Earl Rynerson knows what it's like to go toe-to-toe with Jack Seiler. The openly gay Republican challenged Seiler for mayor in 2009 and in 2012. And now the retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel is back to challenge his old foe at the ballot box once again.
The time may be ripe for unseating the establishment candidate. Seiler is currently been buried in a wave of unpopularity. The mayor has been brought into the news stream for all the wrong reasons. From his opposing a commission resolution in support of same-sex marriage, to his handling the homeless situation in Fort Lauderdale, Seiler has never been more vulnerable.
Rynerson, who married his partner of 14 years on January 7 after same-sex marriage was legalized in Florida, is a strong gay advocate and runs a blog, abetterftlauderdale.com, that criticizes and calls out Seiler's leadership.
New Times spoke with Rynerson about the race, the issues, and why he thinks he's the better choice over a candidate he says "only cares about the white, straight, wealthy" of Fort Lauderdale.
On his expectations for the race: "What I hope happens is that 90 percent of voters that usually don't vote would realize the real problems we have as of late in Fort Lauderdale, and will show up to vote. If they took the necessary steps to vote, to show up, that would make a huge impact and change things."
On the big issues facing the city: "I think it's a lack of leadership. Our current mayor is interested in fluff, not in doing any real work and solving problems. Especially when it comes to same-sex groups and tax payers. Jack Seiler did not support marriage equality when he was first presented with a chance to do so, nor did he support non-discrimination language on basis of sexual orientation for city workers. He once gave the keys to the city to baptist preacher Pastor Larry Thompson, who once compared same-sex marriage to Serbia's ethnic cleansing in some of his writings.
"These are the kinds of things that show Jack is good at manipulating the truth while hiding his true beliefs. I mean, he passes an ordinance at 2:00 a.m. to restrict public feeding, which was just a ham-fisted approach to an issue that needs to be looked at and treated more delicately. Passing the ordinance was simplistic. His decision to take away of American Golf Course showed that his true allegiance is the wealthy few in Fort Lauderdale, with the white, straight, and wealthy."
On theAquatic complex: "This is another example of Jack's lack of leadership. To go through with the complex even though the inspector general found multiple violations. How would I handle the Aquatic Center if elected? Two words: Start over. We would legally start over, the developer misrepresented their background. I would push for fairness, and once we come up with a new plan, I would push for qualified bidding. The complex right now makes no money for the tax payers. You just don't throw together parking lots with swimming pools and expect that to make money on its own. The development shoud not have parking garages. It should have attractions and things that attract tourists dollars. Restaurants, and shopping. It could host swimming and diving competitions, or any number of ideas. But the facility needs to make money."
On City salaries: "I think someone needs to ask the question: How does our city stack up against others? City employees make something like 10 to 15 percent higher in wages than other places, and that's just too much. We could easily trim the budget without disturbing services. But over-staffing has created problems with people who want to build or expand their property in the city. I have a friend of mine who took four months to have the swale in fromt of property approved. In all that time, he was visited by a different inspector with different rules whenever they came by to look at his property. This kind of thing happens every day."
On Public Service: "Jack Seiler likes to talk about how his public service. But Seiler is a public politician. He knows nothing about public service. I was a Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran. I served for 20 years in the Air Force and retired a Lieutenant Colonel. I know what it's like to serve. Jack has no clue. I know ho to make decisions that benefit the city through actual public service."
On his competition: "I commend Chris Brennan for coming out and being part of the political process. He's a good example of how to get involved and try to enact change. That's a rare thing, and so I commend him for getting involved at this level."
Voters will be deciding who will be mayor of Fort Lauderdale on February 10.