A political forum this week afforded residents of Broward County’s District 9 the opportunity to ask questions of candidates seeking to gain a commission seat in that district.
The Tuesday, July 20 event, dubbed Broward Votes!, took place at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale.
Miami Herald columnist Joy-Ann Reid, who also serves as the editor of The Reid Report, a political blog, was the moderator.
Launched by the Urban League of Broward County in 2008, Broward Votes! is a non-partisan initiative that hosts a series of political forums focusing on electoral seats that encompass the central Broward region.
In response to residents’ questions regarding “what is going on,” Lauderhill City Commissioner Margaret M. Bates responded, “What’s going on is greed,” adding that “If you do something and get away with it, it’s easier the next time.”
Honesty is “a behavior, not just a word,” said Bates, who is a candidate for the District 9 seat.
Incumbent District 9 County Commissioner Albert C. Jones was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to replace Josephus Eggelletion, who is serving time in federal prison for money laundering and other charges related to public corruption.
Jones said the “caliber of the person coming into an office” is the problem, and said that “some in politics have lost their way.”
Bates and Jones, along with District 9 commission candidates Lauderhill City Commissioner Dale V. C. Holness and former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Carlton Moore, faced off in the July 20 political forum.
Heated topics included alleged “big” spending by the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Jones’ decision to “return” to the Democratic Party after a stint as a Republican.
Haitian community activist Aude Sicard and write-in candidate Marie K. Leon did not attend. All candidates are Democrats.
“We do this so that officials don’t overlook the needs and concerns of residents who are most at risk, in need and disenfranchised,” ULBC’s director of special events
Andrea Owes said. “Given that it’s another election year, this is another opportunity to reach out, to touch those in Central Broward. That’s where most of our services are concentrated.”
The County Commission District 9 seat, Owes said, “is hot right now, and people want to know what’s going on with it.”
District 9’s southern city is Plantation. It stretches west to Sunrise and Tamarac, and north and northeast to parts of Lauderdale Lakes, North Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach Oakland Park and Wilton Manors.
During the debate, constituents were allowed one question, which could be oral or written. Each candidate was given two minutes to provide a response.
Broward resident Hobart James described BSO as “the biggest spender of any office in Broward County,” and asked each candidate what they would “do about it, specifically.”
All constitutional offices, Bates responded, need a special source of funding and should be held accountable.
“BSO is using scare tactics,” Bates said. “They are telling people that they will have to close the jails and let the people out.”
Holness added that BSO “has money to spend” but needs to “stay within their limits by cutting at the top before touching the bottom.”
BSO, according to Jones, has been “getting dollars” from the Broward County Commission.
“They simply need to utilize them in the best way they can.”
Moore added: “The best way is to give him [Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti] his own budget. If [BSO] can’t operate within the millage rates, vote him out.”
When faced with several written questions regarding changing party affiliations, Jones offered, “I am a Democrat.”
Jones explained: “I did not switch, I returned; made a change,” citing health care reform and Senate Bill 6, the controversial “teacher tenure” legislation vetoed by Gov. Crist, as reasons.
When asked to explain the difference between “switching and returning,” Jones offered: “When you leave home, you don’t switch, you return. This party is my home.”
The next Broward Votes! political forum on July 27 will afford residents an opportunity to hear from county and circuit court judicial candidates.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Lauderhill City Commissioner Margaret M. Bates
IF YOU GO
WHAT: County and Circuit Court Judicial Candidate Forum
WHERE: African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., near Fort Lauderdale.
WHEN: Tuesday, July 27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
COST: Free and open to the public.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
The last day for voter registration: July 26.
Early voting: Aug. 9 – 21.
For more information about early voting dates, hours and sites, visit the Broward County Supervisor of Elections’ Web site, browardsoe.org.