The three candidates running for mayor of Wilton Manors participated in a forum focused on the trans community Tuesday.
The event was hosted and moderated by Transinclusive Group and Arianna’s Center, two local nonprofits serving the trans community.
Arianna Lint, the CEO of Arianna’s Center, was encouraged at the community’s engagement and openness of the mayoral candidates.
“It’s always a positive thing when our leaders are open to being educated by communities they serve,” she said. “It is, however, important to remember that, as our potential representative, it is also on them to educate themselves about the issues that affect their constituents.”
Meet the Candidates
There are three candidates running to be the next Mayor of Wilton Manors in the general election Nov. 3.
Josie Smith-Malave is a new face to politics in Wilton Manors. Smith-Malave is the owner of Bubbles & Pearls on Wilton Drive, and an award-winning chef. She is an Italian-Puerto Rican-Filipino who works to empower and mentor others.
Julie Carson is a current city commissioner. She served as vice mayor for the City of Wilton Manors from 2012-2014. She’s been committed to animal welfare and a champion for the rights of the elderly, transgender and disabled people.
Scott Newton grew up in Wilton Manors and has lived here for close to 60 years. He is a former mayor of Wilton Manors from 2004 to 2008 and previously served on the commission for 12 years. He currently sits on more than a dozen different boards.
Education, Communication and Policy Change
The first half of the town hall was a 40-minute Q&A. Each candidate was allotted two minutes per question.
“During my tenure as commissioner, I have continuously, consistently and collaboratively created space for the transgender and nongender conforming communities,” Carson said. “[I’ve brought] Black, Brown and White [people] to the table to discuss legislative action and policy in Wilton Manors.”
It was noted more transwomen of color have been killed in 2020 already than in all of 2019 in the U.S.
“I will ensure our city will stand against racism, prejudice, and particularly bigotry against the transgender community which is a societal carcinogen,” Carson said.
Newton spoke about leadership and how he would personally be the boots on the ground to help promote education and communication throughout the city.
“But we should already have laws in the books for transgender [people], that they don’t have – you know when they get beaten up or murdered,” Newton said. “And we do have those [laws]. It’s just not inclusive enough and that’s the problem with society. Everybody’s got to get their name in there, and it shouldn’t be that way. Everybody’s life matters.”
During Newton’s tenure on the commission, he supported domestic partnership benefits, as well as making a significant push to require companies to have contracts in the city to assure equal treatment of LGBT employees.
Solutions; Advisory boards and Community Outreach
All three of the candidates spoke about how vulnerable the trans community is and how there is a dire need for support and services.
Transgender and gender-nonconforming people face housing instability and homelessness at alarming rates. It was noted that over half of the trans community makes less than $15,000 per year.
“I will continue to do what I can for the [transgender] community but I don’t know what specifically, exactly you need, unless you tell me,” Newton said. “Even though I’ve been reading for the last week or two about the needs of the trans community. Like healthcare is a big thing, like homeless[ness]. There are other things that are going on, we need to make sure we are all viable people in this community.”
Malave-Smith suggested creating a trans-focused advisory board and task force.
“Dynamic exchanges ensued on topics ranging from healthcare accessibility, business incentives, housing opportunity, violence, diversity, racism, and bigotry,”
Carson added. “The thoughtful questioning by moderators provoked meaningful dialogue that focused on how to best create space and place at the table, and increase success, community involvement, employment, and political clout of those who are transgender or gender non-conforming.”
Lint expressed it’s encouraging to hear that the candidates are eager for change but wants to drive home the importance of action.
“With nationwide racial reckoning we are experiencing, it was encouraging to hear from the candidates that they are committed to addressing racial disparities in Wilton Manors,” she said. “It’s exciting to hear the candidates speak about their willingness to center and empower trans leadership and entrepreneurship.”
Lint is hopeful the conversation sparked new discussions which will lead to change.
Smith-Malave loves her city but notes the racial disparities.
“I recognized a disconnect between our city’s reputation as an inclusive [community] and the [lack of ] representation of diversity sitting at the table,” Smith-Malave said. “I’m not only running for office to move our city forward in regards to economic growth and development, but to move our city forward as a truly united and inclusive city. It is time to have the minority’s voice at the table, and it is time to celebrate our differences and strengthen our citywide pride beyond the rainbow flag.”
Arianna’s Center and Transinclusive Group are planning a virtual town hall when the new mayor is elected.
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