The Commission Strikes Back

So I got a call out of the blue from Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom yesterday.

"So you've resorted to name calling?" he asked me.

He wasn't mad. Rodstrom, think of him what you will, is usually pretty cool.

"Yes," I answered. "Yes, I have."

"Whores?" he asked.

"And scurrilous dogs," I reminded him. "I also called you a scurrilous dog. Nothing personal you know."

"Oh, I know it's not personal," he said. "I'm term-limited anyway."

"Oh, but you'll run for something. You guys always do. What will it be?"

"I don't know."

"And you'll need money too. Who do you think will give it to you?"

He knew the answer I was looking for and he gamely provided it.

"Ron Book."

There's no journalist in the world who doesn't like an official with thick skin and a sense of humor. And in Broward County, there's not much rough hide with all these self-important prima donnas running around. But Rodstrom, he's got it. And I like that.

His call was to remind me that county staff had told the county that the new ordinance restricting the pre-trial release program should save the county $3 million. That's why he voted for lobbyist Ron Book's ordinance, he said.

Okay. John deserves his explanation. I don't necessarily agree with it, but he's got his side of the story.

But I will say that this is the same county staff that Rodstrom has pilloried -- and rightly so -- for its seeming incompetence on a number of issues, the airport most significantly. Now suddenly it's the voice of God?

And if more inmates are stacked in the jail because of this amendment, a very real possibility, that alleged $3 million in savings will evaporate in the blink of an eye. Look, this ordinance isn't a jump into the abyss -- it's a big step in the wrong direction. And it's a step that I submit never would have happened if not for Mr. Book's undue influence on the commission, which pays him $50,000 a year even as he lobbies the same body for votes for his bail bondsmen clients and fills the commissioners' campaign coffers with cash.

Bottom line is that the county needs to outlaw that practice.  

I also received an e-mail from Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger. She wrote that the controversial amendment she tacked on to Book's ordinance has been misinterpreted by the Pulp.

The amendment, which has attracted some expert comments about how useless it is on the original post below, wasn't designed to make it more difficult for judges to use the pretrial services program (rather than bail bondsmen, who have been busy celebrating their big win in the commission). She says she is forcing judges to explain in writing why they are using the pretrial services program to save the program, not hinder it with bureaucratic noise.

Look, I don't think her explanation makes a whole lot of sense. (Gunzburger, by the way, is running for re-election; you wonder who'll be contributing?). But here's the brunt of her email, which I will let speak for itself (it jumps):

The amendment was my own idea, and I did not discuss it with anyone prior to this week's commission meeting.  County staff advised the change we approved this week to the pretrial release program will save Broward taxpayers $3 million per year.  As we are forced to make cuts in spending anywhere reasonably possible, the professional staff advised this was a

financially prudent move.  However -- as I truly believe in the importance of maintaining the pretrial release program for non-violent offenders who do not present a threat to others -- my amendment is intended to build a case for MAINTAINING the pretrial release program in the face of further budget cuts in the months ahead. 

By having the judges each set forth written reasons why pretrial release is appropriate for specific accused criminal detainees, County staff can use those court orders to document the case for when pretrial release works best.  I believe the data compiled from those court orders will make the case for preserving pretrial release in appropriate cases when we make those tough future budget decisions.

Obviously, you should attack me in print when you believe it is appropriate.  But, this time, you were completely wrong about what I did and why.  In fact, what you reported was the exact opposite of what my amendment is intended to achieve.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman