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The People's Republic of Area A

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Did it have an impact? Seemingly not. "Look at this turnout," sighed a city commission candidate at one point. "Pathetic, isn't it?"

The residents of Area A have only one option for maximizing their political power, says Major. Sticking together. The theme of his campaign is unity, and his ability to maintain it will determine his chances of success.

With incorporation having such strong opponents as Eggelletion and Moore, only by demonstrating a strong and consistent grassroots stand will the campaign have a chance of succeeding.

But any new city in the heart of Area A is going to have to take back not only the 441 corridor but probably parts of Fort Lauderdale west of the interstate as well. Although much of the 441 corridor is vacant, it's far from empty. From Davie Boulevard to Sunrise Boulevard, there are 328 businesses facing Highway 441, says Hillier.

Plus, the road is currently being widened and improved with state money, providing what Rosenbaum calls a "tremendous opportunity" for future growth. "Look at this traffic," he says, driving south on 441. It's about 3 p.m. on a recent Saturday, and the road is backed up with traffic. "None of these roads -- Sunrise, Broward Boulevard, 441 -- have ever stopped being important vehicular corridors. The problem is, people don't stop along here. Well, with the right incentives, you could start getting people to stop, and then you've gone a long way to turning this area around."

Recognizing that their eastern border may be at risk, Plantation city officials several years ago proposed the creation of a community renewal account (CRA) for its Highway 441 corridor. In a CRA the sale of bonds finances economic revitalization for a defined area, and the increase in tax revenues in the revitalized area is used to service the debt. Perhaps coincidentally, a CRA would also have had the effect of locking up future increases in the corridor's tax-generating value, thus making the corridor useless to a new city in need of tax revenue.

If Plantation serves as a convenient bogeyman for Major and company, they also have a positive example in the city of Eatonville, a small town near Orlando the very name of which resonates strongly in the black community.

In 1897, Eatonville became the first black-majority town in Florida when a group of freed slaves formed it on a small parcel of donated land. Today the town is still small -- population 2500 -- and it's still dealing with many of the problems that opponents fear await Area A should it ever incorporate.

"The major challenge for us is the fact that the cost of operating a town continues to escalate," says J. William Andrews, special assistant to the Eatonville mayor. "Police and fire services are very expensive."

Art Kennedy, a resident of Golden Heights who favors annexation by Fort Lauderdale, cites Eatonville as an example not worth following: "We don't want to end up like Eatonville." Eggelletion agrees: "I don't see any businesses running to the city of Eatonville saying let me relocate there."

It may seem somewhat strange, therefore, that Lois Howell is planning to organize bus trips to Eatonville to drum up support for incorporation. She also promises to arrange for Eatonville mayor Anthony Grant to come and stump for her cause.

But there's really no mystery, she says. What her opponents don't realize is that even with all its difficulties and challenges, the city of Eatonville -- a town founded by former slaves that struggles yet still survives -- touches something deeper in her spirit than talk of taxes and services.

Andrews knows what she means. "Of course it's a challenge," he says. "There are upsides and there are downsides. Of course. But we've managed to get along for about a hundred years now. And I think we'll continue to get along for another hundred years."

Two years ago Eugene Franklin signed onto the Broward County Civic Coalition as a representative of one of the poorest neighborhoods, Washington Park. Last year he nearly dropped out after quarreling with Major over strategy. At the time, he told friends that he didn't think the coalition would ever manage to stay together with Major in charge. Last week Franklin sat down with Joe Major and about a dozen other leaders in the sanctuary of the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church on NW 27th Avenue and started planning strategy.

They talked about getting out the vote. They talked about canvassing. They talked about hinging their support for single-member districts for county commissioners (a pet issue for black elected officials) to a reciprocal support for incorporation.

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Paul Belden

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