Times are really tough, but don’t tell that to President George W. Bush. This week, the president held a press conference on the economy at which he vowed to implement free trade agreements with several Central American nations. It was more of the same brain-dead policies and outrageous rhetoric that has the country in its worse condition in more than a century. Well, no thanks, Mr. President! Here in Broward, home foreclosures grew by more than 50 percent compared to the same period last year. People are losing jobs, companies are shutting down, and veterans returning home from war are being treated like discarded furniture. The president supports bailing out corporations that helped to cause these problems, but has not said a word about CEOs of those firms who will still get their mega-million-dollar salaries at taxpayers’ expense. Again, no thanks, Mr. President.
After years of campaigning, the Rev. John F. White, pastor of Mount Hermon AME Church in Fort Lauderdale, has been selected to serve as the African Methodist Episcopal church organization’s 130th bishop. He will head the organization’s Office of Ecumenical and Urban Affairs. White, 60, a native of Delray Beach, has served as pastor of Mount Hermon since 2001. Before that, he served for more than 13 years as spiritual leader at Greater Bethel AME Church in Miami’s Overtown community.
Jeffrey Thomas Jones, 25, a city of Plantation firefighter, was arrested on one count of sexual battery. The alleged attack occurred after Jones met a woman at a bar while off duty. She invited him to her home to play video games. Now, the woman alleges that the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Jones forced himself on her, and when she resisted, a struggle ensued. Jones was released from the Broward County Jail after posting $5,000 bond. The department has not made any decision on his status. This case has me wondering about a lot of things, particularly the charge. Why is it not “attempted” sexual battery, for example?
Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens has been selected as one of only 20 winning schools from around the nation in the Wal-Mart College Success competition. FMU is the only Florida school to win the honor this year. Colleges and universities were evaluated on their rates of graduating first-generation students, and other criteria. The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) along with the Wal-Mart Foundation has awarded the college a $100,000 grant to further promote programs aimed at first-generation students.
Levi Williams, a Fort Lauderdale-area attorney, will chair the next meeting of the Florida Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys. The council was set up by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum to address issues impacting black males in the state. The daylong series of meetings is open to the public, and will take place Friday, August 8, 2008, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Miami Gardens city hall, 1515 N.W. 167th Street. For more information, call 850-414-3369.
Less than a week after I reported on the turmoil in the city of Wilton Manors’ Community Services Department, it has been learned that Ann Barnes, a supervisor there, has been placed on administrative leave. Barnes was unceremoniously escorted from her office. Although City Manager Joseph Gallegos confirmed she is on paid administrative leave, he has not cited any reasons for the action. It’s too early to know the reason for the leave. Barnes’ department handles building permits, water billing, and other services to the public. Black people have complained of being insulted by staff, and even denied services.
SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED
The last of Miami Heat basketball player Dwyane Wade’s two restaurants have closed. D. Wade's Sports Grill, located in Boca Raton, shut down operations last year. The other, which was located on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, served its last steak this past weekend.
CON MAN JAILED
Robert Charles "Chas" Brady, the 27-year-old con man who swindled money from some of the biggest Republican Party financial backers, has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. He will serve 30 months in prison, two years house arrest and 18 years probation. He must also pay $115,000 in restitution. Brady ran several scams in which he tricked some of South Florida’s most influential movers and shakers into business deals. He claimed he was everything from a real estate tycoon to an attorney so that he could pick the pockets of well-heeled party insiders. Now he is headed to prison. Book’em Dano!
In an absolutely despicable act, 82-year-old Joseph John Gravina, of Hollywood, is being held in the Broward County Jail on a single count of committing sexual battery on a mentally defective victim. It is alleged that Gravina visited a store where he took a 37-year-old, mentally handicapped worker into a bathroom and performed a sex act on him. Police say the victim, who has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, told co-workers, who then contacted police, after Gravina had already left. Several weeks later on June 29, employees spotted Gravina in the store again, and gave his car’s tag number to police. When located, he reportedly admitted to the allegations. He is being held without bail, and police are investigating to see if there might be other victims. Anyone with information is being asked to contact them at 954-967-4357.
In an effort to address jail overcrowding, and to meet a budget shortfall, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is considering the release of nonviolent inmates from jail, and making fewer arrests of subjects who pose no threat to themselves or others. County Commissioner Burt Aaronson suggested the move, which could mean more people would be released with electronic monitoring instead of waiting in jail for court dates. Other county officials seemed to warm up to the idea at this week’s commission meeting, but no final decision has been made.
Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti is gaining support for his “policing-without-boundaries” plan that will go into effect in the next few weeks. BSO patrols 14 of the 31 municipalities in Broward, and has the authority to operate countywide. The plan would allow officers from any city to enforce traffic and other violations they may witness, even while off-duty, anywhere in the county.
Russell Pittman, 46, of Sunrise, a band teacher at Pines Middle School, has been known as an excellent teacher with a stellar reputation in the Broward school system for more than 20 years. This week, he was arrested and charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. The charges stem from allegations made by a 14-year-old student he had taught and mentored for more than three years. According to police, the attack occurred at her home last week. Pittman allegedly hugged the child and put his hands under her shirt, and then inside of her bra, but removed them when she resisted. She told friends about the groping, and they convinced her to tell her parents, who contacted police. Pittman was recorded during phone calls in which he apologized to the child and expressed his love for her. He has reportedly admitted fondling the student, and was released on $10,000 bond. School officials have removed him from the classroom, where he will have no contact with students pending the outcome of the investigation.