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Our panel of 100 influential leaders discusses the most important issues affecting you.
Wael Barsoum, M.D., president and CTO, Healthcare Outcomes Performance Co.
Last week: The CDC recently expanded the booster shot eligibility to those 12- to 15-year-old. The recommendation is that 12- to 17-year-old should receive the booster shot five months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series. Data has shown that COVID-19 boosters help broaden and strengthen protection against omicron and other SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Looking ahead: Although the idea of intentionally trying to catch omicron is “all the rage” currently, officials are adamantly discouraging such behavior. While omicron presents milder symptoms that are like a bad cold for most, people without any underlying health conditions can still get severely ill with this strain. While it is true that vaccinated individuals are less likely to be hospitalized, less likely to go to the ICU, and less likely to be put on a mechanical ventilator, there is always the chance of long COVID. While “long COVID” is a phenomenon that is still being looked at, it is currently characterized by shortness of breath, severe fatigue, mood changes and sleep difficulties, among other things.
Lori Berman, member, Florida Senate
Last week: On the first day of the legislative session, Florida Republicans shamelessly unveiled their latest proposal to curtail the reproductive rights of women. Similar to the Mississippi abortion ban, Senate Bill 146 and House Bill 5 would ban physicians from performing abortions after 15 weeks. The bill does not make exceptions in cases of rape. The constitutional right of a woman to seek safe and accessible reproductive health care should be settled law and not the subject of political acts. But that is where we are today. To protect women, the Legislature should instead pass the Reproductive Health Care Protections Act.
Looking ahead: The Senate Children, Families & Elder Affairs Committee will hear SB 1106, Greyson’s Law, this Tuesday. This bill is the result of the tragic death of 4-year-old Greyson Kessler, the victim of a murder-suicide by his father. The real tragedy here is that this horrific act could have likely been prevented. Days prior to the murder, Greyson’s mother filed an emergency petition outlining her imminent fears for the safety of her child. Unfortunately, this request was denied by the judge. This legislation seeks to change some of these mechanisms as well as define “coercive control” within our domestic violence statutes.
Kathleen Cannon, president, United Way of Broward County
Last week: As a die-hard Dolphins fan, I’m confused and angry that Coach Brian Flores was fired after only three seasons! When he started, we arguably had one of the worst rosters in the NFL. He not only improved our defense each year, but brought a young roster of players who struggled in the beginning of this season to get into their groove to ending the season with a seven-game winning streak – something that hasn’t been accomplished since the 1970s! I sure hope the Dolphins don’t regret making this decision based on a power struggle behind the scenes.
Looking ahead: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a day when most of us are “off” from work and school, but it’s also a day “on,” with Americans encouraged to participate in a national day of service. In addition to cleaning up public spaces, mentoring others or helping those who are food insecure, you can serve your country and your community by participating in the voting process. Register to vote, help others to register, learn about the issues, and then make your voice heard by voting. United, we can bring about the systemic change MLK dreamed of and spoke about.
Mike Caruso, member, Florida House of Representatives
Last week: It is that time of year again! Tuesday, Jan. 11, marked the first official day of the 2022 legislative session. My priorities will remain to fight for legislation that will improve the lives of South Floridians. This will include but not be limited to: Much needed criminal justice reform, increased transparency for sober home certifications, sales tax relief and securing funds for drainage and flooding in our local communities. In the coming weeks, I plan to provide updates in the South Florida 100 regarding progress on bills I am championing in the state House.
Angelo Castillo, commissioner, Pembroke Pines
Last week: Broward county’s waste management policies need a careful look. Cities are being forced to stop recycling, theing delayed, much needed county facility to process recycling is not yet built, all garbage trucks are being sent to unload at the same 441 incinerator, causing long lines, hours of delay, making logistics impossible to finish residential routes on the same day. Garbage piles up at curbs, it’s a mess. It’s not working. There can be no A’s for effort in this matter, only A’s for performance. And right now, Broward and cities are not making the grade. I know they want to. But the performance is just not there. We need to speak up and demand urgent action now before we end up swimming in our own trash. We can and must do better. Pick up and properly dispose of the garbage already.
Looking ahead: Post-COVID, more workers are continuing to work from home at least part of the week. That’s good for traffic but bad for commercial real estate. I’m hoping for an investigative story in which local commercial interests are asked what their trends and plans are with the use of office space long term. Knowing this more precisely will affect plans to redevelop those properties. Many can be converted to needed housing, but some may need to be torn down. Broward should get ahead of that curve, because the work-from-home trend is unlikely to become a temporary phenomenon.
Paul Castronovo, host, Paul Castronovo Show on Big 105.9
Last week: I wonder how this would fly down here? The province of Quebec wanted more people vaccinated, so they came up with an idea: If you want to buy booze or marijuana (recreational weed is legal in Canada), you have to show your vaccine passport. They were averaging about 1,000 vaccinations a day, and once they announced this, it shot up to 6,000 people per day. It goes into effect Jan. 18. It’s one thing to ask someone to show their vax passport to get into a restaurant or gym, but deny me my Purple Kush or cheap whiskey? Gimme the needle!
Looking ahead: “Wheels Up Guns Down,” the annual, puzzling assault on our roads by a group of hooligans who somehow think terrorizing people with ATVs and dirt bikes would honor the great Dr. Martin Luther King, takes place Monday. Once again, law enforcement will be ready (as if they don’t have enough to worry about) and arrests will be made, but why are they here? My research says it’s simply for the social media hits. If you get caught breaking the law, fines are around $1,100. That’s nothing. What’s it costing taxpayers for helicopters, state troopers and undercover cops working around the clock?
Michael De Lucca, president, Broward Regional Health Planning Council, Inc.
Last week: In South Florida, cameras have been catching motorists making potentially deadly, split-second decisions at railroad crossings. Two cameras were stationed near two railroad crossings over six weeks in North Miami. Over 600 motorists were caught driving around railroad crossing gates as they were lowering or being lowered. The photos taken clearly reveal that many South Floridians lack the patience/time to wait at a railroad crossing. In less than two years, Brightline was known as the deadliest train in America with its 40-plus train related deaths after a 2019 investigation by the Associated Press. Unfortunately, these tragic events could have been avoided.
Looking ahead: Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and this day is observed every year on the third Monday in January, near his birthday. Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential civil rights leader and best known for his work on human rights, racial equality and ending racial segregation in the United States. His life, achievements and goals are remembered, celebrated and acknowledged on this day. Today is a day to remember the injustices that Dr. King fought and a time to remember his fight for freedom, equality and dignity of all races and peoples through nonviolence.
Dr. Michael Dennis, chair, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine
Last week: Despite the devastating impact the pandemic has on almost everyone and their normal activities, America hasn’t lost its unique, gracious, generous heart. This week, the U.S. Mint announced it will begin distribution of the poet Maya Angelou quarter. This honors the first Black woman on a coin. Other quarters include Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee Nation’s chief; Anna May Wong, Chinese American film star; Adelina Otero-Warren, New Mexico suffragette; and Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut. And on the international level, America’s beneficent nature will send $308 million in aid to Afghanistan for shelter, health care, food and sanitation. God bless America!
Looking ahead: It’s absolutely heartbreaking to read the daily accounts of deadly shootings. Many of these are nasty, malicious attacks; some are accidental incidents, often involving innocent children. The former are intensely complicated and challenging, requiring multifaceted approaches. The latter are thankfully receiving some attention from gun manufacturers. Personalized smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users, may soon be available. These weapons could stop inquisitive children from being injured or killed by requiring authentication of a person’s identity and disabling the gun if verification wasn’t supplied. The Second Amendment’s right to bear arms wasn’t meant to harm our youngsters.
Howard Dvorkin, CPA, chairman, Debt.com
Last week: Working from home might not be working out. Two employees quit my company and its hybrid model (mostly in office with some home days) and landed jobs that were full time at home. They’ve since asked to come back, and I’ve rehired them. Others are considering the same thing. When I’ve asked why, the answers are always the same: The novelty has worn off, and those same four walls have started to close in. The first few weeks and even months might be refreshing, but after that, one told me, “This must be what home arrest feels like.”
Looking ahead: As tax season approaches, you might have something new to worry about. If you received a child tax credit last year, you might have to pay some of it back this year. Families were eligible for $1,800 for children 5 and under and $1,500 for those 6-17. But to get money to parents quickly, the IRS used old income information. So it’s possible you received more than you should have – and the IRS wants it back. If you get a tax refund, it will be deducted. But if you owe the IRS, prepare to pay even more.
Gary Farmer, member, Florida Senate
Last week: On Jan. 11, the Legislature gaveled in the 2022 legislative session in Tallahassee. Kicking things off, Gov. DeSantis addressed both chambers on the current state of the state. In his speech, DeSantis laid out a horrifying agenda that promised to push what amounts to perhaps the most dictatorial set of policies that our state has ever seen. Over the past two years, DeSantis has pushed Florida rapidly down a dangerous path to authoritarianism. With elections coming up in less than a year, you the people are best empowered to stop this threat in its tracks. Pay attention now, and vote in November.
Looking ahead: Next week, it is likely that committees in both chambers of the Florida Legislature will begin hearings on a proposed 15-week abortion ban. I am, and will always be, 100% opposed to any effort to restrict access to abortion in Florida. Abortion is health care, and health care is a right. The right to medical privacy and access to safe and legal abortion are fundamental human rights that are enshrined in both our state and federal constitutions, and I will never stop fighting for the protection of those rights. I urge every reader to follow and oppose SB 146 and HB5.
Lamar Fisher, vice mayor, Broward County
Last week: The Broward County Commission welcomed two new county commissioners this week, as a swearing in ceremony was held on Wednesday. Appointed by Gov. DeSantis, Commissioner Jared Moskowitz and Commissioner Torey Alston will be great additions to our nine-member board. Both have extensive experience in public service, and I trust that they will serve their communities of District 8 and District 9 with the utmost integrity. I look forward to working with each of them on the dais as we move Broward County forward and continue to make our community the very best for families, businesses and tourists.
Looking ahead: On Monday, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and as we continue to navigate through this pandemic, unfortunately, many events have been cancelled this year. Nevertheless, this 27th anniversary of the National Day of Service cannot go by without doing your part and volunteering in the community. I encourage all to use this chance to engage with your community safely. Whether you plan on cleaning up a public space, mentoring a young person, or assisting those who are food insecure, there are many opportunities to make a difference in our world.
Beam Furr, member, Broward County Commission
Last week: Broward County swore-in two new county commissioners this week in Jared Moskowitz and Torey Alston. These new appointments came as a result of the U.S Congressional District 20 special election. Broward County residents are lucky to have a commission that works so well together. Commissioners listen to each other’s arguments. Often, we change each other’s minds. In many other places throughout our country, this is not the same. I expect that this positive way of working together will continue with these two new members, and I look forward to continued collaboration on behalf of all of our residents.
Looking ahead: The Florida Department of Transportation will be holding public workshops on the development of the Broward County commuter rail system. FDOT has named which six locations are optimal for a commuter rail station. These stations will form the “spine” of an affordable transit system with east-to-west connectivity and mobility hubs. A Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study is being conducted and the findings will be presented at the workshops. They will be held virtually on Jan. 27 and in-person on Jan. 31. This is a chance to give input on one of the most important projects in Broward moving forward.
Anna Fusco, president, Broward Teachers Union
Looking ahead: The 2022 Florida legislative session opened, and it’s time for lawmakers to step up and do what’s right for education. For too long, partisan politics have shaped education funding, and as a result, Florida has fallen further behind. The school district is dependent on the Legislature and the governor for funding and isn’t getting it. Because of poor state funding for salaries and for basic instructional needs of students, educators are moving out of state or switching professions. They can’t afford to stay, and they can’t bear to see their students unsupported. It’s time to forget partisan politics and do what’s right!
Dan Gropper, dean, College of Business, Florida Atlantic University
Last week: “The Free State of Florida.” As the legislative session opened this week, this has become a major theme. Research on the topic of economic freedom across countries shows this: Compared to real-world socialist economic systems, more economically free countries promote greater individual liberty, and people on average live longer, healthier and happier lives. Worldwide, free enterprise economies also generally result in higher standards of living for all, including those in the lowest income groups. Our current generation needs to remember the hard-earned lessons from the past, or the current lessons of what life is actually like in socialist countries like Venezuela and Cuba.
Looking ahead: Voting processes, voter identification and illegal immigration will be major issues. New York City is allowing noncitizens to vote in their elections for local offices; what does that portend for national elections? Should photo ID and proof of citizenship be required to vote in national elections? Should requiring a photo ID, or ID of any kind, to vote be prohibited? Is requiring a photo ID racist? Meanwhile, how badly is inflation eroding your savings account and the purchasing value of your current income? These are some critical questions.
Marlon A. Hill, of counsel, Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, P.L.
Last week: Something does not smell right in the fish tank with the firing of Coach Brian Flores. We are not getting the full story as to why he was not the best fit for the Dolphins culture. It is disappointing when South Florida citizens who are the main stakeholders in funding the balance sheet of the organization are left wondering. We deserve a level of communication that builds and sustains trust. If his interpersonal skills triggered a loss of respect or productivity within the locker room, then just tell us. But he was certainly building a winning formula on the field.
Debbi Hixon, member, Broward County School Board
Last week: The 2022 legislative session began this week. I implore legislators to look at the state budget and vote to ensure they are funding public education appropriately. All school districts should have the funds they need to pay teachers and staff adequately, provide a safe and enriching school environment and provide mental health resources needed for students and staff. Although we collect money from our local property taxes, not all of that money finds its way back to our local schools. Rather, it is pooled together at the state level and then legislators allocate what comes back to us. The funding allocations must increase!
Looking ahead: January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This month is dedicated to raising awareness about different forms of human trafficking, along with ways to support trafficking survivors. Educating the community about this issue is essential so that individuals can identify potential trafficking situations and report them to their local law enforcement. Here are some signs to look out for: houses with large amounts of people, groups of people picked up/dropped off at the same time, one person speaking on behalf of many others and/or no control over their personal phone usage. Much more information is available at dhs.gov/blue-campaign/indicators-human-trafficking.
Jason Hughes, executive director, ArtServe
Looking ahead: It’s important to remember that Martin Luther King Day isn’t about a “freebie” day off; it’s a solemn day of service to honor the civil rights leader’s life of helping others. But with danger lurking in the chaos of omicron, many wonder how to make a meaningful difference. For years now, Americorps has galvanized the nation’s volunteer efforts to create the “Beloved Community” of Dr. King’s dream. Not just on MLK Day, but every day, there are COVID-safe ways you can help – encourage others to get vaccinated or boosted, address food insecurity or support disaster victims at Americorps.gov/MLK-Day.
Marty Kiar, property appraiser, Broward County
Looking ahead: The “Betty White Challenge” is sweeping thorough social media to honor this legendary entertainer and animal rights activist on what would have been her 100th birthday. This challenge encourages people to donate $5 to an animal rescue or shelter in her name on Jan. 17. Animal rescues and shelters help animals in need and provide services to pet owners who may not be able to afford health care for their pets. This small donation in her honor pays tribute to Betty White and helps the extraordinary rescues and shelters who help provide care for the furry ones she adored.
Ina Lee, owner, Travelhost Elite of Greater Fort Lauderdale
Last week: In a report issued by the Rhodium Group, in 2021 the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions jumped 6% because of surges in coal and long-haul trucking. This puts us behind our 2030 climate change cutting goal. At the same time, we had the second highest billion-dollar weather disasters ever because of the impact of global warming. We will continue to face devastating weather events as our oceans continue to warm and sea levels rise.
Tim Lonergan, former mayor, Oakland Park
Last week: It has been reported that approximately one million rapid COVID tests recently expired in a warehouse in Florida. In Broward and throughout the state, the need and demand for testing has remained high. The cost of the production and handling of these million tests, paid by taxpayers, was in the millions of dollars. Luckily, the Food and Drug Administration extended the expiration date by three months, allowing for distribution and avoiding waste. The governor’s actions and leadership throughout the COVID pandemic have at times been irresponsible and neglectful. In Broward, learn more about COVID testing and vaccination locations at broward.org/coronavirus/Pages/default.aspx.
Looking ahead: Florida’s annual 60-day legislative session kicked-off on Tuesday, Jan. 11, and will wrap-up on Friday, March 11. Session began with 943 bills in the Senate ready for evaluation. Many will fail to move forward while others pass committees and potentially become law. Many bills are written to limit or eliminate Home Rule; this is called preemption. Home Rule involves the ability of counties, municipalities and other local governmental entities to regulate zoning, quality of life and other issues on a local level. The media must educate the public about all bills involving preemptions and Floridians must advocate for Home Rule. Visit flsenate.gov/Session/Bills/2022.
Nancy Metayer, city commissioner, Coral Springs
Last week: We commemorated 12 years since the devastating 2010 earthquake ravaged Haiti. The Haitian people are more vulnerable than they’ve ever been. They face poor or non-existent infrastructure, environmental degradation and constant human rights abuses. Broward County is home to one the largest Haitian Diaspora communities in the South Florida metro. As the Biden administration continues to remain indifferent regarding the severe circumstances in Haiti, I am hopeful that Broward will continue to be a sanctuary community for those who seek asylum and assist in creating a pathway to citizenship that is attainable.
Jennifer O’Flannery Anderson, president and CEO, Community Foundation of Broward
Last week: This week brought the start of a new legislative session in Tallahassee. Let’s hope our lawmakers seize this new opportunity to tackle Florida’s big challenges and help make life better in the place we call home. State government plays a key role in matters that affect all of us. Lingering uncertainty from the pandemic. An affordable housing crunch. Making Florida more resilient to sea-level rise. These are just a few of the important issues facing the Legislature. I am hopeful that Florida lawmakers will rise above personal ambitions and partisan differences to work together and find innovative solutions.
Looking ahead: In a letter from jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Monday is a time to honor Dr. King’s memory and recommit to achieving his dream of racial equity and social justice. For all the inspiration we draw from his “I Have a Dream” speech, we often skip over his call for urgency. On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King warned against “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” He said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
Frank Ortis, mayor, Pembroke Pines
Last week: More than 3,000 bills were filed to be considered during this year’s legislative session, and now that lawmakers are in session, the task of reviewing and debating them begins. Some will change our lives for the better, while others may be questionable. Senate President Wilton Simpson has already stated that he will support a controversial proposal that could open our local governments to more lawsuits, allowing certain businesses to sue if local ordinances cause at least 15% losses of revenue or profits. Here we go again with lawmakers trying to usurp Home Rule, an ongoing battle that only hurts residents.
Looking ahead: The issue of short-term rentals is on the Florida Legislature’s agenda again this year. I join with the Florida League of Cities in supporting legislation that restores authority to our local governments for the regulation of short-term rental properties to ensure the quality of life for our residents, public safety and a fair lodging marketplace. Irresponsible out-of-state short-term rental companies are ignoring local ordinances and infringe on residents’ ability to enjoy their homes peacefully. Legislation now in place is inadequate. Cities’ zoning authority must be restored to protect our neighborhoods.
Tina Polsky, member, Florida Senate
Last week: It is very unfortunate that on the first day of session, a day of new beginnings and the first day where we can all work together to better Florida, the governor decided to divide us even further. It’s always us vs. them – you hear it in his rhetoric, even in his campaign merchandise. It’s the federal government vs. the state, even though the fed is giving billions that he will happily dole out and take credit for. As a Democrat, it is so insulting to feel that your governor doesn’t care about you – even though he is the governor for all of us.
Looking ahead: The 15-week abortion ban bill that has officially been filed does not allow exemptions for rape or incest. We must understand that abortion access is health care for women. This bill will not prevent nor reduce the number of abortions, it will only decrease legal abortions. People will travel out of state to get abortions or will perform unsafe abortions on their own. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature need to focus on the real issues we are facing: affordable housing, the pandemic, climate change, fixing the unemployment system. The state does not need to make reproductive decisions for women – we know how to take care of ourselves.
Tom Powers, chairman, Republican Party of Broward County
Last week: Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered the State of the State speech to a joint session of the Florida Legislature, highlighting his priorities to protect the right of Floridians to earn a living, provide businesses with the ability to prosper, ensure kids have an opportunity to thrive, and fight back against unconstitutional mandates. As Gov. DeSantis said, “Freedom works. Our economy is the envy of the nation. And the state is well-prepared to withstand future economic turmoil.” It is through his leadership that becoming a resident of Florida has become the desire of many. It’s time for the Legislature to go to work!
Roni Raab, host, Shalom South Florida on WWNN
Last week: Many of our radio listeners wonder how we find the motivation to keep our Shalom South Florida radio program on the air, week after week, for over 35 years. A quick story will help explain that: This past Sunday, Rafi, an elderly listener in West Palm Beach and a first-time caller, reached out to our show. He was sobbing uncontrollably. He explained that he has very few friends, many had passed recently, and he was extremely lonely. Listening to our show, he explained, made him feel like he was with friends and with his community. Here’s to another 35 years!
Looking ahead: Monday, Jan. 17, marks the Jewish holiday of Tu Be-Shevat (15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat). Albeit a relatively minor holiday, it is akin to Arbor Day and Earth Day. We celebrate renewal and growth through planting and agriculture at a time when, in Israel, trees are coming back to life following the majority of the winter rains. It’s a great time to reflect on the importance of protecting and preserving our planet. In a time of such widespread negativity, the holiday exemplifies the spirit of optimism, building for the future, positivity and healing the world.
Larry Rein, CEO and President, ChildNet
Last week: Dolphins coach Brian Flores termination this week befuddled many, especially those thinking that such decisions in sports should be clear-cut, simply based on wins and losses. That was not the case here. Flores’ team performed relatively well, winning 8 of its last 9 games, and he clearly outperformed his predecessors. According to sports pundits and, more importantly, the team’s owner, his firing was instead a response to his communication and collaboration challenges. Clearly, old adages like “winning is the only thing” and “nice guys finish last” no longer hold sway in South Florida sports. This may be good. We’ll see.
Nan Rich, member, Broward County Commission
Last week: On opening day of the 2022 legislative session, the governor didn’t present a normal State of the State address. Instead, he presented a presidential platform bashing the Biden administration and federal government. DeSantis focused on divisive culture war issues, including critical race theory (which we don’t teach), defunding police, the US-Mexico Border, abortion, unrestricted gun access and the need for an “election integrity unit” after touting the transparency of Florida’s 2020 elections. DeSantis bragged about a $15 billion budget reserve, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls touted our “cash-rich moment.” Who deserves the credit for this cash-rich moment? President Joe Biden.
Looking ahead: Florida is “cash-rich” today because the Biden administration provided our state billions of dollars in needed stimulus funds. That’s why we can make historic investments in Florida’s infrastructure; it doesn’t mean we should fail to invest in the basic needs of people who are struggling. In his speech, DeSantis made no mention of the crisis in affordable housing, increased homelessness, food insecurity or the huge increase in the demand for mental health treatment. We don’t need $15 billion in reserves when so many are left in need. The economy is bright for some, but it’s a rainy day for too many in our state.
Kerry Ann Royes, CEO, YWCA South Florida
Last week: The legislative session is in full swing, and the next 56 days could not be more critical. During this election and a redistricting year, initial redistricting maps have been released. Are they accurately reflecting Florida’s most recent diversity growth to represent the population fairly? Many widespread, pervasive issues and bills will be discussed, debated and decided on: voter rights, abortion rights, critical race theory, public health care, affordable workforce housing, economic justice, and criminal justice reform. Bringing communities closer together to create an equitable and just environment for all is an ongoing struggle and should remain a top priority for the officials we elected.
Looking ahead: In celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the nation comes together to make our communities more equitable while taking action to create the Beloved Community of Dr. King’s dream. One of his many accomplishments resulted in passing the Voting Rights Act in 1965, ushering in a quarter of a million new Black registered voters. However, recently, numerous states, including Florida, have passed restrictive voting laws – disproportionately affecting people of color. Making voter registration more difficult, limiting the use of drop boxes, voter ID obstacles – is this how we continue to honor Dr. King’s fight for equality?
Laurie Sallarulo, CEO, Junior Achievement of South Florida
Last week: Another woman shattered the glass ceiling to become the first woman to lead a professional baseball team. Rachel Balkovec, will manage the Tampa Tarpons, minor league team of the New York Yankees. Balkovec’s promotion to manager represents the continued openings and climb of women in sports, a male-dominated industry. The progress made has not come without challenges. Balkovec changed her name on her résumé and applications to Rae to get calls, but even then was told by officials they would not hire a woman. Good to see MLB commitment to providing a supportive, inclusive environment for women to pursue careers in sports. Rachel will be a great role model.
Looking ahead: This month is National Mentoring Month, a time to celebrate the power of mentoring young people and to raise awareness about the power of these relationships. Powerful as mentoring is, South Florida is ranked last in the nation in mentoring activity. We need a community where young people feel empowered, encouraged, inspired and recognized. Mentors can make that a reality by helping young people find and follow their passions, engage in school, help them believe in themselves and teach them the skills we complain they don’t have. We can change their lives! Find an organization like Junior Achievement, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Take Stock, or others to become a mentor.
Wendy Sartory Link, supervisor of elections, Palm Beach County
Last week: There were two special elections in Palm Beach County this past Tuesday, Jan. 11, a general election for U.S. Congressional District 20 and a Democratic primary election for Florida House District 88. Nearly 20,000 Palm Beach County voters cast their ballot in these elections by mail, at an early voting location, or on Election Day. A big thank you to the voters, poll workers and our elections team for helping to make sure voting was conducted safely, securely and accurately. Election results can be viewed online at VotePalmBeach.gov.
Looking ahead: Our elections office is prepared for several more elections in Palm Beach County scheduled for March 8, 2022. The winner of the recently concluded special Democratic Primary election for Florida House District 88 will be on the special General election ballot, along with the Republican candidate that qualified. Additionally, our office will be conducting elections for 19 municipalities across the county that have contested local races. Learn more about upcoming elections and how to make your vote count at VotePalmBeach.gov or call us at 561-656-6200.
Tom Shea, chairman & founder, Right Management
Looking ahead: The number of high-salary remote positions is expected to jump to 18% by the end of 2021, according to a recent job site study of data collected from North America’s largest 50,000 employers. Only 4% of high-salary remote jobs existed prior to the pandemic but that figure more than doubled to 9% in 2020. Roughly 20 million jobs are expected to transition to permanently remote positions when the pandemic ends. While some companies are pushing to eventually return to the office, many are currently hiring fully remote positions. Remote work is here to stay and stronger than ever.
Howard Simon, retired executive director, ACLU of Florida
Looking ahead: Every legislative session is an opportunity to address Florida’s water quality – and resulting public health crisis. But enacting effective legislation has hit the brick wall of legislative politics. The governor assembled leading scientists in his Blue-Green Algae Task Force. Their most important findings included that pollution from agribusinesses (runoff of phosphorus in fertilizers and animal waste into waterways) is the most significant contributor to the pollution of our waterways and that reliance on best management practices without effective enforcement hasn’t worked. It’s time to act on the task force’s recommendations and stop fooling the public with a charade of ineffective reforms.
Kelly Skidmore, member, Florida House of Representatives
Last week: January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, designed to raise awareness and prevent the exploitation of people for the purposes of involuntary servitude. Almost 25 million adults and children are trapped in some form of human trafficking worldwide. Closer to home, Palm Beach County ranks third in the state, and Florida ranks third in the nation for incidents of human trafficking. This month, we commend the efforts of governments, international organizations, anti-trafficking entities, law enforcement officials, survivor advocates, businesses and private citizens to raise awareness. If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
Eleanor Sobel, former member, Florida Senate
Last week: Jim Defede, CBS4, deserves an award for reporting an extraordinary happening while stuck on a blizzard snarled I-95 for over 24 hours. A newly married couple walked into town finding it shut down because of a power failure. They noticed a bread truck behind them and successfully were able to get support to distribute food by the driver of the truck and the owner of the bakery whose bread was in the truck. Bread was distributed to as many people as possible, making a miserable delay less aggravating. Thank you, Jim, for sharing our better angels.
Looking ahead: Every election cycle, the Republicans arouse their evangelical, conservative base to win votes with a bill controlling women’s reproductive choice, chipping away at Roe v. Wade. SB 146 and HB 5 would essentially outlaw abortions after 15 weeks. Current law is 24 weeks. No exceptions are made for rape or incest. This is slightly less restrictive than Texas law. This bill mirrors Mississippi’s ban being heard by the Supreme Court. Women in Florida will have to trek to North Carolina before they can have an abortion after 15 weeks. The Republican mantra of less government is highly hypocritical.
Nick Sortal, member, Plantation City Council
Last week: Hollywood City Commissioner Caryl Shuham continues to exhibit how a city can work to protect our environment. She joined Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in Hollywood to support an initiative to phase out polystyrene food packaging in Florida. “Government at every level should be doing more to protect our environment,” Shuham notes. Hollywood has banned single-use plastic food service products on all city properties, and restaurants on the barrier island cannot use foam packaging for to-go orders. The intentional release of balloons is banned throughout the city as well. As Shuham says, “It’s not easy, but it can be done.”
Looking ahead: I will join other local elected officials and Broward County influencers Tuesday in Tallahassee for “Broward Days,” which advocates for the diverse needs and concerns of Broward County. By acting as a group, perhaps we can have a greater impact when approaching legislators and leaders; don’t forget, we are way at the bottom of a long state. Some legislators from North Florida likely have never set foot down here. Also remember that two-thirds of Florida’s 411 cities have a population of 15,000 or fewer, according to the Florida League of Cities. So, we got some ‘splainin’ to do.
Gregory Stuart, executive director, Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization
Looking ahead: Change is a constant. These past two years have shown how quickly change occurs: Broward County is growing faster than the census predicted, employers have embraced work-from-home policies, and traffic has almost returned to normal. But the times people are driving have changed, with more drivers on the roads between typical rush hours. Through investments in technology, data and modern infrastructure, the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization resolves to create a sustainable and adaptive transportation network that can respond to changes we can and cannot predict, addressing both the challenges of today and preparing for whatever tomorrow brings.
Gregory Tony, Broward Sheriff
Looking ahead: This weekend, people across the nation will come together to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, some have chosen to mark the occasion in recent years by illegally taking to South Florida roads on dirt bikes and ATVs, putting residents and motorists at risk. The Broward Sheriff’s Office and our local law enforcement partners are prepared to stop this activity and maintain safety on our roadways. Let us keep our focus on Dr. King’s legacy. The civil rights icon died pursuing peace, justice and equality, and we must continue to carry his torch forward.
Dean Trantalis, mayor, Fort Lauderdale
Last week: We continue to upgrade Fort Lauderdale’s infrastructure at a historic pace. In the last two weeks alone, we’ve marked the completion of the Southeast 10th Avenue Restoration Project and the half-mile-long Cordova Road seawall. This past Friday, we also held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the commencement of neighborhood-wide stormwater enhancements for the Edgewood and River Oaks communities. Each of these projects brings significant improvements to our city and includes, among many things, new watermains, new roadways, new sewer force mains, upgraded drainage, improved water connections and enhanced resiliency against the effects of climate change and sea-level rise.
Looking ahead: On Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When reflecting on Dr. King’s impact on our country, we are reminded of his tireless perseverance in the face of adversity to advance civil rights and equality for all. I invite you to join the city of Fort Lauderdale in a day of service in Dr. King’s memory. Join the YMCA, Adopt-a-Street and volunteers at Provident Park as we walk our neighborhoods to remove litter, read to our children and support healthy communities. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Information can be found by going to ftlcity.info/unitedday2022.
Michael Udine, mayor, Broward County
Last week: The Broward County Commission gained two new members on its board. Commissioners Jared Moskowitz and Torey Alston will serve the voters of District 8 and 9, respectively. Both commissioners have long ties to Broward County and its residents. New representatives mean new viewpoints and legislation to benefit constituents. With control of many important economic engines and services, Broward County will benefit from their varied experiences. From the sawgrass to the seagrass, it is a new day in Broward County government. I look forward to working with them as we strive for a bright future for Broward County.
Chad Van Horn, founding partner attorney, Van Horn Law Group, P.A.
Last week: With the start of the legislative session, I’m grateful to state Rep. Michael Gottlieb for bringing an important bill before the legislature. Florida House Bill 265 will increase the exemption of motor vehicles from the legal process of bankruptcy from a miniscule $1,000 to $5,000. The increased exemption will allow many more debtors in bankruptcy to keep their car so they may travel to and from work. Having reliable transportation is obviously important to maintaining a job and paying down debt. Kudos to Gottlieb for recognizing the value of this bill.
Looking ahead: We celebrate National Mentoring Month this month, and as the board chair of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Broward, I would encourage you to step up to mentor a child. While many are familiar with the nonprofit’s community and school-based programs, the organization also serves specific youth populations, particularly in its BIGPride and Children of Promise (children of incarcerated parents) programs. We encourage all adults who have an interest to check it out at www.BBBSBroward.
Robert Weinroth, mayor, Palm Beach County
Last week: Team Palm Beach County was in the Florida House and Senate this week as the annual 60-day session began. Our entire Board of County Commissioners and senior county staff traveled to Tallahassee to meet with state legislators and members of the executive branch during “Palm Beach County Days.” It was a whirlwind of lobbying to fight for our fair share of funding on matters important to the county and its residents. On our agenda were several proprietary issues, such as affordable housing, food resources, water quality/storage and transportation. Constant communication by our legislative affairs staff and lobbyists will be compulsory.
Looking ahead: The opening of the regular session of the Florida Legislature was marked by the governor’s defiant declaration that Florida is the freest state in the union. His $99.7 billion Freedom First Budget takes full advantage of our state’s vibrant economic recovery. With this year’s elections for governor, Cabinet and all seats in the legislature (in the wake of redistricting), this year’s 60-day session should be pretty harmonious. That is not to say that there won’t be a dust up over a newly introduced measure to restrict abortions and a continuing attack on the home rule authority of counties and municipalities.
Thomas Wenski, archbishop, Archdiocese of Miami
Last week: On Jan. 16, 1786, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom composed by Thomas Jefferson was adopted by the Virginia General Assembly. This statute would later inform our First Amendment, and so on Jan. 16, our nation recognizes its great tradition of religious freedom by celebrating Religious Freedom Day. Religious freedom means religion should be protected from government interference. It also means that people of faith should be able to worship and carry out their ministries without fear. Unfortunately, vandalism targeting Catholic sites seems to have increased over the past couple of years, including churches in South Florida.
Looking ahead: The March for Life will take place Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C. The 49th annual peaceful protest of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade will only have some “modifications” for indoor events due to the District of Columbia’s pandemic rules. Each year, thousands of people, many of them young, brave cold weather to peaceably assemble and march from the Mall to the Supreme Court. With Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization before the Supreme Court, perhaps 2022 will bring the reversal of the tragically decided Roe v. Wade.
Matt Willhite, member, Florida House of Representatives
Last week: During the first week of the legislative session, Palm Beach County Days brings hundreds of local elected officials and advocates to the Capitol to champion our residents’ needs. Last year, the Capitol was closed to the public. Because the Capitol had limited access to the public, many lost the opportunity to meet with legislators around the state. As a result, we saw many controversial bills pass without crucial input from constituents. It was great to see so many local leaders make the trip to Tallahassee this year to represent Palm Beach County and let lawmakers across the state know how much we care about our communities.
Looking ahead: This Monday, the Florida House of Representatives will observe Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Schools and some businesses may be closed on Jan. 17, but this day is so much more than a three-day weekend. On Jan. 17, we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and remember the incredible legacy he left behind. Dr. King was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in, and America is a better and more inclusive country because of it, so keep using your voice and fight for what you believe in.
Beverly Williams, vice mayor, Lauderdale Lakes; president, Broward League of Cities
Looking ahead: This coming week, many municipal elected officials will head to Tallahassee representing our 31 cities for Broward Days 2022. This annual event provides a unique opportunity for legislators to learn more about the most current and pressing needs for our Broward County communities, residents, businesses and stakeholders. This year’s topics include defending Home Rule, short term rentals, infrastructure and development, environment, solid waste disposal, and public safety, among others. Our Broward cities will continue working together as one Broward to find solutions that will benefit our residents and business owners.
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