Hallandale Beach is best known for two things: 1) the second largest statue in the continental United States 1 [1. Pegasus and Dragon, at 100’ tall is second only to the Statue of Liberty (151’ tall) within the 50 states. Birth of the New World in Puerto Rico (360’ tall) is currently the largest statue in North America. ] and 2) dirty politics. The City made headlines again and again for the discord, hostility, and vulgarity among the Commissioners. The dysfunction and drama have taken their toll on residents. But following this month’selection, residents of Hallandale are experiencing a familiar sensation once more: JOY.
On Monday, November 19, Hallandale City Hall was packed to the brim eager to see the swearing-in of new Mayor Joy Adams, new Commissioner Sabrina Javellana, and incumbent Mike Butler. Both Keith London and Rich Dally were voted off the Commission. Residents lined up to speak about how happy and hopeful they were for the new administration. And how happy they were that the old administration was gone. Now the current cast of five has to work together to change both the tone at City Hall and the manner in which business is conducted there.
Special Organizational Commission Meeting – November 19th 2018. The City welcomes new officials, Mayor Joy Adams, newly elected Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana and returning Commissioner Michael Butler. #hallandale #hallandalebeach pic.twitter.com/MpwVY3bMrm
— Hallandale Beach (@MYHBeach) November 20, 2018
For a better understanding of just how joyous this new administration is, here is a run-down of the Hallandale Beach City Commission, complete with the ghosts of Hallandale Beach past.
The Mayor: Joy 2.0
The first thing you must know about the Hallandale Mayoral election is that it was no ordinary election. It was a SPECIAL ELECTION!!! And special it was. First, a primer:
The year is 2012. Commissioner KEITH LONDON gives up his seat to run for Mayor against incumbent JOY COOPER. Allies once upon a time, they had become bitter rivals. London accuses Cooper of corruption. Cooper accuses London of corruption. Write-in hopeful Jay Schorr accused them both of corruption, Cooper defeats London, setting the stage for the battles to come.2 [2. All election data and voter information taken from the Broward Supervisor or Elections. Yeah. I know.]
The year is 2014. Since his defeat, the ghost of Keith London haunts City Hall. London has been working with his close friend, Commissioner MICHELE LAZAROW and plotting his return. London, backed by gambling lobbyists, wins back a seat on the Commission, Together, London and Lazarow team up against Cooper and her allies, Vice Mayor BILL JULIAN and Commissioner ANTHONY SANDERS. London and Lazarow accuse everyone of corruption.
The year is 2016. Mayor Cooper is up for re-election but goes unchallenged. London and Lazarow recruit ANABELLE TAUB to join Team Ponytail.3 [3. I am 100% not making up this nickname.] Lazarow wins re-election, guaranteeing three votes on the five-member Commission. London becomes Vice Mayor and becomes even more outspoken, vengeful, mean-spirited, misogynistic, racist, vulgar, and creepy than before. CAUTION: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE IN VIDEO. NSFW.
The year is 2018. The City of Hallandale Beach has become a nightmarish dystopia. Commissioner Sanders resigned, triggering a special election.4 [4. http://blarg.legalmechanics.us/election-season-hallandale-beach/ ] Then, Mayor Cooper is removed from office following her arrest on charges of money laundering and official misconduct.
At a secret meeting, London gives up his seat on the Commission to move from Acting Mayor to Interim Mayor until a special election can be held. Lazarow and London then hand RICH DALLY a seat on the Commission.5 [5. http://blarg.legalmechanics.us/curious-case-new-commissioner/ ], They also help newcomer MIKE BUTLER win the special election, giving them four votes. Taub has abandoned Team Ponytail and is a lone voice calling out against the rampant abuses of power by London.
Present Day. Newcomer JOY ADAMS hands London a crushing defeat for the Mayor’s seat. Not only did Adams defeat London by nearly 25 percentage points, she won handily in every one of tiny Hallandale’s eight districts. In electing Adams and ousting London, Hallandale united in a way that speaks well for the future of the City.
Two overriding questions remain: How will Adams lead? And will the ghost of Keith London continue to haunt City Hall? Not only will the Mayor seat be up for grabs again in 2020, if Joy Cooper is exonerated, she is eligible to reclaim the seat if she so desires. SPECIAL!
Seat One: Mike Butler
In March of 2018, Butler easily won the Special Election to replace Sanders’ vacated seat. Butler faced four challengers, the most serious of which was former Vice Mayor Bill Julian. London and Lazarow campaigned loudly for Butler, London’s friend and neighbor. Their mutual friend, gambling lobbyist Evan Ross, through his PAC “Good Government” sent out mailers accusing Julian and all of the Commissioners who ever opposed London of being corrupt.
In this election, Butler ran on a ticket with London and Dally. Butler defeated local teacher (and all-around nice guy) Steven Carlo by a significant margin, but London and Dally got bounced. Butler has potential to be a good Commissioner, but the people of Hallandale can’t trust him as long as he’s aligned with the same lobbyists, developers, and politicians that engaged in pay-for-play, dirty election tactics, smear campaigns, and incivility at City Hall.
Seat Two: Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana
The first thing generally mentioned about Javellana is her age. At 21, she is the youngest Commissioner in Hallandale’s history and the youngest Commissioner in Broward County. A Hallandale native finishing her degree in Political Science from FIU, Javellana has been making a name for herself in political circles through the Democratic Party, in charitable organizations such as Kiwanis, in social justice groups such as Families Against Police Brutality, and in Hallandale by being everywhere for everyone.
Javellana is the real deal and proved it in her first Commission meeting, immediately being named Vice Mayor by a 4-1 vote.6 [6. Butler nominated Javellana, Adams nominated Taub. Adams was the lone vote for Taub.] Javellana proved that she is not a part of a political faction by siding with Butler and Lazarow on 2 votes and siding with Adams and Taub on 2 others. Javellana stated that she ran on a campaign of economic justice and racial justice. Sharp, empathetic, and community-oriented, if Javellana emerges as the swing vote on the Commission, she may very well be able to convince her fellow Commissioners to do the right things.
Disclosure: I donated to, supported, and volunteered for Sabrina’s campaign. There are a lot of people pulling for her to succeed, and I am certainly one of them.
Seat Three: Anabelle Lima-Taub
Lima-Taub is now entering her third year on the Commission. In her first year, she admits that she was manipulated by London and Lazarow. Once she pushed back against them, they turned on her, utilizing the same dirty tactics they used to attack all of their other political opponents. In her second year, Lima-Taub found herself aligned with Mayor Cooper against London and Lazarow on the 4-member Commission. When Cooper was removed, Lima-Taub was isolated and attacked.
In her third year, Lima-Taub seeks to root out the corruption, discrimination, and dirty politics she witnessed first-hand from the Commissioners and the City Manager’s Office. Lima-Taub appears to be aligned with Mayor Adams, but may be unable to find common ground with Lazarow and Butler on anything.
Seat Four: Michele Lazarow
Lazarow has been joined at the hip with Keith London for years, both on and off the dais. London’s defeat had to be heartbreaking for her. Known to have a quick temper and a vicious streak, who knows how Lazarow will lash out at those who booted her bestie out of power? Who knows what London is still whispering in her ear?
One amazing thing London and Lazarow did was unite the City. Against London. Republicans and Democrats joined together to defeat London. The East and the West joined together to defeat London. Police and Black Lives Matter joined together to defeat London. The firefighters, city employees, and religious organizations of all faiths joined together to defeat London. Those same forces are poised to oust Lazarow in 2020.
A Change in Tone
For a long time, Hallandale. Commission meetings were fit for reality TV. The Commissioners would spend hours attacking each other, attacking City employees, saying (or screaming) outlandish things, even stalking attendees. As long-time resident Howard Garson said at Monday’s meeting, [Hallandale residents] were rather emphatic in saying they want a different tone at City Hall. No more abuse, no more yelling, no more name-calling.” End the foolishness.
Elections Should Have Legal Consequences
The dirty campaigning during election season has to end. In 2016, the Sun Sentinel crowned Hallandale’s election as “The Dirtiest in Broward County.” Not only was big money pouring into the election from Gulfstream Casino and the Diplomat Hotel, but there were accusations of bribes, they were bribes paid to opponents’ campaign workers, there were tracking devices planted on cars.
This year’s election was marred by: 1) a PAC run by London for London which took tens of thousands of dollars from developers with city contracts; 2) fake “Pastors Pick” cards falsifying endorsements from churches in the Northwest; 3) faking endorsements from the firefighters and the police; and 4) hiring a semi-pro football team—the Broward Outlaws—to intimidate voters and campaign workers during early voting, and 5) actual fights, among other foolishness. Police intervention is repeatedly required during early voting in Hallandale. One can only hope 2020 will be more civil, but the Mayor’s seat and 2 Commission seats will be up for grabs again. Prepare for more shenanigans.
One of These Things is Not Like the Others
All of the Commissioners in Hallandale are Commissioners-at-large, meaning they represent ALL four square miles of Hallandale, ALL four quadrants of Hallandale, ALL eight districts in Hallandale, and ALL of Hallandale Beach’s roughly 40,000 residents. Yet, for some reason, 1 square mile, in 1 quadrant, comprised of 1 district with roughly 1/8 of the population is treated differently than all of the other areas in the City.I wonder if there is some characteristic of the people of District 8 that would explain the disparate treatment they receive from the City and its elected officials?
Keith London explicitly said he did not represent the people in District 8. He told Anabelle Taub that District 8 didn’t matter because the people never come out and vote.7 [7. This is a lie. Voter turnout in District 8 has been on par with or above average voter turnout throughout Hallandale.] He referred to District 8 residents as “inmates running the asylum.” Other Commissioners referred to the residents as gangsters, criminals, and thugs. If anyone can figure out a reason for such hostility toward District 8, please comment below.
RACIST. SEXIST. BULLY.
Many words and phrases have been used to describe London amongst residents in the Northwest: “immature,” “wholly unfit for public office,” “nasty,” “arrogant and self-serving,” “openly racist,” “disgusting and disturbing,” “vulgar,” “rude,” “sexist,” “misogynistic,” “creepy,” “homophobic,” “egomaniacal,” “terrible,” “bully,” “unhinged,” “dangerous,” “crooked,” “fraud,” “utterly devoid of morality and decency,” “narcissistic elitist,” “one of the top five absolute worst human beings I have ever met in my life,” “the actual Devil,” and, of course, “the biggest clown in town.”
During the election, the PBA summed up his three biggest sins: RACIST. SEXIST. BULLY. At a bare minimum, our Commissioners cannot be any of those three things.
Hallandale Beach is more or less covered by one newspaper, The Sun Sentinel. The Sentinel’s coverage of Hallandale is awful. The Sentinel routinely spin stories to downplay Keith London’s outlandish behavior and portray him as a misunderstood genius. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board described him as “smart, deeply informed, articulate, and often too glib for his own good.” After all of London’s abusive behavior Hallandale had to endure, the Board stated, “[H]e appears to be more contrite than he has been in the past.” Voters rejected 2 of the 3 candidates the Sentinel endorsed and should distrust the Sentinel completely until coverage becomes more impartial.
Both Tom Lauder at Red Broward and Stephanie Kienzle at Voters Opinion have done much to expose bad behavior at the heart of Hallandale Beach. The New Times has done some phenomenal reporting on Hallandale and the Miami Herald has started noticing the newsworthiness of its neighbor to the north. There will be much drama ahead. We need sunlight to disinfect City Hall.
Gulfstream Park Racing Association gave Keith London’s 27th State PAC $20,000 this cycle. A race horse owner gave 27th State another $20,000. Mardi Gras Casino gave it $5,000. Lobbyist Evan Ross gambled away more than $10,000 of his three PACs’ money on losers London and Dally.8 [8. Ross’s three symbiotic PACs are Good Government, Progressive Principles, and Public Service. Ross is also associated with Citizens for Public Service and Ethics Matter.] Outside of his PAC, London outraised Adams by more than $100,000. Dally outraised Javellana by nearly $50,000. Much of that money came from the same group of lobbyists, developers, political committees, and other outside interests that have funded Lazarow and Butler.
London liked to brag about the amount of money he raised during election season. He boasted that he raised the most money and got the most votes, This year, he certainly raised the most money ($125,000+), but came nowhere close to winning the most votes. In fact, he didn’t win, place, or show. Sabrina Javellana, who only raised $5,200, got nearly 1,000 more total votes than London did.9 [9. London received 3,975 votes in his bid for Mayor. Javellana received 4,906 votes in her race.] Will the casinos and special interests continue to throw good money after bad by betting on London and his allies next election? Or will they cut their losses and cut Lazarow, Butler, and Ross loose?
Will They Stay or Will They Go?
Following the November 2016 election, the new majority worked quickly to replace all of the Hallandale’s high-level officials, including the City Manager, Assistant City Managers, City Attorney, and Chief of Police. Who will remain standing when the smoke clears from this election?
- City Manager: Hallandale is currently on its fourth CM since 2015. The current interim CM is retiring and a search for a new City Manager is already underway. Hallandale has a Commission-Manager form of government and the new CM will have immense influence on the future of the City.
- The Hot Seat: The City Attorney and at least one Assistant City Manager are on the hot seat. The taint of the last administration has stained the reputations of the officials who oversaw critical activities and overlooked criminal activities.
- HBPD Police Chief Sonia Quinones has done her best to stay out of the political fray and has done much to improve community-police relations. Quinones has the support of the community, but will she have the support of the new City Manager? And will there even be an HBPD in the future?
- First Responders: Both HBPD and HBFD are looking into a merger with the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO). The police and firefighters worked hard to elect new leadership in Hallandale. All the more reason the new leadership should work hard to keep the police and firefighters around.
To Our New Commission
Congratulations to the New Commission and God Bless. For years, our Commissioners have behaved more like reality TV stars than civil servants. Hallandale politics has been a cesspool: State investigations left and right. Private investigators with tracking devices. Sexual harassment. Racial harassment. Stalking. As my friend Howard Garson said, [“I’m glad Mayor Adams] has experience cleaning toilets, the last Commission left a lot of crap to be cleaned up.”
The road ahead will be rough. Best of luck staying true to yourselves, staying true to your word, and staying out of the headlines.