Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have vowed to do whatever it takes to see President Barack Obama fail. That is unfortunate but it’s their choice. Politics is a full-contact sport but blocking or refusing even to debate issues that could help the abysmal economy is outright wrong and political suicide.

This week, Obama unveiled a program intended to make it easier for millions of Americans to refinance their homes. It was done by executive order and some Republicans are voicing displeasure with the plan but have not offered an alternative. Obama is finally flexing his muscles and using executive orders to implement various programs and initiatives — and it’s about time. Republicans have overplayed their hand with their tactic. They have attacked workers’ rights and that too has now backfired. Before the 2010 election, Republicans enjoyed overwhelming support from law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders and their unions. Now, here in Florida and around the country, first responder unions have been holding “party change” rallies where their members are switching their voter registrations from Republican to Democrat or Independent. What in the world has happened to the Republican Party?

Palm Beach County

Jon Williams, 60, of North Palm Beach, has been arrested on fraud and larceny charges. He is the fifth employee of the non-profit Real Estate Education and Community Housing (REACH) and Guardian Financial Network (GFN), a mortgage broker, who has been charged in an alleged first-time homebuyer scheme. The Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office alleges Williams and four others required “donations” of $600 to $3,500 from more than 20 potential homebuyers to help them get government grants. Clients were led to believe they were required to make the “donation” to qualify for the grant, which was never disclosed on mortgage documents. Patricia Mullis Tracey, 65, of Jupiter; Nelson W. Kass, 66, of Wellington; Irma Monica Matthews, 43, of Port St. Lucie; and Georgina Cespedes-Rivera, 43, of Royal Palm Beach were also charged in the alleged scheme.

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio is dealing with the resignation of former Police Chief Delsa Bush. Now Muoio plans to ditch the controversial radio system Bush supported. The Open Sky radio system cost the city $5 million. It was intended to be used by several other surrounding municipalities, including Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter. The Open Sky system has problems operating around tall buildings and dense areas, creating safety concerns. Muoio does not want to pay an additional $1.6 million for the radios that work with Open Sky. If West Palm pulls out and keeps its Motorola system, the other remaining cities using Open Sky would have pay more to cover their costs. Expect lawsuits.

Broward County

A street re-naming ceremony will be held in honor of the late Ethridge Benjamin “Buck” Phillips. Pompano Beach city commissioners approved renaming a section of Northwest Seventh Street to E. Buck Phillips Street, in recognition of Phillips’ civic service. Phillips was a pioneering black businessman and community activist. He served on numerous city advisory boards and community organizations. A military veteran, Phillips opened one of the first black-owned paint and body shops in Broward County, in 1967. The business he founded, Westside Paint & Body Shop, is still in operation today and is managed by his son, Derriek Phillips. The renaming ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 9, at Westside Paint and Body, 691 NW 18th Ave. The public is invited. For additional information, call 954-968-6397.

Deerfield Beach officials are trying to keep the lid on yet another management fiasco. This time it is a 10 percent utility tax that was supposed go into effect in October. Residents are complaining the tax began appearing on their September electric, gas and water bills and they are demanding refunds. The exact amount owed to residents has not been determined and City Manager Burgess Hanson once again is not responding to questions. What a mess!

The trustee in the bankruptcy case of the Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, and Adler (RRA) law firm
has reached another clawback settlement. Convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, who is now serving federal prison time and cooperating with authorities, founded RRA. Among other things, Rothstein used RRA money to buy gifts, make political donations and award contracts to his friends. Clawback is the term used to get such  funds from recipient companies and individuals. The latest settlement is that of Broward Sheriff’s Office Lt. David Benjamin, whose security consulting business received a $30,000 contract from Rothstein. On one occasion, while dining at the posh Bova Prime eatery on Las Olas Boulevard, Rothstein also gave Benjamin a Chopard watch. The settlement requires Benjamin to return the watch and the money. FBI and IRS authorities have been considering an indictment of Benjamin but the case is problematic because the $30,000 was reported on his taxes and there is no indication Benjamin was aware the money was allegedly stolen.

Miami-Dade County


The Tamiami Automotive Group’s Chrysler/Jeep dealership located at 7090 SW 24th St., just east of the Palmetto Expressway in west Miami-Dade, is no more. The company has other locations but the highly visible expressway site is the subject of an $8.8 million mortgage foreclosure. Tamiami Automotive Group’s website was down and the phone number was not operating this week, leading to speculation about the dealership’s future.

Early voting has begun in Miami-Dade County. In Hialeah, Mayor Carlos Hernandez is facing three challengers, including Rudy Garcia and former Mayor Raul Martinez. Miami voters will select either Wilfredo Gort or Shawn Selleck for the District 1 commission seat. In District 2, incumbent commissioner Marc Sarnoff is facing challengers Williams Alfred Armbrister, Kate Callahan and Donna Milo. Homestead voters will choose council members Jon Burgess or Judy Waldman for the vice mayor post. Incumbent Mayor Steve Bateman is defending his seat against former councilman Steve Losner.

Photo: Elgin Jones