|Posted by Anne Siren on March 14, 2013 at 3:40 PM|
Challengers favor city police department
By Michael d’Oliveira
Pompano Beach – Residents who showed up at Monday’s candidates forum at the E. Pat Larkins Center had many things on their minds. Two that came up the most were jobs and equitable funding of the East Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA] and Northwest CRA.
Melvin Samuels, of Small Biz; Walter Hunter, of the Greater Pompano Beach Democratic Club and Johnni Singletary, of NAILS, asked questions of the candidates.
Vince Johnson, of Small Biz, moderated. Mary Phillips, wife of Dist. 4 candidate and former commissioner Ed Phillips, serves as executive director of Small Biz.
David Baumwald, running against incumbent Lamar Fisher for mayor, said he would work to make sure that contractors who live in the city got more of the contracts doled-out by the city. He said he would also bring more attention to the city’s job placement programs and would make Pompano more business friendly. “I want businesses to say ‘we want to be in Pompano,’” said Baumwald. He also promised to personally talk to code enforcement officers with residents to resolve issues.
Mayor Lamar Fisher responded to those remarks saying he has a track record of working with businesses to bring in new development and new jobs. Whole Foods and Sports Authority, which will open locations at the old K-Mart on Federal Highway and Copans Road, and Marriott, which is building a new hotel on Ocean Boulevard, are companies Fisher has already brought into Pompano. Fisher added that the city has started awarding bids under $75,000 to contractors who live in the city.
Dist. 2 Commissioner Charlotte Burrie echoed Fisher, saying preference is given to locals first.
Thomas Terwilliger, Burrie’s opponent, also promised to hire more residents and said too much attention is given to the beach area at the cost of other areas of the city. “What about poor Dixie [Highway]?” he asked, adding that more needs to be done to develop local businesses.
District 4 challengers Joseph Wells and Phillips accused the city of taking money from the Northwest CRA and giving to the East CRA. “No money is going from the East CRA to the Northwest CRA and no money is going from the Northwest CRA to the East CRA,” said Burrie.
Progress in the Northwest CRA was an issue brought up repeatedly.
District 4 Commissioner Woodrow Poitier, both before and during the candidates night, has said progress is being made.
The Martin Luther King Boulevard Streetscape improvements, the renovations of the Ali Building and the 731 commercial building are examples he gave of the progress the city is making in revitalizing the northwest area of the city.
He also blamed the disorganization of previous Northwest CRA boards and officials for the lack of advancement. Brownfields that had to be cleaned up first also slowed things down. “Things are happening,” said Poitier.
But Wells and Phillips said the area deserves more.
“It’s [not enough] for us to get a shiny new building,” said Phillips. “We’re getting crumbs,” said Wells, who told audience members not to “believe the hype” about recent development. “We are regressing, not progressing.”
Poitier’s two challengers also accused officials of ignoring Collier City. Wells suggested the area should get its own commissioner. “No one is speaking up for Collier City,” said Wells.
Poitier urged patience.
“There are plans for Collier City. It’s not as though Collier City has been thrown away,” he said.
Some audience members and Baumwald also expressed impatience with the city’s efforts to develop the Northwest CRA and provide jobs. “I’m sick and tired of waiting. Let’s get it done,” said Baumwald.
Fisher said bringing in businesses is not something that can be done overnight because the city has to create the proper zoning and land use changes to allow a supermarket or other retail or commercial development to be built.
Terwilliger said when it comes to the proposed library and cultural center next to city hall, the city is doing too much. “We’ve got to make sure [the city’s money] is spent wisely. We’re spending too much on the library.” The estimated cost to the city, to add a second floor to the county’s proposed library, is $6 million.
Terwilliger also said more needs to be done to combat crime, including the city possibly going back to its own police department.
He said new Broward Sheriff Scott Israel should be given some time to reduce crime “but only a little while.” If Israel can’t make progress Terwilliger said the city should go back to it’s own department. “How much is a life worth?” he asked.
Wells agreed that the city should have its own department again. “[BSO treats] us like we work for them,” he said.
In 2010 Pompano Beach Commissioners, unhappy with rising costs, considered dropping BSO in favor of restarting the city’s police department. Pompano hired BSO in 1999.
One aspect of the BSO contract they were unhappy with was a single year increase of eight percent. Charles Whitelock, who represented Pompano in negotiations with BSO, said at the time that the increase contained “fluff to cover unanticipated costs.” Ultimately commissioners decided it against it because of the costs. “If we were starting our own police force we would need more money [than the four-year, $37.3 million contract],” said Commissioner Charlotte Burrie in 2010.
Ultimately, it all came back to jobs.
“Jobs are the real deterrent to crime . . . more or less,” said Phillips.
The election for all three seats – mayor, Dist. 2 and Dist. 4 – will be held March 12.