elginjones3web.gifRACES TO WATCH
There are two black candidates who could end up doing very well in the Aug. 26 primaries. They are Wiley Thompson, a candidate for Broward sheriff, and Freda Stevens, who is running for the District 100 state representative seat. Thompson is the only black in the field of five Democratic candidates, which also includes Richard Lemack, S. "Shak" Dhanji, Bruce Udolf and Scott Israel. Stevens, likewise, is the only black in a race against incumbent Evan Jenne and another challenger, Robert E. Kellner. Incumbent Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, who was appointed, is the sole Republican who is running for election to the position. Due to the primary taking place the day after the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Sen. Barack Obama is slated to become the first-ever black nominee of a major party in this nation’s history, black voter turnout is expected to be higher than usual.

The Broward County School District is facing serious budget shortfalls, but this did not stop them from approving $4 million to replace South Broward High School's 50-year-old swimming pool, which does have some serious leaks. While the pool is important to the school’s various aquatics programs, building a new one could have waited, particularly considering the current budgetary issues. Just think how many jobs that $4 million could fund.

Corey Alston, the 30-year-old financial whiz, is the new chairman of the board of directors of the Broward Minority Builders Coalition, Inc. Expect big things out of Alston in this role, as he leads the construction services organization into this new millennium. Former Pompano Beach Mayor E. Pat Larkins started the organization more than 30 years ago.

From June 1, 2000, to Sept. 30, 2004, the state of Florida sold the personal information of about 10 million motorists who had a driver's license or car registered in the state. Now a $10.4 million settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit filed over the issue, where the affected motorists will get $1 off their next vehicle registration. The suit accused state agencies of violating the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act by selling personal information to marketing firms without the knowledge or approval of the motorists. Each of the four motorists who sued will receive $3,000 while their lawyers are getting $2.85 million in legal fees and $20,000 in costs. The rest of us will only get a dollar discount on our tags, which somehow just doesn’t seem fair, though it is better than nothing.

City of Lauderdale Lakes workers are continuing their efforts to unionize, but that did not stop City Manager Anita Fain-Taylor from issuing a memo last week telling the work force that some of their positions will not be allowed to form or join any union. According to the memo, the city considers some positions to be ‘confidential, professional or exempt,’ and those employees will not be allowed to unionize, which is nonsense. Ultimately it’s up to the Public Employees Relations Commission to decide the make-up of any bargaining unit, not the city. City of Fort Lauderdale officials took a similar position in 2004, when PERC allowed managers, confidential and other city management staff to unionize. The Lauderdale Lakes memo is being viewed as an attempt to intimidate employees, which is not good.

Early voting is underway and U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, is sounding the alert for everyone to be on the lookout for any efforts to suppress black voter turnout during the Aug. 26 primary. There are always groups that use tricks, and in some instances, outright lies, to spread misinformation about election dates, eligibility, polling places, etc., where the less informed end up confused about the voting process. In South Florida, this may not be as prevalent as it is in some other areas around the country, but do not be misled, because it does happen here as well, so watch out.

Walter Hunter and Willie Mae Randolph are the president and vice president, respectively, of the Collier City Homeowners Association. They are expressing concern about the ever-expanding complex of jails and prisons located near their community. Schools in that predominantly black neighborhood in northwest Pompano Beach have been subjected to lockdowns during security incidents near the facilities. Then there are prisoners who stroll through the community after being released from jails during the wee hours of he morning. To date, issues have not been addressed, and they have now turned to state officials demanding actions. It will be interesting to see how this pans out, but both activists should be applauded for working to improve their community.

Keep an eye on a whistleblower lawsuit making its way through the courts, filed by David Richstone, a former internal auditor at the North Broward Hospital District. The District, now known as Broward Health, is a taxpayer-funded agency that operates public medical facilities in the northern two thirds of Broward County. Richstone is alleging he was fired after uncovering and reporting questionable expenditures involving the district's former chief executive, Alan Levine. The lawsuit claims Richstone uncovered more than 30 instances of “questionable” reimbursements paid to Levine, who resigned in January to take a job running Louisiana’s state healthcare system. District officials are denying the allegations, but there could be some big names on the witness list, which could make for some interesting courtroom theater.

The latest numbers released by the U.S. Census confirm South Florida is turning black and brown faster than anyone could have predicted, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the centers of power in the tri-county area. As white folks are high-tailing it out of the area in record numbers, black and Hispanic populations are rapidly increasing. However, this is not reflected in influence and wealth: The majority of elected positions are still held by whites. When one looks at government contracts, minorities continue to settle for leftover table scraps and a few crumbs of the economic cornbread. Then there is the criminal injustice system, in which minorities are impacted substantially more than whites, but you wouldn’t know it by the minuscule number of minority judges. The same situation exists in the school systems, where only a few minorities sit on local boards. This is not a black-and-white issue, but at some point soon minorities must do what it takes to obtain access to the true hubs of power and opportunity in South Florida.

Palm Beach County Sheriff's detectives arrested Torrance Lenard Bell, 28, of West Palm Beach, and 19-year-old Freddie Orie Chavers, of Riviera Beach, in connection with the murder of Lutraio Kendale Radford, 20, according to investigators. The murder took place at Dyer Park in West Palm Beach this past weekend. Yul Williams, 36, was also shot during the same incident, and remains hospitalized from non-life threatening gunshot wounds.  Officials have not said what led to the shootings. Radford’s body was found at a rear entrance to the park, shortly after shots were heard.


Photo: Elgin Jones