By Selene Raj
In 2016, then-incumbent Tamarac City Commissioner Pamela Bushnell allegedly had her boyfriend and his friend steal the campaign signs of her opponent, Marlon Bolton.
On election day, witnesses also reported that she gave a banana to his volunteers in a racist gesture and said, “That’s what monkeys eat.”
Although they are no longer political opponents, the tension still lingers, and Vice Mayor Bolton, 34, who is Black, and Bushnell, 77, who is White, are at odds once again.
This time, the signs at the center of the debate were not campaign signs. Located about a block apart, at the entrance of Mainlands 1 & 2, Tamarac community where Bushnell is the homeowners association president, Bolton put up a sign in July that appeared to have upset her.
His sign reads, “Welcome Home from Marlon Bolton, Your Tamarac Commissioner. Remember, wearing masks save lives!” A picture of him, smiling, is featured on the left side of the sign and was paid for by him, out-of-pocket.
Bolton had put up similar signs when the pandemic began, encouraging public health. This particular sign was similar to others, except it added the words, “Welcome Home” and was put up in response to the HOA sign the HOA put up in June, “God Bless America! Where All Lives Matter.”
Until August, none of Bolton’s signs had warranted complaints during the city commission meetings.
The sign issue was first brought forward at the August 26 commission meeting after Bushnell allegedly urged residents to write in and complain about Bolton’s sign.
Two residents submitted complaints, and five submitted compliments in praise of Bolton’s sign.
One resident, Brian Deacon, called Bolton’s sign an “awful eyesore,” saying it blocked his view coming in and out of the community.
“I received an email urging Mainlands 1 & 2 residents to complain about Vice Mayor’s Bolton’s sign. Many people, including myself, appreciate it,” wrote Imogen Davis.
Another resident said he thinks Bolton’s sign was beautiful and effective, and that since going up, he’s seen several residents wearing masks even while walking their pets.
Despite the public comments, neither sign poses a legal issue that the commission needs to deal with. If anything, it is a matter that will only play out in the court of public opinion.
City Spokesperson Sue Zeiler clarified that Bolton’s sign was not in violation of any code in Tamarac.
“The city has no legal objection to the sign encouraging people to wear masks,” said Zeiler.
Bolton said that he put the sign up to welcome residents home and encourage public health and safety and that some of his signs in other locations in his district have been up since March.
The sign Bushnell and her supporters take issue with went up upon request of residents in Mainlands 1 & 2 who were disturbed by Bushnell’s All Lives Matter sign. When her sign was put up in June, it was done as protests around the nation were being held supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to end systemic anti-Black racism in the criminal justice system.
All Lives Matter is a statement meant to detract from the Black Lives Matter movement and sentiment.
Bolton said residents were already hurt and wondered why the HOA would erect such a message in the community and initially urged him to step up as a leader, fighting back with a “Black Lives Matter” sign.
“Although a good message, it could have been misconstrued. I didn’t want to add to the racial tension,” he said.
So, the “Welcome Home” sign, with the first Black vice mayor’s face in the city’s history, went up instead.
“I wanted residents to know that they are safe and welcomed, regardless of color, and that I would not stand for injustice in any manner,” said Bolton.
After he won the 2016 election, he said he reached out to Bushnell several times, hoping to extend an olive branch, even offering her a seat on the Planning Board, to no avail.
Bushnell was contacted several times by Tamarac Talk. She responded to emails on at least four occasions, including one confirming that she indeed received all questions regarding this issues raised in this article. Ultimately, Bushnell chose not to participate in this story.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. She's completed her Master's in Mass Communications in 2020, and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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