Monday, July 14, 2008

The First Amendment Means Nothing In Cooper City...Here We Go Again!

"Here we go again...The First Amendment means nothing in Cooper City." These are the words of Attorney Frank Zemel, who plans to file another federal lawsuit if the Cooper City Commission approves the new 'Community Assembly' ordinance which is scheduled for the second reading at tomorrow evening's commission meeting. According to today's Sun-Sentinel story, Cooper City "may be flirting with yet another federal lawsuit centering on religious freedom." "It's about money in Cooper City," Zemel said in one article I recently read online. Former Cooper City attorney Alan Ruf said he is confident the city's ordinance complies with federal law, based on their review. Apparently not...

We need to resolve this issue now! It has been dragged out for way too long and this lawsuit is not in the best interests of the city. I have been the sole commissioner who has openly supported the Chabad of Nova and have pushed feverously to get this issue fully resolved to no avail. As I stated to the Sun-Sentinel, we are at this point in a 'survival' and 'mitigate the damages' mode, while simply trying to comply with a federal court order that was issued quite a while ago. We had no choice but to update the ordinance because it neglected to allow religious assembly in certain parts of town, and that's what got us, more correctly the previous commission, into trouble in the first place.

The commission allowed the P&Z Board to recommend the appropriate ordinance changes, and according to our lawyer David Wolpin, the city has a right to limit the number of religious institutions allowed in one shopping center. The amount of people and cars that too many 'community assembly' businesses bring to a retail center causes proven ingress, egress and safety issues thus interfering with the other businesses. This was just one of the reasons it was limited to three according to my recollection of the discussions held at a May commission meeting. It's not discrimination, it's called common sense although the issue should have never come to the commission without full approval by the legal wizards.

While some may agree with these public comments, I firmly believe that Rabbi Posner has his synagogue and his congregation's absolute best interests at heart. The story also reported that Attorney Zemel said that he will continue to sue Cooper City "on Posner's behalf" until he gets the city's attention. Apparently, we are going to trial in August without the commission being afforded the opportunity to discuss the issue in the shade or being provided with a strategy. We have three lawyers working on this issue and we can't resolve it? My position is this; stop screwing around! How can I defend the city's position or explain anything to my constituents on this issue without an update from the attorney? I can't say why...

The bottom line...The treatment of the Chabad Nova that has resulted in a lawsuit against Cooper City is just downright shameful. The past Commission and the Mayor took a 'back seat' regarding this issue and have not demonstrated the necessary leadership to fully address this issue. The legal fees alone in this case will be astronomical (they already are) and the residents of Cooper City will be penalized financially just as the residents of Hollywood have been. How embarrassing...