rashawn_banks_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

FORT LAUDERDALE — Several black candidates are vying for seats in the Broward County elections that will draw voters to the polls starting this weekend. Among the county’s hot races is the District 9 commission seat in which incumbent Dale V.C. Holness, 55, faces stiff opposition from Robert McKinzie, 50.

McKinzie, whose campaign slogan is “A Man of Integrity,” owns a general contracting company. Currently residing in District 1, McKinzie said that once elected he will “relocate to District 9” to one of the four properties he owns just off Sistrunk Boulevard.

Holness, a real estate professional, uses the slogan “Forward Together,” which he says speaks to his desire to end what he says is the division among residents.

Holness, who is completing his first term, said that his top priority is economic development and job creation. “I will continue to encourage businesses to locate here, bringing high-paying jobs so that our residents can work closer to home,” he said.

As of July 27, Holness had raised $86,330.50 for his campaign, according to his candidate financial report summary.

The district, spanning parts of Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, North Lauderdale, Lauderdale Lakes, Lauderhill, Pompano Beach, Sunrise, Tamarac and Plantation, has a population of about 200,000. The 70 percent black district also has the highest unemployment rates in the county despite efforts at redevelopment. 

The race also includes write-in candidate Andrea I. Miller, who could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, four of the five candidates for the District 5 Broward School Board seat are blacks. They are Tory Alston, 27, chief of staff for Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief; Ruth Roman Lynch, 59, a 30-year corporate veteran who now works as a consultant; Rosalind Osgood, adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University and minister of Christian education at New Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale; and educator Christopher Hugley Sr. They are seeking to succeed Benjamin Williams, who is retiring. 

One of the major focal points of the system has to be graduation rates, Alston said. “I won’t be satisfied until we have a 100 percent graduation rate for all of our children. And we need to focus on our black males … bring vocational programs back into our high schools. We have to focus on our ‘C’ students, pushing them to ‘A’ status,” he said.

Lynch said that there is need for more money in the classroom. “If you have unhappy teachers, you have unhappy kids. The teachers in this school system have not had a raise in the last four years. That’s a travesty, especially when you have an administration that is getting raises,” she said.

In order to expect change, things need to be done in a nontraditional manner, Osgood said.

“We need to be innovative in our approach to educate our children (and) try some nontraditional things.

“Perhaps we can examine same-sex middle schools for boys where the schools are led by men —teachers and principals. We have to do the same for little girls — provide them female leadership. Science has proven that this works,” she said.

Hugley, the only candidate with children currently enrolled in public school, said that District 5 has “the most charter schools, failing schools and highest non-parental involvement than any other district in the county. And this needs to be turned around if we are serious about our children having a great future.”

On the county court group 10 judges’ ballot, attorney Roshawn Banks is the lone African American and female.

She faces incumbent Robert Diaz.

Brenda Snipes, supervisor of elections, is running unopposed.

Barbara Houstin Wilson 75, education consultant and retired school district administrator is the only African American in the race for the school board at large District 9 seat.

Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net

Photo: Roshawn Banks