As I sit and ponder what to write about this week, I can’t seem to focus on any single topic.
Should I write about the discussion at our last City Commission meeting concerning the Florida Competitive Workforce Act? How some in our community would like to settle for a few crumbs of equality instead of the whole pie, to make a deal by taking the very important protections of housing and public accommodations off the table for the LGBT community in our state? No discrimination while you work or seek employment, but just wait until you go home, look to use a public restroom, or try to book a hotel room. Not such a good deal if you ask me.
Perhaps I could write a “What ever happened to” type article, describing what candidates for public office in our municipal elections are up to since Election Day in recent years past. Fellow residents would like to know where all these civic minded individuals are who promised us so much. Many quickly disappear once the reality of post-election defeat sinks in, with the realization that they were not as popular as they thought. Many no longer live in our city, have never participated in community organizations except during the brief time of their campaign, and have never served on a city board or advisory committee. Some even needed directions to different areas of this small two square mile city we call paradise.
With so many thoughts going through my mind, and suffering from a seldom recognized writing anxiety disorder, I ventured out to meet some friends and free my mind of the roadblocks hindering me from getting this article done before deadline.
After enjoying a few IPA drafts, reaching the point of saying goodbye and heading home, two events occurred that offered me direction for this article. First, a young gentleman wearing a gold lamé top appeared at the bar, triggering a deep guttural response from a dear friend next to me, “Oh dear God, not Gold Lamé!” The second occurred as I headed out the door onto Wilton Drive. An electric scooter whizzed by as a lovely young gentleman briskly made his way along our main thoroughfare.
Electric scooters are a much-needed new mode of transportation being embraced by many in cities around the country. However, the reactions these scooters are receiving by many non-users are very similar to the reaction caused by the gold lamé garment, very passionate and very negative.
Multimodal transportation has been the established mantra on how best to move South Florida into the future amongst city planners, government entities, and many others. So, what is the issue over the poor little electric scooter? In a state that has no helmet laws for motorcycles, why is everyone concerned about helmets for scooter riders? In a state where pedestrian deaths by automobiles are one of the highest in the nation, why do we single out the few accidents caused by scooters as a menace that will ruin our lives? In a region grappling with horrific traffic congestion, why do we look to demonize such an enthusiastic solution embraced by many city residents to scoot about town?
As I drove through downtown Fort Lauderdale on a recent Sunday, I was amazed to see so many people utilizing the new electric scooters. Young couples riding together, people in uniform on their way to work, residents not in cars, and so many others. This is exactly what we have been asking for in planning sessions, visioning workshops, and regional planning. Yes, there are some very important issues that still need to be clarified by the state, like whether scooters should operate on sidewalks, bike lanes, and/or automobile lanes. However we should not look to judge scooters in the same fashion as many few gold lamé; that such an item has no explainable purpose in our world today.
The Fort Lauderdale City Commission’s recent decision not to pull the plug on this new experiment desires tribute. Unfortunately, Oakland Park and many other cities are rushing to ban this promising mode of transportation. Cities in South Florida need to fully embrace the concept of multimodal transportation. The state has an equal responsibility to embrace relevant regulations that will permit such new modes of transportation to best coexist with automobiles, pedestrians, and bicycles.
The state also has a responsibility to protect all Floridians against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. No picking and choosing when it comes to the rights we all deserve. That is why this community should strongly support the passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.
Increasing mobility here in South Florida and having state lawmakers support full protections for all Floridians will go a long way in making life just better here.