Undercurrents

From Davie a salute to Florida's new Democratic emperor: "All Heckle Ceasar!"

As last week began, of course, Broward Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar was crowned all-powerful head of the state party, then -- since even emperors can use an extra grand or two -- found himself three days later at a Davie council meeting, marshaling his awesome oratorical arsenal for all out assault against... a horse trail.

On behalf of property owners, lawyer Ceasar argued that the "city manager" in 1990 had promised no trail would ever be built behind their homes, so the issue posed a "moral dilemma" about "the city, its image, and its word."

For more than five hours the battle raged and the mighty Ceasar, so accustomed to reporters and politicians bowing before him, found himself booed and hissed by horse people in lemon-yellow T-shirts.

Then came the ambush. Former Councilwoman Terry Santini, a Republican whom Ceasar helped defeat, rose and accused the slick-talking New Yorker of the ultimate Davie sin. "The attorney kept referring to us as a city," Santini snarled. "We're a TOWN!"

Now, Ceasar can handle a defeated Republican, but in Davie that night appeared a more fearsome sight. Striding to the microphone came the powerful land baron Ron Bergeron, bedecked with powder blue bandanna and a belt buckle big as the western sky, or maybe even Ceasar's hourly fee.

"Davie is different," Bergeron boomed. "We want to keep it different. It's a TOWN, not a city."

Wounded, Ceasar staggered out of Davie, no doubt in search of a cowboy hat and to see if Mercedes-Benz makes a saddle.

The Undercurrents "All the News That's Fit to Hide" award goes to the Palm Beach Post, which doesn't have much to boast about in a story headlined, "W. Palm official boasts of using post to aid Pepsi."

The story coincidentally appeared the day after last week's New Times cover story raised conflict-of-interest questions about West Palm Beach City Commissioner Jeff Koons, lobbying juggernaut for his long-time employer, the local Pepsi Cola bottling company ("The Politics of Pop," Michael Freedman, June 4).

While the Post forgot to credit New Times for revealing the conflict of interests, what's even sadder is that it ignored the Koons story for months. Although Koons gave sworn testimony about his Pepsi lobbying in divorce depositions and hearings, a Post reporter attending the court proceedings last fall chatted briefly with Koons then decided there was nothing worth reporting. And when soon-to-be ex-wife Mary Louise Koons telephoned Post editors to discuss the divorce, Palm Beach County's paper of record again decided it was a nonstory.

Only when a Post reporter learned from city hall sources last month that New Times was pursuing the story did Post editors take an interest. And when its story ran the day after the New Times revelations, the Post let Koons off the hook, reporting that he was "just boasting" when he testified that he repeatedly used his official position to reap financial benefits for Pepsi.

So we salute the hard-hitting journalism of the Palm Beach Post. With a soft drink, of course.

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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