Waiting For The 800-Pound Gorilla

BY BUDDY NEVINS

Former School Board member Don Samuels wants his northwest Broward seat back.  

Despite Samuels weighty resume and obvious knowledge of the school system, the big money is staying on the sidelines until they see if the 800-pound gorilla will jump into the race.

Or should I say the gorillette.

Lauren Book Lim

 

Lauren Book Lim, 25, has a fresh face which would set her apart from any of the other candidates include Samuels.  She also would have $100,000s, raised by her father, über lobbyist Ron Book.

That’s a whole lot of bananas.

Nobody is going to pay attention to Samuels until they see what Lauren Book Lim is going to do.

She’s got some prior commitments before she makes a decision on whether to run. They include three fund raising events for Lauren’s Kids, her anti-child abuse advocacy group a big dinner at the Hard Rock, a golf tournament and her early April walk from Aventura to Tallahassee in return for pledges. 

I wrote in the past that Lauren Book Lim could have a bigger impact on society by staying the head of her Lauren’s Kids.  She already has gotten national exposure for the cause.

In recent weeks, I’m coming around.   I’m starting to believe that Lauren Book Lim is exactly the kind of candidate the School Board needs, instead of a collection of retreads, educators and political hacks that usually run.

She could be part of a new generation of office holders in Broward.  Hopefully she has novel ideas which could push the school system out of its morass and into the 21st Century.

On paper, Samuels is a good candidate, too.

During his long tenure, Samuels started drug awareness programs and made sure students had a voice by appointing students to advise Board members. He was a champion for vocational education.

Samuels now wants to use his mediation skills to stop the endless fighting between the teachers union and School Board.   He wants to put more money in alternative education, because all kids are not college material.

He obviously would hit the ground running.  He served from 1980-1992 and from 1994-1998.

That just might be problem.  Samuels is old school. Being old school myself I actually worked next to reporters wearing fedoras when I broke in the business that in itself isn’t a bad thing.

But the School Board is broken.  It needs fresh blood.

Not one of the candidates running has the potential of Lauren Book Lim.  They are Jaemi Levine, Penny McArthur Madden, David “Dave Thomas and Stewart “Stew Jackson Webster in addition to Samuels.

Yes, her father is a lobbyist.  He is controversial and surely no saint. 

But the daughter is not the father.   

I’m not willing to discount a candidate just because her father is the infamous Ron Book.  I’m willing to listen and see what she has to offer.

Lauren Lim Book may turn out to be a dud.  Or she just may turn out the most interesting and exciting School Board candidate in a long time.   

One thing is for sure. 

Lauren Book Lim will look at the school system with different eyes.  Young eyes.  Eyes unsullied by the phrase, “We’ve Always Done It This Way.

13 thoughts on “Waiting For The 800-Pound Gorilla”

  1. Samuels would be the last person I’d vote for (except maybe against Kraft). He did a lousy job on the School Board the last time, and would do the same again. He likes being elected, but to this date, for some reason, never understood why he lost to Kraft.

    The reason was that he really didn’t care about those he was elected to serve. In fact, he never did know all of the schools were in his district. The voters knew this, and sent him packing.

    His schools significantly declined during his tenure, and they are just starting to recover.

    I only hope that the voters go back to his old record to see how poorly his schools performed, and how he was a great friend to everyone else on the School Board, but not his own district.

  2. Is this the same Buddy Nevins who helped Kraft get elected by writing column after column about how bad Samuels was in 98? Go back and re-read some of your columns then explain how you can say he would be a good candidate?He has mediation skills? He would hit the ground running? More like shuffling with a walker. I hope Lauren Book Lim does run. She would be the only one of the bunch that isn’t a whacky has-been and already-ran.

    FROM BUDDY:
    Of course I remember the stories I wrote about Don Samuels. I’m sure his opponents will roll them out during the campaign. I will revisit them, too, at the proper time.

    Unlike other bloggers, I don’t need to brag. But I was the one who uncovered that Samuels had a largely no-show job in Miami Dade County which paid him lots of bucks. I did repeatedly slam him during his 1998 campaign against Kraft. So did Sue Gunzburger in her 1992 campaign for county commission against him.

    In this post, I wanted to remain positive. On paper, he does have a good resume. On paper.

  3. Samuels collected a salary in Dade County and one from the school board. That’s why Bernie Schlesinger called him Double Dipping Don at almost every school board meeting in the 1990s. If Don wins, we need to bring Bernie back to keep Don honest.

  4. Unfortunately, BARNEY Schlesinger has passed on. He will be rolling in his grave if Don actually qualifies for this seat!

    FROM BUDDY: I am very sorry to hear that he died. I hadn’t thought about Barney until I read the comment above. I looked up his obit from last year.

    Here is some of it from the Sun-Sentinel:

    Hallandale Beach resident Barney Schlesinger, who over the last 25 years attended roughly 600 Broward County School Board meetings, died Tuesday of heart failure. He was 95.

    “He would come every week,” said School Board member Robin Bartleman. “He religiously exercised his right to have his opinions heard about the public schools.”

    As part of his blistering critiques, he would single out school board members as “lying wimps,” “public thieves” and “big double dippers.” He often complained about what he called exorbitant spending.

    Born on Dec. 30, 1913 in New York City, Mr. Schlesinger was one of seven siblings. He worked his way through Brooklyn College selling fish and earned a bachelors degree

    An avid swimmer who went to the pool most days until he was 94, Mr. Schlesinger loved exercise and education.

    “Education was always very important to him,” said his son, Michael Schlesinger. “He believed that money shouldn’t be misspent on schools.”‘

    ***
    Schlesinger also ran for School Board in 1994, losing to Abe Fischler. He lost a race for Hallandale Beach commission in 2003.

    ****
    Don Samuels opened an account for the At Large School Board District 9 seat in 2004, but dropped out of the race before qualifying. Robin Bartleman won the seat.

  5. Buddy: You are always careful in your stories to point out the obvious — whatever others says about Dad, that does not automatically mean we must be concerned about her Intellectually, I accept that.

    But, how can you say with the level of certainty in your piece that she will look at the school board with different eyes, when you have no idea what her platform is on some of the key issues.

    In a time when it appears that the influence of lobbyists and contractors has infected good decision making (something that is not endemic to only the School Board), before implying she comes to the system as an “outsider”, should you not find out how she will deal with one of the most pressing issues in the minds of voters. And that is, how can she raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a school board position (which will necessarily be from lobbyists and contractors who are less interested in quality public education and more interested in seeking business with the School Board) and yet assure the voters you will not fall prey to the influence of these donors? What protective mechanisms will you propose? How do you think the donors will look at that type of reform? Are you even proposing reform such that electioneering and fundraising will be separated with a wide enough gulf to avoid the appearance of impropriety?

    Unless there are substantial planks of the platform that send a message to those interests who Dad will be able to rally to contribute the hundreds of thousands of dollars, then I think you have, on this occassion, too rapidly assumed this will not be mroe than the same. You may be right, but where are the facts to make that statement that she will be “unsullied”.

    Doesnt mean she might not be very good but this is an important issue to the voters.

    FROM BUDDY:
    Young people look at things differently from older folks. That’s just the way it is.

    They grew up in a different time. They have different experiences. They also tend not to be wedded to the past.

    That’s why advertisers aim for younger consumers. They are still malleable. They aren’t set in their ways.

    There are many caveats in my post. Whether any change that Lauren offers is an improvement, remains to be seen. As I wrote, she could turn out to be a dud.

  6. Buddy: Accept this as completely unbiased — I know no one in the race and do not live in that district.

    Okay, given all of those disclaimers, or caveats, I get it.
    She is younger than anyone else on the Board. But, is that really the point of the Post?

    I mean, yes, she is younger and will see the world differently (that is, has no experience in the system at all, may not have given the issues of public education in Borward County any thought, has no unique training in education TO RUN one of the largest school board districts in the Country). That makes it sound like she is an outsider, a very popular theme against incumbants this coming year I suspect.

    But, this is kinda like a person who loves to fly planes, has been in a few, maybe even given some thought to getting in the pilot seat, but doesnt have a license? Just because someone can buy her a plane and she will see flying through different eyes, doesnt mean we want her to be our pilot for a few years.

    I am not trying to be negative against her at all. I think her motivation and compassion in other areas is laudable, as you have pointed out. Also, I am not saying a school board member has to have children or be a teacher to understand the issues in public education (because there can be many personal reasons why someone does not have a child). A doctor doesnt have to have cancer to be able to treat patients successfully to attack there cancer caught early (tho we do expect some modicum of training and uniqueness from all the other doctors or at least to be a doctor).

    In elections, more focused, we do expect something more unique than I know someone who can raise enough money. There are LOTS of young parents and people who could bring a different view to the system, many of whom have actually given some thought to the issues facing parents and teachers, the budgetary issues, the complex system of federal and state interaction in public education, etc.

    She may be the savior for the District for all we know, but that is pure speculation because she has not spoken to you or any reporter with knowledge of educational issues to understand why she is more than just a lobbyist’s daughter. This is the second major Post you have had on her, and, with all respect to you because we love you out here, neither gives us ANY insight at all — other than she is younger and has no identifiable experience to run one of the largest school district in the country (and that may be good is your point).

    FROM BUDDY:

    She actually did speak to me. She’s very articulate.

    I’m not saying she can solve all the problems, or any of the problems. That remains to be seen when she speaks about the issues.

    I am just saying she is a different kind of School Board candidate and that is exciting.

    Let’s look at the experience of the people who are on the School Board:

    *Marueen Dinnen — former state teachers union president and educator.
    *Jen Gottlieb — former Broward teachers union lobbyist and sometimes teacher.
    *Bob Parks — former teachers union official and educator.
    *Robin Bartleman — former Miami Dade assistant principal.
    *Ben Williams — former teacher and principal.
    *Phyllis Hope — former guidance data specialist, Piper High.
    *Stephanie Kraft — lawyer, former child advocate.
    *Ann Murray — former school bus driver, school transportation administrator and Broward Teachers Union shop steward.

    I’ll leave out lawyer Kevin Tynan because he was appointed.

    What we have is a collection of people with the same background — four teachers union officials; five former educators, a school based clerk, a bus driver and a lawyer.

    Seven of the members have worked within the education system. They are insiders in the system. Other than Kraft, where are those from outside the system? I believe that’s a major problem because you are less likely to get new, fresh ideas from folks who come from inside the current structure.

    Where are the construction experts, like an architect or engineer, since the school system spends $100s million a year on building? Where are the candidates who ran their own business (like Lauren Book Lim, who runs a non-profit), since the school system is essentially a giant business? Until Murray was elected there was no one with a familiarity with blue collar workers, yet the Board employees thousands of them? Where is anybody who grew up in the current technological era (a third of the Board are old enough to be eligible for retirement)?

    The school system is broken. Maybe one reason is the depressing similar background of the Board members.

  7. My theory is that Buddy is infatuated with her because she’s pretty. He does like the pretty girls!

    FROM BUDDY:

    Yes, I do like women in general.

  8. Rather than worry that Lauren Book inherited those few traits of her Father that some find so objectionable, let’s hope that she inherited his unmatched spirit of service and unequalled record of achievement. Maybe, just maybe, she will have been influenced by his commitment to the homeless, or by his work on autism, epilepsy and for the Joe DiMaggio Hospital. Or, she might have learned a thing or two from his work with the Overtown community, the Chamber of Commerce, Best Buddies, No Blue Roofs, the Orange and Super bowls, and on and on. I freely admit that I have never met Lauren Book, but, that said, I know it is unfair to suggest that she has learned nothing of value from her Father.

  9. I predict:

    Lauren Book Lim will not enter the School Board race.

    FROM BUDDY: I don’t disagree.

  10. What Buddy said to the no. 7 blogger above “More of the Same maybe” is 10000% ACCURATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    In Buddy’s description

  11. i accidentally posted, and to continue my post,

    Buddy is right on target. the public keeps electing entrenched public school system labor people, administrators, parent activists, and the school board is the most dysfunctional, ill prepared, 3 miles behind the 8 ball group of elected officials in the history of civilization. Ms. Book, whether young or not, would be A WELCOME CHANGE!!!!

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