Column: Meet Me in the Island City

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The Goals & Objectives Workshop marks the beginning of the municipal budget process for the next fiscal year. Two weeks ago, our Mayor and City Commissioners came together with city department managers to discuss upcoming needs, capital expenses, wish lists, and priorities that might be included in the proposed budget document.

One bit of sad news reported at the meeting was that the Wilton Drive Shuttle has not been successful and will not likely be funded in the next budget cycle. What’s sad is that the city went about operating a mediocre service and expected something other than mediocre results. For a thriving, hip, and happening bar and restaurant scene, people will not embrace a soccer mom’s passenger vehicle to whisk them around The Drive. To make the shuttle service work, we needed something with a bit more glitz and glamour. Unfortunately this is yet another missed opportunity to bring something unique, special, and fun to our Arts & Entertainment District.

Back about 2009, when the Island City Art Walk was under the direction of its original founder, a name I cannot recall at the moment, a Sun Trolley operated up and down The Drive on that evening, and people loved it. This is what our city needs for the Wilton Drive Shuttle, a big fun trolley, clearly visible to all, decorated with lights, easy for riders to enter and exit, and with plenty of room for people to enjoy their ride, meet new people, and have some fun along the way. Instead, the city used a boring small passenger van that was hard for people to get in and out, had no pizzazz or wow factor, and was doomed to fail.

Advertising revenue could have been generated, along with sponsorships for the trolley from the local business community and perhaps the Wilton Drive Improvement District to help cover the cost. A thriving commercial strip along The Drive is vital to our city’s future. Moving people around to maximize existing parking, creating an atmosphere where customers can easily park, be picked up, and then dropped off at various businesses all along The Drive still sounds like a great plan. Unfortunately, it looks like the shuttle will end after this season, and clang, clang, clang goes the trolley into Neverland.

Moving on now to last Tuesday’s City Commission Meeting, it was great to see the chambers packed with past and present local honorees of our city’s celebration of National Women’s Month. Vice Mayor Justin Flippen initiated the program when he was first elected to the City Commission. Now, during the month of March our elected officials each select an outstanding woman to be recognized and honored for their work and service to our city and community. This year’s honorees were Captain Lillie Harris, Katherine Dunkel, Judge Betsy Benson, Nancy McGivern, and Sheryl Chesler. Our community is such a better place thanks to the work and commitment that these fine women do each and every day in and around our Island City. Many thanks and congratulations to all of you.

One item on last week’s City Commission agenda remains a mystery to many of us, since it had to be tabled because the Chief of Police was not available for testimony.

At the request of Mayor Resnick, the motion listed under the Consent Agenda, called for the termination of the PROMISE program agreement between our Police Department and the Broward County School Board. With no information included in the back-up material and without any testimony given by our Police Department, one was left to wonder why a program aimed at keeping disadvantaged youth out of the school to prison pipe-line was highlighted by our Mayor to be terminated.

Having quickly done some research on the topic after the meeting to accommodate my curious nature, it seemed that the PROMISE program was being blamed for creating the environment that allowed the Parkland school shooting to happen. Really? How about the failure of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department along with the FBI for ignoring multiple red flags that went far beyond the protective cover of the program, to school safety officers assigned to protect students on campus but failed to follow procedure? While there is plenty of blame to go around, blaming a program that helps keep our youth in school, offering them a chance to achieve and to become productive members of our community, just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. Mentoring and supporting youth is a far better choice than incarcerating them.

As we welcome Spring with Easter, Passover, and Spring Solstice holidays, let’s try and cultivate a better community that looks to help those in need, that builds on our sense of community, and that continues to bring out what is best in all of us so that life in our Island City will always be … just better here.


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