In past environmental organizing efforts in Lake Worth, confronting bad development plans had occasionally presented the challenge of working with people who haven't shared the same values towards social justice and human rights. While the relationship between environmental protection and human dignity has been a common sense alliance for the PBCEC, some neighborhood activists have not shared this view.
But with the coming election, that murkiness is starting to clear a bit, as the most developer-friendly candidates are turning out to also be some of the least responsive to needs of low-income and immigrant families in the City. Below are some cited samplings of the four candidates of greatest concern: Scott Maxwell – candidate District 1, Wes Blackman – candidate District 3, Loretta Sharpe – candidate for Mayor and Rene Varela candidate for Mayor.
The PBC Coalition for Immigrant Rights (PBCCIR), which recently collaborated with PBCEC in our Lake Worth candidates forum, has been a primary advocate for the Lake Worth Resources Center. The PBCEC considers the Center to be a quality-of-life issue in the urban environment, we support the work of PBCCIR, and feel that many of those who have opposed the effort do not have the interests of the public at heart. Further, there is a strong element of xenophobia and racism which has surfaced and must be exposed and challenged.
The above-mentioned four candidates for Lake Worth City Commission have been vocal opponents the city's efforts to create the Lake Worth Resource Center, which brings day-laborers off the corners, providing education, employment and access to services. Following are some of the public comments these candidates have made in opposition to the City’s effort to welcome immigrants and integrate them into our city through education, employment and recognition of their cultural heritage. Many of Lake Worth's immigrants families have been residents in the City of over 20 years (and are still refused the right to vote). The Resource Center is a critical piece of Lake Worth's efforts to be a city of tolerance, working pro-actively to create stable employment for residents so they can provide for themselves and their families.
I hope all voters will give serious consideration to these candidate’s opinions.
Maxwell has presented himself as being openly anti-immigrant. Until recently, he hosted a weekly radio program called “Connecting the Dots on Illegal Immigration”, Thursdays 8pm on WBZT 1230 Clear Channel. He ended the radio show upon his candidacy for City Commission.
He attended the City of Lake Worth public meetings when they were voting to open the Resource Center to help provide employment for residents, and to get Day Laborers off the street corners. At that meeting he spoke against the center, I have included his comment from the official City Clerk meeting minutes (source, page 14:
His entire comment can be found on the official Clerk recording of the meeting. The meeting was held September 2, 2008
“Scott Maxwell said this was an important night for Lake Worth. The decision of the Commission would send an important message to its residents, businesses and developers, and America that the City sold its soul and pandered to those who tried to come to the country and improve themselves. The federal government allowed immigrants to get away with entering the country illegally. This was one of the most generous countries to allow legal immigrants to enter. With enough people, the government and the political country could be taken over. He said he was against Matricular Consular Identification and opposed the center."
Further proof of his vocal opposition to immigrants can be found in this email posted on the website of City blogger Lynn Anderson. (source: http://lynn-a.blogspot.com/2009/05/e-mail-from-scott-maxwell-on-illegals.html):
Very well written piece on your blog regarding illegal aliens.... (except for the part where you plugged my show! You know how bashful I am & can be J ! )
This week’s guest will be Steven Camarato, Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies. I really appreciate your being on top of this issue....hopefully we as Americans, will wake up and place some of our petty issues aside for the resolution of some of the more important.... Our country is in a terrible fight for survival...we are going to meet the same fate as all the other great civilizations before us...too bad that again, folks refuse to learn from history... Again, thank you for your activism...you are truly blessed with great writing skill....wish I could have a fraction of that gift....
[*note: Upon a simple search, quotes from Maxwell's guest, Steven Camarato, came up on the Storm Front, the 'white pride world wide" website out of West Palm Beach: http://www.stormfront.org/forum/sitemap/index.php/t-47305.html ]
UPDATE 11/7/09: The reason that this guest came up on the search is that the guest's name, actually Camarota, was spelled wrong by both Scott and the anonymous Stormfront blogger. Since the publication of this post, information has surfaced linking Scott Maxwell to several known racist hate group. More info can be found at: whoisScottMaxwell.blogspot.com
Wes Blackman (also a former employee of Kilday & Associates, one of Palm Beach County's nastiest developer/lobbyist firms)
While sitting as a CRA board member, Wes Blackman voted against a small $1,000 grant to provide wireless cards for the Resource Centers computers. Mr. Blackman’s comments at the July 4 meeting can be found at:
Mr. Blackman visited the center to try and confuse the staff and claim he was being discriminated against, and wrote about it on his blog. His petty and pointless complaints amount to nothing of substance and display his affinities with the organized anti-immigrant efforts in the City.
Sharpe has also been a vocal opponent of the Lake Worth Resource Center. In her public comment during the City Commission vote to open the center, she compared the center to a brothel. Her comment as recorded in the official Lake Worth City Commission meeting minutes of September 2, 2008 is below. The entire comment can be found on the City's website, under the September 2, 2008 official meeting recording.
“Loretta Sharpe said she was a resident for twenty-one years complained about the prostitutes on Highway; however, no Commissioner offered to open a bordello to get the prostitutes off the streets. The Commissioners were thinking about opening a resource center, but it would not improve Lake Avenue. The Commissioners took away many events over the years, yet were considering opening a mentor center for people who did not pay taxes. Employees and programs were being cut in the proposed budget. She said she hoped everyone would record the vote tonight and remember it during the November municipal election and a year from November."
Rene Varela (involved with the capture of wild dophins for private profit)
Varela also made public comment during the September 4 City Commission vote on the Resource Center. Following are his comments as recorded in the official city minutes, although his position is murky here (as it often tends to be), he has been clear during other forums that he does not support the center. At best, his position should be clarified.
“Dr. Rene’ Varela said his parents came to the United States from Cuba forty-three years ago. They became legal citizens and integrated into the county. The decision of the City’s future was being made during the budget process. This was a town with great compassion and no one had a monopoly on providing compassion. There was a need for a competent legal opinion on the impact of the center; needed to bring in a broader faith based organizations; needed a buy-in from the federal, state, and local governments who created the problem; needed a code of ethics for those involved in the center; needed those individuals who would benefit to own up to the law; and needed a mission that required all users to be legal citizens or were seeking legal status.”