Letters for April 28-May 4, 2005
Jenne Must Go!
Everybody's saying it, but he's doing something: I have read Bob Norman's recent articles on Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne ("The Corrupter," March 31; and "Swimming with the Fishes," April 14) and admire your columnist's drive. I ran against Jenne in the last election but began my campaign way too late to be effective.
For four years now, I have studied PowerTrac, the crime reporting system, and the way Jenne juggles statistics. (I see it all the time, as I am a private investigator who works closely with BSO in some of my cases.) Indeed, when I first began speaking out, no one believed me.
I have been fighting Jenne for four years solid now. The man has literally crippled BSO and turned it into the laughingstock of law enforcement agencies. Recently, one of my supporters started an e-mail campaign to the governor -- asking him to throw out Jenne and appoint me. It has quickly reached rather monumental proportions, but I doubt Jeb will bend over backward. We will keep trying, though.
I appreciate the manner in which Norman deals with Jenne and applaud his work. Keep it up! Perhaps with my passing on info to the Sentinel and the Herald and your writings, we might be able to topple the "King of Broward." God knows there is no longer a place for him in politics here in Broward. His own people should arrest him.
Naugle Did It
Or at least he deserves some scrutiny, bucko: All in all, Trevor Aaronson's "Curious George Sails the River of Red" (April 7) is not a bad story, but there're a couple of areas where I have a bone to pick with you. If you look at the tax rate that Fort Lauderdale property owners pay in comparison to the rest of Broward County, you would see we're right in the middle. And we compare favorably with other large cities in Florida. The per capita figure you use takes into account total property taxes paid on all taxable property in the city, which includes all the downtown commercial property, the many hotels, etc. If you want to paint a more equitable comparison, take only the property taxes paid on residential properties.
Second, you mentioned that taxes are kept artificially low by homestead exemptions, but you fail to note that the Save Our Homes amendment keeps taxes low only until a property is sold. Minor point.
Now, you say "excessive pension plans and high salaries" contributed to the financial mess. In all fairness, in the '90s, the pension plans were doing fine, fueled by a booming stock market. But in 2000, when the stock market faltered, the city had to make up for those losses and had no cushion to fall back on. Combine that problem with the surge in health care costs and you have a double whammy. After huge increases in employee contribution costs and benefits cuts, the insurance program is on a firm footing and is eating away at the deficits. It's been the employees who have borne the brunt of that policy and continue to bear it.
I'm not going to defend Floyd Johnson. But he was placed in the untenable position of being told by a commission to "make it happen" when it came to pet projects and spending decisions that were, in a word, imprudent. He made a half-hearted attempt to explain that there wasn't enough money in the budget. Terry Sharp was the lone voice in the wilderness, crying out, "Am I the only one that cares about the general fund?" So who does George Gretsas sack? Terry Sharp.
Of course, morale is terrible. All these problems and then Gretsas comes in and makes some changes. Example: He fires Leslie Bachus, who as "Director of Communications" earned $118,000 in salary and benefits, and hires David Hebert, an attorney friend from White Plains with no experience in public relations, as "Director of Public Information" at $153,000. Did you miss that ?
The whole culture of the city has changed over the past ten years from one in which employees were proud of their management and government to one in which they dared not stick their necks out because they'd get them chopped off. If you really want to write a story on city government, focus on the one person who has been in power during the entire fiscal collapse: Mayor Jim Naugle.
The story you've told is an important one, but you need to make sure you're getting information from balanced sources.
Norman goes Southwest: I just want to thank Bob Norman for the article he wrote about Southwest Ranches, "Cash Cow" (March 24). Hopefully this article will inform the people about the corrupt administration that is running our town. It has been hard for the people that knew of this corruption to be heard.
Now that it has been printed in black and white, they will have to listen. Thank you, Mr. Norman; you have done our town a great service.
The April 14 story "Misery and Clemency" misquoted baseball fan John Gierl. He did not say his teammates used steroids. And the name of Gierl's son, Tyler, was misspelled. Also, because of an editing mistake, the April 21 feature "Go into the Light" mischaracterized Dan Quayle. He was George H.W. Bush's running mate in 1988. New Times regrets the errors.
The Society for Professional Journalists has chosen New Times Broward-Palm Beach Staff Writer Sam Eifling's "Hot Dog, Ho!" as the best feature story in the nation for 2004 in a newspaper with less than 100,000 circulation.
The story detailed the bizarre world of speed eating through the life and times of Hollywood resident Joe LaRue, who competed with the world's hot dog eaters on Coney Island. The same story was also a finalist in the International Society of Culinary Professionals' Bert Greene Awards.
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