100 of South Florida’s most influential people weigh in on current events. Read their thoughts on the biggest stories of the week and see what they think will make headlines next week.
J. David Armstrong, Jr., president, Broward College
Looking ahead: For those following the daily reports on Zika cases and its recent transmission in Miami-Dade County, summer in South Florida can now add health threats to humidity, thunder storms, and scorching heat. I commend our local media outlets, like the Sun Sentinel, for not only expertly covering the issue but mitigating fear by providing residents with tips and useful information to stay safe and ward off mosquitoes. Knowledge and accurate information are the tools our community needs to enjoy the outdoors in a safe manner, and I urge everyone to heed their advice to help prevent the spread of Zika.
Irela Bagué, president, Bagué Group
Last week: Zika numbers in Florida keep growing as does the money being spent on mosquito spraying, testing and monitoring. Meanwhile, Congress is in recess and there is no motivation on their part to deal with it as a national health crisis. I guess we will have to wait until other states become infected to get them to act.
Looking ahead: Will the United States act on the surge of Cuban migration? So far this year, close to 47,000 migrants have entered the country, and the numbers increase if we include those who are trying to make it here from Colombia as well as those who reach the shores of Florida almost daily. It seems the U.S. is more interested in increasing Cuban tourism by facilitating the process for major airlines to offer direct flights to the island than dealing with the consequences of the Cuban Adjustment Act. Ironically, the Cuban government blames the U.S. for causing this migratory crisis.
Richard Barkett, CEO, Greater Fort Lauderdale REALTORS
Looking ahead: Reported on TV news Hollywood City officials are searching online real estate for sale listings and visiting open houses looking for remarks like: updated, remodeled, new windows/doors etc. They make appointments with showing agents posing as legitimate buyers to see, sometimes taking photos while property is being shown to them. Days later property owner receives a citation for work done without permits. Sad state of affairs when city officials have to disguise themselves to deceive city property owners on enforcement. Seems to me the least they can do is identify themselves and disclose the real purpose of their visits.
Mitchell W. Berger, founder and co-chair, Berger Singerman
Last week: In 2000, Roger Stone at the request of James Baker created a Brooks Brothers riot which threatened violence and stopped votes from being counted. Al Gore did not respond in kind but by peacefully resorted to the rule of law and committed to honor the result. Roger Stone’s candidate Mr. Trump is telling his supporters that the election will be rigged , and that if they do not like the result to resort to violence. Which country do you wish to live in, one led by the principles constitutional government as followed by Al Gore or one led by Mr. Trump ?
Looking ahead: The Marlins are in a race for a playoff spot , like 97 and 03 if we get in we will win !
Richard Berkowitz, CEO, Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants
Looking ahead: Earlier this year the Dept. of Labor extended wage protection to home health workers, a move that recognizes their work as professional caregivers. The rule states that work above 40 hours is eligible for time and a half overtime, making it very expensive to access full-time care. With 76 million Baby Boomers retiring in the next 20 years and an aging population in Florida, this could have a tremendous impact on the cost of care for the senior population in South Florida. A greater number of caregivers will be required and individuals will need to begin retirement planning and saving earlier to accommodate the added costs.
Walter G. “Skip” Campbell, Jr., mayor, Coral Springs; former member, Florida Senate
Last week: When I was in high school, I learned that debate was important to our critical thinking skills. It also made us better and more effective communicators. Most important to the political process it allows the general public a chance to evaluate the political views of our representatives. So why won’t Rubio and Murphy debate their opponents. The public deserves it.
Daniel Cane, President and CEO, Modernizing Medicine
Last week: The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio have captured everyone’s attention. These events continue to serve as a powerful symbol of hope and pride for the world.
Looking ahead: Zika, Zika, Zika. The increasing spread of the Zika virus continues to be a worry in the region both from economic and health standpoints. As much as the South Florida ecosystem is beginning to diversity we are still strongly tied to the tourism and hospitality industries. Early test vaccines are in the works, but we are still in the first few chapters of this unfolding saga.
Kathleen Cannon, president, United Way of Broward County
Looking ahead: The OIympics in Rio have taken over the country! As a sports junkie, I relish in the two weeks of non-stop competition and excitement surrounding the games. I can’t help but enjoy the temporary reprieve from the negative and divisive world of politics. The positive headlines of triumph over adversity and teamwork are overshadowing those of bickering and insults. The athletes are not belittling their opponents with infantile noise, but winning by their merits, skills and abilities. Let’s hope this feeling of pride for our country and unity as Americans can extend beyond the Olympics and through the presidential campaign.
Linda B. Carter, president, Community Foundation of Broward
Last week: Olympic moments have been in the news and the topic of conversations this past week. It has been heartwarming to see nations come together and hear spectators voice their appreciation of a job well done. Everyone celebrates the talent of these young people and their individual stories of courage, dedication and commitment. They are an inspiration to all.
Paul Castronovo, host, Paul & Young Ron Show
Last week: Congratulations fellow Floridians, we’ve gotten another award! Do I mean the great Floridian Athletes competing in Rio? Nope. Am I speaking about this being a banner year for tourism in the “Sunshine State?” Nah. This time it’s a dubious honor: Florida has the worst drivers in America! Followed up by Mississippi (that’s not fair, they can’t read the street signs!). Here’s my problem with this. Most of us are from somewhere else. Here’s my logic: if the worst drivers in America are in Florida, Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the worst drivers in America are from Canada and New York?
Looking ahead: If you are like me, and you sit at a desk all day, experts say we’re in trouble. Sit for more than 8 hours a day, and your risk of dying goes way up. However, this increased risk of death can be eliminated if you do a minimum of one hour of physical activity a day. That seems do-able. Sit for 8 hours a day, work out one hour, no death. Here’s the problem: What if you sit for 8 hours, then hit the couch for 6 hours of TV? Football season is coming! Does that mean more workout or quicker death?
Dan Daley, Vice Mayor, Coral Springs
Last week: If you’ve been following the crazy 2016 election cycle you may have heard a certain candidate talking about how the “US never wins anymore.” Clearly Donald Trump hasn’t been watching the Rio Olympics, where Team USA holds a commanding lead in the medal count and US swimmer Lilly King dominated the Russian favorite in the 100-meter breaststroke. The only remaining question is whether the Donald called his friend Vladimir Putin to apologize yet… Go Team USA!
Pastor D.H. Dawkins Sr., Praise Tabernacle International
Last week: Many are heading back to school this coming week in South Florida. I believe this is going to be a great school year for our children. I believe that the morale of our teachers, administrative staff & faculty will be the greatest it’s ever been. I believe our special needs children & their families will experience efficient and genuine support from everyone. Someone has to believe for better!
Michael De Lucca, president, Broward Regional Health Planning Council, Inc.
Last week: Athletes take center stage this week as the Olympics in Rio continue. Representing America at its best is Michael Phelps competing in his fifth Olympic games. With 25 medals, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all times. Phelps who was diagnosed with ADD as a child, used swimming to help him gain focus and has become the world’s most decorated Olympian and more than accomplished his dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer. We are proud of Michael Phelps dedication and commitment and his ability to demonstrate that with dedication and commitment you can be a winner. We are honored to support him.
Looking ahead: August is immunization awareness as well as back to school month. Families, healthcare professionals, and public health officials must work together to help protect the our entire community, from babies to elderly from common diseases. National Immunization Awareness Month helps remind people of all ages to stay up to date on all vaccinations recommended to protect them and their loved ones from serious and sometimes deadly diseases. Make sure to visit the CDC immunization resource page to learn and understand which vaccines you should be receiving. As the new school year begins, make sure your children immunize on time!
Dr. Michael Dennis, chairman, Florida Atlantic University Schmidt College of Medicine
Last week: The computer system meltdown this week that forced Delta Airlines to cancel nearly 500 flights is a troubling, unnerving episode. And it’s not a solitary event. In 2013 American Airlines had an outage requiring cancellation of hundreds of flights as they integrated their system with US Airways. United Airlines had the same problem when it merged with Continental. And this summer Southwest was forced to cancel and delay many flights for computer faults. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that the airlines have backup systems in place for just such emergencies? There have been no fatalities fortunately among planes in flight, but that’s not out of the question.
Looking ahead: A college education remains an indisputable goal, but the pool of available workers favors employment of candidates with only high school diplomas. College graduates are stagnant in their employment figures, but employers are increasingly turning to high school graduates and are pleasantly surprised. This is especially true in job sectors such as tourism, restaurants, and sales where onsite training is favored. Tech companies are finding talent in these graduates with their coding experience and innate skills. Vocational schools are becoming increasingly popular and for good reason. As an example, an active plumber or electrician can earn almost the same as the average primary care physician in private practice.
Ted Deutch, member, U.S. House of Representatives
Last week: We marked the fifty-first anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark law that protected the right to vote for millions of Americans by outlawing poll taxes, literacy tests, and other obstacles meant to ban African Americans from the polls. But three years ago, the Supreme Court gutted this law, making it easier for states to impose election laws unfairly targeting minorities. Fortunately, the courts have since blocked numerous attempts by states to restrict voter access. Particularly as we enter the election season, Congress must act to renew the Voting Rights Act to firmly secure this constitutional right all Americans.
Looking ahead: Speaker Ryan must immediately call a special session of Congress to address the rapid spread of the Zika virus across our state. This week, Palm Beach County experienced its first locally-acquired case of Zika, following 20 other locally-acquired cases and over 370 travel-related cases just in Florida. Health officials in the U.S. and even foreign countries are warning against travel to Florida. This is only the beginning of the damage this virus will cause our state, with more infections and further loss to our tourism industry likely. Florida Republicans and Democrats agree – Congress must reconvene and address this growing threat.
Andrew Duffell, president, Research Park at Florida Atlantic University
Last week: The Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Startup Activity ranks South Florida as the number 2 metro region in the country for startup activity, validating the efforts of those of us who foster entrepreneurship. Progress is still needed however because we drop to number 39 of 40 areas when looking at the scale up of growth companies, those that are maturing. With focus on developing good ideas and launching new companies, more of those will become growth companies with time, experience and collaborative effort.
Looking ahead: Household debt has risen to $12.3 trillion, an alarming figure largely attributable to car loans and credit card debt. If Americans are to have any hope of repaying that debt and avoiding a replay of the 2008 credit crisis many more high paying jobs are needed to provide people the income needed to make payments. In order for new jobs to be created the conditions for businesses to invest must exist: candidates for office from local races all the way through the presidential candidates must be challenged on how they can positively contribute to those conditions.
Eric Eikenberg, CEO, Everglades Foundation
Last week: Four Florida counties remain under a state of emergency due to polluted water from Lake Okeechobee being dumped east and west. Toxic algae crisis has invaded both coasts and caused economic and ecological calamity. A solution to this damaging problem is to send the water south. Incoming Senate President Joe Negron announced this week a plan to do just that. Sen. Negron is promoting a project that both Republicans and Democrats approved back in 2000. The project is called the EAA Reservoir, and it will provide a new outlet for Lake Okeechobee discharges, sending them into a reservoir to hold until the water can be cleaned and ultimately sent south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. This project, along with others, including the bridging of US 41, will allow for a more steady flow of water south. The State of Florida has invested billions of dollars in man-made wetlands south of the sugar fields that can be used to clean the water before sending it south to the Everglades. Sen. Negron’s plan is needed to ensure Everglades restoration becomes a reality.
Sean Guerin, CEO, Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Last week: The memorable line delivered in “A Few Good Men” is “You can’t handle the truth!” This must explain why our government and those who wish to head our government can’t often tell us the truth. Why is it so hard to level with us? “I made a mistake – I’m sorry!” Instead they weave these webs that only make credibility all but impossible. The American people have a forgiving nature. It would be refreshing to see someone stop the spinning to cover up mistakes, as coincidences or partisan politics. Believe in the American people. WE CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH.
Rabbi Sheldon Harr, Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El
Last week: It is a sorry state of affairs when the threat of violence-even assassination- is tolerated in our elections. Traveling home from Europe it is an embarrassment to watch every international and national tv outlet trumpet the crazy utterings of trump. A huge loss should teach our citizens a lesson in what it truly means to be an American
Susan Haynie, mayor, Boca Raton
Last week: Last week the Boca Raton City Council conducted a public hearing on the proposed annexation of four neighborhoods located on our northwest border. What did we learn from the residents of these communities? We learned that not everyone wants to become a resident of Boca Raton and that they favor their goats, chickens and horses over our municipal services. The residents of Boniello Acres who spoke, prefer their rural lifestyle as residents of Palm Beach County complete with livestock and barns, not exactly compatible with Mizner Park and Town Center Mall where the only animals you find are in strollers.
Looking ahead: On August 20th, I will be sworn in as the 94th President of the Florida League of Cities. It’s difficult to adequately express the tremendous sense of honor I feel as I assume this role. An elected official from Boca Raton has never served as FLC President until now. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to not only serve Boca Raton but to also serve all 412 cities in Florida.
Hava Leipzig Holzhauer, regional director, Florida Anti-Defamation League
Looking ahead: Students are returning to school very soon. Many will be victims of bullying and cyberbullying this year; recent studies have shown that 20% of young people have already been targets of cyberbullying. Now is a great opportunity to be aware and on top of this issue before it starts. What bullied children may reveal in polls, they may be reluctant to tell a parent or teacher in person. It is primary to teach your children and students the importance of being an ally. It is also primary to be aware of your children’s and student’s online activity, to teach and reinforce responsible use of technology, and to make sure children know you are there to listen if anything goes awry.
Scott J. Israel, sheriff, Broward County
Looking ahead: The safety and security of our Broward religious institutions and community centers is essential. Sadly, these foundations of civil society tragically become frequent targets for evil and mentally ill individuals intent on seeking to inflict harm, instill fear, and cause chaos. By nature of their very welcoming openness, these places are inherently vulnerable to attack. In conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, BSO will again host our Annual Security Conference on Tuesday, 9:15 a.m., at the Urban League in Fort Lauderdale. There, BSO security experts will provide vital security information and critical safety recommendations to keep our community safer.
Kristin Jacobs, member, Florida House of Representatives
Last week: There couldn’t be a better stage to pitch the need for a global effort to work against climate change than the Olympics. Climate change affects everyone, not just the clichéd Polar Regions and coastal beach communities, but every man, woman and child on Earth. Athletes left their mark by planting a native tree. Likewise, we can all help: ride your bike more instead of driving, use energy friendly light bulbs, recycle more, and support green energy initiates and policies in government. This wasn’t a presentation – it was a wakeup call. We desperately need to create change before it’s too late.
Jordana Jarjura, General Counsel, Gulf Building
Last week: Overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental deaths, with many caused by dealers selling fentanyl as heroin. Christopher Massena’s conviction triggers a debate as to whether dealers should be criminally liable for the user’s death.
But is that the real debate? Shouldn’t we really be addressing the root of this overdose epidemic?
Prescription pill addicts are 40x more likely to be heroin addicts. We’ve known of the dangers of prescription opiates for a decade, yet we continue to prescribe them, including now to children as young as 11.
Without major policy changes, this national crisis will continue to grow.
Jason Joffe, business litigation partner, Squire Patton Boggs
Last week: More white noise on the election front this week. “Appealing to the base” has been a guiding principle for both parties for some time. One could credibly argue that mantra has contributed greatly to Washington gridlock. In an election where both candidates are far from ideal, it’s time for both parties and their respective candidates to stray from their comfort zones. Politicians can both be true to their beliefs and still work productively with those who hold different opinions. Hopefully, one day, it will take that sort of thinking to win elections. After all, isn’t politics the art of compromise?
Norm Kent, publisher, South Florida Gay News
Last week: The games of the Rio Olympics should be a global reminder that our world still has a chance to survive terror; that we are all part of a melting pot of shared humanity, capable of coming together in sport and fun rather than falling apart with bombs and guns.
Looking ahead: Marijuana is coming to Main Street. But worry not. It is a medicine not a menace. As cities in Broward pass rules and regulations for dispensaries in anticipation of Amendment 2’s passage, the guidelines must be logical, not limiting; sensible , not stupid; and reasonable, not restrictive.
Marty Kiar, commissioner, Broward County
Last week: For the fourth straight year, Broward County led the nation by winning 34 awards in the 2016 National Association of County Information Officers Awards of Excellence competition. The annual competition honors the best public information and community outreach efforts by local governments. A big congratulations to Broward County’s dedicated, competent and hardworking employees.
Looking ahead: Due to construction, the departure level roadway at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will close from 9PM to 4AM every other night from Tuesday, August 9th through Wednesday, October 5th. Vehicles and pedestrians will be redirected to the arrival level roadway and curbside valet parking on the upper level roadway will cease operation. At 4AM, the construction will stop and both the upper level roadway and curbside valet parking will reopen. The closures are important as the county is installing steel roofs on four pedestrian bridges that connect the Palm Garage with Terminals 2, 3 and 4.
Chip LaMarca, member, Broward County Commission
Last week: The Olympic games have kept us on the edge of our seats this week. We can all be proud of Team USA for their dedication and the example they provide all of us in competition and sportsmanship as they compete towards their dream of winning an Olympic medal. One very somber low this week in the sports world was the passing of John Saunders, who has brought sports to us for the past 3 decades with ESPN. One of my favorites and one of the best in his field, he did his job with his professionalism and humility. He was an inspiration just like the Olympic athletes. R.I.P.
Looking ahead: For many children and young adults in Broward County summer vacation will soon come to an end in the weeks ahead. For the driving public, this also means that school busses will be back on the roads and our daily drive will be a little more congested. In order to keep our roads safe it is important to remember to keep your eyes on the road, be an alert driver and remember to “Take 5 to Stay Alive – Don’t Text and Drive!”
Ina Lee, president Travelhost Elite of Greater Fort Lauderdale
Last week: Our Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport continues to break records as Norwegian Air Shuttle launched a new route to Paris, France. They now fly directly to London, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Orlo from our destination. Last year the airline carried more than 330,000 passengers to and from our area. Great news for tourism and our local community. And more routes are planned.
Looking ahead: A group of residents have collected 1,000 signatures to attempt to curb growth in Fort Lauderdale by imposing a year-long moratorium of new building other than single family home from Federal Highway to the ocean. This would be be very detrimental to our economy and cost us jobs. The traffic issues we are facing are largely due to the infrastructure projects that are underway to address congestion. We must not blame development for this. A moratorium would send a very bad message to the investors who have many other options on where to put their money.
Earl Maucker, commissioner, Lighthouse Point; former editor, Sun Sentinel
Looking ahead: With state, county and municipal elections just around the corner let’s hope local candidates take the high ground instead of the hateful, disgusting and destructive campaigns we’ve seen at the national level. To even the most cynical among us, national politics have reached toxic levels beyond comprehension. Voters deserve a civil discussion on the issues – not this vile, degrading character assassination adopted by both major parties. What a sad display of democracy we’re putting on for the rest of the world.
Peter Moore, President, Chen Moore and Associates
Last week: Last week I was made aware of a February 2015 SCOTUS decision in the case of North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners versus Federal Trade Commission and its potential impact on the regulatory bodies of all licensed professionals. As opined by Attorney General Bondi to the Florida Legislature in December 2015, this ruling effectively eliminates antitrust immunity for individuals serving on State Licensing Board. I’m a Licensed Professional Engineer. Who should regulate my practices – people without engineering degrees or experience? Who can evaluate a doctor’s practice if not other doctors? This is a legislative imperative!
Looking ahead: The Florida Atlantic University Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering faculty, alumni and students. Founded in 2001, they have successfully graduated 700+ competent civil engineering students, who are mostly working in Southeast Florida. Also exciting is that starting Fall 2016 the State of Florida has granted the program permission to educate Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering, which is starting with 25 students. Involved since its conception, I’m very proud to help celebrate their 15th Anniversary of the program and their accomplishments on Saturday, August 27, 2016.
Frank Ortis, mayor, Pembroke Pines
Last week: While this year’s hurricane season hasn’t sent us scrambling yet, the busiest storm time still awaits which has Federal Emergency Managers thinking about costs. FEMA is asking states to ponder a proposed federal program designed to lower federal disaster recovery costs. Similar to an insurance deductible payment, states would pay an amount before federal funds kicked in. The “deductible” would be reduced if states invested in disaster-mitigation infrastructure improvements. Florida already does. FEMA warns that Congress may shift higher costs to states without this proposal. Do we gamble on Congress cutting disaster aid, or go for paying higher state costs?
Looking ahead: At this week’s Florida League of Cities Annual Conference in Hollywood, we’ll be voting on a resolution urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow states to compel online and catalog retailers to collect sales tax. This would close the online sales tax loophole now in existence, and level out the playing field between online and brick and mortar retailers. The monies collected from these taxes would allow Florida to invest in our communities, build infrastructure and improve services. I’d hate to see us lose our local businesses as a result of unfair competition and growing disadvantages from online sellers.
Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, president, Miami Dade College
Last week: Zika continues to be a big story this week with a locally acquired cases confirmed in Palm Beach and Monroe Counties and more in Miami-Dade County. Miami Dade College continues its extensive mosquito control activities and participation in daily communications with officials from County Emergency Operations, the Health Department, the Chancellor’s Office and others. In addition, I joined Secretary Hillary Clinton and health leaders at the Borinquen Medical Center near Midtown on August 9, to provide an update on all our local efforts. As I have said previously on this forum, we all need to take this issue seriously and do our part to prevent the spread of Zika.
Looking ahead: The big story in the coming days is the return of all our faculty to Miami Dade College for the new academic year, full of great promise. Our faculty are the backbone of the college and so are our amazing students. In fact, there is still time to register for fall classes at all our area colleges and universities. The first day of class is August 22, and MDC offers more than 300 academic pathways of study including hot, new programs in fashion and data analytics. Enroll in college, complete a degree and enjoy a lifetime of professional success.
Philip Purcell, executive director, Marine Industries Association of South Florida
Looking ahead: MIASF will host approximately 45 Dillard High School teachers for a Faculty Field Trip on Monday, August 15th to provide educators with valuable information regarding the correlation between what’s taught in the classroom and industry needs. A tour of Roscioli Yachting Center followed by a Water Taxi ride along the New River will showcase dozens of marine industry jobs to the faculty and guests in attendance. We are excited to show this group of influencers the marine industry job opportunities that are available and share information that these jobs typically pay 28% higher than the state average.
Gary Resnick, mayor, Wilton Manors
Last week: With all the focus on the Presidential election and Trump’s incredulous claim that Obama founded Isis and Hilary’s emails, we have lost site of some very important state and local elections. The Broward League hosted a great forum the other day for state legislative candidates. Governments closest to the people have the most power to influence our lives. Let’s not lose sight of our school board, judicial and other important contests!
Greg Ross, mayor, Cooper City; president, Broward League of Cities
Looking ahead: On August 18-20, approximately 1,000 elected officials from cities across Florida will attend the Florida League of Cities Annual Conference at the Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood. “Florida Cities: United & Strong” will provide opportunities for attendees to share ideas about government, attend educational workshops and sessions, determine League policies, and discuss strategies for Florida’s future. The conference will explore how cities can work together to make Florida a stronger state. Taking place during a politically charged election year, two prominent political experts, Mark Halperin and Ana Navarro, will offer their analysis of the presidential race.
Robert Runcie, superintendent, Broward County Public Schools
Last week: The 2016 Olympics is a much welcome reprieve from events of the past few months which have jarred our souls and pumped anxiety into our hearts. We have witnessed horrific acts of terrorism at home and abroad; worsening race relations punctuated by escalating tension and violence between the Black community and law enforcement; and an election cycle bringing out the worst in America as candidates run on the politics of fear, anger and hate. So, as the world comes together to celebrate the accomplishments of our athletes, I hope that it also brings our collective humanity closer to world peace.
Tim Ryan, member, Broward County Commission
Last week: Efforts to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee – and the toxic algae blooms they cause – gained a prominent ally this week. Incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron, of Stuart, pledged his support for $2.4 billion in state funding to buy 60,000 acres of farmland south of Lake Okeechobee. The land would store and treat lake releases that contain chemicals from farming operations. “Buying the land,” is essential to cleaning up Florida waterways, and Senator Negron has shown strong leadership by committing funds for this plan. Hopefully, he can convince his legislative colleagues, the governor and federal officials to follow his lead.
Looking ahead: Residents of unincorporated Broward County can now report non-emergency safety issues in their neighborhoods online or from a smartphone. Called “Safe Routes Broward,” the app allows users to take an active role in keeping their neighborhoods safe, by reporting issues like damage to streets, sidewalks or signs, vandalism, and graffiti. County staff can then quickly respond to the problem. It’s a great way to use technology to empower residents to communicate with their government. To learn more, visit touchbroward.org/hcz/srb/ or call 311.
Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, president, Children’s Services Council of Broward County
Last week: The Rio Olympics provided an unexpected teachable moment. Talking about US gymnast Simone Biles, NBC’s analyst Al Trautwig referred to her adoptive parents as “her grandparents”. When scolded by a viewer his reply was “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents”. In fact, her story proves the power of foster and adoptive parents. By providing a loving home and normalcy for children born into circumstances beyond their control, foster and adoptive parents can help them reach their full potential. Biology aside, they are parents in the truest sense of the word.
Looking ahead: There has rightfully been much chatter at the Olympics on the topic of athletes doping. Swimmer Cody Miller said, “There will probably be people who miss the podium to people who don’t deserve to be on the podium, and that is wrong.” Sport cheats are no different than thieves stealing from someone working hard and playing by the rules. That is what youth who are being given a second chance through the CSC funded Civil Citation programs learn through restitution and hearing from the victims of their crime. Let’s teach our children that those short cuts are not worth it.
Tom Shea, president, Right Management
Last week: Despite the Florida Legislature’s refusal to fund incentives for the film and TV industry when the state’s $296 million entertainment tax credit program expired this summer, HBO and Netflix announced they will stay in the state for third seasons of their hit shows. Is it the start of a positive no-incentives-needed trend, or will producers steer clear of Florida when scouting more film-friendly locations for new shows?
Looking ahead: It’s good news that South Florida’s wage and salary growth rate outpaced the nation’s for the year ending June 30, as a new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows. Despite our region’s enviable climate and quality of life, though, South Florida’s relatively high cost of living means we have serious catching up to do to compete with other parts of the nation for top talent.
Howard Simon, executive director, ACLU of Florida
Last week: Sen. Marco Rubio said that he doesn’t believe a pregnant woman infected with the Zika virus should have the right to an abortion — even if she had reason to believe the child would be born with severe microcephaly, “or any prenatal condition” caused by the virus. These are code words for empowering the government to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. Fortunately, the Florida and U.S. Constitutions do not give Sen. Rubio the right to impose his beliefs on the women of Florida. Whether to carry a pregnancy to term is still their decision, not his.
Looking ahead: Donald Trump’s claim that his opponent wants to “abolish” the Second Amendment raises important moral and legal issues for our democracy’s cherished heritage of freedom of speech. That is because he added that if she is able to select judges, the right to bear arms will be history, except that “the Second Amendment people” may have something they can do, “I don’t know.” All Americans, even bombastic politicians, have a right to free speech. But what culpability is there for a political leader who feeds fear and paranoia to create an atmosphere that may stimulate violence by a deranged listener?
Eleanor Sobel, member, Florida Senate
Last week: During the Democratic National Convention, “Bernie” holdouts protested defiantly against Israel. Their demands included equal arms for both Israel and Palestine. Protesters wore Palestinian scarves and waived Palestinian flags denying the history of Israel as victims of terrorist bombings. These radical extremists supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement, disrupted meetings, and spouted venom. At times, they even physically assaulted anyone who disagreed with them, going as far as chanting, “long live the Intifada”, while burning an Israeli flag in the streets. The appalling actions of these protesters illuminate the stark contrast between these perpetrators of hate and Israeli democracy.
Looking ahead: We are the “Sunshine State.” Vote “yes” on Amendment 4 on August 30th to give tax breaks to property owners who install solar panels and reduce the tax burden on companies that lease them to homeowners. The tax exemptions would begin in 2018 and continue for 20 years. This great policy lowers the price of home solar panels so that more people can benefit from them. Amendment 4 even reduces the tax liability of big utilities incurred as a result of solar panels. Sunshine already supports our tourism sector, let’s make it work for our energy industry, too!
Gregory Stuart, executive director, Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization
Looking ahead: Growing up in South Florida, I have seen the transformation of our region from a series of small, beachfront towns into the eight largest metropolitan region in the country. I remember a time when everything west of University Drive was farmland, and have witnessed the tremendous growth in all regions of South Florida. With this growth comes challenges: environmental protection, job creation, and the efficient movement of people and goods. But these challenges also present incredible opportunities for us to become a more sustainable and economically vibrant region. By investing in these areas, we can make South Florida a hub for innovation, growth, and progress.
Bob Tucker, Director, Corporate Affairs, ADT
Last week: Congratulations to the dozens of law enforcement officers, first responders, state attorneys, volunteers and others who were recognized during the annual MADD banquet last Friday night in Ft. Lauderdale. They are helping keep drunks off the roads. ADT was a proud sponsor of the event.
Looking ahead: While spending nine days on vacation with my family in Maui, I realized the similar issues facing that Hawaiian island and South Florida. Both pieces of paradise struggle with affordable housing, balancing growth with the environment and diversifying the local economy beyond tourism.
Randall Vitale, senior VP, Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust
Looking ahead: The election season is heating up with more endorsements for local elections coming out daily. One item that is still on the horizon is the ballot initiatives to increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. The two ballot questions will allocate ½ penny to transportation and ½ penny to infrastructure. While the current plan is not perfect, and admittedly still evolving, I strongly believe the community needs to support the initiative. We must come together to work on long-term solutions to our transportation and traffic congestion problems. Let’s not allow perfect to be the enemy of good.
Robert Weinroth, Deputy Mayor, Boca Raton
Last week: Boca Raton’s redevelopment is transforming its downtown. Just outside of its 344-acre redevelopment area sits a 2-acre parcel over which the City Council and a group of residents have wrestled for years. The city has received a plan from the Hillstone Group to provide waterfront dining. Critics of this plan argue the city should preserve the parcel as green space in the form of a small park. This week the City Council unanimously agreed to place the issue of waterside development on the November ballot. It will now be left to our residents to provide the direction to be taken.
Looking ahead: As the world watches the 2016 Winter Olympics in Rio, Palm Beach County joined Miami-Dade as a venue where Zika was contracted domestically. At the same time, the first newborn to die from the virus occurred in Texas. The unprecedented travel advisory issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection for the Zika hot zone in downtown Miami just adds insult to injury as the Federal government continues to demonstrate its inability to wage an aggressive offensive to stem a potential pandemic just as visitors to Rio are about the return after exposure at ground zero for this disease.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Archdiocese of Miami
Last week: We’re well into the third month of hurricane season; yet, this election year news cycle has perhaps distracted many of us from paying attention to the threat posed by tropical storms. Zika, of course, worries us – and with some reason. However, Hurricane Earl left a path of death and destruction in the DR, Haiti, and most devastatingly in Mexico when floods and landslides have caused great damage. 10 years have passed since South Florida was struck – but we should not be complacent.
Looking ahead: We should continue to talk about the courage of Venezuelan mothers and housewives who showed their resourcefulness in the face of hunger of their families. In spite of the closed border between Venezuela and Colombia these brave women, dressed in white, defied the Venezuelan National Guard with a “hunger march” across the border to buy food for their hungry families. The economic and political situation of Venezuela continues to deteriorate. “Real” socialism has brought real pain to a country that should be the richest in South America.