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Two political novices push incumbent for change in Margate by: Lisa J. Huriash

Two political novices push incumbent for change in Margate

By Lisa J. Huriash,Sun Sentinel

Two political novices are trying to unseat a commissioner, saying much change is needed at City Hall.

Voters take to the polls in November to pick a leader for Seat 3, a four-year term.

Development in the area along State Road 7 that the city hopes to cultivate into a downtown is one hot-button issue. The city has spent millions purchasing land, made landscaping improvements and erected a clock tower.

"It is better to move slowly and get it done right than to rush ahead and regret it later," said incumbent Lesa "Le" Peerman said. "I've always believed that the downtown should be designed and built as a place where Margate residents can go to eat, shop, and enjoy."

But both Anthony Caggiano and Eddie DeCristofaro say the city isn't moving fast enough for residents to see progress.

"They are sitting on their hands," said DeCristofaro. "There is nothing being built. Not one shovel of dirt moved."

Agreed Caggiano: "I have had it with an underperforming CRA [Community Redevelopment Agency] and the lack of business sense on the City Commission. I decided that rather than just sit around and complain about it, I decided I should try to do something about it."

A second issue could be the dismantling of a newly created perk for city employees.

In May, the city agreed to offer same-sex couples the same employee benefits as heterosexual couples who are married. The benefit also applied to heterosexual couples living together as partners.

Benefits include city-sponsored group health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, the Employee Assistance Program and FMLA, which covers maternity leave, bereavement leave, and sick leave to care for domestic partners and their dependents.

Peerman, who is openly gay and recently married her partner of 19 years in New York, applauded the move, saying employees should be treated equally.

Caggiano is campaigning to make sure the health insurance plan is affordable. That could mean revoking the benefit because roommates could abuse the perk, he said. "This insurance bill is going to be crazy for the city down the road," he said. "We can't be adding stuff without making sure it's affordable. It's the city's money."

DeCristofaro said he supports the idea in theory, but wants voters to have the final say on health benefits.

"If they offer it to one [employee], they should offer it to everyone," he said.

Peerman said since being elected she has donated $8,000 of her nearly $30,000 salary each year to charity, advocated for lowering pool fees for residents and was vocal during a scandal on the commission when a suspended commissioner was accused of using his city credit for personal use. Peerman publicly asked that commissioner to resign; he did not.

Caggiano said he's the best pick because he wants to see the city energized: "I want Margate to be 'the city that people drive to and not through,' " he said.

DeCristofaro said the city's infrastructure "needs some TLC," and he'd like to create a program for young workers to learn skills, such as wood craftsmanship, by older residents.

Anthony Caggiano

Age: 55

Family: Married, two children

Education: Bachelor's degree, Harpur College, State University of New York at Binghamton, 1981

Occupation: Manager and corporate energy efficiency consultant at Empire Lighting Resources

Political career: None

Campaign coffers: $8,600 as of Sept. 12

Lesa "Le" Peerman

Age: 56

Family: Married, two children

Education: Lockport Township High School in Lockport, Ill., 1976

Occupation: Security and risk management monitor for Broward County School Board

Political career: Margate city commissioner since January 2011

Campaign coffers: $2,200 as of Sept. 12

Edward DeCristofaro

Age: 57

Family: Married, three stepchildren

Residence: Margate

Education: Attended Brookdale Community College

Occupation: Cares full-time for his stepson, who has a neurological disorder

Political career: None

Campaign coffers: $1,000 as of Sept. 12

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