Posted Under: Important Issues for Fort Lauderdale
My take on last night’s Forum with the Council of Civic Associations
I participated in last night’s Candidate Forum sponsored by the Council of Civic Associations at City Hall.
It reinforces my belief about the way these forums are set up: They don’t work! Changes need to be made to these events if audience members want anything more than canned “sound bites” from candidates.
Last night, nine candidates attended (seven Commission candidates and two Mayoral candidates). Five previously prepared questions were asked from the Council and each candidate had to answer the same question in two minutes or less. After the fourth or fifth candidate responded to the same question, you could start see the audience’s eyes glaze over; they were hearing much the same thing over and over again. If you were the ninth candidate answering the same question, nobody was really listening to you.
The other problem with these forums is they do not allow debate. I would have loved to have challenged Jack on what I consider to be his lack of leadership and failures as Mayor, but the forums do not allow that. The only little spat Jack and I got into was when Jack said I was “arrogant” to write a Vision for Fort Lauderdale. I countered by letting people know that the 20-Chapter Vision I wrote was not arrogance, it was Leadership.
I was stunned to hear Commissioners Roberts and Rogers (and our Mayor of course…) sit there and say they felt our budget was the “right size” at $635 Million, twice the size of our budget just 8 years ago… Commissioner Rogers deliberately misstated the truth when he said that our budget is balanced (it has not been balanced for the last three years), and that we had a “healthy reserve” of $50 million (when it was 80 million just three years ago)!
The best line of the evening came from Commission candidate Jackie Scott. After hearing Mayor Seiler and Commissioner Rogers talk about our City’s budget (“nothing’s wrong with our budget”, “everything’s under control”, etc, etc.), she said simply (about their comments): “I’m not buying what they’re selling”.
So I am repeating what I said two weeks ago: I will meet Jack Seiler anytime, anyplace, if he will openly debate me on the critical issues pertaining to our City. Jack needs to publicly account for the poor decisions he has made over the last three years, including:
- Why he feels it’s fiscally responsible to siphon off more than 20 million dollars from our Reserves to cover budget gaps?
- Why hasn’t he implemented formal procedures to reduce the growing unfunded pension liability?
- Why has he deliberately misled the public about the budget? He has not reduced the budget; it’s grown more than $35 Million since he has taken office!
- Why he waited more than two years before starting the process to find a qualified City Manager?
- Why he waited until 3am just days before City Manager Gretsas departure before even asking the question: “What are we going to do about a new City Manager?”
- Why does he feel it’s acceptable to talk in generalities (aka: sound bites) without giving people an honest answer to a straight forward question?
- Why did he give current City Manager Lee Feldman a lifetime employment contract as City Manager? Why did he include an expensive “golden parachute” in the contract (when previously he said he would not)? He was either indifferent to his responsibilities as Mayor or he’s an incompetent employment contract negotiator.
- Why did he squash the debate about looking at power alternatives to Florida Power and Light two years ago? Could there be some back room “quid pro quo” going on?
- Why is he saying that he has reduced City headcount when in reality, he has just eliminated vacant positions?
- Why does he keep pushing for one particular Developer to build a new swimming complex near the Beach, without having the City do a background check on their questionable qualifications?
- Why does he feel he can take credit for 8 new parks when these parks were already decided on before he came in to office?
The deliberate misrepresentations on the part of our Mayor are disappointing. He needs to account for his actions and statements over the last three years. These Forums do not allow that.
I believe we need to have a Mayor that is judged on the substance of their accomplishments, not on the slipperiness of their rhetoric! Remember to Vote this week at the ARTSERVE or Main Libraries, or on Election Day on Tuesday Jan 31!
What are your thoughts?
Candidate for Mayor of Fort Lauderdale