Two seats on the Wilton Manors Commission are up for grabs in the Nov. 8 general election as campaign season kicks into high gear.
Three candidates are vying for the two seats. The top two vote-getters are elected to a four-year term.
Why have you decided to run for mayor/commissioner?
Since moving to Wilton Manors from the east coast nearly 15 years ago, I immediately felt a connection, a sense of belonging … an instant affinity with the Island City. The people were (and still are) very friendly, genuine and welcoming; this led Marc and I to quickly become active in numerous organizations and we encountered many causes that we were drawn to.
As time went on, I became increasingly involved in community projects and also began advocating on behalf of a number of Quality of Life issues – I became known as “the guy who’ll get it done for you.” Eventually I combined my personal passion of helping people to find solutions to their challenges with my desire to be of even greater service to the community in a more formal way. This led to my accepting an appointment to the Wilton Manors Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board, of which I served for six (6) years (including leadership roles as Vice Chair and Board Chair, respectively.) I recognize that Wilton Manors is somewhat of a hidden gem that is bursting with untapped potential which requires us to move forward intelligently...together. I am ready, able and willing to serve as City Commissioner and join forces with the amazing residents of Wilton Manors to take our beloved Island City to its next level of excellence. So much lies ahead and I am excited at the opportunity to be a positive change agent to work toward ensuring an even greater quality of life for ALL residents of Wilton Manors. I am extremely passionate about growing our City strategically in order to ensure that our budget is both sustainable and fiscally responsible. It is imperative that we maintain the quality and integrity of our single-family neighborhoods and the "small town feel" that we have all come to love about Wilton Manors.
Lastly, the safety, protection and well-being of all of our residents is a top priority, along with making sure our infrastructure upgrades are properly funded for our current residents and the City’s anticipated growth.
What are your qualifications?
I have served on the Wilton Manors Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board, and previously held leadership roles as both Vice Chair and Board Chair, respectively. My tenure on the P&Z Board
has helped me to develop a thorough understanding of our city's code. During my six-year tenure on this board, I NEVER missed a single meeting. I am a very active and engaged
member of the Wilton Manors community, attending all city workshops, planning sessions, and most commission meetings. In regard to community involvement, my partner (Marc) and I are huge supporters of our local charities and have regularly hosted fundraising events at our home and other venues. We've been honored to “give back” to our beloved community for more than a decade. One of the most recent events was a Holiday Party for the Pet Project in Wilton Manors, which raised over $22,000 for this organization. Over the past year, we've also held events for SunServe, Equality Florida, Plays of Wilton, World AIDS Museum and the South Florida Symphony Orchestra.
List your top issues of concern:
My priorities for the City include focusing on the following three (3) major issues:
- Traffic Calming & Walkability to ensure that our residents and visitors are kept safe.
- Greater emphasis on our City's Aging Infrastructure.
- Approving a Sustainable City Budget to make sure that our Police Department is properly funded – and that this continues to be an ongoing goal as it relates to ensuring the safety and protection for our residents and visitors.
How long have you lived in the city?
I have been a proud resident of Wilton Manors for the last 14 years.
Please provide your chief criticism (if any) of the WiltonNext study:
The WiltonNext study recommends branding Andrews Avenue as a “Wellness District” — I do not agree with this. The Andrews Avenue Corridor (“The Avenue”) serves as a huge opportunity for the city to expand its most concentrated commercial footprint beyond that of Wilton Drive and into this very underutilized, underdeveloped area for business expansion/growth on the Westside. “The Avenue” needs to be appealing and inviting (which includes enhanced walkability and implementing traffic calming measures) to attract business development. In turn, this will provide needed goods and services to support our Westside residents.
Our city should focus on attracting restaurants/cafes, coffee shops, bakeries, florists, specialty boutiques, professional service providers (healthcare, lawyers, etc.), as well as micro-business collaboration spaces. The aforementioned will enhance the quality of life for our Westside residents while also creating a “small town, neighborhood feel” with places to gather, celebrate and simply enjoy life in Wilton Manors.
Are you married, kids, partner, etc.?
I’m very happily partnered for 25 years with Marc Martorana, and our family is rounded out by our two adorable rescues – Dustin, and our youngest Ollie.
What is your age, profession, job, etc.?
I am 60 years of age and spent more than 25 years in the corporate world working as an Accounting and Tax Professional – which includes being employed with Verizon (11 years), and
Scholastic (15 years), respectively. Prior to retiring from my position with Scholastic (as Director of State Taxes), I was responsible for compliance, audits, budgets & state tax strategic
planning for all corporate subsidiaries. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Montclair State University with a major in Business Administration and concentration in Accounting.
Does the city have a lack of affordable housing, and if so what can be done about it?
Yes. The entire South Florida region is experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and this unfortunately includes the City of Wilton Manors. In Wilton Manors, we need to change our City Code to encourage and make it desirable for construction developers to build affordable housing units. The City can offer realistic, doable incentives; in addition to relaxing some development-related rules and zoning requirements. I was on the Planning & Zoning Board for six (6) years and voted in support of the 48-unit affordable housing community built at the Pride Center at Equality Park. Moving forward, I would use this development as a prime example of possible future affordable housing projects in Wilton Manors.
Do you favor legalizing all forms of cannabis for recreational and medical use?
I have always been supportive of the use of medical marijuana and am open to the possibility of legalizing cannabis for recreational use. However, on this issue I would reach out to prospective constituents to gain their views/concerns as well as assess the results of future voter referendum(s) on legalizing all forms of cannabis use.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments?
Professionally, one of my biggest accomplishments was being appointed by City Commissioners to serve three (3) consecutive two-year terms on the Wilton Manors Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board – and subsequently elected by my Board colleagues to the leadership roles of Vice Chair and Board Chair, respectively. This community engagement opportunity allowed me to be able to “pay it forward” while also applying my extensive career/professional/life experiences to be of even greater service to this unique city of which I so proudly call home. At a personal level, what deeply touches me and I’d cite as one of my biggest accomplishments, would be saving the lives of our two rescues when they were pups. Dustin (who is now 14) and our youngest, Ollie, have brought an immense amount of joy, energy and life into our household, and in return we happily shower them with every ounce of warmth and love that they give to us. This is something that no amount of money or even material possessions could ever buy or replace.
Is there a city department that is underperforming and why?
In my unique position of citizen, community advocate and follower of city government happenings, I get to hear lots of feedback regarding the operation and dealings that take place within the city. I would say that the greatest number of negative comments I encounter are from individuals experiencing difficulties regarding (Building) Permit Applications. The most pressing issues center around the lack of communication and clear, concise procedures and extremely lengthy turnaround times to receive permit approvals/clearance. I believe a greater awareness around implementing more effective, efficient, streamlined procedures as well as enhanced staff training, are great first steps in order to better serve our residents.
Are city employee wages fair and livable?
Historically, Wilton Manors’ city employee wages have been below average. This has resulted in employee turnover rates as high as 25% — which includes our Police Department. The City Commission recently had an independent study done and from this learned that in order to bring employee wages up to where they should be (to be competitive), the City would need to allocate approximately $375,000 in additional funds. I'm glad that our City Commission recently supported this finding, and that salary increases have been approved for City Employees. I FULLY SUPPORT THIS.
I would also point out that the increased density guidelines for development proposed for the City of Wilton Manors will increase our tax base and City Property Tax Revenue. This is one key component to establishing a Sustainable City Budget. Employee salaries are the largest component of our City Budget. This increased revenue will allow for us to allocate appropriate increases to employees’ wages going forward.
Are you in favor of annexing Lazy Lake? Why or why not?
I would definitely be open to hearing all sides of such a proposition and then digging deeper into any impact/research studies that would be needed in order to properly address this
matter. Although this annexation could present an opportunity to expand the tax base of Wilton Manors, I would not be in favor of annexing Lazy Lake if it is shown that it could/would have
an adverse impact upon the City’s physical (and social) infrastructure, financial stability, and/or quality of life of our residents.
What businesses does the city need and why?
With the ever-increasing costs of leasing commercial property in Wilton Manors, many would-be businesses will never see the light of day and a number that are currently operating will eventually have to close their doors due to this huge expense. The city needs to work with commercial property owners and developers to introduce and promote “collaborative business
spaces.” These innovative locations will provide shared space for multiple businesses to operate under one roof – a collaborative approach for one-stop shopping. This will allow for lower rents to be paid by the individual business operators and ideally provide them with an increased capacity for sustainability and success.
Are you in favor of merging WMPD with BSO?
No. With respect to the Wilton Manors Police Department, safety is one of my top priorities. It is with this in mind that it is critical that we maintain our distinct, City-focused Wilton Manors Police Department/WMPD, as opposed to merging with the county’s larger Broward Sheriff’s Office/BSO.