Burnadette Norris-Weeks moderated a heated forum featuring Fort Lauderdale’s mayoral candidates, incumbent Mayor Dean Trantalis and his challenger Ken Cooper.
There isn’t much that Trantalis and Cooper agree on, and it became more than apparent on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 15 during a virtual forum with all the mayoral and commission candidates.
Cooper has been consistently critical about the current commission and Trantalis. He likens the pace and overdevelopment of luxury condominiums on the U.S. 1 corridor to New York City.
During the forum, Cooper was extremely vocal about his view on the current commission’s overspending and alleged mismanagement of funds for cosmetic updates for the City of Fort Lauderdale and the lack of funding for infrastructures, such as sewer and water lines, water plant, and police stations.
“[This] commission is kicking the can down the road, [and its] proof is in the pudding. A prime example is the sewers; you’ve 50-year-old sewer pipes — they’re beyond the life span,” Cooper said. “Same issue with the water pipes and the water plant. Why is it always a crisis? The city’s management is run by crisis management and not foresight or planning.”
Trantalis exploded back, “I am so outraged by what this gentleman just said — it’s filled with misconceptions; this community should not be burdened by what he just said.”
Trantalis noted much of the city’s problems started with the previous city manager, Lee Feldman. Many of the recurring issues that were facing the city were never dealt with.
Feldman was fired from his position last October and replaced by Chris Lagerbloom on Jan. 1 of this year.
“Go down any street in any neighborhood and we are rebuilding, we’re moving in a fast forward. This commission is a can-do commission,” Trantalis said. “We’ve got stadiums, we’re rebuilding the aquatics center, we’ve got infrastructure, and we’re saving people’s lives with our response during COVID-19.” The water and sewer pipe system in Fort Lauderdale has been deteriorating for years. There have been multiple reports of pipes bursting throughout the city since last year. In February, city officials warned pipes will continue to break.
According to the Sun Sentinel between Dec. 10 and Feb. 8, Fort Lauderdale’s crumbling sewer pipes spilled 211.6 million gallons of sewage into waterways and streets.
Vice Mayor Steven Glassman reminds Cooper that he was elected to commission only two years prior and states, “The police station has been kicked down the road from previous administrations for years and years.”
Incumbent Vice Mayor/Commissioner Glassman was sworn into his first term as a city commissioner for District 2 on March 20, 2018. Glassman said he understands the intricacies of working with small and large governmental organizations. He has over a decade of experience working with the Cultural Arts Division of Broward County.
Here are some of what Trantalis and Glassman consider accomplishments over their time in office, with promises to do much more:
– Over 150 Public Works projects have been initiated, starting with storm drain installations
– Creating an Emergency Relief Program for small businesses recovering from COVID-19
– Creating more Affordable Housing Projects near the Downtown area
– Increases community engagement by establishing the District 2 Neighborhood President’s Roundtable.
– Approval for renovation for Fort Lauderdale’s Aquatics Center
– Modernizing the War Memorial Auditorium at Holiday Park with a partnership with the Florida Panthers hockey team
– Ending annual “raids” on the sewer and water funds which have been historically used to balance the books
– Downtown Master Plan
– Transportation and congestion due to traffic
– The need for affordable housing near the downtown area is a rising concern
– The influx of homelessness pre-COVID-19
– Water quality of the waterways (Tarpon River)
– Countermeasures addressing sea-level rise
Two things that are close to Glassman’s heart, renovation and preservation of the Annie Beck House and approving a landmark Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Ordinance for LGBT protections.
This past January, the current commission prioritized the improvement of infrastructure, updating the sewer and water mains, stormwater wells, and the seawalls.
Kyle Gibson is challenging Glassman for his seat in District 2. Gibson has been a pastor at the African Methodist Episcopal Church for the last two decades.
Gibson wants the city to be a leader when it comes to environmentally sound practices and pushing for sustainability and green energy. He’s taking a grassroots approach to fundraising and canvassing. He believes going door-to-door and starting conversations with his future constituents is the best way to harbor a relationship.