Face Off

John Coleman and his fellow reform candidates in Hollywood face an uphill battle against mayor Mara and Co.

"The reasons for not running are very legitimate," Coleman notes. "How do you say to your husband or wife or partner in life that you're going to spend the next eight weeks running for a job that pays $15,000? But I'm in geezerland now. I have absolutely no need for money. I came here to sit on the beach, to read, to think, to be a father. But things never turn out quite like you plan."

Will he win?
"That's going to be up to the people," he says. "A candidate really has no idea what's going down. I've been a part of enough political campaigns to know how they get fast and they get strange. This one's gonna be both.

"The problem with Mara is the same problem Dukakis had. The guy never left the Northeast. He couldn't have told you where Montana was to save his life. Mara's a creature of Emerald Hills. She has no sense of city.

"I'll tell you," Coleman adds, "economic development isn't just about restaurants that serve basil and pesto. And the good communities in Florida are no longer building high-rises on the beach."

A few days after Coleman wasted precious time -- but had a lot of fun -- driving to Key Largo, he's out on the street "kissing babies and asking for money," as his campaign manager calls it. Oliveri and Loewenstein are with him in spirit, though they're working other parts of town.

Meanwhile, Mayor Giulianti is wasting her time and not having much fun doing it. She's sitting in her third-floor office at city hall enduring an interview. She thinks the questions are stupid and suspects the result will be unfair, negative press.

"This is tilting at windmills!" she yells, unconsciously tearing at a purple scarf knotted around her neck. "I'm establishment to you! I know it! I know it! I don't know why I bothered with this!"

But rather than walk out, the mayor keeps talking, and the talk invariably turns to Coleman, an avid environmentalist who lives in a high-rise and runs the air conditioning 24 hours a day; a former globe-trotting business consultant who owns no property; a candidate who espouses family values while living with his girlfriend.

The world is full of paradox, but Coleman's paradoxes amount to rank hypocrisy, Giulianti charges. She accuses Coleman of being a tax cheat because he failed to change his out-of-state license plate in a timely fashion; of harboring a secret agenda in which Mother Nature will return Hollywood beach to barren, barrier-island status.

"They don't deserve John Coleman's vision!" she intones, speaking of the people. "Mara's vision is the right one. It's the one that's going to save Hollywood!"

Issues in Hollywood are maddeningly parochial. They're not just local, they're superlocal: one neighborhood gets exercised over storm drains or sidewalks; another cares only about the widening of U.S. 1 where it cuts through the city; another part of town wants nothing more than to stop paying a new surcharge on paramedic services.

The one issue that crosses neighborhood boundaries is the issue of Giulianti herself. The mayor knows that, rightly or wrongly, the March 10 election is largely a referendum on her management style, her personality, and the way the city has changed in recent years -- which in turn is linked inextricably to her.

So what about her image? What about this idea that she and her elected comrades are too cozy with the country club set? The mayor is establishment. But the upside of incumbency is that she, Eleanor Sobel, and Dick Blattner had already raised more than $100,000 for their campaigns by January 1. A lot of that money comes from lawyers, lobbyists, construction firms, and others who do business before the commission. So campaign contributions would seem a reasonable point of departure for a discussion of public image.

Q:That image of you is not restricted to your political opponents. It's out there, it's abroad, and how it got created is something I'd like you to talk about if you care to. But why perpetuate that image by accepting campaign contributions from Swerdlow, from Becker & Poliakoff, from HIP Insurance, from --

A:Wait a minute, wait a minute, everyone accepts campaign contributions! From the President to the governor to every legislator. That's why you have campaign reporting laws. I think what scares me about people like John, and I thought about how he could say that I put some guy that I never heard of -- Martin Philips or Philip Martin or whatever he is -- in there, I thought, it's people that would do those things who usually think someone else would too. I think that John probably -- maybe it's because he's never been a financial success, and maybe that's what causes him, or maybe it's --

Q:Wait a minute. What are you basing that on? You just told me on the phone the other day that you think his past and his background are a black hole, that it's sketchy.

A:I think anyone who's been a financial success has a credit rating. I've been told that he has no credit rating.

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