During a debate at the July 9, 2014 Fort Lauderdale Beach Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca surrendered conservative Republicans’ most reliable weapon against liberal Democrats. LaMarca, a Republican, said his Democrat opponent, Ken Keechl was, “Pretty Fiscally Conservative.” Painting Democrats as “tax and spend Liberals” helped forge the Reagan revolution of the 1980s and lead to Republican control over Florida government. In response to a question regarding a tax increase, LaMarca said, “I agree, when he represented me…Keechl was pretty fiscally conservative.”
Earlier in the debate, Chip LaMarca said he would support a tax increase to help build a convention center hotel. LaMarca said, “[I] absolutely support expanding the bed tax as a funding source” for the hotel. Keechl shot back, saying LaMarca used bed taxes as a “giveaway” to the Florida Panthers. Keechl was not in favor of expanding the bed tax. He said, “I’ve seen government waste so much money, so easily.”
Last week, Keechl once again blasted LaMarca for approving bed tax giveaways to the Florida Panthers. During a debate in Oakland Park, Keechl said he was, “Very disappointed watching [LaMarca]…Basically it’s almost like he’s in love with the Panther millionaires.” Keechl told the audience LaMarca ignored the County Auditor when he voted to give the Panthers a $7.7 million dollar loan to build an exclusive club level at the BB&T Center. In 2013, LaMarca supported the purchase a new scoreboard costing more than 4 million dollars.
On Sunday, Keechl made the same argument on the Local 10 News program, This Week In South Florida With Michael Putney. LaMarca tried to defend the giveaway by claiming the money went to building improvements. He said these improvements would allow the taxpayer-owned BB&T Center to host special events such as the NHL hockey draft and a Jehovah’s Witness conference. LaMarca never mentioned the profits from these events go directly to the arena managment company owned by the Florida Panthers.
Now, Broward voters must ask themeselves whether Commissioner LaMarca sounds like a “fiscal conservative.”