Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida, Europe and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

BrowardBeat's Buddy Nevins' reminder of the recent past in Broward County with respect to shadowy third-parties in Tallahassee carpet-bombing us with fake facts and specious lies, serves as a sobering warning of what we can expect in Hallandale Beach in the Joy Cooper vs. Keith London mayoral showdown this Fall




actsofsedition video: WPLG-TV/Miami's story on the first reading of the proposed puppy mill ordinance on April 4, 2012. Contrary to what is stated here, the ordinance was actually passed weeks later after the second reading. 

BrowardBeat's Buddy Nevins' reminder of the recent past in Broward County with respect to shadowy third-parties in Tallahassee carpet-bombing us with fake facts and specious lies, serves as a sobering warning of what we can expect in Hallandale Beach in the Joy Cooper vs. Keith London mayoral showdown this Fall
In my opinion, this particular post of Buddy Nevins is one of the most important that he's written since I started reading his blog, so I urge you to not only read it and understand the larger point, but send it along to others you know who care about what happens in upcoming South Florida elections, and who don't want shadowy third-parties -Electioneering Campaign Organizationscarpet-bombing us with fake facts and specious lies to actually succeed with their misrepresentation.

BrowardBeat
Just What The Doctor Didn’t Order: Tim Ryan
By Buddy Nevins  
May 11, 2012
If an apple-a-day keeps the doctor away, Broward County Commission candidate Tim Ryan better get a bushel.  
Angry over Ryan’s three-year old lawsuit against a shadowy political committee funded by the Florida Medical Association, state doctors are preparing to throw money against him in his commission race.  
Read the rest of the post at:

As it happens, I wrote about former FL State Rep. Tim Ryan's lawsuit on my blog when it first started, following that 2008 State Senate primary election won by Eleanor Sobel over Ryan and former State Rep. -and now Broward Judge- Ken Gottlieb, but the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and local Miami-area TV stations, to the dismay of this area's most-concerned and active citizens, almost COMPLETELY STOPPED covering it on a daily basis after about the second week. 
(See the July 2009 South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald articles on the lawsuit at bottom.)

I know that because I've checked their archives many times in the interim and have copies of the few articles that actually were written.
More recently, I've re-checked them yet again when Ryan -responsible for that rarest of bills, a bill toughening ethics that actually passed the Florida legislature- announced a few weeks ago that he was formally running for the Broward County Comm. seat now held by term-limited John Rodstrom, District 7.

All of us who follow these things closely in Hallandale Beach, as well as the much-larger number of activists and concerned citizens who follow the activities of Broward County's public policy and government, know that it's only a matter of time before Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper's pals and cronies in Tallahassee start a similar deceitful effort against Hallandale Beach City Comm. Keith London and those of us who want reform in this city.

It serves to reason that these Cooper cronies will likely use the same basic template that Sobel's supporters in Tallahassee used against  Ryan and Gottlieb, and it's even possible that it will be the very same people doing political hit-piece mailings against Keith London that did the ones that appeared in 2010, when he ran for re-election the first time 

For instance, the one by Roger A. Pennington's Committee to Protect Florida that implicitly supported City Comm. candidate Alexander Lewy, given that candidate William  "Bill" Julian, then a sitting HB City Commissioner, said at the time that he didn't have anything to do with it, and didn't know who was behind the direct mail -one of the few times I ever believed him.

After all, you didn't really think Mayor Cooper would be running for re-election on HER feeble record, did you?

No, objectively, Joy Cooper's resume as mayor of Hallandale Beach the past ten years is clear: of perpetually attacking and maligning her own citizens at public meetings, both City Commission and CRA; of often preventing citizens from being able to speak, esp. on important matters; of failing to even follow the city's very own rules of procedures in all sorts of crucial ways during these meetings; and of intentionally moving important City Commission agenda items, esp. those dealing with land use and development, to the end of the night.


Mayor Cooper does this because she knows from experience that if the most-important agenda items are not heard until after 10 p.m., it WILL discourage HB citizens and other interested parties wishing to speak, from actually participating in important decisions that they and every other HB resident will have to live with forever.

This has the practical effect of meaning that HB citizens interested in participating in their own city's public policy know in advance that they may have to wait 3-4 hours on a Wednesday night to have their say, since Mayor Cooper incessant talking -before, after and during other people's comments- only adds to the length of the far-too-long meetings. 

Far too often, Mayor Cooper's behavior at public meetings resembles nothing so much as a one-woman filibuster against American democracy and public participation.




Clip from the April 4, 2012 Hallandale Beach City Commission meeting, part of which was used by Channel 10 at top.  http://youtu.be/SSfVppptAm0 
See also:
http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2012/04/joy_cooper_puppy_store_vote.php


(FYI: If after reading the article above you haven't already figured it out, reader "Drew" is Andrew Markoff. Who else in this area would think to write 38 sentences via three separate comments to what was just an 18-sentence story? And then, merely to criticize the public and defend the mayor? Yes, defend Mayor Cooper, the very person who appointed him to the HB Charter Review Comm., where he was a minority of one in writing the dissenting view.)

And, of course, as we can hardly forget, Mayor Cooper has been the person in charge as the city's budget has nearly DOUBLED in the past six years, with little tangible evidence to show for it in the eyes of most HB taxpayers, who have seen neighboring communities in Hollywood and Aventura make noticeable changes that positively improve not only the look of their cities, but also improve their residents' Quality-of-Life.
No, that resume of Mayor Cooper's reads more like a bill of indictment, which is why she wants the coming election to be about everything but HER own record in office as mayor.

That's also why the mayor is deathly afraid of partipating with Comm. London in a genuine candidate debate or forum run by objective third-parties she can't control, like the Broward League of Women Voters, Broward Urban League, et al.
It's also explains why the Cooper-cronies at the HB Chamber of Commerce won't ever sponsor a debate or forum, as happens in thousands of other normal cities across America in election years, perhaps over breakfast for a small donation, with the money going to some local charity. 
She can't defend the indefensible.

Cooper's ten years of providing invisible oversight and imaginary accountability over millions of tax dollars -yet attacking those of us in the community who wanted genuine accountability and oversight- of her preferring to have a system of crony capitalism with respect to HB CRA monies that are supposed to help end blight, instead be used to keep benefiting he same cadre of people, has gotten us precisely to the shaky point we are now  -the breaking point.

This week's recent William Gjebre piece in BrowardBulldog, titled, Hallandale’s generous loans to private surgery center raise more questions about city program, is that same Joy Cooper attitude in a nut-shell.

It all sounds so very depressingly familiar doesn't it?
Once again, taxpayers are left to consider more instances of questionable or poor decision-making, city monies going out the door, and missing paperwork.
And Joy Cooper assuring us that it's all okay.

That's no way to run a city.
The past is prologue.
-----


South Florida Sun-Sentinel
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/sfl-ryan-lawsuit-eco-b072609,0,108230.story
Broward County candidate who lost state Senate race sues over attack ads he says were false
By Jon Burstein, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
July 25, 2009

FORT LAUDERDALE - The last-minute attack ads were damning. They accused the state Senate candidate of a "shady" land deal that had taxpayers shelling out $12 million for a $1-million piece of property his family owned in Davie.

The ads were wrong--the real estate had been appraised at $15.5 million. But they may have worked: the candidate finished last in a tight three-way Democratic primary last August.

Now Tim Ryan, a onetime member of the state House, wants the people responsible for the ad campaign against him to answer for their claims. He's pursuing a lawsuit that alleges not only that he was defamed by the group, People for a Better Florida Fund Inc., but that its creators lied as part of a conspiracy to keep him out of the state Senate district 31 seat, which represents a chunk of southern Broward County.

The case is one of the first of its kind in the state--a losing political candidate using the courts to go after what's known in the jargon of campaign law as an electioneering communications organization. Such groups, also called 527s after the section of the U.S. tax code that regulates them, are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money to make claims about candidates and issues, but are barred from telling people how to vote.

These groups--many with vague, often innocuous names including words like truth and justice-- have become players in Florida politics, spending more than $16 million in last fall's election. On the national level, they have been factors in recent races for the White House, most notably Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which assailed Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry and his service record in Vietnam in 2004.

"(527s) are important because we have a lot of people new to Florida who don't know much about the candidates and are dependent on television and newspapers for what they hear about candidates," said Lance deHaven-Smith, a Florida State University political science professor.

The attacks on Ryan came in the waning weeks of his bare-knuckles election battle with two other former state House members-- Eleanor Sobel and Ken Gottlieb. Sobel emerged narrowly victorious, with 36 percent of the primary vote, then trounced a write-in rival in the general election.

"I'm taking this step (the lawsuit) because it's the only way to hold these outside special interest groups accountable," Ryan said. "(These groups) hijack the public process by spreading half-truths and sometimes just plain lies about people running for office."

In his lawsuit filed in Broward Circuit Court in October, he is seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages from People for a Better Florida Fund Inc. and five men tied to it.

According to Ryan's lawyer, former state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, it's been learned in the early stages of the litigation that the 527 group spent about $700,000 on television advertisements and mailings in the local race. That would be almost double what Ryan raised --$351,235.

Why the 527 spent so lavishly on the contest for a legislative seat in South Floirida is unclear. The group did not respond to requests from the SunSentinel for an explanation. Campbell said he believes the group targeted Ryan, as well as Gottlieb, because they are lawyers, while Sobel, a former Broward School Board member, is the wife of a physician.

Formed in 2006, People for a Better Florida Fund Inc. is largely financed by the Florida Medical Association's political action committee or association members, and has raised $1.16 million since January 2008. The fund's registered agent--and one of the defendants in Ryan's lawsuit--is Timothy Stapleton, the FMA's executive vice president. The other four defendants are doctors or members of the FMA.

Martin Reeder, attorney for People for a Better Florida Fund Inc., said the group hired outside vendors to do research and prepare the ads. The ads were signed off on by an attorney and approved by Stapleton, he said.

"All of the statements published that relate to the land deal were to the best of our knowledge accurate in all material respects and to the extent that there are any technical inaccuracies in the publication, there was certainly no actual malice," he said.

Because Ryan is a public figure, to win in court, he must prove the group knowingly spread false information in an attempt to harm him, said Mark Herron, an elections law specialist in Tallahassee.

The claims made by the 527 revolved around 54 acres of open space that had been in Ryan's family. A national nonprofit land conservation group organized a $12.4-million deal in November 2006 in which the town of Davie bought the property using a combination of state and county grants and municipal bond proceeds.

An outside appraiser--hired by the conservation group--valued the property at $15.5 million.

But in a mass mailing, People for a Better Florida Fund Inc. wrote that "Taxpayers paid $12 million for the land--that's $11 million more than what the property was worth!"

Sobel, the ultimate beneficiary of the group's ad campaign, did not return repeated phone calls to her office and cell phone.

Gottlieb said People for a Better Florida Fund Inc. had a "big influence" on the race and was able to overwhelm his message with inaccurate ads. He said he was wrongly portrayed as beholden to "Republican special interests."

"They should be held accountable like everyone else and one of the problems with these ECOs is they are not and hopefully this lawsuit will do that," Gottlieb said.
-----
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Broward Politics blog
Hollywood ophthalmologist fought hard for Sobel’s Senate victory
By Brittany Wallman July 30, 2009 04:09 PM
Staff writer Jon Burstein reports:
In Eleanor Sobel’s winning bid for a state Senate seat last year, she had no bigger supporter than a politically-connected Hollywood ophthalmologist who once served on Gov. Charlie Crist’s transition team, new court records show.
Alan Mendelsohn, then treasurer of the Florida Medical Association’s political action committee, aggressively raised money for Sobel and hailed her Aug. 26 victory in the Democratic primary as the FMA flexing its might, according to a string of e-mails.
Read the rest of the post at:

-----
*Alan Mendelsohn later pleaded guilty in June of 2011 to one count of conspiracy for, among other things, trying to hide $82,000 in political contributions to former State Sen. Mandy Dawson, and was sentenced to four years in prison, which he began serving in January.
http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-01-06/news/fl-alan-mendelsohn-goes-to-prison-20120106_1_mendelsohn-prison-officials-tax-evasion


-----
Miami Herald
Campaign, attack ads linked
By Amy Sherman
July 30, 2009

When a secretive electioneering group attacked Eleanor Sobel's political opponents in a Broward state Senate race last year alleging "shady land deals," Sobel vowed she had nothing to do with it. 


"I have no control over those groups," Sobel told The Miami Herald in August as People for a Better Florida Fund filled mailboxes with last-minute missives just before she defeated Tim Ryan and Ken Gottlieb. 


But new court documents provide clear links between Sobel's campaign and the attack ads. 


Sobel's political consultant was also a paid consultant for an affiliate of People for a Better Florida Fund and helped coordinate the attacks and plot strategy, according to e-mails and a deposition taken in a defamation suit Ryan filed against the group. Another campaign vendor also was paid in the effort. 


Ryan contends the group unfairly alleged improprieties. People for a Better Florida Fund denies the claim. Sen. Sobel would not return repeated calls for comment. 


Though Ryan's lawsuit is in its infancy, the case is already providing a rare glimpse into the world of shadowy political groups and the big money that special interests spend to ensure they have a supportive vote in the state Legislature. 


People for a Better Florida Fund is closely linked to the Florida Medical Association, with the address listed for the group on the state's election website matching the doctors' organization. Sobel, the wife of a dermatologist, drew much of her financial support from the medical field. While a state representative, she was among a handful of Democrats to side with the medical industry on medical malpractice legislation. 


Ryan and Gottlieb, also former state representatives, have at times sided with the political enemies of the doctor lobby: the trial lawyers. 


"Eleanor Sobel was someone who had a better voting record on issues that concerned our contributors," Tim Stapleton, People for a Better Florida Fund's deputy treasurer, said in a deposition July 20. Stapleton is executive vice president of the FMA. 


While Sobel spent about $400,000 in the entire campaign, Stapleton testified that his group spent about $600,000 to help Sobel in the primary. 


"That is the cost of doing business," Stapleton said. "We had a clear friend running, someone who understood the issues that we care about. So we wanted to help that person." 


CONSULTANT 
Stapleton testified that his group's "point of contact" with Sobel's campaign was her consultant, Steve Vancore. He said the consultant's firm, VancoreJones Communications Inc., conducted the research that gathered material for the campaign ads. 


Vancore was paid about $19,000 through People for a Better Florida Inc., the affiliated group. Sobel's campaign paid him more than $230,000. 


Vancore said in an interview Wednesday he did not talk to Sobel about the group's activities, though she knew he was a consultant to it. "We said, 'We're not showing Eleanor,' " Vancore said, citing the Ryan mailers. "She knew we were working together." 


Stapleton testified that the group's mail vendor, Dylan Sumner, was also a mail vendor for "the campaign." 


The group attacked both Ryan and Gottlieb, with each ad depicting the candidates surrounded by a pile of money. The Gottlieb ad targeted a failed redevelopment project in Hollywood. 


The Ryan flier said taxpayers paid $12 million for Davie land worth $1 million. 


RYAN'S RESPONSE 
Ryan contends an appraisal actually showed the land's value at $15 million. The $1 million figure refers to the assessed value on one slice of the property, say Ryan and his attorney, former state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, a veteran trial lawyer. 


The group stands by the gist of its ad. 


"People for a Better Florida Fund went out and hired highly qualified consultants to obtain accurate information to educate the voters -- and that's what they did," said L. Martin Reeder, attorney for the defendants. "What was published we believe was accurate in all material respects." 


Although there were "some technical discrepancies" by Vancore's firm assuming that one parcel was the whole site, the ad's message -- that Ryan sold it for higher than what the property appraiser listed it at -- was true, Reeder said. 


The day after Sobel won the August primary, Stapleton sent an e-mail to supporters declaring Sobel's win "one of the most significant, and most rewarding victories for FMA PAC in the last 10 years!" 


Sobel then sailed to victory in November to represent the Broward district, which stretches from Hallandale Beach and Hollywood to parts of Plantation. 


Ryan sued in October. He said the negative pieces not only helped Sobel win but spread false information. 


While it is too early to tell which side will prevail, the Ryan lawsuit is shedding light on ECOs, or electioneering communication organizations, third-party groups that can sidestep contribution limits and have played a major role in recent elections. 


The groups are highly secretive and powerful because they can raise huge sums, often have vague names and send attack ads close to election day, making it difficult for voters to discern who is behind them. 


That could become even tougher now that a federal judge recently declared that Florida's regulation of the groups was unconstitutional. 


In the Ryan case, Sobel is not named as a defendant and, by law, could have had contact with an ECO attacking her opponents. 


But the Stapleton deposition raises the question: If voters knew some members of her campaign team were actively involved in last-minute attack ads, would it have made a difference? 


"The e-mails did indicate that she did have communication with those consultants that were working with this group," Ryan said. "So it's really for Eleanor to explain what her involvement was with this group." 


Attempts to reach Sobel through her cell phone, offices in Hollywood and Tallahassee and her Senate e-mail were all unsuccessful. 


As Ryan's lawsuit -- which seeks unspecified damages but does not seek to overturn the election results -- progresses, Campbell said he plans to depose Sobel, among others. 


ANTI-SOBEL ADS 
To be sure, Sobel faced campaign attacks too. 


Another ECO -- the Integrity Counts Committee, run by political consultant Russ Oster -- sent mailers targeting her 2006 promise involving the School Board. 


When running for the School Board, Sobel told a reporter: "I'm going to commit four years to the School Board." Nine months after taking office, she announced her Senate bid, saying she felt she could do more for the district as a state senator. 


In one flier, a girl writes "I will not tell a lie" on a chalkboard. "Our Kids Learn To Tell The Truth, Shouldn't WE EXPECT BETTER From ELEANOR SOBEL?" it asked. 


"Lies, lies and more lies," Sobel said at the time. 


Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report. 



Read these to see what's what

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