FREE MOVIE TICKETS
The South Florida Times is giving away free tickets to the official South Florida screening of Armored, a highly touted action-thriller movie starring Laurence Fishburne, Columbus Short, Matt Damon and several other stars. The free tickets are available exclusively to our subscribers and readers who are registered users on our website. It does not cost anything to register on our website. Simply go to SFLTimes.com, register, and then call our offices at 954-356-9360 to request your tickets. This is the official South Florida preview of Armored, and it will take place on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 8 p.m. The location is Regal Cinemas in Oakwood Plaza, 2800 Oakwood Blvd. in Hollywood, near Stirling Road and Interstate 95.
BAD PRESS, WORSE REACTION
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has been getting bad press as of late, and his reaction could prove to be even worse. He has fired his communications director, Erin Isaac, who was effective and professional. On his U.S. Senate campaign, he has hired Andrea Saul, the 27-year-old who handled press duties for the Republican National Committee and the hapless Sen. John McCain presidential campaign. You can’t blame that inept effort on Saul, but voters just might. Crist is dealing with plummeting approval ratings, and attacks from numbskull conservatives who wrongly criticize him as being too liberal and too cozy with President Barack Obama. There are also those ridiculous rumors circulating that Crist will switch to the Democratic Party if he is elected to the U.S. Senate. This is all nonsense, but it didn’t get any easier for him this week. Black leaders began openly criticizing him for failing to make a timely appointment to fill the vacant Broward County Commission District 9 seat. Crist has not responded to their concerns, and this too may turn out to be a mistake.
TAX REFORM UPHELD
The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee has returned a ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Save Our Homes law. The amendment was approved by voters in 1992, and added to the state’s Constitution in 1995. It caps the increase in annual assessments of homesteaded properties in Florida to 3 percent, or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. It was intended to protect full-time, permanent residents from being overburdened with property-tax increases, but has been criticized as unfair to new homeowners, part-time residents and those moving into new homes.
PACK YOUR BAGS
Fort Lauderdale commissioners this week voted 3-2 not to renew City Manager George Gretsas’ 3-year contract. Mayor Jack Seiler and commissioners Charlotte Rodstrom and Bruce Roberts voted to send him packing. There remains the possibility of a one or two-year deal, but don’t count on it. Gretsas arrived in Fort Lauderdale in 2004, about a year after former City Manager Floyd T. Johnson was fired, and the city was close to bankruptcy. Gretsas oversaw a return to financial stability in city hall, but his administration seemed overbearing from the start. Instead of building consensus, he was a top-down administrator. Employees complained (quietly and in fear) that they were being intimidated by his administration. Most of the speakers at Tuesday’s meeting heaped praises on Gretsas. But that was likely because he mounted an effort to get community, business and even religious leaders to turn out on his behalf. Gretsas’ days are numbered, but commissioners must also make sure the overpaid assistants he has hired are cleared out as well.
TEACHERS WANT A RAISE
Hundreds of teachers in the Broward County School system protested in front of the district’s headquarters on Tuesday, Nov. 17, demanding pay raises. They are blaming School Superintendent Jim Notter. The rally was organized by the Broward Teachers Union, whose leaders say members are underpaid, and are feeling the burden of paying more for insurance and other benefits. Some teachers did get pay increases this year, but the amounts varied, creating a disparity, union officials say. While teachers may deserve raises, they should bide their time for now. At least they have jobs.
GIVE THEM A HAND
Let’s give Sunrise Mayor Roger Wishner and Commissioner Sheila Alu a hand. They stood on principle, and killed a deal that would have given the city’s $103 million in bond work to Merrill Lynch. The investment brokerage is owned by Bank of America, which is being lambasted over its refusal to renegotiate homeowners’ mortgages in the city and elsewhere. Commissioners voted on Monday, Nov. 16 to award the contract instead to Goldman Sachs. Let this be a lesson, and other governmental entities should begin doing likewise.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
Florida Democratic Party (FDP) chairwoman Karen Thurman is once again coming under fire. She passed over Daisy Black for the appointment as chair of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee. As first vice chair, Black was second in line. She also had the most experience and involvement in the party. Thurman instead appointed Richard Lydecker after former chair John Chiszar was ousted on Nov. 10 over allegations of violating unspecified party rules. Thurman reportedly made the appointment without ever contacting, consulting, or informing Black of her decision.
NOT FOR HIRE
The Florida Marlins are the target of ongoing protests from local companies and construction workers, after being accused of not hiring them to work on the $634 million baseball stadium under construction in Miami. Taxpayers gave the baseball team mega-tax breaks and other concessions to go toward the facility. Team officials say they are hiring local companies and workers. Maybe so, but you can’t tell it by the hundreds of people who are joining the protests. Either the Marlins are the target of unwarranted criticism, or team president David Samson needs to do more to get the facts out. Maybe he will call me?
Palm Beach County
“KILL MY HUSBAND”
According to court records released this week, Dalia Dippolito, 26, of Boynton Beach, tried at least twice to kill her husband, 38-year-old Michael Dippolito, before hiring what she thought were hit men to do the job. Dippolito was arrested in August after hiring undercover police to kill her husband, investigators say. She had previously met with men she encountered in the streets of Riviera Beach, and paid them to kill her husband, according to authorities. They took the money, and she never heard from them again. Then she searched the Internet on ways to poison someone. With that information, she placed anti-freeze into a cup of tea, which made her husband sick but did not kill him, investigators say.
PIRANHAS ARE HERE
A teenage boy fishing in a pond near his condo complex near Arabian Road and Lake Arbor Drive in Palm Springs pulled a red-bellied piranha from the water. Piranhas are meat-eating fish that have sizable, razor sharp teeth. They are not native to Florida, but many are smuggled into the state from South and Central America and kept as pets. There are accounts of them cleaning the meat off cows, other animals and even humans within minutes. Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say such accounts are likely folklore, but they did go out and poison the lake on Tuesday, Nov. 17. At least three more piranhas floated to the top after being killed. The pond will be restocked with native fish.
Photo: Laurence Fishburne