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.

Poitier, who for years was the only black voice on the county commission, lost her seat to a well-funded but politically inexperienced white candidate in this summer's Democratic primary. Months before the primary, Democratic Party power brokers, fearful that Poitier's days might be numbered, approached Moore to run for her seat. Citing loyalty issues he declined to throw his hat into the ring. "I respect Sylvia Poitier," he says. "They didn't respect her, they had more respect for me -- it's as simple as that. I had no way of looking into a ball and knowing she may lose her seat."

Despite what the political prognosticators say about Moore's political future, he claims no aspirations beyond his city commission seat. "I plan to continue the job I've been doing the last ten years," he says. "I am dedicated to turning around this community."

But Moore's attempts over the years to inflate his public profile suggest there may be something he's not saying. Along with becoming active in political organizations like the National League of Cities and the Urban League, he has been particularly outspoken on a number of racially charged issues -- like the Navy's redlining of his district -- that critics like McCoy say are "safe" and likely to "incense the community."

In 1996 Clayborne wrote an editorial critical of Moore's stance on one such issue. "So-called black leadership has helped to maintain our victim status by fanning the fires of what I call symbolic racism," he wrote. "Recently Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Carlton Moore called for the firing of a city detective.... I'm sure Carlton Moore meant well but his efforts might be better spent ensuring that blacks and others get a piece of the economic bounty doled out primarily to whites by the city of Fort Lauderdale." Recalling the editorial, Clayborne says of Moore, "We always look at the emotional issues first, the ones easy to generate emotional responses."

Moore stands by the actions referred to by Clayborne, actions that in 1996 helped force Det. Don McCawley, a decorated 23-year veteran of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department into early retirement. Moore had been outraged by McCawley's behavior two years earlier at an annual invitation-only law-enforcement retreat in Tennessee known as the Good Ol' Boy Roundup (a retreat more than a dozen Fort Lauderdale police officers have attended over the years). Competing in a "Redneck of the Year" competition, McCawley performed a parody of the Rodney King beating in which he extracted a black baby doll from a watermelon and began beating it with a stick. Moore called for McCawley's firing shortly after details of the skit, as described in a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the Roundup, became public.

In a burst of emotions Moore, who has two teenage sons, leaped from his seat at a city commission meeting and demanded that McCawley be fired. "This man wants to shoot my sons," he said, as the rest of the commissioners looked on in stunned silence.

Recalling the incident Moore says he believes his actions sent an important message to the police department. "It's important that they understand that this is no longer a time when things like the Good Ol' Boy Roundup are going to be tolerated," he says. "I think it was a necessary position for me to take whether I was elected or not."

McCawley, now a private investigator in the Fort Lauderdale area, admits his actions at the Roundup were in poor taste but thinks he was treated unfairly, largely as a result of Moore's overreacting. "I don't think I would have been forced out if Carlton Moore hadn't raised such hell about it," he says. "I think the City of Fort Lauderdale allowed Carlton Moore to do things the way he has always done things, intimidating people by using the black community as a pawn. It's a hell of a way to treat a guy who has been with the city for 23 years."

But Moore, who remembers being harassed by white police officers as a young man in Fort Lauderdale, is far less concerned with the career of an individual police officer than with the animosity that has traditionally characterized relations between the police department and the black community. Moore need not worry, because the legacy of a largely uneventful first decade in office will probably have very little effect on his chances of being elected again.

Published:In a feature article entitles "A Dream Deferred" (October 8), staff writer Jay Cheshes wrote that George Myles still owed the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) $15,000 for an educational video he'd been contracted to produce in 1995 but never did. Because of reporter error, that statement was incorrect. According to the BSO's public information office, a video was produced and delivered to the BSO, which claimed that the video did not meet its expectations. The project was thus shelved, and the BSO did not attempt to recover the $15,000 paid. We regret the error.

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