Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober has thrown himself into the debate about whether Broward County should give the Florida Panthers hockey team $70 million and 22 acres of land.
He says they shouldn't.
Bober sent letters last week to mayors of the cities that generate the most tourist tax in Broward, asking them, "Have you ever asked yourself whether your city sees a return on this investment that is commensurate with the amount?''
He told them they should be "greatly concerned about the Florida Panthers' recent proposal to, among other things, stop paying its $4.5 million dollar debt payment on the BB&T Center.''
Hollywood is the second largest generator of tourist taxes, bringing in $7.1 million last fiscal year. Fort Lauderdale is No. 1, with $22.6 million. Dania Beach brings in a hearty $3.6 million. Deerfield Beach and Plantation brought in more than $2 million apiece, and Weston and Pompano Beach were in the $1 million-plus range.
Sunrise, home to the BB&T Center, contributed $885,697 last year.
Bober urged city mayors to contact Broward County commissioners about this "really bad idea.''
"While the Florida Panthers bring great excitement and entertainment to Broward County,'' he wrote, "they should not receive more than which they currently receive, at the expense of your city and mine.''
Bober sits on the Tourist Development Council, but when his reappointment came up Tuesday, Commissioner Marty Kiar withdrew it from the agenda.
Kiar told me he'd been told by people at a Democratic meeting in Sunrise Monday night that the west is not represented. He said he withdrew the appointment so he could examine the TDC membership and ensure that west Broward is represented.
Here's his explanation in email form:
I plan on appointing Mayor Bober to the TDC at the next meeting. I have a policy that if someone serves on a board, I will reappoint them. I just want to review the membership of the TDC to make sure that the whole county has representation on the east and on the west so there is a fair balance. If the western portion of the county has equal representation, then I will appoint him next week as I would like him to be able to participate in the upcoming meeting of the TDC. I was approached last night by a resident of Sunrise who was concerned about the Western portion of the county being under represented. I told the resident that I would review the membership and that I planned to appoint Mayor Bober at the next meeting if the whole county is fairly represented. That is the sole reason for pulling the item.
Have a great day.
I asked Kiar if Panthers President Michael Yormark had contacted him about the Bober appointment.
The answer was yes.
But Kiar said after looking at the TDC membership and talking to Bober, he decided he "definitely'' will reappoint him on Tuesday. The board has several openings where someone from the west could be selected, and he said Bober assured him he looks at issues regionally.
Bober was quite diplomatic about it. Here's what he said:
I would not question Commissioner Kiar’s integrity on something like this, simply because he wants to pause and think about it.
As you see from the attached document (showing bed tax contributions by city), most of the county’s hotels are in eastern Broward which is why the bed-tax dollars are generated mostly in Eastern Broward County. The historical idea on TDC membership (although it is more anecdotal than rigid/legal) has been to appoint folks who have the largest stake in the outcome…hence the TDC having hoteliers, and a few elected officials. I hope to still be re-appointed, I think I have done a good job, and I think the general consensus is that I consistently use a county-wide perspective (as opposed to just advocating for my own city’s interests, alone). But, but the buck stops with Commissioner Kiar and it is his decision.
Hollywood has historically been on the TDC because we generate the 2nd highest bed taxes in Broward.
Yormark was at the Sun Sentinel yesterday, so we asked him about the Bober appointment and his letter.
He said Bober's letter was "self serving'' because Hollywood wants to see a casino at the Westin Diplomat Resort, a competitor with BB&T Center in the casino game.
He said he was disappointed Bober didn't reach out to him, and also that Bober didn't include in the letter the history of the tourist tax that pays down arena debt.
The 2 percent tax has generated more revenue than needed to pay the county's portion, which is $8 million a year. Yormark thinks the team should get more of it.
When I asked Yormark about his involvement int he TDC appointment, he said: "I really had no involvement in that, quite frankly.''
When I told him that Commissioner Kiar had told me there'd been a phone call, he said:
"Yes, I called him and we had a conversation. I just shared with him some of my thoughts. When I got on the phone call with him he told me he'd already made a decision to defer, and we continued to have a conversation about the issue.''
Yormark said he asked Kiar to set up a meeting between him and Bober, so he could make his case with him.
He said he doesn't oppose his appointment.
"I don't know the mayor,'' he said, "but I will tell you this: I have a lot of confidence in Marty Kiar, Commissioner Kiar, and if Commissioner Kiar thinks the mayor would be an asset to the TDC, I applaud that decision and I support that decision.''