Privatize This

I want to go off script here for a second and rail about a small government move that has gotten my goat. It's just a little Plantation thing, but it illustrates the central problem of government privatizing services it should be providing.

Today's Plantation Forum newspaper's lead headline is "City outsources summer camps." The City Council, it seems, voted earlier year to hand the camps held throughout the city over to a private company called Sunshine Child Programs. The company, which is apparently based in Davie and owned by a woman named Loren Merino, put in the only bid for the contract.

Why? Well, the camps cost the city $82,700 and the wise politicians on the commission were looking to cut costs. The new company would also share 25 percent of the revenues of the camp, which the city hopes will amount to $70,000 in revenues.

Wow, Mayor Rae Carol Armstrong and rabid Republican Party parrot Jerry Fadgen must be proud of themselves, eh? They're feeding business and saving the city money at the same time. Bravo. But here's the kicker that wasn't even mentioned in the newspaper article -- and it's a kicker that accompanies just about all of these privatization moves. 

The company, Sunshine, jacked up the rates by almost a third, from $695 to $880 for an eight-week camp.

So the Plantation Council basically just brought in a private entity to jack up rates and add a layer of profit to what was a perfectly fine service doing exactly what government is supposed to do. That's too often what privatization amounts to, folks, a farce and a sham.

-- Well, it looks like they got Fitzroy Salesman dead to rights. Yesterday, the prosecution played an undercover videotape taken in 2006 at the clubhouse restaurant at the Inverrary Country Club showing Salesman taking $1,000 in bribe money. 

From yesterday's trial from the Miami Herald:

The international financier slid the white, cash-stuffed envelope across the table, and former Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman picked up the payoff, folded it and put it in the pocket of his striped, burgundy shirt.

Then Salesman poured a Heineken beer into

his glass and continued his conversation with the money managers, who were really an undercover FBI agent and a paid informant working a public corruption sting. ...

"Inside it was $1,000 in $100 bills,'' [FBI Agent Patrick] Wren testified.

The payment was for Salesman's having introduced the undercover agents to Broward elected officials.

Immediately after taking the envelope, Salesman is shown on the video making a cell-phone call to Miramar City Manager Robert Payton, during which Salesman asks Payton for "no-bid, $50,000 jobs.''

Salesman confirms a meeting with Payton for the following morning, then hangs up and tells the undercover operatives that the city is looking for contractors to rebuild hurricane-damaged gazebos.

"That's perfect,'' says Patrick Lochrie, the paid informant working alongside Wren in the investigation.

Truer words never spoken. The kicker here is that there's plenty more where that came from and the feds didn't even charge Salesman for taking that thousand dollars because he was suspended at the time. They have him taking more money in more egregious circumstances coming up in the trial.

Fitzroy's done. Next!

-- Well, it's official: State Sen. Ted Deutch is a giant wuss.

After hemming and hawing about doing a debate on the WFTL's Jeff Katz Show with other candidates running for the District 19 congressional seat, Deutch officially weaseled out earlier this week. Here's the statement from Deutch that his campaign sent to the radio station:

"...  I will not be appearing on a debate on the Jeff Katz program. The community deserves to hear debates within a constructive and non-partisan environment. Unfortunately, Mr. Katz has made his views about me well known. More importantly, I was disappointed that Mr. Katz did not accurately inform his audience about the fact that my campaign repeatedly told his staff that I could not appear on his program last week due to previously scheduled budget committee hearings in Tallahassee."

Whatever. Now that Deutch has dropped out, that means I won't be there to ask the candidates questions, which means the questions you guys came up with won't be asked. And that's a shame, because many of them were very good. It would have been a great exercise in democracy, but Deutch couldn't handle it, which makes me wonder what kind of a congressman he might be.

-- Alleged Sicilian mobster and Scott Rothstein trophy Roberto Settineri is getting a detention hearing in Fort Lauderdale today. I'll be there.

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