"I don't look at civic activities as a quid pro quo to get more business," Koslow says. "It's all about making a difference in the community. That's what I like to do -- put two and two together and get five."
Koslow specializes in finding out where the action is, then jumping in, invited or not. When he heard last month that Joe DiMaggio's attorney had rejected the chamber of commerce's idea of renaming Presidential Circle for the late Yankee slugger, Koslow proposed having the art center commission a statue of DiMaggio. And when he recently learned that the city wanted to preserve the mansion of Hollywood founder and master planner Joseph Wesley Young, Koslow offered to help on a pro bono basis. "I can acquire the Young mansion for the city for free, at least for no cash," he claims.
Koslow's relationships with Hollywood's city commissioners, some of them established while he was city attorney, are the keys to his success. At a recent meeting of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, which consists solely of the five city commissioners, Koslow sat in the front row next to his client and kibitzed with the commissioners, laughing at their jokes. Without debating they approved the request of his client, a large Maryland real-estate company, for a $100,000 "incentive" from the city to subsidize renovation of a downtown building. "Good, I didn't even have to say anything," Koslow said to his client as they left.
"Persistence is how Koslow succeeds," says Coleman, who opposes Koslow on Turtle Nest Suites and has clashed with him on other beachfront projects. "He's always popping in your office and asking if we could change just a few little things," he adds, rolling his eyes.
Money, of course, plays a big role in the approval process, too. According to Coleman and two prominent political consultants who didn't want to be named, Koslow's law partner Bernie Friedman has solicited campaign contributions from many clients for the pro-development members of the city commission -- Mayor Giulianti and commissioners Dick Blattner and Cathy Anderson. Coleman and the consultants say Friedman and Koslow also provided guidance to the campaigns of the three commissioners and Guy Roper, Coleman's main opponent in the election last June.
Becker & Poliakoff gave Giulianti $1000 for her reelection campaign against Coleman last year, according to city records. Two Koslow clients, the Diplomat Properties and developer Gus Boulis, chipped in another $1500. Blattner also received $1000 from B&P, as well as a total of $1000 from the Diplomat and Boulis. Anderson, who has been the swing vote on development issues, received $922 from Koslow's firm and $200 from Boulis. Coleman and commissioner Sal Oliveri, who have consistently voted against high-rise beach development, got nothing from B&P or its clients, city records show.
Although Koslow denies that he or his firm raises funds for campaigns or consults on a paid basis, he suggested that Friedman does so as a "volunteer." Friedman, who didn't return several phone calls for comment, has also been criticized by Hollywood commissioners and the city manager for conflict of interest, because he serves as the city's lobbyist in Tallahassee while lobbying the city on behalf of private clients.
"Just because you raise money for candidates doesn't mean they vote for you," Koslow says. "In Hollywood and elsewhere, commissioners vote their conscience."
That's bunk, says Welsch, the beachfront activist. "Koslow and Friedman have such an inbred relationship with the commissioners that I expect to hear them play 'Dueling Banjos' any day now," he quips. "You can see the two of them at commission meetings giving high signs to the commissioners on how to vote."
Asked whether his close relationships with some of the commissioners help his lobbying efforts, Koslow replies, with a straight face, "I present my arguments to the commissioners, and they consider them on the merits."
While Koslow's firm supports Mayor Giulianti, who's serving her sixth two-year term as mayor, Giulianti is sometimes more hindrance than help to him.