BY BUDDY NEVINS
Once upon a time in America, only white male property owners were allowed to vote.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler apparently pines for those good ol’ days when property owners had special privileges.
Seiler railroaded through the Fort Lauderdale City Commission earlier this month a resolution that has a property ownership requirement for any member of a new key city advisory board.
The Infrastructure Task Force will examine the condition of Fort Lauderdale’s roads, sidewalks, airports, seawalls, water and sewer pipes, treatment plants, well fields, parks and all other facilities. Members will then recommend to City Hall how to pay for needed repairs or replacement.
Every structure threatened by growth, climate change and aging is on the table. Renters, however, don’t have a seat at that table.
Seiler gave the age-old excuse for excluding renters:
“The burden to pay (for infrastructure) will be on the payers of property tax.”
Seiler seems to be prematurely assuming that any future improvements will be paid through property taxes. One of the task force’s responsibilities is to “identify funding sources and financing alternatives for those infrastructure improvements,” according to the city resolution.
The mayor also brushed off the valid argument that renters pay property taxes through their rent.
Maybe Seiler believes that renters don’t have real ties to the community. They are too transient, moving from city-to-city like a politician who spent his career in Wilton Manors for years before moving to Fort Lauderdale to run for mayor.
Let me get this straight, Jack. You say that a property owner can spend five months of the year in North Carolina and still serve on this all-important board. Yet renters living in the city 24/7, maybe from birth, need not apply.
The concept of limiting service to only property owners is counter to Fort Lauderdale’s demographics.
Only 52.3 percent of the city’s housing units were occupied by owners between 2011-2015, according to the U. S. Census. The figure nationwide is that owners occupy 63.9 percent of the homes.
Seiler’s blindness to those statistics must extend to his eyes. Right outside City Hall it is easy to see that Fort Lauderdale is in the midst of a rental apartment building boom.
Add to that the cost of new housing in Fort Lauderdale. The price of homes are out of the reach to all but the well-to-do in this low-paid state. Even many two-income families can’t afford to buy a Fort Lauderdale home.
Then there is the trend documented everywhere that renting has become more popular than buying.
“Renting has topped buying for about two years in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, largely because stock market gains have outperformed home-price appreciation,” Florida Atlantic University economist Ken Johnson recently told the Sun-Sentinel.
Those very renters moving into Fort Lauderdale are being told by Seiler, “We will take your money but you can’t serve on this board planning the city’s future.”
It doesn’t matter if a newcomer is an engineer, a financial wiz, a climate expert or a futurist.
They are renters. They are to be shunned, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler seems to be saying.
Seiler, Steve Bannon In Sync
There is another guy in the news who has expressed similar sentiments: Steve Bannon.
Donald Trump’s controversial adviser purportedly told a former colleague that he believed only property owners should vote.
Such a position has been a staple of the alt-right movement.
While Bannon’s reported comments go father than Seiler’s, they both would treat renters as second-class citizens.
The story about Bannon appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post, so some are sure to label it “false facts.”
Seiler’s position is not “false facts.” Sadly the Fort Lauderdale mayor is very happy to discriminate against half of his citizens.