Goodbye My Friend, Diane Cline

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When you move to a new city, there are people who immediately grab your attention.  Some of these fall by the wayside, and you could never say that Diane Cline would fall away.

Some of my most powerful memories were of her in City Commission meetings in the City of Wilton Manors, Florida.  She was once on the City Council, back when it was called that.

Back In The Day when Wilton Manors was on the decline, she worked tirelessly to help slow that progress.   There was a time when Wilton Manors was a war zone.  You could fire a cannon down Wilton Drive at rush hour and not hit a soul.

She and some others were there trying to help bring people back.  It was a place that nobody knew its name.  You would call it East Ft Lauderdale if you were trying to sell the house. 

Then the bar opened, and some life started to flicker back into the place.   Diane was there all the while, and you can easily say that she was directly responsible for the way the City looks today.  She would be at almost every Commission meeting giving suggestions to those who would listen, and letting those know who wronged her or her beloved Wilton Manors what they are doing wrong.  Some were told in no uncertain terms where they should go and where the boundaries of the City were so they could find themselves on the other side of that line, permanently, preferably.

At some point, Diane was given a sign.  I believe that it was made up by someone in one of the City Departments, but I can’t be sure.   It is a street sign, looks quite official, and says “Diane’s Way”.  She said that they were talking about changing Wilton Drive or NE 26th Street to that, with a twinkle in her eye.  The Drive’s name has never been changed but the sign should go on the wall in the Mayor’s Office facing the Mayor to remind him of the progress that has been made since those bad old days of ineffective government and war zone avoidance.

The picture itself comes from one of the last days of the Old City Hall.  Diane met me at what was the Police Locker Room and Gym that morning to help sell off the contents of the building that had been moved to that room.   It was all to benefit the Wilton Manors Historical Society, another one of her many Good Works.  She and I spent the day rattling around the building, me taking pictures and helping to sell off some things, she was doing the same and giving the history behind some of the artifacts assembled while telling jokes.

One of the most important aspects of that knowledge came out with the Two Lane Initiative that was spearheaded by the Wilton Manors Development Alliance and Wilton Manors Main Street.  Diane came up with the germ of that idea that gradually picked up steam.   It is the Next Step in the re-creation of Wilton Manors, to take the City one step closer to being a true walkable city and an Urban Oasis.  With help, this plan will continue and finally take place now that the debts are being paid off and parking funds are finally being directed with some semblance of sanity to the work at hand.  Politics simply could not be separated from Diane, it was too much of what she was.  The Two Lane Initiative was something she was absolutely committed to, and its progress is absolutely an indication of the current relative capacity and competence of the City.

Diane was known for the best assortment of groaners and dirty jokes of anyone I could think of.  You could always be sure that if Diane was there, she’d have a joke to tell, and it always had a message behind it directed at something pertinent.  You would leave the conversation with the light bulb over your head flickering on and realize just who got the brunt of that zinger.

She was the conscience of this city in many ways, and will be sorely missed.   She was a friend, a confidant, and an amazing source of information.  If you didn’t know Diane Cline, you probably didn’t really know what was going on in Wilton Manors.

Diane, you will be missed by me and by all.

A Small Sign of Things Working In Wilton Manors

After having someone who does not live in Wilton Manors whine at me about things that are wrong, I had a situation that proved to me that that sort of negativity is really pointless.

That is why the picture of the stop sign.

You see, living here in Wilton Manors, just like any other place, you get a vastly different view of how things work than someone who is a tourist or has a business.  Tourists look at things and either have almost all positive or all negative views, never terribly accurate.  Businesses have an amplified view of the negatives of a given area, and usually there is one specific issue that set them on the long downward spiral of turning on an area – and again, are never terribly accurate.

We residents are the ones who have to live with the mess of the tourists, and the disruption of the businesses, and generally are the ones that set the rules.  If a city doesn’t work well, it’s probably due to the residents not paying attention.  Eventually those who don’t work get noticed and those politicians get rolled out.

I have a strongly positive impression of City Government here in Wilton Manors.  Being on the Board of Wilton Manors Main Street, I hear many of the complaints of the businesses, and the plans for the future, and sometimes get to hear some news a little before most.  I also get to speak with some of the business owners and some of the City department heads.

Again, after all is said and done, I have a strongly positive impression of City Government here.  After all, how many cities can you “Walk Through” your permitting for building changes and expedite things yourself?  It is possible to get “Personal Service” that a city not much larger than we are cannot hope to give.

I had that driven home to me last night. 

We were out with Mrs Dog for a wander around town before bed.  There’s an intersection near me that needed to have stop signs put on it and the neighbors lobbied for it.  There was some push back from a particular whiny group of people who didn’t see the people flying down that block after they left the bars and after hearing the stories about drunk drivers crashing into trees, the City Commission approved the three way stop sign for that intersection – much to the relief of the residents nearby.

Last night, around 10PM we noticed that one of the signs was down.   People were assuming no sign, no yield, and were back to flying through the intersection at unsafe speeds. 

The suggestion was made to email the Director of Public Services, David Archacki, since we knew him.  Of course, this being the smartphone era, Kevin immediately did so, while walking into a wet palm tree. 

I shrugged and laughed and didn’t think too much about it until this morning’s 6AM dog walk.  When I rounded that corner again, the sign was still down.  You really don’t expect anything to happen at 6AM on a Monday morning, so I walked on home.

At 830 after Kevin left for work, I get a call saying there was a temporary sign out on the corner.  That’s the one you see on the top of this post.

So once again, I’m pleasantly surprised at how efficient things can be here.  Thanks, Dave, we really do appreciate your work.

What Next Wilton Manors

Now that we’re set, and the votes have been counted, what is next?

I have sat in the Commission Chambers for the vast majority of the City Commission meetings for the last four years.   I have seen Mayor Scott Newton become Commissioner.  I watched Commissioner Gary Resnick become Mayor and now reelected. 

I could sit here and say I was wrong because it was a two to one majority to put Resnick back. 

I won’t.

I’ve noticed a polarization of people’s opinions in this city.  In my opinion, the problems of questionable journalistic practices of the Island City News as well as the alienation of just about every person in the city are somethings that a cohesive city Commission would be able to counteract with ease. 

I moved here at the beginning of the Republican Induced Great Recession.  People were asking each other what is going to happen and there was the beginning of a climate of concern making people grumble more.  Grumbling turned into annoyance.  When you have people questioning what is going on and nothing is getting better in their eyes, annoyance can quickly become outright hostility.

That causes Polarization and Evangelism within the groups.  Basic Sociology is all I’ve stated here.  Sociology can be boiled down to one major concept and how it works within groups – cohesion.   Cohesion is how closely people bond with each other.  Sure, there are more scientific ways of describing it, but this fits for now.

Sitting in the Commission Chambers, listening to how the two mayors worked with the people I noticed some very strong differences  in style.  Scott Newton was a coalition builder.  He worked with the people on the City, on the Commission, and the volunteer community.  He was able to listen to all, build a consensus and work through some of the problems of the day.  He had some help with then Commissioner Joe Angelo, Current Commissioner Ted Galatis, City Manager Joe Gallegos and many others to name a few.

Now that Scott is a Commissioner, he is able to effect policy more directly.  The reason is that we have a “weak Mayoral” system.  This means that the Mayor has the power to define agenda and has a vote on the decisions at hand, but can’t actively suggest that resolutions are placed before the commission for the vote.  It means that Commissioner is a stronger position than that of Mayor.

The Mayor is expected to be a Manager.  The Mayor has his own opinion but must seek the approval of the rest of the Commission.  The Mayor isn’t silenced and can voice his opinion in session while hoping that someone else will make a motion to enter some new business.

Now we have entered Resnick’s second term.   I have noticed that through the first term, once he got past the honeymoon period, Gary was becoming less democratic and more autocratic.  There used to be two opportunities for public comment in each Commission Meeting, Mr Resnick immediately did away with the last comment session.   With meetings running over two hours normally, points made early would be forgotten.   People would speak their peace then leave and not see what happens because it was either not interesting to them or having said their word, they were happy.   It all serves to minimize the impact of the people of the city of Wilton Manors and insulate the people from their elected officials.  

Autocracy feeds into itself.  Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The way I understand that phrase, the more power one gets,  the less responsive to the needs of those who gave it to the one in power one will be.

I have noticed a disturbing autocratic turn of events in the run up to the elections.  There has been outright hostility on the part of the Mayor toward the volunteer community.  Sometimes it would be echoed in the other commissioners depending on the individual, but for the most part it came from the Mayor.

This is a small city, population around 12,800 in 2000 census.  Roughly.  To get done “half” of the things we do here in Wilton Manors, we rely on a strong volunteer community.  Many hours of work in planning and zoning, budget, recreation and other boards as well as affiliated boards such as historic and civic associations are donated free of charge.  Hostility toward a volunteer group is a foolish undertaking.  It only serves to evangelize them, to make them more vocal.  If the volunteer group is not funded by the city, I wonder how much input the city has a right to put into the volunteer’s efforts. 

Basically, you get what you pay for, and this is a gift.   Sitting on high and pre-judging someone’s effort in gift giving is frankly questionable morally.  Guidance may be necessary, but pre-judgement is uncalled for.

I’m quite afraid that we’re going to have another two years of that.  Little progress happened in the City over the last two years.   We’ve had a down economy and that will slow things down some.  On the other hand, policies put into effect now will effect where the city will go in the future.   Slowing down the economy should not stop policies.  The last two years were marked by a lack of leadership, a spirit of divisiveness, and an imperial attitude.   I fear that the next two will be worse.

Again, all of this is just my opinion.  If you don’t like it, my suggestion is simple, get involved.  Sit through the entire meeting.  Sometimes the most important part of what is said is said in the last 15 minutes of the meeting.  I realize it will be hard to sit through more of what now current, then interim Commissioner Julie Carson says with her apparent circular logic but for the most part if you want to be involved, that is how you do it.  You actually have to participate.  Someone else will pick up the slack but you will just have to deal with what they decide to do with it.

What was the Local Election 2010 About Anyway

The people who won in Wilton Manors municipal elections won basically because they were able to leverage their messages most effectively.  Say what you will about Gary Resnick and Julie Carson and their behavior before the election, they were effective at leveraging the bird cage liner of a new paper that is called the Island City News.   The ICN has this habit of printing long winded articles that make Gary Resnick look like the Second Coming that will “even slice dice and make Julienne fries”.  I doubt that Mr Resnick knows how to make fries, although he may be quite good in the kitchen.  I doubt that the Island City News has printed an accurate article about any of the issues that have happened in Wilton Manors other than perhaps that a meeting happened in the Commission Chambers on a certain night.   Usually after getting that paper it is more like the “Lies in the City News” than anything else because what I read there usually has me wondering what meeting the reporter was writing about.

When you have a someone using the “bully pulpit” on a regular basis, and that is the only message that you hear, you begin to believe it.   Propaganda is a great weapon and if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.  Whether the bully is the publisher of that particular paper or the article writer, I will leave to you to find your own opinion.  I have my own.  This being a blog posting, it is completely unpaid opinion and it is up to you to decide whether to believe me or not.

The Island City News is NOT an official publication of the Wilton Manors City Government in any way shape or form.  They may have pretensions of becoming one, and you can ask them yourself whether that is in the publishers plans, I for one do not believe anything printed in the paper.  When you have a paper that has a questionable grip on reality making the only political recommendations, you end up with people like Gary Resnick and Julie Carson having a significant advantage.

The other issue at hand is the “Phone it In” mentality that some people have with participation in their own City government.  This is where people who never show for a single Commission Meeting will pick up a paper or surf a web site for an “expert” opinion and then use it exclusively.   Generally it is better to ask your neighbors who they’re going to vote for and get a reason why than depend on any one given organization. 

No matter where it comes from, an opinion is by definition biased.  If you surf the Democratic Party’s website you will get a list of Democratic candidates.   The Republicans will do the same.  The Dolphin Democrats will only recommend a straight candidate if they do not compete with a gay candidate.  Everyone has their own bias.  The people who tend to read one blog or web site will have a common mindset – Birds of a Feather will vote together.  The exception are the League of Women’s Voters sites and similar.  Trying to come to an objective conclusion without having ever spoken to a local candidate is next to impossible.   If you have never been to a commission meeting or a political rally, you really do need to.  Getting up off the couch is important.  Unfortunately, those same people who are not researching their votes are the majority and they are the ones who will win the election.

It is the job of the candidate to get out and counter the bias for an incumbent by knocking on doors.  Walking down the streets on Recycling Day you see people walk to the mailbox and drop the political flyers directly into the recycling bin without a glance.  It is much more difficult to put a candidate into the recycling bin.  The candidate needs to concentrate outside of the core group, and if you are an outsider you need to spend time on those people who are most likely not going to vote. 

In this system, it all depends on marketing and getting your message out.  “Putting a spin on things” is so common that I can use that phrase and have it be universally understood.  Unfortunately that also reflects on the dumbing down of the entire process.  We are all busy but there are some things that are important and if you hand away your decision making power to a representative, you need to do so with care and not to a biased “News” source.   On the other hand, Fox News makes a lot of money being a shill for the right so it must work.

Wilton Manors Electoral Debates

Last night at Wilton Manors’ Hagen Park was the debate of the election season.  I do not know of any more opportunities for people to have heard their future elected officials speak before they get a chance to vote.

Looking around the space, I noticed that this year there were fewer people in attendance than there were in the last election of 2008.   Partly because Barack Obama and the chance to reclaim our nation from the Fascism that was the Bush years energized us with Hope.   Partly because early voting meant many have made their decisions and are sitting this night out.

This was for those of you who haven’t voted yet.   The early voting is at the Commission Chambers at City Hall, 2020 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors.   I believe that it is available for people through the entire county.  The chambers look strange without the rows of chairs waiting for a commission meeting and rows of little blue plastic stalls and they will remain that way until November 3rd.  My suggestion is to go vote and beat the rush.

Last night we were able to hear everyone speak off the cuff.   They were given questions and timed on their responses.   Commissioner Scott Newton and I seem to be cut from the same cloth – we’re both wordy.  It was amusing to hear him get cut off by the person holding the stop watch, Nick Boyko.  There were a couple times where Scott found his muse and really got into the subject and then “TIME!”… I wouldn’t have minded hearing him speak just a little longer on those.

This is what I saw from the front row, it is my opinion and nothing more.  I was not paid for this, although I did have some people who are local readers who are not running for office insist that I write my thoughts down.  I will reiterate, THIS IS OPINION, AND UNPAID.  THIS IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS A POLITICAL ANNOUCNEMENT.

There were two on the panel that were less comfortable than the famed Nixon vs JFK Debates or the “I am not a crook” Speech by Nixon. 

Mayor Gary Resnick looked out of place.   For someone who has had the position for two years, he has been widely seen as a dysfunctional and ineffective mayor.  Admittedly I find his recent actions at the Spirit Vigil reprehensible when he turned the vigil into a political rally.  I am ashamed for his lack of propriety in that situation.  Last night he proved that he was not up to the task.  His nerves were showing strongly as he sat there fidgeting through the two hours of the debate sweating as if it were overheating – it was not, I was freezing , and darting his eyes around as if he got caught with his hands in the cookie jar.   He was as he always was and the City has noticed his antics. Hopefully this will move him onto his next career.   Answers that were given were highly reactive instead of pro-active, indirect and evasive he acted like that smacked dog that flinches when you pet him.

The other person who did not belong up there was Julie Carson.  If Resnick’s electioneering at the Spirit Vigil were reprehensible, Carson’s actions were obscene.  That having been said, she had to do something to tone down her hard edges, she truly looks like someone who is out to get someone.  Of course that is all bravado.  Carson is an empty suit.  She would get started talking and you would quickly realize that she doesn’t know what on earth she is talking about.   This person would be a disaster if she got elected.  The circular logic and incompetent reasoning had me wondering how many gallons of cheap coffee she swilled before getting up on that dais.  There was a rhythm to her speech.  She’d get started to speak and rapidly run out of steam doubling back and second guessing herself.  This is a behavior I witnessed when she was mistakenly on the City Commission before and she would hack into somebody and trail off into complete confusion.  This person has nothing to add to the discussion of City Government and needs to go back to her day job – clearly, Julie Carson is Unsuitable for Public Office.

The Four Year seat is currently up for grabs.  There are two positions and three people that are running for the office.  In contrast to the incompetence of Gary Resnick and the completely unsuitable Julie Carson, I found the three running for the Four Year Seat to be a pleasant discussion among people who were content to be with each other and hash out problems in a co-operative manner.   It came out that the newest to the bunch, Steve Zollo was actually coached to run for the office by current office holder Ted Galatis (no website).  It is hard to argue when your competition thinks that you belong in the post.  Steve and Ted both are joined by Scott Newton, an affable business person who is always entertaining while he explains away some arcane piece of public policy in a way that is engaging and will be easy to understand by someone who is not as involved as I or some of the other volunteer corps are.   Ted Galatis brings to the discussion the precision of his Lawyer’s background and rounds out the triplet.

The other person running for the Two Year seat is Celeste EllichCeleste is a warm and caring individual who I have had the privilege to know for the last four years.  She has run before and tells people in her own “home spun” style that she has some problems with public speaking.  I’m going to ask Celeste to stop saying that because after watching Celeste in action, I aspire to be as good a public speaker as she was.   Celeste was the equal to the best up there and brings to the table a depth of knowledge that only someone who has more than 2 Decades of Public Service in a volunteer capacity could.   Celeste’s knowledge of the Real Estate market will be a strongly needed asset to the City Commission especially in view of the G Resort controversy and the future zoning changes that will be needed in moving the City forward as a Jewel in South Florida instead of our lurching forward under the current administration like a ship without a rudder.   Celeste will bring stability and deep consideration of issues with her.   I highly recommend anyone to get to know this person, I am truly happy I do.

I have saved the best for last.  Joe Angelo.  Joe was easily the strongest speaker last night.   Listening to Mr Angelo was like listening to a concert violin virtuoso playing a Stradivarius.  Well thought out, and often humorous anecdotes would pepper a discussion that illustrates a deep understanding of current, past and future challenges to the City.  I found it particularly instructive to watch the others on the panel when Joe spoke.  I noticed them listening intently at what Joe had to say for something that they missed, and I caught each one at one time or another nodding in agreement.   Joe has an openness that is quite refreshing and a willingness to listen to people.  While he may not agree with what you are saying, he certainly will give you the opportunity to state your case and when you are through you will understand exactly why he feels the way he did and the thoughts that were necessary to come to his conclusions.  Like his election ribbons say “Go Joe!”.  Joe Angelo will be a wonderful and energetic Mayor, and that is exactly what we will need to clean up the mess of his predecessor. 

Wilton Manors Spirit Vigil for Teen Suicides or Political Rally?

This is NOT a political advertisement.
This has NOT been paid for by any candidate.
This IS a personal opinion, and expresses my feelings that people who were bullied and harassed to death should NOT be used for purposes as offensive as this.



Last night I went to the Teen Suicide vigil in front of the Alibi.  It was promising to be a time for people to vent their frustration that so many Teens and Adults feel that the only way to escape the torture of being bullied and harassed for being different was to take the final solution and step into the long night.

Like anything in Wilton Manors, things are somewhat different here.  There was your usual contingent of people with Purple hair, although since this was Wear Purple Day to support those who need to know they’re not alone, there were more out there and there was a good reason to do it.

The Vigil began at 7pm with the Gay American Heroes Foundation beginning to give a talk on the many people around this country who paid the ultimate price for being different.  It was not just gay teens that were remembered, it was straight kids who were merely different, and perceived as being an object to pick on.

There was problem of the curious choice of opening speaker – the current Mayor, Gary Resnick.  Mr. Resnick has just done his own bit of bullying by visiting the home of 70-something Diane Cline.  It seems that Mr Resnick’s own political campaign is going so badly that he has to visit a frail old woman and bully her by accusing her of stealing his yard signs.  If you want to chose someone to represent what a bully actually is, our current Mayor is an excellent choice.   He learned at the hands of his tormentors.   Mr Resnick gave an approximately 10 minute talk about how difficult it was to be a gay teen and how he hid in the closet and did not come out until he was 27.  Then he followed by recounting the story of his male partner’s failed marriage to a woman done so that he could cover.

Perhaps he should have listened more carefully to his own story because after that he completely forgot all he said and turned it political.  He said that he thought he should continue to be mayor in Wilton Manors because of this experience.  What he in fact did at this point was to dance on the graves of each of these teens by offensively twisting the vigil to his own needs.

Mr Gary Resnick – Unsuitable for Public Office.

This was followed by some brief talks by others and the introduction of “Former (Temporary Interim) Commissioner Julie Carson”.  Julie Carson took the stage and launched into a diatribe of what she thought were her strengths, what she thought she should be able to do in office that she is running for again, and why she thought you should vote for her.   It seems that she wants to be elected the Commissioner for the Lesbian community in Wilton Manors.   Unless I miss my guess, Julie, there is no such office.   Wilton Manors is more than 50% Heterosexual.  Assuming that Kinsey is right, that would mean that another 40% are Gay or Bisexual Men.  You really don’t want the rest of our support and you do not deserve it.  This is a DIVERSE city.  We ALL work together to make it better, not just ONE GROUP!

After Julie Carson gave that tirade and whipped her fans into a frenzy and offended the rest of us she gave short shrift to the purpose of the Vigil.   In no more than two sentences she returned to the subject of Teen Suicide and moved on.   It was an obvious afterthought.

Mrs Julie Carson – Unsuitable for Public Office.

This was NOT a political Rally.  Both Julie Carson and Gary Resnick hijacking the vigil for their own sad political stunts was an offense to every person in need.   It was an offense to the thinking person that these two shallow people would be elected to office.  Gary Resnick has presided over a City Commission as mayor for two years of inaction, sluggish response, and bad decision making.   The energy of the decision making process on the City Commission has moved from being that of the Mayor leading the Commission to the Commission clearly leading the Mayor.   The position of Mayor is a leadership position and Gary Resnick Does Not Know How To Lead.

There also is the story of how Julie Carson had her term on the Commission back a while ago and was a complete mess.   She felt that it was appropriate to micromanage every individual that came before her and at one point proceeded to shred the City Attorney in questioning.   The end result was almost every time that she was speaking we were treated to a rant of circular logic that would confuse even an Einstein.  When through she was patted on the head figuratively and they merely moved on.   This woman was a distraction that most thinking people involved were happy to see move on her way.

For those reasons and more, I am thoroughly ashamed that Julie Carson is involved in City Politics.  

I strongly recommend that you take Mrs Carson’s advise – learn about her competition, as well as the competition for the Mayor’s race against Mr Resnick.   In both cases you will find people who are highly competent and ready to lead.  They also are not going to use the suicides of others as a political talking point to further their own questionable career.

I am deeply embarrassed for the city and for anyone involved in that offense that happened in the parking lot.   I was so offended by the actions of Mrs Carson and Mr Resnick that I had to leave early. 

Make sure this doesn’t happen again and vote for
Joe Angelo for Mayor and Celeste Ellich for City Commission of Wilton Manors.

This is NOT a political advertisement.
This has NOT been paid for by any candidate.
This IS a personal opinion, and expresses my feelings that people who were bullied and harassed to death should NOT be used for purposes as offensive as this.