Last week, the New Times reported that the City of Hollywood had tentatively approved an ordinance that would limit the size of tents, umbrellas, and coolers that people could bring to the beach.
What ended up causing more controversy than the changes to the rules, though, were the remarks made by District 6 Commissioner Linda Sherwood.
“We’re getting families from Kendall coming up here, and our own residents can’t use the beach because they’re having these big family parties that last all day long,” she said during the meeting, later clarifying, “It could be Hialeah or Homestead. The problem is that the beach is completely overrun with tents and families.”
Needless to say, people from Kendall (and Hialeah and Homestead) were offended. Commenters on the New Times Facebook page accused Sherwood of “undercover racism” toward Latinos and started a grassroots campaign to bombard her with calls and emails. Some suggested showing up at Hollywood Beach with boomboxes, coolers full of beer, and arroz con pollo, just to make a point.
Sherwood, who says her remarks weren’t aimed at any particular ethnic group, called into Fernand Amandi’s show on WIOD yesterday to say that Hollywood welcomes everyone and that the changes to the ordinances were solely motivated by concerns for beachgoers’ health and safety.
“I have been attacked, literally, from people writing to me because they think I’m trying to stop Hispanic people from coming to Hollywood Beach,” she said. “Which is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, you’ll find that on the City Commission, I’m one of the most centered, most spiritual commissioners on that commission. And my spirituality would not allow me to be biased against any ethnic group. Secondly, I have four Hispanic grandchildren.”
When Amandi pressed her to explain why she’d brought up Kendall in the first place, Sherwood said she was simply paraphrasing emails she’d received from her constituents.
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Amandi: I guess my question to you, commissioner, is this idea that these are out-of-towners, these are outsiders who are doing this to Hollywood Beach… What is the problem if people want to drive 300 miles to Hollywood Beach? Many people around the country know Hollywood as one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. What’s the problem with that? I just don’t understand the scapegoating of quote-unquote out-of-towners.
Sherwood: It’s just something that came to us in emails. Everybody made a mention of people coming from out of town. I was singled out. So that basically is it. We are simply trying to keep our beach healthy and safe. And it doesn’t matter what city people come from, as long as they can obey the rules and regulations, which has not been happening. And we receive emails on a regular basis that people have… apparently, they hear them [speaking] in Spanish, you know, using Spanish language, talking to each other in Hispanic, and so apparently they assume that these people are coming from another city. Or they might have asked them. I don’t know, because the emails we receive definitely state that these people coming to the beach are from another city.
Amandi: But so what? What’s wrong with that, commissioner? And “these people”… I mean, that characterization, you can understand. Again, you’re a public official, a public servant, and I don’t think anybody has ever suggested that there has been any nefarious efforts behind your comments, but you have to understand that words matter, commissioner, and this perception that… I just think the idea that it’s “these people,” “these out-of-towners,” when it could very well — and I think you admitted this on this program — it could very well be people that live in Hollywood themselves and are using their beach, their public beach, that could be doing it. I don’t understand why we can’t just clarify that point, commissioner.
Sherwood: I don’t know how much clearer do you need it. I’m telling you that emails have come to us. I stated something that I shouldn’t have stated. It just came to my mind, the word “Kendall.” The whole point is this: We welcome tourists, and it’s about safety and health, as I’ve told you.
You can listen to the complete interview here.
New Times reached out to Sherwood to see if she wanted to provide a statement or further clarify her comments and received the following response:
Only if you apologize and retract that horrible headline. I know that controversy sells but even after I said that no particular area was being singled out you went ahead with that disgusting headline. I received hate mail to me, my children and grandchildren that I was discriminatory towards Hispanics. The ridiculousness of that statement is that I have 4 grandchildren who are 50% Hispanic.