Here’s what happens when a city commissioner tries to get involved in state gambling policy: Incomplete information, a skittish pari-mutuel owner and the commissioner calling the mayor a name.
(Note: We have an upate below)
Hallandale Beach commissioner Michele Lazarow at last Wednesday’s meeting asked fellow commissioners to approve a resolution supporting decoupling – the idea that horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons should not be required to operate pari-mutuels as they do now in order to offer slots. Dog track and jai-alai owners say they’re losing money hand over fist, and love the idea.
Dog track owners have an ironic alliance with animal rights group GREY2K on the issue -- both have told legislators they want less racing. So Lazarow, an animal-right activist, proposed the resolution. She is set to speak Wednesday at the Senate workshop in Coconut Creek.
She and others stressed that Mardi Gras Casino (dog track) president Dan Adkins (properly) wanted disassociated from the resolution, if for no other reason than that a city telling the state what to do can only inflame things.
“It just creates grief,” Adkins said Monday. “I’d have no choice but to come to the meeting and oppose it, but she said she’d tell people that I had nothing to do with.” Which Lazarow did.
(As an aside, Adkins said that decoupling is a tougher issue than even the most knowledgeable think. He cites relationships with second- and third-generation kennel owners, and “I have respect for these people.”)
Lazarow’s resolution didn’t go well, with Mayor Joe Cooper backing off, noting that all of the city’s legislative recommendations are regularly balled into one, “comprehensive” package.
“This isn’t the time or place,” Cooper said.
Lazarow, seeing her battle losing, grew more combative, as you can see on the 10-minute piece of the meeting that starts at about 2:07.55 of the Hallandale Beach version of the meeting. She cites four state legislators as supporting decoupling.
Updated: Lazarow on Wednesday called me and was 100 percent contrite, saying "My responses were unprofessional."
She didn't want to shun off any of the blame (she also said she can't bring herself to look at the tape), but by way of explanation, added, "But there were other things behind it." She also repeated that the resolution wasn't any different than what the commission had passed it unanimously in an earlier legislative package -- and she pointed that out during the meeting.
Lazarow (in response to one commissioner): I’m aware of all of this, so you’re not going to educate me. I don’t know why we’re even having this conversation.
Vice Mayor Alexander Lewy: We’re having this conversation because decoupling will happen in the Florida Legislature. I personally called Mr. Dan Adkins …. if we pass this it will be viewed in Tallahassee as if Mardi Gras itself was trying to push for this. (Lewy favors decoupling, and says it should cruise through the legislature.)
Lazarow: So why can’t we send something on behalf of the city? What’s the deal?
Lewy: It would be viewed as Mardi Gras Casino … itself is pushing, creating more of a fight.
Lazarow: I heard you the first time.
Later, Lazarow (to Commissioner William Julian): Did you read the resolution? … Then it tells you every reason why it’s a good idea.
Julian: … It doesn’t say every reason because there are some bad ideas about it, too. This does affect the greyhound industry. I don’t know if any of you ever experienced decoupling … but I have when I raced my horses at Birmingham Turf Club in Alabama in the mid-90s… After that (decoupling), what happened was it passed and the entire horse industry in Alabama went out of business.