By: Jen Russon
In a contest of old and new ideas, four candidates appeared before Coral Springs residents on Wednesday evening to present their views at the first and only mayoral forum before the March 12 election.
The event was presented by the nonpartisan group, League of Women Voters and lasted over two hours. The moderator posed questions, ranging from economic development to medical marijuana.
Here are the individual stances of the candidates vying to fill the big shoes of the late Mayor Skip Campbell.
Running on his record as a former mayor of Coral Springs, Boccard is the oldest of the four candidates. He told the crowd that his grandchildren, who are also residents of the city, were in the audience. With an American flag pin on his lapel, Boccard cited success with the city’s recycling program; one he helped create with Waste Pro. While he is in support of legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries, Boccard was clear on the need to regulate them closely.
“76.3 percent of you supports medical marijuana. How could I not support that?” Boccard said, adding that visiting with breast cancer patients has heightened his awareness on this issue.
“I just don’t want to see dispensaries on every corner,” he said before the clock ran out on his timed response.
Throughout the course of the forum, Boccard asked the moderator to repeat questions, and struggled to respond to the one on how, as mayor, he would balance taxes and services.
When Boccard was asked what he would cut to keep taxes the same, he said “I wouldn’t cut anything, I’d create a solid tax base in which we wouldn’t have to cut anything. I took the city to a different level [as mayor] in 2012.”
After Boccard gave this response, almost a half a minute of uncomfortable silence ensued.
The candidate found himself in the hot seat again, when, toward the end of the forum, the moderator asked how he would ease racial tension in the community. Some audience members heckled him, when he replied, “I don’t agree with the question. I don’t see racial tension.”
There were some triumphs in Boccard’s performance; some responses were met with hearty applause and heartfelt laughter. Like his opponents on the dais, Boccard shares the belief the city needs to move into the 21st century with smart economic development, improving aesthetics, creating more programs for seniors, and expanding the Coral Springs Charter School by moving it to a new location – which he supports relocating to Mullins Park.
Scott J. Brook
Brook, a former mayor of Coral Springs, said that he wants to fix the disconnect between residents and the local government. Wearing an orange ribbon in support of more sensible gun laws, Brook reiterated the importance of an open dialogue between local legislators and residents. Twice, he gave a cell phone number, stressing, “I want to hear what you have to say.”
He cited, as an example of what happens when residents go unheard, “the building of Taj Ma Hal” or the new city hall.
When asked about improving and preserving the city’s green spaces and being environmentally responsible, Brook brought up former mayor, Roy Gold, citing him as a mentor and complimenting Gold on his stellar environmental leadership and improving the city’s parks.
A proponent of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, Brook said, “Yes, you voted loud and you voted clearly.”
Brook’s political career is not without controversy. While he was on the Broward County Planning Council he faced censure and a fine after accepting a boat ride on a 74-foot Viking yacht to attend the 2006 Fort Lauderdale Air & Sea complete with a captain and food – from land developers Bruce and Shawn Chait, then voted yes on their land project.
Brooks drew applause at Wednesday night’s forum for encouraging more grant writing in the city, and proposing ways to lower property taxes that evidently worked when he was mayor in 2006.
“I leveraged millage rates by 21 percent,” said Brook.
A political newcomer, Gardner is focused on economic development and said he is uniquely qualified as a brand development consultant to do so.
“This is my jam,” the energetic and young candidate said when asked how he would bring more business owners into Coral Springs. He made reference to his two-year-old-son throughout the evening, growing emotional when the anniversary of the Parkland shooting was mentioned.
“I was on a business trip when that [February 14 shooting] happened, and the first thing I thought of was my son.”
Gardner added that he understands software development and had been working last year on a program to aid with background checks.
His son came up frequently during the forum as a key motivation in growing the city’s infrastructure up and putting green spaces on top of multilevel office buildings.
The mayoral candidate also expressed his full support of legalizing marijuana dispensaries, saying he is confident these can be regulated, and play a part in helping Coral Springs move forward, both in terms of economic development and commercial viability.
Gardner and his opponent Metayer, not far apart in age, disagreed with Boccard and Brook that Coral Springs is “built out”.
Gardner said he thinks there is room for considerable growth and addressing climate change.
The 31-year-old candidate is already an experienced public servant, with a resume that includes interning in the White House and as a board member with Broward County Soil and Water Conservation. Her supporters stood out in the audience, wearing orange campaign T-shirts.
Metayer returned several times, to her belief that the youth in Coral Springs, need to get more involved in community education and senior outreach. She added that she hopes to renovate the Sartorial Senior Center in Mullins Park and expand its programs.
The candidate is a strong advocate of a point-based green initiative program and rewarding residents and developers for doing the right thing, in terms of implementing solar panels and recycling the right way.
Metayer also touched on her concerns about flash flooding, and how better road access within the city would be part of her infrastructure plan.
She was the only candidate to reference the city’s monetary budget amount of $260 million and appeared confident that she could continue to offer and expand existing programs without cutting services.
She was not the only candidate, however, to stand in favor of legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries; on this topic, she agreed with her 3 opponents.
“I have an op-ed about medical marijuana you can read,” said Metayer, referring to her published piece: Coral Springs can lead on cannabis dispensaries.
Among the first graduates of Coral Springs Charter School, Metayer said that growing up in Coral Springs exposed her to many opportunities.
Citing “new, fresh and bold ideas,” the young candidate said, “for as long as I can remember, Coral Springs has been my home. I was the first class to go from 6 to 12th grade at this school.”
Metayer later added, “It’s time for a new vision of leadership to step up, listen to you, and collaborate with you for great solutions.”
This article has been updated since originally publishing.
Missed the forum? The Coral Springs Parkland Democratic Club is planning a Mayoral Forum Thursday, March 7, 2019 6.30 p.m. at Cypress Hall.
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.