Broward News

Mayor Jack Seiler Responds to Sea Turtle Activists Clamoring for His Attention

Activists protesting the death of baby sea turtles because of Fort Lauderdale's flawed beach lighting know how to get Mayor Jack Seiler's attention: holding signs up against the windows of City Hall during a commission meeting, passing out his private cell phone number, calling him a murderer. 

Ana Campos, organizer of said methods, certainly got his attention recently -- but not in a positive way. Last week, we published a few short, snippy email replies he sent to her and other activists. Now Seiler tells the Pulp that he's dismissing the activists for a couple of reasons. One, he thinks they just want attention for themselves. Two, he says, it's not the mayor or commission's job to enforce lighting regulations.

"This is more about Ana than it is about turtles," says Seiler. "She

never reached out to me before this." He says that Campos and other activists started attacking his name before they tried to speak rationally with him -- and that Campos' request for him to come meet her on the beach and watch the turtle recovery efforts is "not about the turtles. It's about her." 

Seiler adds that he gets plenty of time on the beach, often riding his bike there at 5:30 in the morning. That attitude toward Campos could explain why the mayor sent her an email, saying, "Before we ever communicated about the turtles, you began writing, stating, and spreading false, misleading and inaccurate information about the City of Fort Lauderdale, our City Commission, and our City Manager... Quite simply, you attacked without even knowing who your friends or enemies are or were.  Now, with your reckless approach, you have definitely lost credibility with me."
On the broader issue, he says, "we don't enforce the code. As a mayor and commission, we set policy. The implementation is done by the city manager." He claims that the code enforcement "staff has cited so many problems, you wouldn't believe the complaints we're getting from the other side."

Yes, but wouldn't it be good P.R. for the mayor to at least act like he's concerned, maybe utter a few platitudes or visit the beach and pick up some lost baby turtles, when the activists approach him? 

"This isn't about P.R.," he says, repeating, "This is about Ana Campos and eight other people." (That's the number he counted at last week's protest.) "People know my history. It's right there on paper. How much time do I spend, as mayor, telling people the same things I've told them?" When asked for comment on the issue Friday, Seiler responded with a phone call as well as a lengthy email outlining his positions, which we're including here at the end of the post. 

Seiler says that while we have to "invest a lot of time, money, and effort" in long-term turtle protections, the loss of turtles who cross the road can't be treated with the same weight as the loss of human life. Still, he digressed into a tale about his childhood: "I have four pets in my house, and my dad was a veterinarian. I grew up taking care of animals.

"The thing that concerns me the most," says the mayor, "is that this is an extremely worthy cause. The other night when I came home, my wife asked me if I was worried about the protesters. I said, 'Honey, I think this is wonderful. They have the right to protest. I just don't like it when they turn it into a dishonest debate.'" He adds, "Nobody is saying, 'The heck with the sea turtles.'"

Here's the rundown, straight from the alleged turtle-killer mayor's mouth:


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts about sea turtles on Fort Lauderdale Beach.  The City of Fort Lauderdale cares deeply about the survival of the endangered sea turtles, and we are -- and have been -- working with local and state officials to ensure the safety and protection of sea turtles nesting on our beaches.
For example, following the recent inclement weather caused by Hurricane Irene, the City suspended beach cleaning operations on two separate days to allow our staff to examine, monitor, and repair damaged turtle nests.  Approximately 70 nests were successfully re-established and/or repaired along the stretch of public beach from Fort Lauderdale Beach Park north to Oakland Park Boulevard.
Also, by working in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the City of Fort Lauderdale has made significant progress toward decreasing the amount of light on the beach to protect the sea turtles and minimize disorientations.

Currently, more than 100 city-owned, turtle-compliant light poles located along the east side of A1A are retrofitted with specially designed covers that have been approved by the FWC to block light from shining directly on the beach.
The City is also making a $2 million investment in the beach to enhance the safety and protection of sea turtles by further limiting the amount of artificial light.  Our engineers have designed a prototype turtle-compliant light fixture that will be used to replace all acorn-style lights along the east and west sides of A1A.  These FWC approved, turtle compliant light fixtures will illuminate the sidewalk and roadway without shining any light on the sand.  The project is being funded through a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation and we expect all the new lights to be installed within the next six months.  You may be interested to know that these turtle compliant light fixtures, which we designed, have also been approved by the FWC for use in the cities of Riviera Beach and Delray Beach.
In addition to limiting lighting, the City assigns Code officers to the beach to specifically monitor light emanating from properties and ensure businesses are complying with lighting regulations.  Our proactive code enforcement efforts have resulted in opening 172 cases on beach lighting violations.  Of these, 49 properties have already complied; 76 are actively working with staff to reduce lighting; and, 47 have received a Notice of Violation.
Properties continue to work with the City to reduce lighting visible from the beach by turning off lights completely, shielding bulbs, discontinuing the use of wall mounted light fixtures, deactivating security lights, retrofitting fixtures with turtle compliant bulbs, discontinuing the use of decorative lighting, and limiting outdoor lighting. 
Part of our success in this effort depends on the public.  If someone sees any beach lighting violations, we encourage them to report the violation by contacting our Code Enforcement Office at 954-828-4989.
The City of Fort Lauderdale recognizes and appreciates that this is both a serious and complicated issue.  We are working diligently to achieve a balance between the safety and protection of the sea turtles and the safety and protection of our pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists, motorists, residents, visitors and businesses, all of whom need to coexist cooperatively on the beach each and every day of the year.
By working together, we are confident that we can effectively address the concerns that have been raised and formulate a solution that is acceptable to the diverse stakeholders involved in this issue.
Again, thank you for giving me this opportunity to respond, and I hope this clarifies the City's position on this important issue.
John P. "Jack" Seiler

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