Longform

A Dream Deferred

Page 3 of 6

While Jerry Kolo applauds Regal Trace and neighboring developments like the new post office on Seventh Avenue and the Family Health Center across the street, he says they amount to far too little, far too late.

"Physically those projects have an impact," he says. "But socially and economically they don't, which should be the true test of redevelopment projects. These physical improvements do not get to the basic concerns of the residents, which are with well-paying jobs; businesses they can operate profitably; infrastructure for good housing; safety; recreation and child-care facilities; transportation to other parts of the city; and environmental issues. There is no overall coherent strategic plan for the economic revitalization of the area, and that is obvious. Carlton Moore is a dynamic guy, but, in terms of the technical insights of what would work, he needs to do a better job at pulling the appropriate people and teams together."

Moore's magnetism, not his technical expertise, is what landed him in politics in the first place. "He was always the leader among his friends," recalls his mother, Ada Moore, a former recreation counselor with the city's parks department who was a sort of surrogate mom for many kids in Moore's childhood neighborhood, a lower-middle-class enclave just beyond the Fort Lauderdale city limits. "Because of his leadership in high school, people encouraged him to move into politics," she continues. "He never really said anything about politics growing up. I think he sort of fell into that. He always wanted to be a businessman, to own his own business. He wanted to make money."

Moore's attempts at amassing a fortune -- including running an office-supply company, a window-cleaning service, an insurance business (he became a licensed insurance broker after taking classes at Broward Community College), and a nightclub -- fell flat. By the time he'd become a city commissioner -- a part-time position for which he earns $14,000 a year -- his business ventures seemed driven by desperation. When his last big project, a Blockbuster Video franchise, went belly-up in 1996, Moore's business frustrations had reached critical mass. "I will not go into business again," he told the Miami Herald in 1997. "It's rough if one is operating a business; he should only do that one task." So far Moore has kept his word, and, citing a similar claim of overextending himself, he recently quit a $35,000-a-year, part-time job as an investigator with the Broward County Public Defender's Office. "He has too many eggs in too many baskets," says his first wife, Valerie Jones. "He spreads himself a little thin."

Juggling his political and professional lives, Moore found that his political clout was in fact the most useful moneymaking tool at his disposal. Among the more questionable business ventures his office helped him secure was his involvement with Blockbuster, a company then owned by one of Fort Lauderdale's most heavy-hitting developers (and a contributor to Moore's political campaigns), Wayne Huizenga. In 1993 Moore and his two partners, George Myles and Fred Platt, threw open the doors on Florida's first black-owned Blockbuster franchise, a retail showpiece in a rundown shopping center on Sunrise Boulevard. At the opening, heralded with great fanfare and attended by Huizenga himself, Moore said that his venture would be the first of many new enterprises to reinvigorate the black community and pledged to invest 5 percent of his proceeds back into the neighborhood. That turned out to be 5 percent of nothing, because three years later the struggling franchise entered the annals of Blockbuster history as one of a tiny fraction of the company's 800 franchises to go broke. (The rest of the company's 4000 stores are company-owned.) Moore blames poor financial planning and a paucity of customers for his franchise failure. "We didn't have an adequate amount of money to support us through the lean startup years," he says.

Even though Moore's Blockbuster deal was a failure, its timing set off alarms among his critics. He secured the franchise shortly before a 1993 commission vote on a hotly disputed Huizenga development in Fort Lauderdale's Smoker Park, a $34 million project that would replace the park with apartments and a shopping center. At the time the proposal polarized residents along pro-environment and pro-development lines and even inspired a group of protesting Seminoles, claiming the site to be a sacred burial ground, to camp out in the park. Mayor Naugle first opposed the development plan, but when Huizenga agreed to set aside a stretch of land for park use, he changed his mind and joined three of the four commissioners in approving the project. (Despite the approval it has yet to get off the ground). Moore, fearful the public might perceive a conflict of interest with his new Blockbuster deal, abstained from voting.

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Jay Cheshes