The Theater Vanishes
When city officials started talking about creating the Hollywood Arts District -- or HART -- at Young Circle, Tailpipe was skeptical. It sounded like the same old development flim-flam, with a few artsy touches thrown in. The city gives developers Gary Posner and Patricia Peretz $3.5 million to build and operate a charter school on the site, another $3.5 million in loans for a new 17-story condo tower, and Young Circle gets a gaggle of new buildings, with taxpayers footing a large part of the bill. Ugh.
But at least there was one incontestable arts element in the plan: a proposed 400-seat theater. It clinched the deal for City Commissioner Fran Russo. "When they [the developers] came to us with the project, they had a gorgeous drawing of the theater," Russo says. "It's the only reason I voted for the project."
But wait. The developers recently told commissioners that they no longer plan to build a theater after all; Posner explained that he and Peretz couldn't afford it. So where's the ART in HART?
Community Redevelopment Agency Director Jim Edwards responds philosophically. Not to worry. The idea for the would-be theater, he says, was really predicated on making the place homebase for the Hollywood Playhouse -- which went out of business last September (after Posner and Peretz, who own the Playhouse's building on Washington Street, withdrew operating funds from the 50-year-old group).
"They're discussing a couple of different arts-related improvements within the project," Edwards says. "If they're able to substitute for the theater with other arts-related activities, that fulfills the concept."
Russo doesn't buy that. "Our city needs a performing arts center," she says vehemently. "Hollywood is so arts- and culture-oriented, yet we have to send our tourists and citizens to Fort Lauderdale or Miami to see a show. No."
She doesn't buy the claims of poverty either, noting that Posner and Peretz are getting $300,000 a year for ten years from the CRA to run the theater. "If there isn't enough money to do the theater, they should have known that up-front," Russo says. "If they don't have the money, then we should go to another developer to develop it. I'm not going to let this go away."
It sounds like the old bait and switch: Get a project's funding in place, then deep-six the expensive amenities (like a theater). The 'Pipe, one auto part who loves a good play now and then, couldn't reach the developers for comment. But what could they say?
Is Anybody Listening?
When news hit that Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer was indicted last week for allegedly paying campaign workers to collect absentee ballots from voters, Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion might have felt a tad bit anxious. That's because Eggelletion has been accused of committing the same crime -- a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison -- while running his reelection campaign in August.
This courageous conduit has learned of allegations that a paid Eggelletion campaign worker named Dennis Gill delivered absentee ballots to the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office on August 17, 2004, two weeks before Eggelletion defeated challenger Allen Jackson in the primary. Warence Mae Smith, president of the St. Georges Civic Association, says she saw Gill deliver a batch of about 50 of the ballots. Indeed, they were unsealed, says Smith, which itself is a violation of law. The commissioner didn't return the `Pipe's phone calls, and Gill, who took home $1,300 from the Egg Man's campaigns, couldn't be reached before presstime.
Smith, who volunteered for Jackson's campaign, reported the apparent violation to both the county elections office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (which investigated the Dyer case in Orlando), but she says both agencies basically ignored her. At the time, however, she didn't know that it was illegal for Gill to deliver absentee ballots for Eggelletion.
"Nobody did anything," she says. "I wanted a fair election, period. That's the least we can expect, a fair election. But you file a complaint and nothing happens. I should have at least gotten a follow-up call, but I got nothing."
The Dyer case, however, changes everything. If the Orlando mayor pays a heavy price for violating Florida's election laws, then the scandal-plagued Eggelletion should at least be thoroughly investigated on allegations he did the same.
Scorecard from Pandemonium in Pahokee, now playing in a racially divided burg near you:
Beaten to a bloody pulp: Robert Love, town loudmouth and head cook at the Grumpy Gator restaurant
Out of a job: Two Pahokee cops, including Chief Rafael Duran, who quit in the wake of a Feb. 25 brouhaha
Threatened: City Manager Lillie Latimore and Vice Mayor Allie Biggs by cops who pointed weapons in their faces when they stumbled upon Love being treated like a king -- L.A.'s Rodney King
While not a model citizen, 48-year-old Love sure didn't deserve the public beating he received from a pair of Pahokee police officers that occurred on Main Street before numerous witnesses. Love is undergoing surgery this week to fix the broken bones in his face. Just three days before the incident, Love complained about the town's police force at a town commission meeting. "I was prophesizin' that this was gonna happen," he says. "And it happened."
After he was pulled over by rookie officer Dominic "Hatch" Hachigan, who noticed Love's Ford Explorer driving without its headlights on, Love says he cooperated fully. When it was revealed his license had been suspended earlier that month, Love says he called a friend on his cell phone to come pick up the Explorer while Hachigan wrote him a ticket. That's when Pahokee officer James Levey showed up and all hell broke loose.
"This damn fool Levey heard on his radio that I was pulled over," Love explains. "He came, whispered something to the other guy, and said, 'Put your goddamned hands on the truck, Robert Love. '" When Love questioned the reason for the arrest, the beatdown began.
Driving down Main Street after dinner together, Biggs and Latimore saw the violence and stopped to investigate. By then, the street was swarming with police, and Biggs alleged that one sheriff's deputy pointed a gun and shouted for them to stay away (though she later conceded it may have been Mace or pepper spray, not a handgun).
Meanwhile, Love was taken to Glades General Hospital, where his aunt, Sharon Love Kinsler, just happened to show up. "I'm a picture-taking girl," she told Tailpipe. "God had me in the right place at the right time." The photos she took there clearly show the extent of her nephew's injuries.
A week later, Duran and officer Levey resigned.
"It's a new millennium," Love says, "a new millennium of Klansmen. Rather than come out with sheets and hoods on, they come out with a police uniform."
Tailpipe once had a house guest who was messy and moody and inconsiderate. The 'Pipe came home one night to find four dozen people crowded into his pad, drinking and smoking and canoodling. "So... you're havin' a party," the nonplussed 'Pipe pronounced.
"Yeah, man," the guest replied. "Did I forget to tell you?"
That's how Fort Lauderdale city officials feel right now. From June 5 to 7, more than 1,200 people, including dignitaries from throughout the Western Hemisphere, will descend on the city as part of the general assembly of the Organization of American States, an international group that promotes democracy, human rights, and solutions to crime and drugs in the Americas.
Hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the OAS meeting will feature world leaders, bigwigs from Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee, and international media at the Broward County Convention Center. At night, those politicos and dignitaries will stay at Fort Lauderdale's hotels, including the Hyatt Pier 66 and Marriott Marina.
All this, of course, will require substantial manpower from the city. There's security, parking, roadblocks, and the occasional drunken driver with diplomatic immunity.
Trouble is, no one bothered to inform Fort Lauderdale's new city manager, George Gretsas, and his staff that the party was coming to town until recently. What's more, it's still unclear whether the federal government will reimburse budget-strapped Fort Lauderdale for serving as the OAS party pad. "We're still in the dark," concedes David Hébert, a city spokesman.
Make FEMA Work for You
The 14 clods dumb enough to get indicted by the feds for Federal Emergency Management Agency fraud this month had it coming. Claiming hurricane damage on homes they didn't even live in? Morons! But you have to admire the moxie in turning natural disasters to their advantage. People hoping to hit the FEMA jackpot without landing on the Sun-Sentinel front page should simply harness the next hurricane to work for them. Have the storm destroy the unwanted crap around the house, then apply for a FEMA upgrade. Some suggestions:
Buy hurricane shutters from Fabric & Things.
Park your priceless, vintage 77 Gremlin under 20-ton banyan trees.
Loosen shingles above tacky upstairs bathroom.
Taunt God every night before bed: Bet you cant hit my termite-infested pool deck.
Convert doghouse into infirmary for ailing grandmother. FEMA covers funeral expenses too, you know.
Leave the old Magnavox with the blown speakers in the breezeway. HDTV, here we come!
As told to Edmund Newton
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