Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy had time last Thursday. In a now viral-clip, the 30-year-old Florida official gave an impassioned rebuttal during a city council meeting about the way in which other officials of his city were handling the novel coronavirus outbreak.
According to The Washington Post, Palm Beach County, where the city of Lake Worth Beach is located, has the third-highest number of reported cases in the state, with 22, though none have been reported in the immediate area. It is also just 10 minutes away from Donald J. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club which is now considered a “hot zone” for the disease. Even so, very few measures had been enacted by the mayor or the city manager at the time of last week’s emergency city council meeting to help stop the spread.
“We could have banned large public gatherings, we could have closed the beach, we could have put a moratorium on utility cutoffs,” Hardy can be heard saying on the video documenting the meeting. “We should have been talking about this last week. We cut off people’s utilities this week and made them pay what could have been their last paycheck to us to turn their lights on.” Hardy was also reportedly calling for a state of emergency.
Hardy told WaPo that he had been urging the city council to have an emergency meeting as early as March 12, to discuss what actions should be taken. Between that time, and the 19th, when the city council reconvened, a number of people were issued lights off warnings, which City Manager Michael Bornstein did nothing to circumvent. As Hardy addressed his concerns about Bornstein following an already two-hour meeting, Mayor Pam Triolo stepped in to let Hardy know that he was out of order, and quickly moved to recess the meeting.
“This is a banana republic is what you’re turning this place into with your so-called leadership,” Hardy yelled at Triolo after she called the recess. “We cut people’s utilities this week and made them pay — with what could have been their last check — to turn their lights off in a global health pandemic. But you don’t care about that! You didn’t want to meet!”
Though Triolo walked out before a resolution to the heated exchange, WaPo reports that actions have been taken by the city. The city-owned golf course was closed, Bornstein issued refund checks to the families who had their utilities cut off that week, and the city is now offering employees a more generous paid-leave policy. Though the city’s beach was not shut down for goers, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered three counties in South Florida to close all beaches.
Now that the heated exchange has gone viral, Hardy says that he doesn’t regret the words, but he does regret the circumstances that led to the situation.