By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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Losner's influence, interest, and financial resources make him an important player in the Redland incorporation debate, and he has taken an active role in the issue almost from the beginning. His critics charge that active means "actively opposed." He denies this. Until recently Losner sat on the Redland Area Municipal Advisory Committee (RAMAC), where he consistently voted alone against the majority in meetings that often resembled an unruly kindergarten class. Losner's feud with the Redland activists has the kind of intensity only bad blood in a small town can produce.
"It really is oil and water," observes Kay Bismarck, a local realtor.
Many date the discord to 1987, when, following a flurry of letters from lawyers, Losner was the first and only member of the Redland Citizens Association to be expelled from the group. "Why would you want to join an organization when you don't agree with what it does?" wonders current RCA president Geoffrey Knights.
Losner contends he is not the rapacious, development-hungry businessman he's often portrayed as. "I hope in my lifetime that you never are going to see more than one house on five acres [in the Redland]," he says. Then his voice takes on a slightly higher-pitched tone as he imitates his critics. "But I am the banker. The banker wants development. He wants to put concrete all over the Redland." His voice drops an octave. "And that is the furthest thing from the truth."
Yet Losner's views on how to safeguard agriculture and who is responsible for its disappearance are quite different from those of the RCA. He believes that if the county wants to preserve farmland, it should float a bond issue and buy land in the Everglades. He also blames the two national parks in South Miami-Dade for much of agriculture's demise.
Bismarck, who is a past president of the RCA, doesn't see much support for Losner in the community. "Losner is more pro-development than anyone I can point to," she says. "There aren't really a whole lot of people alongside [him]." She thinks the dispute between the banker and the activists is "silly."
Zoning activist Karen Esty doesn't see it in quite so benign terms. She accuses Losner of stalking, contending that he frequently drove by her house and, on at least one occasion, parked across the street and sat watching. Losner defends himself by saying he feared Esty was violating Florida's Sunshine Law by talking about zoning applications with her friend, community councilman Charlie McGarey. The banker's attention ceased after Esty confronted him at a public meeting. "I've never had a problem with the man since," she says.
When Commissioner Katy Sorenson appointed Losner to the committee looking into incorporation, trouble was bound to ensue. Losner repeatedly accused the board of trying to exclude people. He demanded the names of those who had answered an early confidential incorporation survey by the activists and threatened to sue when Pat Wade refused to provide them. "They sent it to their chosen few," he contends. "If they had said, “Fine, we will give it to you,' it would have been fine. But they didn't want to give it to me, so I pressed it."
According to Wade, her husband, John, thinks Losner verbally abuses her in public forums, a problem that began last year when she and Losner ran against each other for a seat on the local community council. (Wade beat incumbent Losner.) She counsels her husband to ignore the goads of the banker, but Wade, a retired Florida Power & Light contracts negotiator, isn't very successful at turning the other cheek. After one incorporation meeting, Wade angrily called Losner "white trash" for not putting away the folding chairs.
Such is the nature of Losner's relationship with the activists that a sophomoric gesture can quickly escalate into a matter for the police. For example the banker demonstrates how the allegation arose that he exposed himself in public last December 18, in the auditorium of a middle school after the first public meeting on incorporation. Losner was arguing with activists at the time. According to a police report, it all began when John Wade declared, "You are just jealous that my wife beat you at the community council seat and she's a woman."
The banker claims the report leaves out the vile expletives Wade directed at him in addition to the taunts that Losner was beat by "a woman." Losner smiles from the comfort of his office. "I said, “I'll show you that I'm not.' [He pretends to reach for his pants zipper.] I unzipped my zipper about that far," he says, his fingers at most a few inches apart. "[Zoning activist] Karen Esty went crazy and started screaming and hollering."
Esty then found herself a policeman and filed an incident report. "I'll show you what type of man I am," Losner allegedly said.
The report's narrative continues: "Then [Losner] proceeded to unzip his pants and put his hand in his pants, just the fingertips, when Karen Esty said, “William Losner, what are you doing?' Then Losner quickly zipped his pants up."
After months of contentious meetings, Losner abruptly quit RAMAC this past March. Although his involvement in incorporation has slowed for the moment, his ex-committee members doubt they've heard the last of him. He has said in the past that if incorporation succeeds, he plans to run for mayor of the new municipality. Now he claims he won't. "I told them I was going to run for mayor, but I don't need the headaches," he asserts. "I think my family would probably kill me."