BY BUDDY NEVINS
The fat cats behind the pro-school bond political committee are setting up fund raisers with invitations going to deep-pocketed Fort Lauderdale business types, lobbyists and others who would benefit from more school construction.
Citizens for Safe and Modern Schools was formally established three weeks ago. It is designed to entice voters into approving $800 million in new bonds for the School Board.
The good news for the silent majority against the bond?
The PAC is the creation of the Broward Workshop, a group of local business leaders. The Workshop has a horrible political track record.
Workshop folks were behind two other efforts to raise taxes for schools and a third to raise taxes for a commuter rail system.
All three efforts of the Workshop to raise taxes failed.
The name Citizens for Safe and Modern Schools itself is misleading. Dare I say, a lie.
The use of the word “Safe” first the name is designed to trick voters into believing that safety is a top priority. Child safety sells, but it amounts to less than 20 cents of every dollar of the bond.
But that won’t stop the PAC from using police officers in pro-bond ads — although this $800 million won’t pay 10 cents to put more cops in the schools.
The priority list is so squishy voters can’t really tell exactly what “safety” the bond money will provide. Superintendent Robert Runcie said schools will get new, stronger entry ways and fences to keep out intruders, but some of the schools on the list already had those improvements. So your guess is as good as mine.
PAC chairman is long-time Workshop member Alan Levy, a 70-Something downtown Fort Lauderdale agriculture tycoon. Levy is a long-time outspoken supporter of public education, probably the only one of this bunch.
Levy has a habit of backing the school administration. Levy was part of the failed effort to save former Superintendent Frank Till’s job, despite Till’s record of mismanagement and misspending. I don’t expect Levy to be anything but a cheerleader for Runcie.
Treasurer of this group is Ronald D. Finkelstein, an accountant for big businesses and another Workshop member. Finkelstein, who has an office on Las Olas Boulevard, kicked in $100 to start the PAC.
The group has hired Melanie Brenner, a California-based political consultant with dozens of campaigns under her belt. Brenner once handled publicity for the Kravitz Center in West Palm Beach. She ran a losing 1992 race for state Senate against Republican stalwart William “Doc” Myers of Hobe Sound.
Robert “Bob” DiLella, who has an interesting past in Broward, is also part of the PAC campaign team.
Delella worked for years with campaign consultant/lobbyist Judy Stern. He was her go-to designer for mail advertising. He handled the campaign advertising for such Stern clients as County Commissioners Lois Wexler and Kristin Jacobs, Judge Andrew Seigel and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler.
During those years, Stern was a leading lobbyist at the School Board.
Stern and DiLella had a bitter split a few years ago. DiLella now works a great deal with Michael Ahearn, another campaign consultant and occasional lobbyist.
The PAC will pack its fundraiser with the same ol’ crowd of lobbyists and business types, many of them Republicans, who stand to make some money if the bonds are passed.
It is interesting that some of these same people backed Republicans like Gov. Rick Scott who are behind the repeated spending cuts for schools in Tallahassee. I guess now that there is money to be made, they have changed their tune.