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Wilton Manors is proceeding with a bold policy to offer employees up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

Commissioners approved the policy during the unfinished business portion of Dec. 14’s commission meeting. Employees will be provided with 12 weeks of paid leave following the birth or placement of a child.

“I think this is an opportunity where we could really lead where our federal and state policies have not,” said Commissioner Mike Bracchi. “We learned from the pandemic that cities are really the front lines to helping people and I think this is a great benefit.”

Employees must have at least one year of service to be eligible for the new policy and agree to work 12 weeks after the leave expires. Presently, if an employee gives birth, adopts a child or participates in a foster home program, the employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Other notes from the Dec. 14 meeting include:

Ron Falk and Claudia Castillo announced the winners of the third annual Justin Flippen Manatee Contest. The activity, dedicated to the memory of the late mayor, is for students at Wilton Manors Elementary School and Somerset Academy. This year’s contest received 602 entries and raised more than $10,000. The winning manatee cutouts are on display at Castillo’s art gallery on Wilton Drive.

The commission finalized amendments to the unified land development regulations. Community Development Services Director Roberta Moore said the changes set height limits for planned unit development at five stories, not to exceed 60 feet.

A proposal to extend its contract with Waste Management passed on first reading. Rates under the contract’s new terms will increase 3.6%, said City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson. Recycling pick-up will consolidate into one day, on Wednesdays, city-wide. Weekend garbage collection will be eliminated, allowing drivers to have weekends off. Under the new contract, the total residential monthly rate for solid waste and recycling is $22.77 per unit.

Wicked Manors 2021 was a financial success, said Roger Roa, Pride Center Development director. Roa said his organization was very happy with the results from the Halloween-themed street festival and noted the event recruited a new sponsor, El Dorado Furniture, which previously had never sponsored an LGBT event in its 24-year history. The Pride Center and city split $5,268.20 in parking revenue from the event. Overall, Wicked Manors produced $179,862.60 in total revenue. Roa said nine organizations will share the $12,823.68 collected for entry fees. The Pride Center paid Wilton Manors $28,719.74 to host the event.

Commissioners approved the adoption of a pilot program for resident parking. For a $60 annual fee, residents are given parking privileges in any city lot after 6 p.m. The pilot program generated $2,350 with 47 permits sold.

During public comments, two people complained about the city’s lawsuit against the state of Florida regarding H.B. 1, dubbed the “anti-riot” law. Wilton Manors joined with several other South Florida municipalities to oppose the law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in April.

“Why would our city join up with cities like Lauderhill, Miramar and Tallahassee to name a few to fight Gov. Ron DeSantis who wants to prevent them from defunding the police budget?” asked Julian Isaacs, a 36-year resident of Wilton Manors. “That’s a very good thing. The governor is trying to prevent them from making law enforcement in the state of Florida weaker!”

City Attorney Kerry Ezrol said there are two technical reasons for the city joining in the lawsuit. The first reason is a technical violation of the single-subject rule under the Florida Constitution and the second reason is a technical violation of the Florida Constitution Separation of Powers.

“Fundamentally, the biggest concern expressed by the city commission is the intrusion of the governor into the home rule authority of the city commission when it comes to budgeting overall,” Ezrol said. “The city has not removed any funding from the police department. There has not been any discussion that I’m aware of as far as the prior year’s budget to remove funding from the police department or otherwise reduce the level of service for this community.”

Isaacs’ son, Jamian, accused Vice Mayor Paul Rolli of plotting with “ill-intentioned, radical left-wing interest groups” to challenge DeSantis. Isaacs said he was “shocked and disgusted” by the commission’s actions, especially considering Mayor Scott Newton has two sons who are law enforcement officers.

“You should know better,” Jamian chided Newton from the podium.

“None one of us has said a word about defunding the police,” Newton said after hearing the father and son out.

The meeting lasted one hour and eight minutes. The next regular commission meeting is Jan. 11.

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