In the Name of Mr. Burns

Exxxxxcellent!

Hamilton Forman is Fort Lauderdale's equivalent to Mr. Burns on The Simpsons: a multimillionaire with so much power and wealth that he sometimes seems to believe he owns his fair city. Forman bought Broward County land early and often, from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the western cities; he is the patriarch of the county's premier land-owning aristocracy.

He's also an elder who started a religious school at the First Christian Church of Fort Lauderdale at 201 SE 13th St. At the September 20 meeting of Fort Lauderdale's Planning and Right of Way Committee, Forman demanded approval to turn part of the median outside the church into a parking lot. He even offered to pay to do it.

Forman had for years been using the green space as an illegal parking lot. Despite no-parking signs and two wooden barriers intended to keep cars out, ol' Mr. Burns found a way. He even admits it.

Any similarities or likenesses are purely coincidental.
Any similarities or likenesses are purely coincidental.

Forman simply destroyed the attractive barriers to make way for his fellow churchgoers, he told the committee. "The first time [the city] put some in front of the church, I went out and got a sledgehammer and knocked 'em down."

It's right there on tape: Mr. Burns admitting to willfully and maliciously destroying municipal property. Yikes!

"Can you imagine what would happen if you or I destroyed city property?" asks Cal Deal, a former Sun-Sentinel editor who lives in the neighborhood and opposed Forman's new parking lot.

Tailpipe certainly can imagine: fines, criminal charges, maybe even a nasty phone call from Mr. Nice Guy -- Mayor Jim Naugle. But Forman went unpunished.

In the end, with his parking lot already under construction and permits unlikely to be revoked, Mr. Burns walked out of City Hall, satisfied and influential.

"God was on his side, I guess," Deal said.

Bush-Colored Glasses

The strangest moment of last week's presidential debate at the University of Miami came when George W. Bush told a disjointed tale about Missy, the wife of a dead soldier who visited him at the White House. "You know, it's hard work to try to love her the best I can, knowing full well that the decision I made caused her loved one to be in harm's way," the president uttered.

Now, that's what you call making a play for the women's vote. And the unsettling Freudian slip actually fit in nicely with the rest of Dubya's eye-batting, scowling, stammering, smirking, embattled, half-paranoid, and all-around weird performance. Bush managed to freak out the voters, 70 percent of whom declared John Kerry the winner in Internet polls (including one in the Sun-Sentinel). Even the right-wing demagogues at Fox and conservative Joe Scarborough of MSNBC had to admit Bush seemed a thimbleful of anthrax short of a WMD.

But you wouldn't have known it if you relied on Friday's coverage in our esteemed local newspapers. The political experts at the corporate ink dungeons of the Miami Herald and the Sentinel were blissfully unaware of our president's skittish demeanor.

"If the [debate] accomplished one thing, it was to dispel hopes from either camp for a clear victory," wrote Herald staffer Frank Davies, who must have drunk from the same punch bowl as Bush. The Sentinel wasn't much better, with its description of two equally "resolute and determined" opponents. Maybe the Herald was relying too much on the panel of "undecided" voters it had assembled with WFOR-TV (Channel 4). Among this clear-eyed group was Ted Lyons, a 56-year-old Republican. He listened to 90 minutes of Bush-Kerry exchanges, then opined that the Democrat sounded like "an idiot." Bush would be his man, he decided. "You don't change horses in the middle of a stream," Lyons said.

Tailpipe then skimmed down to the end of the Herald story, to a list of the members' names and professions. Who's Lyons? A "political consultant." Say what? If Lyons' inclusion wasn't an ingredient in a pro-Bush stew, then Tailpipe ain't blowin' high-grade carbon monoxide.

Cop-to-pus

Tailpipe loves the Broward Sheriff's Office. Those white, green, and gold cruisers spit some of the best exhaust this side of a ten-ton diesel tanker.

And the 'Pipe admires Alan Silva, the former Fort Lauderdale city manager who volunteered for the unpleasant job of running Broward County's most poorly run city.

But the plan that Silva presented last month to La-de-da commissioners to hand over police services to BSO is crap, crap, crap, crap. The drawing (below, left) of Silva in bed with Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne that was displayed outside the meeting may be a little puerile. But it was hard on -- um, make that right on.

Oh, yeah. Silva called the BSO deal "a journey of a thousand miles [that starts] with but a single step" in his September 21 memo to commissioners. That's damn poetic. And he did some pretty fancy math to back up his claim.

But, let's remember, the state attorney is investigating BSO for fixing its crime numbers -- likely in an effort to impress the public. And there have been other scandals, from coerced confessions to DNA madness.

There's another numbers scandal that troubles this tube. BSO, "the nation's largest accredited Sheriff's Department," according to its website, has been "merging" with city police forces since 1977. Parkland and Cooper City are the latest two to be picked up this year. Overall, BSO has taken over 13 cities.

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