Whether the city-owned War Memorial Auditorium should allow guns shows to continue and an LGBT-related fundraiser in Miami were two of many issues raised at a mayoral and District 2 commissioner candidate forum Feb. 26 in Fort Lauderdale.
Dean Trantalis and Bruce Roberts are on the ballot to be the next mayor of Fort Lauderdale. The two joined Steve Glassman and Tim Smith, who are vying to be the next District 2 commissioner, at a debate in front of a full room at ArtServe.
The general election is March 13.
In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, moderator Brittany Wallman of the Sun Sentinel quickly asked Trantalis and Roberts if they thought the Florida Gun Shows company should be allowed to continue to host its annual events at War Memorial.
“It’s a sin that we allow it to happen,” Trantalis said. “Every year I ask it to be discontinued. We shouldn’t have to wait for 17 children to die to know what the right thing to do is.”
Trantalis and Roberts both agreed the venue wasn’t appropriate — a place where children often play and have activities at Holiday Park.
Roberts, who is a vice mayor/city commissioner for District 1, and former police chief, said he also supports a ban on the sales of automatic weapons and high capacity magazines to those under 21.
“As a former police officer, we don’t want to face these weapons,” Roberts said. “We need to harden our schools and work with the school board to have one point of entry and exit. It’s a cost, but worth it. Our schools need to be treated like airports,” he said, acknowledging that the issue is a state legislative responsibility, but that municipal leaders can ask the state for help.
Trantalis was asked about criticism lobbed his way by accepting support from the national group Victory Fund, who held a fundraiser for him in Miami recently. Victory Fund supports the election of LGBT candidates.
“I’m a gay man, is there a secret about that?” said Trantalis to chuckles in the audience. Trantalis would be the first openly gay mayor of Fort Lauderdale if elected. He is now a city commissioner for District 2.
“Not all [campaign] money comes from [within the] boundaries of Fort Lauderdale,” he said. Trantalis said he was able to recently spend time with the executive director of the Victory Fund, former Houston mayor Annise Parker, and learn about how that city deals with problems and how some solutions could be applied to Fort Lauderdale.
“It was a great education,” said Trantalis, adding that he didn’t understand the criticism by being supported by the Washington D.C.-based group. “I learn from as many people as possible.”
Roberts contends his criticism of the Miami event and Victory Fund is “not so much the organization, but the location.”
“I think influence from outside the area and the state takes away from the localness [of the campaign],” he said.
Here are some quick takes on other issues discussed by the candidates.
Trantalis and Roberts would both replace certain leaders and department heads at the city if elected, although Trantalis said there needs to be “a clean sweep.”
“The Wave” streetcar
Trantalis does not support the project and would try to get out of the contract. Roberts said the current configuration does not work and he would look at alternatives.
Both said traffic in Fort Lauderdale is a big problem and concern, and that lane-narrowing projects need to be studied and considered.
Medical marijuana dispensaries
Trantalis proposes a “one dispensary per district” plan, while Roberts said there should be limitations and he doesn’t want to lose “home rule” on the issue.
Both candidates said taking monies from the water and sewer fund was a bad idea and that the money needs to be restored to shore up sewer lines that overflowed on Fort Lauderdale streets last summer.
“We need to define what is good growth and not good growth,” said Trantalis. Roberts said: “People are going to continue to move here because of our quality of life and we’ll have to deal with it.”