Plantation City Hall hasn't changed much since longtime mayor Frank Veltri left office last month. That's because lobbyists and law partners Bill Laystrom and Emerson Allsworth are still stalking the corridors.
Case in point: last week's council meeting, during which Laystrom presented a plan to build a "three-in-one" restaurant, in which three fast-food joints -- KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut -- would share a building and a drive-thru on Broward Boulevard. The plan calls for breaking a few of the city's most sacred rules, most notably: No fast-food drive-thrus. It also shrinks parking spots and landscaping space to below city code and flies in the face of the city engineer, who says an access road on the site would likely cause accidents.
But the project will probably get the green light. Four of the five council members have voiced support, and three of them -- Ron Jacobs, Jerry Fadgen, and Ralph Merritt -- routinely bend over backwards to appease Laystrom and Allsworth, who are big campaign contributors.
Only councilman Lee Hillier opposes it. During last week's meeting, he questioned Laystrom's assertion that the three-in-one will create 40 percent less traffic than a KFC and a Sizzler had on the same site. When Hillier pointed out that Laystrom also expects a 20 percent rise in KFC's business alone, Laystrom repeated his mantra: The new building will be smaller, so traffic will decrease. Hillier rejects Laystrom's reasoning, which would be laughed out of a City Planning 101 course.
Broward Boulevard, incidentally, is a level "E" road, traffic-wise, just one step up from an "F" -- the worst rating given by the city. Which reminds us of another rule in Plantation: No road should score lower than a "D."
It's getting harder for Fort Lauderdale and Broward County officials to deny the problems caused by the county's new Homeless Assistance Center, but they keep trying.
HAC director Ezra Krieg insists that while the center is often "close to capacity," it hasn't had to turn anyone away yet. "There are beds available every night," echoes Angelo Castillo, the county's human services director.
But the Broward Coalition for the Homeless says the HAC has had zip to offer the coalition's emergency beds hotline (954-524-BEDS) on quite a few nights. Plus the HAC won't admit anyone who's intoxicated or severely mentally ill.
The facade cracked wide open on March 31st, when the Sun-Sentinel "discovered" -- two weeks after it was reported by New Times -- that, in order to comply with a Miami federal court ruling, the Fort Lauderdale Police were refusing to arrest people sleeping in parks on nights when no shelter beds are available. Residents living near the parks were angry, and embarrassed city commissioners immediately pressured the police to clear the parks.
But it hasn't happened. The cops are enforcing park rules, but they're not targeting the homeless, says Downtown District Commander Bob Pusins. Indeed, sources on the street report that no one is being arrested for sleeping in parks.
Our prediction: Come next election, a few Fort Lauderdale politicians will be out on the streets themselves. Question is, where will they sleep?
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