All eyes were on Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner.
She slammed her fists on the dais, yelled, cussed and rolled eyes as she bickered with fellow council members and Pinecrest residents.
The issue: a possible trolley service for the elderly, mixed in with comments from fellow Councilman Bob Ross. The exchange led to a personal squabble as residents waited to speak before the Village Council and got some heat in return.
“You know what, sit down,” Lerner said to a resident who approached the podium, rolling her eyes. “I’m in the middle of a conversation here and I haven’t asked public to come back up. And the way you present yourself is offensive.”
The resident remained standing. The council, silent.
“It’s clear to me from having observed and attended a number of meetings starting in 2012, that there’s been a number of situations that demonstrate that the council has some level of dysfunction and I don’t believe it’s healthy for them nor certainly for the residents,” Pinecrest resident Angel Gallinal, 52, told the Herald this week. Gallinal usually attends the biweekly meetings, but live-streamed the Dec. 8 one.
The drama at that council meeting started when Ross brought up Lerner’s State of the Village address, given on Dec. 4 at a seniors’ luncheon. During the address, Lerner had commented that the council had preliminarily approved an on-demand trolley service for the elderly — a service that would give residents over 55, who are unable to commute, access to city amenities.
At the recent council meeting, Ross contended that the item has not yet even gone to the village for any type of vote, just a placeholder in the budget.
“I think it needs to be said that I resent the mayor’s attempt to manipulate council in prematurely announcing a program that is definitely not ready for prime time,” Ross said, calmly. “The egg will be on her face, and her face alone, if council chooses to go in a different direction.”
Lerner: “Egg on my face for what? For providing a program that the manager has already researched?”
Ross: “For announcing that it’s been approved.”
They spoke over each other for several minutes. Lerner leaned over to Ross, screaming: “No I didn’t!”
Ross: “It’s there on the tape. Check the tape. It’s there.”
“God damn it!” Lerner yelled. She banged her fist on the dais counter. “Don’t put words in my mouth. I said that the budget had been approved for this item. I said that the concept had been proposed by the manager and that I hoped that it would be approved by this council.”
She continued to slam her hands and shook her head, eyes glaring.
“Your dislike for me and what I want to see in this village has got to stop where it hurts the residents,” Lerner said, adding that she believes Ross is trying to hinder the item “because you so resent me.”
That’s when Councilwoman Cheri Ball asked for a 10-minute break.
“I’m not putting up with this sh-t,” Lerner said, walking out.
When the council left, members in the audience filled the room with laughter and whispers.
The tension between Ross and Lerner stems back many years, Lerner told the Miami Herald Wednesday.
“It would take days for me to tell you the entire history, just know that there’s a history for years; a simmering animosity. I’ll leave it at that,” Lerner said. “He wanted to sabotage the on-demand program for our seniors. Because it was my initiative, and anything that comes from me, he detests. Yes, I was very upset, but this is something very special to me, very important and very personal. He pushed my buttons. This was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, I guess.”
At the meeting, Ross had suggested that the village apply for a county grant to study the feasibility of using Uber as a means of providing senior transportation services, rather than using village tax dollars.
“We need more information before we go that route. Not many cities have done this before,” Ross told the Herald. “I’m not opposed to providing senior transportation, but if we offer them, I think we should offer them in the most cost-effective way.”
During the meeting, tensions were clearly high as Lerner was short with several residents.
After yelling at one resident, telling her to sit down, Lerner told another resident that she is opposed to putting a “no-parking sign” in front of his home. The resident, who lives in front of Pinecrest Elementary School, had been trying to get the issue resolved for months because cars park on his property daily.
She said that she thinks the sign shouldn’t be placed unless the principal is OK with it, despite the city manager’s persistent recommendation of placing the sign.
She told the resident she preferred to defer the item and said “waiting a month isn’t gonna make a difference.”
She then told him that if it bothered him that much, to put up bushes or call 911. “What else do you expect us to do? Where do you expect the parents to park?”
“That’s not my problem,” the resident said, “They’re destroying my property. I’m sorry ma’am.”
Lerner: “Oh so it’s all about ‘what’s best for me and my little neighborhood and my little house.’ No!”
Her voice was elevated. As Councilwoman Ball tried to speak, Lerner interrupted, slammed her gavel and walked out.
“Way to go out on a high note,” one council member said, and so the meeting was adjourned.