elgin_jones_web_13.jpgCHANGE IS COMING
The Florida Supreme Court will be split into two courts, with one serving civil and the other handling criminal cases. State prisons will be privatized, as well as public hospitals and clinics, if Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled legislature have their way. They are moving at breakneck speed to change the way services are provided in Florida and it’s scary. For years, lobbyists have salivated at a chance to take over these public institutions and now they will get them. Let us pray.

Palm Beach County

Newly elected West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio is acknowledging the city will have to make drastic changes, including more layoffs and pension reform, in order to balance its budget. Muoio also said she is open to merging some law enforcement operations with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department. West Palm will have $48 million in revenue this year, compared to $73 million in 2007. There were 1,720 city employees in 2009 and that number has been reduced to 1,489 with more cuts to come.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) that he heads are in high demand. Bradshaw is arguably the most influential public figure in the county and that is likely to increase. PBSO already provides law enforcement services to the county, as well as Belle Glade, Lake Park, Lake Worth, Mangonia Park, Pahokee, Royal Palm Beach, South Bay and Wellington. Several other municipalities are considering merging their departments with the PBSO and the Palm Beach County School District may join them. The school district is facing a $50 million budget shortfall and Bradshaw says his department can provide services at a substantial saving to taxpayers over the $13 million the district currently spends on its own police department.

Hubert Smith, 72, of Boca Raton is facing two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and two counts of battery after he allegedly stabbed his 41-year-old wife and cut his daughter’s hands. Police said Smith told them he stabbed his wife in the stomach after the two argued over his desire for the family to move back to his native Jamaica. While they tussled at their Boca Raton home, their daughter jumped into the melee to help her mother and suffered cuts to her hands in the process.

Allen Elie, 19, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and weapons related charges after he allegedly fired shots at a woman holding a baby. The woman was standing outside her Riviera Beach apartment when Elie pulled a gun from his waistband and started firing at her as she fled to safety with a child, police said. Police have not said what led to the shooting. The woman and child were unharmed.

Broward County

The Broward County chapter of the Democratic Black Caucus has been ordered to hold new meetings in which candidates for its board will be nominated. Alan Brown, chairman of the chapter’s grievance committee, challenged the upcoming election on the basis the nominations were conducted improperly. Caucus officials in the statewide governing body upheld his challenge. The election of officers originally scheduled for April 21 was cancelled and a new nominating process must be conducted.

Wadenby Beauvais, 31, is charged with multiple counts of lewd and lascivious activity on a child. He is accused of inappropriately touching a boy he befriended in a Pompano Beach neighborhood where he sold candy to children.

Gateway Community Outreach, a faith-based Deerfield Beach charity, has removed suspended Deerfield Beach City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier from its board of directors. The move came after Poitier turned herself in to authorities to face corruption-related charges. Poitier is charged with four misdemeanor counts of falsifying official records related to an organization she was involved with.

Legal Aid of Broward is reviewing documents and may be preparing a lawsuit over the city of Pompano Beach’s code enforcement practices and redevelopment plans. Pompano is moving forward with several redevelopment projects and black property owners are concerned their land is being targeted for acquisition. There are suspicions that stepped-up code enforcement in the predominantly black neighborhoods is intended to force property owners to sell on the cheap.

Miami-Dade County

Civic activists are calling on North Bay Village Mayor Corina Esquijarosa to resign or face a recall. The ultimatum was issued over Esquijarosa’s owing $3,000 in back property taxes and claiming a homestead exemption on a Miami condominium she rented out. The condominium was not her primary residence but she still claimed the exemption on the income-producing property. City residents Blake and Fane Lozman have accused the mayor of fraud and say they want her gone.

Stefan Viard, 27, was working as a clerk at a Miami gas station when he called police to report a robbery. He said a man punched him in the face and snatched about $2,800 from the register before running away. He identified 33-year-old Eric Evans, a known drug dealer in the area, as the alleged robber. Police detained Evans for questioning and said he admitted that he and Viard were friends and co-conspirators. Police said Viard owed Evans money for drugs and they staged the robbery to pay him off. Both men were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit a crime and filing a false police report.

Jordan W. Leonard announced his resignation as Homestead’s Community Redevelopment Agency director eight months after being hired. Leonard, who earned $90,000 a year, is also a Bay Harbor Island council member. He said his resignation was due to the long commute to Homestead — which he must have known before taking the job. Leonard’s assistant, Monique D. Spence, also quit recently. Something smells fishy to me.