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As the Broward County Commission inches toward perhaps, maybe, televising its meetings, bureaucrats are hard at work determining how much it will cost to make commissioners look good. (We're talking image, not substance, of course.)

The county is trying to pressure Comcast into donating production staff to televise meetings, but last week commissioners learned of a problem even greater than trying to get a cable company to do something: Broward County Finance Director Phil Allen reported that he had reviewed videotapes of recent public hearings, made by three cable companies as a public service, and those tapes WERE NOT UP TO COMMISSION QUALITY. It seems the commissioners didn't look or sound sharp, which Allen blamed on the tape.

The man in charge of the county's money then offered a possible remedy: For only $170,000 commissioners could move from home video quality to star power. The estimate: $90,000 for a new sound system and another $80,000 for TV lighting.

Even commissioners realized taxpayers might blink at that. Besides, according to Chairperson Lori Parrish, citizens of Broward County already have lowered expectations when it comes to commission meetings. "You're not watching HBO," Parrish observed.

The meeting ended with administrators promising to study the issue of whether a brighter commission is worth $80,000. Then, in one of those moments of brilliance that restore one's faith in government, Allen revealed the county's finest minds were aglow with another idea. "There's a possibility," he said, "that, for $2500 and just changing light bulbs around, we can solve the problem." How many bureaucrats does it take...?

New Times is once again experiencing the terrible, vengeful wrath of Strong Mayor Frank Veltri.

In November Veltri ordered New Times to stop leaving papers at several government locations, including City Hall. New Times obeyed mayoral authority for a week or so then, weasels that we are, started sneaking papers back in.

We got away with it for a while, but last week a spy reported that there are no New Times to be found on the City Hall lobby table where all the other papers are stacked. When the spy asked about New Times, a City of Plantation employee provided this intelligence: "We keep it in back. The mayor doesn't want it. They write about sex stuff."

New Times is plotting a counterattack: brown paper bags in Plantation.

The new leader at the Boca Raton News demonstrated great wisdom and depth of understanding in his first weeks on the job. When Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. of Lexington, Kentucky, bought the financially troubled paper from Knight-Ridder, the incoming owners pledged hard-hitting local journalism, then named as publisher Community Newspaper's vice president John Bauer. Bauer arrived and called a staff meeting where, News insiders report, someone asked why he took the job: a chance to lead, to make a difference?

Bauer's response: The winters are better in Boca. News resumes went flying like snowflakes in a Kentucky blizzard.

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1572, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].

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