As I sit down to write this article, three thoughts are running through my head: trains, marijuana, and Marc Hansen.
No, this is not a bad trip down memory lane about a train ride with Mark Hansen smoking marijuana. No, these thoughts are separate, but somehow all connected. Thoughts of trains have to do with the rebirth of passenger rail traffic along the East Coast Rail Line. Thoughts of marijuana are due to the recent discussion at City Commission concerning medical marijuana dispensaries here in Wilton Manors. And of course, thoughts of Mark Hansen’s passing this past week, which leaves our South Florida LGBT community missing and mourning a true hero.
Riding to work each morning past the downtown Bus Terminal and over the rail tracks on Broward Blvd, I see the daily progress on the future of South Florida taking shape. If you have not been down this way lately, I urge you to do so and look at the train station being built for All Aboard Florida passenger rail service.
There used to be a saying, “All great cities have a great train station.” Well, by the looks of this construction, Fort Lauderdale will soon have their great train station. Looking beyond the debut of All Aboard Florida along the East Coast Rail Lines, we also see a commuter rail line taking shape that will connect many Florida East Coast cities from Jupiter to Miami. This commuter line is the game changer for our entire region and will bring so much life and investment into communities up and down the rail tracks.
As cities plan for future stations, our city commission seems ready to sit back and take a wait-and-see attitude instead of active steps to secure a station here in Wilton Manors. At a recent City Commission Budget Workshop, Commissioner Tom Green was the only supporter and staunch advocate of setting aside funding each year in the budget for a future train station. Commissioner Flippen was not in attendance, but hopefully will offer his support for such a strategic and forward-thinking path for our city at the next budget workshop.
Unfortunately, our Mayor and Commissioners Newton and Carson thought it best to remove the funding from the proposed budget. If our city truly wants a commuter train station we need to demonstrate that, and as another old saying goes, “Put your money where your mouth is.” Otherwise, we will be hopping aboard at Oakland Park’s station.
Now, on to marijuana. At our last City Commission meeting, medical marijuana dispensaries, and the zoning of such establishments were discussed. I had not given much thought to this topic because my personal feeling is that this should have been a reality long ago. However, the discussion on zoning locations for such establishments made my ears perk up, take notice, and realize that we had better start listening and understanding what is coming down the pike before it is too late.
There is a concern that medical marijuana dispensaries might be the new pill mills that plagued Florida just a few years ago, causing terrible damage to communities. The proposed zoning of such establishments currently includes the B-3 zoning district, which takes in the Oakland Park Blvd/Andrews Avenue corridor and a small portion of Powerline Road by Snook Creek Park. Once again, this part of town will have to deal with one more possible threat to our community, as if the pawn shops, the plasma center, check cashing stores and other social issues are not enough.
Why can’t people pick up their medical marijuana prescription along with other medication at the many local pharmacies throughout the area. Are these dispensaries the first step, a foot-hold in unsuspecting communities, to set up shop for the sale of marijuana once restrictions are further lifted? I definitely need more information on this topic, and I hope will you do some research as well. This will be further discussed at our Planning & Zoning Board meeting and again at a future City Commission meeting. Right now, I am leaning toward restricting such establishments as much as possible.
Marc Hansen’s passing this past week will leave a huge void in our community. His dedication to volunteerism helped this community in so many ways. For years Marc helped raise much needed funds for local organizations when he was on the board of Pride Fort Lauderdale. He also helped raise funds at the Pride Center by calling Bingo numbers on Saturday nights. He helped organize bowling leagues and so much more. Let us remember Marc for all his energy, hard work, and dedication to our community over the past twenty years. Thank you, Marc, for your unique style, your smile, and all you did to make this community a better place. Sweet dreams, my friend. You will be missed.
And so, as another week goes by, let’s keep working together to help make all of our lives just better here.