The debate has raged for decades about whether Broward County should have an elected mayor. Currently, the nine-member county commission selects the mayor from within its ranks. That person serves a one-year term on a rotating basis.
A bipartisan group of community and business leaders is urging the commission to put an item on the 2020 ballot that would let voters decide whether they want to elect the mayor countywide. The group also is organizing a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot, in case the commission refuses to do so.
The county commission recently voted 7-2 to have a workshop on the issue, with some commissioners adamant about getting public input before moving forward. So proponents paid for me to conduct a poll that quantified the answers to three questions.
— Do voters want an elected county mayor?
— Do voters want the issue on the 2020 ballot for the public to decide?
— Do voters know who the current mayor is?
I alone wrote and conducted the poll, with substantive help only on the question about whether people know who the current mayor is.
The results were definitive. Over 63% of expected voters prefer a countywide elected mayor over the current system. There isn’t a single county commission district where voters definitively said they preferred the current structure of county government.
When asked whether the commission should put this issue on the ballot, a whopping 82% of expected voters said it should. Even among those who prefer the current system, over 60% said the commission should put the issue on the ballot and let voters decide.
When asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 64% of expected voters said they would vote in favor of having an elected county mayor, with only 18% saying they would oppose it. The rest were undecided. Still, a majority of the 18% who oppose the change think the commission should put the question on the ballot.
Lastly, expected voters were asked if they could identify the current mayor. They were given six choices: Dean Trantalis, Lori Parrish, Mark Bogen, Marty Kiar, Robert Runcie and “don’t know.” Sixty-eight percent said they didn’t know who the Broward mayor is.
Of those who selected a name, only 10.5% correctly identified Bogen as Broward Mayor. That was more than any other name, but still a statistical tie with Parrish and Trantalis.
One of the main arguments against an elected county mayor is that the current system is working well. While I agree that is the case, the poll showed 38% of expected voters think Broward is on the wrong track and 27% have an unfavorable view of the county commission.
Making a decision about having an elected mayor isn’t about now. County Administrator Bertha Henry does a good job, but she won’t be around forever. County commissioners can serve no more than 12 years, so there is no guarantee that what is true today will remain true even 15 years from now. This decision is about the future of Broward governance.
Today, voters can only help decide the county commissioner for their district. They have no say on who any of the other eight commissioners are. Having an elected county mayor will increase their representation on the county commission. It will also give the county a consistent leader accountable to every Broward voter.
Broward voters want an elected mayor, and overwhelmingly want to be able to decide the issue.
Voting is the ultimate way to hear the community’s voice. The county commission should put the countywide elected mayor issue on the ballot so that the people can decide for themselves how they would like to be governed.
Sean Phillippi is a data scientist, pollster, and Democratic consultant based in Broward County.
About the poll: 364 completed surveys were conducted calling landlines and cellphones between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3. The margin of error for this poll, with 95% confidence, is +/- 4.95%.
Sean Phillippi is the Managing Member at TLE Analytics.