Broward Politics: Sam Fields Says Strong Mayor For County Is A Bad Idea





The unwritten/unsaid promise of all those who want to reform government is:  “Change government to the way I am suggesting and honest, efficient and effective government will run on auto-pilot”.

Numerous civic groups along with the Sun Sentinel are promoting the latest version of political snake oil by promoting a strong mayor form of government for Broward County.

The Sun-Sentinel’s June 21 editorial recommended a new position be created for a countywide elected mayor. That mayor would have budget, veto, agenda and appointment powers.

It points to Miami-Dade County as proof that a strong mayor will give us a sense of direction that we somehow now lack.

I guess the thousands who annually move up to Broward from Miami-Dade don’t appreciate the “political paradise” they live in.

As is required every ten years, Broward has convened The Broward County Charter Review Commission to review county government and recommend changes.  A Strong Mayor is on the agenda.

Twenty years ago single member districts was the hot button issue that became law. It gave us little more than parochialism.

Ah, they will tell us, this time it is different.


How has strong mayor government worked in our cities? Is a strong mayor too much power in the hands of one elected individual?

Lauderhill was so happy with a strong mayor that they voted it out of their charter when Mayor Ilene Lieberman went to the County Commission. After leaving the strong mayor’s position in Lauderhill, Lieberman was elected to the Broward County Commission and became one of the leaders against the last big push for a county strong mayor 15 years ago.


Ilene Lieberman


In Plantation strong Mayor Diane Bendekovic-Veltri recently used her direct control of the city attorney to waste $500,000 in legal fees in a failed attempt to shut down the Christmas decorations of a neighbor.


Diane Bendekovic-Veltri


And, of course, how can we forget the paragon of strong mayors—John Lomelo of Sunrise. By the time they carted him off to Federal prison he had turned the city treasury into his personal checking account while at the same time extorting builders who wanted to do business in the city.



John Lomelo arriving at Federal prison, 1985,  State Archives of Florida/Mark Foley


The solution to any ills in government is not to be found in the type of government.  It is to be found in the citizens.

Vigilance is not only the eternal price of freedom. It is also the eternal price of honest and effective government.

Unfortunately the level of citizen vigilance of government is not what it should be. Most don’t pay any attention at all.

Ask yourself this: What would be the reaction if, on the same day every single member of the Broward County Commission was arrested, Don Shula died?

Which would be the lead story in the Sun-Sentinel? On local television? What would dominated Facebook?

That’s a tossup.

What would not be a tossup is which of those articles  would more Broward voters read or watch.



Sam Fields, a Plantation criminal defense attorney, has been an active participant in Broward politics for four decades.  


16 Responses to “Broward Politics: Sam Fields Says Strong Mayor For County Is A Bad Idea”

  1. Don't Worry says:

    The Charter commission requires 13 of the 19 members to move an item to a ballot. It is HIGHLY unlikely that the strong mayor can get that support because of the differences on (1) whether it is needed at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it attitude and (2) divisions among supporters on what powers the strong mayor should have.

  2. Myron Gershon says:

    Would the strong mayor be partisan or non-partisan? If partisan, we are handing control of the county’s$$$$ budget to the voters in a Democratic primary forever. Bad news to every independent and Republican. Would Busch, the Democratic leader, who is a member of this charter review, ever agree to have it non-partisan?

  3. Mark Bogen Right says:

    Commissioner Bogen was in the Sun-Sentinel saying “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
    That is the truth. What is wrong with Broward County that needs a political boss?

  4. Anthony T. McMahan says:

    Developers have already picked their choice for the strong mayor as Jack Seiler. That is why Seiler isn’t announcing for Attorney General. He is waiting to see whether the strong mayor goes on the ballot.

  5. Anonymous says:

    read it carefully. Fields has no argument against strong mayor except to huff and puff against some ancient figures in Broward history.
    Fields doesn’t mention that every major city and county in Florida has strong mayors.

  6. Seth Platt says:

    Sam fields is wrong. No one is supporting a strong mayor. Many are supporting an elected mayor with limited powers. This is not the boogie man, rather an elected position which can provide consistent leadership to help guide our county. Stop frivolously tossing the word strong around when talking about this position and grasp what is really being proposed here.

  7. Richard J Kaplan says:

    Sam, I may sometimes agree with you and sometimes not. Probably a bit of both. But when you commented about Lauderhill, something that I know something about, I need to set the record straight.

    When you said that Lauderhill was so happy about Strong Mayor that we voted it out of our charter, that is a mischaracterization of the situation.

    At the time, of which I was part of it, we were examining what was the most efficient and best way to operate a city of our size. The studies came back showing city manager was it and not strong mayor. Strong Mayor works best for cities under 30,000 and over 200,000. It was a professional and thoughtful process that the voters agreed to.

    Add to that, we were concerned about who was qualified to be strong mayor that might run being it would be a political solution and not in the best interest solution.

    I know because as the next elected mayor of the city, I didn’t want to be a strong mayor, and I was in line to be that next strong mayor, for which I am leaving the position of Mayor next year after serving for 21 years. I felt that a City Manager would be less political and better trained to run the city of our size. And on this we were right.

    The only thing I regret was that we never considered a hybrid model of Executive Mayor and that may have worked as a compromise.

    So to say we threw it out cause we weren’t happy about it, isn’t necessarily the case. It’s just we thought we could do better and we have.

    As to the county, there is no right or even good answer because it is too political. No matter what the answer, someone will win and someone will lose. On that I’ll keep my opinion to myself on what I prefer.

  8. Sober As a Judge says:

    Commission manager forms of government are for small operations. Mayor council forms are for large operations. One size does not fit all. Broward is still using the same governing structures it had when it was 50,000 people to govern 2 million people. It just doesn’t work that way. We also know that commission forms of government are elitist, with no one point of accountability. The favorite of lobbyists. While mayor forms are populist where the true decider of performance is the voters. The question isn’t what form of government Broward needs that much is already decided. The question is whether Broward is mature enough to make that decision. Like Miami Dade did, and they are much better off today than they used to be.

  9. moreofthesamecrap says:

    Are there any stats as to the cost savings or losses from a strong mayor?

    Sure do miss your stories on Broward Schools. Haven’t seen one in a long time and it’s not for a lack of waste. Plenty of that going on like overpaying MBLE vendors by 50% and short fall for the construction portion of the Bond.

  10. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    I disagree w/ Sam here I think a strong elected mayoral in Broward is the way to go. Put it on the ballot. I mean the way they do it now w/ the commissioners changing seats every Nov. is assine. County Comm. Chip Lamarca gets gafted every year. Listen here Chip the comm. won’t give you that seat (mayoral) the residents just might. A lot of martini talk about Mayoral running .Well, fine. If you think some of you that it will be a walk in the park for jack seiler think again. I liked to see Seiler vs. Lamarca. Now that would be a race. Will see….Say yes to elected county mayoral residents…

  11. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    Seth Platt for Mayor. The Baby Platt takes Broward by Storm! All this and the weather at 10pm tonight.

  12. Bob Adams says:

    Robert Walsh, I don’t support a strong mayor, but if the scenario you suggest were to come to pass, this diehard Democrat would be pounding the pavement for Chip! Not because Seiler is desperate to hold any elected office and is a complete tool of developers (although that is reason enough; but Chip LaMarca is the real deal, a fair-minded, people first elected official!

  13. disgruntled says:

    buddy are u sick or on vacation wee nnnneeeeeeddddd you tooo dull without your wit please come back lol


    Thanks for your kind comments. I was on vacation for awhile.

  14. dirty politicians says:

    Sieler is weak as they come, a do boy for Judy Stern, no loyalty, and surely has benefit in his law firm as mayor, Meanwhile over $38,000 per day plus city pump trucks hauling sewage 24/7 as they rob 23million a yearfrom water and sewer, to fund pension .A weak MAYOR and CROOK

  15. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    #14 yes this is a major concern. Its not right that the city admin. etc just kicked the can down the road. So you have to say Hail Marys would you flush your toilet that it doesn’t back up on the end of your street. Speaking of strong mayors w/ all this mess in Ft.Lau maybe its time we had a strong mayor here in Ft.Lau instead of letting a city manager call all the shots. I mean its a real mess that we have to spend over a billion dollars to fix our sewer systems. And what is th ecity mangers answer charge the resident smore money(sewer/storm water fees -to double yet he hires ast. city managers and pay them over a 100g. No things must change and I think a strong mayor is in order.

  16. sick of politics says:

    A strong Mayor is not Bruce Roberts another employee of Stern, she has 3 seats on the Commission Jackie Bruce and McKennzie she makes them do all her dirty work, its all over in March, if we can survive the past 9 years of this corrupt 3 some