Recently, I, along with the mayors of Oakland Park, Fort Lauderdale, Weston, and Hollywood, participated in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce’s Big Ideas Conference,held at the Riverside Hotel.
It was a great opportunity to exchange and share our respective “big ideas” and vision for our communities’ respective futures. Joined by over 100 members of our local business, commerce, and civic community, including Assistant City Manager Pamela Landi, here are the thoughts that I shared:
BIG IDEA ONE: Leveraging Common Interests and Resources
We need to learn to get outside our box and our wheelhouse. Instead of competing for limited resources, the City of Wilton Manors is learning to find common ground and ways to collaborate to achieve shared goals with other cities and perhaps in the not too distant future, private entities as well. For example, Wilton Manors and Oakland Park are engaged in creating a joint climate action plan and hope to apply jointly for grant funds, use orders of magnitude to increase purchase power, and eliminate artificial perceptions of political boundaries. This is particularly important when the beneficiary of leveraging our common interests and resources is our mutual community at large.
BIG IDEA TWO: When Resources Are Limited, Prioritize, and Don’t Dilute.
Wilton Manors (and every other city in Florida) is preparing for a reduction in ad valorem taxes. This will probably happen for two reasons. First, if Amendment Two, which creates an additional $25,000 homestead exemption, passes in November, it will result in a reduction of about $330,000 to Wilton Manors. This may not seem like much to others, but to our small city it’s a very big deal. For example, this equates to over 40 percent of the annual cost to run our library or 50 percent of the City’s annual EMS budget. Second, we’ve been riding a property value increase for almost a decade, and experts tell us that will likely come to an end soon. These two factors mean city governments will either have to raise taxes or tighten belts, and the latter is more likely than the former in Wilton Manors. So how do we decide how to allocate very limited resources? In Wilton Manors, we are spending money to make money. Our priority for the foreseeable future is to invest in economic development, and thoughtful commercial and residential development. This will increase our tax base, and increase visitors coming to our city to generate revenue.
BIG IDEA THREE: Don’t Overdo It! Know Your Brand, and Maintain It Carefully.
Since we have heard over and over again from our residents that maintaining our small town sensibility is their number one priority, we recognize that not all development is good development. Figuring out the density equation and where it makes the most sense is a key factor to our future success. We have to properly balance protecting our neighborhoods and affording the right kind of modest commercial and residential investment and smart growth along our corridors and in the right places.
BIG IDEA FOUR: Through Increased Walkability and Other Incentives, Encourage Residents and Visitors to Reduce, and Aspirationally, Eliminate the Need to Get in the Car.
Wilton Manors should be a city where you can live without a car and travel to desirable venues and locations nearby with a car service or mass transit, a city where the road is not just for cars, but for all users. With our close proximity to the FEC railway, mass transit available on all our primary corridors, designated bike lanes and sidewalk connectivity as well as miles of waterways available citywide, I’d like to envision and work towards a Wilton Manors that doesn’t give out speeding or parking tickets because we don’t need to, a city where parking problems are history because public and private stakeholders have worked together to solve them.
These are just a few of my “big ideas.” I certainly have others, and I’m sure you do too. Please feel free to share your ideas – big or small – with me; for “life’s just better here” in Wilton Manors when we exchange, collaborate, and share.