Undercurrents

The politicos are astonished at the defeat of Jack Latona, a Fort Lauderdale commissioner. The media points to the strategies of his novice opponent, Cindi Hutchinson, who owns a cleaning service and was able to beat the powerful incumbent lawyer with friendly volunteers, ol'-fashioned door-knocking, and grassroots efforts. Nice story.

But we're looking at the reason he got beat on that spring morning, and there's very little grass and lots of concrete. The two 16-story apartment buildings thrown up on the Intracoastal and Sunrise Boulevard, and others like them, had as much to do with Latona's defeat and the park bond victory as anything done by politicians.

Amid the beeping dump trucks and the gloppity-glop of the cement mixers, we only have to look at the lack of setbacks from the Intracoastal (we measured about 20 feet before being kicked off the property), the lack of green space, and the height relative to the neighborhood to see that the developers have taken control of city government. Could it be that the voters who actually have to live with these monstrosities don't like that?

The 16-story buildings, named Sunrise Harbor, tower over the 2-story apartments nearby. The massive structures also block the view of motorists, who used to have a nice approach to the ocean by seeing the calming greenery of Birch Park. Now they'll see faux Mediterranean façades and more cars in front of them.

It's too much. And that's the sentiment that Cindi "Controlled Growth" Hutchinson played on to beat Jack "Development Is Needed" Latona.

That big staff of writers and editors at the Los Angeles Times should get a bulk rate on résumé services now that the Tribune Co. has come to town. The Tribune folks, owners of the Sun-Sentinel, didn't become one of the biggest and most profitable media conglomerates in the world by suffering huge overheads (as in: staff). Profit margins get more attention than those huge banner headlines blaring from the front page of the Sun-Sentinel.

The Times Mirror Co. sale to the Tribune Co. in an $8 billion deal shocked Times employees, according to media reports, but they soon got over that when they read the stock ticker and realized that their retirement packages were really worth something as the stock price doubled on the announcement. But some retirements may need to be delayed at the Sun-Sentinel as the purchase hurt the Tribune stock price, which was already down.

The Times, which had prided itself on being one of the best newspapers in the country, is sure to suffer some cutbacks at the hands of the master accountants. The Times has a huge staff of 1100 editorial employees. Slash! Their numerous national bureaus and foreign desks will obviously be duplicating what the Tribune is doing. Slash! The profit margin at the Times was reportedly in the high teens, but that's not going to cut it at the Tribune, where a 30 percent return is the norm. Super slash!

Looking for something positive, some media analysts say the announced retirement of Times Mirror CEO Mark Willes means an end to his idea that the wall between business and the editorial side should come down. We don't think so. We see a much leaner paper that will continue the erosion in the wall and also tear down the walls between the Times and the television and Internet interests owned by the Tribune Co. Bottom line, baby. Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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