Last week: We mourn the loss of Clay Shaw, who died this week at age 74. My family had the privilege of knowing Congressman Shaw for many years and long admired his dignified and steadfast commitment to public service. He was among the last of the great moderates who didn’t approach politics as zero-sum partisan combat, but instead sought common ground with his colleagues in Congress to address the most difficult issues of his time. Clay Shaw leaves a lasting impact on our community in so many ways, but most importantly he epitomizes the selfless devotion of a true public servant.
Looking ahead: Broward County libraries will join libraries around the world in offering free access to a children’s e-book as part of the “Big Library Read,” from Sept. 16 through 30. Broward County Library cardholders can read free of charge “Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth,” by Jane O’Connor, in the Kindle, OverDrive Read or EPUB formats, and as an audiobook. This is the perfect opportunity to discover the vast selection of e-books available at our public libraries, and to share the joy of reading with the children in your life. For more information, visit www.broward.org/library or call 954-357-7402.
Last week: Florida International University’s Research Institute on Social & Economic Policy issued its annual “State of Working Florida” report, which looks at the health of our economy. The news for working Floridians is not good. Since the year 2000, Florida’s real median income fell by 11.5 percent, or about $5,600. The state’s poverty level also has increased by about 45 percent over the last four years, with about one in five Floridians living in poverty. These are very troubling statistics, and we must be mindful that while we are beginning to see signs of economic recovery, there is still a long way to go.
Looking ahead: Broward County Commissioners will hold the first of two public hearings about next year’s county budget at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Broward County Government Center in Fort Lauderdale. This is your opportunity to share your comments about the proposed budget for 2013-2014, and make your voice heard to your county elected officials. The proposed county tax rate will remain the same, except for a .17 mill increase due to the shift of emergency dispatch costs from cities to the county, which equals $17 for each $100,000 in taxable value of property.
Last week: The State of Florida announced this week that it would commit $90 million over the next three years to extend bridgework along Tamiami Trail that will increase water flow into the Everglades. The road was originally built on an earthen berm, which blocks water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee, and causes drainage and pollution problems. Work to elevate a one-mile stretch of the road onto a bridge, that allows water to flow below it, was finished in March. The new project will add another 2.6 miles of bridge work, to further enhance drainage into the Everglades and alleviate pollution in the Florida waterways that feed into it.
Looking ahead: University of South Florida researchers will begin exhuming human remains at the Dozier School for Boys, a Panhandle reform school operated by the State of Florida from 1900 to 2011. There are an estimated 100 unmarked graves on the site, most of them believed to hold the remains of boys who died while in the school’s custody. Answers are long overdue as to what happened to so many boys entrusted to the state’s care. Hopefully this investigation will bring those answers, as well as much-needed closure to families who lost loved ones at Dozier over the years.
Last week: The Herbert Hoover Dike that rings Lake Okeechobee and protects South Florida from flooding continues to be at high risk of failure, according to an Army Corps of Engineers inspection completed last week. We have heard these warnings for years, and despite $220 million in repairs, the earthen dam that was originally built in the 1930s still remains a disaster waiting to happen. Warnings like this went unheeded in New Orleans, with tragic results. The federal government must act now to ensure we don’t suffer the same fate here in South Florida.
Next week: The Broward County Commission will recognize World War II veterans at its weekly meeting as we commemorate the 68th Anniversary of “V-J Day.” On Sept. 2, 1945, Emperor Hirohito of Japan formally surrendered to General Douglas McArthur aboard the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. As the official end of the hostilities in World War II, the day was declared “Victory Over Japan” Day by President Truman. Join us as we recognize the dedication and sacrifice of our World War II veterans on Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 2 p.m., in the County Commission Chamber. For more information call 954-357-7007.
Last week: The so-called water wars that have raged between Florida, Georgia and Alabama may have reached a critical point this week. For decades, the states have fought over fresh water from the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers that flow into the Apalachicola River and Bay. This week, Gov. Scott said the state would sue Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the issue. Florida’s oyster industry has already suffered due to the reduced flow of fresh water, in a dispute that may be a preview of what’s to come as population growth strains the state’s fresh water supply in the coming decades.
Looking ahead: Students in Broward County Public Schools head back to school on Monday. It will be an exciting time for parents, teachers and students as another school year kicks off, and the important work of preparing our children for successful futures begins again. It also means that school buses will be back on the roads and children who walk to school will be crossing busy streets. Please be patient and careful out there on the roadways – we need to make sure our children are safe as they head back to school.
Last Week: The arrest of the mayors of two cities in Miami-Dade County on corruption charges is a sobering reminder of the importance of ethics and integrity in public service at every level from the White House to the state house to city hall. While these latest events involve our neighbors to the south, every time an incident of public corruption surfaces – no matter where it happens – it undermines the people’s faith in their government.
Week Ahead: The Broward County Commission returns from summer recess to resume regular meetings. In the coming weeks, Commissioners will work on finalizing the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1. The next budget workshop will be held August 20, and members of the public can share their comments about the budget with Commissioners at public hearings on September 10 and 24. For more information about the budget meeting schedule, visit http://www.broward.org/Commission/Pages/Schedule.aspx or call (954) 357-7007.
Last week: We received tragic news of the deaths of two children whose families had recently been investigated by the state Department of Children & Families. Three-year-old Dakota Stiles of Indian River County drowned in a filthy, mosquito-infested pool in his own back yard after wandering off from his parents. Cherish Perrywinkle, age 8, of Jacksonville, was raped and strangled to death by a registered sex offender who was a friend of her mother. State child welfare investigators had been in both children’s homes in the months leading up to their deaths, but despite numerous warning signs, opted to leave those children in unsafe homes. We have a duty as a society to protect those who cannot stand up for themselves, and as a state we simply must do a better job of protecting children in Florida.
Looking ahead: Pressure will continue to build for Congress to rein in the National Security Agency's surveillance of Americans' phone records and gathering of other so-called "metadata." We all want to make sure authorities tasked with protecting our national security have the tools they need to thwart terrorist attacks. But such extensive stockpiling of personal information about Americans without any indication they have done anything wrong or pose a security risk violates our most basic notions about the right to privacy.
Last week: It appears the economy continues to grow stronger. There was good news this week about two key economic indicators relating to the housing and job markets. First, home prices in Broward County are up 23 percent from this time last year. This is the seventh month in a row where median home prices are at least 20 percent greater than last year. Second, the number of “help wanted” ads online in Broward County is 11 percent higher than it was a year ago, with 22,000 more online want-ads than this time last year.
Looking ahead: We could see Tropical Storm Dorian headed our way. Of course, it’s too early to tell as I write this whether we’ll actually be impacted by this storm, but it’s a good time for all of us to make sure we’re prepared if a hurricane hits South Florida. The county’s website has plenty of resources to help you and your family get ready for storm season. For more information, visit www.broward.org/hurricane.
Last week: The Army Corps of Engineers this week took a major step toward federal approval for the widening and deepening of the channel in Port Everglades, which is needed to accommodate larger cargo ships now in use after the expansion of the Panama Canal. Broward County has been working toward federal approval of this project for more than 17 years. Along with the addition of new cargo berths and a facility to streamline the transfer of cargo from ships to rail and truck, the channel expansion is expected to create 7,000 jobs locally and 135,000 jobs statewide over the next 25 years.
Looking ahead: Sea turtle nesting season is in full swing this time of year, with late June and early July marking the peak for Loggerhead Sea Turtles, which are among the five endangered sea turtle species that nest along Florida beaches. If you’re headed to the beach this summer, be careful to stay away from nests, which are protected under state and federal law. Through July 16th, the Museum of Discovery & Science offers “Turtle Walks,” where visitors can learn about sea turtles, meet “Lois,” the museum’s resident loggerhead turtle and take a guided walk of nesting areas along Fort Lauderdale Beach. For more information visit www.mods.org or call (954) 713-0930.
Looking ahead: Independence Day. On Thursday, Americans will celebrate the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. While we’re all happy to get together with family and friends for fireworks and cookouts, we should also pause to give thanks for the freedom and opportunity we all enjoy as Americans — as well as to the men and women in our nation’s military who have sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice — so much in service of our country.
Last week: Marriage equality took a major step forward this past week, with the U.S. Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to couples married in states where same-sex marriage is legal. In the same week, however, the Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act may have seriously undermined federal protection of voting rights among groups that historically have been disenfranchised.
Looking ahead: Key Supreme Court rulings. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on two big issues -- marriage equality and voting rights. First, the Court will decide cases related to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s ban on same-sex marriage. Also, the court will rule in a case involving the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and whether the federal government may still oversee voting procedures in states (and some counties, including five in Florida) with a history of voting discrimination. Both decisions could have major implications for the basic civil rights we all cherish.
Last week’s headline: Breathing room In the county budget. After five straight years of cuts in the county budget, there will actually be a little more money for next year. This isn’t due to an increase in the property tax rate, but because real estate values have started to rise again. The tax rate will rise slightly – about $21 for the average homestead property – to pay for the countywide E-911 system that voters overwhelmingly approved (and cities refused to pay for.) But County Commissioners made it clear this week they won’t raise property taxes to pay for additional requests from the Sheriff, Property Appraiser and Supervisor of Elections.
The arrest of the mayors of two cities in Miami-Dade County on corruption charges is a sobering reminder of the importance of ethics and integrity in public service at every level from the White House to the state house to city hall. While these latest events involve our neighbors to the south, every time an incident of public corruption surfaces – no matter where it happens – it undermines the people’s faith in their government.