Florida City Commissioner Omari Hardy gained viral fame this week after a video showed him getting into a shouting match with the mayor of his city over utilities being cut off for some local residents amid the coronavirus crisis.
The video, which has made the rounds on Twitter, showed Hardy shouting at Lake Worth Beach Mayor Pam Triolo and City Manager Michael Bornstein during a contentious meeting of the city commission. As the Palm Beach Post reported, Hardy accused Bornstein of “turning off people’s lights during a global health pandemic” and said Triolo was complicit by refusing to call an emergency meeting earlier in the week that could have stopped it.
Hardy said that Triolo had granted emergency powers to the city manager to run the city during the crisis, even though there was not a formal declaration of a state of emergency. During the week, the city went through with shutting off power to people who were behind on their utility payments.
“This is a banana republic is what you’re turning this place into with your so-called leadership,” Hardy yelled at Triolo in the viral video. “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!”
While a number of other state and local governments across the United States have declared states of emergency, shutting down non-essential businesses and public places, Florida has been criticized for being slower to act. As Politico reported, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis refused to call for the closure of the state’s beaches this week, even as thousands of college students arrived for spring break trips that had been planned before the coronavirus spread.
Other state and local governments have also suspended evictions and utility shutoffs, including the state of New York where mortgage payments were suspended for people financially impacted by the spread of the virus.
After the viral fame from his passionate outburst, Hardy said he regretted the tone that he took during the meeting. The Lake Worth Beach commissioner told the Palm Beach Post that he was remorseful over getting into a shouting match with the mayor.
“But I had just watched our city manager lie and mislead about shutting off families’ utilities, and they didn’t want anyone to say a word about it,” Hardy wrote in an email to the newspaper. “It was too hard to take.”