I ventured north out of the Island City this week to visit family and friends up here in New Jersey.

Birthday celebrations this past week were big events, both here and back in Wilton Manors. As family and friends gathered to celebrate my father’s 93rd birthday, Islanders were gathering at Hagen Park Community Center to begin celebrations for Wilton Manors' 75th birthday bash during the month of May. Thanks to the Wilton Manors Historical Society for hosting the kick-off event last Thursday to a packed house. Next big event will be on May 21 with the Annual Canoe Race and Birthday Bash all coming together at Richardson Park.  

Life here in New Jersey during this time of year is a bit magical. Springtime brings out bright beautiful colors as trees begin to blossom, flowers blooming, and outdoor life begins to kick back in motion coming out of the cold winter months. Nights this week were still dipping into the low 40s but plenty of sunshine during the daytime hours warmed us all back to anticipating hotter days ahead.  

New Jersey is unique in many ways. One can pull up to a gas station and have an attendant pump your gas — the only state in the union that mandates attendants to pump gas for all customers. Going out to dinner with friends, bring your own wine and beer to your favorite restaurant and enjoy. Recreational use of marijuana is now permitted, controlled, taken out of the hands of criminals, and taxed. The news gets better, starting this week the State of New Jersey will ban the use of single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam food containers. Think about how a single trip to a grocery store can leave you tossing at least 10 plastic bags away as a result of the cashier putting only one or two items in each plastic bag before reaching for a new one as they hand you the practically empty bag to put in your cart. Over and over, day after day, plastic bags multiply everywhere. Thankfully this state-wide ban will begin to make a difference in decreasing the use of single-use plastics.

No such luck back home in South Florida where residents have no clue what is happening to the contents of their co-mingled recycle containers. This past month saw the start of the civil trial of Bergeron vs Waste Management. This civil case lays out the history of the decline of recycling throughout Broward County, the monopoly created by Waste Management, and the failure of the Florida Attorney's General Office over the past six years. Local cities like Wilton Manors have no real choices for trash and recycling due to the current near-monopoly by Waste Management. Solutions need to come from county, regional and state-wide cooperation. Perhaps Governor DeSantis might turn his attention away from attacking Mickey Mouse and start going after corporations that have monopolized industries and now exploit Floridians throughout the state.  

Other news making its way up north is the continued mess concerning the city-wide branding study. Why were resident responses to related surveys not clearly acknowledged? To make matters worse, residents’ responses were not just overlooked but totally misrepresented. These concerns have created a serious credibility issue for city staff involved. Taking responsibility, addressing concerns honestly and seeking common ground to move the agenda forward might be the best option for all. Getting bogged down in beating a dead horse will not help move our Island City forward with a workable economic branding strategy.  

Residents were also making some noise over the Complete Streets project moving ahead on NW 29th Street. This busy road serves as one of the only main direct connections between Andrews Ave and Powerline Road from Oakland Park Blvd all the way to NW 16th Street in Fort Lauderdale. This stretch of road needs pedestrian and bicycle safety measures as well as vehicular speed safety elements, exactly what this MPO project will bring to the community. This project was proposed and approved so many years ago that I thought it got lost on the shelf of the MPO offices. Now that it is ready to break ground, some new residents along the project are voicing concern over no public outreach to address their concerns. Unfortunately, that all took place a few years ago.

Well time for me to get back to enjoying time with family and friends, will not be too long until heading back to the Island City this coming weekend. Progressively embracing new ideas that will improve a community’s quality of life is what is making life just better here in New Jersey and is what makes life back home in Wilton Manors just a whole lot better too.

Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.