In my 30 years as a resident and voter in Deerfield Beach, I can't recall an election quite like this one in Dist. 1. It's a grudge match, vicious, not many real issues.
At the center of it all is Mayor Jean Robb. Ron Coddington in Dist. 1 and Gloria Battle in Dist. 2 are her tools. If Robb gains control of the city commission, she not only can advance her agenda, but she can get even with everybody who's ever "done her wrong," not done her bidding, or failed to acknowledge that she's the person in charge. Or just people she hates — and there are plenty.
What will happen if Coddington and Battle are elected? This is what I think will happen. The first move will be to fire Hanson and the top city administrators. At the same time that Robb and her loonies attempt to reinstate the fire department to city control — to say the least, a complicated process — the city will be thrown into chaos. Back to the '80's. Is that what voters want?
The fire department issue, in my opinion, is bogus. Nobody cared about this issue until Coddington raised it up as the main plank of his campaign. In my opinion, Mr. Coddington, if elected, can form a committee to look into this issue, but bringing the fire department back under city control will not happen.
Mr. Coddington also proposes a long-term plan for Deerfield Beach stretching out over 30, 40, or 50 years. A good idea, maybe, provided the planners understand (1) that Deerfield is not an isolated town, but is part of a very large metropolitan area both to the south and the north, and (2) that outsourcing or ceding of municipal services, including public safety, to other cities, the county, or a regional authority to be created is the future. This is also now — the city contracts out a lot of work, not just the cops and fire services — and the charter provides for it.
It's only a matter of time before the powers propose a county-wide or even region-wide municipal reorganization, supplanting the 31 Broward cities. This is already happening in urban areas all over the country and in Florida (Jacksonville). Fifty years from now, Deerfield Beach as we now know it (the City of) may cease to exist.
The plan to "demerge" the fire department runs against this trend and is backward, not forward, thinking, in my view.
If there are as yet unspecified problems with the level of services the BSO provides, these are issues that can be resolved. Ending the arrangement with the sheriff is not a sensible or practical course of action.
With respect to the beach area, Mr. Coddington says he favors preserving the "village" feel of the barrier island neighborhood. This was part of the reason I supported him in 2011. But Mayor Robb wants to repeal the charter amendments that more or less protect the area east of the Intracoastal from overdevelopment. Coddington has not repudiated Mayor Robb's proposal to call an election on this issue.
Nor has Coddington said anything about ethics. Will he hold Mayor Robb accountable for her violations of the charter and state ethics laws?
This is important because at the bottom of this election, Mayor Robb hopes that Coddington and Battle, if elected and in her camp, will help protect her from the possible consequences of her own misconduct, as documented by the Inspector General report OIG 14-017. While neither candidate has addressed this issue, we know exactly where Miller and Preston stand, as we do the other commissioners. They are plainly disturbed by the allegations of misconduct, as any clear-thinking voter should also be. Where does Coddington stand? We just don't know, but this we do know: Jean Robb is Coddington's chief supporter. She must expect something in return.
It's pure speculation where the investigations will lead. Will Mayor Robb be charged with a crime? Will the governor suspend her from office if she's found guilty of ethics violations? Will the city commission consider forfeiture?
Joe Miller and Ben Preston aren't perfect. I don't agree with either 100 percent of the time. But both respect the rule of law and have worked diligently with other commissioners and the city manager to represent their districts and all the people of Deerfield Beach, to make right decisions for the residents. The city has made real progress over the last few years to achieve civil and ethical city government in Deerfield Beach. We still have some distance to go, but retreat is not the answer. Bring in Coddington and Battle, voters will pay the price because both have proved by their actions and words, they don't have much respect for the law when the rules inconvenience them. Pretty much the same as Mayor Jean Robb.
The Pelican newspaper had it right: "Joe Miller and Ben Preston . . . have shown the ability to work together to bring significant progress to Deerfield Beach. They each deserve another four years on the dais."
I'm not willing to cast my vote for people whose goal is to return to the old ways and turn this city upside down, mostly to bring revenge on people they don't like.
Mr. Miller is not very good at self-promotion. Coddington is an expert at this — in fact, he's an expert on just about everything. Just ask him.
Coddington's style, the Pelican notes is "combative and accusatory," and "he does not exhibit the ability to play well with others."
It's up to voters. Do they want someone on the commission who works well in a collegial setting and can move the city forward on a steady course? Or do they want someone who runs away from a problem if things don't go his way (see "Election Memo #8"), conducts a hate-filled campaign, never admits a mistake just to show a bit of humility, and is controlled by the mayor?
On Mar. 10, Miller gets my vote.