Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sun Sentinel Ethics Editorial Gets it Right

South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
About time Broward cities get their own ethics rules
Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
September 29, 2011

Despite all the whining and angst, ethics rules are about to become law for all 31 Broward cities soon. It's about time.

After a seemingly endless list of Broward public officials were seen taken away in handcuffs, the public clearly had enough of corruption and demanded strict ethics rules. County commissioners adopted tougher ethics laws last year, and every Broward city will soon be living under those rules, similar to the situation in Palm Beach County.

Are the new rules nitpicky? In some cases, yes. But the number of indictments, plea bargains, arrests and actions that failed the smell test makes the rules necessary. This was not the result of one or two isolated cases. The public rightfully got tired of having its trust violated by those with their hands out.

The new rules state that elected officials can't accept anything from somebody who does busi-ness with the city. Sure, it's doubtful you will see an ethics complaint filed against a public offi-cial who takes a bagel from a contractor or a lobbyist, but that's the rule. Good. That's the way it should be. Hopefully, public officials will understand the real meaning of the word "no."

Many of the new rules are common sense, and if some public officials think they are too tough, maybe public service isn't the right vocation for them.

Among the rules:

• Elected officials in various cities can't moonlight as lobbyists in other Broward cities, and neither can their spouses. Nor can they lobby the County Commission.

• Elected officials must disclose any fundraising for charities, and can't use city resources to raise the money.

• Elected officials who work outside jobs have to report, quarterly, where they work and how much money they make.

• Cities must keep online logs showing every contact the elected officials have with lob-byists, even if the meeting is outside the office.

Ethics training will be required each year. And voters also approved a new corruption watchdog, Broward Inspector General John Scott, last year.

Various city officials were seeking more watered down rules, but they will rightfully have to ab-ide by the same rules that the county does.

This shouldn't be that tough. While it certainly won't eliminate corruption, it should at least make public officials think more about any questionable actions. If an elected official has a question as to whether something is legal, all he has to do is ask one of the many lawyers who work for the cities and the county.

Better yet, if there is a real question, the word "no" does wonders.

Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Monday, September 5, 2011

DCA Dead as a Doornail

The DCA growth management office is no more. Scott killed it.

In 1985 tough growth laws were enacted; the vision was to protect Florida from future sprawl and overdevelopment that had already wreaked havoc on so much of the state.

As soon as the laws were in place the watering down began, and by 2011 the tiger had become a declawed house tabby. But even though DCA approved 94% of projects, there were some really bad ones stopped, and others made smaller. And the laws made cities think long and hard about proper land use and zoning as the plans had to be submitted to the DCA for approval.

BUT, NOT ANY MORE

No longer will a city or county Land Use Plan have to get State approval. All lobbyists will have to do is convince the local commissioners if they want to get a land use change. How hard will that be? Think back on how easy it was for the Chait boys to convince the Tamarac and the County commissions to cave into changing a golf course to a housing development. All it took was some bribery and fast talking.

No longer will the State demand that developers put roads, schools, infrastructure and parks in their new developments. Guess who will have to foot the bill for that? Now we will be paying taxes to help line the pockets of land speculators. The city and county can pass ordinances demanding developers pay for roads and parks etc. but then who would donate to their campaign chests?

No longer will a developer have to convince the DCA that their project is needed, it won’t matter that there are hundreds of available units on the market, they will be allowed to build more anyway. So your used house will have to be even cheaper to compete with the shiny new ones.

Do you want to fight the plan to put a giant “whatever” in your neighborhood, you think it is incompatible with the area? Forget it, the new laws make it almost impossible for a grass roots movement to win, also forget going to referendum to put land use amendments in place. That option is now banned.

We can only hope that we get rid of Scott before the economy turns around.