Recent grumbling over the WiltonNext Report and the direction of economic development here in Wilton Manors has brought about numerous conversations in the past few weeks.

One similarity in these discussions is the concern about whether or not the Economic Development Manager is up to the task or failing to deliver.  

When the City of Wilton Manors hired our current Economic Development manager, I immediately felt sorry for the person. All eyes would quickly focus on this new manager as if he was some magician ready to pull tricks out of his hat for all to be in awe and struck with wonderment. Our need at times for instant gratification does not allow the time to wait out the laying of a strong foundation to build upon. Not everything is posed to produce quick results, but rather needs time to develop, time to build upon, and time to show signs of success.  

To make matters worse this new position was placed under the supervision of the City Manager’s Office rather than the Community Development Services Department. Instead of being amongst colleagues and a supervisor already dealing with prospective businesses for the city, who are aware of the upcoming zoning changes for the city and who deal with related issues on a daily basis, the person was placed under the thumb of the City Manager’s office and the tight reins of the Assistant City manager.  

Rather than releasing this new director to spread their wings and soar, their wings were clipped early on, kept close to city management, and not allowed to veer off path. Unfortunately, this path was likely laid out by the Assistant City Manager Pamela Landi, otherwise known as “Pame-NO” Landi. 

Now I do not want it to appear that I am blasting the Assistant City Manager. The title of “Pame-NO” was not placed there by me, but by many in the community. Perhaps the Assistant City manager is just doing their job very well, to be the hatchet person for the city manager, the person who says “NO” to the many who come requesting this or that. Or is it something more? A recent response from the Assistant City manager when addressing the frustrations of some residents was that “they just don’t understand how government works,” demonstrating the blinders that are in place.

When New York City did the un-imaginable and closed off much of Broadway around Times Square to vehicular traffic it was not done with the blessing of enthusiastic city managers but came with cries of immediate disaster, gridlock, of no this cannot be done. Willingness to embrace such visionary policies came from those in the Bloomberg Administration who were outsiders of government, outsiders of bureaucracy, and willing to try something bold and new. Such a decision created the greatest transformation of the Manhattan streetscape in living history. Guess if we left that decision to those who “understand government” we would still see the same urban planning that prioritized vehicular roadways over pedestrians and public space instead of the dramatic changes that transformed an entire city.  

Since city management by nature is not the driving engine for innovative and creative change, that responsibility falls into the lap of our elected officials — our mayor and city commissioners. These individuals are the ones that most embrace bold new ideas coming out of advisory boards, business groups, neighborhood associations, community non-profits and regional planning organizations. Our elected officials should then give city management the direction and the tools necessary to take on these new and innovative ideas and make them a reality.  

The responsibility also falls to us, the residents of our wonderful Island City. We must engage our elected officials and hold them accountable. Upcoming elections later this year offer a great opportunity to listen, learn and support those who we believe will lead our city in the right direction. Proven leaders should be re-elected and when necessary, we should be ready and willing to elect new individuals seeking an opportunity to serve. Wilton Manors two new City Commissioners, Mike Bracchi and Chris Caputo, have brought much-needed change and new direction to our commission. Caputo continuously seeks to engage many in our community and has a willingness to bring new solutions to the table. Bracchi is not afraid to take a stand when faced with the familiar roadblocks of, “Well, this is how we did it in the past.”

Encouraging those who dream of a better tomorrow, are willing to break from the past, seek to remove the blinders of “understanding government” and are ready to embrace new ways that will lead us into the future is the only way that we will continue to make life just better here.

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.