Mano a Mano Against Poverty

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"We're giving the amputees jobs. A lot of them only have one arm, but they can still pick up trash and work in reforestation there. If they can't work, we'll give them a little bit of money. One man had legs literally as thin as my thumbs all the way up and down. He had polio as a kid. He dragged himself around, that's the only way he could move. He asked for money to see a doctor. You know how much he needed to see the Cambodian doctor? Five bucks.

"This is the fastest Planting Peace has ever gotten a shelter up and running, but that's just how I like to do things. I don't like to wait for red tape or try to raise money, then do it. I just like to go there and start doing things, and it works out.

"These people, they told me tourists pass there every day. Nobody ever just thought to ask, 'Is there anything I can do to help you?' "

Pac Man U

Hear that giant sucking sound? That's the sound of Nova Southeastern University swallowing the Museum of Art/Fort Lauderdale. The two tax-exempt entities painted the shift last month as a "merger." But upon further prodding from Tailpipe, NSU President Ray Ferrero said that henceforth, the museum's finances will be reported as those of a Nova "division" in the school's annual report.

At a news conference to announce the deal, the white-haired Ferrero, dressed in a dapper seersucker suit, assured reporters that the museum's financials will still be "very transparent."

As a condition of being tax-exempt, of course, nonprofit entities are obligated to make their annual tax returns available for public viewing. The average joe can view most such documents at websites like www.guidestar.org. But the latest report available on Guidestar for the museum covers the 12 months leading up to July 2006, whereas Nova is current only through July 2005.

Transparency? What exactly does the museum get out of a formal alliance with Nova? For starters, storage space. At present, three out of every ten artworks from the museum's 6,000-piece permanent collection already reside at Nova's enormous Davie campus.

 The museum's executive director, Irvin Lippman, is also hopeful that Nova art teachers will eventually curate projects at the Las Olas digs. That is, once Nova actually has a visual arts program. Nova's Farquhar College plans to start offering bachelor's programs in both art and art administration this fall.

Lippman denied that the "merger" was motivated by financial need, saying the museum has been in the black since 2003. Still, Nova dwarfs the museum in financial and fundraising muscle. For the 2005-06 school year, NSU posted $469 million in revenue versus just $7.5 million in sales for the museum.

 And, no, the museum didn't bother negotiating with public universities like FAU or BCC, both of which have downtown campuses adjacent to the museum.

But, hey, it's all good.

The Piper Waits

Or maybe the sucking sound was a huge chunk of the Broward County budget flaking off, like a calving iceberg, to satisfy a liability suit.

This goes back to March 13, 1998. Christopher Thieman was late for work at the Broward Sheriff's Office. He stepped on it. He was doing 70 in a 45-mph zone when his cruiser smashed into Eric Brody's car, which was making a left turn at the intersection of Oakland Park Boulevard and 117th Lane in Sunrise.

The 18-year-old Brody, a high school student who'd hoped to become a DJ, was in a coma for six months and was left with severe incapacitating brain damage.

On December 1, 2005, a jury awarded Brody $30.6 million in damages. In a news release at the time, lawyers for Brody called it "the largest Florida jury verdict in memory penalizing a government agency."

BSO appealed, arguing that during the trial, Brody's attorneys had inappropriately summarized witness testimony and presented it on poster boards for jurors to take with them into the deliberation room. But the District Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict in November 2007, deeming the poster boards harmless. BSO pursued its beef to the Florida Supreme Court. Two weeks ago, the Robed Ones decided it would not reconsider the case — so the award to Brody stands.

But those millions are still elusive. There's a measure in place to protect taxpayers' money — it's called sovereign immunity, and it caps payments at $200,000 in cases like these in which the government has been found at fault. For victims to get any more than that, the state legislature must pass a claims bill waiving sovereign immunity and authorizing paying out the dough. In this case, BSO has claims insurance, so the money should come from the insurance company, not county coffers. That may make state legislators more likely to pass the bill next session.

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Edmund Newton