Lake Worth politics have turned into a minefield. On one side, realtors and pro-development folks advocate fast growth; on the other, a progressive element (some, like bloggers Lynn Anderson and Wes Blackman, would call it radical element) plan community gardens, push for renewable energy, and practice grassroots advocacy. The latter worry about protecting the rights of illegal immigrants who crowd rental housing. The former just want to send the illegals home. But both sides deal with issues like reducing crime, violent gangs, the beach and casino renovations, and the seesawing price of utilities.
On November 3, the city votes for a new mayor. Current Mayor Jeff Clemens is leaving to run for Mary Brandenburg's State House seat. William Coakley, Laurence McNamara, John Jorden, Loretta Sharpe, Rene Varela, and Javier del Sol are registered to run. Del Sol is firmly in the progressive camp. The longtime community activist is a storyteller and teacher who's often recognized by his ropey gray braid and headbands as he bicycles around town. Del Sol's mayoral kickoff party is at 5 p.m. this Monday night (del Sol is also celebrating his 55th birthday), at Lake Worth's shuffleboard courts. New Times caught up with him by phone for a quick Q&A:
Why are you running for mayor?
I think it's time to bring in everyone to be stakeholders -- Haitians, Hispanics, people who have been left out of the political system for too long. If you Google Javier del Sol, you'll see I've been doing storytelling, running community gardens, been on the school advisory committee. I've been at City Hall longer than any activist or organizations that are there now.
Tell us more about your background.
I was born in East L.A. and lived in Tijuana, San Pedro, L.A. Harbor. When I was about 18, I moved inland. I went to Denver when I was 20 years old, and I've been here since I was 22. This has been my home base but I've also lived in Fairbanks, Alaska and in Maine.
What about your professional background?
I've been storytelling since I was 4, 5 years old. I was doing that for a living and still can. I'm also [entering] the nursing program at Palm Beach Community College. I tutor writing at PBCC's central campus part time. I do some gigs -- storytelling gigs -- at places like Royal Palm Elementary and the Morikami Museum. For education, I have an AA degree. I speak French, Spanish, a little German. I do theater -- I was taking courses at PBCC. I could have two or three PhDs by now! I've studied botany, I run the EarthKeepers nature club, and I support the arts for everyone -- theater, dance, reading. And I read everything: my New Yorker, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal.
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What about your personal life? Are you married?
I'm single, never married, no children -- but people know I've raised children that were given to me -- a girl that's 3 years old, I take care of -- my goddaughter -- I watch her two days a week. And a Guatemalan boy I cared for four years -- he's back with his mom now.
What kind of expertise do you have to tackle issues like planning and zoning or budgets?
I believe not so much in academic intelligence but in environmental intelligence -- "Live simply that others may simply live."
What would you do about the problems that Lake Worth is said to have with gangs?
I know every gang member in this town. We need to offer them viable alternatives to gang activity. For 20 years, I've been the coordinator for child and youth services -- they come to me -- to help me in the garden, to pick up trash in the neighborhood. It's just that something in them has died -- curiosity, interest in life. We need different kinds of programs in the city -- arts and nature. I take them tubing on the Ichetuknee River, we ride bikes to the beach and park, we go to the zoo.
What about the current plan on the table to sell the electric utility?
We need to study the issues very well. We need to have town meetings in every district -- it's a two-way street. We need to listen to the consultants and experts and hear different points of view and have an exchange. The way to reach major decisions is they should not be taking place only at City Hall.