Column: Springtime Has Arrived! 

M.E. DePalma Park. Via Wilton Manors, Facebook

Springtime has arrived here in Wilton Manors. Many might not have noticed as we marched right past the spring equinox a few weeks ago, perhaps still too busy adjusting our clocks ahead one hour. 

The springtime arrival brings many annual events to our wonderful city. Along with the upcoming Easter and Passover holidays comes a somewhat lesser known spring event, the Goals and Objectives Workshop, a sure sign that the first quarter of the year is now behind us and spring is already moving ahead at a quickening pace.

The Goals and Objectives Workshop is the first step in the yearly budget cycle.  Elected officials meet with city management and staff to discuss the future goals, needs and budgeting for our city. This is an opportunity for departments to present a wish list, and to discuss ideas, staffing requests, capital projects and so much more.  

Our elected officials join in the fun and present their own list and concerns. Thankfully, the next stage of the budget process weeds out the bulk of these well-intentioned proposals, once the financial reality of the actual budgeting process snaps everyone back to reality. 

This annual rite of spring is normally observed by a relatively few lucky Islanders, mainly city staff, budget advisory committee members, elected officials and perhaps one other person sitting off to the side of the Commission Chambers. However, this year the chamber was all a buzz with chatter and close to full capacity.  Perhaps this is a sign, a good omen of sorts, during this annual ritual passage of seasons. Residents’ vibrant participation in our local government will reap great benefits for our entire community. 

Our police department led the way with their proposal for a new helicopter. Not satisfied with the results of the pilot drone program, the department is requesting manned aerial vehicles to fly overhead. This is sort of our local version of Mike Pence’s request the same week to have men on the moon by 2024. I must be missing something here; I thought we did something like that over 50 years ago. 

Not wanting to be overshadowed, Leisure Services laid forth their grand vision of turning large swaths of land into more and more park facilities. Looking at the recent success of utilizing money from our Water and Sewer Fund to purchase the property needed for the Colohatchee Park access, their management team is requesting substantial increases of water rates to keep the funding tap flowing for years to come. 

Mayor Justin Flippen strongly advocated for increased technology to propel our Island City into the future. Artificial intelligence will come at a cost, but just think about the savings with robots replacing city staff. No worries about lunch breaks, sick time, or benefits. Hope you don’t mind the thousands of cameras to be installed city-wide to monitor our every move. Just a necessary requirement needed to feed data from every area of our city back to the new AI platforms. 

Commissioner Paul Rolli stated the need for a city-wide Master Plan to study the Parks Master Plan, the Water and Sewer Master Plan, the Police Efficiency Master Plan, and about five other Master Plans. Only then would he feel comfortable having an additional study done to tell us what other studies are needed to accurately make any decisions on what our goals and objectives should actually be.  

Vice Mayor Tom Green was all giddy about the 1 percent sales tax increase passed in Broward County last election. Funds for local transportation projects include a railed trolley system down the middle of Wilton Drive that will eventually be tied into the regional transportation network currently envisioned for South Florida. Just a few more years of on-going construction along the Drive, but all is good because the city has decided not to charge for parking during daytime hours on the few remaining street parking spots to assist businesses hurting from the ongoing construction. 

Ok, enough already. 

I will admit to indulging in another spring time ritual, that of April Fools’ skullduggery. Hopefully you caught on before getting too enraged at the insanity of it all.  In reality, our city has been very diligent in the financial planning and sound budgeting for our city’s future. This year many challenges are facing South Florida municipalities. Immediate planning and funding for resiliency needs due to future impacts of weather and sea-level rise are of top priority.

Commissioner Rolli is correct in wanting a more defined roadmap of where our city should be heading in the years ahead, but we cannot spend too much time studying the course over and over before we start making some needed decisions. Spring always brings a sense of freshness and renewal. I am confident that with our elected officials, city staff and active residents, our future will be as great as we can make it, ‘cause life is just better here. 


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