Undercurrents

When the pressure of family life, and by family we mean the Mafia, gets too heavy, where is a harried Mob boss to go? Well if that person is in the Soprano crime family, it would be... Fort Lauderdale.

The best program on TV right now is HBO's The Sopranos, the rough-edged yet human portrayal of Mafia life in New Jersey. Boss Tony Soprano is under unrelenting pressure from his crew, his family, and of course the ever-present FBI agents who snoop around looking into murders and hijackings. It's enough to make a modern-day Mafioso take Prozac.

When rumors of a grand jury investigation start floating around, the capo regimes meet at a wedding, and a paranoia-fueled panic sets in. When a made member says the FBI claims criminal indictments are coming down, the felons start talking about fleeing to somewhere, um, safe.

Mob guy: "Whoa, it ain't just my sources in New Jersey. Half of New York has moved to Fort Lauderdale already."

Wow, national recognition!
Maybe the convention and visitors bureau could work out a promotional campaign based on this, including billboards in New Jersey proclaiming, "Hey, where ya gonna go when da feds put the heat on? Escape to Fort Lauderdale already."

City commissioners in Fort Lauderdale quickly got sensitive to the issue of gender equity last week, probably because a number of women who vote brought it to their attention. Shortly after the "there's no woman on the commission" thing was lobbied, Gloria Katz was appointed to the recently vacated District 1 seat. (Her credentials for service are a matter of concern to us because she used to be a journalist.)

Now it's time for Katz and the guys to take a look at the small number of women serving on the numerous city advisory boards that have clout over everything from downtown development to cemeteries.

Suzanne Coleman of the National Women's Political Caucus says women are underrepresented on these boards, and she has the numbers to prove it. Of the appointments to the more powerful boards, such as planning and zoning, where a consensus on a candidate had to be reached among the men on the commission, 88 percent were handed to male candidates. Yet half the voters in the city are women.

And why should we care, as long as the best candidates get the jobs? Well Coleman says these boards are actually springboards to higher political offices, where gender equity is obviously a problem.

Women locally haven't been as aggressive as they should be at seeking the appointments, and so qualified women are being underutilized by city government. It would also help if the guys continued on the road to true gender-equity awareness.

You can expect to see a change in the makeup of the appointments, and it doesn't take a statistician to see why. Of all the commissioners, recently retired commissioner John Aurelius appointed the fewest women, and he was replaced by a woman.

But what if the best candidate happens to be male? Coleman says it's not a concern once equity is reached. After all, she says, sometimes the best man for the job is a man.

-- as told to Tom Walsh

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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