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Hallandale Mayor in War of Words with Broward Commissioners

Joy Cooper is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the most erratic political figures in South Florida, and now the Hallandale Beach mayor has picked a fight with Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom.

Rodstrom was one of the commissioners who two weeks ago voted against a controversial $500 million proposal that would have allowed Hollywood's Westin Diplomat to develop its golf course in Hallandale Beach by adding hotels and condos. The project was scorned by city activists, but it had the approval of Cooper and a majority of the Hallandale commission.

In a May 3 email to Csaba Kulin, an activist against the Diplomat project, Cooper wrote:

The vote on the county had nothing to do with the merits of the project, simply the trading of votes in and (sic) election year. Rodstrom was angry at the unions for not supporting his candidacy and God only knows what (Commissioner) Sue (Gunzburger) may have had on (Commissioner) Diana (Wasserman-Rubin). The county is not what you think it is.

That message ended up in the hands of Rodstrom, who has learned a thing or two about playing defense from his past dealings with Commissioner Stacy Ritter.

In a note Rodstrom sent to Cooper early Tuesday evening, he said he was "taken aback" by the mayor's allegations his vote was tainted by other political interests. Rodstrom wrote:

If I were to accept your reasoning as to why I voted as I did, I would have to assume that your vote was tainted because you received campaign contributions from (Hollywood-based law and lobbying firm) Becker & Poliakoff who both represented the owners and contributed financially to your campaign for re-election. However, I would give you more credit than that. Obviously, you are not willing to do the same for me.

The commissioner also reminded Cooper that the project had attracted fierce opposition "from your residents" (he underlined that word). He pointed out that commission's Planning Council opposed the Diplomat project on less political grounds. And Rodstrom suggested that the project's 3-2 approval from Hallandale's commission hardly constituted a "ringing endorsement."

The episode is yet another illustration of Cooper's mercurial ways. Last month, after spending much of the past decade defending City Manager Mike Good from critics, she turned on him, calling for a special meeting to discuss his employment -- only to then miss that meeting, which was the very next day. Then last week Cooper voted with the commission to begin the process of removing the city manager.

In the past, Cooper has taken the lack of attendance at commission meetings as a compliment to her steady leadership and that of Good. But with her recent antics, those sleeping dogs are liable to wake up. And in the next election, this titan of Hallandale Beach politics may face a revolution like the one that ousted another powerful, polarizing female mayor in neighboring Hollywood, Mara Giulianti.

[Thanks to David Smith of Hallandale Beach Blog for the tip.]

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Thomas Francis

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