Robert Kraft has been offered a plea deal on charges of soliciting prostitution. There are a lot of angry comments suggesting this is somehow a sweetheart deal for Kraft because he’s rich and famous. Here are two examples:
They’re wrong. Aronberg, a Democrat in a Democratic county, is not doing Republican Trump any favors. And for those who think the Patriots owner is getting a break because of football, this is Dolphins territory.
Kraft is not getting a sweetheart deal. He’s getting screwed because he’s rich and famous. A high-profile arrest of a celebrity is often treated by prosecutors like Dave Aronberg as an opportunity to grandstand. The average Joe often gets off lightly because there’s no publicity value in going after them and if prosecutors were this aggressive on every case it would be too much work and would clog the court system.
I’ll get to the details of Kraft’s case shortly, but the best example I can think of in the past was Giants wide receiver and SuperBowl hero Plaxico Burress. As a Giants fan I have to include this video on the off chance any Patriots fans are reading this.
He accidentally shot himself in NYC and was prosecuted for criminal possession of a handgun.
Burress was targeted by anti-gun NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and ultimately got a 2-year prison sentence.
Something similar is happening with Kraft, though fortunately Kraft faces nowhere near the same potential penalty.
According to NBC News:
Kraft … would have [the] charges dropped in exchange for … conceding that [he] would have been found guilty, completing 100 hours of community service per charge, taking an education course on prostitution, undergoing a screening for sexually transmitted diseases, and paying $5,000 per charge.
$5000? The maximum fine for the offense is $1000, maybe $2000 since they charged him with two counts. While the offense carries a potential penalty of a year in jail, that never happens on a first offense misdemeanor like this. We rarely see any jail time for repeat offenders on low-level felonies. So why would Kraft have to pay $5000 per charge?
Of course Kraft is a billionaire so paying $5000 or $10,000 is nothing if it makes the case go away.
Just for comparison we looked at some recent cases we have seen in Palm Beach County. First of all it’s rare to see men charged with the first degree misdemeanor as Kraft is here. Usually they are charged with a second degree misdemeanor which has a lower fine.
The first degree offense may fit, but we often see regular people charged at a lower level. It’s common for repeat suspended drivers to keep getting charged at the misdemeanor level even after the third offense which makes it a felony. A few years ago we reported on Aronberg going easy on suspended drivers.
Here’s an example of a deferred prosecution agreement that was reached for one of the Johns arrested in the 2014 prostitution sting we covered.
He faced the same charge Kraft faces. He had a minor criminal history (driving while suspended). He paid $50 cost of prosecution. No fine. No $5000 charge. The charge against him was dropped – “Nolle Prosse”. Notice that the community service box is not checked off. He did have to do the PIPE class – Prostitution Impact Prevention Education – that is mentioned for Kraft. No jail. No probation.
Another man arrested in that 2014 sting had a similar result:
Same charge. Same $50 cost of prosecution. This guy had to also do STD testing and there’s a note about “no new crimes/offenses.” Same nolle prosse. You can see that 10 hours of community service was on the form but crossed out. 10 hours, not 100, and that was dropped. No jail. No probation.
In a more recent case, a defendant we covered was arrested this January for falsely reporting about a crash. He denied being the driver. This is a crime of dishonesty. It can really matter for insurance and for persons who may have been harmed or for property damage. It’s a second degree misdemeanor.
He got pretrial diversion and paid $100 for “cost of prosecution.” That’s it. Another average Joe got off easy.
So for all those who think Kraft is getting a deal, it’s a raw deal.
What I hope happens in this case is Kraft’s attorney resolves it with the judge, who should wisely disregard Aronberg’s nonsense. Kraft could plead “No Contest”, get a “withhold adjudication” (so it’s not officially a conviction) and pay a fine of perhaps $500 or $1000 plus some costs.
On the lighter side of this story, the arrest reports indicate that Kraft was charged for two incidents one day and then the next. On day one he showed up at the massage parlor driving a “2014 White Bentley.” The next day he showed up in a “2015 blue Bentley.”
So he has two Bentleys, or more than two, in Florida. A Bentley typically costs $300,000 or more. He lives in Boston. Does have more Bentleys in Massachusetts? Does he have them trucked down for season? This gives you some idea how much money a billionaire has. Kraft has a reported net worth of $6.6 billion.
Congressman Ted Deutch, a resident of West Boca Raton, is in the news today thanks to his bill that he claims will address climate change. What the mainstream media is not covering is how this bill would affect people and who benefits. A review of the bill text shows it’s designed to redistribute wealth and the biggest beneficiaries are farmers.
Deutch calls the bill “The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018”. The general idea is to have a tax on greenhouse gas emissions (aka a carbon tax or fee) imposed “upstream” so the tax is not visible to consumers when they pay for things that are affected. Some of the money would be rebated to people – the so-called carbon dividend.
As always the devil is in the details and there’s a lot in this bill. The tax would start at $15 per metric ton of greenhouse gas emissions. A gallon of gas accounts for 0.009 metric tons. A 15-gallon tank is associated with 0.133 metric tons. So a 15-gallon tank of gas would cost an extra $2 for the consumer.
That’s where it starts. Every year the tax goes up $10 per ton, or another $1.33 per 15-gallon tank. In 3 years that means the cost of a 15-gallon tank is up by $5, not just $2.
It’s not just gasoline. It’s other fuels including coal and natural gas. But it’s also “carbon-intensive products” including:
iron, steel, steel mill products (including pipe and tube), aluminum, cement, glass (including flat, container, and specialty glass and fiberglass), pulp, paper, chemicals, or industrial ceramics.
So anything you buy that has steel, aluminum, glass, cement, and more in it will see price increases.
The most remarkable thing is the handout to farmers. They’re exempt from the tax. Technically they buy whatever fuel they buy at the same increased price as the rest of us, but they get the money back directly from the government. There’s an extra provision protecting farmers even more:
The carbon fee shall not be levied upon non-fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions which occur on a farm.
Agriculture is responsible for roughly 8% of US greenhouse gas emissions. It’s unclear why, as a policy matter, farmers should get a break from a tax the rest of us all pay. As a political matter it’s just one more example of farmers having outsize influence on politicians like Deutch.
Then we get to what happens with the money. This breaks down into two separate categories. Some of the money is collected from imports in the Carbon Border Fee. That money “may be used to supplement appropriations”. In other words, it goes straight to the government. Despite Deutch’s sales pitch that the money goes back to the people, the border tax part of the bill goes to the government, not us.
For the tax imposed on items within the US, that money goes into the “Carbon Dividend Trust Fund.” Up to 8% of that money will go to administrative expenses. After expenses the money goes to people as follows:
A carbon dividend payment is one pro-rata share for each adult and half a pro-rata share for each child under 19 years old, with a limit of 2 children per household, of amounts available for the month in the Carbon Dividend Trust Fund.
To qualify you have to be a
natural living person who has a valid Social Security number or taxpayer identification number and is a citizen or lawful resident of the United States
Deutch and friends ignore the science that says “progressive income redistribution in the United States could result in an increase in household carbon dioxide emissions” because “poorer households spend a bigger proportion of their income on carbon-intensive products and services.”
But the biggest steal of all is the farmers. They’re eligible for the dividend even though they’re exempt from the tax.
Deutch’s one-page summary of the bill is below. It is full of unsupported claims about job creation and reduced pollution. The full pdf is below that. We reached out to Deutch on both Twitter and Facebook to ask about these issues. As usual he did not respond. Deutch only deals with journalists who do not ask him tough questions. That’s not personal to him, but rather is typical for incumbents of either party who are in safely gerrymandered districts. He’s still a nice guy and by all accounts a good neighbor.
Single point of entry is one of the latest stupid ideas in school security. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting happened next door to our community, the clamor for school security grew louder. The same Broward officials whose incompetence failed to prevent the shooting have been elevated by the media as experts.
Broward Schools superintendent Robert Runcie is touted in the Miami Herald with his plan: “The goal of the new measures is to create a single point of entry at schools.” Runcie is the “leader” whose “Promise” program kept Nikolas Cruz from being criminally prosecuted before the shooting. Criminal prosecution, even just with probation, might have prevented Cruz from getting and keeping guns.
Anyone who understands guns and game plans a school shooting can see the idiocy of single point of entry. Consider the photo below:
Imagine this area filled with 2000 students trying to get into the building and then picture how this looks to a psychopath with a rifle 100 yards away. It’s that stupid.
We had the joy of experiencing other stupid safety measures Thursday at the West Boca High football game against Palm Beach Lakes. Game time for all county high school football games was moved from 7 pm to 6 pm. Other than making it difficult for working parents to see their kids at the games, this accomplishes nothing. We also experienced the “clear bag only” policy which meant no camera bag for this journalist. I offered to let them search the bag, but they declined and I had to put it in my car. Yes that’s only a minor annoyance for me, but it’s also a minor annoyance for thousands of others.
$300K wunderkind Donald Fennoy heads the Palm Beach Schools. He admitted that these moves do nothing to address the shooting outside Palm Beach Central: “The measures announced Sunday would likely not have changed the outcome, Fennoy conceded.”
I’m not the first person to write about the stupidity of the school security mania. Lenore Skenazy, the free range children advocate, aptly described it as Security Theater for Schools. For those unfamiliar with the term: “Security theater is the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it.”
Skenazy put it this way: “Schools are piling on the procedures as if the fact that someone, somewhere experienced a terrible tragedy once means that everyone, everywhere is at risk of terrible tragedies all the time.”
Fear makes folks irrational, which explains why any of these measures morphed into bona fide rules. But now that we’ve had a little time to think, it’s time to re-examine them with the kind of clearheadedness an 11-year-old recently showed.
“They want everyone to go in and out of the same door,” her mother explained. Whereupon the daughter wondered, “Won’t that just make it easier for someone who wanted to shoot or bomb people, because everyone will be in the same place?”
Whenever someone criticizes security measures, we hear the inevitable cry: “We have to do something!”. First of all, no we don’t. And second, we don’t have to do something stupid.
All these security measures cost money, which means less money to spend on things that might actually help, like good teachers. But don’t worry folks. Whatever we do, no administrator will be left behind.
The Palm Beach County School District plans to cut only teachers – and only teachers- if the school property tax increase is voted down. No administrators would lose their jobs and vendors who supply the district will continue reaping millions.
The district has been “informing” the public about the upcoming vote. Most recently this was manifested in an e-mail sent this afternoon. One of the most prominent claims in the e-mail is that the measure will “continue funding for 650 teachers in Art, Music, PE, Choice and Career [sic].” We calculate that if 650 teachers cost the district on average approximately $76,000 a year (including salary, benefits and expenses), that adds up to the full $50 million the district says it will have to cut from the budget.
The “650 teachers” number is used frequently in district communications.
It’s not the first time the 650 reference has been made. It is a central part of the message the district has been pushing on the ballot question. It appears in a pdf document that indicates it was created in late August, and on other similar documents on the district’s page about the referendum.
Again and again they mention the 650 teachers:
The use of this language strongly suggests that if the measure does not pass, 650 teachers in those areas will be laid off. We personally have heard school district employees say exactly that. Of course there’s no indication in any of the district’s “information” regarding the potential loss of any administrator jobs. This fits with longstanding local, state and federal education policies that we refer to as “No Administrator Left Behind.” Teachers get no raises. The air conditioning doesn’t work. But don’t worry folks – we’ve got plenty of well paid administrators. See for example Andrew Marra’s recent Palm Beach Post article: The number of PBC school execs making $140K has nearly tripled in 2 years.
We decided to ask the school board members from West Boca and district officials to explain where the 650 number comes from. So far we have not gotten a straightforward answer.
School board member Karen Brill responded quickly and more thoroughly than anyone else so far. We thank her for that. She opened with the following:
It’s interesting that you are asking this because in our Board discussion regarding the Referendum, I asked our CFO what the contingency plan is if the Referendum fails. I was told there is no contingency plan. That does concern me.
Brill also addressed our specific questions:
Q: If the property tax measure fails, will you vote to cut 650 art, music, pe, choice and career teacher positions?
A: No. Art, Music, PE, Choice and Career Programs are essential components of our District’s offerings. These are the programs that motivate our children, enhance their education and make for higher levels of learning.
Q: Have you considered alternatives such as reducing administrator pay and eliminating administrative positions?
A: Absolutely. It is will be essential that we will have to look at every possible alternative in order to maintain the funding for the teaching positions you outlined above.
Q: What will you do if the vote fails?
A: First, you should know that there will not be an impact in this school year. The first thing we would need to do is convene a Board Workshop to discuss staff’s and the Board’s recommendations of areas where consolidation and cost reductions can be made. Obviously we would have to begin addressing the situation immediately.
Brill closed with the following:
In addition to the above, my comment is that it is regrettable that those at the state level do not believe that funding public education is a priority. We are now 44th in the nation on the amount the state funds to educate our students. That’s deplorable! Recruitment and retention of teachers at the salaries Districts are forced to pay is extremely difficult. In addition, changes in our world have necessitated changes in the physical structure of our schools to enhance school safety. An area of particular need is the hiring of additional mental health professionals. Whatever the outcome of the Referendum vote, we all need to work together for the benefit our children. Although cliché, it truly does take a village.
School board member Frank Barbieri also responded quickly but briefly:
If the tax levy fails, I’ll ask (and I believe the other Board Members will ask) the Superintendent to provide the School Board with all available options so that we can make an informed decision as to how we should proceed.
We’re not terribly thrilled with that answer. The administrators are unlikely to include cutting their own pay and jobs as one of the options.
We also e-mailed Superintendent Fennoy and COO Wanda Paul, with similar questions to the ones Brill answered. We did not get a direct response from Fennoy or Paul, but rather got an anonymous response from the district media staff:
Superintendent Fennoy and COO Paul,
Does the school district have a plan to cut 650 teachers from art, music, pe, careers, and choice programs if the ballot question fails?
Where did the 650 number come from?
Has the district considered other alternatives such as lowering administrator pay or cutting administrator positions? Any other alternatives?
And the anonymous response:
The District has a current .25 mil approved by voters that funds the salaries of 650 arts, career, pe, and health teachers. It is due for renewal this November – the District is asking for a full 1 mill this November.
Should the referendum not pass in November, the District will have to cut $50 million, the amount currently funded by voters, from its budget. This is an extensive amount of money that would have to include deep cuts at the district and school level. Since 70% of the District’s budget is in manpower, there would undoubtedly be cuts of positions at all levels, from support positions, to teachers, to administrators.
This will have a negative impact on our ability to serve students and compensate our employees. Hundreds of jobs will be eliminated and remaining employees may be subject to unpaid furloughs as we work to balance the budget. There will be no prospect of employee raises for teachers or any other employee group in the foreseeable future if the District is forced to make these draconian budget cuts.
It is telling that the response does not in any way explain the 650 number they keep repeating. And it does not limit the potential cuts to the specific ones mentioned in the political messaging we’re all paying for.
“There would undoubtedly be cuts of positions at all levels, from support positions, to teachers, to administrators.”
That is very different. But we think we’ve figured it out. The district’s answer references a $50 million cut. As described above cutting 650 teachers would add up to $50 million. So the district’s numbers indicate they plan to cut only teachers. However, if the response we received today is accurate, the repeated message about funding for 650 teachers is a lie. The district has a history of lying to the public in order to win a tax increase, and the board follows by giving pay raises to the liars despite ongoing failures to fix simple things like air conditioning.
It is also interesting to note the political decision made by the district staff and school board. Facing the expiration of the .25 mill tax, they decided to reach for a full 1 mill, a 400% tax increase. An alternative strategy might have been one measure to renew the existing .25 mill tax along with a second measure to add on another .75 mill tax.
The increase will cost the typical West Boca homeowner roughly $400 per year. The actual increase will depend on the home’s appraised value.
Residents should be reassured by the other e-mail we received from the district today. The important work of our administrators will go forward no matter what:
Perhaps some of our readers thought the purpose of our schools was to educate children. Nope. It’s to help vendors build multi-million dollar companies and keep administrators employed and well paid.