FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Fort Lauderdale, FL — The success of the People’s Debate for Broward County Sheriff last month helped inspire a new type of forum, where candidates listen to what the community has to say about the important issues affecting local residents before getting a chance to respond. On Aug. 17, SEIU Florida, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward and Students Working for Equal Rights joined forces to launch The People’s Forum, allowing community members and activists to educate and engage with local political candidates like never before.
With two dozen candidates listening attentively, a diverse group of Broward residents shared their often heartbreaking stories of being directly impacted by issues such as low wages, immigration, affordable care for children and loved ones, homelessness, education, racial profiling and police brutality, affordable housing, and discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Michelle Bart, a DACA recipient from Trinidad and Tobago whose family is struggling with homelessness, shared her story and let candidates know what they could do to help her and others in her situation. “I think about my father, because he does not have the proper ID to enter a homeless shelter,” Bart said. “That’s why I’m here to ask if you would be willing to have municipal IDs for the residents of Broward County, just so we can have a roof over our heads and shelter from the rain. To be able to not be afraid anymore.”
Victoria Wilson, whose brother Michael Eugene Wilson was shot and killed by Hallandale Beach Police, wiped away tears as she spoke about the heartbreaking impact his loss has had on her family, the lack of justice surrounding his death and their struggles with trying to get information about what happened. “We haven’t gotten our brother’s personal belongings, we haven’t gotten any calls from anyone, we haven’t had anything released to us, not a police report — nothing.”
Other community members spoke about mental health issues, HIV and the importance of a living wage. “Thank you for bringing up these issues, issues that have been on the table for quite some time. It begs for action on many of these,” said Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. “Ensuring that we have people who work earn a good living is critical.”
The lack of diversity and representation among elected officials was also brought up as an issue, especially in a community with such a diverse Latino, Caribbean, African American and Brazilian population. “We just cannot dispense justice based on the way people look,” said James Curry, candidate for Circuit Court Judge Group 15. “That’s why the issue of diversity is so important. It’s not a joke that we don’t have a lot of Black judges in Broward. In order to consider different people’s perspectives, it’s important that some of the people who judge them have had similar experiences.”
Candidates from races for County Commission, Court and Circuit Judges, State Attorneys, Supervisor of Elections, Sheriff’s Office, Property Appraiser, Clerk of Courts, Congress, State House and State Senate were invited. Two dozen candidates attended, including Chris Smith for County Commission District 9, Dale Holness for County Commission District 9, James Curry for Circuit Court Judge Group 15, Alfreda Coward for County Court Judge Group 14, Kal Evans for County Court Judge Group 2, Phyllis Pritcher for County Court Judge Group 2, Deborah Carpenter-Toye for County Court Judge Group 21, Russell Thompson for County Court Judge Group 21, Stephen Zaccor for County Court Judge Group 8, Teresa Williams for State's Attorney, Whitney Rawls for House District 92, Kathleen McCarthy for County Court Judge Group 8, Adam Geller for County Court Judge Group 3, W. Dale Miller for County Court Judge Group 3, Willie Jones for Broward County Sheriff, Patrick Jabouin for Florida House District 95, Brenda Di Ioia for County Court Group 7, Mark Kushner for County Court Group 13, Paulette Armstead for Florida House District 92, Shandrell Roscoe for Clerk of Courts, Nathalie Lynch-Walsh for School Board District 5, Robin Bartleman for School Board At-Large Seat 9, Nina Weatherly Di Pietro for County Court Judge Group 7 and Eric Alexander Fowler III for Oakland Park Commission.
“I was deeply moved by the community members tonight,” said Kathleen McCarthy, candidate for Broward County Court Judge Group 8. Adam Geller, candidate for County Court Judge Group 3 added, “Me and the other candidates go to forums all the time, but never one like this.”
SEIU Florida represents over 55,000 active and retired healthcare professionals, public employees and property service workers in the state of Florida. SEIU members provide vital public services in Florida’s hospitals, nursing homes, public schools, community colleges, municipal and county governments, malls and universities. With over 2.1 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America.