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The First Amendment Means Nothing in Cooper City

The First Amendment Means Nothing in Cooper City

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Published by: commissioner_sims on Jun 15, 2011
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06/15/2011

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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." According to the lawsuit, the city has discriminated against houses of worship for 30 years by relegating them to the western, agriculturallyzoned borders of Cooper City in order to protect its "valuable tax base." "It's about money in Cooper City," Zemel said in one article I 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... Mayor Debby did not comment to the Sun-Sentinel, again using the excuse that there is "a pending lawsuit." The new City Attorney David Wolpin and attorney who is handling the case (possibly poorly at best) Michael Burke "could not be reached for comment." Heck, I can't even get a comment out of the attorney's and at the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, I think we are owed at least an update on where we stand and why! 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, but the Commission may very well be individually liable based on the common law doctrine announced in Fundiller v. City of Cooper City which stated that due process rights are violated no matter what process precedes, accompanies, or follows the unconstitutional action, and that "substantive due process is violated when the government engages in actions that offend those canons of decency and fairness." According to our lawyer David Wolpin, the city has a right to limit the number of religious institutions allowed in one shopping center. Maybe he is wrong... 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. For that reason alone it was limited to three according to my recollection of the discussions held at the May commission meeting. It's not discrimination, it's called common sense. Some have said "This so-called chabad aren't really fighting for their rights; they are out to commit judicial robbery! After what happened in Hollywood, they simply have found a way to make money, and this is their vehicle. No other religious groups around are as unscrupulous as these folks.", and "The same religious group with the same attorney, hell bent on

being above the law and raking in the millions. What a shame how RLUPA is being blatantly abused for the almighty dollar." 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. Maybe the city should consider a countersuit. Maybe that will prove that he has our (at least my) 'attention'. 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 specifically 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.

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