But that majority dissolved on March 13, when voters ousted commissioner Irwin Harlem in favor of former state Rep. Roger Wishner. The election left the former majority, embodied by Mayor Steven Feren and Commissioner Joseph "Joey" Scuotto, as the new minority.
That loud, creaking sound at Thursday's meeting marked a power shift toward a trio of broom-wielding reformers.
Commissioner Sheila Alu kicked things off by saying that the city should dissolve its relationship with the Sister Cities of Sunrise. The nonprofit organization's officers include Sunrise economic development director Lou Sandora and Howard Kusnick, a lobbyist for All Service Refuse (which until recently enjoyed a no-bid contract with the city).
Sister Cities of Sunrise officers won't open their books, making it impossible for Alu to find out whether the nonprofit is operating as a vehicle for All Service to reward politicians like Feren and Harlem, who have gotten expense-paid trips to Israel and the United Kingdom on Sister Cities business.
The first human casualty was Police Chief David Boyett, who resigned before he could be fired. As the commission discussed his successor, Scuotto stewed. Then he erupted.
"Nobody said the city's doing shitty," Scuotto snapped before the other commissioners interrupted him.
"There are children in the audience," Wishner cautioned. Scuotto was just getting warmed up.
"If the people have spoken, I don't think they wanted you to come in here and fire everybody," Scuotto asserted. "Are you going to fire [City Manager] Pat [Salerno]? Are we going to fire the fire chief? The city attorney? The city clerk? Are we going to change the garbage contract?"
About that garbage contract...
Garbage is a pet issue for Scuotto, though he has to recuse himself from voting on most trash matters because his nephew works at All Service which also happens to be his most generous campaign contributor. But it didn't keep Scuotto from serving on the Resource Recovery Board, which oversees trash-hauling policies for Broward County.
Wishner wants to change that. He wants to oust Scuotto and take that seat himself. This led to a chaotic shouting match and then to the meeting's climactic ending: Alu screaming for a "Point of information!" before she hastily adjourned the meeting and made a dash for the exit. "I'm walking to my car," she said over her shoulder. "No one hit me!"
Let's see now. Cool means, uh, good, hip, calm. It's a substitute for OK. ("Hey, Mom, I'm going to Barney's house. Cool?") It's the opposite of overheated, hysterical, agitated ("Cool out, brother"). Come to think of it, it's a catchall for just about everything that's youthfully desirable. In fact, in the past 40 years, the word has been probably the most used adjective in American English. It now means just about anything, or nothing, and smart kids long ago abandoned it for sweet, fresh, dope, and a variety of other good, crunchy substitutes.
So when Denny Talbott, president of Kool Playgrounds, got hit with a lawsuit last year by his former employers, Way Cool Playgrounds, it seemed to Tailpipe like an argument over, say, a piece of bread covered with green mold. This was intellectual property with an IQ somewhere below room temperature.
Talbott says he didn't choose the name out of spite or to steal business. Kool Playgrounds was actually his third choice; the first two he submitted to the Florida Division of Corporations were already taken. (Citing court restrictions, he won't say what those were.)
Talbott insists that he liked Kool instead of Way Cool because, as a salesman for Way Cool, he had grown tired of saying, "Hi, this is Denny from Way Cool Playgrounds." It never seemed to come out easy, he says. The word kool described his concept perfectly, and it slipped right off the tongue. Furthermore, he said: "It's spelled totally different. Mine's spelled with a K to be unique."
Way Cool didn't see it that way. The owner of Delray Beach-based Way Cool, Joel Maxwell, wasn't cool at all with Kool, so to speak. He accused Talbott of service mark infringement, breach of restrictive covenant agreement, unfair competition, and "cybersquatting." Maxwell claimed in his complaint that Talbott's use of the trade name "has caused several instances of actual confusion within and among the relevant consuming public."
Talbott says that the dispute is overblown and that Maxwell's just pissed off that he left. Maxwell wouldn't comment for this story, but a business partner, Brill Maxwell, said via e-mail that the lawsuit was dropped last week. Asked why, Maxwell responded: "I don't see this to be news or any of your business. Please bother someone else."
Totally, ugh, uncool.
The Little Engine That Couldn't
Speaking of playgrounds, the little locomotive at Fort Lauderdale's Holiday Park has been inspiring games of the imagination, to say nothing of exercising youthful climbing muscles, for more than 30 years. Kids take one look at the 1936 switcher engine, parked next to a playground in the park, and they want to climb aboard. (Adults too. Tailpipe can testify.)
So it was with shock and a little anguish that Tailpipe the other day discovered a sign on the little engine that read: "Please Do Not Climb on Train." The stairs leading to the engineer's station were boarded over.
Frumious day, as Lewis Carroll might have put it. What a calamity!
Tailpipe's pipette bitterly pondered the decommissioned engine, shaking her head. "It's like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa," she said.
Well, sometimes, for cosmetic reasons, a mustache is necessary. The 'Pipe got in touch with the city's Parks & Recreation Department, where officials were all suitably regretful, acknowledging the engine's "nostalgic value."
"But as it gets older, it's been deteriorating quite a bit," said Assistant Director Terry Rynard. "After an inspection, our playground safety inspector decided it was beyond repair." The problem? Rust. "It's rusted out," Rynard said. "There's structural rust."
True enough, there's corroded sheeting, crumbling the edges on one side and eating away at some of the engine's underworks. But the cockpit seems fit enough, with its skidproof floor.
Isn't the sign just a challenge to kids? Won't they just derive inspiration to climb on something they're not supposed to climb on?
"Certainly without the right amount of supervision, that would be correct," Rynard said. (One parent, Jeff Fox, a regular at the park, confirmed that this is already happening. "I already see parents throwing their kids up there," he said.)
But the city sees an "educational value" in leaving the engine where it is, Rynard added.
Seems like the easy way out. "Kids don't get to pretend anymore," Mrs. Tailpipe observed ruefully. "It's all about scheduled activities, like T-ball and soccer. The easiest solution [with the engine] is to slap a two-by-four on it and shut it down."
Hey, Parks & Rec, ever heard of Rust-Oleum?