Last week: The death of former Mayor and Congressman E. Clay Shaw, Jr. is a tremendous loss. In a long and distinguished career, he personified a more civil style of public service. Clay Shaw was collegial, dignified, and honorable, and always did what he thought was best for our city, our state, and our nation. He was respectful of others, even those who disagreed with him, and he was very well-respected by all in the process. I always admired his bipartisan and nonpartisan approach to issues that impacted our community, and his ability to balance a great family life with a successful political career. Clay Shaw will be missed, but never forgotten.
Last week: Locally, the City of Fort Lauderdale was surprised and very disappointed to learn that the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) leadership had petitioned the Governor in an effort to obtain a better deal for space in our planned new aquatic center. We are committed to building a first-class swimming and diving complex, and we are hopeful that ISHOF will remain our partner for many successful years to come. As such, we offered ISHOF an attractive package that adds value to their operations, saves millions of dollars in rent, and showcases them in a new, state-of-the-art facility. However, we cannot ask our taxpayers to build out their museum space and/or subsidize their independent operations. We remain optimistic that ISHOF will accept our good faith offer, appreciate our generous gestures and join us in moving forward in the space they originally approved.
Looking ahead: Next week, the City of Fort Lauderdale will vote on the budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The proposed budget will keep the city’s low property tax of 4.1193 unchanged. This will be the seventh consecutive fiscal year that our property tax rate has not increased. In order to keep taxes low during the Great Recession, while at the same time preserving vital service levels and maintaining quality of life, the city used a portion of its General Fund reserves to help balance past budgets. However, this proposed budget does not include the use of any reserves, and is a structurally balanced budget that will serve as the foundation for a fiscally sound and sustainable future.
Last week: Syria is the story of the week. The mass slaughter of civilians by the Assad government in Syria cannot be ignored by the United States or by the United Nations. Further, the apparent use of chemical and biological weapons in this massacre requires a direct, meaningful and immediate response by the U.S. and its allies. Civilized nations cannot stand by while an autocratic, despotic leader commits mass murder with lethal weapons against his own people, and an appropriate and proportional punishment needs to be imposed in a timely manner.
Looking ahead: Our response to the Syrian massacre will be the story in the weeks ahead. Should we undertake U.S. military intervention in Syria? Should we utilize a multinational military force to respond appropriately and proportionally? Should the United Nations be involved? Should there be "boots on the ground" or just targeted missile strikes? Should there be sanctions imposed and, if so, how should they be enforced? Should we seek out and destroy the apparent stash of biological and chemical weapons? The answers to these and many other questions will be discussed in the weeks ahead.
Last week: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announcement that Lake Okeechobee keeps rising amid serious concerns that the aging dike surrounding the lake is vulnerable to failure. In response, the Corps cranked the flood gates open to “maximum” in an effort to lower water levels and reduce pressure on the 143-mile-long Herbert Hoover Dike, but that created environmental issues. We need to recognize that dealing with our water quality and water supply in South Florida is already a difficult enough task, without having to balance environmental impact and public safety issues. Therefore, the federal, state, and local governments, along with the South Florida Water Management District, must all work together to ensure that Lake Okeechobee continues to be part of the solution to our water issues and not part of the problem.
Looking ahead: Football. Here in South Florida, we love our youth football, high school football, college football, and professional football, and all those seasons start this month. However, while supporting your team, remember what Vince Lombardi said: “football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” If everybody who participates in the sport of football this fall learns and meets those requirements, our community will benefit. So, enjoy the games, but remember that football is also preparing our youth to succeed in life.
Last week: The Zimmerman trial and verdict were still the story of the past week. Although the case was tried in the courtroom and the jury found Mr. Zimmerman not guilty, the issues raised in the "Trayvon Martin" trial will be discussed, debated and disputed outside of court for years to come. Hopefully, the governor and legislature will help us all move forward by amending the "Stand Your Ground" law to incorporate some of the more reasonable recommendations made by our State Attorney, our law enforcement community, our legal community and some of our elected officials.
Looking ahead: With another Tropical Storm moving across the Atlantic Ocean, I hope that people will be talking about hurricane preparations and hurricane readiness. For a number of years now, we have been very fortunate that no major storm has directly impacted South Florida, but we need to remain vigilant throughout this hurricane season. Hopefully, we will have another "quiet" season, but we all need to confirm that our families, our neighbors and our communities are well prepared for any adverse incident.
Looking ahead: From our corner of the world, President Obama's announcement of a comprehensive plan to address climate change will also be a major story in the weeks ahead. South Florida is uniquely positioned whereby we are always directly impacted by changes to energy policy and environmental policy at the state and federal levels. We need to be extremely involved in the creation and implementation of the climate change plan to preserve and protect our quality of life and our economic and environmental interests.
Last week: President Obama's announcement of a comprehensive plan to address climate change was the story of the week. This plan will have a substantial impact on our energy policy, environmental policy and economic policy for years to come, and will have a significant impact on our quality of life. Hopefully, all interested parties and stakeholders in both the public and private sectors will finally come together in a cooperative manner to create a balanced plan that will sustain us for generations.
Last Week: The Miami Heat making the NBA finals is definitely the story of the week in South Florida. Sports -- and especially championship teams -- have a unique way of bringing people together, uniting a diverse fan base, and building community.
Looking Ahead: On the local front, I hope that people will be talking about the Miami Heat winning the NBA Championship.