By: Sharon Aron Baron
If you are a candidate for office in Coral Springs, don’t assume one of the biggest unions will contact you before they make an endorsement. One candidate never received an interview before an important endorsement was awarded to her opponent.
The Metro-Broward Professional Fire Fighters Local 3080 District 11 in Coral Springs endorsed candidate Laurette Homan for city commission seat five, however, they never vetted her opponent Joy Carter according to resident Diane Yousefi, once a former candidate for city commissioner herself.
“The fire fighter’s Union in Coral Springs told me that you must ‘reach out’ to them,” said Yousefi.
The fire fighter’s endorsement is important for candidates running for office. It’s not just the $500 they receive from the organization, it’s the benefit of having fire fighters standing at the polls on election day that is invaluable to anyone running for office.
“We endorsed the person who we felt will represent the city of Coral Springs and the fire fighters,” said Brian Powell Executive Vice President of Local 3080, who said they have a multitude of things they look for before they make a decision.
I asked Powell just what goes into making that decision.
“I’m not sure how we come about making decisions is relevant,” said Powell, who accused us of attacking fire fighters by asking about the endorsement process.
The fire fighters, who have been without a contract since January 18, 2014 are in the process of renegotiating a new one with the city. Powell emphasized that city commissioners do not negotiate the contracts. He said that the contracts are negotiated by the union and the city manager’s office.
“Commissioners have zero to do with negotiations. It’s with the city manager,” said Powell.
However, once negotiated, city commissioners would ultimately vote on any new contact.
Candidate Joy Carter said she did contact the fire chief after a city commission meeting back in April and asked him how to go about getting an interview with the fire fighters union. He told her he would set it up, but she never heard back. It was ten days later that she found out her opponent was endorsed by the union.
“I’m a leader, and when I make a decision, I want to have all the facts. They hadn’t spoken to me to find out about me, what I’m about, and what I would do,” said Carter.
Carter still wanted to meet with Powell, even though she didn’t get the endorsement. “I did have a good meeting with Powell. I asked him to meet with me and we had a nice meeting, but it was after the fact. I hold no animosity, I’m just not sure I agree with the process of making a decision without all the facts.”
Several months ago, candidate for city commission seat four Howard Melamed took the leadership of the union, including Powell, out to lunch. Melamed said things were done differently when he ran before. He said that the leadership took the choices back to the union members to vote on, which was how Melamed was endorsed years ago.
“I was not surprised with their decision [regarding Carter] since several months ago, the Coral Springs leadership of the union, which I had lunch with, made it known that the current gang of city commissioners and their appointed candidates that they support, and are part of their group, would be their choice.”
Melamed said that the leadership did not want to upset the commissioners who are currently in office since there are ongoing negotiations for salaries and benefits.
“This city needs independent thinking commissioners and not members of a gang that all vote together,” said Melamed, “I am disappointed with the union leadership that believes in the status quo, that had in the past been at odds with their salary policy, rather than progressive thinkers that would keep this city financially sound guaranteeing salaries for their membership well into the future.”
Melamed said he still supported the Coral Springs Fire Fighters.
“They all know where my heart is, irrespective of their leadership’s bad decision.”