Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis (D-Hapless) appeared to vent his frustrations while bullying a resident at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting. It was not a good day for Dean. On Monday night, NBC Nightly News reported on the 200+ million gallons of raw sewage the Trantalis administration pumped into local waterways in December and January. Earlier in the day, the Sun-Sentinel wrote the amount of sewage pumped in the local waterways was “enough to fill 320 Olympic-sized swimming pools.” By Tuesday morning, Fort Lauderdale sewergate went international with stories from CBS, Fox News, NY Post, CNN and The Guardian of London.
Then, just before the meeting started, news broke that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection levied a $1.8 million dollar fine against the City Of Fort Lauderdale due to the pumping of raw sewage.
Mitchel Vitale was one of a handful of Fort Lauderdale residents seeking to be heard about an agenda item extending the term of the City’s Infrastructure Taskforce Committee (ITC). Last week, Trantalis announced the ITC would study the feasibility of a building moratorium in the City. Many residents saw this as an attempt to “kick the can down the road” until after the November 2020 elections.
As his three-minutes of speaking time began, a nervous Vitale read from prepared remarks. First, he asked who would pay the $1.8 million dollar fine. Then, Vitale asked the City Commission if they would have acted on the sewer problems at all if not for the big break in December. He wanted to know, if this really was a huge priority, why hadn’t Mayor Trantalis acted sooner?
Vitale’s questions appeared to anger Trantalis. The Mayor interrupted Vitale before he hit the two-minute mark.
Trantalis launched into his usual litany of excuses. He claimed the former City Manager hindered his attempts to “stop siphoning off money from water and sewer fund.” Trantalis said his Commission voted to spend money to fix the Rio Vista sewer pipes just three days before they failed.
“We weren’t sitting on our hands, not waiting for a break to happen,” Trantalis said. “Unfortunately, it got ahead of us.”
According to Trantalis, the sewer problems are “no one’s fault on this Commission.”
A flustered Trantalis declared, “right now, we need to focus on solutions not blame.”
When he was allowed to continued, Vitale asked about the clean-up of waterways and shorelines. Worried no one was keeping people out of the water, Vitale said “we can’t rely on nature. It’s your responsibility [to clean up the waste], not nature.”
Trantalis tried to deflect blame once again, stating how he is very sensitive to the issue. Trantalis said they have asked City Manager to find solutions. Vitale interrupted the Mayor. He said the City should at least pressure clean the shorelines still covered in waste. “No kidding,” Trantalis said.
When Vitale said “time keeps ticking” Trantalis snapped.
Trantalis said, “that’s not true. You’re not listening…you’re giving a speech…you haven’t been listening.”
Vitale, a lifelong resident, stated he was disappointed in the City. “Sad you can’t go enjoy the water.” Vitale said. “You can’t think of going swimming.”
“And you shouldn’t [swim], because it’s polluted.” Trantalis declared. “I think we made that point clear, right?”
While the Fort Lauderdale waters may be cloudy, the lack of leadership from Mayor Dean Trantalis is crystal clear.
While he bemoans the “blame game,” Trantalis repeatedly blames past administrations and city managers for the problem. Never once mentioning his long tenure on these past commissions.
Trantalis refuses to answer questions about the role of his campaign advisers as lobbyists for companies seeking to benefit from Fort Lauderdale’s infrastructure woes.
Trantalis has no answers and no plans when it comes to protecting wildlife such as fish, birds, manatees and even household pets.
Trantalis is happy to dine with lobbyists at high-end restaurants, but he snaps when a local working stiff asks questions from the podium?
Can Dean Trantalis and his fellow commissioners even come up with an idea not filtered through advisers like “mayoral whisperer” James Blake MacDiarmid?
Perhaps Dean and Co. should listen to actual residents instead of their consultants who do not live in Fort Lauderdale?
Fort Lauderdale deserves better.