Undercurrents | Undercurrents | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


It's impressive how much faith Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne puts in his young lobbyist and political consultant, Russ Oster.

We have long known that Jenne has eyes for more than law enforcement, considering his failed bid to convince voters in March that they needed a strong-mayor form of government. (Many say Jenne would gladly jump out of the sheriff's saddle for his life-long ambition of running as a strong mayor.)

And we know that it was Oster, the under-30, high-maintenance strategist who helped Jenne lose that half-million­ dollar strong-mayor campaign. The Jenne forces ran out of cash in the last week. The other side didn't and captured the airways and the voters.

What we didn't know was this: Since last fall when Jenne's heart was firmly set on the idea of the strong mayor, he has paid Oster more than $21,000 to manage Jenne's campaign for sheriff. A majority of that money -- $15,000 -- went to Oster between January 4 and March 1, when the mayor fight was in the crucial final rounds. Another $5000 went to Oster on April 1, two weeks after the referendum, according to campaign finance records.

The money to Oster makes up about 40 percent of the $52,218 spent on the sheriff's campaign, from a war chest of $91,660 as of June 30.

It isn't that Jenne is facing a tough reelection. He can pretty much gallop right into another four years as sheriff, the way things are looking now.

His only opponent so far is fellow Democrat Lionel Stewart, considered so far behind Jenne that a voter couldn't see him with a pair of binoculars.

Stewart has raised only $6440 and spent more than half of it as of June 30, and he'll have to come up with a filing fee of $8313.96 -- that's 6 percent of the sheriff's salary -- by the deadline Friday.

Even if Stewart produces the required cash, Jenne would have to work hard to lose the September primary. If Stewart can't cough up the fee and no surprise candidate emerges by high noon Friday, end of story: Jenne will keep the badge pinned on his chest for another four years.

Oster says the money he earned from Jenne's campaign chest for sheriff was only for that campaign. "We had to take it seriously," he said. "We started with a huge fundraiser in December -- in fact the bulk of our efforts have been fundraising."

Translation: The bulk of his effort has apparently been raising money so Jenne could pay him.

Let's make this perfectly clear: A soup kitchen is NOT compatible with the county's redevelopment goals for Broward Boulevard. But thanks to Broward County commissioner Lori Parrish, one will be built there anyway.

First reported by New Times, the story of Marti Forman and her struggle to find a permanent home for Cooperative Feeding Program, the nonprofit agency she directs, dates back several years. In January 1999 Forman finally found a site for the agency's headquarters that was acceptable to the county commission -- or so she thought. A year and a $130,000 mortgage later, they told her otherwise.

So it was with trepidation that Forman and about 25 supporters crowded into commission chambers last week for final words on the project's fate. Parrish had some choice ones. "I think they were screwed," she blurted out, "and we deserve to fix it."

She then made a motion to approve the very zoning variance that county staff had twice rejected. First though, those who signed up to speak at the public hearing would have to waive their turn. They did -- except for homeless advocate Arnold Abbott.

"I would like to say a few words if possible," he chimed in.

"Arnold, just pass," Parrish shot back, exasperated.

He did, and so did Parrish's motion, unanimously. Now Forman's vision shall also come to pass. Though relieved, she's still reeling from the turnabout: "Maybe after so many years of fighting, you expect bad news. We went in there feeling like this was not a board that cared whether or not this project died."

And now?

"I commend them," she said, adding, "for whatever reason they did this."

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.
Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh