By Larry Blustein
With Hallandale Beach being in the news - locally and nationally for much of the past few months, you can almost guarantee that when the polls open on March 13, all eyes will be on this community.
From Mayor Joy Cooper’s arrest earlier this month, to the videos of in-fighting in the City Commission going viral on the internet and local daily media outlets painting a not-so-rosey picture, this election will more than be covered in the days and weeks leading up to March 13.
Last Thursday night, less than a month away from the special election, things got off to a rocky start - when the first “debate” was held at the American Legion Post 310.
With three of the five candidates showing for this first gathering, it was evident that filling the vacancy of At Large Seat 1, will not be easy.
With Michael Butler (businessman and Hallandale Beach Planning & Zoning Board Member) having a previous engagement and John Stassi (Retired New York City Corrections Officer) out of town do to a death in the family, the debate turned out to be former Vice Mayor Bill Julian, Ann Henigson and Hallandale Beach born and raised political newcomer Thomas W. Sands.
With many longtime area residents on hand for this first “Meet The Candidates” event, moderator Steve DeCarlo and former Commissioner Alexander Levy joined a spirited group that was looking to get Hallandale Beach back to the days where the commission didn’t steal the headlines.
It was evident - not only in the voices in the audience - but for all three candidates - that harmony is a must if this City is moving forward. The fact that many of the taxpayers feel that they cannot trust the administration is the biggest problem.
“Things have gotten to the point where many of the residents come up to me all the time and talk about how uncomfortable it is to watch a meeting either in person or on TV,” Julian said. “For our community to trust again, we have to give them something to show how things are changing and will be all about them.”
Henigson, who volunteers for plenty in the community as well being on a number of boards, feels that the tone of this election has been set by what has transpired over the past few years. She admits that in some ways, because of the adverse publicity Hallandale Beach has been getting, it paints a different picture than it should.
“This is a great community with so much to offer, but when people hear, read and see negative things about this City, it can work against all of us,” she explained. “There is so much to be done here and we have some very good people in place to make that happen.”
For Sands, his family has been part of the landscape for as long as anyone - and he has had the opportunity to see his hometown change in many ways.
Because he has lived through just about every administration in his 57 years in this community, his views and understanding of what is going on carries plenty of weight.
“Through the years, Hallandale Beach has made so many positive changes,” Sands explained. “But there are so many other things needed, but to get that accomplished, the vision needs to be shared - and that is vital.”
While the views of the candidates who attended were heard, and many on hand had the opportunity to listen and ask questions, the addition of Butler and Stassi is important to hear what everyone has to say.
The current structure of the City Commission includes recently appointed Mayor Keith London and Vice Mayor Michele Lazarow - as well as Commissioner Anabelle Taub and Rich Dally, who was recently chosen to replace the void.