Friday, February 20, 2015

Smoke and Mirrors for Deerfield Beach

Jeff’s latest memo, if you missed any of the first 7 go to:  
Election Memo #8: Smoke and Mirrors - 02/14/15

The fire department issue, raised by Ron Coddington in his campaign for city commission, is the political equivalent of stage magic. Smoke and mirrors.

The stage magician tricks the mind — that's how he makes the elephant disappear. The rational mind knows the elephant didn't really vanish into thin air, but dammit, I saw it with my own eyes! Likewise, the politician seizes upon the gullibility and trust of voters and, in a sense, also tricks the mind. He creates a problem that doesn't exist, then offers a solution without the specifics, lest it be exposed as an illusion, not real magic.

I learned this from no-less than Richard Nixon when he delivered the C.J. Morrow Lecture on Political Strategy at my undergraduate school. Actually, this isn't true, but some readers might have believed my story — after all, Nixon was known as "Tricky Dick." It's a plausible story, and there was no reason not to believe it. Truthfully, though, there was no such thing as the C.J Morrow Lecture (Mr. Morrow was one of my law professors). The only truth in this is that I did attend a lecture by Nixon, on an entirely different topic, when I was in law school.

The point is that most of us believe what we read, unless we know otherwise, and politicians, especially those running for office, exploit this to get votes. How many times have you heard or read that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that corporations are people? The Court has never said any such thing. Still, it's been written so many times that it has become a kind of de facto truth (if such is possible). People with a cause are perfectly willing to repeat this myth.

I read in the paper this morning that a key part of Gloria Battle's campaign, who's running against Ben Preston in Dist. 2, is for greater transparency in city government. Since when is Ms. Battle interested in open and honest government? As an interim commissioner, Battle voted against the city ethics code, and as a member of the ethics advisory committee, she missed most of the meetings. She's a strong supporter of Mayor Jean Robb, who is up to her neck right now in charges of unethical and unlawful conduct. And the mayor didn't seem to be too interested in transparency when she tried to hide city business in her personal emails (one of which I will shortly reveal).

Ms. Battle says she wants more economic development in her district. Everybody wants to see improvements in Dist. 2. What magic trick, do you suppose, she has up her sleeve to accomplish this?

Ever since she returned to office two years ago, Mayor Robb has railed against the BSO-fire merger. She wants to bring the fire department back under city control. A close political ally, John Grassi, maintains a Facebook page largely devoted to this subject. Local activists and public officials know Mr. Grassi well, as a person who's never said anything positive about city government since Hoover was in office. Coddington says he has a plan to restore the fire department to the city. No details, but he claims his plan would save the city a whopping $10 million.

For its part, the city administration says that much of the propaganda put out on this issue is misinformation. In fact, it contends, the transfer of the fire department to the BSO has been an important factor in its ability to bring the once nearly depleted city reserve fund to the 2016 target ahead of schedule.

Besides, the question is mostly academic, I believe. Even if Coddington's plan rivals the Pentagon's World War III plans, it's not going to happen. For starters, a seamless transition of the fire and rescue service back to the city would require the full cooperation of the BSO. The sheriff has made it plain as day, he's not about to cooperate in this plan.

What we are really talking about is not a "taking back," but the creation of a whole new department. While the city may own fire stations and some equipment, it doesn't own any firefighters. It would have to recruit and train a new crop of firemen and paramedics. If the goal is a top-notch department — should we want less? — it would have to offer salaries and benefit plans at least equal to the BSO's package. It may have to upgrade its facilities and buy new equipment. This could prove very costly to taxpayers that could far outweigh the benefits. And, dare I ask, what are the benefits?

Is the issue of who provides the services that important to voters? I don't know. Again, it comes down to the gullibility and trust of voters. If Coddington says there's a problem and Mayor Robb says there's a problem, there must be a problem. The bottom line is that voters should be skeptical. Is this really an issue at all?
On another topic: As we all know, the inland canals are distressed. I've written quite a bit on this subject in fact. The "experts" have to find the solutions to the technical problems, but the city commission has to find the money. To this extent, it's a political issue. Mr. Coddington has positioned himself in this election as the "champion" of canal restoration, so the Kingfisher residents might find interesting an email he wrote to Mayor Robb when the canal issue was discussed by the city commission.

When I was a little kid around seven- or eight-years old, I had a terrible temper. If I didn't get my way, I'd throw a tantrum, go to my room, and raise a ruckus. My parent's strategy was to ignore me. Apparently it worked. In the ensuing 63 years, I've come to realize (1) that people don't always agree with me and (2) I don't always get my way. I usually find a way to work with people even if we have a difference of opinion.

Around May 2013, the commission discussed the Kingfisher canal issue in earnest and accepted a ten-point plan suggested by the unofficial leader of the Kingfisher neighborhood. Mr. Coddington, a marine engineer, also proposed a solution to the pollution problem in the canal. Whether it was a good idea or not I'm not qualified to say, but for whatever reason it was not adopted.

Here's what Mr. Coddington wrote to the mayor to her personal email dated May 16, 2013, at 2:08:57 p.m. I'm fairly certain it wasn't supposed to be for public consumption.

These people are smarter than us, let them handle their own problem.
But they should not come back to us for help when Charlie [DaBrusco, the city engineer], Burgis [Burgess Hanson, the city manager] and Joe [Miller] give them the sorry but we couldn't come up with the money and their grand plans die at the table.
As for my help, they did not even include the recommendation for a floating debris barrier that would have trapped all the floating debris at the culverts and made cleanup possible. The only way they get any debris sitting at the end seawall is when the wind keeps it there. A cheap barrier would have made cleanup possible and reasonable.
At any rate, they DO NOT need any of our valuable time or help, and they will not get mine when Charlie ultimately screws this thing up like everything else he touches.
Is Ron Coddington eight-years old? More importantly, what is Coddington's commitment to solving the canal problems if he doesn't get his way? He plainly said that the canal residents won't get his help. Those are his words, not mine.

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