Transgendered Lake Worth City Manager Susan Stanton seems to be adapting to her new dual roles as a female and as a city employee very well indeed. A group of citizens from the Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association had spent months pestering Stanton to meet with them for a walking tour of their blighted community, which runs from North A Street to Dixie Highway between Lucerne and 10th Avenues.
They finally pinned her down and set a date for yesterday afternoon.
The association is fed up with crime, dilapidated buildings that lack oversight from code enforcement, public drunkenness, houses of prostitution, and the common practice of gangs "rolling" Guatemalan immigrants to steal their cash. But Stanton executed a classic female defense maneuver when she didn't show up for the date. Maybe Stanton's a Rules girl; she knows it's best to keep your suitors guessing.
And not to stereotype city staff or anything, but we've found they're rarely where they oughta be.
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"Actually, it turned out OK, she emailed as soon as she got our email and was very apologetic," explains neighborhood activist Joseph Furner. After Stanton failed to show, Furner's anguished, outraged email to Stanton appeared on local blogger Lynn Anderson's website. Stanton had been in a meeting that ran late.
Furner, a math professor at FAU, has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years. He says local officials are reactive rather than proactive about dealing with issues that have dogged the neighborhood for years. "Personally I'd like to see a measurable, sustained action plan for what to do about these neighborhoods," he says. "The dirt roads should be paved, sidewalks should be put in, trash and graffiti should be cleaned up. Officials should at least act like they care about these neighborhoods west of Dixie. The CRA has money to address blight; that's supposed to be their mission. But instead, they're funneling millions into apartment buildings like the Lucerne downtown or planning to give $700,000 to the Cultural Council to move into the museum. Meanwhile we're living over here in the middle of craziness and chaos."
Furner cites crowded housing conditions for illegal immigrants as one of the neighborhood's main concerns. "I've lived in Colombia, I've lived in Mexico, and my spouse is Colombian, so I understand the issues for immigrants," he says. "We basically keep them as modern-day slaves here. The indigenous people of Central America are predisposed to alcoholism. They come over here, they get depressed, they get involved in criminal activity. And there are no resources to help them assimilate. You walk over by the shuffleboard courts and see all these addicts. Is this really the better life they thought they were coming here for? They listen to their Norteno music, and it's all about working hard all week and then getting drunk and having sex with their women on the weekends. They're living out these songs."
Furner gave us an earful on topics ranging from slum landlords to code enforcement to the disparity in ticketing bicycle riders in the east and west neighborhoods. But we wanted to let him save his energy for Stanton. He says she's rescheduled their walk for next Friday.