Undercurrents

A roll in the political hay

A Broward school boardmeeting is a superior setting for learning. One can study modern management practices regarding personnel and ponder human sexual response in one room. A student last week could also witness the media-horde approach to journalism. We, of course, prefer a lesson in how politics is the root of all evil.

Lost in the noise and rhetoric regarding the teachers getting caught doing something nasty in private sex clubs is the deeper inquiry into who is really to blame for this mess that's been gleefully broadcast by the national media. It now appears the swingin' teachers may get paid to work, as long as it's away from children, but the legal process and arguments will go on for months.

We don't blame middle-age hormones or self-righteous politicians on the board and certainly not the citizens who want less meddling into private lives. Our hypothesis: The blame for this ugly mess should go to power-hungry Ken Jenne.

We told you that the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) had apparently conducted the raids on the private clubs for political reasons. (See "You Have the Right to Remain Flaccid," Paul Demko, February 25.) BSO had the nerve to claim that "anonymous tips" prompted the raids by Jenne, who uses every means possible to grab publicity for his future run for mayor of Broward County. No matter that the lewdness laws had only been successfully applied to people performing sex acts in public, the politician's morality police had a job to do.

During the confusing and contentious board meeting regarding whether the two teachers should keep their jobs, attorney Barry Butin defiantly stood up and said enough already about the teachers, it was time to examine the conduct of Jenne. "He's a grandstanding sheriff. This had more to do with publicity and political hay." That's a lesson the voters will eventually learn. Butin was ruled out of order, and the squabbling resumed.


Many readers believe that what passes for nonfiction in newspapers is really fiction, but in the case of the Sun-Sentinel's Sunshine magazine, it really was. The short fiction was "screened from many worthy offerings" by judges, with the winners appearing in print last week. While in our opinion the stories were somewhat character- and plot-challenged, the issue was a refreshing change.

We only question what kind of survey of South Florida fiction was performed when those chosen for publication were writers associated with the judges and an employee of the Sun-Sentinel. Geez, what kind of screen is that?

The credentials of the judges -- published writers John Dufresne and Les Standiford -- are certainly beyond reproach. Dufresne is also a professor in Florida International University's creative writing program and Standiford is its director. Those facts bring into question the pedigrees of the contest winners and how they played into the "screening." One winner is working toward a master's from that very department at FIU, another winner received a degree from the program, and a third is a professor of creative writing at FIU. And what's worse, the fourth winner gets a paycheck from the Sun-Sentinel. The surveyors apparently didn't get out of the neighborhood.

Note to Sunshine's editor: Many competitions exclude entries from those associated with the judges and those working for the company sponsoring the survey. This eliminates the appearance of wrongdoing.

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

 
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