be back to work soon. Click here to read his blog post about it, including her comment that “This has nothing to do with the State Attorney’s Office.”

Broward Politics

Dolphins stadium plan hits immediate opposition in Broward

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 06-01-2011

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By Brittany Wallman and Scott Wyman

A plan for Broward to send its tourist taxes to jazz up the Dolphins’ stadium could be dying just hours after the first public unveiling.

Those pushing the proposal have worked it for months in the halls of Broward government and tourism offices, and have floated it to a few major hoteliers as well. But this week, when the news blasted onto the public stage, no big crowd of political cheerleaders leapt to tout it.
Hoteliers are divided. Some public officials have come out strongly against it. The county’s tourism czar has lots of questions.

The proposal from Dolphins CEO Mike Dee would have state law changed to allow hotel taxes
from tourists in Broward County to be spent in Miami-Dade to renovate Sun Life Stadium, where his team plays, just over the county line.

The bill also would increase the maximum hotel tax to 7 cents. Broward charges 5 cents right now.

Those who favor it say the enhancements are essential to land another Super Bowl, and that Broward businesses benefitted greatly from the last one. But detractors say Broward needs all the money it can get and should keep the funds here.

Even if the state Legislature passes it –with the possible sponsorship of Republican legislators Rep. Erik Fresen of Miami and state Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart – the Broward County Commission would have to approve it, too.

The hot debate over using public funds for private purposes – like helping a privately owned football team improve its stadium – would play out locally, in crowded public hearings in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Broward Politics

Dolphins seek Broward aid to renovate Miami stadium

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 05-01-2011

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The Miami Dolphins want Broward County to share its tourism tax revenue to help pay for a $ 225 million renovation to its stadium in Miami-Dade.

Dolphins CEO Mike Dee has been meeting with area hoteliers, business executives and tourism officials to pitch the idea of rewriting state law to allow Broward to spend its tax money outside the county. The Dolphins argue that Broward has benefited heavily from past Super Bowls at the Miami stadium and that a new stadium would help ensure their return in the future.

Broward played host to the Super Bowl headquarters in 2010. That game along with the subsequent Pro Bowl generated $ 333 million for South Florida businesses. Dee said a renovated stadium could add about $ 2.5 billion to the South Florida economy through 2040.

“This is a community decision,” said Dee, who publicly unveiled the idea in a speech Wednesday at a Miami chamber of commerce lunch. “This is about the ability to continue to bring big-time events to the community.”

Although South Florida has been home to both the 2010 and the 2007 Super Bowls, the chance at more games has been in doubt because of the condition of the 23-year-old Sun Life Stadium. NFL officials have made clear that while they enjoyed the area’s amenities, that is not enough to return. Newer and fancier venues have been chosen for future games.

The Dolphins last year unveiled plans for a renovated stadium that include a partial roof over the seating area and seats closer to the action. But after spending $ 300 million on stadium upgrades over the past six years, the team has maintained that it cannot make the investment by itself.

Broward Politics

Special state House election slated for sliver of Broward County

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 04-01-2011

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A relatively small group of Broward County voters will help select a new member of the Florida House of Representatives next month.

Three candidates are seeking to fill the seat opened by the resignation of state Rep. Oscar Braynon II. He had to quit his House seat to qualify as a candidate for the Florida Senate. Braynon is one of five Democrats seeking the Senate seat left vacant by Frederica Wilson, who is sworn in as a member of Congress on Wednesday.

The 103rd state House District left behind by Braynon is based in Miami-Dade County, where 85 percent of its registered voters live. More than 12,000 of the district’s voters live in Broward.

It’s also overwhelmingly Democratic, with 75 percent of the district’s voters registered Democrats. Given the overwhelming odds in favor of the majority party and the geography favoring a Miami-Dade candidate, all three candidates who qualified to run for the seat during a special two-day candidate qualifying period last week are Democrats from Miami Gardens.

Barbara Watson, Sharon Pritchett, Erhabor Ighodaro will face off in the Feb. 8 primary. Because the candidates are all Democrats, any registered voter in the district, regardless of party can participate in the primary. The winner of the primary will become the new state representative and there won’t be a need for a general election, which had been scheduled for March 1.

Early voting will be held Jan. 31 through Feb. 6.

Broward Politics

On tap in 2011: A new anti-corruption inspector general for Broward

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 30-12-2010

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One of the milestones in the public corruption saga that plagued Broward County this year is the hiring of a new ethics watchdog, an inspector general.

Broward voters approved in November the concept of an inspector general who watches over all city officials in Broward, the government employees and the county commissioners.

Read all the details about the new inspector general position here, in this document.

Back in October, a group started meeting to figure out how to hire this person.

The committee met on Oct. 26. Read the minutes here. They largely contain discussion about whether to hire the inspector general using an executive search firm, and if so, which one.

At that date, the only members they had were:

Athornia Steele, Dean, Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Law Center; Amos Rojas, Jr., Special Agent, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Miami; and Mike Satz, the Broward state attorney. Since then, the League of Cities appointed attorney Sam Goren to the committee.

Stay tuned. This will be one of Broward’s most powerful positions, holding a four year term. Read the jump for the qualifications for the job and the timing.

Broward Politics

Ex-Plantation councilman working for Broward County Republicans

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 27-12-2010

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Former Plantation City Councilman Rico Petrocelli has been hired as the Broward Republican Executive Committee executive director. He begins work Jan. 3.

Lisa J. Huriash reports:

Petrocelli was a city councilman from August 2005 to March 2009. This is his first full-time job since he was laid off as the furniture outlet fleet operations manager for Baer’s after 10 years in December 2008. He was appointed last year by Gov. Charlie Crist to the Broward County Housing Authority.

Broward Politics

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