The Oakland Park City Commission discussed a proposal to rename part of 21st Avenue to Alcee Hastings Avenue in honor of the late Congressman Alcee Hastings.
The idea was proposed by Vice Mayor Michael Carn, who is also running for a position in the Florida House. He recommended renaming the stretch of street from Prospect Road to Northwest 26th Street, then asking Fort Lauderdale to get on board to continue the name north to Commercial Boulevard and south to Sunrise Boulevard.
Commissioners Aisha Gordon and Mitch Rosenwald were both in favor of the renaming.
“As a representative, he had an extraordinary career,” Rosenwald said during the discussion.
Hastings served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1993 until his death from pancreatic cancer on April 6, 2021. He first represented the 23th District, then the 20th District. He also served as a judge of the 17th Judicial Court of Florida from 1977 to 1979, then was nominated by former President Jimmy Carter in 1979 as a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. That nomination made him the first Black federal judge in Florida.
As a judge and a representative, he stood by the LGBT community, voting to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation, voting against banning gay adoption, and voting against defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, among others. In fact, he issued a congressional proclamation celebrating the first issue of SFGN.
“When HIV patients needed an advocate, or AIDS agencies needed a voice, he would be there, as the man who could stand up and be heard, fearless in his advocacy, demanding the government do more than the government had done,” SFGN publisher Norm Kent wrote in a tribute to Hastings.
However, his career did not come without controversy. In 2009, he was accused of spending more than $24,000 in taxpayer money to lease a Lexus, although the expenditure was found to be legal. He was also accused of sexual harassment in 2011 by a Winsome Packer, a former staff member, a claim he vehemently denied. In 2017, the federal government paid a $220,000 settlement, a move that Hastings disapproved of.
“At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made,” he said in a statement. “I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer.”
Commissioners said they did receive emails from residents who were not in favor of the resolution.
“Everybody has a past,” Carn said. “You go through the courts and you have your day in court to get done what you get done, but society is a society of redemption.”
Gordon agreed, saying his good deeds as a judge and congressmen outweighed possible impropriety.
Mayor Jane Bolin and Commissioner Matthew Sparks said that while they admire the legacy that Hastings left behind, they wondered if it was appropriate to rename a street in Oakland Park after him since he was not local.
“I guess what I want us all to be thinking about is when we think about renaming in Oakland Park, one of the things that came to me was we do that for residents — people who came from Oakland Park,” Bolin said. “I know he’s done a lot and brought a lot to our community and that isn’t to be ignored.”
Because of the late hour, the commission decided to table the discussion and continue it at a future meeting. City Manager David Hebert said he would investigate the cost of renaming a street, but he didn’t think it would be high.
Rosenwald’s proposal for an affordable housing/workforce housing plan was also moved to another meeting for a longer discussion.