Column: Wilton Manors: We Need A Vision

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Wow, a very busy few weeks here in and around Wilton Manors. Weekend before last we had the Annual Fort Lauderdale Orchid Show, Music at Mickel Park, the Tree Giveaway, Document Shredding event, Pride Center 5k Run, and the Art Walk along Wilton Drive.

Add to the mix the many friends coming into town for the 25th anniversary of the Atlantis Cruise, with all the pre-cruise festivities at local establishments. If the weekend wasn’t busy enough, the week showed no signs of slowing down. Monday was a classical music concert at Hagen Park, Tuesday a City Commission meeting, and then Thursday the Friends of the Wilton Manors Library held a wonderful lecture series on the Birds of Wilton Manors. Local resident John Strohsahl did a fantastic job educating us on the local birds here in our Island City, along with the migrating birds that stop by for a visit and the few rare vagrants who have surprised us with their brief stay at Richardson Park. If this busy schedule keeps up for the rest of the year, my events calendar will short circuit from over activity.

Over activity was not the worry at our last City Commission meeting. Since the Mayor was going to be out of town, perhaps he thought it best to keep the agenda brief until he was back holding the gavel at the February meeting. Since the meeting adjourned so early we had the great benefit to rush over to our local watering hole and order drinks before Happy Hour pricing ends. Unfortunately, the benefit is only temporary. One short, brief City Commission meeting usually is followed by one with a very busy agenda and a much later finishing time.

During that brief meeting my mind drifted back to the commission agenda back in December which kept us there till a much later hour. The agenda included a very important Resolution in which our commission failed to act upon. The Economic Development Strategic Plan, drafted by the Strategic Planning Group, Inc., was before the commission to adopt and then be used by city management as a roadmap necessary to bring about the future economic vitality of our city. This very important report was not adopted by our commissioners that night, but merely voted to be accepted with no real mechanism in place for city management to implement its many findings.

Why does our City Commission vote for such studies in the first place, costing the city a lot of money, utilizing enormous staff time issuing Requests for Proposals along with all the follow-up work for the development of such a document only to choose not to adopt and utilize the results?

This 100 plus page report contains an amazing wealth of information, including one item that might be the roadblock for moving forward due to the pettiest of reasons. Within the report are the results of resident surveys and input. Listed as a major weakness and threat to Wilton Manors economic development is the lack of vision and focus. Hmmm, now who do you think is responsible for such a weakness?

Our City Commission is elected to steer us forward with a vision and a focus on the policies that are needed to safeguard the future vitality of our city. City leaders need to address their role for lack of vision and the continued failure to address specific issues of importance. Nobody likes to hear about their failures, their role in negative behavior. However, this is the most vital part of the whole report. Only by addressing our weaknesses and our faults are we then able to make the changes needed to move ourselves forward.

Many items listed in the report are not new and have been discussed over and over again at many city meetings. Now we find ourselves in a new year still waiting for vision and commitment by city leaders.

Our Code Enforcement Department, along with Community Services Department have done much over the past year in addressing many issues and deserve recognition. Perhaps it’s time for our City Commission to follow suit and give clear direction to city management and adopt the Economic Development Strategic Plan. Giving credit where credit is due, Vice Mayor Justin Flippen wanted to have the Commission take more decisive action that night but was not joined by his colleagues.

Only by taking this vital report off the shelf and firmly committing to action will make life for our residents and businesses just better here.


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