Gone are the days of dull commission meetings in the City of Hollywood. The days of short commission meetings have vanished, too.
Since the ascension of New-Age populist John Coleman a month ago, the five-member commission in Broward's second-largest city is split between commissioners Coleman and Sal Oliveri on the one hand, and Mayor Mara Giulianti and commissioner Dick Blattner on the other.
In the middle sits Cathleen Anderson, whose odd, elliptical soliloquies and refusal to side with either political camp make her the Rosetta stone of South Broward politics.
Imagine a large, angry hen attired in electric blue jacket and big prescription sunglasses -- a hen who has propped her ample handbag directly in front of her, leaving unanswered the alarming question of whether it might be a shield or potential weapon, or both.
"I'm beginning to believe in a strong mayor form of government," Anderson squawked in the final throes of last Wednesday's Hollywood City Commission meeting. "Who's running this place -- the people who get elected or everyone else?"
After a few moments of mystery, it turned out that Anderson's pique related to an issue her colleagues had killed and buried earlier: a proposed charter change to create runoff elections. For decades Hollywood has done without them, a policy that favors incumbents like Mayor Giulianti.
Mayoral nemesis Coleman had tried to force a vote on the issue. Giulianti stalled the matter by getting it referred to one of the city's many slow-moving committees, then accused Coleman of guerrilla warfare and procedural sloppiness in springing the matter on her. Coleman declared her comments "insulting."
Now Anderson had unexpectedly disinterred the matter.
"This is probably the most embarrassing way to make public policy I have ever seen in my life," the mayor hemmed. Then she hawed: "If we want to sow disunity and divisiveness, then this is a very good start."
Giulianti's colleagues harkened to Anderson, ignored the formerly all-powerful mayor, and set the issue for full discussion at their next meeting, on July 15. Admission is free, and theater programs, known as "agendas" to political insiders, are available in the city hall lobby.
Then comes Hollywood business owner Angel Spence, with a lesson in how to make political friends by making waves. It seems that shortly after guests began arriving at a posh Emerald Hills abode last week for a fundraiser benefiting Eleanor Sobel's campaign for the state house of representatives, a lightning strike knocked out the power -- and with it the air conditioning.
Just as the gathered cognoscenti began getting uncomfortably sweaty, the willowy Spence says she stepped up with a bold challenge. Anyone kind enough to make a $1000 pledge to Sobel's campaign right then, she said, would buy the sight of her plunging into the pool fully clothed. An unknown attendee made the pledge within seconds. And so Spence, the owner of Now Art Cafe, wearing a black pinstriped business suit and heels, duly made the promised plunge, proving herself to be the only one present capable of keeping her cool when the campaign heat is on.
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