LAKE WORTH BEACH — Omari Hardy and Donald Trump are political opposites.
But the 30-year-old Lake Worth Beach commissioner and the 45th president have something in common -- they are both prodigious users of social media and employ those platforms to speak directly to the public.
Their critics would also argue that both men utilize their online muscle to launch attacks on political opponents.
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That’s certainly the way Lake Worth Beach Mayor Pam Triolo feels about it.
Triolo and Hardy have been at odds since their fiery argument over power shutoffs during a March 19 city commission meeting went viral, registering millions of views on YouTube while drawing national media attention.
The ensuing fallout, Triolo said, wrecked her public relations business and made her and her family the target of countless vile and threatening phone calls, emails and online postings. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has previously confirmed it increased patrols in Triolo’s College Park neighborhood in response to the threats.
For Hardy, the result of his bitter squabble with Triolo has turned out much differently.
Hailed as heroic by many who saw the 2-minute, 17-second video clip of the shouting match, Hardy watched his social media presence expand exponentially.
On the morning of the March 19 meeting, Hardy had a few thousand followers on Twitter. Within two days of the video posting in the Palm Beach Post, Hardy had accumulated nearly 200,000 followers.
As of this week, @omarihardy was being followed by just under 180,000 people on Twitter, among them U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, TV personality Joy Reid and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. He has 120,000 followers on Instagram and 10,000 more on Facebook.
A divided city commission
Since March 19, the city commission has fractured into two parts -- Triolo, Vice Mayor Andy Amoroso and Commissoner Scott Maxwell on one side of the divide and Hardy and Commissioner Herman Robinson on the other.
Virtually every motion and agenda item made by either Hardy or Robinson since then has been rejected in a majority vote by Triolo, Amoroso and Maxwell.
Unable to win inside City Hall, Hardy has taken his fight to the Internet.
"You’re very right -- when I lose in this building on a vote or some other issue, I very often go outside this building where the real power is and tell my story about what happened and let the chips fall where they may," Hardy told Triolo during a June 23 special commission meeting. "I don’t find that to be uncivil."
That’s definitely not Triolo’s view.
The mayor says that Hardy has repeatedly "bashed" her and his fellow commissioners on "social media, in commission meetings -- all of the above."
"I think if you just use the wisdom that your mom gave you when you were growing up, if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say it," Triolo said. "And you can’t take it back when you call out your fellow commissioners, your team. I look at us as a team and when you’re constantly berating [city] staff, your fellow commissioners and calling them names and lying and saying whatever’s on your mind on social media, that’s not right."
Hardy said he’s "worked hard" to limit criticism of colleagues to their work as elected officials and not make it personal.
Sometimes that distinction is in the eye of the beholder.
After a tension-filled meeting on June 2, Hardy lashed out on Twitter.
"The only person on the dais in Lake Worth Beach who deserves to be there is Commissioner Herman Robinson," Hardy wrote. "Everyone else can go. Everyone else should go. Mayor Pam Triolo, you have to go. Commissioner @GoAndyAmoroso, you have *GOT* to go. Commissioner Scott Maxwell, you gotta go."
On April 9, Hardy tweeted: "This, "Omari's not a team player," line that's coming from my colleagues is BS. I play for a team. But the team I play for doesn't go to work in city hall everyday. So if you're screwing over everyday people, don't expect me to be complicit in it for cordiality's sake."
The Dixie Highway debate
After Triolo, Maxwell and Amoroso rejected a resolution sponsored by Hardy pushing for the renaming of Dixie Highway during last week’s commission meeting, Hardy posted on his Facebook page: "Legit, this commission has become a joke. We have a conservative Republican [Maxwell] who doesn't want to vote on stuff like this. We have a less conservative Republican [Triolo] who's in denial about the reach of her own conservatism. We have a Republican [Amoroso] who mistakenly registered as a Democrat."
At a June 23 special commission meeting held to discuss creating a task force to study systemic racism in Lake Worth Beach, Triolo argued with Hardy about his use of social media.
Triolo told Hardy he made "no bones about" attacking colleagues "then you come in here and want us to be fair when.... if we don’t agree with you or I don’t agree with you or somebody else doesn’t agree with you, you go on social media and you bash them."
Referring back to her experience following the volatile March 19 meeting, Triolo told Hardy that "maybe you incite people to death threats or maybe you incite people to call my clients" to boycott her private business.
Hardy said that he has "never, ever, as in not once" advocated that Triolo should be "punished economically" and said that he attempted to diffuse the vitriol directed at the mayor.
On March 23, he pleaded that Triolo be shown respect on his various social media accounts
"Mayor Pam and I disagree on key issues that affect our constituents. Criticize her for how she handled the issues. But please: DO NOT threaten her. DO NOT insult her. DO NOT harass her."
But Triolo says that Hardy continues to benefit from his March blowup by using the video to help raise funds for his campaign to represent District 88 in the State House.
Social media, Hardy said, isn’t "a tool that I alone possess," but Triolo said she’s banned herself from the Internet because "people call you a racist c-word on every picture, every post, every this and every that."
If harmony is to return to Lake Worth Beach’s city commission, it does not appear that it will come from Hardy choosing to discontinue tweeting or posting.
"I think that my colleagues escape criticism that they deserve because there’s not enough light on what happens at our meetings -- people just don’t know what they’ve been up to," Hardy said. "That’s why I use social media -- to spread the word. I’m not going to apologize for that."