Undercurrents

Political winds

Tom Driscoll, the man in charge of building the $600 million Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, told the news media two months ago that he would wait until after the February election "when [Commissioner] John Coleman is out of office" to bring back a controversial proposal for a 600-room hotel. The implication was clear: Driscoll will wait until the political winds blow in his favor to mount another try. As if those decisions were political!

Coleman's camp was thrilled at Driscoll's candid words, saying the blatant politicizing of the growth issue won his candidacy for mayor hundreds of votes from residents of a condo complex next door to the proposed project.

Now Driscoll appears to be taking the next step. Sources say he tried to form a political action committee two weeks ago to support Mayor Mara Giulianti and offered to underwrite the thing. But business leaders called to a meeting at the Dip balked at being on the company payroll and instead formed their own PAC, called Citizens For Progress (and who's not?).

The PAC includes pro-Mara types like Dennis Giordano (whose engineering firm gets millions of dollars in contracts from the city), funeral home owner Mark Panciera, and downtown Hollywood's biggest landlord, Debbie Segal -- as well as Mary Huddleston, vice president of sales and marketing for the Dip. The progressive committee favors "revitalization of all areas of Hollywood, including support for neighborhood infrastructure such as parks and sidewalks, the strengthening of existing business corridors and reduction in the cost of government."

Citizens For Progress will support any candidate who favors these issues, according to members. Guess that means the PAC won't be supporting Giulianti. She came out against sidewalks when Coleman floated a plan to install them throughout the city, saying she did not let her kids play on sidewalks when they were little. Is that progressive?


Followers of the Gospel According to Neil "God" Rogers descended on Fort Lauderdale commissioner Tim Smith last week. The volcanic WQAM-AM (560) radio host was having a fit (as he always is) over an article in Tuesday's Sun-Sentinel. The story reported that Smith had conducted an informal "poll" of 450 "city leaders" on the possibility of a taxpayer-subsidized baseball stadium in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The "finding": bigwigs (many with financial interests) are in favor of shelling out about $300 million to build a retractable-dome stadium for a team that attracts fewer fans than the average peewee league contest in Pembroke Pines. Of course they are.

So Rogers decided to conduct his own "informal poll" and passed along Smith's homephone number to the unwashed masses (his listeners). Smith got a tip-off about the unwanted publicity and checked his voice mail. "Within a ten-minute time period, it said you have 23 voice messages or something like that," Smith says. "Quite a few were just rude SOBs that didn't leave a name or a phone number."

To quell the uprising, Smith got on the horn to Rogers (a brave act by the amateur crime-fighter, we must concede) and defended himself. He told the radioactive talk-show host that a group of "concerned citizens" had expressed interest in transforming downtown Fort Lauderdale into John Henry's playpen and that it was his duty as a representative of the people to consider the idea. As Rogers pointed out, those "concerned citizens" sometimes go by other names, Tim: lobbyists and contributors.

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

 
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