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Among the programs Stork championed was the Main Street Project, an ambitious public-private partnership intended to revitalize Wilton Drive. Stork also persuaded his fellow commissioners to hire a lobbyist to represent Wilton Manors in Tallahassee for the first time. That expense proved largely wasteful, but Stork succeeded in other areas. He used public dollars to encourage mixed-use development in Wilton Manors, including Wilton Station, a ten-acre gated village that will include lofts, townhouses, and business space.
"He believed in the city spending a lot of money, the big government idea," Resnick says. "The state should spend money to encourage business. In the past two years, Wilton Manors spent more than ever in its history."
In 2000, Wilton Manors' total budget expense was $12.9 million. During Stork's last year in office, the city spent $16.4 million.
Indeed, the city's financial wherewithal has become a concern. "They spent money like there's no end," says William Main, a lifelong city resident. "I'll be glad when I move to Palm Beach County. Wilton Manors is going to wind up in bankruptcy."
In his defense, the former mayor cites independent audits that confirm the city is on solid financial footing.
Yet the city wasn't particularly generous with the rank and file during Stork's tenure. Last summer, Wilton Manors performed a study that showed municipal employees' salaries were lower than those of workers in comparable cities. The commission voted to increase pay for everyone. Only one vote was cast against the raise: Stork's. "I wanted more of an analysis [in the study]," says Stork, who now claims that he supported the "idea" of raising wages.
Still, many city residents and business owners view Stork's tenure as positive. "There's a sense of excitement now with the city and with the City Commission," Terry Norman, co-owner of Georgie's Alibi, says as he sits at a rocking table outside the airy bar. "Before Jim, there was so much dissent with the old guard."
Largely because of the positive image Stork built in Wilton Manors, he caught the attention of political leaders in Broward and elsewhere. Mitch Ceasar, chair of the Broward Democratic Party, believes Stork's fresh political face will prove to be an asset in District 22, which includes about 630,000 people who live along coastal Palm Beach and Broward counties and inland in Coral Springs, Wilton Manors, and Plantation. "I think people look at a candidate's experience, but they also look at the quality of the person," Ceasar says. "Jim offers quite a bit. He's young and has a fresh perspective."
But not every Democrat agrees. Says Stan Smilan, a military veteran and fellow Democratic candidate for Shaw's seat: "Stork is just going to fuck the whole thing up. All he's going to do is get the gay and lesbian parade. They're going to march around and conduct a freak show."
It's 2 p.m. on an April afternoon, and Stork's Café and Bakery on NE 15th Avenue in Wilton Manors is bustling. Nearly every table is occupied with patrons, mostly male and gay, reading newspapers and magazines as they sip gourmet coffee. The white, concrete-block coffeehouse, which was formerly a jewelry store, generates $500,000 in revenue annually. At one of the larger tables sits Jim Stork, dressed in a blue oxford shirt with small white polka dots. Next to him is recently hired media handler Stephen Gaskill, who during the Clinton administration was a spokesman for U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
The Stork campaign so far has called great attention to this bakery, mentioning it regularly in speeches and literature. The message is clear: As a successful small-business man who came from nothing, Stork would be your everyman in the Beltway.
The candidate doesn't emphasize other parts of his private life, though. "Once you become more public, people want to know about your personal life," Stork explains. "I've always tried to separate it the best I can." There's a reason. One of Stork's previous relationships ended in two restraining orders. Stork and ex-boyfriend Ray Pardue allegedly threatened to kill each other.
The problems started in late 1995, after Stork and Pardue split following a seven-year relationship, court records show. At the time, Stork was 28 years old. Pardue, then 64, was leasing from Stork the condominium they had once shared. But when Pardue stopped paying rent, Stork filed eviction papers. To make matters worse, Stork alleged, Pardue was harassing and stalking him.
In filing for a restraining order, Stork told the court that he'd been receiving prank calls. He suspected they were from Pardue. Additionally, in October 1995, Stork alleged, Pardue "threatened to kill myself and my roommate (Richard Streb)." In January 1996, after Stork took back a car in his name that Pardue had been using, the ex-boyfriend allegedly left a threatening message: "This is war." Two weeks later, the rear tires of Stork's green Mitsubishi 3000GT were slashed, according to the court filing.
Even after Stork filed for the court order, the threats and harassment allegedly continued. On April 12 of that year, Pardue circled the Hillsboro Executive Center in Pompano Beach and peered into the office windows of Campbell Laboratories, four of Stork's co-workers told the court. "The following week, I discovered, while walking through the parking lot, cards with the name of James Stork and the office phone number strewn through the parking lot with obscenities placed on the cards," testified Andriana Doncovio, a Campbell employee.