Broward News

'Tis the Season for A Mara-cle!

During her 20-year reign as the grande dame of Hollywood, Mara Guilianti had many pet projects, but perhaps none that she adored more than the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center, a museum that moved from North Miami to downtown Hollywood last year, thanks in large part to Giulianti's hustle.

But mostly her generosity. It was a Giulianti-led Hollywood City Commission that gave the museum a half-million dollar loan last year, and it was Giulianti who pushed for the city to turn that loan into a grant. This despite the city's dire, dire financial straits.

So it looked mighty peculiar last week when a press release announced that Giulianti had accepted a post at -- guess what? -- the Holocaust museum. The release quoted Giulanti thus:

After 20 years of serving in public office and working on political campaigns, I look forward to embracing a new challenge and a new campaign.  It will be my honor to work with Holocaust survivors and liberators, as well as dedicated community volunteers and philanthropists, to spearhead a multi-million dollar fund-raising campaign.
Haven't Holocaust survivors suffered enough? Now the lady who's proven herself the region's most reckless steward of other people's money is going to "spearhead" their fund-raising campaign? Let's take a closer look at this matter, shall we?

I called the author of the press release, Dana Klein, to find out whether Giulianti would be cashing any checks in exchange for her fund-raising efforts. "She hasn't asked for a penny," says Klein. Asked about what qualified Giulianti for this task, Klein said,  "Everybody knows her. She's been around forever. She's a good spokesperson because she's been involved very early on. This is something she's passionate about."

To be sure, Giulianti's proven herself a resourceful fundraiser when the cause has been her own ambition -- she raised a quarter million in her reelection campaign. But much of that came from developers who were seeking permits, tax incentives and exceptions from city regulations. Will they still pay even when Giulianti can't help them play?

The Holocaust museum better hope so. It needs millions in donations to fix structural problems and make the Harrison Street building safe for tours and educational programs.
Still, it's tempting to ascribe this seemingly good deed to some sinister political motive. The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds us that during the 2008 mayoral campaign, Giulianti's ally, State Rep. Elaine Schwartz, circulated an email sliming Giulianti opponent Commissioner Peter Bober as an opponent of the museum. This because Bober voted against making the city's $500,000 loan to the museum a gift. The charge was particularly explosive considering Bober is Jewish.

Bob Norman's New Times column from this past January reminds us that it was at least the second time Giulianti made thinly veiled anti-Semitic charges. The first had occurred a dozen years before, in the midst of another heated campaign.

Of course, these desperate tactics did not work twice. Giulianti lost to Bober this past January. And who knows? Maybe she's become bored, padding around the spacious interior of her beachside condo at the Villas of Positano, one of the many luxurious monstrosities Giulianti favored during her rule. Maybe she gets a twinge of guilt when she passes through historic Young Circle, soon to be wreathed by sparsely occupied high-rises built in part with money that greedy developers plundered from City Hall, with the help of the former Mayor. And just maybe during this Christmas season of Obama-fueled hope, this unlikely cynic has come around, like Ebenezer Scrooge and The Grinch, to recognize that giving is so much better than taking.

On a completely unrelated note, holiday nog is best mixed with equal parts dark rum and brandy spiked holiday nog. The more the merrier!

-- Thomas Francis

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Thomas Francis