BY BUDDY NEVINS
The gloves are off in the five-candidate race for an open County Commission seat in North Broward.
In what is the first attack in the campaign, former Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom of Fort Lauderdale branded Mayor Lisa Aronson of Coconut Creek an enemy of ethics reform.
Aronson and Rodstrom are both vying for the seat now held by long-time Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who is term limited after 2014 election. There are three other candidates.
In a news release headlined “Ethics Reform (Or Lack Thereof) And Mayor Lisa Aronson”, Rodstrom reminds voters of the following paragraphs in a 2011 Sun-Sentinel article:
“Coconut Creek Commissioner Lisa Aronson said city officials were hoping to loosen some of the restrictions on lobbying, for example, because some of them work as lobbyists and would no longer be able to represent clients in front of other city governments. The escape clause should be offered to the smallest cities, she said, because they might have the most trouble adhering to the code.
The gift ban, she said, is too strict. City officials don’t make the $90,000-plus salary county commissioners do, she said, and can’t always afford to pick up their own meals or event tickets.
‘We spend a lot of time within our our communities at meetings and functions,’ Aronson said, ‘and some people even be offended if we were to turn down a bottle of water or offer to compensate them.’
Rodstrom also noted that the invitation to an Aronson fund raiser held earlier this week was filled with the names of lobbyists who do business with the County Commission. I copied the names for readers:
Hope Calhoun, Mike Colodny, Debby Eisinger, Joey Epstein , Hon. Howard Forman, Bernie Friedman , Rick Hoye, Joel Fass, Bill Laystrom Dr. Fred Lippman, Dennis Mele , Dawn Meyers, Debbie Orshefsky, Seth Platt, Neil Schiller , Dr. Irv Rosenbaum, Cong. Larry Smith, Judy Stern, Shelly Spivack , Howard Talenfeld, Steve Tilbrook
Rodstrom is right. The bulk of the names on the Aronson invitation are indeed lobbyists.
Here is Aronson’s written answer to the Rodstrom news release:
I am a strong supporter of ethics reform and have served as Chair of the Broward League of Cities’ Ethics Task Force since 2010, long before the County’s Ethics Ordinance was enacted for municipal elected officials. I have been a strong proponent of encouraging our elected officials to abide by the County’s Ethics Ordinance and receive the appropriate training.
I am disappointed in my friend from Fort Lauderdale who has chosen to take a quote from 2011 out of context to try to create an issue where none exists.
I am proud of the host committee for April 16th’s event and all my previous fundraisers. Many have been friends of mine for decades and know I have the highest integrity as an elected official. All of my political contributions are public record.”
Ethics reform is a legitimate issue in a County Commission race or any campaign in Broward County. Ethics reform was imposed by voters in 2010 as a way to curb the power of lobbyists.
Some city officials have chafed at the idea of giving up goodies showered on them by lobbyists. Several didn’t like being prevented from working as lobbyists themselves, which was nothing more than egregious influence peddling.
Ethics reform imposed transparency. It forbid commissioners from being lobbyists.
Rodstrom’s comments are a fair examination of Aronson’s past record.
Expect a lot more of this before the August Democratic primary. They haven’t even gotten to the other three candidates yet.