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Commentaries on the DFB 2009 Elections COMMENTARIES ON THE ELECTION AND POST-ELECTION ANALYSIS




The End of History - 03/11/09

It is easy to conclude that there is no hope for Deerfield Beach. The turnout for yesterday's election was the lowest since before 1993. 1,531 voters (24%, almost enough to win) voted for a man who could not even serve if he had won the election.

This is a rudimentary analysis.

Ethics reform is dead. Propaganda under the guise of legitimate news reporting is alive. Slander, omission, plagiarism and abuse are the new journalism. The civic values of the city are oddly encapsulated in the case of Thomas Noland, the new mayor's son.

Who will run in the future? No person of sound mind will stand for office. No sane person will participate when there are no possibilities and little confidence in the People.

Consequently, we have what we have: City government which senses no duty to uphold the public trust and a corrupt media which has no alliance with the traditional values of news and editorial journalism.

This may be the end of history -- the final form of civic community -- in Deerfield Beach.



2009 Election Results
Not Official



DISTRICT 1

JOE MILLER

PAM MILITELLO

1188

1024

54%

46%

DISTRICT 3

MARTY POPELSKI

DONNA CAPOBIANCO

JURANDIR ALBUQUERQUE

1298

631

74

65%

32%

4%

DISTRICT 4

BILL GANZ

GARY LOTHER

966

704

58%

42%

MAYOR

PEGGY NOLAND

AL CAPELLINI

JEAN ROBB

DON CLEVELAND

C. DON PETERSEN

CARYL BERNER

1901

1531

1117

995

709

110

30%

24%

18%

16%

11%

2%





What's Wrong With Deerfield Beach? - 03/13/09

The big story of the 2009 election is the extent to which voters stayed home on election day. If you think the numbers which appear above are depressing, consider that almost a thousand fewer people voted in District 1 in 2009 than in 2005, and that the vote for mayor was only little more than half of the 1993 vote. That's correct, 1993, five elections, 16 years ago.

Look at these figures.

This is the number of voters who voted for mayor in the five elections since 1993:

    '93 - 12,086

    '97 - 9,271

    '01 - 7,926

    '05 - 10,682

    '09 - 6,365

This is the number of voters who voted in District 1:

    '93 - 3,256

    '97 - 2,527

    '01 - 2,480

    '05 - 3,192

    '09 - 2,212

This would not be a story if there were a corresponding decline in population over those years. But this city has grown by around 30,000 residents since 1993, in part due to annexation. At least 15,000 additional voters have registered. Where the heck were these new voters, or anyone, on March 10th?

It seems almost as if the interest in local government has declined in indirect proportion to the increase in the city's population and voter rolls. Interest in local politics has never been as high as the interest in state and presidential elections. But it has now reached historic lows.

What has happened to the sense of community and civic obligation? Is it because people have simply given up on city government, that is, they feel nothing will change anyway or that city government is no longer relevant; or is it that people don't have any interest at all in what happens at City Hall?

"As long as they pick up the trash and don't raise my taxes, why should I care what those politicians do?"

There is no practical solution to ignorance. Registration drives to sign up more voters obviously don't do anything to create intelligent interest in government. All it does is adjust the mathematics of voter turnout.

Even if apathy may seem ignorant, it does not mean that there is a direct correlation between the intelligence of active voters and the intelligence of people who don't vote. Otherwise, how do we explain the outcome of this election? It is hard to imagine that anyone with common sense would vote for a person under indictment for public corruption who could not assume office even if he were elected. Nearly a quarter of the voters marked their ballots for Al Capellini. I rest my case.

When you see this kind of vote statistic, you can see how apathy might not be all bad.

Actually, what I think is the more serious issue is that not enough professional and educated people are in the candidate pool. Nearly a fifth of our residents have a bachelor's or higher degree. Not a single one of them will sit on the commission that will take office on March 17th.

As voters lose interest and the candidate pool dumbs down, city government has less interest in residents or the public trust. Insider groups, like developer interests, form alliances with Chambers of Commerce, local media and candidates, and literally take over, especially when it comes to land-use issues, which now take up the bulk of commission business. This is essentially what happened in Deerfield Beach over the last decade or so.

As suggested by the previous article, it may be that the city has found its groove and that nothing is going to change in the foreseeable future. If voters and potential voters don't care, it won't matter much. It will be interesting to see how the new commission handles ethics and land-use issues, given who influences them.

So what's wrong with Deerfield Beach, to answer the question posed in the title in a slightly oversimplified manner, is that the average voter or potential voter doesn't care very much and most of the people who could lead us out of this mess live on a different planet when it comes to local politics. Whether this is, in the latter case, indifference -- in other words, "I am too busy with my own life to care" -- or "Going Galt", I can't give a definitive answer to.

It is possible that some smart people have given up not their principles or aspirations for this city, but see that higher aspirations don't resonate with the so-called average voter. They've lost confidence in the citizens, and see no point to expending their energies for lost causes.

We can't expect people to give up their lives -- this is essentially what they do when they run for office -- for a wasted effort.

Every citizen has a civic duty to register and to vote -- to participate in local government, including to serve if it's practical. But we can't compel people to be on local councils or otherwise to serve. Everybody is motivated by self-interest. It's really up to them. If they see running for office as a futile effort, who are we to say otherwise? The stats, above, are compelling evidence of why more qualified, better educated people don't bother.



Recall Peggy Noland? - 03/15/09

This may strike some readers as a sleazy proposal. My defense is that this is not a proposal, but a talking point. Besides there is precedent in this city for using recall as a political tactic without substantial evidence of wrongdoing.

The Deetjen affair produced a lot of political fallout. One was the attempt to take revenge on Steve Gonot by using the recall method. The District 4 rep had been the prime mover in the effort to get Larry R. Deetjen out of office. Recall is a legal, non-lethal form of assassination. In Florida, a public official is subject to recall if there's a charge that he committed one or more of seven sins. A recall election is initiated by voters.

Now one might think that the accusations must be supported by facts. Not so; that myth was blown away by the Gonot recall. In fact, the charges made against Gonot had been previously investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. The recall went on because people signing the petitions believed the charges. If the recall had reached the election stage, the electors could have voted to remove Gonot for any reason they felt like. They may think the charges are false and still vote the bastard out.

So why bring this up now with regard to not-yet Mayor Peggy Noland? Because Noland is a good candidate for recall. She was elected with only 30% of the votes. Combine this with the fact that 90% of the voters didn't show up at the polls, it looks like about 97% of registered voters don't care whether Peggy Noland is mayor or not. If the mayor-elect is under the impression she's the new Goddess around here, she may be in for a shock. She's quite vulnerable.

She won this election mostly because not enough voters were dumb enough to vote for Al Capellini. Further, Mrs. Noland isn't as smart as Big Al. For a person as corrupt as he was to stay in office as long as he did took some very smart politicking. Noland has some work to do to convince most people that she's more than a special interest hack. Capellini represented narrow interests, yet he still was able to make a lot of voters think he was The Man right up to the end.

In fact, Noland had a history of screw ups when she was a commissioner. There is evidence that during her time as commissioner she was guilty of both malfeasance and misfeasance. It may only be a matter of time before she commits one of the seven sins while she's serving as mayor. And remember, the charge doesn't have to be true beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the past few articles, I've tried to identify some of the reasons why we (that is, Deerfield Beach) are where we are after the recent election. Not where I hoped. The city has for a decade or two operated in a kind of moral vacuum, with no defined civic values. This is why public officials can secretly meet under cover of law and plot to intimidate and harass citizens who are exercising their fundamental rights -- and get away with it. Most of the local media have lost touch with integrity. The citizens are either lazy or on strike. In either case, civil values and civic obligations seem to have little meaning in the current political environment.

When the citizens are no longer the driving force in government, it's like taking the brain and conscience out of the body politic. This is our predicament. This has lead to pessimism with many and a decline of involvement at any level -- a feeling that nothing better really is possible.

Peggy Noland is a nearly perfect symbol for Deerfield Beach politics as it now stands: ethically challenged and mediocre. If we could recall for that, I might propose it. A better way is to build new political forces that have higher aspirations for Deerfield Beach. That's going to take some work because most people aren't in it right now and the special interests are in charge.



Election Day - 03/10/09

It's election morning, Tuesday, March 10th, 2009. Deerfield Beach voters -- probably not a lot of them if the predictions are true -- will report to the polls and cast their votes for the one or two offices they can vote for. I'm thinking that the greater number of the few will vote for Peggy Noland for mayor. This is intuition solely. I don't think that a lot of people are going to vote for a guy who can't take office anyway. Mr. Capellini is counting on the opposite. If I remember right though, a horse or jackass was elected once to the city council of Rio. So there is precedent.

The big story yesterday was Tommy Noland's arrest for stealing campaign signs, including some belonging to Mr. Capellini. Arrest or citation -- it depends on which account you read -- but, of course Mom denies her little prince would do such a thing. Unfortunately for Mr. Noland, the other culprits implicated him in the thefts.

I wonder whether Mom, if she ascends to the mayorship, will try to pull strings to get her little precious out of this predicament. I recall some years ago, when he was a junior lifeguard and only a half-growed boy, that young Noland lost some sort of competition to another lad. At which point, Mom, then Commissioner Mom, stormed into LRD's office to demand redress of this grave injustice to her child, which, if memory serves, was granted.

Mr. Noland is now an all growed-up fireman. A hero. Well, maybe not anymore. It will be interesting to see how this plays out if Mom gets to be mayor. How far do you suppose we have come from those privileged times when LRD could declare someone who hadn't won the winner?

I enjoy the writings of Thomas Francis for The Juice (New Times). His account of the mayoral candidate forum run by the local rag was right on the money (I was there too). Mr. Francis is a reporter; I am not. I think he could have a heck of a good time with Deerfield Beach if Mom Noland is elected mayor.

Off to church. (That's where I vote.)



Stumped? Consider the Alternatives - 03/07/09

We've been asking people whom they plan to vote for for mayor. If shrugs could be converted into electricity, we could probably generate enough power to light a major city for a year. If you want to vote for a probable winner, you might look at Noland, Capellini and even possibly Robb, and choose the least of the evils. If you don't want the beach turned into a commercial strip and favor a serious public ethics program, you might want to look at some other candidates.

There are 13 candidates for commission and mayor. Six of them are running for mayor. None of them is awe-inspiring.

After the expected mayoral contest between Gonot and Capellini fell apart, it looked as if almost nobody was prepared to step up to the plate other than the retreads Noland and ex-mayor Robb. Gonot got out, actually to his credit. But Al Capellini stayed in the race, proclaiming his innocence and running a profoundly disgraceful campaign. A couple of guys almost no one had heard of dropped out of the sky, and neither one landed firmly on the ground. District 3 activist Caryl Berner, who was expected to run for a commission seat, threw her hat into this ring.

Of the six candidates, Ms. Berner is the one who in plain English most clearly states her position on beach redevelopment: she wants to preserve the small-town ambiance of the beach area as much as possible. Some candidates waffle their position with such terms as "sound" development, so that voters have to guess where they actually stand. On the other hand, voters know exactly where Noland and Capellini stand when it comes to development; they stand with the developers who pour bucks into their campaigns.

Peggy Noland and Capellini support extensive commercial development of the beach. Mrs. Noland gets a point for her opposition to the Boinis proposal while she served as District 1 commissioner, but she gave unquestioned support to Ocean Park and other "overdevelopment" projects that needed greater scrutiny. Noland, along with Capellini, secretly met with the city manager and other commissioners, probably in violation of state law, and conspired to bring lawsuits against local activists who had sponsored two referendums to curtail development on the beach. This plot was calculated to harass citizens and suppress opposition to the commission's grandiose plans for the city beach. During this meeting (whose minutes are in verbatim form and were unsealed by order of the city commission), Mrs. Noland voiced her contempt for the OSOB, the beach activist group that effectively opposed such proposals as Ocean Park. In its endorsement of Noland, the Sun-Sentinel did not mention and may have been unaware of Noland's participation in this conspiracy against Deerfield Beach citizens who had exercised their legal right to petition and initiate a referendum.

Had it gone further, it is possible that the plan discussed at that meeting in which Noland and Capellini freely participated would have violated federal criminal conspiracy laws. However, it was from this meeting that then city manager Larry R. Deetjen allegedly took his direction to assist litigants in a suit against the city and the OSOB jointly. This action lead in part to Mr. Deetjen's subsequent suspension.

In the campaign literature we have seen and on her web site, Jean Robb does not articulate a position on beach redevelopment. She notes her past efforts for beautification of the beach and supports re-privatization of the pier operations. It was during her term as mayor that the city built the Main Beach Parking Lot and laid plans for an upgraded restaurant at the pier, both of which later became sites for controversial development projects. However, Robb helped organize the OSOB's referendum to require voter approval of major land deals involving city property (aimed at stopping commercial development of the beach parking lot) and publicly opposed Ocean Park.

No one runs for office admitting they are scalawags who intend to rob the city coffers. Every candidate is a person of integrity by his own accounts. Almost everybody supports a code of ethics, until it's time to write and enact one. That's why it has taken 30 years.

Again, it was Caryl Berner, and Berner alone from among the candidates, who stood before the commission this week and gave unqualified support for the code of ethics. Don Cleveland also urged the commission to pass the code of ethics, but said "that it has the scent of lawyers all over it" as if to imply that the code itself was corrupt.

Robb, whose campaign pledge is "to restore integrity to Deerfield Beach," nonetheless opposed the code of ethics. And we think we know why: because of a grudge she has with the persons who wrote and sponsored the code. Of course, the proposed code is not perfect or complete, and one could legitimately oppose it on some technical basis, as did Commissioner Battle. But this code provides a starting point for serious future work on a comprehensive ethics program and deserves the support of a candidate who proclaims integrity as one of her main goals. To oppose a code of ethics because she doesn't like the people behind it is vintage Jean Robb.

None of the other candidates for mayor spoke for or against the proposed code at the commission meeting.

Don Cleveland's résumé includes both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. He also has worked as a lobbyist and in governmental agencies. His experience in risk management could serve the city well as it grapples with the pension fund problem. Mr. Cleveland is a quick study, but he has a lot to learn about dealing with real problems at the local level.

We were put off by Cleveland's statement that the code of ethics smells because it was written by lawyers. Nearly all of the ordinances he will consider as mayor will be drafted by the city attorney or other lawyers. Mr. Cleveland needs to grasp the reason for and necessity of an independent process by which ethics issues are heard and determined. His proposal for a citizen's committee to oversee ethics is unrealistic. With his academic credentials and experience, Mr. Cleveland should know that a code of ethics could be the subject of lawsuits, due process concerns, and actions involving public officials and contractors and must be expertly written. All of these potential issues will be prosecuted or defended by lawyers. Ethics oversight cannot be turned over to a central committee consisting of friends and political hacks.

As a prospective mayor, Donald Cleveland's biggest fault, in our opinion, is that he, as one person told us, flies about 50,000 feet above the ground. We think Mr. Cleveland is a good guy, who has faced some financial problems in the past that many residents have faced. But as mayor, Cleveland will be one of five votes whose priorities are to collect trash, produce enough water to sustain a growing population, and wisely spend the taxpayers' money. Anyone running for mayor must realize that will sit on a city council, not set the agenda for the world.

We like Jean Robb. But we think Robb would a better mayor if she were willing to work as a member of a team with other commissioners and the city manager. Her opposition to a good effort because she dislikes Pam Militello and Tom Connick does not speak very well of her. In terms of her dedication, hard work, and experience, Robb sets the standard for the office of mayor. But the last thing we need after the contentious 2005 commission term is another commission that is divided against itself, division stirred up by the mayor or one of the commissioners.

One more note about Robb, a positive: she is the only candidate, at least within our hearing, that addressed regionalization. Consolidation of services -- either at the county level, through the creation of regional authorities such as Tri-Rail, or interlocal agreements with other cities -- will undoubtedly be a future option to bring more efficiency and cost savings into local government services.

Caryl Berner's fault, we believe, is her tendency to get off on issues that do not resonate with voters. Most voters are concerned about their property tax and water rates, not the orientation of bus benches, or even prayer at City Hall. Berner was correct about the invocation at city commission meetings, but her assumption of the identity as "Lay Sister Zelda" to mock the commission's decision on this issue was a mistake and undermined her image as a serious candidate for mayor.

As William Bucknam "kindly" reminded her at the Observer's candidate forum, Ms. Berner enters this race with almost no money in her campaign chest. Mr. Bucknam should be more concerned, as should voters, about the funds in Capellini's and Noland's war chests contributed by developers. Obviously, Berner is a long shot. But the fact is that in her race for the District 3 seat in 2005, Ms. Berner garnered more votes than the winning candidates in Districts 1 and 2, with zero money.

Here's how we see the mayor's race at this moment, keeping in mind that we don't have the advantage of hard polling data:

Voter turnout will be light. Voters are confused by the array of candidates for mayor, none of whom inflames the imagination. Voters in District 2 may not vote at all because their district seat is uncontested. This could work to the advantage of Al Capellini, who is counting on his traditional base, a low vote and CVE voters, who are presumed to be stupid and sheep-like in their commitment to Capellini.

Capellini repeatedly claimed that he would be cleared of charges against him in time for the election. He will not. The next hearing for his case is scheduled for April 3d.

Some of Capellini's base will defect when it faces the practical reality that he will not be allowed to take office. This could help Peggy Noland. Noland was endorsed by the Sun-Sentinel. She has name recognition. If we had to bet, we'd say Noland will be the next mayor of Deerfield Beach.

Robb has some faithful supporters, but is haunted by her past and her detractors. Still, she could be an alternative for voters who don't like Peggy Noland.

Cleveland has garnered the support of some beach activists.

Either Cleveland or Robb could be the dark horse in a close race.

C. Don Petersen has not articulated a program that voters can grab on to; he's got a lot of signs on the street, but not much substance. He's got some skeletons that will inevitably work against his chances in this election.

Caryl Berner wins hands down on being right about general issues such as beach redevelopment and ethics -- and saying it right out. She deserves more votes than she will likely get.



Moving Ahead: Ganz and Militello - Updated - 03/08/09

William H. Ganz, Jr., is running for election as commissioner from District 4. Pam Militello is running for re-election in District 1. Their opponents are, respectively, Gary Lother and Joe Miller. This web site recommends Ganz and Militello.

Bill Ganz advocates "Positive Change for Deerfield Beach." For the past 10 or 15 years, the city has catered to insider interests, disregarding ordinary citizens at its convenience, and even at times attempting to suppress dissent and public opinion.

Pam Militello, in her first term as commissioner, was the sole advocate of ethics reform. After the arrests of Al Capellini and Steve Gonot and their removal from the law-making body, Militello was finally able to persuade the commission to enact a code of ethics which she sponsored. The code was not without opposition, and passed only 3-2.

Joe Miller, who seeks to oust Militello in this election, publicly opposed the passage of the code. Even Gary Lother, Ganz's opponent, endorsed the code.

Working together, if Mr. Ganz is serious about positive change, he and Militello could launch a new era of politics in Deerfield Beach based on core values such as honesty and professionalism in the civic affairs of the community.

If continued ethics reform is to be on the agenda in the next term, it needs both Pam Militello and Bill Ganz. Ideally, progressive reform would be unanimously embraced by the commission, but two out of five is a start.

Of the thirteen candidates for mayor and commissioner, only three state the need for a code of ethics as part of their platforms: Militello, Ganz and mayoral candidate Donald Cleveland.

The conventional view is that politicians are cool to the idea of a formalized set of standards for the right conduct of public officials. History seems to bear that out on the local level. Every candidate is kinda-sorta for integrity in government if pressed on the issue. But few are enthusiastic about written, enforceable standards they have to adhere to for real, and few will support a code of ethics even when a proposal is on the table.

Pam Militello and Bill Ganz are strong advocates of personal integrity and public ethics in government. By re-electing Militello and electing Ganz, Deerfield Beach voters in 2009 have a chance of pulling this city out of the culture of corruption that has dominated city government for more than a decade. The city has the opportunity now to move in an enlightened and positive direction as a civic community.

Deerfield Beach also has serious problems in other areas that will require competent law-makers.

Like all cities in South Florida, Deerfield faces a slew of critical issues with money and growth, as well as ethics and public corruption. Revenue sources are drying up and already strapped homeowners are not in a good position to take on an additional tax burden. How do we provide quality city services in the future? "Growth" is one answer, but it doesn't always work, and may simply burden the city with additional costs. Water supply is also drying up, exacerbated by unfettered growth. Growth can incur tremendous social costs which are not as easily quantified. Meanwhile, public pension plans have buried the city under a mountain of future debt. Sooner or later, this problem must be addressed. The cost of police and fire services continues to escalate.

No single commissioner is going to solve these problems by himself or herself. The commission is a policy making body which oversees, but does not run, the city administration. The city does not benefit from grandstanding commissioners and micro-managers. What the commission needs -- what the city needs -- are smart, dedicated, hard-working members who will work with other policy makers and with the city manager and his staff to come up with workable solutions to the many critical problems we face, who place the interests of the city and the citizens ahead of personal or political gain.

The qualities we ought to be looking for in public officials include, among others, honesty, professionalism and the ability to work with constituents, the mayor, other commissions, city administrators and others, even though there may be policy differences. Public officials should be fiscally responsible. Commission members represent the people of their districts and should be willing to discuss issues with constituents regardless of their standing in the community.

Honesty means basic integrity. That is, a propensity for the truth. Truth means, in part, making realistic promises and keeping one's word, as well as adherence to facts. It also means respect for all people of the community.

Joe Miller and Gary Lother do not exemplify positive civic values such as honestly and professionalism.

If Mr. Miller, Militello's opponent in this race, is not willing to be open with voters and potential constituents during his campaign, this is not a good sign of how he will relate to his district when he assumes office. Militello's predecessor, Peggy Noland, who is now a candidate for mayor, was notorious for being virtually invisible except to select groups of political insiders. Miller also has not been forthcoming with his program, especially with respect to the issue of beach redevelopment, which is important to many citizens. His web site states that one of the "key features" of his campaign is:

To improve the shape of our existing landmarks - Not letting our improvements go to waste

What does this mean, exactly? For a voter who is concerned about previous efforts to "improve" the beach area with major construction and expanded commercialism, this vague statement sounds an awful lot like code for a revival of the shortsighted land-use decisions of the Deetjen era which favored developers and disregarded citizens and residents. Which landmarks? What improvements?

There is no question that Miller is the front man for J. David Eller in this election. If it is his plan to revive the redevelopment frenzy in the beach area, he ought to say so. If not, he should have made it clear.

The Ocean Park proposal to replace the Main Beach Parking Lot with a "commercial plaza," was an Eller favorite because the plan included a band shell to be named in the Eller family's honor. The plan was defeated by voters eight years ago. Because of his close relationship with the Eller media faction, it could be inferred that a new proposal for redevelopment of public land at beach into commercial projects could be part of a Miller agenda hidden behind essentially meaningless campaign rhetoric.

Another hidden agenda item in Miller's campaign is the prayer issue. You won't find this on his web site or in any campaign literature that we've seen, but Miller has been addressing this to select audiences. Essentially this is a revenge move -- a stealth hate campaign in effect -- against Militello, who he claims "spearheaded" the movement to restrict or abolish the invocation at commission meetings.

This is a deliberate revision of history to incite voters who want to retain the invocation before the start of commission meetings.

In fact, Militello had no particular interest in modifying the invocation policy. Even the original proposal was a modest one by someone else entirely, simply calling for ministers to deliver less sectarian messages. After some discussion, Militello suggested a moment of silence as a possible compromise between seemingly irreconcilable positions. The commission, in the end, basically readopted the traditional policy. Militello did not "spearhead" any proposal related to prayer and believes that prayer will not be an issue in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Miller never appeared before the commission to state his position in the debate which lasted over several meetings. In fact, Miller did not participate in the civic affairs of the city at all until he became a candidate for public office, at the urging, we may note, of Ganz's opponent, Gary Lother.

The ex-fire chief, on the other hand, has plenty of experience with the commission. It's not entirely positive. Most readers are aware of Gary Lother's history as fire chief of Deerfield Beach, his disgraceful behavior before the commission when he was chief, and his unseemly participation in political matters, such as the Gonot recall movement, when he was a civil servant. Most are aware of his political alliance with the ousted city manager, Larry R. Deetjen, and his continued close association with Mrs. Deetjen. This has raised concern that there may be an attempt by certain candidates, if they are elected, to bring Deetjen back to Deerfield Beach.

Here's what we think is the bottom line for voters in Districts 1 and 4 on March 10th:

Voters should re-elect Pam Militello for a second term. Militello's commission term will run to March, 2011, under the new staggered terms/term limit provisions.

Militello has been responsive to citizen concerns, is approachable by ordinary people, and has held frequent open-to-all meetings on subjects of interest in District 1. It's not always easy to face voters and constituents head on, but Pam Militello did it. Militello's predecessor, Peggy Noland, who served on the commission for 12 years, held only one open meeting during her tenure.

In fact, Mrs. Militello began her political involvement as an activist, working with ordinary people who had a cause. Her first cause was the regional activity center (RAC) land designation proposal, which would have made it possible to expand the commercial district on the beach. Thanks to hers and other's efforts, the "RAC" has been "racked" not only for this community but for all beach areas in Broward County.

Militello held a series of public meetings on the Cove Shopping Center, which lead to a plan for improvement of this mostly commercial, but mixed-use, site without extensive redevelopment and taxpayer cost that could displace hundreds of businesses and residents. The first phase of this project, which will be financed with CRA funds, is about to commence. This is the first CRA project that directly involved citizens at the planning stage.

Joe Miller and the Chamber of Commerce, for some unexplained reason, want to derail these plans for the Cove and replace them with a more extensive redevelopment project -- an approach considered but rejected at the citizen meetings. Miller's interest in this should be a matter of concern to the voters.

Pam Militello supports a land-use policy -- sometimes misrepresented by her opponents as an anti-development position -- that fully involves citizens and places the interests of residents first over developer interests. Militello's special concern is overdevelopment of the beach area, that is, concessions to construction proposals which do not fully consider the public interest or address adverse social impacts.

During her term, Mrs. Militello proposed two important charter amendments which were approved by voters. Her amendment protects residents and homeowners from eminent domain which would take their property and transfer it to private developers under the pretense of a public purpose. This was in response to a Supreme Court decision that allowed cities to use eminent domain power for "economic development."

The second charter amendment proposed by Militello requires a super majority vote (that is, four votes) to change land-use designations for open/recreational space in the city. In other words, it protects residents in proposed conversions of golf courses.

William H. "Bill" Ganz, Jr., has proved his ability to be commissioner by his efforts to unify homeowners' groups on the west side. He is a founding member of the West Deerfield Community Alliance. He is president of his homeowner's association and is involved in the PTA and advisory council of the Quiet Waters Elementary School and co-chaired the Quiet Waters Elementary School Advisory Forum.

Ganz also serves on the Code Enforcement Board.

Ganz chaired an ad hoc citizens' committee tasked by the commission with examining and proposing changes to the city's cell phone tower policies. Last year, some west side residents were stunned when construction of a cell phone tower was started in an adjacent neighborhood park only feet from their homes. Mr. Ganz's committee waded through the complicated tangle of state and federal regulations related to cell phone towers, as well as the guidelines issued by other cities in the region, resulting in a package of recommendations for the commission which were adopted.

There are apparently still bad feelings in District 4 resulting from the events surrounding the suspension and subsequent resignation of Larry R. Deetjen, who was liked by many of his Deer Creek neighbors, and the bitter recall effort against Steve Gonot. Some people believe that Mr. Ganz has taken more credit than he deserves for trying to bring different interests together in District 4 and in the resolution of the cell tower issue.

We don't know how to resolve these feelings. What we do know is that this election is too important to be decided on the basis of who-did-what? and who-should-get-the-glory? We hope that District 4 voters can put aside some of this past and consider who is best for the future of their district and the city.

We believe that Ganz and Militello are head-and-shoulders above their opponents. As members of the commission team, they could help lead this city out of the morass it's been in for many years. There's work to be done.



The Irascible Mrs. Robb - 02/08/09

Whereof what’'s past is prologue, what to come, In yours and my discharge.

If she is to win the mayoral election come March, Jean Robb must convince voters that she is history worth repeating, and she must get voters beyond her biggest liability: that she is Jean Robb.

As mayor of Deerfield Beach in the '80's and early '90's, Robb was a hard-working public servant who tried to do her best for Deerfield Beach, and to get other public officials, like the city manager, to do the same. She was in many respects, in this arguably revisionist view of her regime, the polar opposite of the morally and civilly corrupt "Dream Team" lead by Larry R. Deetjen's peculiar brand of "professional" city management which followed.

So why is Jean Robb so despised, even by many of the party that equally despises Deetjen and Capellini? The simple answer is that it isn't necessarily Jean Robb, the former mayor, but the "other" Jean Robb.

This would be the Jean Robb who loves you as long as you agree and defer to her. But she plays people, and it's more than "just politics" with her.

In election politics you have to know who your friends are. Some politicians play the game by amassing more friends than enemies. Not Robb. She pisses people off. Someone once described her as the most divisive figure in the history of Deerfield Beach politics. It's probably not far off from the truth.

Even if you disagreed with her on certain issues, you might respect Jean Robb for her dedicated service to Deerfield Beach. But she'll write you off in an irascible instant if you're not to her advantage, or challenge her position.

This may be what voters sensed in 1993, when they ousted Robb and brought in Al Capellini.

Worse things could happen to Deerfield Beach than if Mrs. Robb were to win back the mayor's seat, given the field of candidates from which voters have to choose. A legitimate concern, however, is Robb's inclination to reject and marginalize people who disagree with her. A mayor is supposed to represent and be responsive to citizens. Because the whole city is her constituency, she is perceived as a unifier. The last thing Deerfield Beach needs right now is a Jean Robb who plays personal politics.

In a previous article, this web site reported that she and Peggy Noland had declined to appear at a candidate forum sponsored by the Original Save Our Beach citizen action group. We asked, "Are they afraid to answer the inevitable questions from this particular group?" We further "noted that these are the two candidates who are most rooted in the past."

This is Robb's response to us via e-mail:

With the amount of research I do, do you seriously believe that there are questions I could not answer? The OSOB's gave a coffee for [rival candidate Don] Cleveland. He told [Commissioner Marty] Popelsky that they were supporting him. His comment to the Herald was we are not yet endorsing one another but I fully support her 100% on her ethics plan. When Pam [Militello] had her organizational meeting at the Women's Club, Cleveland was permitted to speak; I have no problem appearing at forums where the fix is not already in.

Robb also advised District 1 commission candidate not to talk to us regarding his positions of beach redevelopment, ethics and other city issues. Miller never did respond to our questions after this, leaving us to guess his positions.

The "fix" argument is a ruse that even she does not believe. Mrs. Robb knows full well that an open forum in which all candidates are questioned cannot be easily fixed. The OSOB does not (and cannot legally) endorse candidates for office. It has not and will not support Cleveland or anyone else.

Robb and her boy Miller apparently are of the mindset that they can pick and choose which questions they answer, and whom they answer to. They can, but voters can also reject them in favor of people who are less inclined to hide from public inquiry.

The past may be prologue in more ways than one. This election could be prologue to a city better than in the past in the way it conducts its civic affairs. But the arrogant dismissal of certain voters by Robb and some others is more reminiscent of a previous era when it was openly believed that voters and citizens are just plain stupid and don't need to be taken seriously or truthfully answered.



The Two Faces of Sylvia Poitier - 02/18/09

The city commission will vote on a code of ethics on March 3d. A draft code was written by Attorney Tom Connick. A modified version of this draft is now before the lawmakers.

Mayor Sylvia Poitier says she wants a code of ethics, then tries to maneuver the proposed code of ethics to the trash heap.

Poitier claims she's all for ethics. But not this code -- a "better" one. She wants to compare the original draft (Connick's initial draft) with the new proposal. This is a delay tactic that serves no other purpose; it's the new version that is before the commission. She wants to look at what other cities have done. She wants to expand its coverage to all city employees, and has to have it explained to her why this proposal applies only to elected officials and the city attorney.

This is pure politics. All this is calculated to delay and kill. Poitier wants to delay consideration of this proposal to the new commission that will be seated on March 17th. She hopes the new commission will not want a code of ethics.

It is already clear that the code has the three votes it needs. One of the interim commissioners is for it, one against it, but on a minor point that might be fixed.

Poitier deploys the Law of Delay: Delay is the deadliest form of denial. Sylvia Poitier doesn't want -- is on record of not wanting -- strong rules of ethics and disclosure requirements that might complicate the way she does business.

It seems Deerfield Beach is divided into two parties on the subject of public ethics. One party advocates city government that works in an environment of honesty, integrity, professionalism and fiscal responsibility. If this goal were achieved, Deerfield Beach would be a city not all that common in South Florida.

The other party does not want a code of ethics, or any rules, or any values for that matter. This crowd is bothered by the concept of "honest services" and by the pumped-up disclosure requirements that might expose the entanglements that have controlled city politics in Deerfield Beach for so long. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going on.

Poitier's delaying tactics backfire. Even Marty Popelsky, charged by detractors as being wishy-washy and controlled by iniquitous forces, gets it.

A riled up Popelsky, clearly agitated by Poitier's typical "filiblustering" to get her way, explodes: I want it now, he proclaims. The discussion ends, the vote is taken. It's 3-2.

The proposed code moves on to the final stage on March 3d. It will be interesting to see who stands up and opposes it. And which face of Sylvia Poitier votes.



Crunching the Numbers - 02/20/09

On the basis of logic alone, Al Capellini can't win this election for mayor. Voters are not going to go the polls and waste their votes on a candidate who is charged with a felony and awaiting trial, who was removed from office by the governor, and will be prevented from taking office by the governor, if he should win the election and the case is not resolved in the next three weeks. Right?

So why is Al Capellini running and why are we even writing about this? Well, partly because people don't always vote logically and because in his four terms as mayor, Al Capellini proved himself to be invincible in four elections against five opponents (or six if you count Jean Robb twice).

It may defy logic, it may not be sensible, but some people will vote for Capellini. And, unless there is an unusually high turnout for this election, all Mr. Capellini needs to win is three or four thousand votes and, theoretically, as few as 2000. Capellini always did think that voters are stupid, and this may be what he is counting on to pull off what seems like an impossibility.

We can't predict with certainty how many voters will go to the polls, but we've already read in the paper (what the basis of the claim is we don't know) that voter turnout will be low. What may be factored into any guess about voter interest is that there is no election in District 2; so, because there is no candidate in the mayor's race that would inspire them to vote, and the array of candidates is confusing to everyone, black voters may not bother to vote. In 2001, when there was no contest in the predominantly black District 2, the number of people who showed up for the election for mayor overall was significantly lower than in the previous election. In the 2005 elections, 1,716 people voted in District 2.

Let's look at some numbers. The number of voters voting in the four elections between 1993 and 2005 ranged from a low of 7,962 in 2001 to a high of 12,086 in 1993. Even as the population of Deerfield Beach has grown, the interest in mayoral elections seems to have declined. 9,271 voted in 1997, and 10,682, in 2005. There were no commission seats up for election in District 3 in the 1993, 1997, and 2001 election cycles. There was an election in District 3 in 2005 which may account for the larger turnout in the mayoral election.

How did Capellini win? In 1993, the year he ousted long-time mayor Jean Robb, Capellini garnered 36% of the vote against three opponents. In 1997, he beat Robb with a comfortable vote margin of 72%. In 2001, Capellini won with 71% against one opponent. And in the last election, 2005, he was re-elected with 61% against one opponent. Who says Deerfield Beach doesn't love Al Capellini?

There are six candidates in the 2009 election. In terms of name recognition, campaign financing, and experience, three of the candidates must be considered as weak, or marginal, at the outset. Don Cleveland has attracted some interest with beach activists, and he may benefit from word-of-mouth and favorable e-mail traffic, but his is far from a household name.

Before they qualified for office, even political insiders did not know C. Don Petersen or Don Cleveland. Neither Petersen nor Cleveland had been politically active in local politics, and seemingly dropped out of the sky days before the filing period ended after the withdrawal of Steve Gonot and the arrest and suspension of Capellini. It is not wise to write off anyone yet, but we wouldn't plunk down too much money on the chances of either candidate becoming the dark horse in this election.

On the other hand, there seems to be an almost immutable law that a candidate for office will get some votes just being on the ballot and that getting some votes is not a function of a strong campaign effort. These are votes that might have been cast for someone else, and in elections with small turnouts and close margins, even a few votes count and can swing elections.

In the 2005 District 3 race, Caryl Berner got 1,231 votes with virtually no finances. This was more votes than the winning candidates in Districts 1 and 2 received (although a distant second place in her district). However, if any one of the "marginal" candidates for mayor in this election could muster up 1,300 votes in a tight count between Noland, Robb and Capellini, it could influence the outcome. Thus, while these candidates may be long shots to win, any one of them could be the spoiler.

In other words, a strong showing in the election by any of these candidates could marginalize one of the perceived front runners, and increase Capellini's chances simply by reducing the number of votes needed to win.

Could this actually happen? In the absence of reliable polling data, a stunning Capellini win on March 10th is hypothetical, based on certain assumptions. To restate the hypothesis: voter turnout will be small, no larger than 12,000; the smaller the turnout and with six candidates, the greater the chances of any one candidate to win a plurality; some people will vote Capellini no matter what; "marginal" candidates could receive enough votes so that no one candidate will overwhelm the vote, thus tightening the race.

Will this actually happen? The gut says no. But we don't know how informed the average voter is at this point or how informed he will be on election day. Does he read the local paper or is it lining the cat's litter box? We suspect the average voter knows more about the Capellini caper than he knows about Cleveland or Petersen. This suggests that even some staunch Capellites might look for another name to mark, given the practical consequences. One way or the other, it seems likely that this election will be close, so, as ridiculous as it seems, don't count Old Al out.



Too Little, Too Long, Too Late, Too Fast - 02/25/09

We expect that Vice Mayor Militello knew that her proposed code of ethics would encounter some criticism. It's not a perfect law. If perfection were the test, Magna Carta would still be sitting on a table, unsigned, at Runnymede.

The code of ethics is not static. It ought properly to be thought of as a start -- a start -- of a process that will extend into the next term and the next. As a start, it represents a quantum leap forward for this city, imperfections and all.

It's interesting that the most vocal critics have done nothing themselves to advance ethics reform in the past. Is it the proposed code or ethics reform that they do not want?

If there had been a consensus on the commission for reform two years ago, it probably would have been done two years ago. It could have been done ten years ago. The charter provision authorizing a code of ethics was approved by voters in 1979.

One critic -- who was really sniping at Militello -- says the proposal is too little, too late. Another point has been made that the author of the code is an attorney associated with the OSOB, as if this invalidates the code. How do ad hominem attacks go the merits of the proposal?

Is the proposal too little or too long? Some critics say the proposed code is too long. Which is it? From a lawyer's or judge's perspective, this is a dumb argument: the lawyers and judges and (hopefully) public officials who need to read and apply this law will be able to go through it just fine. Eventually an educational program for public officials and staff should be designed to be certain that everyone understands it.

"It's too late." It's long overdue -- every advocate of ethics reform would agree. But why too late? It will, if this is true, always be too late. In other words, it will always be never.

We heard a question at one of the candidate's forums: how much will this cost? We don't have an answer to that. How much does public corruption cost? How much is the reputation of this city worth? Almost every candidate wants to promote business growth in Deerfield Beach. Our pitch could be, We have a beautiful beach and Al Capellini. A few years ago, this city spent big bucks to promote Deerfield Beach as an All-American city. Instead, we earned the title as the most, or second most, corrupt city in Broward County. You know what? In one vote, we could send this city's reputation soaring!

When commissioners take up this law next week, they ought not be looking at it as just an ordinary piece of legislation. Public service is a public trust, requiring city officials to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain. Integrity, professionalism, and public service are not just abstract issues to be bandied about in graduate seminars or in ethics classes at FAU.

Public ethics is not just about conflicts of interests or what public officials cannot do. Public officials have a duty to provide honest services and uphold the public trust. These are things that ought be in the minds of policy makers and administrators every day, in every decision.

We've been to some of the candidate forums. Of course, every candidate says they are people of integrity. Somehow "integrity" takes on a new meaning when a person assumes office and is confronted with real conflicts of interest or loyalty and the nagging problems of constituents.

It's not easy to turn away from friends and supporters, even when the public interest requires it.

This proposal should be looked upon by the commissioners as an agreement, just as Magna Carta was an agreement, that there are certain standards which apply to them and all public officials of this city.

The agreement is that : public officials should put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties; they should not use public office for private gain; and they should act impartially and fairly in conducting the business of the city.

Rejection of the proposal or delay calculated to permanently table it would speak for itself. This vote will be in more than one sense either up or down.



Will Deerfield Beach Get Snookered? - 03/02/09

Ain't love great? There yet may be romantic hope for Jabba the Hutt. Big Al Capellini has gone and gotten himself engaged. The big question now is, will the ceremony be performed by the prison chaplain?

Al's engagement invites all sorts of bad jokes about conjugal visits and so forth. Jokes aside, the ex-mayor continues to bounce around town campaigning to regain his post as if he doesn't have a worry in the world about the criminal actions pending against him and the prospect of time behind bars.

The charges are just political, he claims. He's innocent. Capellini's official apologist, Eller mouthpiece William Bucknam, writes in the local paper that the conflicts of interest which formed the basis of these charges were, at worst, only ethical violations. That makes it better for us. How about for you?

On the other hand, reporter Bob Norman, whose exposés all but put Capellini in jail, believes that the instant charges are just the tip of the iceberg. Big Al's business deals with mobsters and convicted drug dealers could bring additional charges -- that seems to be what Norman is implying. We don't know for sure that the pending charges in any way close the book on Al Capellini. It could be that this was the easy case filed now just to get Capellini out of office. Bigger charges could be on the way.

Meanwhile, Capellini still insists that the whole friggin' mess will be cleared up before he retakes his seat on March 17th. He concedes he voted in favor of his client improperly -- at least he admits he goofed -- but it was just a "mistake." Can't we all just get along and vote Al Capellini back into office?

As a side note, Capellini also stated at one of the candidate forums that he doesn't think Governor Crist can suspend him from office anyway if he's elected. Will Crist capitulate to this view? Once again Deerfield Beach will be in the news for all the shenanigans that go on here.

But logic aside, there seems to be a growing feeling among the people we talk to that Capellini could win this election. Given the fact that there are almost more candidates for mayor than voters, none of whom has exactly wowed the voters, and add to this the love affair that Deerfield Beach has had with Al Capellini for all these years, no possible outcome for this election can be ruled out (see, above, "Crunching the Numbers") no matter how absurd.

If values played a part in Deerfield politics, Capellini would have stepped aside when the criminal charges were brought against him. Politics takes bravado. Candidates have to close the sale, and Capellini is doing this by painting himself as the victim of political conspiracy. It remains to be seen if voters buy into this and once again vote Big Al into office.



Code Of Ethics Enacted - 03/04/09

In its last regular meeting of the 2005 term, the city commission passed a controversial code of ethics sponsored by Vice Mayor Pam Militello by a 3-2 vote.

While there were no fireworks and patriotic concerts on the beach in celebration, the passage of a code of ethics represents a giant step forward for Deerfield Beach. Many citizens are tired of this potentially great city being the constant butt of jokes and winner of derisive nicknames because of the shenanigans and stupidity of its top elected and appointed officials over the years.

At one of the recent candidate forums, a topic of debate was whether Deerfield is the most corrupt or the second most corrupt city in South Florida. This is the kind of negative image that has attached to this city. But it's not just a slap at a few low-life politicians like Al Capellini; it's a slap at the citizens and voters of Deerfield Beach who elected and then returned these people to office election after election. It's a slap at the local media also, which never wavered from its support of corrupt public officials and even today publishes long diatribes to convince readers that Al Capellini is innocent. With another election just a week away, the question is whether voters will take the same old road. Granted, the array of mayoral candidates is confusing and something less than stunning, still voters have five other choices than Al Capellini. Throw darts at the target board if you have to, but vote for somebody else!

In a previous article, we asked which face of Sylvia Poitier would vote on March 3d, the one that says she supports a code of ethics or the one who hates the very idea that she will be required to report truthfully her finances and connections with people who do business with the city. Unfortunately, it was the latter; it would have been monumental if the commission vote had been unanimous. This would have sent a message that the city lawmakers sitting at this time are committed to the proposition that public officials have a positive duty to give honest services and to uphold the public trust. In the final analysis this vote was about the confidence that citizens, business, county officials, and officials from neighboring cities have in the city government of Deerfield Beach.

We were disappointed by the lukewarm endorsement of the code by mayoral candidate Donald Cleveland, and the opposition expressed by candidates Joe Miller and Jean Robb. We were surprised by Gary Lother, who urged the commission to approve the measure. Some of the other candidates for mayor and commission were present at the meeting, but did not address the commission on the issue.

Caryl Berner, candidate for mayor, spoke in favor of the proposal.

Most of those who spoke in opposition focused on the costs of implementing the code and the too long, too fast argument.

The costs? Basically unknown. The hope is that with a code with clear requirements, the officials subject to the code will act lawfully and that complaints will be few and far between. There is a danger that some complainers will abuse the code and see it as an opportunity to harass officials they don't like, but frivolous complaints should be ferreted out fairly quickly.

The too long argument is B.S. -- to put it frankly. Laws are mostly written for lawyers and judges to read and interpret, and they are not going to be intimidated by the length of the document. As the code's principal author, Tom Connick, pointed out, the core provisions of the code are not that long anyway. We would imagine that most lay people would not understand most laws, if they chose to read them. The argument is bogus.

Another citizen said that she hadn't had a chance to read the code, urging the commission to delay. In fact, this legislation followed the normal course through the commission for proposed ordinances. The draft code was posted on this web site, and on others, we believe; and on the Sun-Sentinel web site. It was available at City Hall. The commissioners had ample opportunity to study the proposal. We surmise that if the draft code had been available for months or years, most people would not have read it anymore than they inconvenience themselves to vote.

A final word: No, this code of ethics is not exactly what we proposed on this web site. Our idea started with an agreement or "sense of the community" that there were certain principles and values that governed the way city officials conducted themselves in their duties. A statement of these principles and values would be incorporated into the charter. 20th century codes of ethics adopted in many cities and towns around the country revolved around conflicts of interest. We advocate an approach which emphasizes the duty of public officials to conduct themselves in the right way, whether it be integrity, professionalism or other values.

Our approach was perhaps more idealistic, but it is a path taken in a few places. As we have pointed out many times, honest government still starts with honest officials. No code of ethics, no matter who the author or proponent is, will purify the city.

How far this city has moved ahead will not be decided by what happened March 3d. It will be decided by what happens on March 10th.



Notes on the Candidates - 02/02/09

It is no wonder that some look at the field of candidates in the upcoming election and think, What is wrong with Deerfield Beach?

Retreads, candidates who seem to have dropped in from nowhere, ethically challenged people from the past, clueless novices who don't even know what city governments do, and yes, hidden agendas.

Meanwhile, the one incumbent who should not have gone unchallenged is unopposed and automatically re-elected.

The official explanation is that the challenger, Erma K. Jordan, wasn't getting enough support to mount an effective campaign. We don't know how you decide that before the campaign begins. But she withdrew too late in the day for someone else to put together an effort to oppose the incumbent, Sylvia Poitier. We don't believe the "official explanation" for one second.

It almost makes one want to go back to the era of Larry Deetjen and the Dreamers. At least we knew where we stood. One of the mayoral candidates was a member of the so-called Dream Team of that screwball era. Another candidate, Jean Robb, obviously represents an even earlier period of history when she was mayor before. Is the way forward to go back?

What does one look for in a candidate when you don't know these people well enough, if even at all, to know who they really are? Do you look at "character"? Is it their platform, if you can flesh it out, or previous experience? Many people vote, in the end, for the names they remembered from the multitude of campaign signs you see along the town roads. Just about every candidate thinks that signage is the key to winning. In fact, the signs tell us nothing about character, issues, or experience.

On the other hand, where a sign is located can tell us something. Is the owner of that particular vacant lot currying the favor of the candidate whose sign he allows there? There's nothing wrong with that and it's not illegal, but it could be something for voters to think about. What sort of building might be constructed on that beach front property where Peggy Noland's impressive campaign sign stands?

One of the planned candidate forums for the mayoral candidates (we've provided a tentative list at the end of this page) is sponsored by the OSOB, the organization that has successfully rallied voters against overdevelopment at the beach. But two of the six candidates, Jean Robb and Peggy Noland, have apparently declined to debate. Are they afraid to answer the inevitable questions from this particular group? It should be noted that these are the two candidates who are most rooted in the past.

Consequently, look for Robb and Noland to claim experience as one of their main selling points. Joe Miller also touts his business experience. But is it relevant? Militello has infinitely more experience in governmental service than Miller has, and business experience to boot. Where was Joe when the city wanted to build a shopping center on the beach, or give away the pier to a Boca developer? He doesn't want to tell us, but we suspect that Mr. Miller supported these proposals.

One should consider the context of the experience that the candidates claim. Robb was in a different time -- not an awful time, which maybe works in her favor -- but Noland's experience was during, and as part of, one of the most corrupt political eras in Deerfield Beach history.

This may seem a bit cynical, but the truth is that getting rid of Noland, Deetjen and Trinchitella was in itself the greatest ethical reform that Deerfield Beach has ever seen.

A horrifying thought is that we could slide back and even deeper into the culture of political corruption that has plagued this city and South Florida for years.

Fortunately, we can think of a better outcome. Deerfield Beach voters could break with the past and for once elect people of integrity to the city commission. At least three candidates have ethics reform as an item on their web sites. So better government is within reach.

Over the next four weeks, we will discuss our preferences further. We think that Militello (District 1) and Ganz (District 4), if they are both elected, would make ethics reform a priority and a real possibility. They are far superior to their opponents in this regard. Marty Popelsky (District 3), while he did make a mistake by claiming money to repair his car damaged in the City Hall parking lot, would probably cast the pivotal third vote.

In theory, the mayor is just another vote on the commission. But symbolically the mayor represents the city. Here's where the voters can make a clear statement for positive change and public integrity.

The thirteen people who are running for public office in Deerfield Beach provide an interesting, confusing, and even bewildering mix. They offer both awful and better prospects. A particular combination could put an end to ethics reform for the foreseeable future. As we suggested earlier, there are hidden agendas. You may read about it here, but you won't see what some candidates really want to do on their web sites or in their campaign literature. We submit that the test of character starts with the campaign; if they aren't open and truthful now, they won't be honest as public officials.



Notes on the Candidates - 02/02/09

It is no wonder that some look at the field of candidates in the upcoming election and think, What is wrong with Deerfield Beach?

Retreads, candidates who seem to have dropped in from nowhere, ethically challenged people from the past, clueless novices who don't even know what city governments do, and yes, hidden agendas.

Meanwhile, the one incumbent who should not have gone unchallenged is unopposed and automatically re-elected.

The official explanation is that the challenger, Erma K. Jordan, wasn't getting enough support to mount an effective campaign. We don't know how you decide that before the campaign begins. But she withdrew too late in the day for someone else to put together an effort to oppose the incumbent, Sylvia Poitier. We don't believe the "official explanation" for one second.

It almost makes one want to go back to the era of Larry Deetjen and the Dreamers. At least we knew where we stood. One of the mayoral candidates was a member of the so-called Dream Team of that screwball era. Another candidate, Jean Robb, obviously represents an even earlier period of history when she was mayor before. Is the way forward to go back?

What does one look for in a candidate when you don't know these people well enough, if even at all, to know who they really are? Do you look at "character"? Is it their platform, if you can flesh it out, or previous experience? Many people vote, in the end, for the names they remembered from the multitude of campaign signs you see along the town roads. Just about every candidate thinks that signage is the key to winning. In fact, the signs tell us nothing about character, issues, or experience.

On the other hand, where a sign is located can tell us something. Is the owner of that particular vacant lot currying the favor of the candidate whose sign he allows there? There's nothing wrong with that and it's not illegal, but it could be something for voters to think about. What sort of building might be constructed on that beach front property where Peggy Noland's impressive campaign sign stands?

One of the planned candidate forums for the mayoral candidates (we've provided a tentative list at the end of this page) is sponsored by the OSOB, the organization that has successfully rallied voters against overdevelopment at the beach. But two of the six candidates, Jean Robb and Peggy Noland, have apparently declined to debate. Are they afraid to answer the inevitable questions from this particular group? It should be noted that these are the two candidates who are most rooted in the past.

Consequently, look for Robb and Noland to claim experience as one of their main selling points. Joe Miller also touts his business experience. But is it relevant? Militello has infinitely more experience in governmental service than Miller has, and business experience to boot. Where was Joe when the city wanted to build a shopping center on the beach, or give away the pier to a Boca developer? He doesn't want to tell us, but we suspect that Mr. Miller supported these proposals.

One should consider the context of the experience that the candidates claim. Robb was in a different time -- not an awful time, which maybe works in her favor -- but Noland's experience was during, and as part of, one of the most corrupt political eras in Deerfield Beach history.

This may seem a bit cynical, but the truth is that getting rid of Noland, Deetjen and Trinchitella was in itself the greatest ethical reform that Deerfield Beach has ever seen.

A horrifying thought is that we could slide back and even deeper into the culture of political corruption that has plagued this city and South Florida for years.

Fortunately, we can think of a better outcome. Deerfield Beach voters could break with the past and for once elect people of integrity to the city commission. At least three candidates have ethics reform as an item on their web sites. So better government is within reach.

Over the next four weeks, we will discuss our preferences further. We think that Militello (District 1) and Ganz (District 4), if they are both elected, would make ethics reform a priority and a real possibility. They are far superior to their opponents in this regard. Marty Popelsky (District 3), while he did make a mistake by claiming money to repair his car damaged in the City Hall parking lot, would probably cast the pivotal third vote.

In theory, the mayor is just another vote on the commission. But symbolically the mayor represents the city. Here's where the voters can make a clear statement for positive change and public integrity.

The thirteen people who are running for public office in Deerfield Beach provide an interesting, confusing, and even bewildering mix. They offer both awful and better prospects. A particular combination could put an end to ethics reform for the foreseeable future. As we suggested earlier, there are hidden agendas. You may read about it here, but you won't see what some candidates really want to do on their web sites or in their campaign literature. We submit that the test of character starts with the campaign; if they aren't open and truthful now, they won't be honest as public officials.



Newspaper Violates Prime Directive - 01/15/09

The Sun-Sentinel may have violated the prime directive of global journalism this morning -- they ran a good news story about Deerfield Beach.

That's what they did alright. They published a story about progress being made to renovate the Cove Shopping Center, the off-beach shopping district that almost everyone agrees could be vastly improved from its current state. There isn't complete agreement on the plan, but the plan was formulated after an exhaustive round of meetings and charettes seeking public input and agreement among the many owners of the shopping area.

The project is slated to begin this year. It's not a complete rebuilding, and it isn't going to produce an exact replica of Mizner Park. It represents a compromise between a do-nothing position, which was the historical approach even during the frantic beach redevelopment era, and a New London type project that could displace hundreds of businesses and residents.

Much the credit for this belongs to District 1 commissioner Pam Militello. She was the person who got the ball rolling with town meetings on the subject. Judging from his public statements, her opponent is not even aware of the meetings or the plan that was subsequently developed. No one is aware that he participated in any way in this process. Militello's predecessor also did nothing; the official line was that too many people were involved to get any sort of agreement.

Of course, there will be critics -- there always are. These are the people who say the planned project isn't enough. Tear it down and take the adjacent neighborhood for expansion! These are the same people who don't think twice about using government power to take away other people's homes.

As the Sun-Sentinel points out, it won't be an easy time for businesses as the parking area is renovated and parking is disrupted. But it could be worse, and maybe the final product will be worth it.

If the paper had really wanted to go the edge with this good news reporting of Deerfield Beach, it could have reported the orderly, amicable way in which two interim commissioners were chosen on Tuesday night by the city commission. Nobody called anybody the slime beneath the slime or anything.



Let the Battle Begin - 01/12/09

The stage is set for a most interesting election in Deerfield Beach. A local blog, The Black Perspective Up Close And Personal, asks the good question: "Are Deerfield Beach voters really stupid enough to re-elect Capellini?"

Or, to put it another way, Is this town ready to move forward to be a better place in its civic affairs, or remain, to paraphrase New Times writer Bob Norman, the most screwed up little city in South Florida next to Hollywood?

This is not an easy title to earn (and Hollywood, by the way, has voted out some of its corrupt officials since Mr. Norman bestowed it). A few years ago, city officials spent a lot of bucks trying to get Deerfield Beach declared an All-American City. This is what it got. Read the Sunday newspapers this week. The local news is all about public corruption in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Corruption is the political culture in South Florida. Part of the message seems to be: Some people have gone down, but you ain't seen nothin' yet. Our two guys, Capellini and Gonot, may just be a precursor of what's coming.

But Deerfield Beach voters don't have to wait for the local prosecutors or the FBI to clean up our act. They don't have to wait for codes of ethics to be enacted to get honest government. They can do it on March 10th.

For starters, let's not be stupid and elect Al Capellini to a fifth term as mayor. There's a pretty good chance he won't be allowed to take office even if we were to elect him unanimously.

What voters can do right is re-elect Pam Militello in District 1. She hasn't been 100% successful. You may not agree with her every vote. But she's given us four years of honest service. Who else has? Pam deserves another term. Capellini most decidedly does not.

On the Far Side, we could reconstruct the blog's question thusly: "Are Deerfield Beach voters really stupid enough to elect Gary Lother?" We hope the answer to the question is that District 4 voters are smart enough to elect Bill Ganz as their commissioner. We think that Ganz and Militello are on the same page for reform.

Elections are often compared to crossroads. This election is more like the Golden Glades Interchange. There are high roads and low, forks in the roads, and precarious U-turns.

There are also confusing connections and other mysteries. In a previous article we asked, Who is Joe Miller? We would like to know his connections to Gary Lother and David Eller. Who are these guys who seemingly dropped out of the sky to sign up for mayor or commissioner? We suspect some of them may have connections to certain special interests.

What happened to Erma K. Jordan, one-time candidate for the District 2 seat who did not file? Was she bought off or scared off? We'd like to know. With Poitier unopposed, this could mean that many black voters will sit out the election; if a major segment of the voters stay at home on election day, this could be a significant factor in the hotly contested mayoral race.

A few days ago we were worried the mayoral election would be between "the three X's," that is, Robb, Capellini and Gonot. As it turned out, ex-Commissioner Noland showed up and Gonot did not. Caryl Berner, a candidate for commission in 2005, who was expected to run again in District 3, surprised just about everyone and filed for mayor. Two other candidates who have not had a conspicuous presence in Deerfield politics before also filed.

The failed attempts by Jean Robb to resurrect her '80's era regime in 1997 and in the District 1 commission race in 2005 show how difficult it is to restore the past in politics. Too many people remember the past with an inconvenient clarity to those who seek to lead the city back to some imagined golden age. People who actually vote with a purpose in mind might be inclined to vote for someone who they perceive as the future and not one of a bygone era. This could also be a problem for Peggy Noland's campaign (see our previous article).

There is no definitive written history of politics and government in Deerfield Beach. It's an oral history. So what most potential voters know about the city a decade back or decades ago is likely to be what is passed along from generation to generation in casual conversation.

Consequently in 2009, the many voters who were not around in the 1980's don't have a personal feeling for that period. If they know Mrs. Robb at all, it is probably vicariously through someone who lived here at the time. Unfortunately for Mrs. Robb, she is not, for a variety of reasons, the most venerated person in the realm of Deerfield politics.

If there were a significant trend among voters to reach back to a previous time as the antidote to the current crisis, it may be that Jean Robb would not be the right candidate to fill that role anyway. They might look to an elder statesman or stateswomen, but that is a status, regrettably, that Mrs. Robb has never achieved.

If Deerfield Beach voters, who have been notoriously lazy in previous city elections, are awakened by recent events and the situation that the city finds itself in, the momentum for change may be in a forward direction. In that case, there could be other people who could stake a more legitimate claim to the future of Deerfield Beach than Jean Robb, Peggy Noland, or Al Capellini, all of whom represent, in varying degrees, an imperfect past.

Noland was a terrible commissioner, indifferent to her constituents and ethically challenged. On the other hand, Jean Robb was not necessarily a bad mayor. She was, in fact, quite dedicated. She worked hard. She was abrasive and played people. She made many enemies. Her eventual defeat, it's our interpretation, was mainly a matter of style; she got bad press and voters were tired of her. If Robb were to regain her seat now, it would be by default. And that's the potential importance of the new guys.

One of them, insurance executive Donald Cleveland, presents an impressive résumé. He has degrees in political science, journalism, and policy planning and public opinion. He was a lobbyist and the risk management director of a public agency. But he's also new to Deerfield Beach politics and we don't yet know his program.

This year 2009 could be the first city election in which cyber campaigning plays an important role. A few web sites, for and against candidates, are already up and running. We expect that all serious contenders will have a web page.

That being said then, let the battle begin.



Noland Files For Mayor - 01/07/09

Noland's name has been in and out of the mayor's race for many moons. Now it's official: Margaret "Peggy" Noland for mayor of Deerfield Beach.

We can, sort of, see Jean Robb's pitch for mayor. "I was mayor for 13 years and I have experience and things only started to go downhill when you replaced me for the likes of Al Capellini,etc." This could fly with potential voters who weren't around 16 years ago and have no personal memory of the Robb era. People who lived here 16 or 20 or 25 years ago might be a harder sell. Among Deerfield Beach veterans, Jean Robb is a like her or hate her type of situation.

We can only imagine what Peggy Noland's selling points will be. She might invoke experience (she was a commissioner for 12 years), but what is she going to claim as her big achievement? Overdevelopment at the beach?

We will have to admit, though, that Noland has one thing in her favor. She was the first public official in office to oppose the Boinis proposal for the pier. One point for Peggy.

Unfortunately, she didn't have as much sense with regard to Ocean Park or Capellini's parking garage proposal that (just by coincidence you understand) would have netted millions to Capellini's business partners. And, let's see... she voted to extend Deetjen's contract, with a raise, even after he made an unauthorized deal with the people building the commercial parking garage in direct violation of commission directives. Then she wanted the city to sue the activists who spearheaded the drive for charter amendments to limit the commission's power to alter building code rules so that developers could build ever larger projects on the beach.

We guess we won't see any of that in Peggy's campaign literature.



A Fine Mess - 01/05/09

It's a complicated mess that Deerfield Beach is in. You came blame just about everybody and everything from crooked politicians to bloggers to ex-wives to apathy. You might even blame a lazy state prosecutor: What took him so long to figure out what just about everybody knew for a decade, that DB was run by politicians who used their offices to pad their own pockets? Or, how about the voters? They loved Al Capellini so much they voted him in over and over and over and over... and over?

It wasn't just Capellini voters. What about the commissioner from District 1 who sat in the Cove Restaurant for 12 years sipping Bloody Marys while bulldozers manned by Cap's friends stood poised to rip up the best thing that Deerfield Beach has (except, of course, when she wasn't in the city manager's office complaining that her little baby wasn't declared the winner in the Junior Lifeguard competition)?

Still, voters just couldn't get enough of Peggy; even when she was finally voted out, it was only by a squeak. As Jean Robb likes to point out from time-to-time, if it weren't for her taking votes away from Noland, Noland would have won. Sadly, it's probably true. Gee, District 1 could still be Peggy Land, taxation without representation.

Enough of how we got into this mess. The answer isn't all that complicated. The problem is how we get out of it.

At first blush, it seems easy enough. We vote good people into office. But, pray tell, where are these people? Who are these good citizens who are going to give up their jobs, stop feeding their kids, and devote a sizable portion of their lives to idiots like us, the same voters who put "It's About Me and My Pals" Capellini and "Whatever" Noland into office repeatedly.

One might think that the problem is apathy -- let's blame all the pigs feeding ungratefully at the trough that the 10 or 15 percent of us who vote put next to the barn. That's not the problem. Apathy is a good thing -- or at least defensible; the fewer people who care, the fewer we have to convince of any particular proposition. If the limit of one's interest in civic affairs is the trash pickup schedule, that's one less person you've got to worry about voting the wrong way. Jefferson had it exactly right: Democracy is for the people who participate.

We submit that the problem is with the voters who vote. Why for God's sake did people drag themselves to the polls election after election and vote in a commissioner who couldn't give a damn about the interests of her constituents and a mayor who everybody pretty much knew was stealing honest services on a daily basis?

That's the theoretical question. The practical issue, now, is where are the "good guys" who are going to extract us from this mess. Maybe, maybe, if there were people in this race who really believed that Deerfield Beach could be a better place in its civic affairs, who could set aside their personal interests for a few years to do what is right for Deerfield Beach, maybe, if, they could inspire voters to vote right for a change. Maybe we could have honest city government that respected the citizens. Maybe.

But not likely. We hate to be the bearer of bad news. "Good people" don't exist in Deerfield Beach politics. They exist, but not in politics for the most part. Atlas is shrugging; the people who could turn us around in a positive way are in hiding. They are on strike. They just aren't there. And who the hell can blame them? This is what we are left with:

The only honest office holder in Deerfield Beach opposed by a person who doesn't even respect his potential constituents enough to answer a few questions or speak for himself. A wily old politician with her fingers in way too many things who will probably roll over her competition handily. A commissioner who told the city to go screw itself when advised he may have received public funds unlawfully. And Gary Lother.

Oh yeah, Gary Lother will get votes. Not enough to win, we hope, but one too many.

In the mayor's race, we have the three X's, or at least two, as it stands at the moment. We have an ex-mayor, who's charged with public corruption; possibly an ex-commissioner, who's charged with stealing funds from his campaign account; and another ex-mayor, very ex, we might add. So at a time when we ought to be looking forward -- to a new generation, perhaps, of better city government? --we look back instead, as the most sensible option.

There's talk about sinking a ship off Deerfield Beach to create an artificial reef. Maybe we can just tow the city out there; we don't even have to drill holes or set off dynamite.

We just have to make sure there are enough voters on board. Glug.



What? Me Worry? - 08/10/08

Maybe we should worry. There's been a lot of talk about it, and it revolves around the election or re-election of certain people to the commission in 2009. We refer to the rumored plot to return Larry R. Deetjen to Deerfield Beach. Or would it be, in reality, Deerfield Beach to Larry R. Deetjen?

Weird things happen in politics. Still, we find the idea of LRD riding back into town on a golden steed to rescue us from our own follies in getting rid of him in the first place and replacing him with "Hillbilly Mike" Mahaney (as Deetjen reportedly likes to call his successor) both ridiculous and improbable.

An LRD redux implies that there would be some political sense to it. It also implies that the voters of Deerfield Beach are so stupid and blasé that they would permit this to happen. In the Deetjen era voters were regarded as gullible. So it begs the question of what political advantage anyone would get by reinstating Larry Deetjen as city manager, even if we could raise Mr. Trinchitella from the dead and restore intact the legendary "Dream Team" of lore.

Does Mr. Capellini need Deetjen? We don't see why at this point. When Deetjen was city manager, there was always controversy which was who's boy, Capellini or Deetjen? A lot of people think Capellini was the boy.

Rumors have been circulating for months along the blog and e-mail circuits that there is a move afoot to dump Mahaney and rehire Deetjen. Aside from Mrs. Deetjen and the stooges she parades before the commission to attack Mr. Gonot -- and perhaps fringe elements of the failed recall against Gonot -- who the heck are the movers of this movement anyway?

Is it the business community that wants Deetjen back? There is a view to that effect because of the "love affair" between the Chamber director and the former city manager in days past. We seriously doubt very many of the business community in Deerfield Beach, perhaps with the exception of the Chamber director, really want to bring this sorry clown back to this city. Good for business you say? In the last days of his regime, the antics of Larry R. Deetjen were mostly good for making Deerfield Beach good for laughs in the South Florida media.

It seems to us that any serious attempt at restoring Deetjen as city manager in view of what has transpired would attract more media attention than Deerfield Beach really wants and make us once again the laughing stock city of South Florida.

What about Gary Lother, the ex-fire chief who's running for commissioner in District 4? He's often identified as one who would be instrumental in bringing Deetjen back if he were elected to the commission. He needed Deetjen when he was fire chief, Deetjen was city manager, and Lother was being battered (deservedly so) for his management of fire services. If he were elected to the city commission, however, it is not clear why he would need Deetjen, in particular, as city manager.

Then again, it could be (blind) loyalty to his former boss. Or Lother could be paid off royally to represent Deetjen's interests by someone, or be promised campaign bucks just to get on board and in a position, possibly, to fire Mahaney and pave the way for Deetjen's glorious reentry.

We also cannot discount the possibility that Lother is not in Deetjen's pocket per se, but in someone else's, who has a special interest in ousting the present power structure of city government.

Of course, this is conjecture. As far as we know, Mr. Lother has taken no public position on this issue. Nonetheless, his improbable candidacy -- along with Lother's tendency to revise history to pad his credentials (for example, he has exaggerated his own role in the cell phone tower resolution), Lother's less-than-stellar résumé as fire chief, and his alleged continued close relationship with the Deetjens -- smells as far away as land's end in Deerfield Beach, and feeds speculation as to what role he might play in restoring Deetjen to power in the next commission term.

After all is said, however intense the feelings of a few stalwarts who would like to return Deetjen to Deerfield Beach, this is not likely to happen. If it were to happen, it would be part of a scheme operating outside the realm of common political sense.

We are still right in being nervous, because the particular mix of people which would supposedly make this happen -- Capellini, Poitier, Lother, Noland -- would not be good for Deerfield Beach. For this ethically-challenged group to be in charge of this city would be bad news.

On the other hand, the good news on the political front is that Lother is not going unchallenged in his bid for District 4. Bill Ganz, who's been active in unifying homeowners' associations on the west side of town, has filed for this seat. Mr. Ganz has expressed interest in ethics reform at City Hall.

Unfortunately, history has already shown us that one seat on the city commission is not going to accomplish very much in terms of reform. Two enthusiastic commission members might achieve modest ethics reform. More complete reform will require a broader commitment by city leaders.

However, the ultimate reformers will be the voters of Deerfield Beach. If we elect Capellini and Poitier, and people like Lother and Peggy Noland to office, we get what we deserve and what the developers and insider interests pay for. There's no need, in that case, to talk about ethics. The culture of corruption at City Hall simply continues.



Gary Lother: Running for Office, from His Past - 04/28/08

Ex-fire chief Gary Lother is now an official candidate for the #4 city commission seat, which is presently occupied by his arch-enemy, Steve Gonot. Gonot will be term-limited out in March, 2009.

While Gonot guns for the mayor's spot in 2009, Lother had better be looking over his shoulder. He likely will be a target for his past actions and present connections, especially his association with Lynn and Larry R. Deetjen. Moreover, Lother brings to his candidacy a controversial history in Deerfield Beach, which will undoubtedly haunt him during the campaign. Whether he has a constructive program to offer remains to be seen.

Many people are troubled about a Lother-Capellini-Poitier troika on the commission and what it could mean for Deerfield Beach. Add to this the possibility of Peggy Noland back on the commission. But what we want to write about now is Lother's prospects as a city commission candidate.

We can think of at least four problems with Gary Lother's candidacy. It will be interesting to see how these things play out in the campaign; bear in mind, however, that District 4 is Far Side Deerfield Beach, both geographically and politically. Not long after Lother's disgraced resignation from the fire department post, he was elected to the board of the Deer Creek homeowners' group right along the side of Lynn Deetjen. So anything can happen out west.

The first bit of Lother's past to come to mind is the devastating survey conducted among active employees of the fire department by their union. The vast majority of the employees surveyed thought Lother's management of the department was highly deficient.

Of course, it is not unusual for employees to be critical of their bosses. What was most troubling about this particular survey was the width and depth of the criticism, and widespread accusations of favoritism and discrimination against personnel who spoke out about department policies or procedures. One could only come away after reading the survey with the conclusion that there were serious, serious problems in the department and with morale under Lother's management.

This survey came around the same time that Commissioner Gonot was questioning the state of fire inspections, which were lagging. There was talk about merging the city fire and rescue services unit with the BSO as a solution to some of the department's problems; this was generally favored by firefighters, but opposed by city administration, including Lother, Larry R. Deetjen, and Mayor Capellini (the idea was subsequently nixed by voters).

Pursuing the inspections issue, Commissioner Gonot asked questions of Chief Lother, in open session. On one occasion, Lother refused to answer, supposedly on the advice of his attorney. The case of a city department head or supervisor refusing to answer questions of the commission was so unusual that even the city attorney stated that he had never seen anything like it.

City Attorney Maurodis conceded there was no way to compel Lother to answer questions posed to him by the commission, but that this was a novel situation. Under the charter, Lother was hired by the civil services board and reported to the city manager. Nonetheless, city employees normally answer the commissioners; while the elected officials cannot micro-manage the city departments, they certainly are entitled to information to assist them in their lawful functions. And it's not up to the employees to decide what the commissioners need to know.

So this raises questions which may pertain to Mr. Lother's credibility as a candidate. First, what was Lother trying to hide? The refusal to answer questions of an official usually arises in the context of self-incrimination. Second, what does this say about Mr. Lother? To some, it reflects poor judgment and an unusual arrogance on his part with respect to the city's governing board. Now he wants to play the role of commissioner himself.

The tension between Gonot and Lother over fire inspections rose further when Chief Lother decided to write a scathing public denunciation of the commissioner. While Mr. Lother has a right to his opinions as a citizen, it was unseemly for a city employee, especially a member of the management group, to attack publicly an elected official. It is not clear what Lother thought he would accomplish.

Likewise, Lother's high-profile support of the recall effort against Gonot was inappropriate. He was not the only ranking city employee to participate, but he's the one now seeking office. This brings to mind Deetjen's public support of the Boinis proposal when it was a matter pending before the commission; Deetjen claimed he was acting as a private citizen. At the time, we suggested that Mr. Deetjen has an on-off switch implanted in his body. On, he was city manager. Off, just an ordinary slob. Lother, as fire department chief, must have felt he was similarly equipped.

Perhaps Mr. Lother has an inspiring agenda for his district, other than to seek revenge upon Gonot and the others who worked for Deetjen's (and his) ouster. But what we see is a pattern of politically miscued conduct which raises questions about Lother's competence, character and motives. Lother is also seen by some as part of the quixotic faction of Deer Creekers who cling to the Deetjen era and seek to restore it. At what point in our city's history do we try to elevate politics above Larry R. Deetjen?



Politics is Fun... Isn't It? - 06/02/08

In addition to the standard question -- Who is Running? -- the next mayor's election in Deerfield Beach may have two other variables: Who Will be Indicted First? and Who Will Run Instead?

This is because it has become très chic for people running for office, or their supporters, sycophants or useful idiots, to file official complaints against opponents. And they will go to almost any lengths to get the goods on their rivals; Al Capellini hired private eyes to dog Steve Gonot, according to recent news stories, who filmed him at a convention apparently attending to private business. Gonot was at this meeting at city expense and was supposed to be there representing the city. This is not necessarily a new tactic for City Hall. Back a few years ago, you may remember, Gonot was apparently followed by the police chief and seen taking multiple copies of the free local paper from a newsstand, which subsequently was reported as if Gonot had held up a gas station. Now who do you think put the chief up to that? We should add, for the sake of clarity, that this was an ex-police chief.

Obviously, if one can knock off his opponents by getting them into trouble with the law, he doesn't have to bother with such things as his own character issues. Why ruin a perfectly good campaign for mayor or commissioner with ideas and programs for making the city better?

You might respond to this bit of sarcasm by saying, If someone may have broken the law, he ought to be reported, and the suspicions, investigated. No one would disagree with this. But how far does the effort to catch your political enemies with their pants down go, and whatever the hell happened to running for office with a program for the good of the city and debating issues in a civil manner?

Both Capellini and Gonot are under investigation by law enforcement authorities; part of Gonot's problem stems from the surveillance by Capellini's hired spies. Either or both could be guilty as sin, either could be indicted or officially charged, either could be knocked out of the race this way. What Deerfield Beach voters have now are two uninspired and uninspiring pro-development candidates for mayor; what would they be left with if one were out of the race?

It seems as if voters either would be left with the same developer-mayor, Al Capellini, for another four years or with a candidate who receives the bulk of his financial support from developers: Tweedledum or Tweedledee. Dum or Dee, it looks as if developers will have a substantial foothold on Deerfield politics for some time to come.

Looking at these three options, Deerfield Beach will be the big loser no matter what happens. Is it any wonder that most Deerfield Beach voters could not care less when it comes to city elections?

Of course, there is always room for optimism, even if guarded. Someone not involved in this morass could step up and give voters another option. Does anyone else agree that this would be a good time to see a couple of new faces at City Hall?



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