West Palm's Next Mayor Speaks

Forget Joel Daves. Lois Frankel rules.

Q: What do you think of the job Mayor Daves is doing?

A: I know him, and he seems like a nice enough guy. He's a casual friend of mine, so I didn't think this race would get ugly. I got comments from voters like, "He's a nice guy, but he's not up for the job." I've gone to neighborhoods and schools and businesses and just talked with people, and they perceive him as a weak leader.

Q: Daves told the Palm Beach Post on July 4, 2002, "Lois Frankel is the last person I would have thought would run for mayor of West Palm Beach. I've been to thousands of events across the city -- neighborhood meetings, dedications, city commission meetings, workshops, weddings, funerals. Lois Frankel was not at one of those meetings."

Fred Harper

A: He's criticizing me for doing my job [in Tallahassee]. I moved to West Palm in 1974. My son was born here and went to public school here. I had a law practice in West Palm; I've worked for the public defender's office and in private practice and had a very active private life here, been engaged in all kinds of civic opportunities from fundraising for the American Cancer Society to the West Palm Beach Women's Shelter. He's didn't see me in City Council meetings, and I didn't see him in Tallahassee. Besides that, I bring a lot more energy to the position -- and stronger leadership that makes up for any funeral or wedding I missed.

Q: Your mother, Dorothy, lives in West Palm. She has campaigned for you and managed to raise thousands for you last year. What role is she going to play in the mayoral election?

A: My mom is healthy, but she's aging. She'll do her usual knocking on doors and put a Lois Frankel shirt on and walk up and down the aisles at the grocery store. That's the best place to put her because of the hot weather.

Q: Have you devised a platform?

A: No, it's too early. The overriding concern of people who live here is safety. There's a higher expectation for city government to make citizen safety a priority. Code enforcement is a problem with some eastern parts of the city where you have a lot of boarded-up houses that are essentially drug houses. The sewer system was built in the early 1900s and it's literally crumbling. That is a huge concern. Something else I hear all the time: On the other side of the city, it's hard for people with middle-class jobs like teachers, nurses, and reporters to find decent and affordable housing. There really is a housing crisis here. I went to a seminar last week on housing to try and learn more about that.

Q: Looking beyond your campaign, how does "Gore 2004" sound to you?

A: It feels more feasible than it did just six months ago. Whoever runs will be smart to bring out this issue of corporate greed and the very close relationship that people in government have with corporate failures like WorldCom and Enron. What politics at its purest should be about is standing up to the powerful self-interests. Gore might have an in if the stock market keeps going down. That is a political climate unfavorable to people in office.

Q: Do you think Hillary Clinton has a shot at even the vice presidency?

A: I don't have a personal favorite. Hillary has a chance, but so do a lot of people. My attention is more concerned with what happened in Florida. I think [Democrats Janet] Reno, [Bill] McBride, or [former Democratic state Sen.] Daryl Jones would make a better governor than Jeb Bush, but I'm not taking sides until after the September 10 primary.

Q: You've left the Legislature, and you've said it was your toughest year ever. What is the 2001-2002 Florida Legislature's greatest success and greatest failure?

A: I leave it with mixed emotions. There was a restoration of the Everglades bill that would have passed, but at the last minute, it was tagged with a provision that would have made it harder for environmental groups to protest against antienvironment moves by corporations. That is something I could vote for which was disappointing. I was hugely disappointed that we gave a tax break to corporations, and we took money away from public education. I don't think these corporate folks get it that they have the power and money right now. But I'm moving on, knowing that democracy occurred because I, along with all other Democrats, maintained a rational point of view against those who outnumbered us.

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