By: Saraana Jamraj
After their summer hiatus, the Tamarac City Commission reconvened for a regular city commission meeting on Wednesday morning.
Besides going over the agenda, they heard from constituents, handed out employee service awards, congratulated the city manager on his new job with Delray Beach, and discussed their summer activities.
Before city business, State Rep. Dan Daley introduced himself to the commission and announced his new satellite office in Tamarac.
Also at the meeting, former Piper High School principal, Angel Gomez, introduced himself as the new governmental affairs coordinator for the School Board of Broward County.
The commission gave them a warm welcome, and along with the Tamarac Fire Department, recognized Roberto Santiago, a resident whose assistance helped extinguish a fire at Menchie’s Yogurt. Santiago graciously accepted the honor and encouraged others to serve their communities with bravery as well.
“Whatever you can do for citizens out there, let’s do it,” he said.
Following this, the commission heard from constituents during public comments. The majority of them expressed disappointment in their handling of the previous meeting.
Lasting for over ten hours, the July meeting was highly contentious after residents of The Woodlands Country Club fought against the developer, 13th Floor Homes plans for rezoning and building land which makes up the two 18-hole golf courses. 13th Floor emerged victorious, as the commission voted to approve their proposed changes, 3-2, with Commissioners Bolton and Gelin voting against it.
While the meeting was mostly friendly and amicable, that point of conflict was revisited several times.
Commissioner Gelin brought it up in his opening remarks, as he went through several emails from constituents thanking him and Commissioner Bolton for standing up for them. People also thanked him for providing food, which he suggested the commission consider for future meetings, especially if they’re going to be as long as ten hours.
“I think it’s important that we remember who we are here to represent,” said Commissioner Gelin. I’m really disappointed in my colleagues for not supporting the residents in this manner, but we’re all entitled to our own vote.”
Several echoed this disappointment.
“Now, it seems there’s a turmoil in the community, and [residents] feel that, you know, the city has let them down,” said resident Jeffrey Shapiro, who added that his neighbors were so upset, they will not attend another city commission meeting and are considering relocating from the city.
Another resident, Ronald J. Wasserman, absconded the commission for doing “victory laps” when, in his eyes, they made empty promises of solving problems that never get solved. He spoke of the ongoing dust in his community, due to the construction behind his home.
“Dust has been blowing in our direction for eight months- acceptable levels they call it…What a bunch of nonsense,” he said.
This contention over the last meeting continued during a discussion on an item on the agenda, where Mayor Gomez wanted to revise the minutes of the last meeting, to reflect her statement that she did not receive campaign contributions from 13th Floor Homes. The minutes did not include the word “not” making it seem as though she said she did receive campaign contributions when she actually said the opposite.
However, when questioned by Commissioners Bolton and Gelin, about whether or not she received campaign contributions in 2017 from 13th Floor Homes, and whether or not one of her political action committees received any, her answer was unclear. She could not name the political action committee and asked that the record only include 2018.
During that exchange, she mixed commissioners Bolton and Gelin up for a second time. Commissioner Bolton responded lightly, clarifying that he is indeed not Commissioner Gelin.
“I am Commissioner Bolton, very much more handsome.” he joked.
They both voted against her motion. And, when it came time to vote for revisions to the minutes that reflect Commissioner Gelin’s appointees that were previously left out of the record, she voted against it, knowing that it would pass anyway.
“Just to be antagonistic, I’ll say no,” she said during the vote.
There were items on the agenda discussed, but that did not yet necessitate a vote, such as Commissioner Bolton’s concerns about Taste of Tamarac’s cost weighing heavily on Tamarac when they and North Lauderdale share the Chamber of Commerce. They also tabled two motions, postponing them for the next meeting: confirming a new red-light camera magistrate, due to lack of information given about the appointee ahead of time, and one about deciding when long meetings should end and be continued.
“Most people work, and can’t make those 9 a.m. meetings. I think certain controversial topics are scheduled at 9 a.m just to keep the crowd reduction,” said Gelin.
While there were moments of contention, and the shadow of the 13th floor vote still lingering, the commission was able to agree on addressing each of their concerns about meeting schedules at the next meeting, with the motion to revisit on September 11 passing 5-0.
Commissioner Bolton’s closing remarks asked that the mayor, the commission, and the staff discuss transparency about commission travels at the next workshop, and consider adding that transparency to the city’s website.
“Commission disclosures on the website would be a very good place for [saying where we’ve been, why we were there, and how much we’ve spent],” he said.
- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.