The People's Republic of Area A

A group of neighborhood leaders prepares to declare independence and start Broward's first black-majority city

The draft of the report also doesn't mention that there are at least six other existing cities in Florida that have populations and total taxable property values similar to those of Area A under the scenario described in Rosenbaum's report. Two of those cities, North Lauderdale and Lauderdale Lakes, are located in Broward County, while two others, Greenacres and Lake Worth, are in Palm Beach. The other two are Fort Walton Beach in Okaloosa County and Homestead in Miami-Dade County.

Jack Tobin has studied the issue of incorporation of a new city at length and has no stake in the matter, having left the delegation last year. Tobin believes that "it could happen, but it would not be easy."

In addition to their economic arguments, opponents of incorporation have also made use of a divide-and-conquer strategy that so far has proved effective. The tiny neighborhood of Golden Heights, for example, is likely to vote to go with Fort Lauderdale if a referendum is ever held, Major admits.

"We are a neighborhood of single-family homes," says Art Kennedy, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings and a resident of Golden Heights. "We have nothing in common with those people on welfare," he says referring to poorer areas of Area A to the south of Golden Heights.

The residents of Area A also don't seem upset about losing Golden Heights. "What are they, three blocks wide?" asks long-time Area A resident Lois Howell. "Hell, let 'em go. We don't need 'em."

When people talk about their feelings toward Joe Major, be they his allies or his enemies, they usually start off praising him.

"I admire his enthusiasm and his willingness to challenge the system," says Eggelletion.

"I think he's a decent man," says Carlton Moore.
"I have nothing against Joe Major," says Art Kennedy.
Then come the brickbats -- usually immediately after a sharply pronounced "But..."

"He doesn't understand the issue," says Moore.
"He's offensive," says Kennedy.
Six months ago Major berated Eggelletion at a Washington Park homeowners association meeting while the politician was trying to talk about one of his pet projects, an empowerment program for homeowners associations (a surefire political winner in front of that crowd).

"All of a sudden, Joe [Major] comes in, and he starts needling Joe Eggelletion for living in a white neighborhood," recalls a county staffer who was present at the meeting. "It was really bad. So that's how Joe [Major] tends to shoot himself in the foot. Here's someone whose support he's going to need to reach his goals, and he's questioning his motives -- questioning his race! -- and in public!"

Now Eggelletion says of incorporation, "It's just not going to happen. I will not support any attempt to make that area into a city." No wonder.

Yet if Major is his own worst enemy, he also knows how to push exactly the right buttons in a community that has often been on the raw end of the deal over the years -- especially when the deal involves Area A's more prosperous eastern and western neighbors. "Hell, Fort Lauderdale de-annexed us to begin with," he says. "Why would we want to return to a city that got rid of us way back when black folk first started moving into this area?"

But if Fort Lauderdale is bad, Plantation is worse, say Area A residents with long memories. Plantation's sins date to 1963, when the city annexed both sides of Highway 441 all the way from Davie Boulevard to Sunrise Boulevard. Carefully avoiding any of the surrounding residential neighborhoods to the east, the city picked off everything that seemed to offer the chance of building a tax base.

"It was the worst kind of cherry-picking," says Hillier, of his own city. "There's no question about it. It was disrespectful and just flat wrong."

But that was just the start. If the intervening years of neglect weren't bad enough, the city fathers in 1989 decided to add gratuitous insult to previous injury. That was the year of the infamous "wall." Under pressure from business owners along the 441 corridor, the city presented something called the "Safe Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan For Gateway District 7." That jargonistic title pretty well reflected the plan's content, which was filled with such suggestions as "thematic areas" and "pedestrian environments" and special lanes "to facilitate vehicular access."

It also suggested building an "eight-foot wall" between the businesses along the east side of 441 and the unincorporated area to the east. The reason? "Merchants along this eastern edge, from operators of restaurants to auto dealerships and produce stores, tell graphic stories about teenagers who live east of them running out with their cash registers, pilfering cases of beer from food stores on a daily basis," according to a redevelopment plan for the area. For good measure the plan also suggested building an additional wall on the west side of 441, to pacify "residents [who] talk about teenagers from the unincorporated area prowling their streets, looking for some place to break into."

For many residents of the unincorporated areas, the coup de gráce was a map that pictured a big black spot over the neighborhood north of Broward Boulevard and east of 441. Above the spot were emblazoned the words "Habitats of Criminals Victimizing the Commercial Portion of the District."

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