Undercurrents

Endangered birds?

It appears that while John Henry plies the political backrooms for a $400 million tax subsidy, his supporters and operatives are at the same time working other angles to make the idea of a baseball park more palatable to Broward residents.

Move number one: He told the media last week that if there are profits from the stadium we buy him, 10 percent may go back to the taxpayers. We'd rather try the lotto.

The next maneuver: We heard that boosters are hoping Florida Atlantic University may be interested in using a new stadium for playing football in Fort Lauderdale. After all, the school has a downtown site nearby and is hoping to crank up a football program at about the time the stadium will supposedly be built. Why not share?

The Fighting Owls have the revered Howard Schnellenberger as coach (he calls the team the Big, Bad, Burly Birds!), so there are residual good feelings left over from his glory days with the Miami Hurricanes.

Politically, tying the struggling college football program to this questionable use of public funds makes sense. FAU is a tax-supported school that helps the community and already has more appeal than a gazillionaire trying to suck up tax dollars for his own free-enterprise effort.

There is a problem. The initial design is a baseball-only stadium, and it's not configured for both sports. Joe Robbie Stadium (we're traditionalists on this) was built as a convertible, where portable seating could be moved in and out depending on the sport.

So those scrappy birds from FAU will have to stick to their plan of taking on mighty Cornell in Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium in the next century.

Which reminds us to ask, is the usually off-base city commissioner Carlton Moore ignorant of the politics or the process on this stadium issue? Now he's insisting that Fort Lauderdale city manager Floyd Johnson approach the Marlins yet again and push the dreary Lockhart Stadium site.

Moore must know that Henry and his planners have dismissed the site from their short list because they crave a downtown destination, one with restaurants and stores that will attract income all year round and be part of a larger destination. Like say, Las Olas Riverfront or Bayside in Miami.

But Moore insists on making a show of his idea. The politicos downtown know he blusters on this issue to grab attention because he thinks his useless motion will impress the voters. We think not.


And speaking of City Manager Johnson, we were a bit confused by the reasons for last week's substantial pay raise. According to the Sun-Sentinel, city commissioners "praised" Johnson "for being easily accessible to the community." The Herald, on the other hand, noted that "commissioners said Johnson should be more accessible to the community and communicate better with commissioners." So which is it?

An internal poll of New Times staffers determined that Johnson has not returned a call for comment on a story since about March 1998, and despite our leaving enough messages to plague his secretary with carpal tunnel syndrome, he's not responded. So we'll side with The Herald. Or perhaps this is just Johnson's way of communicating his appreciation of our attempts to inform the citizens about city business, which is supposed to be public. In case you lost it, Floyd, here's our phone number: 954-233-1581.

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

 
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