Sun-Sentinel Stunner: Paper Blasts Sales Tax Hike As Ill-Conceived “Boondoggle”





When the proposed penny sales tax hike doesn’t make sense to the doyenne of Broward’s establishment – The Sun-Sentinel – you know it has problems.

The newspaper’s Editorial Board earlier this month not only opposed the tax. They eviscerated it!


That’s astonishing.

The Sun-Sentinel is the most visible representative of the Downtown Fort Lauderdale power structure. That’s an inside club of muketymucks that has been pushing the tax increase and will receive much of its benefits.

The editorial should convince readers just how ill conceived the tax plan is.



Stunning editorial rejects tax hike




Didn’t read it? If not, click here.

If you don’t click, you will miss a prime example of how the newspaper’s editorial page has again become a vibrant voice on local affairs. I credit the newish publisher Howard Saltz and his Editorial Board Editor Rosemary O’Hara for this metamorphosis.

The tax increase editorial is part of this transformation.

Filleting the idea from top to bottom, the paper called the tax a collection of “paper thin plans” that are nothing more than “ill considered money grabs.”

The showcase of the proposal is streetcar known as The Wave. It will get the biggest single share of the money.

The downtown crowd has been salivating for years over the prospects of building this trolley, which would allow more and bigger high rises to be built.

The Sun-Sentinel gets it:

“The biggest-ticket item in the half-penny transportation tax plan is a proposed extension of downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Wave streetcar — a 2.8-mile loop that while almost fully funded, has yet to break ground after more than 12 years. Planners say the line will have a negligible effect on downtown traffic and could make some intersections worse. It’s mostly seen as a vehicle to foster growth and development.” ( underlining.)

What sales tax increase supporters avoid is that streetcars have had mixed success in other areas of the country.

Just to the south, Metrorail and Metromover in Miami-Dade County have become bottomless pits of increasing costs and failed promises. The original line, which opened 34 years ago, ended up $1.02 billion over budget with ridership much lower than promised.

Fort Lauderdale’s downtown streetcar is expected to cost hundreds of millions to move people around a small area of central Fort Lauderdale.  Under the higher sales tax, everyone from Weston to Parkland to Miramar to Hallandale Beach will be paying for this trolley that few will ever ride.



Fanciful image of The Wave: When is there so little traffic downtown?


They will be paying for a system that will largely benefit developers, who have visions of turning Fort Lauderdale into a bigger and bigger city because they will build the buildings.

The tax is also supposed to pay for new buses.

There are questions, of course, of how to pay the operating costs for these extra buses and the trolley.

There are promises to “someday” stretch The Wave to the Davie college campuses and the Sawgrass area of Sunrise – two huge employment centers that outrank downtown Fort Lauderdale in numbers of jobs.

But even chief tax increase proponents Weston Mayor Dan Stermer and County Commissioner Lois Wexler say there are no firm plans for this pie-in-the-sky promised extension.

“We’re talking about something that’s at least 20 years out,” Stermer told the newspaper.

The choice of Stermer and Wexler to market these bonds is telling. Most politicians aren’t getting out front on this.

Wexler is term limited and will be out of office in November (Although there is talk that she will run for Plantation mayor in the future.).

Stermer gave up his chance to run for County Commission this year. Any realistic climb up the political ladder won’t come now for years.

Stermer’s Weston is slated to get more administrative space for its government and some intersection improvements.

The actual plans and costs, like every price tag in this plan, are mushy.

There is another problem with this tax.

Using a penny sales tax now for buses and a trolley system is short sighted and ignores the future.

No one doubts that billions of dollars will be needed to help South Florida cope with rising seas. No one doubts that tomorrow’s government costs must include billions to rehab our aging water and sewer systems.

These items are barely addressed in the tax.

This plan was cobbled together and rushed unto the ballot. It is a honey pot for 30 city halls and the county. It is a developers’ dream.

Or as the Sun-Sentinel so aptly termed it, the tax is “nothing more than a slush fund in the making.”







27 Responses to “Sun-Sentinel Stunner: Paper Blasts Sales Tax Hike As Ill-Conceived “Boondoggle””

  1. Another L in the loss column says:

    Looks like Judy Stern has another losing campaign on her hands. I hear she is the consultant behind Wexler who is controlling the money on this issue. Judy is no Ashley Walker who got the school board bond passed 2 years ago.

  2. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Here is the thinking of the person who runs the transportation part of this proposal:

    For the most part I agree; the big exception is the light rail (“The Wave”) which is a yuuuge boondoggle. Fortunately,

    These plans are more certain for the first 10 years of the proposed term and are subject to change due to emergencies, such as hurricanes or other natural disasters, or changes in funding priorities, including changes resulting from emerging technologies. Any changes to proposed projects will be evaluated and adopted through a public process.

    “Changes in funding priorities”, like killing “The Wave” and putting all that money into both the bus system and traffic light synchronization instead, would be highly appropriate.

  3. rightwing says:

    wasn’t it initially supposed to used to improve the traffic problems that plague broward???try getting in and out of downtown fort Lauderdale. three slow as molasses drawbridges, and the fec railroads to the port.and the panhandlers on broward near Andrews. perhaps the money should go towards driving civility, which doesn’t exist anymore. even the police change lanes without signaling, and blow thru intersections with lights flashing. and of course the buses that stop just past major intersection, creating all sorts of unsafe driving conditions.sounds like a mini stimulus plan. only thing missing is “shovel ready jobs”.

  4. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewiczc says:

    As someone who does not drive but travels from San Diego to Wellington New Zealand from Montreal to Rimini and Sydney, I find the complaints about Fort Lauderdale Traffic to be nonsense spoken by people who don’t know Miami let along New York City or even a New England small town like Sanford, Maine, let alone Katowice, Poland.
    Traffic in Fort Lauderdale is confired to holidays weekends and certain commuting times. During 80% plus of the non Holliday Weekend periods it is LESS THAN in any prosperous city on the Planet. Yes decaying cities in the Mid-West have less traffic BECAUSE THEY ARE BECOMING GHOST TOWNs.
    As for the comments about Mrs. Judith Stern, ONLY AN UNSUCCESSFUL RIVAL or COMPETITOR of a political consultant – be it Mr. Ahearn or Mrs. Stern, who take time to write a snide comment about them UNDER A FAKE NAME on a blog.
    As for people interested in making traffic more manageable, NEITHER THE SUN SENTINEL or THIS BLOG has made a positive contribution to this goal. JUST old farts farting.

  5. Real Deal says:

    Well fine, choke in traffic than. You dumb jackass.

  6. tired of politics says:

    If there were ever an architect for real disaster, his name would be Jack, not to go on like I know whats better, but amazing how alittle common sense and planning goes. take Boca for example, a planned city that has a plan, not massive buildings everywhere with traffic congestion, now in Broward , and specifically Fort Lousy, more bad ideas endorsed by non other than Judy Stern, who is everyones Mavin, light rail down any streets to the beach, really on Las Olas are you serious? Political favors going back and forth like trading baseball cards in 3rd grade, on the tax payers dime. WAKE UP YOU SICK MORONS theres no more room to handle the traffic or the crap (sewage) coming out these new buildings.

  7. rightwing says:

    if you work in downtown and you think you’re on time…..think again. there is boat traffic at any given time, and if you’re really fortunate, there’s always a 100 car fec freight train blowing thru town. better hope that its moving at a good pace. ever been at a railroad crossing in fort laud when the train just crawls or even stops???been working in downtown ft laud for over 25 years.for the writer who doesn’t drive but seems to know quite a bit about everything,i am not impressed by your conde naste stat sheet. been there done that.


    I worked downtown for 40 years. There has been a deterioration of the ability to move into the area and move around. The Wave will not help many of the customers of downtown, who don’t live in the area that will ever be served by transit, to reach the businesses.

    I won’t even mention the King Tides, which paralyzed neighborhoods throughout Fort Lauderdale. Instead of paying for The Wave, the city should be concentrating full time on preserving the way of life for residents in areas other than downtown.

  8. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    6. In the first place NEITHER JACK SEILER OR JUDY STERN IS A TRAFFIC ENGINEER, CONSULTANT, or ADVISOR so blaming them for this or that TRAFFIC idea is just plain nonsense.
    Traffic Surveys and Consulting is handled by three major firms plus one smaller firm with high qualifications. Anyone can check the namnes and details on public governmental websites.
    More People More Money MORE TRAFFIC!
    Yes, Dynow, Poland and Valky Saris Slovakia and Markt Moenchberg Germany or Chemnitz in Germany for that matter DONT HAVE HAVE TRAFFIC because they are DYING TOWNs or CITIES!
    And every one of the “critics” HAS NO ACADEMIC, PROFESSIONAL or PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE WITH TRAFFIC as shown when they show up to double talk at Fort Lauderdale City Commission meetings.
    Broward County and Fort Lauderdale are CHEAPER THAN SARASOTA, MIAMI, or PALM BEACH because they have thriving upper middle classes and DEVELOPMENT, Fort Lauderdale is NOW GOING TO BE DEVELOPED! The fake name and self-appointed community activists arqe navel gazers par excellence.

  9. Mike Ryan says:

    We face a transportation and infrastructure crisis in Broward County. The failure to tackle this crisis impairs out ability to retain and attract residents and businesses and impairs the quality of life for those of us who work, live and play here each day.

    Lined up in support are organizations who typically oppose tax increases — because they understand the crisis we face: The Broward Workshop; The Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce The Coral Springs Chamber of Commerce The Greater Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce The Dania Beach Chamber of Commerce The Broward League of Cities and more Chambers are joining the effort.

    If we do not pass the one penny sales tax, I guess we, as residents and businesses, instead of having visitors and tourists contributing their fair share to the loads on our infrastructure, we could accomplish the same thing by raising YOUR taxes OR we can just ignore it. Opponents offer no rational alternatives.

    A PENNY AT WORK: “The funds generated by the combined one penny sales surtax will be used to fund a variety of projects such as enhanced transit options, traffic signal synchronization, water and sewer improvements (pipes and treatment plants), drainage improvements to address street flooding issues, and senior mobility.”

    Passing this will require vigilance going forward to include the dollars are leveraged for maximum impact at municipal level, amongst municipalities in cooperation and by the county.

    A PENNY AT WORK. “The County and municipalities have entered into an Interlocal Agreement that provides for implementation of the sales surtaxes and includes the creation of a Transportation and Infrastructure Surtax Oversight Board (the Oversight Board). The purpose of this Oversight Board is to review each request for the use of sales surtax funds by both Broward County and the cities and determine whether the proposed expenditure is permissible under applicable law. If projects are approved by the Oversight Board, the Board will thereafter monitor project progress”.

    Opponents argue, without any factual basis, that there is double dipping for some cities. Yes, some cities’ residents approved parks bonds and all of those dollars are going to parks. None of the sales tax dollars from this proposal would be used for parks at least in Sunrise and is not expected to be used for city hall (we have already set aside over $20,000,000 for city hall).

    Opponents are skeptical that light rail can or will work – perhaps that is correct, but no one can seriously dispute we should have linkage from airport and port to downtown centers and out west. One thing is certain, it will never happen without this passing.

    Opponents ignore that neighboring counties are at or hope to be at 7% to take full advantage of potential contribution of visitors and tourists. A PENNY AT WORK: “The Miami-Dade County sales tax rate is 7%, which includes surtaxes of 1%, and the Palm Beach County sales tax rate is currently 6%. Palm Beach County is also considering a 1% total additional surtax in November 2016, which if adopted would increase its sales tax rate to 7%.”

    We should be embarrassed how we treat those who use buses as primary transportation. Opponents making the most noise would never stand at a bus stop on an August afternoon. Shelters that are not much more than a slight cover from the elements; routes that need to be more robust; greater linkage and more express busses are needed.

    The ability to use on drainage issues and sea level protection can be easily ignored as have been done for the past 50 years … but we have an opportunity to make a difference now. If this does not pass, our legacy will be stagnation in our infrastructure and transportation crisis.

    And, let me finish with this. Under Florida law, neighboring cities get more of the sales tax than Sunrise – 91.2% of over dollar goes to the State; the county gets the lion’s share of the next 8.8%. The remaining pennies are divided amongst municipalities based upon population – not where those sales tax dollars are generated. We generate tremendous sales tax dollars but our residents and businesses struggle with the infrastructure and transportation issues caused by being a major economic machine. We recognize the need for a regional approach to these challenges and welcome the opportunity to partner with surrounding municipalities and the county to leverage these dollars for the maximum impact to tackle our infrastructure and transportation crisis.

    Learn the facts and vote …


    Mike Ryan is the mayor of Sunrise.

  10. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Look, is the surtax proposal a perfect plan? No. There’s no such thing as a perfect plan.

    Is it good enough to get more more cars off our roads, widen roads and help cars get where they need to go faster and safer? Yes, no question.

    Will it finally get Broward’s thousands of traffic signals synchronized so we can move traffic faster down our existing roads? Yes. That alone is worth it.

    Will it improve and expand mass transit options and make it more comfortable to use mass transit? Yes, absolutely.

    And will it result in projects that will improve our city parks, facilities and infrastructure, including some very much needed local city road projects? Yes.

    Is it affordable? Most won’t even notice the difference. And about a third of it will be paid by Browad tourists and visitors.


    Either we want those projects to happen — either we ascribe seriousness to this problem and are willing to solve them, or we don’t.

    If we don’t, then don’t bellyache about traffic afterward.

    Live with the consequence of our choice.

    However, if we seek solutions and do ascribe seriousness to fixing rather than just complaining about problems, then understand.

    This is the plan that emerged from a very difficult, often tense county/cities negotiations to address all of these issues. Broward residents have been complaining about traffic for years. Here is your county/city plan to deal with it.

    Now, all this may seem easy to you. It wasn’t easy and by a close margin, you might not have had a choice to make at all. This is the solution that emerged from those very complicated discussions. Not perfect, but it can be made to work.

    Now, we keep hearing about slush funds, etc., and I have to say, that’s just more of the cynical, nowhere, malcontent, incendiary slop we keep hearing from mostly uninformed sources too lazy to come up with any, much less better alternative solutions.

    An independent oversight board of designated professional managers must be appointed by law. There will be no lobbyists or elected officials allowed to serve on that board. They are specifically mandated to make sure the law is followed and there are no slush funds.

    We also have an Inspector General in Broward that keeps a close eye on everything city and county governments do, as well they should. That’s a good thing.

    The oversight board is required to meet in the public, in the Sunshine, so that their activities are also watched by citizens.

    Miami Dade did this. Monroe County did this. Palm Beach has a similar measure on their ballot now as does Broward. Why? Because they realized that if they didn’t fund the project improvements, they would choke in their own traffic. So they chose to manage it instead.

    So here’s your chance to decide. This proposal means traffic relief, mass transit and infrastructure improvements for all Broward citizens. It means jobs, economic development and improved quality of life.

    If we vote yes, the projects will happen. If we vote no, we choke in more traffic. It’s just that simple and those are your choices on election day.

    Make an informed choice, learn more about the plan by visiting

    However Broward votes, let it be an informed choice that fully embraces the consequences that flow from those decisions. Remember to vote!!



    Angelo Castillo is a commissioner in Pembroke Pines.

  11. Sun Sentinel Right says:

    When I saw the editorial, I literally fell out of my chair. Just as a matter of fairness, shouldn’t those that profit most from the developments that are clogging our streets, straining the infrastructure, pay for the needed improvements, instead of passing the costs onto the taxpayers? I do not want to get on the rant of not trusting government and bond issues, all one has to do is look at the school board management of the 800 million bond. How’s that advisory committee working out? Sorry, I think the Sun sentinel got this one right

  12. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @9 – Mayor Ryan, as an insider in the Penny process, can you tell us how and when the light rail boondoggle might be killed? I think a lot of deeply concerned voters would really, really like to know…

  13. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Look at any country, state, county or city that does NOT spend money subsidizing transportation and look at the results in city after city.Chaos, worse traffic, and eventually economic disaster. Look at the cities that do not move people on light rail or mass transit – they lost industry which means both jobs and tax revenues. Fort Lauderdale needs to move people from their homes, usually outside the city center – to jobs. Cars just cannot fill the needs and creat traffic jams that are and will discourage business and economic activity. Less economic activity less jobs, less income from taxes to pay for roads and city services.
    Go ahead, vote down the penny tax – THEN WHERE IS THE MONEY TO COME FROM TO PAY FOR THE SEWER and STORMWATER and POLICE STATION MODERNIZATION? The Police don’t need the BEST FACILITIES? REALLY? That’s crazy talk from people at the Sun Sentinel who DONT LIVE IN FORT LAUDERDALE or in ALL UPPER MIDDLE CLASS WHITE NEIGHBORHOODS usually in GATED COMMUNITIES. Voting for the penny tax isn’t fun, BUT IT IS NECESSARY, like root canal.

  14. The Count of Doom says:

    And yes Larry with all the answers and no back up ,,do you ever think before you open your yap? The City is self distructing, the water and sewer lines failing in the masses, you are the expert tell us how would solve the problems with your great wisdom? Again your a clueless ding bat, with too much to say and never a solution, go back in your bat cave, you know nothing about anything , STFU

  15. Pepito says:

    No dice. The county is not to be trusted to spend the money the way it’s supposed to be spent. Their track record sucks.
    How’s that courthouse coming along that the voters voted AGAINST?

  16. Real Deal says:

    Here is how the logic flows here. You go with the plan and there’s a good chance we get traffic relief. Or you vote against it and remain stuck in traffic.

    The silly arguments against I hear above are sort of like refusing to get for chemo to cure your cancer because the lady next door had chemo but died.

    You have to be a frigging moron to think that way.


    “A good chance” depends on promises by city and county officials. Broward’s city halls don’t even have budget figures on the pro-sales tax website for the numerous items in their wish lists they hope to accomplish. This “good chance” is about as valid as a kid’s Christmas wish list sent to Santa Claus.

  17. Sam O'Sham says:

    It is immoral for a taxing agency not to live within its means. A city, county, state or federal government should not put out a wish list then send taxpayers an invoice. It is just the opposite, the taxpayers tell the government what they want to spend on taxes then the government lives with that.

    The Broward taxpayers already said they want to pay 6%, not 7%. We have seen the incredible waste of our monies already and don’t trust you with more.

    Mike and Angelo, what a pant load you are trying to sell. One eye has a dollar sign in it and the other is still spinning.

    Count, you are free to disregard we anonymous posters, but if you want to solve the problem, tell your big tax and spend buddies to get out of the way of the private sector.

    Private rail and trolleys have always been successful until the public entities took them over.

  18. who cares says:

    I posted against this and succintly stated why about a month+ ago. funny how my comment never appeared.




    As I have written here before, try to keep comments relevant to the post. Try to keep the insults to a minimum.

    That said, many comments get snared by the spam catcher. You can always submit a comment a second time.

  19. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    I person who blogs under a fake name is a coward who usually turns out to be a failed oldee person who blames. Others for their failures.

  20. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    I wish to make this abundantly clear. In fact, I thought I had.

    I’ve nothing to sell and no inclination toward selling anything.

    All I’m saying is we have a traffic problem.

    A huge traffic problem that is getting bigger.

    Now, solving that problem involves two chief components — getting more people on mass transit and doing smarter road projects. Both are needed. These projects are expensive and have to be paid for.

    The county and cities came forward with this plan.

    If you vote for it the projects will happen and yes, I believe traffic conditions will absolutely improve. Why? Because I’ve studied the plan.

    If you vote no, the projects will not happen. And we will stew in the stink of our traffic for years longer.

    That’s not a sales pitch. It is a fact.

    There’s no getting away from doing the projects IF we’re serious about solving the traffic mess.

    The rest? How you vote? That’s your call. Simply, be aware. There is consequence.

    If you agree that we have a traffic a problem on the way to getting worse, then you need to ascribe seriousness to solving it. If you disagree or don’t care about the problem, or are just unwilling to do the homework citizens are expected to do, then that’s another answer.

    Learn about this plan. Go to the website and study it. And then cast the informed vote you can live with.

    That’s all I’ve ever said on this subject. The choice is entirely yours to make.


  21. Well Said says:

    Comm. Castillo / Other supporters;

    The problem with this tax is it’s size versus the projects it is supposed to address….billions over many decades = losing trak of the projects, money,etc.

    Way better to ID specific project needs and bond the projects…way more accountability….

  22. Count GFYS Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz Jr says:

    *second submission for a portion of this censored “response” as requested by buddy.

    I agree that buddy is selective in his “censorship” allowing certain individuals use foul language in their writings etc.

    *@9 & 10
    This lady is spot on regarding her disdain for a $70,000.00 pay raise for a government employee as express in the following.

    @10 & 20
    Shouldn’t you be conducting the peoples business during the time lines of your postings?


  23. Disgusted says:

    All these self serving lifelong trough feeding politician disgust me.
    They always do what enriches themselves, the taxpayer be damned.

  24. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    The first step to having a position is to stand or sit by a road and count vehicles with a timer. You dont need anything but a desire to do this. Other wise intelligent

  25. Sam O'Sham says:


    Are you joking? You are not selling anything? I saw the $178,000,000 wish list you put together for your city.

    Live within your means and stop stealing from our economy.

  26. your vote counts says:

    the new property appraiser elect is going to have to raise those property’Valuations’ to make up for the revenue they won’t have when this boondoggle penny tax FAILS

  27. Well Said says:

    Like Charlie sez….Angelo talks a big game and does nothing….sorry Buddy…your hero is kind of a …………………….