Wilton Manors Candidates Face Off In Debate

Elections are coming up in November, and three neighborhood associations worked together to bring the city’s 10 candidates for mayor and commissioner for a forum.

Hagen Park’s community center was filled to the brim, with every seat taken and others sitting against the wall to hear the candidates share their plans to improve Wilton Manors.

The forum was organized by the Wilton Manors East Neighborhood Association, Central Area Neighborhood Association of Wilton Manors, and the Westside Association of Wilton Manors.

Michael d’Oliveira of The Pelican moderated the forum, organized by members of the three neighborhood associated in Wilton Manors. Each candidate had a one-minute opening statement, answered five questions with two minutes each, followed by a two-minute closing statement. They did not have access to questions beforehand and were not allowed to use their cell phones.

1. Now that the police department is fully staffed, has implemented 12-hour shifts and is funded for license plate recognition system, what is your plan to proactively prevent crime, improve public safety (including homelessness issues), and enforce the city code and why will your plan work?

A common consensus among the candidates was community policing and bike patrols. Lillie Harris, who has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience in Miami, noted that she already implemented a program in Miami two decades ago. “I understand this job,” she said. Uniquely, Doug Blevin said as mayor he would want to participate in a ride along with police officers to understand their job better. Christopher Warnig admitted to having a run in with the police in Pennsylvania and Wilton Manors, but that helped him respect the abilities of the police force. He wants to promote community policing and more community events for residents to get to know officers, an idea that Naomi Ruth Parker also suggested. Sal Torre, president of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors, said that bike patrols have been working well in his part of the city. Boyd Corbin said he wants working cameras in Colohatchee Park, which he called a “sex park.”

As for the homeless, there were various suggestions. Scott Newman admitted that the city’s homeless problem is not a one-day fix and that he would like to work with Broward County and the state to get them off the streets and into a decent home. Blevin suggested building an incentive for the homeless to move into other areas or enter rehabilitation centers. Ruth Harris suggested the services of the Family Success Center be utilized, which can help the homeless from out of town to return. Ted Galatis noted that it’s not a crime to be homeless, and to create and better ordinances for where they are allowed to be. Justin Flippen suggested working with programs that the county offers. Gary Resnick, who is current mayor, said the focus needs to be on mental illness and homeless veterans, something he has been working on with the Florida League of Mayors. “It’s a shame that there are vets who are homeless,” he said.

“We must take steps to deal with [the homeless] or we will be ground zero for the homeless problem,” Torre said, noting that Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale are pushing a lot of the population out of their own cities.

2. This question focuses on current and proposed development such as the new Metropolitan Apt. Bldg, Spiritual Center Church site, Wilton Drive, and other major cross-corridors and other forms of development such as bike paths and sidewalks. How will you preserve and protect neighborhoods from increased traffic, parking and crime yet encourage all forms of positive development?

Much of the candidates encouraged residents and neighborhood associations to be involved in the planning process. Flippen noted his involvement with the Economic Development Task Force to engage neighborhoods in plans with the city’s corridors.

“I don’t want Wilton Manors to become a Fort Lauderdale or anything else,” he said.

Harris said she would like to expand the master plan and “bring stakeholders to the table.” Resnick noted work going on on Dixie Highway and Powerline road, including eliminating a lane in the latter and turning it into a bike lane. “I’m always going to make sure our neighborhoods are our first priority,” he said.

Blevin would like to see more daytime business open on Wilton Drive and working with developers early on. Galatis said he does not want any multi-family homes coming into neighborhoods, and would like to see developers have rent-to-own programs instead of simply renting. Corbin said he wanted to see money stop being used on expanding Hagen Park. Warnig stressed his support for a parking garage, a topic that has been tossed around in the commission, and reassess the contract with the meter company.

3. What is your plan to improve city services balancing the value of services against their costs to taxpayers, especially if you received campaign contributions from city contractors?

Torres wants to see greater maintenance of parks. Galatis noted that he is not in favor of big government and would like to keep taxes low for residents. Harris encouraged partnerships between the private and public sectors to keep taxes low, “thinking outside of the box,” as she called it. Flippen said the same thing, and noted that “Wilton Manors is not wasteful.” Parker said the commission needs to sit with the budget and do it again, but this time as a zero-based budget. Resnick is looking forward to getting the results of a survey back from residents for suggestions, “Change isn’t always positive and change doesn’t always move things forward.”

Corbin suggested increasing efforts on code enforcement as well as taking over the parking meter contract themselves, possible saving $100,000. Another money-saving suggestion was brought up by Blevin, who wants to look at productivity in departments and see if there is any crossover. He also wants to keep the four-day work week, but to have floating days off so that services will still be available on Fridays. Warnig again brought up the parking garage, claiming it will “boost the economy.”

Some candidates said they have received money from contractors, while others were vehemently against it. Treasury reports can be viewed online at WiltonManors.com. Newton said “I will never be bought.”

4. What do you think are the greatest challenges for the city of Wilton Manors in the next four years? If elected, what would you do to address the issues?

Resnick stated that sustainability would be his focus, and applauded the improvements happening all over the city and the new construction manager. Galatis also mentioned sustainability and wants to reexamine the city’s water contract with Fort Lauderdale for better rates.

Torre said attention needs to be given to the arts and entertainment district as well as rezoning Andrews Avenue. Newton said that while there is a need for growth in the city, it needs to be steady and smart growth. He mentioned free parking to help day businesses. Harris again emphasized the need for thinking outside of the box and innovation. Corbin wants more focus on public safety, mentioning that there are home invasions because of foreclosures. Warnig said with such a small city, the commission should relook at the necessity of public transportation.

Parker said “I don’t believe I would do anything our city hasn’t already done.”

Elections are Nov. 4. To register to vote, update your voter information, or for any other questions, visit the Broward County Supervisor of Elections website, browardsoe.org or call 954-357-7050.

The Candidates

Mayor
Doug Blevins, dougblevinsformayor.com
Boyd Corbin, mayorboyd.com
Gary Resnick (incumbent), garyresnick.blogspot.com

Commissioner
Justin Flippen, justinflippen.com
Ted P. Galatis (incumbent)
Lillie Harris, electlillieharris.com
Scott Newton (incumbent), votenewton.com
Naomi Ruth Parker
Sal Torre, electsaltorre.blogspot.com
Christopher Warnig, electchristopherwarnig.com

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