Tennis Courts and Stipends and Strip Clubs…Oh My!

Last week marked the ten-year anniversary of the economic meltdown that devastated Wall Street and Main Street alike. Unfortunately, Wall Street is now steaming ahead while Main Street has been left behind, struggling to hold on. Articles in national newspapers document how the longest running economic boom currently has enriched just a few in our society, the very wealthy 1 percent. 

Ironically, over 50 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King advocated for organizing the working poor of our nation as a second phase of his fight for civil rights and voting rights. The push to incorporate union workers, working poor, and civil rights was King’s dream of creating a national movement to replace the self–seeking individualism of the rich with a concentration on the common good of all citizens of this great nation. Unfortunately, an assassin’s bullet ended that dream. 

So many years later, the gap between the wealthy few and the struggles of the rest of our society is even greater. We are not immune from this debate in our Island City, and recent budget discussions have made me think about how disconnected some in our society are from the day-to-day struggle of so many. 

Last week at our City Commission meeting and then at a special budget meeting the following night, our city’s officials debated spending $90,000 over three years to convert two tennis courts to clay. At the same meeting our officials discussed giving our part-time employees a $500 stipend to assist them as low-wage earners. 

I advocated giving them a living wage instead, to do something that will actually make a difference in their lives. A one-time stipend does nothing for their long-term daily struggle. Ironically, the cost of raising our city’s employees’ wages to match the Living Wage Ordinance of Broward County would easily be covered by the cost of what we are spending on making two tennis courts easier to play on for aging residents. How does one advocate for the working poor when in the same breath they advocate throwing away so much money on providing clay courts to so few of our residents?

One justification is that our aging community requires clay courts. However, many younger residents do not want to play on or enjoy clay courts. Our city officials need to be concerned about the needs of all residents in our city, not just to those who fall into the AARP demographics. 

Mayor Gary Resnick has been a strong advocate of clay courts for years. When voices of opposition started to rise from other commissioners last year, Mayor Resnick pushed the item through by softening the one-year hit and spreading the cost over three years. This year Commissioner Green has taken a very strong stand against this large expense, and I commend his actions! There is one more budget hearing for residents to voice their opinions before the commission votes to approve the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. That meeting is on Tuesday, Sept 24 at 6:30 at the Commission Chambers. 

There were plenty of other happenings at last week’s commission meeting. One event that is still on my mind was how Mayor Resnick made such a big deal about a local business owner making a $5,000 donation to our city’s Leisure Services Department child care program. Yes, that’s a good amount of money, and such a donor should be recognized and thanked by the community. However, the Mayor went out of his way on this one. The donor even had a large over-sized check ready for the photo ops. What makes this whole scene a bit unusual is that the owner operates Johnson’s, the questionable all-male dancers’ nightclub right on Wilton Drive. He is also a very large donor to Mayor Resnick’s campaign for City Commissioner and has hosted a campaign event at his home. So, if you operate a questionable business in our community, have outstanding code violations, and want to send a message to city staff about how well you are connected to the elected officials, what better way to do it than in front of everyone at a City Commission meeting with a large check in hand. None of this might be the case, but appearances do matter, and this one is just a bit too much, even for Gary Resnick. 

Speaking of appearances, I recommend that everyone take a look at the Financial Reports of our municipal candidates running for election. They are posted on the city website. You can draw your own conclusions, but I would much rather vote for someone who has the support of many local residents donating what they can afford over someone who is collecting bags of donations from law firms, developers, and other entities located outside of our Island City. 

In closing, my hero of the week is Commissioner Tom Green for taking a firm stand over the money being allocated for the tennis courts. Standing up for your beliefs, seeking to assist the common good, and helping those in need will help make life just better here.