The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 4, 1997 · Page 19
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December 4, 1997

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 19

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West Palm Beach, Florida
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Thursday, December 4, 1997
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20A THE PALM BEACH POST THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4. 1997 The Palm Beach Post TOM GlUFFRIDA, Publisher EDWARD SEARS. Editor LON DANIELSON, General Manager TOM DHAKA, Managing Editor RANDY SCHULTZ, Editor of the Editorial Page JAN TUCKWOOD, Associate Editor r&i VlA-agnxn,QSU.httpwww.griiiuny.coin TOM HIGHFIELD, VP Circulation LARRY SIEDUK, VP & Treasurer GALE HOWDEN, Director, Community Relations BOB BALFE, Director, Production LINDA MURPHY. Director, Human Resources KEN WALTERS, Director, Marketing and Research 0H.0H.AH0THER Reno saw a loophole, but Congress made it The scandal in the ways elections are bought and sold is not in actions that are illegal but in what's legal. The Palm Beach Post's editorial cartoonist, Don Wright, is on vacation. Defense stronger than eneath the Nov. 17 headline "Anyone can win in traffic court," The Post provided a look at how drivers get "fines reduced and points dropped." One case cited was that of Ruth Munn, age 59, who "went to traffic court, mounted a defense against the officer who clocked her doing 47 mph in a 20-mph zone, and discovered a legal bazaar where justice is for sale and bargains abound." Magistrate Allen Martincavage, the story said, "withheld adjudication and reduced Munn's fine to five hours of community ""1 service, ino conviction XfyvJ t0 scar a flawless 7-ClA I. J year record. No points C.B. Hanif Listening Post to escalate her insurance." Included in her defense was an assertion mmmmmm that the officer was "not telling the truth," the article said, "with no further evidence to substantiate her claim." The article "disappointed" Magistrate Martincavage. "I do applaud The Post for addressing this important issue, but it should not ease up on accuracy," he wrote. "While the summarization for traffic court defendant Ruth Munn's case is basically correct, the article left the reader thinking that the defendant's defense won. It did not. She was found guilty as charged. She did not win." As far as the sentencing is concerned, the magistrate said, "the article was simply wrong. The defendant's record, which was eorruption in political campaigns lately is the worst in this century. Attorney General Janet Reno's decision not to seek a special prosecutor who would have been her seventh won't make it worse. Deciding the other way wouldn't have made the situation better. Ms. Reno decided not to make the move against President Clinton and Vice President Gore after considering the specific allegations before her. On the strict legal scale she used, the weight of the facts and law favored Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore. Republicans hoped for a broad, sweeping investigation that would poke into all the Democrats did in 1996 and uncover a snake pit of illegalities and immoralities. On a cosmic scale, they had the right idea, but their goal was too limited to clean up politics. One mistake Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., made with his select committee was to focus on Democrats. As a result, his hearings were conducted to the chant of "what about your guys?" In the post-World War II war crimes trials, the Allies dropped charges that Nazi submarines failed to aid their victims after U.S. and British admirals affirmed that their subs did the same thing for the good reason that standing by risked being attacked and sunk. Republicans, with their soft-money scandals and perks for contributors, should have seen the precedent. If Ms. Reno wanted friends, she would have asked for a prosecutor. Mr. Clinton can't defend her after she let him walk, but he couldn't have touched her if she decided against him. Republicans are angry. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, indicted, tried and convicted Mr. This suit's Bn 1991, the city of West Palm Beach was imitating John Brown's body "a-moldering in the grave." But voters resurrected it by approving a strong-mayor system of government. : The first strong mayor, Nancy Graham, accepted the glory for the hits and the blame for the errors that come with power and responsibility to get things moving. Now City Commissioners Joel Daves and Al Zucaro want to give her something else a lawsuit. If Jeff Koons gives them the third vote on Dec. 15, as he has said he will, they'll give taxpayers the lawyers' bills. At issue is the mayor's veto power. She vetoed a $119,940 contract for cleaning the police building, which commissioners wanted to award to Crystal Building Maintenance, and she vetoed ' an appointment to the city's golf commission. For that, three commissioners want to go to court. The mayor clearly has power to veto ordinances and resolutions. That's part of being a strong mayor. And Mayor Graham has a legal opinion that an act of the commission that isn't an ordinance is a resolution. Crystal sued on its own behalf, arguing that a contract is not an ordinance. Without waiting to see where that case goes, Commissioners Daves and Zucaro would lunge into court with their own legal challenge to the vetoes. wmowe SOUTHERN BAPTIS75 BOYCOTT. it looked If it seemed that the paper had set out to make the magistrate appear lenient, he said, that was hardly the case. "The intent was to establish an anecdotal introduction to the world of traffic court. "I think a 'man on the street' would indeed consider it a victory to go from facing a $300 fine and four points on her driving record to five hours of community service," Mr. Patton said. Mr. Patton agreed "that someone with a good traffic record should stand a better chance to get a reduced charge, or, in this instance, adjudication withheld." On the extent of the flawless driving record, he said that despite what the magistrate said in court, "with the constraints of putting out a daily newspaper, we only had time to independently check Mrs. Munn's record back seven years." That, one must agree with the magistrate, was a flaw in the story. Reporters working on deadline can include only what they can confirm. But it's fair to say that there was more to the magistrate's reasoning than reached readers. H Palm Beach Interactive has a new way to reach the Listening Post. Internet users can now go on line any time at www.GoPBI.comtellthepost to submit comments as well as read this weekly column. There's also a quick-and-easy guide to contacting the newsroom staff. More on Palm Beach Interactive to come. C.B. Hanif is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post. Items for Listening Post may be sent to lppbpost.com. Broadway characters' Jewishness, Anne's sexuality and, in the diary's words, "the suffering of millions" not just in Auschwitz and Bergen-Bel-sen but in the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork. Ms. Kesselman said while making final revisions at previews last week that the Anne Frank Foundation had been only encouraging of her long effort to restore honest history and Anne's unexpurgated words to the stage. "Not everyone will be happy," says Mr. Lapine. "People will either attack us or embrace us." Indeed, some historians, most eloquently Lawrence Langer, have questioned whether Anne Frank's diary in any form belongs more to the literature of puberty than that of the Holocaust. Seconding him, Ms. Ozick asked in The New Yorker the incendiary (if academic) question whether history might have been better served if the diary had been lost or destroyed. As was true of the 1955 Anne Frank, perceptions of the 1997 version may well be colored by contemporary Jewish-American debates, no matter what's on stage. But maybe adults' reactions don't matter as much as those of children who are seeing it for the first time. The 13-year-old bar mitz-vah boy who came with me was shaken by the experience and was incredulous when I told him afterward how the version I saw as a child ended with Anne's cheery testimonial to people's goodness of heart. That line turns up in the 1997 Anne Frank, but earlier and no longer ripped out of context to hit a false note. This time the play ends, humbly, with the silence of the dead. B Frank Rich is a columnist for The New York Times. ...Al You could argue semantics over who 'won' in traffic court, but the driver could show the magistrate a well-traveled road. reviewed in open court, was indeed flawless, but for more than merely seven years. Contrary to the article, it was flawless going back to 1973 a feat seldom accomplished. She had no prior adjudications withheld. She had no out-of-state tickets, not even a parking ticket, nothing for almost a quarter-century! While "no one gives out prizes for a quarter-century of perfect and safe driving," he said, and "no newspaper articles are written to compliment such good records, a good prior record should count for something. I am happy to say it does in traffic court. "As a side note, Ruth Munn's record will no longer be flawless. My guilty finding will now 'scar' all future driving record requests for Ruth Munn's record, contrary to The Post's front-page article. "I am sure that if the article was dealing with felony court, The Post would have taken the time to get the facts correct." But given that more Americans die on our roads in a given year than died in the entire Vietnam War, the magistrate said, "traffic safety is an important enough topic." State Editor Price Patton emphasized that the paper strives for accuracy "in all our stories, whether they be felony or traffic court, feature or commission meet-ing. MaaMil"" ,,rrl" r' - ;yT,',' M - If." 'Anne Frank' brawl hits Clinton on television just last Sunday. But Rep. Henry Hyde, R-I1L, was flat wrong in attributing her decision to "personal loyalty to the president." Ms. Reno listens to her own voices, not to Mr. Clinton, who tried in January to squeeze her into resigning. The reaction of FBI Director Louis Freeh, who made his disagreement public, is more serious. Ms. Reno left the investigation open; if there is a case, Mr. Freeh's FBI can still make it. His concern, though, was more with the reality that there's no way the Justice Department can look right clearing the man who appoints the attorney general. That appearance is what the special prosecutor law is supposed to avoid. But Kenneth Starr has made special prosecutors look as political as attorneys general, so what can you do? The way to start is to recognize that the scandals in how elections are bought and sold lie not in what's illegal but in what's legal. Democrats say they broke no laws; they only used loopholes. When a light goes on in Republican counting houses, the roaches find their loopholes, too. Until the winners under this system outlaw what's legal but shouldn't be and stop the money games, all Justice Department decisions will be bad, and special prosecutors will be useless. threadbare Commissioners Daves and Zucaro want to take Mayor Graham to court - and the public to the cleaners. Mr. Daves says the mayor has been using her veto power. Well, yes, that's what strong mayors do. "As a commission, we have to clarify her authority," Mr. Daves said. Well, no, voters clarified it in 1991. To "clarify her authority," commissioners will have to hire their own lawyer, since city lawyers report to the mayor. ("Strong mayor" remember?) And the mayor will need a lawyer, since she is being sued by the commission. And, since there are public institutions on both sides, the public will pay for both sides. The ultimate authority over the vetoes stayed with the public. The public's hammer is the election. That's also, by the way, the public's way of expressing itself about silly lawsuits. For commissioners, the charter provides a way to challenge Mayor Graham's veto without going to court: Line up four votes to override it. The charter doesn't say, "Line up three votes and a judge." Exemption from local zoning ordinances can't mean that anything and everything goes on school property. up "educational radio or television transmitting sites," said Cynthia Pret-tyman, general counsel for Palm Beach County schools. In Lantana, the school system is relying on the law that allows schools to permit "community use centers," Ms. Prettyman said. A further complication in Lantana is that this same school has been used by three other congregations without protest. The significant difference this time is that this congregation is Haitian. Each case raises disturbing questions. Should school systems be allowed to put up 150-foot cell-phone towers just because the schools also use them? And should the "community use" power permit a noneducational use that specifically violates a local ordinance, in this case a Lantana zoning code that does not allow churches on public property? If there are religious-freedom problems with the code, that is something for the courts to decide. Wr. 'km School zones filling up An overhauled version of the 1955 play returns the characters' ethnicity to the stage. But not everyone is pleased. By Frank Rich Df American Jews are angrily squaring off over such fundamentals as their fealty to Israel and the very definition of who is a Jew, why not have a brawl over Anne Frank? This week, a new version of The Diary of Anne Frank reaches Broadway on a wave of suspicion and controversy that provoked a major Jewish writer to make a preemptive strike in The New Yorker without even waiting to see it. The writer is Cynthia Ozick, whose October essay summarized two books by Lawrence Graver and Ralph Melnick that make the airtight case that Anne's father, Otto Frank, and theatrical luminaries deliberately corrupted the diary for Broadway consumption in 1955. The play stripped the diary of its Jewishness and sanitized the Holocaust by dispensing with any details, the Nazis included. Audiences were treated instead to a sentimental, generic slab of postwar optimism exemplified by Anne's curtain line: "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart." The 1955 script was written by the husband-and-wife screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett in the same earnest style of their Hollywood work It's a Wonderful Life and Father of I The exemption of public schools from local zoning laws should not apply to activities that have nothing to do with education, despite what the Palm Beach County School District contends in two cases. School officials say that Boca Raton cannot regulate the use of property at three schools for communications towers and Lantana cannot keep a church congregation from having services at Lantana Middle School. The Lantana case is more complex because of First Amendment questions, but even there, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a federal law that sharply restricted local powers over religious activities. While school sites must be consistent with local comprehensive plans, Florida school systems otherwise enjoy wide exemptions from local laws. Standards for construction, safety and sanitation are set statewide in accord with the State Uniform Code for Public Education Facilities Construction. But the purpose of these exemptions is public education, not to facilitate the lease of school property for non-school uses. C.-L 1 !i- caui case nas us computations. Two of the three Boca Raton towers also are used for school purposes, and statetlaw allows school districts to set the Bride. Whatever the motives behind the dilution of the diary, their play is typical of its Broadway period. The cute jokes, glib inspirational homilies and one-note characters epitomize the formulaic playmaking that writers such as Tennessee Williams and Eugene O'Neill rebelled against. Waiting for Godot flopped on Broadway the same season that Anne Frank was a smash, winning the Pulitzer and the Tony. But the muted Jewishness in the play pandered to American Jewry as well as to Broadway commercialism. Except for Meyer Levin, the novelist who made a crusade of his failed effort to supplant the Ilacketts' dramatization with a more faithful version of his own, few in 1955 protested the bleaching out of the Franks' ethnicity on stage. American Jews were embracing the assimilationist nirvanas of suburbia and Reform Judaism; it was not kosher to be "too Jewish." Broadway's Anne Frank was hardly the only Jewish setting from which Hebrew prayers were being excised. The new Anne Frank happens to be directly across 45th Street from The Old Neighborhood, David Mamet's indictment of what he calls "plain brown wrapper" '50s Reform Judaism. Though the new Anne Frank still bills the Ilacketts as principal authors, their text has been almost completely overhauled by theater artists of the Mamet generation: the playwright Wendy Kesselman and the director James Lapine. Months before Ms. Ozick's article was published, they were reclaiming the f

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