A Dream Deferred

After a decade in office, Carlton Moore hasn't done much for Fort Lauderdale's poorest residents. But he has helped himself.

Judging from almost a decade's worth of poor job evaluations, the match wasn't so good. The evaluations paint a picture of an unenthusiastic employee with a truancy problem. Last May, for instance, Moore traveled to Alaska for a meeting of the National League of Cities, an organization with which he is active. Phoning from the Arctic Circle, he explained that he wouldn't be able to make it to work until the end of the following week. Moore's supervisor, Phil Charlesworth, was not pleased. "I have never given him permission to go on vacation without prior approval," he wrote in a letter to Schreiber. "However, it has happened many times. I was assured the last time it happened that it would never happen again.... I am recommending that we consider cutting his part-time employment by half." Schreiber didn't have to. Last month, after nine lackluster years as an investigator, Moore resigned.

Instead of digging up witnesses, Moore is now devoting his time to another position, a more flexible part-time gig as a vice president at McKinley Financial Services of Pompano Beach, a company that, with Moore's help, recently secured a multimillion-dollar deal to provide property and casualty insurance to Broward County. Moore was hired just a few months before the deal with the county was set up. He claims, however, that the timing was simply coincidental.

Despite questions about his business dealings and his effectiveness as a politician, Moore remains a political force with which to be reckoned. In 1997 he was elected to a third three-year term with more than 80 percent of the vote (though only 12 percent of his more than 10,000 constituents voted). In the last ten years, only two candidates have stuck their necks out to challenge him, and both were easily quashed. Leola McCoy and Mickey Hinton, former classmates at Dillard High School, lifetime residents of the northwest section of Fort Lauderdale, and community activists popular in their neighborhoods, mounted campaigns to unseat Moore in 1994 with little success. (Hinton made a second unsuccessful bid in '97.)

McCoy, a firebrand who has spent more than 30 years vying for the political spotlight, set her sights on Moore shortly after he took office. "My dog has more integrity than he does," she says. "I thought I could honestly represent people. Folks said, 'Why [are you] running against the man?' He ain't no man, he's a damn crook." Increasingly the two have clashed over what has become McCoy's pet project, the cleanup of the toxic chemicals at the defunct Wingate Road Municipal Incinerator and Landfill, a site she blames for the chronic illnesses afflicting many in her neighborhood (the same neighborhood where Moore grew up). Moore recently cast a vote to cap the site rather than remove its toxic contents, defending the cap as the quickest and least-expensive way to deal with the problem. Although he acknowledges that his stance on Wingate was unpopular among his former neighbors, he says he doesn't expect it to impact his chance of easily securing a fourth term if he runs again in 2000.

Moore's self-confidence is bolstered by his prominence among the black political elite in Broward County, many of whom went to the same schools and played on the same playgrounds as he did. As the child of divorced parents, he was raised by his mother in the Royal Palm section of unincorporated Broward County, a predominantly white neighborhood when he first moved there in 1959. At about that time, across the city line in Fort Lauderdale, he had his first encounter with racism. "I was looking in a picture window in a five-and-dime when a man spat in my face and called me a nigger," recalls Moore. "I didn't understand why, and I went home and asked my mother, 'What's a nigger, and why did this man spit in my face?' and I saw tears come to her eyes, and I knew something was wrong."

Such encounters were a frequent feature of life in Broward County in the earliest days of the civil rights movement. As a young boy still unburdened with issues of race, Moore was mostly confused by the way the white kids in his neighborhood treated him -- and why so many of them began to move away. In fact, by the time Moore was a fifth-grader at Rock Island Elementary, a formerly all-white school he'd helped to integrate under police guard, his neighborhood and school were almost entirely black. "I came into school one day, and I had a white teacher," recalls Moore. "The next day I had a black teacher and a black principal. It happened just like that."

Moore's rise to political prominence didn't happen nearly as quickly. At Fort Lauderdale High School, the integrated school to which he was bused, he showed the first signs of leadership, organizing black students into a politically cohesive group. Many of those same students urged him to pursue leadership roles outside of school, first with the NAACP and then with the city commission. As a young civil rights leader, Moore became a protege of such black political luminaries as U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings and lame-duck County Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, politicians his peers say are helping to groom him for higher office. "If you look at the stable of black politicians most likely to move on, Carlton's been around longer than most anyone else, and he's still young," says Keith Clayborne, publisher of the Broward Times, a black newspaper. Moore's friend Florida Rep. Josephus Eggelletion, Jr. agrees. "I know he's aiming higher than where he is today," he says. "It might be appropriate for him to run to fill the void left by Sylvia Poitier's absence."

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