Undercurrents

In their attempts to humiliate Broward's Clerk of Courts last week, county commissioners may have gone too far. After all, giving Bob Lockwood sensitivity training is like giving an elephant ballet lessons.

Still, when they made that demand, commissioners may have hit upon a way to recoup a little of his $1.3 million racial discrimination settlement. This idea began to form when Chairwoman Lori Parrish asked whether the Clerk agreed to take the "sensitivity training" required of all county managers and Lockwood responded, under his breath from the back of the chambers, "I think we all should."

Prompted by those words, Undercurrents asked Phil Rosenberg, Broward's human resources director, whether the commissioners themselves have received county sensitivity training. "Not that I know of," Rosenberg replied, then offered that the program is called, "The Issue Is Respect."

Thus was born Undercurrents' proposal for an official, county-sponsored "Plantation Bob" Settlement Fundraiser: Have Lockwood and all seven commissioners take the sensitivity training together! On the stage of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Charge ten bucks a head. You'll pack the place.

To envision this staged sensitivity, Undercurrents consulted the county's course outline, which suggests participants tell each other, "Don't assume the worst of me. If you have a problem with something I've said or done, talk to me, not others." (Presumably this means Lockwood can't bring his lawyer.)

During the session, participants watch a video entitled "A Peacock in the Land of Penguins." As they sit there side by side, attempting to understand each other, the Clerk and commissioners might nod in mutual recognition as the video begins, "These penguins were not always wise, they were not always popular, but they were always in charge." (This column is getting much too easy.)

To further understanding and avoid "the destructive mindset of 'us versus them,'" the course suggests participants "walk in each other's shoes," and here commissioners and Clerk could really bond. Consider the possibilities:

*After exchanging highlights from their county-paid legal bills, Lockwood and John Rodstrom commiserate about what it's like to be a county commission enemy.

*To achieve harmony over the Clerk's computer consultant -- defeated Republican commissioner Ed Kennedy -- Lockwood and Parrish share memories of his diplomacy and charm, a personality easily worth $110,000. Then they agree to work together to teach Kennedy how to turn on a computer.

*When Lockwood jokes to Suzanne Gunzburger and Ilene Lieberman, "You girls are always causing trouble," they sweetly reply, "The times, they've changed, boy."

After all this the arts-center sensitivity session will conclude with a truly historic moment: As all program graduates must do, Lockwood, standing there before a hushed crowd, will sign a formal statement "acknowledging personal responsibility" -- something never before done by Broward's Clerk of Courts.

If this single sensitivity session isn't enough, Phil Rosenberg says his human resource experts, to deal with special problems, offer a more intense course that he calls "a brain transplant on managers."

Might as well sign up Bob. We'll book Pro Player.

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1572, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbroward.com.

 
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