By Roland Alexander Foulkes (RolandAFoulkes@gmail.com)
One Mayor For One Broward, plus 11 new common sense single elected commissioner districts for Broward County
BROWARD COUNTY – Back in 2006, I read with keen interest Jack Latona’s GO Riverwalk Magazine articles, “Creating the Future of Fort Lauderdale: Who’s in Charge Here? Leadership or the lack of it in Broward County” (August, 2006) and “How Do We Fill the Leadership Gap?” (September, 2006).
Not only did he lay bare in stark and convincing terms the reality, and the problem, of Broward’s current “fragmented, rudderless” leadership “structure”. A feat consistent with the formal study of leadership advocated by political anthropologist Frederick G. Bailey as the examination of strategies, including institutional arrangements (1) that maintain in the followers the illusion of a unique talent in the leader (or, leaders), and (2) that solve problems which the real world presents, or, failing solution, that impose on the situation a definition which leaves unhurt the image of the leader’s (or, leaders’) effectiveness.
But, Latona revealed, masterfully, a key allegorical connection between our current position of county “mayor” (in Broward County) and the Wizard of Oz’ Professor Marvel (in Kansas) in his roles in Oz as Emerald City’s Doorman, Cabbie, Wizard’s Guard, and as The Wizard of Oz himself. And, not only did Latona pull back the curtain on Broward’s-Oz, and Broward’s good professor’s — our “mayors’” — wizardry, but revealed skillfully the Kabuki play of illusions, intrigue and cesspool of corruption that is Broward County leadership and politics today: A complex, comedic, and tragic drama that extends back to Broward’s creation in 1915 by an act of the State Legislature.
For prior to 1968, when Florida’s new Constitution was approved, and the enactment later of “Home Rule” on January 1, 1975 when Broward’s Charter Government went into effect, Broward and its 66 fellow counties were simply administrative divisions of state government, with little or no authorization to enact solutions to local problems, without the expressed approval of the State Legislature in Tallahassee. But, it was the following key laws that gave Broward, and other counties, options for county government structure (Chapter 125, Florida Statutes): (a) the Municipal Home Rule Powers Act of 1973; (b) the County Administration Law of 1974; (c) the Optional County Charter Law of 1974; and, (d) Amendments to the County Home Rule Act of 1971. Among those options is “County Executive — elected countywide to serve in an administrative and policy-political capacity.”
Enlivening that option, Latona offered a concrete common sense solution to Broward’s unnecessarily delayed socio-geographic — sometimes illusory, oftentimes real, even surreal — problem.
His analysis of the “strong” versus “weak” mayor was right on target: Or, as I prefer to call it, the “HEFTY! HEFTY! HEFTY!” versus the “wimpy, wimpy, wimpy” county mayoralty (a cue taken from a mid-2000-decade television advertising campaign promoting strong, robust, garbage bags that hold together under extreme pressure, stress and strain; and, No, I am not equating Broward’s mayoralty to garbage bags, I am simply likening it to the central and memorable message of brilliant and profitable ad campaign!)
Moreover, he echoed a proposal that I made earlier on behalf of the “One Mayor for ‘One Broward’ Coalition” in front of the Broward Charter Review Commission’s June 22nd, 2001, November 29, 2001, and May 6, 2002 public hearings.
(My “Letter to the Editor” of The Broward Times, July, 2001 entitled, “One Broward,” launched the “One Broward” initiative through the Broward County Multi-Ethnic Advisory Board for which I served as chair between 2002 and 2004 and 2007 and 2008 [Diversity Advisory Council]. Though the “One Mayor for One Broward” Coalition grew out of this initiative it is NOT a part of county government.)
While the lenses through which Latona viewed Broward’s leadership crisis were those of law and political science (local-level politics). The lenses through which I, and several of my fellow Coalition members, continue to analyze this crisis are those of social science and political anthropology [local-level politics]. (By the way, Anthropology is the broad study of humankind and is comprised of five fields: Archaeology, Linguistics, Socio-Cultural Anthropology, Physical Anthropology, and Applied Anthropology. Mine is the lens of Socio-Cultural Anthropology — the study of existing peoples, cultures, social structures and organizations, and political systems and governance, globally, nationally and locally.)
Specifically, Latona suggested in his second article, “that we change our county government structure to create a strong executive mayor…[with] the authority to hire and fire employees, prepare the budget and the commission agenda plus, subject to an override, veto commission actions.” This “strong mayor”, he added, “would have at his/her disposal the focused power of the county government, the largest source of [secular versus sacred] power in our community.”
(Note, I added the bracketed phrase“secular versus sacred” because I believe, and am not ashamed to declare publicly — in the midst of that pernicious “separation of church and state” LIE — that belief in today’s political correctness-obsessed community, and nation, that there is a much higher —- Omnipotent, Omnificent, Omnicient, and Omnipresent — power than that given to and manipulated by flawed humans, even “strong” humans, with positions, titles, and access to others possessed of, or who buy or peddle,such.)
Accordingly, on June 22, 2001, “’Broward’s non-system of county governance was awarded an ‘F’”…by the One Mayor for One Broward Coalition. This non-system was described then, as it remains described today, as an “Acephalous Autonomous Village” to use anthropological terms. “One,” I went on to say, “that is without a political head, leader or mayor. And, one of nine types (distributed through, and characterized under, the categories A – F) of so-called primitive political systems found in S.N. Eisenstadt’s taxonomy as studied and described by political anthropologists over the past 100 years.” (This is a taxonomy, along with the work of political sociologist Max Weber, e.g., Charismatic, Traditional, and Legal-Rational forms of leadership, to which I was introduced as an undergraduate at Cornell University. Both were central to my own years of field research on “Local level Politics and Health Services Delivery” in southern Africa’s Botswana as a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley in the latter half of the 1980s and early 1990s. So, just as Latona states in his first article, “I know something about studying community power structures” too!)
Eleven months later, on May 6, 2002, I proposed the following to Broward’s Charter Review Commission for inclusion on the November 5, 2002 ballot. Namely, “that there be an Executive / Strong Mayor, elected countywide, serving a four year term, and limited to two terms (8 years maximum). This position would be a full time job with a salary of $250,000 per year. He/she would have countywide emergency powers, would hire, fire, supervise, and direct a professional county administrator.”
Moreover, I added, “the strong mayor would be a visionary, consensus-builder, and point person, leading and giving direction to the county’s daily operations and developing annual budgets and long-range strategic plans for the county.”
Last, I said that, “this mayor has veto power over county commission actions though such veto would be subject to a two-thirds override vote.”
The person serving in this “Executive Branch of County Government” must be a permanent resident of Broward County for at least six years: Preferably, NOT a career politician, government bureaucrat, political crony, or spouse or relative of current politicians or lobbyists.
But, demonstrated leadership in any other fields of endeavor (e.g., sizeable for-profit / not-for profit business, international / inter-cultural relations, etc.) is acceptable.
This county’s executive mayor would lead the weekly meetings of the newly formed Broward County Mayor’s Advisory Council (BC-MAC) — separate from the Broward League of Cities — comprised of each of Broward’s 31 municipal mayors. This would give Broward’s (Executive Strong) Mayor a direct line of communication with the county’s mayors — that is, communication unfiltered through the special interests of single district-focused county commissioners!
With respect to the Broward County Commission proper (the Legislative Branch), the following was proposed also in 2002: Expansion of number of commission districts from nine (9) to eleven (11); and, total, and sensible, reconfiguration of the current districts.
Each of these re-configured and expanded (eleven) districts would extend as east to west / west to east horizontal strips across the county — from the Atlantic Ocean to the Everglades. Each district would follow such major roads as Hillsborough Beach Boulevard in the north, Broward Boulevard in central-county, and Hallandale Beach Boulevard in the south, and boulevards betwixt and between. Through such configurations, each commissioner would represent, and be sensitive to, Broward’s diverse communities as they extend from the ocean in the east to the marshland in the west, and back.
Furthermore, with respect to our rich bio-diverse, yet fragile, ecosystems, each commissioner would — as they should — have a vested interest in securing and maintaining them for generations to come.
Last, like the proposed Strong Executive Mayor, all eleven single district elected County Commissioners would be term limited: Two terms of four years, or 8 years total.
Though the 2000 – 2002 edition of Broward’s Charter Review Commission chose the “wimpy, wimpy, wimpy” mayoralty for Broward — i.e., honorary weak mayor – glorified commission chair system, on the one hand. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Editorial Board, in its December 3, 2001 editorial (page 20A), “County Mayor – A LEADER, NOT A FIGUREHEAD,” gave singular recognition to the One Mayor for One Broward Coalition’s “solid strong mayor proposal,” on the other.
Given that the proposed strong executive mayor for Broward County is preferred by Latona’s Creating the Future organization and by our One Mayor for One Broward Coalition, clearly both organizations (created, coincidentally, in 2001), and their members, see this as an issue critical to a positive, lasting, and prosperous future for Broward County. And, given that, as Latona put’s it in his second article, “The stars may now be in alignment…[as] the just completed…two-year management study…precedent to a two-year charter review process,… can lead to a referendum on charter changes… the time is indeed right “to move forward with this initiative” through an “extended discussion of this issue” and deliberate action by “those [of us] who are frustrated with the present fragmented, rudderless structure we have now.”
Regrettably, our 2006-2008 Broward Charter Review Commission, and all citizens of Broward County, failed to learn from, and mirror, what eventually evolved next door, in Miami-Dade. (All possibly related to a fear of the rise of now disgraced BSO sheriff, convicted felon, and Scott Rothstein shill, Ken Jenne.)
Through Charles Rabin’s September 15, 2006 article (The Miami Herald), “Strong-mayor proposal will go to voters, finally,” we were told that, “after a lengthy legal fight, sparring with the media and a bitter battle with commissioners [all 13 of whom opposed the plan], Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez likely will get his proposal to create a strong mayor form of government before voters…”
And, Alvarez did!
Rabin continued that “…a decision by the Florida Supreme Court not to hear a challenge [from such groups as the South Florida AFL-CIO and its President Fred Frost] to Alvarez’s proposal set the stage for the public referendum [to take place] sometime between mid-November and mid-January.”
Such public referendum happened: And, voters responded in accord with his wishes!
The key to this series of events was found in the person of one individual, one near-charismatic leader, Mayor Alvarez. “From the moment Alvarez took office in November, 2004,” wrote Rabin, “he fixated on the strong mayor cause — it was his answer to curing government ills…”
Regrettably, since Broward’s voters were given no choice but to implement the “wimpy, wimpy, wimpy” mayoralty nearly six years ago, not one of Broward County’s “mayors” — Diana Wasserman-Rubin, Ilene Lieberman, Kristin Jacobs, Ben Graber, Joe Eggelletion, Lois Wexler, Stacy Ritter, Ken Keechl — demonstrated such vision, such dogged determination, such charisma, in support of this long-overdue initiative, as did Alvarez.
So, based on what happened in Miami-Dade, and what has to this day, failed to happen in Broward, Latona was correct in writing in his second article that, “Opposition will come from those with the biggest stake in things the way they are.” No doubt, opposition in Broward will mirror Miami-Dade’s: Certain media, with the exception of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel based on its December 3, 2001 editorial; the South Florida AFL-CIO, lobbyists, fat cat developers, and the commissioners and their staffs, among others.
Broward’s “mayor”- in waiting — Vice Mayor Sue Gunzburger is next in line to be elevated in November — has taken the lead in nudging her fellow 8 commissioners, and their appointees to the next Charter Review Commission, toward exploring the possibility of making real a Strong Executive — “HEFTY! HEFTY! HEFTY! — Mayor for Broward County.
Last, as a native Floridian — born, raised, educated in North West Fort Lauderdale’s Sistrunk area — I am glad, honored, and privileged to share in this vision and to contribute to this opportunity. My hope was that the 2006-2008 Broward Charter Review Commission would have had the wisdom, courage, independence, and intelligence to adopt, commit to, advocate for, and promote this vision by placing it on the November 2008 ballot.( In March 2008, the Charter Review Commission decided — wrongly — that Broward voters did not want a strong executive mayor at that time.)
Perhaps our county commissioners will do the right thing and place this “county-wide strong elected executive mayor” question on the 2010 ballot! Especially now that Ken Jenne has been removed from the equation — Permanently!
The exact wording of that 2010 ballot proposal — as drafted in 2001 — is:
“Broward County shall have a mayor. Elected countywide and limited to two-terms, or eight years in office, this chief executive
officer serves at the pleasure of Broward’s citizens. The mayor is empowered and authorized to lead, to direct, to give vision to, to
speak for, and to represent, a unified — “One Broward” — county.
Mayoral power and authority are balanced by the advice and consent Of Broward’s County Commission, Judiciary, and Mayors’ Advisory
Council, all elected governing bodies.” [Initially proposed for November 5, 2002
ballot; re-proposed for November 4, 2008, and November 2010 ballots.]
I urge those of you who support this proposal to contact each County Commissioner and each commissioner’s staff members and let them know that they must do the right thing. NOW!
They must give the residents, voters, and taxpayers the Strong Executive Mayor that we want, expect, deserve, and need in this global economy and cosmopolitan polity that is Broward County, in this new millennium, in this 21st century.
For, as Jeffrey Solomon wrote in his September 15, 2006 Miami Herald “Letter to the Editor: ‘Strong Mayor Nod,’” a strong-mayor “…is about entrusting voters to choose a leader accountable for management of daily government operations.”
He asked, “What’s more democratic than putting an issue on a ballot and letting the voters decide?”
The time is right for that decision; NOW, more than ever!
DO THE RIGHT THING BROWARD COMMISSIONERS!