Commissioner's Suit to Kill Term Limits Going to Court

Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom's attempt to kill term limits (chiefly for himself) is going to court tomorrow, where a judge is expected to rule on it up or down.

Rodstrom, plain and simple, is trying to overturn the will of the people for his own selfish reason -- namely staying in a political office that happens to have been very very good for his business of selling bonds to local governments. He, along with Ilene Lieberman, will be the first commissioners to be term-limited out of office in 2012.

Understand that voters passed a referendum in 2000 to limit commissioners to three four-year terms by a whopping 80 percent of the vote. Supporting it then too was Rodstrom. Now that his term is up, he says he's decided that term limits aren't a good idea after all. He says they only lead to novice politicians entering office who are more susceptible to lobbyists than experienced veterans like himself (his close friend and adviser, lobbyist Judy Stern, apparently doesn't count in that equation).

Through his political ally, attorney Bill Scherer, Rodstrom is trying to overturn them on the ridiculous -- if not scurrilous -- assertion that they violate the Florida Constitution. Scherer filed suit with a straw plaintiff by the name of William Telli, husband of Susan.

How can term limits -- a hallmark of democratic American government established by none other than George Washington -- be unconstitutional? Well, Scherer is arguing that the Constitution spells out the rules regarding officers like Rodstrom and that those rules don't include term limits. The county doesn't have the power, Scherer notes, to make any changes that are counter to "general law." Therefore the voters' will should be tossed out the window.

The basic argument is that Broward County has little power of self-rule. County attorneys Jeff Newton and Andrew Meyers (both of ethics reform shenanigan fame) argue that Broward in fact is a charter county with broad self-rule powers and that case law establishes that disputes should be "liberally construed in favor of county government." They also argue, rationally, that term limits are not in violation of general law and that killing them runs counter to good public policy.

Listed on the case is Broward Circuit Judge Lisa-Carol Phillips, who happens to be the wife of former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle. Let's hope the right thing is done.

Inside, see how a well-known local politician transformed her Lexus into a campaign ad, how a named partner in Scott Rothstein's law firm is coughing up his New York apartment, and, as a bonus, read about the slow destruction of the local daily newspapers.

-- Here's the car:

-- Agree with my take on Amendment 8 or not, at least it wasn't shipped in from Orlando.

That's what the Sun-Sentinel did Sunday morning in its so-called voter's guide -- which basically encouraged the newspaper's still-dwindling number of subscribers to put a bunch of incumbents back into office. The big surprise was an endorsement of Marco Rubio. The oddity was that the newspaper endorsed Barbra Stern, painting her "connections" through her mother -- the aforementioned lobbyist/political operative Judy Stern -- as a positive.

On the key amendments facing voters in a couple of weeks, Amendments 4 and 8, the Sentinel trucked in articles from its sister paper in Orlando. So we got the views of people from Disney instead of Davie and Dania. Apparently the leaders of the bankrupt Tribune company thinks readers will buy this kind of "synergistic" garbage rather than see right through it and wonder, "Why the hell am I reading this?"

It's not just the Sentinel. Have you noticed how many stories the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post are sharing these days? The Herald is doing very little in Broward, so it just uses the Sentinel stories. It's pretty repulsive, especially since it's designed for all three debt-laden newspaper companies to fire staffers while trying to maintain content.

You see this even in the sports section of the Sentinel, which has been decimated by its partnership with Orlando. It's only getting worse. On August 31, I was forwarded an internal Sun-Sentinel memo regarding the formation of something it calls "One-Florida Sports." It sells it as as enhancement to coverage. It's actually about shrinkage and homogenization: The memo, which was sent companywide: 

This morning we announced in the newsroom an expansion of our existing sharing between the sports departments in Orlando and South Florida. This reorganization, called One-Florida Sports, will put reporters and editors in both markets under a single Florida Topic Manager.

Starting today, Tim Stephens, the Orlando Sentinel's sports topic manager, becomes the leader of the combined Florida sports operation. Joe Schwerdt, the Sun Sentinel's sports topic manager, becomes pro sports editor for both markets.

This reorganization is designed to enhance print and digital sports content in both markets. To that end, we are moving some staffers into content-creation jobs and expanding digital content development in both markets.

This arrangement is not entirely new for the two sports departments. We have traditionally shared a great deal of sports content - from golf coverage to college sports and columnists - and will expand such sharing where it meets the needs of both markets. When it makes sense to do so, we'll plan content that is designed and edited once to serve both markets. This is an extension of what we already are doing in both markets on some college football and NFL pages and with our annual football preview section.

We will, however, maintain two distinct sports brands with locally focused beat coverage and content in each market in print and online.

For the last few weeks, Orlando and South Florida have been working collaboratively to produce local news and sports sections. For example, the Orlando Sentinel produces the Sun Sentinel sports section for Thursday, Friday and Saturday editions. South Florida is producing the Sentinel sports section for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday editions. Both staffs independently produce the Sunday editions.  

The Sun-Sentinel of Orlando. Get used to it. Or not.

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman