Undercurrents | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


If you think you're having a tough time making ends meet, consider the plight of Jim Kane, one of the shrewdest political players in Broward County. Here's a guy who knows all the right people and does all the right deals, yet court records indicate his net worth is that of a thrifty schoolteacher. It's a shame. People who work so hard manipulating the system deserve better.

Among other things Kane, age 53, is: (1) the editor of Florida Voter, the preeminent polling publication in the state, which often lands him in the pages of local and national newspapers (including this one) as the man who divines the people's will; (2) a lobbyist for HIP Health Plan of Florida, a giant HMO with hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of public contracts including those of Broward County and the School Board of Broward County; (3) a friend and employee of the Forman family, Broward's first family of land development. He knows every county Democrat worth knowing and has managed campaigns for many of them.

But Kane is worth only $137,639, according to documents filed as part of his divorce from wife Pamela in December. Granted the stock market has been brutal of late, but come on. Where's all the money?

He makes more than $115,000 per year as an employee of Austin Forman's American Marketing and Management Inc. Kane listed total assets of $255,639, including $174,000 from sale of the family home on Riverland Road and $47,819 in a bank account. On the other side of the ledger, he has $93,000 of unspecified loans and $25,000 in taxes due on a real-estate deal.

That's not the balance sheet of a bigtime player. South Florida lobbyists can score tens of thousands on just a big deal or two. Jim Kane didn't return our calls to help sort this thing out. Nor did Austin Forman.

The documents hint that Kane has done better in the past. Wife Pamela had this to say when asking Judge Lawrence Korda to grant her alimony: "[He] is a very successful and well-known lobbyist who earns large sums of money from his profession," which had afforded her and their five-year-old son "... an affluent, if not lavish lifestyle."

Alas the judge didn't buy Pam's plea. She makes $85,000 a year as a lawyer in the county attorney's office. No alimony for her. In 1999 she accused a New Times writer of stalking when he asked her questions about hubby Jim. So she was none too pleased to hear from Undercurrents last week: "Why do you people continue to pick on us?" Before we could answer, she added, "You know what? You people are so fucking arrogant." Then she hung up.

If the Broward County Charter Review Commission had a dais full of Frank Vargases, it might be able to do something about the pervasive insiderism eating away at county government. Unfortunately, the CRC doesn't even have one Frank Vargas anymore.

Vargas left the CRC about three weeks ago because of health concerns. "I was very sick," he says. "I had a problem with my heart." He's better now and back at work as president of Capital Mortgage, the business he runs out of the Presidential Towers in Hollywood. But he no longer has the time or energy for the CRC.

Two others have also left since the CRC began its task last summer: Pompano Beach lawyer Johnny McCray, who was disqualified because he did not live in the same district as County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, who appointed him; and Clifton Rodriguez, a CPA who says the meetings were taking up too much time.

The county's charter, essentially its constitution, went into effect in 1975. It delineates every aspect of Broward County government, from elected officials' terms to the county administrator's powers. It's an important document and one its framers realized would need to be updated from time to time.

Enter the CRC, which met for the first time in June 2000, and will adjourn in November 2002. The group's 18 members, appointed by Broward commissioners, have the authority to put their recommendations for changing county government up for a public vote.

The problem is that the CRC is so packed with lawyers, lobbyists, and other insiders who benefit from the county's largesse that it's impossible to conceive of any real reform resulting from its machinations. Its roster includes two former county commissioners; current members of the South Broward Drainage District, the Broward County Planning Council, and the North Broward Hospital District; former city officials from Dania Beach, Miramar, and Davie; the state committeeman for the Broward Democratic Party; and the current Lauderhill city attorney.

Vargas was one of the few on the CRC without county commission ties. And he was that rarest of beings, a businessman with a heart. He's championed causes from antidiscrimination, to fair wages, to consumer protection. He's exactly the kind of person with whom the CRC should have been populated in the first place. But there aren't 17 others like him in Broward County.

Ken Jenne, stop quaking in your boots; Al Goldstein's nascent campaign for Broward County sheriff is dead.

Goldstein, the zaftig, profane, Pompano Beach pornographer, announced his intention to unseat Jenne in January. His campaign was to have centered on the decidedly Libertarian precept of leaving folks the hell alone, whether they're smoking a joint or jumping in a pile at a swingers' club. "Let's quit harassing people for eccentricities of their individuality," he told New Times in February. He also pledged to make the streets safer and restore national respectability to Broward after the election debacle.

Aiming to remain as pure as New York snow, Goldstein didn't want to take campaign contributions. To finance his effort, he planned to open a bordello on the island of Saint Martin, where prostitution is legal. But Al Goldstein's International Rabbit Ranch isn't going to happen. Goldstein says authorities refused to give him a license because he's not a citizen of that nation. "We didn't bribe the right people or something," he says.

Without pimping income he doesn't have the jack to bankroll a $1 million campaign. So it just isn't worth doing. "Fuck it," he says. "It didn't work out; I move on. I'm auditioning to be a regular on Leno."