Originally Published in the January 2018 editions of Harbor News, The Landings News, Seven Isles News, Idlewyld Times, The Victoria Park News, Coral Ridge monthly, and Las Olas Community News.
Some irreverently call it “the silly season,” others dismiss local political campaigns as an inconvenient distraction. Both views fail to recognize that local elections, and the people we chose to govern our cities, have an impact on so many areas of our collective quality of life. Real taxes, traffic, water, sewer, what can be built next door, who can sell what and when, and the list goes on.
Local decisions become either a legacy or a burden for many years after they are made – and mostly, the consequences of those choices are never paid by those that made them – but by those that follow them. So, pay attention, and plan to vote!
Three people are running for the Office of Mayor of Fort Lauderdale; Bruce Roberts, Dean Trantalis, and Charlotte Rodstrom. Roberts and Trantalis are the incumbent city commissioners trying to move to higher office. Rodstrom also served on the Commission almost a decade ago, but her relentless neighborhood advocacy set her service apart.
The always erudite and eloquent Trantalis would make the best “ceremonial” mayor, but his lofty speech is rarely followed by courageous stands, which is a shame. But even so, he is a better choice than Roberts.
Roberts, a career bureaucrat, ran for the City Commission after a City Manager ousted him from his job as Police Chief. At the time, we all were hopeful that he could and would take tough stands against special interests and represent the residents. His public service has, to say the least, been disappointing. Not only has Roberts not stood up to the special-interests and protected the public interest – he has consistently advocated for the special interests against the public interest. No better example of this is his enthusiastic recent approval of the Bahia Mar project.
Bahia Mar proposed a massive development on property owned by the people of Fort Lauderdale on the beach. The developer currently leases the property from the City for an annual de minimis amount. The property value has been set at $200-300 million dollars. The Developer boasted that he would make somewhere between one and $1.5 Billion profit. What did the City Commission ask for the use of their property to build this massive development? Nothing.
Reasonable people may disagree about the scope of the Bahia Mar development proposal – but no could successfully argue that the City Commission with Roberts as its most ardent supporter – negotiated a fair deal for the City.
Add Bahia Mar to Roberts neglect of the city’s infrastructure, the uncontrolled development approvals and the one-sided police negotiations (remember the $300 million bonding of pension obligations), and you have a record that would make any lobbyist proud.
To be fair, Trantalis also served with Roberts but often voted against the rampant giveaways that mark the Roberts’ tenure. Unless you want more of the same – for Mayor, vote for Charlotte Rodstrom and hope for the best.
Five people are running in District II; Castrataro, Glassman, Maxey, Smith, and Zalewski.
Typically, in Fort Lauderdale, before a person becomes a candidate for the City Commission there is some history of civic involvement. Fighting this trend are newcomers Castrataro and Maxey. Both seem to be genuine, but Fort Lauderdale is like an NBA expansion team in city-speak where Castrataro and Maxey are still college players. I look forward to watching them play, but they just aren’t ready yet.
Zalewski is the embodiment of a question mark. Why is he running? I’ve seen him in three forums and still don’t know.
Now come Glassman and Smith. I like Steve Glassman. He has served admirably on city boards and certainly has the critical thinking ability to make a good city commissioner. Further, he was a strong opponent of the Bahia Mar giveaway and argued against the deal to a deaf city commission. As a fiscal conservative – I think his views of where policy should be in the city is similar to mine. But his most comfortable role is in an advisory one. That being the case, he is my second choice in this district.
Tim Smith is a remarkable public servant who served with distinction years ago on the City Commission. While I certainly did not agree with all his votes, no-one could ever say he didn’t do his homework. He has grown in the
intervening years and successfully created, managed, and sold a vacation rental destination in Georgia all while living on 13th street. Since the early 80’s, he has been involved in just about everything in the city and is known to be open, approachable and affable.
My favorite story about Tim was his short-lived advocacy of public transportation to alleviate traffic congestion. So, what did he do? For two weeks, he gave up his car and road the bus. That’s the kind of person Tim Smith is. In my view, he is precisely what our City Commission needs.
Vote for Tim Smith for District II, or if for some reason you are one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t like him – vote for Steve Glassman. I believe that either one will put the other on an advisory board.
Three people are running in District III; Guthrie, Huntley, and McKinzie.
McKinzie is synonymous to Roberts. Legitimate questions about his residency and past elections irregularities should, but hasn’t yet, disqualified McKinzie. His service on the Commission has not served his district, and he is
little more than a third vote for any developer or special-interest that Roberts’ likes.
Guthrie and Huntley are well known in their district, but not so much in the rest of the city – but either one would be an improvement on McKinzie.
In District III, vote for anyone but McKinzie.
Three people are running in District IV; Duke, Sorensen, Sturman.
I have been told by several people that Ben Sorensen is very likable. His main issues appear to be the homeless problem and sober homes. For those of us who have been involved in these matters at the county, state, and national levels, I give Ben a collective “Huh?”
But more critical, Fort Lauderdale has other more pressing and demanding issues. On these matters, he stands with Roberts and for that matter with lobbyist Stern. There are more than enough reasons not to select Sorensen – but the biggest is he is just not credible.
I have known and worked with Warren Sturman for many years, and he is a distinguished physician who has put his time in both in the city’s CERT program and as longtime president of the Rio Vista civic association. In fact, when I was chair of the Trauma Certification committee for the Cleveland Clinic – he came and testified with extreme professionalism, and it was in part due to his testimony that we denied the certificate of need and kept it at Broward Health (that’s a whole another story!).
But because I know Dr. Sturman so well, I know that the city commission is not for him. He would love getting there, but over a short time – he would hate it. He will tell you that I said this, and he would also tell you that he disagrees. He’s still my friend, and that’s precisely why I would I would not vote for him.
I have also known Walter Duke for some time. He is an extraordinary talent, businessman, father, husband and experienced public servant having won every election in which he ran. With all the complexities of modern society and challenges facing local governments – Walter Duke not only is professionally capable but enjoys the people who would become his constituents. He also knows how to move tedious meetings along.
If you think of the City Commission as a Board of a billion dollar company where we are shareholders, and you consider who you would want to represent our best interests on that board – inevitably you would choose Walter Duke to be that person.
For so many reasons, the best choice for District IV is without question is Walter Duke.
Mayor: Charlotte Rodstrom
District II: Tim Smith
District III: Anyone but McKinzie
District IV: Walter Duke
Remember to Vote January 16th! If you don’t vote – you don’t get to complain.