The 2020 legislative session is early this year, started on Jan. 14 and is scheduled to adjourn on Friday, March 13. As a mayor and local elected official, I am hopeful that this legislature will allow “local voices to make local choices,” keep big government in Tallahassee out of local matters best left to local communities and their local governments to handle, and limit efforts to restrict or preempt local government authority.
This principle is called “home rule” and is recognized in the Florida Constitution as the right of cities to adopt any law as long as it does not conflict with State or Federal law. Wilton Manors is a city which takes particular pride in our diversity and inclusion, perhaps more than any other city in Florida, and our home rule authority has been essential in achieving an environmentally progressive and socially inclusive local city community.
High on the city’s priority list is acknowledgement of the reality of climate change, increased severe weather events, and sea level rise. Florida desperately needs a statewide plan to address infrastructure resilience and to combat the impacts of increased flooding and higher temperatures. Every city in South Florida is facing this very real threat, and the Island City is no different.
Funding is needed to assist municipal government in resiliency planning and implementation. I am encouraged that the governor has begun to address the issue by appointing a Chief Resiliency Officer and a Chief Science Officer. Progressive initiatives by the commissioner of agriculture and the Office of Energy are also appreciated. Sea level rise is a scientific fact, and the Southeast Florida Climate Compact recently came out with updated projections that demonstrate rising seas at a rate more rapidly than has previously been seen.
Also on the city’s radar is water supply, both quality and quantity. It was conservatively estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that $16.5 billion is needed over the next 20 years in potable water infrastructure improvements for Florida, and wastewater and stormwater systems have similar needs. Water gets to the essence of our survival as a society, and I hope the legislature will begin to prepare for the time in the near future where water could be in very short supply.
There are several bills this session that address social equity for LGBT-plus people in Florida. The State Legislature should pass House Bill 41/Senate Bill 180 to ban the dangerous practice of conversion therapy. Studies have shown this practice victimizes and marginalizes individuals and is seriously harmful to mental health. Likewise, discrimination in the workplace or anywhere else based on sexual orientation and gender identity must no longer be tolerated in our State, and it is long overdue that we pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act.
While Airbnb, Vrbo, and other vacation rental business models are thriving and good for our economy, I hope the Florida Legislature will consider the negative impacts these rentals are having on traditional single-family neighborhoods. There is a place for this model in tourism meccas, but local governments should be able to regulate the bad behavior of their guests in places where people live and work every day.
Finally, gratitude is extended to State Senators Farmer and Thurston, and State Representatives Dubose and LaMarca for their representation of citizens in Wilton Manors and the other cities of their districts. These legislators work hard on our behalf in our State capitol.
Our fight to preserve our local and State constitutionally recognized home rule authority and our advocacy of our inclusive community values at the State level and beyond are reasons why “life’s just better here” in Wilton Manors.
Justin S. Flippen
“The People’s Mayor”
City of Wilton Manors