Southwest Ranches Mayor, CCA, and ICE Honchos Dodge Accusations at Public Meeting; Pembroke Pines Officials Stage a Revolt

Categories: Broward News
cca-ice-meeting-2.jpg
Photos by Stefan Kamph
Southwest Ranches Mayor Jeff Nelson, ICE Director Gary Mead, and CCA exec Tony Grande.
Mike Machak, who has the unenviable job of public affairs manager for prison contractor CCA, stood at the door of the Southwest Regional Library in Pembroke Pines, looking at the line of opponents gathered on a cool Saturday morning. A few held signs, many wore stickers, but the crowd was quietly waiting for admission to the building.

"I expected... more," said Machak.

And more is what happened once the crowd was seated in the conference room for a meeting requested by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the first time officials have spoken publicly about the pending immigrant detention facility in Southwest Ranches since it was all but greenlighted under a "cone of silence" by local and federal officials.

Here's the rundown: Southwest Ranches wants this thing built so they can get some shared revenues and taxes from CCA. That's the whole reason they annexed the godforsaken plot of land between a county jail and a dump, even though it doesn't connect with any of the rest of Southwest Ranches. The would-be facility's closest neighbors live in Pembroke Pines. 

So it was Pines residents who were most vocal at the meeting, demanding to know why they hadn't been consulted while schools were built near the site and Southwest Ranches rolled ahead with courting CCA, and CCA rolled ahead with courting ICE, and Pembroke Pines quietly approved a last-minute agreement to provide infrastructure and emergency services to the facility.

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CCA reps Lucibeth Mayberry and Steve Conry.
​CCA had three warm bodies up on the dais, while ICE sent its executive associate director of enforcement and removal, Gary Mead, who just about admitted that he wanted to go home. Meanwhile, Southwest Ranches Mayor Jeff Nelson endured the most boos and hisses, especially when he recited long accounts of the deal's 15 years in the making.

A couple of things were clear: CCA is running the show at this point, and it's dead-seat on building the facility in the next 18 to 24 months.

A few weeks ago, Southwest Ranches Town Attorney Keith Poliakoff told the Pulp that the facility "could be built today," since an agreement is already inked with CCA, which owns the property. 

Today, Nelson said he believes that the facility will be built. Lucibeth Mayberry, a vice president with CCA, defied any implication that local opinion could sway the company's desire to proceed. 

Regarding recent criticism of the company's rental of cows to allow an agricultural tax exemption, she said, "We have done everything we are allowed to do and take advantage of exemptions as any business would." Even if the deal to provide water to the facility is rescinded, she said, "We will have the option to do on-site [water] treatment, and we will do that ourselves."

"Is it set in stone?" asked one resident. Nelson, fresh off a "fact-finding" trip to Washington, D.C., last week to meet with federal officials, seemed satisfied that it was. 

"As of Monday morning, there isn't anything that any of us can do," he said.

Why does Nelson personally support the facility when so many of his constituents appear to be against it? The mayor alluded to the financial benefits to the town and said there were plenty of residents in support of the facility.

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The one guy who supported the facility.
​Somebody asked for a show of hands by those who supported the facility. One guy raised his hand. He spoke well but without support.

The meeting devolved into a sideshow. Not even the presence of former Attorney General Bob Butterworth as elder-statesman moderator could bring much civility to the residents who felt they had been spurned and left out until the project was as good as done. Many of the crowd's questions were actually angry statements, and attempted answers were met with boos and jeers. Residents had been warned not to complain about national immigration policy (out of the purview of this meeting), but a couple did. Unsettlingly, whenever an audience member identified herself as an immigration advocate, the NIMBY crowd let out a groan.

One major topic was schools: namely, the handful of public schools within a couple of miles of the site. People asked about escape statistics (not provided), and Mead, the ICE director, seemed uncomfortable with a question on why ICE had approved a site near schools. He started a game of "pass the buck": "You need to have the appropriate dialog with the mayor in terms of the thought process there..."

Pembroke Pines residents interrupted. "He's not our mayor!"

Mayor Nelson chimed in at that point, saying that in the 1990s, Broward County had decided to build those schools. "I suspect they needed to take a look at what was planned" for the site, he said.

Turns out, the Pembroke Pines mayor, Frank Ortis, was sitting in the front row. After a little more of this, he made an appearance that rocked the house. Butterworth introduced Ortis, a handshaky guy wearing glasses and a city-issued shirt, who was not smiling. The crowd booed him as he took the microphone.

"The longer I sit in this meeting, the angrier I'm getting," said Ortis, surveying the ranks of his citizens who were rankled by what Wasserman Schultz last month called a "paucity of information" from Ranches officials. 

"This is what happens when you don't go to the people first," he said. Before he finished the sentence, the crowd was standing, applauding, screaming in agreement. 

"All the roads you're talking about using are in Pembroke Pines," he said. "I don't see any Southwest Ranches houses right there. With all due respect," he said, looking at Nelson, "I can't applaud that."

Nelson glared down at Ortis. "Mayor, you're being disingenius [sic]," he said. "It's a clear public record that this has been thoroughly vetted."

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Nelson attempts to set Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis straight.
In response, a woman stood up and read a printout of the Pulp post from last month containing an email from Poliakoff, in which the town attorney said that "the less we say, the better off we will be."

The Pines government wasn't done publicly chewing out Southwest Ranches -- in fact, it looked like they had been waiting for this opportunity for some time. Pines Vice Mayor Iris Siple took the microphone.

She explained that a recent agreement, approved by the Pines City Commission to provide water and sewer services to the site, had been changed without public notice just before it was voted on by commissioners. She seemed to regret that they had voted for it.

"I just sent a text to our city clerk," she said, "asking to add an item to the agenda for our next meeting, where I will ask my fellow commissioners to consider using the agreement's nine-month termination clause." She was threatening, maybe promising, to withdraw the city's pledged support for services to the facility.

Even the well-groomed CCA bosses looked a little haggard at this point. Nelson glared into the distance.

"Personally," said Siple, "speaking as me, it doesn't seem that any time we've entered into a contract with Southwest Ranches, it's been good for our city."

Butterworth mentioned the time he took over as Sunrise mayor in the wake of a political scandal there in the late '80s. He looked around at the fuming local officials. "It doesn't seem like anything's changed," he said.

Nelson and the other folks on the dais were escorted out the back entrance by a phalanx of BSO deputies once the meeting concluded. Meanwhile, the anti-jail folks gathered with bright signs chanting "CCA, go away" for the television cameras out front. Machak, the corporation's PR guy, stood there watching. He's seen it all before.

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Back into the cone of silence.

Stefan Kamph is a New Times staff writer.
The Pulp: Facebook | @thePulpBPB
Stefan Kamph: Story archiveFacebook | @stefankamph

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11 comments
Jaqueobauer
Jaqueobauer

http://whyihatecca.blogspot.co...

This could be stopped in a heartbeat if Homeland security or a higher authority would act on the peoples demands.  That is-if they are listening.  We should overload Janet Napalitano with snail mail-as email can be erased easily, and hidden.Thousands of letters are hard to hide.What the hell-give the master of the universe Obama a piece of your mind too--he wants to get re-elected, and would do anything for a vote.  Secondly, our fight must go national.  What happened to us can happen to any community in the US--and you can bet many little towns run by crooks have learned from this, and they want to get their hands on such a gravy source of revenue too.

The STATE LEGISLATURE  is the original reason this isolated parcel of land floating in the sea of Pembroke Pines was given to SW Ranches.  It was illogical to do that, so perhaps there were other forces behind that decision.  This should be investigated, as all leads or ideas.

I think we can still turn this around.  I submit that a conspiracy of players, possibly in violation of law, devised this scheme to locate the prison in our front yards.  Could the Florida State Legislature have been the first to be influenced to keep this land in SW Ranches because of the future prison ?  Did Pembroke Pines fight for this land to remain within its borders. or was it involved in the conspiracy ?Ron Bergeron is a common demoninator in this prison plan, and most likely will be making money off the prison, either directly with contracts, or indirectly.  It was his land CCA bought, and Bergeron has used his cows to get tax exemptions for many years, defrauding the county of millions of revenue dollars.  What iF the ag exemption were revoked from CCA, so they had to pay their fair share of county taxes ?  Would they pull out ?Why has the BROWARDS businesses been silent on the tax break--They are paying the full assessment, but CCA gets off easily-becasue of  a crooked gang running SW Ranches government.Why did P Pines permit houses and schools to be built where they now stand, knowing a prison would be built within sight of their property. Did their hunger for revenue blind their common sense ?  Why did our real estate agents fail to disclose plans for the prison, when selling the high$$ homes to many of us ?This aint over.  I read that Wasserman Schultz has high poll numbers for re-election.  WE MUST reverse that trend and THROW HER OT ON HER ASS.  She has sold us out too.  Some of you may be Democrats, and I am sorry for you.  But that is no reason to keep a traitor in office.  A Bad Democrat is worse than any other running for her office, so we must make her pay for her support of this prison.

jaquebauer
jaquebauer

http://whyihatecca.blogspot.co...

This could be stopped in a heartbeat if Homeland security or a higher authority would act on the peoples demands.  That is-if they are listening.  We should overload Janet Napalitano with snail mail-as email can be erased easily, and hidden.Thousands of letters are hard to hide.What the hell-give the master of the universe Obama a piece of your mind too--he wants to get re-elected, and would do anything for a vote.  Secondly, our fight must go national.  What happened to us can happen to any community in the US--and you can bet many little towns run by crooks have learned from this, and they want to get their hands on such a gravy source of revenue too.

The STATE LEGISLATURE  is the original reason this isolated parcel of land floating in the sea of Pembroke Pines was given to SW Ranches.  It was illogical to do that, so perhaps there were other forces behind that decision.  This should be investigated, as all leads or ideas.

I think we can still turn this around.  I submit that a conspiracy of players, possibly in violation of law, devised this scheme to locate the prison in our front yards.  Could the Florida State Legislature have been the first to be influenced to keep this land in SW Ranches because of the future prison ?  Did Pembroke Pines fight for this land to remain within its borders. or was it involved in the conspiracy ?Ron Bergeron is a common demoninator in this prison plan, and most likely will be making money off the prison, either directly with contracts, or indirectly.  It was his land CCA bought, and Bergeron has used his cows to get tax exemptions for many years, defrauding the county of millions of revenue dollars.  What iF the ag exemption were revoked from CCA, so they had to pay their fair share of county taxes ?  Would they pull out ?Why has the BROWARDS businesses been silent on the tax break--They are paying the full assessment, but CCA gets off easily-becasue of  a crooked gang running SW Ranches government.Why did P Pines permit houses and schools to be built where they now stand, knowing a prison would be built within sight of their property. Did their hunger for revenue blind their common sense ?  Why did our real estate agents fail to disclose plans for the prison, when selling the high$$ homes to many of us ?This aint over.  I read that Wasserman Schultz has high poll numbers for re-election.  WE MUST reverse that trend and THROW HER OT ON HER ASS.  She has sold us out too.  Some of you may be Democrats, and I am sorry for you.  But that is no reason to keep a traitor in office.  A Bad Democrat is worse than any other running for her office, so we must make her pay for her support of this prison.

FQS9000
FQS9000

It is so mean of the people who own the land and the city to go ahead when there are yokels sniveling about it.  The whiners should always win any contest.  Protesters are always right about anything.

Bill Di Scipio
Bill Di Scipio

Stefan,

Thank you for the detailed blog posting.  I do make no apologies to anybody about the raucous nature of the crowd.  This is in the best tradition of the American concept of loud and rowdy town hall meetings that let to the founding and greatness of this country.  As a Bostonian by birth, hearty and vocal town hall meetings is the bulwark of democracy and self government.

I want to address your comment "Residents had been warned not to complain about national immigration policy (out of the purview of this meeting), but a couple did. Unsettlingly, whenever an audience member identified herself as an immigration advocate, the NIMBY crowd let out a groan." 

I can only hope that the groans were a reflection of the pent up anger that residents have over the past number of months of being shut down by every official they've tried to talk to at SW Ranches and that it was generally felt that this was off topic to that point and taking away from their precious time with officials. Whenever ANYBODY started to filibuster, they were met with groans.

If the groans were reflective of an uglier side to this debate, then I am disheartened.  And I denouce any hate towards those that put their hearts into correcting the immigration mess in this country.

So, while you chide us as NIMBYs, I proudly wear the moniker.  We aren't haters.  We are NIMBYs.  We like our community without the collective trash heap that Boward County decided they wanted for the unincorporated land on the dividing line between any civilization and the ancient Everglades.

Bill Di ScipioResidents Against the SW Ranches ICE Detention Center

Bill Di Scipio
Bill Di Scipio

And Mr. Anonymous, aren't you a kind of sniveling protester in a very cowardly manner? Just askin?

Bill Di Scipio

Stefan Kamph
Stefan Kamph

Well said. I didn't think there was hate on display there -- just a lot of frustration boiling over.

FQS9000
FQS9000

I don't want to stop anybody from using their property, thus I am not a sniveling whiner who wants something for nothing.  Jus saying.  I know this concept may be too advanced for you, but try hard and imagine that somebody doesn't want you to sleep in your own home.  Your home, your property, and following the law.  Their land, got the permits so they can build.  If the snivelers don't want the jail, they they can pay a market price, buy the land and do anything they want with it.

jaquebauer
jaquebauer

I would like to know if you live near where this prison facility will be built?  Will your property value suffer ?  Will you hear the alarms and sirens that are typical in facilities of this type ?   Unless you have a dog in the fight, your comments are irrelevant.

Bill Di Scipio
Bill Di Scipio

You are just an anonymous whiner who doesn't like it when people stand up and defend their homes and hearths from attack by corrupt politicians and opportunistic huge companies with a track record of buying off public officials.

The fact that this is all going to be supported with federal tax money doesn't make it the pure and wholesome capitalist ideal of one's ability to use personal property as they see fit.  Let them build their prison and run it without tax money.  Oh they can't?  Sounds like crony capitalism and a shakedown of tax payers.

Come out from behind your pseudonym, FQS9000 and have a pair of legs.  Otherwise, you're just a whiner sitting in a tee shirt behind a keyboard who doesn't even care to come out to support his/her own beliefs.  Just sayin...

Regards,Bill Di Scipio

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