Shortly before 7 pm Friday night many thousands of South Florida residents were startled by a loud noise that shook homes from Weston to Wellington. West Boca News received dozens of messages, calls, text messages along with hundreds of comments from readers. We were unable to find solid answers for hours. Some local officials put out short, vague notices. The Broward Sheriff was particularly confusing: A military event could mean a lot of things – an attack on our country, a coup, a training exercise, etc. This morning we did find a release from NORAD that seems credible.
A pair of Air Force F-15s … intercepted an unresponsive general aviation aircraft near the Palm Beach, Fla., area at approximately 7 p.m. EST. The intercept required the Air Force F-15s from Homestead Air National Guard Base to travel at supersonic speeds, a sound noticed by area residents, to get to the general aviation aircraft where they were able to establish communications.
This leaves us with two concerns about the judgment of whoever made the decision to go supersonic. First, was it necessary and appropriate?
Air Force procedures require that, whenever possible, flights be over open water, above 10,000 feet and no closer than 15 miles from shore. Supersonic operations over land must be conducted above 30,000 feet or, when below 30,000 feet, in specially designated areas approved by Headquarters United States Air Force, Washington, D.C., and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Going supersonic is not something the Air Force is supposed to take lightly. Moreover, military operations within the borders of the United States are supposed to be limited by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. The reports are that the sonic booms started in Weston and continued to somewhere near Boynton Beach or Wellington. That’s in the ballpark of 40 miles. At 750 mph (just below the speed of sound) a plane would travel that distance in just over 3 minutes. At 1500 mph an F15 would get there in half the time. Going supersonic got them there perhaps 90 seconds quicker. We would like to give the Air Force the benefit of the doubt and hope that yesterday’s decision was correct under the circumstances. But that leads to our second concern. If they’re going to rattle homes over a 40 mile densely populated stretch, alarming over 100,000 people, they should let us know what happened immediately. We heard numerous reports of distress, including police coming out of their stations with guns drawn, children crying, 911 calls overwhelming the operators, and neighbors rushing outside their homes and getting to know each other. NORAD should have plans in place to notify local law enforcement and media when this happens. We don’t expect West Boca News to make the list but the local TV stations and major regional newspapers certainly should.
Having interviewed the two challengers for school board earlier, I met Karen Brill the other day at Jidai Kaiten Sushi on Powerline. The funny thing about interviewing candidates is that they all tend to be likeable. Sometimes that makes it hard to pick who to vote for. In this case Brill made it easier. Brill, Dave Mech, and John Hartman are running for District 3, which runs north from Clint Moore so most of West Boca can’t vote in the race. She was elected to the school board in 2010 by defeating a long-time incumbent and a few others. She was endorsed in that race by the Palm Beach Post, and they endorsed her again today. As their 2010 article mentions, Brill became motivated by challenges she faced from the school district in getting a proper and fair education for her autistic son. Because of that experience she describes herself as the go-to person on the board for parents with special needs kids. Two things in particular impressed me about her. First, she’s very knowledgeable. Some people get elected to boards and just show up to collect the paycheck. Brill, by contrast, has spent the last four years learning a great deal about how things work in the school district. She doesn’t know everything, but she understands how the school district works far better than her opponents. Second, she is a bundle of energy. The Post mentioned that as well. Our conversation ranged over many topics and anything that came up sparked a stream of ideas and answers from Brill. She’s not perfect. I asked her some tough questions about “Common Core” and I didn’t love her answers. Her focus on special needs and her knowledge of the finer details of the issues seems to keep her from taking a “big picture” look at the district. For example, we talked about how the system should work better so that parents of kids with special needs wouldn’t need to go to a school board member for help. She got the point, but didn’t seem to know how to get there. In a follow-up e-mail she said:
I believe we went off on a tangent on how to address the issue of parents of special needs students going to a school board member for assistance. There is an answer. The District needs to restore the Parent Services position (with federal funding from the IDEA) under the new ESE Director or they need to create an ombudsman position.”
And regarding seeing the big picture she said:
My special needs son is only 1/4 of my children. They range from gifted to advanced to average and then to challenged. One my primary concerns is the crush of standardized testing and what is doing to our students’ love for learning and teachers’ ability to teach.
I don’t find those responses persuasive, but I’m voting for her anyway. She has two opponents in the race. I interviewed Dave Mech in June. While I liked him, he just didn’t seem serious enough about the actually winning the election and serving on the school board. Brill, by contrast, is almost too serious about it. More recently I interviewed John Hartman. There are some critical things I love about Hartman. He’s more of a big picture guy. He’s very concerned about Common Core and strongly opposed to it. If opposition to Common Core is your biggest issue with the schools, then Hartman is the one you should vote for and you should give him some money too. But it’s a little too much of a holy war. He reminds me of the Blues Brothers:
I don’t like Common Core, but it’s not enough. One school board member isn’t going to stop it, or whatever other name they place on it. Brill does see problems with Common Core, FCATs, etc. Her knowledge and energy will be more effective at managing how to deal with it. At the same time she’s ready to handle all the other issues our school board will confront. And she has the personality to get along with others and work through things. Ideologically I line up more with Hartman. But you don’t win elections because of a higher power. You win them by planning ahead and figuring out how you’re going to reach the voters with your message. Those same methods help you get results when you do get elected. Brill is more ready to get things done. Like many first-time candidates Hartman did not understand how difficult it would be. And that makes you wonder how effective he would be if he won. Practically speaking, Brill is going to win this election easily. I hope Hartman runs again, either for school board or another office. I’d love to help him in that next race.
Yesterday I had lunch with Jaimie Goodman, one of three candidates for Circuit Court Judge, Group 30. We met at Bagel Works and spoke for over an hour about his career, why he wants to be a judge, and the politics of judicial elections. One thing leapt out at me during our conversation. Questions others have raised about his experience are nonsense. This guy is an experienced trial lawyer. We talked in depth about some of the cases he’s handled over the years and he’s genuine and knowledgeable. In interviewing candidates who claim to be experienced litigators, we look for storytelling ability. A trial lawyer has to tell juries the story of the case. One of the bits of lawyer life others don’t know about is the moments when we’re sitting around a courtroom waiting for something. Lawyers do a lot of waiting. In those moments we tell each other “war stories” about cases we’ve handled. Goodman has plenty of those stories. If he has a weakness, it’s specialization. Some lawyers are generalists, handling all kinds of cases. He’s the opposite. In his career Goodman has practiced almost exclusively in employment litigation. That’s a narrow field within the broader area of civil litigation. That is a potential issue for Circuit Court. Over the course of a term, a circuit judge might handle a wide variety of cases including criminal, family law, probate, civil litigation, state and local tax disputes, and more. His experience is narrow, but it’s also deep. So while it’s something to consider it’s not a deal breaker. As far as background and credentials, Goodman checks off a lot of the right boxes. He earned his Bachelor’s degree and law degree from Cornell University. He’s admitted to federal courts in both Florida and Michigan, including two federal circuits and the US Supreme Court. He’s a member of various bar associations, involved with community organizations, and he’s “AV” rated by Martindale-Hubbell. The politics are interesting. This is Goodman’s third run for judge. He lost an open seat race in 2010, and a fairly close race against Judge Alvarez in 2012. That 2012 race means a lot. There is a terrible unwritten rule in the legal community that you’re not supposed to run against a sitting judge. The state Constitution mandates that judges have to run for reelection. It’s also hard. Sitting judges are also generally popular and hard to beat. Goodman took some heat for running against an incumbent, when he should be admired for swimming upstream. You can look at those previous campaigns two ways: He lost twice so he must not be a great candidate; or he’s gotten valuable experience and gotten his name out there so that makes him a stronger candidate. Running close to a sitting judge is a sign of the latter. One of the funny things about the campaign is a reflection of life in South Florida. Goodman mentions prominently in his campaign that he was born in Queens and went to school in upstate New York. We’re not sure but this might be the only place in the world where a candidate would feature that he’s from somewhere else. There’s one big question we ask judge candidates: Why do you want to be a judge? No candidate yet has given us a good answer. Someday we’ll meet one who does. We previously interviewed Peggy Rowe-Linn running for the same seat. We had lunch with her at the Original Pancake House in Somerset Shoppes. And before that we met with Jessica Ticktin at Panera in Mission Bay running for a different seat on the Circuit Court. We have reached out to the other candidates in their races but have not received any response so far. If any of our readers has connections to the campaigns of Judge Diana Lewis or Maxine Dianne Cheesman, please let them know we’d be happy to meet with them in West Boca to talk about their campaigns. At this point we expect to make endorsements in both races. If we don’t hear from them, we will not consider them for endorsement.