Undercurrents

For another example of tax dollars at work -- and the sharp-eyed vigilance of City of Fort Lauderdale regulators -- Undercurrents this week turns with pride to one of its own, circulation director Jason Ward, field general in the New Times battle of the boxes.

As readers no doubt have forgotten, South Florida cities are forcing newspapers into multiwindow modular racks, rather than stand-alone boxes, to make sidewalks and street corners look tidier. No problem. In areas of downtown Fort Lauderdale, good-citizen New Times installed its own modulars -- only to confront the heavy hand of the Fort Lauderdale box police, who in the words of the equally heavy Jason, "called me up and gave me a hard time about the color of my beige."

The color of his beige?
According to the City of Fort Lauderdale, New Times painted its boxes the Wrong Shade of Beige, and the city demanded they be repainted. So what beige won city approval? "The Sun-Sentinel's," snarled Jason, who continued defiantly, "Theirs is actually a brown, a light brown. Ours is beige."

Now, in fairness to Jason, his personal attire, consisting of bright red and denim blue, does not instill color confidence, but he insists he brought in outside expertise. "The guy who does the painting, he went to the paint store and got one of those color code pinwheel things. It said 'beige.'"

Counterattacking now, Jason pointed out to Fort Lauderdale bureaucrats that the city ordinance regulating modular racks specifies only that they "shall be beige in color."

"Whether it's off-beige, dark beige, light beige, I don't know what they want. I said get the color code, the pinwheel number, and put it in your ordinance, then get back to me. That probably went from engineering to the department of politics or something. It's silly."

Ah, but what a governmental genius our Jason is. We can see now the formation of the City of Fort Lauderdale Interdepartmental Task Force on Color Codes (nicknamed the "Beige Warriors"), endless meetings to explore options, fact-finding trips to other cities, probably the need for color coordinators.

Yes, indeed, Jason has bought himself months of freedom from the bureaucrats, and even city commissioners, beset by empty slots and competing modulars, are rethinking the whole news-rack issue. Admits Commissioner Tim Smith, "We probably made some errors in putting this through."

The city's obvious solution: Hire Jason as a consultant.

In Hollywood last week, the neighborhood under siege from Gus Boulis' SunCruz casino boat lost another battle in the city commission. Led by Commissioner Sal Oliveri and commission candidate John Coleman, residents hoped to sink the boat by challenging the legality of its slot machines under a 1937 state law, but Mayor Mara Giulianti shouted that the city had no interest in pursuing the case.

If Hollywood did, the mayor explained later in her office, she'd have the tourist people and the economic development people on her back, and who needs that pressure?

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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