Video: Residents ask the Questions at Candidate Forum

By: Sharon Aron Baron

The candidates running for Mayor and City Commission in Tamarac answered questions at a forum held in the Woodlands Country Club.

The event held Thursday evening was moderated by Joel Davidson, President of the Tamarac/Sawgrass Democratic Club. Candidates on the panel included Michelle Gomez and Stewart Webster who are both running for the District 2 Seat, along with Harry Dressler and Mike Gelin running for the Mayor’s seat.

Some of the many questions from the audience included concerns about the proliferation of charter schools, economic development in the city, traffic, lobbyists, concerns over the red light cameras, and public art.

There were a few interesting moments during the forum. One of them was when Dressler made it a point to always speak last. During final thoughts, when given the microphone, he insisted to candidate Mike Gelin that he got to go last because he was the mayor.

Another moment, perhaps embarrassing for not only the opponent but for the residents watching, was when a resident of the community where candidate Stewart Webster resides called Versailles, brought up the fact that he owed his association $11,500 in past dues, which she said contributed to residents having to pay a special assessment. Webster did not deny this,  however, seemed agitated with the person asking, and told the audience he was working out a payment plan with his association.  In one confusing moment, when Webster was asked if he would vote yes for the new charter high school, he said it was up to Broward County Schools to decide where they would put the charter school, which is not how the process works.

“I know what I know, I know what I don’t know, and I know where to get the information necessary,” said Webster, who added that he had Superintendent Robert Runcie’s cell phone number. Unfortunately, during this part of the forum, he didn’t realize what he didn’t know.

Webster also told the audience that he was a certified teacher, however, the Florida Department of Education does not have him listed as one.

Gomez believed the city needed a charter high school. She said they put out an RFP first (proposal) to get interest, however, it wasn’t clear if any preliminary research was done to find out if a charter high school was wanted or even necessary due to the under-enrollment of neighboring high schools.

Candidate Mike Gelin didn’t believe we needed a new charter high school in Tamarac. “I spoke with Superintendent Runcie and we have capacity at Piper High School and Taravella High School.” Gelin said we cannot offer the same amenities as the public high schools then we’re shortchanging our students.

During one question, Dressler was asked about accepting campaign money before the donor was set to appear before the commission on a variance issue, which he denied.

“I’ll challenge your facts ma’am. That’s my answer.”

However, according to Dressler’s September campaign report, he received a $1,000 contribution from the firm of Dunay, Miskel, Backman and Blattner on August 1. Then on September 10, Dressler voted yes to the variance, however, he did not recuse himself nor did he state that he had a conflict at the time.

On the question of the red light cameras, both Dressler and Gomez who initially voted on the cameras were still in support of them believing they saved lives. They called them “cost neutral” despite reports that the city has lost almost $40,000 on them due to the administration costs. But besides that, many people in the audience didn’t understand what cost neutral meant. Gomez also mentioned that she visited the headquarters of American Traffic Solutions in Arizona to check them out as our representative with the League of Cities one year before she voted on them. She also mentiioned that the red light contracts are being reviewed, and if it is not good for our city they have the ability to get out of the contract.

Gelin said he is against the red light cameras citing independent studies saying that the only beneficiaries of the cameras are American Traffic Solutions.

Webster said he was concerned about the fairness and objectivity of the cameras and was also concerned about the red light camera in front of the hospital.

Early voting hours at the Tamarac Branch Library are on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.Regular voting hours on Tuesday, November 4, are 7 a.m. – 7 p.m at the poll listed on your voters registration card.

About Sharon Aron Baron

avatar Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Tamarac Talk and Coral Springs Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2010 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Tamarac and to give resident's a forum. We are not affiliated with the City of Tamarac. That's why this site can be occasionally opinionated and obviously open.


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  • Stewart Webster

    Sharon, it is a highly slanted, subjective article like this why solid members of almost any community do not run for public office, and I challenge you to include the following response in its entirety.

    The lady in question has been following me around tying to embarrass me, slandering my name and making aspersions that she knows I am not able to answer succinctly, and my smile was my way of controlling my anger. I am informed that she has been going around removing my yard signs and replacing them with my opponent’s. After the debate, she has started to wear my opponent’s T-shirt, and place her signs on the medians and in this community. I challenge you to come and see for yourself. Her utterance that I caused a special assessment is a diabolical and calculated lie. As to the amount of past dues, I will not debase myself by entering into a conversation here about the amount or personal arrangements made. You neglected to mention that I read, in my previously written closing remarks, that I was expecting this type of last-minute ‘intrigue’ against me by a special interest group, stating that this was typical of past District 2 politics

    As to the “one confusing moment”, the confusion must be on somebody else’s part. You neglected to report that I said I was a former Vice Chair of the School Board Diversity committee. Therefore, I propose that I am more familiar with the School system than you think, and your related innuendo is quite inappropriate.

    I have emailed you a scanned copy of my Florida Teacher Certification Examination Report, dated 11/4/2009, for you to retract your research about my license; and I will also forward my two Substitute Teacher certificates as soon as I can locate them.

    Sharon, I continue to be confused, disappointed, yet not surprised in your change of position when it comes to me. I was among the hardest working members of your Recall Petition Group – all three times – and am the ONLY candidate who was actively involved at all! This meant that I walked the District 3 times in 2013, along with me walking it two times again this year. You neglected to mention that I stated that I was the only person who was on the ballot by petition, having collected hundreds of signatures; AND that I am the ONLY person who has not taken one cent from a lobbyist, developer, or person doing business with the city. I propose that these accomplishments are a lot more important to voters who I look forward to serve.

    It is time for a change.

    • Stewart, people can watch the video and see for themselves. No doubt you were on the recall committee, but I would be unfair if I didn’t bring up the fact that you are $11,500 in arrears to your HOA. This is unbelievable for a candidate to owe money to their own homeowner’s association and they are running to to be one of five people making fiduciary decisions for our city. What does this say about you? This must have been years and years in the making….$11,500. I’m stunned.

      As far as you being vice chair of the diversity committee, well, not to take anything away from that prestigious title, but really. You were extremely confused about how charter schools move into a city. They do not go through Broward County Schools.

      I would love to see where you are a certified teacher in the state of Florida as well. Send the information and I will cross check it with the state. If I am incorrect, I will retract the information.

      I also find it difficult to believe that you refused ANY campaign money from anyone. If you were offered money from a lobbyist, developer or person that has done business with the city, please give me the name of that person and I will cross check that with sources as well.

      Thank you.

    • Stewart, I appreciate you dropping off that information to me, however, you still have not produced your Department of State Certification. This just tells me you took a portion of the exam. If you are going to tell our community that you are a “Certified Teacher” be able to back it up. Even the state doesn’t have you on file so quit trying to bluff your way through this.

  • Stewart, I’m waiting for you to produce your State of Florida Certification number.