Many lobbyists are subtle, some are more straightforward. A few are downright blunt and not afraid to antagonize the very people they are hoping to influence. Take Don C. Meyer -- and some members of the Fort Lauderdale City Commission wish you would.
"City Hall doesn't appreciate what I'm doing," Meyer says regarding his blitz of sharply worded faxes about proposed regulation of late-night bars and clubs.
Mayor Jim Naugle agrees, "Talk about a classic instance of how not to influence people, this is it."
The mayor is referring to a fax that claims he and the commissioners "ARE DETERMINED TO BE THE JUDGE AND JURY" if the new law passes and enough complaints from noise, parking, et cetera, are lodged against a nightclub. The club could have its after-midnight license suspended by the mayor and commissioners. But the fax goes on to question the politicians' ability to make a good decision based on their daytime employment: "We have a housewife [Gloria Katz], a cleaning business owner [Cindi Hutchinson] and a lawn service owner [Tim Smith]," who will be enforcing the laws instead of more knowledgeable cops and zoning department officials.
Dissing the decision-makers before a vote is bold. But the former Chicago nightclub owner doesn't flinch. "I'm sure it's pissing them off, but they don't have the background in the business," Meyer insists.
As for BAR-PAC, an organization that supposedly banded together to fight the new ordinance, Meyer says it doesn't have the backing of the larger bars and restaurants in malls such as Las Olas Riverfront and BeachPlace. In other words, no political clout.
Meyer seems to know a lot of people in the "hospitality industry," for which he is a consultant, and currently has a phone list of 10,000 people. He is part of a new breed of activist/lobbyist who uses his computer and fax machine to pump out an apparently unending supply of political bulletins.
Meyer fought city hall before when spring break was broken and sees this set of politicians as being equally ignorant of the financial damage they can now do to a once-again-thriving business by instituting a new law when there's only a handful of bars and clubs causing problems.
When last we left them, a growing number of barrier-island citizens were starting their campaign to keep an emergency room on the far eastern side of Fort Lauderdale. These determined citizens have now gotten the issue into the daily papers and have convinced U.S. Congressman E. Clay Shaw to hold a meeting on the subject.
The issue revolved around the closure of the Cleveland Clinic emergency room, which had served the apartment and condo dwellers on the east side of the Intracoastal. Having the hospital on the island meant ambulances wouldn't have to stop and wait for the drawbridges during a rush to the ER.
Cleveland Clinic owners, however, are getting ready to head for the wide open spaces of west Broward and close the emergency room. But the activists, including leader Mark Hariton, think the tide may be turning.
If they pack the house for the meeting and continue to politick, the residents think that the Cleveland Clinic owners may give in and keep an emergency room open.
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