BY BUDDY NEVINS
I could say democracy died Tuesday in Sunrise, but I would be wrong.
I watched it die a long time ago under former Mayor “Big John Lomelo, if democracy means including citizens in decisions and conducting government in the sunshine.
The ghost of Lomelo walked through Sunrise City Hall Tuesday. He was back at his old haunt, the dais of the Sunrise City Commission.
I saw the ghost. So did activist Bill Colon, who has been around politics almost as long as me.
Tuesday was vintage Lomelo.
Commissioners called off the March election for mayor. Instead, they agreed to anoint Roger Wishner, who will be mayor until 2010 without facing the voters.
No messy campaigning necessary for Wishner.
They acted because City Attorney Stuart Michelson suddenly discovered a convenient city law that made the election illegal.
Or so he said.
(For those interested in the details, an explanation of Michelson’s ruling is at the bottom of this post.)
A campaign for mayor between Wishner and Commissioner Joey Scuotto is off.
Wishner is the leader of the commission majority. Scuotto is the outsider, the lone voice against the city hall steamroller lead by Wishner.
Get the picture?
I’m not the only one reminded of Lomelo last night.
Lomelo, who used to juggle election dates and handpick candidates. Lomelo, who crushed any commissioner who defied him.
Big John’s rules were law in Sunrise and the public be damned. Until he ended up in prison, busted for extortion.
“I closed my eyes and I swore I saw the ghost of Mayor Lomelodenying the people their rights, Colon told commissioners on Tuesday.
He’s right. I saw the ghost of Big John, too.
There were the same arrogant smirks on the dais. The same nasty sniping at the public and media.
The same lengthy, twisted explanations to justify shafting the public.
The only thing missing were the 12-ounce McDonald cup full of whisky that Lomelo guzzled during commission meetings. And Lomelo’s boozy reditions of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” late in the evening.
I could almost see Lomelo Tuesday smiling down from heaven. Or up from hell.
Sunrise was still doing it his way.
Here is what Michelson decided:
Wishner is deputy mayor and Steve Feren is mayor. Feren is leaving his job to become a judge.
It was originally thought Deputy Mayor Wishner would become mayor from January to March, when he would have to run again.
But Michelson decided that because Feren is not quitting until January 5 — although he was elected judge on November 4 — city law states no election can be held.
Michelson’s believes that a mayor’s election can not be held if the deputy takes office within 120 days of the next election. The March election, already scheduled for two other commissioners, is only about 60 days after Feren quits.
So Wishner gets to serve without facing voters until the next city election in 2010.