Goodbye, grouchy observations about suburban fortresses and misguided drivers. Hello, invigorating world of pesticide-free produce and weed warriors.

After six years at the Sun-Sentinel as a columnist, John Grogan is departing for greener pastures, literally. He'll leave in June to become managing editor at Organic Gardening magazine. Huh? Was it the recent move to the bottom of the B-1 page or perhaps that unflattering photo that pushed him over the edge?

Grogan admits the move may baffle some readers and media types, but he views it as a marriage of two passions. (His Boca Raton home is garnished with an all-organic yard.) He'll make politically correct planting more palatable to thirtysomethings and inject the 57-year-old magazine with "more of a writing edge."

Could he be referring to the cranky tone he often took when targeting some of the very things that make South Florida, well, South Florida? Grogan has whined about gated communities, scolded underachieving schoolchildren, and chided shortsighted seniors. When an elderly reader recently complained about local drivers' ignorance of turn signal etiquette, Grogan replied, "Get used to it, Saul. It's a Florida thing." Obviously it's time for Grogan to move on. So now the Michigan transplant is trading in our uncouth flat landscape for the stimulating mountainous region around Emmaus, Pennsylvania. He talks of "reinventing" himself as a small-towner, perhaps even as a bluegrass musician.

Suddenly everything seems rosy to Grogan. "I know you're probably looking for or would like to hear me say something bad about the Sentinel," says the scribe. "I really have nothing to complain about." Finally.

Talk about discourteous. A discussion of sidewalks devolved into the usual melee of side-sniping, finger-pointing, and all-around grandstanding in the Hollywood City Commission chambers last week. Commissioner Cathy Anderson griped about her own sidewalks, Mayor Mara Giulianti pouted and interrupted, and Commissioner John Coleman looked flushed and about to burst. With these antics, sticking to a schedule is nearly impossible. "All those in favor of this redundant motion, say 'Aye,'" concluded Giulianti, leading the vote to delay any decision about the proposed plan for installing and repairing sidewalks. Is this how government is supposed to run? Of course not.

So we tried to bring in some help in the form of Dr. Raymond Cox of Nova Southeastern University, who's developed a "Civility in Government" program to teach the art of turning an argument into a dialogue. And where better to start than Hollyweird politics?

Yet after watching the Commission's "charade," as one citizen called it, the silver-haired professor had few pointers. Cox surprisingly thought the time in Hollywood was well spent and should be accepted as such. "A good decision made tomorrow is better than a poor decision made today," he postulated. "That's the nature of our government: When in doubt, do nothing." But then the academic admitted his experience as a staffer for politicians led him to empathize with those on the dais rather than the "impatient" and heckling citizens in the audience.

Even if he could help the Hollywood commission work out its problems, he told Undercurrents that city officials would first have to admit they have a problem and seek his help. Perfect, a drawn-out 12-step program for Hollywood politicians.

-- as told to Tom Walsh

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh