Since its founding in 1908, Pompano Beach has grown from a small fishing and farming community in the Jim Crow South to a diverse city of 100,000 people. Today, Broward County's second oldest municipality faces challenges endemic to many mature cities, including an aging infrastructure, and blight and high crime rates in certain neighborhoods.
Property values are down substantially since 2007, as are incomes, yet the tax rate has gone up by nearly 2 mils. Pompano Beach faces competition from newer cities to attract and retain businesses, yet complaints abound that City Hall and its red tape hinder, rather than help, growth prospects.
Yet, numerous positive developments bode well for Pompano Beach as it enters its second century. The city has put firefighter pensions on a more sustainable path by implementing a defined contribution plan for new employees. Pompano Beach recently upgraded one of its golf courses to attract new players and revenue. The course is now among the best in South Florida. Redevelopment of the beachfront and fishing pier are proceeding apace, which should enhance tourism, as well as increase property values and tax receipts. The Community Redevelopment Agency is working to upgrade the Atlantic Boulevard and Dixie and Federal Highway corridors.
Changing the direction of a city is akin to turning around an aircraft carrier. It takes time and a steady hand. The Sun Sentinel believes the City Commission has made progress in changing the direction of the city, and the candidates best equipped to continue the course correction are the three incumbents: Mayor At Large Lamar Fisher; District 2 Commissioner Charlotte Burrie; and District 4 Commissioner Woodrow "Woody" Poitier. The Editorial Board recommends voters return them to office on March 12.
Fisher, 53, is a lifelong resident of Pompano Beach. First elected to the City Commission in 2002, he was elected Mayor At Large in 2007. Fisher is a consensus builder, which is especially important given the City Commission's structure. It contains six members, which means four votes — two-thirds — are required to pass ordinances.
He has pledged to make the building department more "user friendly." Among Fisher's priorities is implementing the land-use and zoning changes, and completing the infrastructure improvements needed to facilitate mixed-use development along Dixie, Federal and Atlantic.
Fisher owns and operates a real estate auction/marketing firm. He's opposed by David Baumwald, 47, who owns a home remodeling company. Baumwald was convicted on felony cocaine charges in the late 1990s. His civil rights were restored in 2010.
Burrie, 69, has spent six years on the City Commission. She's an attorney in private practice who knows the intricacies of Pompano Beach government, having once served as city clerk. She, too, sees the building department as an impediment to re-development, and wants the city administration to work for reform.
Burrie has been a tireless commissioner and civic activist. She understands crime is a major problem and has worked with the Sheriff's Office to improve law enforcement. She's opposed by Thomas Terwilliger, 67, a semi-retired investment banker.
Poitier, 65, has served on the City Commission since 2008. His district encompasses some of the more economically depressed areas in the city, and he's an enthusiastic proponent of redevelopment through the CRA. He also strongly backs efforts to encourage tourism and to upgrade the beach. Poitier is a funeral director and former Pompano Beach firefighter/paramedic.
Poitier has two spirited opponents, who have unsuccessfully faced off against him before. Ed Phillips, 62, owns an insurance agency and is well-versed on issues. Joseph Wells, 38, teaches broadcast communications at Pompano Beach Middle School.
Editor's note: The Sun Sentinel offers candidates not recommended by the editorial board an opportunity to reply. Letters should be no longer than 250 words and received within three business days. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Candidate response.