Undercurrents

The Wilton Manors City Council should be grateful that their meetings aren't televised. Viewers would have been amused, or possibly outraged, by the pecuniary pettiness of newly elected council member Joanne Fanizza.

It seems the prudent Fanizza was displeased with a city employee who flew out of town for a conference and had the nerve to claim a $21 per diem food expense on a travel day. She just knew he had gotten a meal on the airplane. The per diem, she reasoned, should only kick in on the first full day of the conference.

Our counsel to her is cheap: Don't be penny-wise and pound foolish.
What she failed to fully consider is that the Wilton Manors employee, Bob Taylor, had paid for his own airfare to Albuquerque to save the little town some dough. The conference was a winner in the past and led to recycling grants for the city, so why quibble over whether those peanuts the airlines serve count as a meal? But the tightfisted Fanizza stood as firm as a grandmother who'd survived the Great Depression.

The chintzy antics drove angry audience members and city employees to take up a collection for Taylor right on the spot. Coins and cash were plopped down on a table near the council dais.

Vice Mayor John Fiore had seen enough and called for a vote to approve Taylor's per diem and put the miserly madness to rest. It sailed through by a four-to-one (guess who?) vote. Fiore added that "the mayor is downright cheap, and even he voted for it."

If only Justice Scalia were sporting a ponytail or Justice Thomas a '70s-style Afro. Then maybe the U.S. Supreme Court would agree to hear the case of the longhairs submitted to the court last week by Miami attorney Bret Clark.

Rewind to 1994, when Broward-based Blockbuster ordered its longhaired male employees to cut their hair or hit the highway. After four Miami-Dade Blockbuster employees refused to give in, they were fired, and Clark took their case. Fort Lauderdale's most famous chrome dome Wayne Huizenga was Blockbuster's chairman at the time. "He doesn't have any hair anywhere," Clark says. "For whatever reason, he doesn't like men with long hair."

South Florida courts dismissed the case, basing their decision on a 1975 Supreme Court ruling that allowed a Georgia company to deny a longhaired man employment. But that ruling is ancient, Clark says, adding that "sexual harassment wasn't even recognized as existing under the law."

So is he equating a barber's scissors with a business executive's wandering hands? Not exactly. But anyone forced to conform to a "sexual stereotype" is working under unbearable conditions, he claims.

Clark has petitioned the Supreme Court before. In 1986, just three years out of law school, he threw his own speeding ticket to the Supremes, which raised the ire of then-Chief Justice Warren Burger. "He said that I was like a small boy given a gun without instructions on when and how it should be used," Clark recalls.

Men, he continues to assert, should be allowed to grow their hair.
"If you're trying to force people to conform to a certain way of looking," Clark says, "that runs contrary to the idea that everyone should be judged by the content of their character, not by the length of their hair."

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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