The people had questions. The candidates, for the most part, gave answers.

On Aug. 1, candidates for city commission and mayor met at Hagen Park Community Center for a Meet the Candidates forum. Incumbent commissioner (and Vice-Mayor) Paul Rolli, Roy David Walker, and Don D’Arminio are vying for two seats. Mayor Scott Newton is running for re-election against Boyd Corbin. Corbin was invited but did not attend.

Topics ranged from skyrocketing housing prices, making the city as diverse as it claims to be, and their vision for developing the oft-neglected westside. Questions came from moderators including Katina Caraganis of The New Pelican, Wilton Manors resident C. Randall Alan, Al Ferguson from Happening Out Television, and John Hayden representing SFGN.

The questioning started with a look at Oakland Park becoming the next destination for LGBT visitors and transplants, and how Wilton Manors can keep up. Newton said Wilton Manors is not Oakland Park, that Wilton Drive is quieter and will soon have trees. Rolli said changes are being made to attract more residents, while Walker suggested marketing the city to other LGBT populations. D’Arminio cited changes to TOCs to lure desired development.

Hayden asked about the future of WiltonNext, a marketing study to plan the future of the city that has been met with harsh criticism. Newton said he could have done a better job himself and said it’s one of his biggest disappointments in office. Others echoed that sentiment and essentially want to move on. As for the westside, an area that feels overlooked, they were asked about their vision. On both issues they called for more community input but basically spoke broadly without laying out any specific development for specific areas.

Wilton Manors Business Association (WMBA) presented the event, along with print partner South Florida Gay News and broadcast partner, Happening Out Television Network. Afterward, WMBA President Peter Jackson said these types of events are critical to the integrity of local government.

“This was extraordinary. It is an important event for us to have and invite this political discourse. There are a lot of horrible things happening as far as LGBTQ rights are concerned, and it’s important that we know who we’re electing.”

You can watch the forum online on Queer News Tonight, YouTube.

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