April 2021
Finding common ground
amid a diverse community
During my years in public service, one of my efforts has been to bring together our communities of faith, work through past differences and look for opportunities to build bridges where they did not previously exist. Where once there was division, I have sought cooperation to improve our community. 

Recently, the city took the opportunity to recognize the 60th anniversary of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. This was through a proclamation requested by the district commissioner, Heather Moraitis, and it represented an opportunity to resume the process of conciliation within the faith community.

Proclamations are something every mayor does to mark special occasions.

Within this past month, I also issued proclamations for such things as Water Conservation Month and the Pine Crest School’s girls swimming and diving team winning their state championship. Not only did I view the Coral Ridge proclamation in that context, but I also have appreciated the church being part of my larger conversation about tackling Fort Lauderdale’s intractable problems.

Some of you may ask: So, what was the controversy then? There exists a long and bitter history between the church’s founder, the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, and Fort Lauderdale’s LGBT community. That led some to question the appropriateness of the proclamation.

Thirty years ago, I picketed Dr. Kennedy with many of my LGBT colleagues. There were rhetoric and deeds that denigrated all of us who are gay, lesbian or transgender. We were rightfully outraged. 

I’ll share one story in particular – that of my late friend and colleague, Justin Flippen. He died tragically a year ago while mayor of Wilton Manors. He told me how he underwent two years of conversion therapy at Coral Ridge when he was in high school. Simply put -- that was wrong.

But Fort Lauderdale is an evolving community. 
Coral Ridge’s current pastor, Rob Pacienza, readily joined my interfaith effort as have other evangelical Christians such as Stephan Tchividjian of the National Christian Foundation and Eddie Copeland of Church United. So have leaders of LGBT-affirming religious institutions — the Sunshine Cathedral, the Church of the Holy Spirit Song and Etz Chaim synagogue. 

Together, we have made much progress because we understand that there is more that unites us than divides us. We all want to help address the vast needs in our community — the homeless, the poor and elderly in need of daily sustenance, the problems of drug and alcohol abuse. I could go on.

In the spirit of wanting to move away from the past and look for ways to bring our community together, Pastor Pacienza and I agreed to put down in writing a joint statement regarding our work together. It follows: 
A joint statement
from Dean J. Trantalis, Mayor of Fort Lauderdale
and Rob Pacienza, lead pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

For the past four years, Mayor Trantalis has been working on a multi-faith effort to increase understanding and find opportunities for cooperation within the Fort Lauderdale community where they did not exist before. As pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Rob Pacienza has played a prominent role in these discussions. These meetings brought together a wide variety of religious views from Evangelical Christianity to denominations that are LGBT-affirming. 

Mayor Trantalis and Pastor Pacienza affirm that they are committed to continuing this bridge-building. We recognize that too often our differences have led to unnecessary divisions and even hurt. We need to move forward in a spirit of forgiveness and friendship.

The mayor and pastor believe in a future of mutual respect that includes a respect for the rights and religious practices of everyone. We seek a community that accepts the true meaning of tolerance for all — a willingness to accept behavior and beliefs different from your own. 

Differing opinions and values are ever present in a diverse city like Fort Lauderdale. That’s part of our beauty. We also live in a country that values both a citizen’s freedom to believe and act according to their conscience and a citizen’s right to exercise their religious faith freely. 

There is more that unites us than divides us. 

We pledge to continue to find areas of common ground where we can work together to make Fort Lauderdale a great place to live, work and raise a family. We all see a vast need in our community to ensure the most vulnerable are cared for. We look forward to working together to extend real hope to everyone who calls Fort Lauderdale home.

Dean J. Trantalis

Rob Pacienza
I look forward to continuing this effort on behalf of our city.

I'm pleased to also say that our city continues to make great progress on the mass vaccination necessary to move beyond the exisiting COVID-19 restrictions. Hopefully, within the coming months, we will see a greater and greater return to normalcy in our daily lives. Even as local government has moved to address this pandemic, we have made tremendous strides on improving our infrastructure and building our economy. There is great promise ahead for our city.


Mayor Trantalis proclaims March 25 as Greek Independence Day in Fort Lauderdale, marking that nation's 200th anniversary of freedom from the Ottoman Empire.
Mayor Trantalis, Commissioner Ben Sorensen and Commissioner Robert McKinzie help open Cuba Libre restaurant.
Mayor Trantalis speaks to the news media about COVID-19 protocols during the Spring Break season on the beach.
On a final note, I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings on April 6. As Florida's senior member in Congress, he fought hard for the interests of his constituents in South Florida. As an early civil rights leader, he helped ensure equality and racial justice in our community as well. Personally, I also appreciated his work on behalf of LGBTQ+ and HIV-health causes. Please keep his family in your prayers. He will be greatly missed.
Mayor Trantalis with Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Sen. Bill Nelson,
and Rep. Alcee Hastings
(photo taken pre-COVID)