Immigration is a hot-button issue in tomorrow's Lake Worth City Commission elections, in part due to the large number of undocumented residents in the city but also because of the recent flap over candidate Scott Maxwell's alleged ties to anti-immigration hate groups.
Tomorrow, Lake Worth residents go to the polls to vote for mayor and City Commission candidates in districts 1 and 3.
We asked all four City Commission candidates to respond to three questions about policies for undocumented workers in Lake Worth. We just posted Jo-Ann Golden's responses. After the jump, excerpts from her District 3 opponent Wes Blackman, whose contentious local blog has been a major source of information and amusement for Lake Worth residents this year.
What is your position on the Lake Worth mentoring center?
I understand the need for it. The center acts as a portal for immigrants into our society, and it's doing its job, teaching English as a second language, integrating people into society, reducing the congregation of people on streets. But from my point of view, it's not in an ideal location. The current commission doesn't like any sort of question beyond the party line relating to center. If you wonder about the location or ask if it is really serving the entire city, suddenly you're labeled a racist. Or they accuse you of "thinly veiled racism." I'm insulted by that.
They took an existing recreation facility out of access, a place for the public to gather. We need to have a recreation facility open to everyone. And a mentoring center should also serve the entire city, like the Haitian community, for instance. Right now, it's serving just a narrow segment of Lake Worth. The city has surplus property; we could assemble a nice-sized parcel and perhaps develop the center into something that would serve the entire region -- because this really is a regional, not just a citywide, issue.
What's the most pressing problem with illegal immigration in Lake Worth?
Living conditions, overcrowding in the western and eastern neighborhoods. Landlords are paid in cash, they rent by the head, and code enforcement issues have gone unaddressed. All our residents need a safe and secure place to live. We ought to begin or re-do our rental license program so that certain standards have to be enforced, units would be subject to annual inspection, landlords would have to meet minimal licensing standards. Right now, our code enforcement is in a state of collapse. My background is as an urban planner. We're electing the wrong candidates.
What specifically will you do to help integrate legal immigrants into the community?
This is a major part of my platform. We need to communicate with all citizens, eliminate language barriers, get our signs and ordinances translated into Spanish and Creole, support English as second language. One of my suggestions has been to have meetings in all 12 parts of city: Once a month, all five commissioners would go out as a group to one part of the city with nothing on the agenda but to listen to public comment -- a listening meeting that might also include a potluck to celebrate local cuisines. We need to do a lot better job scheduling meetings to make them accessible to the public.