Earl Maucker, commissioner, Lighthouse Point; former editor, Sun Sentinel

Last week: We learn this week that exports are down with some of South Florida's top trading partners in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet there is an enormous opportunity for trade and development in Cuba that we continue to ignore because it is politically incorrect. Our governor and political leaders should be taking the lead in exploring the possibilities – but alas, they won't. While they have their heads in the sand, ports in Texas and Louisiana may well trump the logical connection between Cuba and Florida. Shameful.

Sept. 1

Last week: Cypress Bay Football Coach Mark Guandolo whacks one of his players upside the helmet and it gets caught on video resulting in the incident being blown out of proportion. The good news is Guandolo appears to be a stand-up guy and is sincere and humble in his apologies. Parents and students rush to his defense. His two-week suspension from athletic activities is appropriate if for no other reason than it's a reminder that adults who work with kids need to be able to control their emotions even in the most frustrating times. Lessons learned.

Looking ahead: The next few weeks will be interesting as municipalities and tax-funded agencies throughout Broward County conduct public hearings on proposed budgets for the coming year. Which ones can hold the line on tax rates and which ones will raise rates — even as property values go up and more revenues are flowing into public coffers. Many communities are paying the price of unfunded pensions and past salary increases that cannot be sustained. One need to look no further than the BSO — which is seeking 7 percent increases for deputies among other increases — to see how current policy negatively impacts the future.

Aug. 25

Last week: Kudos to Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish for the recent crackdown on agricultural property exemptions.  She is a huge asset - one of the most knowledgeable officials in the county accounting for millions in legitimate taxpayer dollars to our communities.  Anyone who wants to play games with Lori Parrish does so at their own risk.

Next week: We'll be watching with lots of interest as Sheriff Scott Israel seeks to trim his budget over the coming weeks. Let's hope the county commission stays tough. We see 5 percent contract raises plus 2 percent cost of living increases for deputies! How many in the private sector are getting 7 percent salary hikes this year? Perhaps if Israel cut back some of the political paybacks and public relations efforts rather than threatening to cut jobs and critical services, we'd all be better served.

Aug. 18

Last week: We read this week that a rabbi/activist/lawyer/father is continuing a lawsuit against the Palm Beach County School District claiming that the schools deprive students of a proper education about "how humanity formed," among other complaints about curriculum. How about moving your kids to a faith-based school if you don't like the public system and give the taxpayers a break? This frivolous lawsuit should have been tossed by the judge years ago.

Aug. 11

Last week: Florida's race-based goals where the state has set higher expectations for Asians and White students and lower ones for Latino and Black students is appalling. Does anybody think American businesses set similar standards for their employees? Of course not. Is it any wonder our schools are failing our children?

Looking ahead: This week a tow truck driver was gunned down and the shooter wounded by BSO deputies. Every week we read more stories about brazen gun battles on the streets of South Florida. Clearly this isn't what the framers of our Constitution had in mind when they passed the Bill of Rights.

Aug. 4

This week: Well, we learn this week that the Broward School Board passed their $3 billion budget.  Since they approved $47 million in teacher raises, new buses and a dozen new police officers they couldn't make the number, so they approved yet another tax increase.  How convenient.  We already pay a disproportionate amount of taxes for schools. Frankly, the board's past history of spending doesn't instill a lot of confidence. Somebody's got some explaining to do. 

July 28

Last week: There seemed to be a whole host of stories on sleazy politicians this week. At least two of our elected officials apparently feel it's perfectly fine to lie to their constituents about where they live. Tamarac Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco who was arrested, suspended, cleared, and ultimately reinstated finds herself on the wrong end of an appellate ruling, while her colleague Patte Atkins-Grad remains the focus of a recall petition because of her relationship with corrupt developers. Then we have the mother of all sleaze — Anthony Weiner — whose outrageous behavior on the Internet would be funny if it wasn't so sad. What does this say about all of us who elect these numskulls.

July 21

Last week: The story of the week is one of those that always defies logic. The folks who live around the Waste Management's garbage dump known affectionally as Mt. Trashmore and are upset at the stench. Of course there were promises to get rid of the nasty smell, but really? Didn't they notice the size of that thing before they moved in? Haven't we all wondered about the people who move next to an airport and then complain about the noise? Perhaps there was a reason why that house was such a good buy.

Looking ahead: The story that will continue to garner lots of attention is the grading system for public schools. It's clearly broken. There have been so many changes and the politics surrounding the issue are unstoppable. This is one of those examples that the best intentions — improving education and creating accountability — were doomed from the beginning because of all the special interests involved. The best approach may be to start all over with something much less complicated where everybody is involved before the strategy is implemented.

July 7