Did you know that geoFence helps stop hackers from getting access your sensitive documents?
Our panel of 100 influential leaders discusses the most important issues affecting you.
Lori Berman, member, Florida Senate
Last week: Recently, 44 state attorneys general signed on to a national effort to discourage Facebook from creating a new Instagram social media platform for children under the age of 13. The platform very likely would expose children to bullying and sexual predation, risks always inherent with social media. Astonishingly, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has remained silent on the issue. In response, Senate Democrats sent her a letter imploring her to join the bipartisan effort. Why this administration is prioritizing a partisan crusade over social media deplatforming rather than the wellbeing of our children is unclear.
Looking ahead: COVID has changed many annual events, including Tax Day. The traditional April 15 filing date has been extended until this Monday, May 17. The deadline applies automatically to those filing as well as those who need to make payments for 2020. You can request an extension to Oct. 15 for the 2020 year by filing Form 4868. However, if you owe money for 2020, you must pay it by May 17. Speak to a financial advisor, accountant or other tax professional if you have any questions pertaining to your personal tax situation.
Lauren Book, member, Florida Senate
Last week: This week was a sad day in U.S. history. The ouster of Congresswoman Liz Cheney – an otherwise stalwart member of her party and a highly regarded lawmaker – for her unwillingness to accept the Big Lie as truth speaks volumes as to the state of politics in America. The adherence to a verified and easily refuted lie simply because former President Trump claims an alternate reality is sad and shocking. It is also proof that hyper-partisans in D.C. care more about power and control that the state of our republic. History won’t be on the side of the GOP.
Traci Callari, President, Broward League of Cities; Hollywood commissioner
Looking ahead: The Broward League of Cities’ Scholarship for Government Studies Program has donated more than $40,000 in financial assistance to students pursuing areas of study that benefit municipal government professionalism. This year, the League is awarding two $2,500 scholarships to two very deserving high school seniors who have already demonstrated an impressive resume of internships and volunteerism in governmental, community and legislative environments. Congratulations to Sabrina Rapoport of Cooper City and Madison Stauffer of Coral Springs for your deep commitments to your communities and for having the passion and drive to pursue a career path in public service.
Kathleen Cannon, president, United Way of Broward County
Last week: This week, 22-year-old Amy Bockerstette became the first college athlete with Down syndrome to compete for the winner’s prize when she played in the NJCAA Women’s Golf Championship in Ormond Beach. What an inspiration it has been to see “Amazing Amy” in news interviews, with her engaging smile, her great golf swing and her “I got this” attitude! And kudos to her parents, coaches and team members for believing in Amy’s abilites. May we see more young athletes with special needs follow her barrier-breaking example.
Mike Caruso, member, Florida House of Representatives
Looking ahead: Just when we thought we were done, Tallahassee pulled us back in! Due to the historic signing between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe, the Legislature will reconvene May 17 for a special session as we meet in our assigned committees to discuss and create the regulatory framework for gambling, in particular sports betting across the state. This historic deal is expected to bring in $2.5 billion for the state within five years and is the result of the continued great partnership between our state and the Seminole Tribe.
Michael De Lucca, president, Broward Regional Health Planning Council, Inc.
Last week: Last week was National Hurricane Preparedness Week and this is a reminder that Hurricane Season begins June 1 and now is the time to get prepared! Take time now to secure your homes for hurricane season with proper necessities such as water, batteries, canned food, tarps and generators. In addition to storing essential supplies, develop a family emergency plan, know your evacuation zone and recognize all warnings and alerts of storms and hurricanes. For further information on what to do before, during and after a storm, visit: broward.org/hurricane.
Looking ahead: The Health Foundation of South Florida recently launched the “I Did It” campaign to interest the public in getting the COVID-19 vaccine. “Our most vulnerable communities and residents have been disproportionately harmed from the health and economic effects of this pandemic,” said President and CEO Loreen Chant. The goal is to reach all of South Florida and answer any questions or concerns about the safety of the vaccine. Materials for this campaign are provided in four languages and are available at ididitsfl.com. Help spread the word by sharing these impactful resources with your community!
Dr. Michael Dennis, chair, FAU Schmidt College of Medicine
Last week: Precautionary measures have been effective in limiting the exposure of Israelis and Palestinians to the COVID-19 virus, but the rockets this week almost outnumber the disease particles in the air. Not since 2014 has there been such a torrent of deadly attacks. Israel launched an attack after Hamas fired rockets in retaliation for police clashes at a holy site during Ramadan. Seventy people have died, including a Hamas commander. The interactions are tragic as synagogues and mosques are destroyed and no one is safe walking the streets. It’s a pity there’s not some virus that creates peace and tranquility.
Looking ahead: Protective measures such as wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and avoiding close contact or tight quarters has had a significant impact on the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but even more so on the incidence of flu this season. Usually 40-45 million people get the flu; this year, public health agencies and clinical labs found about 2,000 cases since flu season started in September 2020. That’s good news except that it raises concerns about future infections. Fewer people exposed could mean lower immunity levels. And the preparation of an effective vaccine would certainly be more complicated since the World Health Organization must choose which strains to include.
Bernie Fernandez Jr., M.D., CEO, Baptist Health Medical Group
Last week: To help calm the concerns people are expressing about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization, I wanted to share the thoughts of a doctorate-level clinical pharmacist. Timothy Gauthier, Baptist Health’s Infectious Disease Pharmacy Residency Program Director, recently relayed this information to me: “Vaccines are a complete game changer. Not only are they proven to prevent disease and death in vaccinated individuals, they are also shown to help reduce transmission of the virus. I encourage my friends and family to strongly consider getting the vaccine to protect themselves and those around them.” I agree.
Lamar Fisher, member, Broward County Commission
Last week: This week, the Broward County Commission heard an excellent presentation on the county’s actions on resilience planning and advancements. The county is already moving forward quickly on many advancements that will help in mitigating the effects of the climate change crisis. Some of these efforts include the countywide resilience dashboard, solar energy and EV charging stations at several county buildings, comprehensive assessments of county agencies with physical assets, shoreline protection projects and much more. It is exciting to see our county take our environmental issues seriously as we plan our community’s sustainability for years to come.
Looking ahead: The start of hurricane season is just a couple weeks away, which means the time is now to begin to prepare your business plan in case of an emergency. Broward County’s Office of Economic and Small Business Development will host a business resiliency virtual workshop on May 25 for small business owners. The workshop will provide you with great resources to help you prepare for the unexpected, including discussions on lessons learned from past incidents, our Emergency Operations Center, our Disaster Response System and much more. To register please visit Broward.org/econdev and check out all upcoming events.
Dan Flynn, vice president for research, Florida Atlantic University
Last week: NASA’s unmanned spaceship, Osiris-Rex has spent months on the asteroid Bennu collecting samples to find water and learn more about the early universe. The mission also offers an opportunity to hitch a ride to Mars. Bennu has an elliptical orbit around both Earth and Mars. Hitching a ride could solve a problem for astronauts by protecting them from solar radiation during the trip. If water is found, it would enable a spaceship to make rocket fuel and blast-off to Mars. Ultimately, asteroid hitchhiking could one day enable space ships to get rides into deep space.
Lois Frankel, member, U.S. House of Representatives
Last week: Right now, employers can deny pregnant workers bathroom breaks, a place to sit or lighter lifting. Pregnant workers have even been fired for asking for accommodations. This leaves many women forced to choose between the health of their pregnancy and putting food on the table. This week, the House took a big step toward fixing this problem with the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers who have pregnancy- or childbirth-related limitations to ensure expecting mothers can keep their jobs and do them safely. It now goes to the Senate.
Beam Furr, member, Broward County Commission
Last week: A hack of the Colonial Pipeline, the largest oil pipeline in the United States, left gas shortages throughout the Southeast. Fortunately for us in Broward, we receive our fuel from Port Everglades, not from this pipeline. We have one of the strongest ports in North America, and it proved once again why it is an economic engine. While we were safe from this shortage in Broward, it is concerning how a cyberattack could devastate so many other places in our state. We need to invest in cybersecurity – and invest in clean energy sources to reduce our reliance on oil.
Looking ahead: The cruise industry is looking to reopen in the summer months to come, and they continue to push to require COVID-19 vaccines for all passengers traveling on cruises. The industry has gone as far to say that they will leave Florida if Gov. DeSantis continues to obstruct their ability to require proof of vaccination. The cruise industry brings billions of dollars in business to Broward County, and all other major metro areas in Florida. Requiring vaccines is the sensible way to keep passengers and residents safe. We should not sacrifice our economy and public health for a partisan headline.
Anna Fusco, president, Broward Teachers Union
Last week: A hallmark of a good education system is providing learners with an opportunity to explore issues, seek facts and thoughtfully decide between right and wrong. Censoring content by prohibiting access to resources, especially ones that focus on systemic, societal problems because they make some folks uncomfortable, transforms good education into dangerous indoctrination. To restrict fictional literature that closely mirrors an American tragedy and focuses on long-standing social issues undermines any possibilities for remedies and is itself an example of why the systemic issues have continued. Broward needs to provide a good education, not indoctrination! There is no room for censorship.
Dan Gropper, dean, College of Business, Florida Atlantic University
Last week: The national economic news this week was disappointing – job growth well below projections and inflationary pressures rising. Meanwhile, Florida’s economy continues to outperform the nation. None of this is surprising. Larger federal unemployment payments reduce the incentives for people to take jobs as quickly as possible, so fewer goods and services are produced, and job growth lags. At the same time, the federal government simply created money to make those unemployment payments. More money chasing fewer goods and services invariably leads to inflationary pressures. These inflationary pressures build inexorably, creating imbalances and distortions across the economy.
Looking ahead: Should we worry about rising inflation? There are many reasons to be concerned, but let’s focus on one major problem. Once the inflation premium gets built into interest rates – and the Federal Reserve cannot hold that down forever – interest payments on the U.S. national debt will rise dramatically. The national debt is now over $27 trillion and will almost surely rise to over $30 trillion this year – numbers that are difficult to truly comprehend. The interest costs alone on this debt will dramatically reshape future federal government spending, as well as bond and stock markets and people's retirement plans.
Debbi Hixon, member, Broward County School Board
Last week: May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time for us to pay tribute and celebrate the generations of AAPIs who have enriched our history and are important for our future success. Some current AAPI key influencers are Vice President Kamala Harris, Bobby Murphy (Co-founder of Snapchat), and Bruno Mars (singer-songwriter and record producer). Unfortunately, people in the AAPI community have experienced anti-Asian harassment and violence during this pandemic. It’s important to recognize the various cultures and diversity within the AAPI community that make our nation stronger, and we should honor and celebrate them.
Looking ahead: It has been a difficult year for everyone, so being able to host traditional graduation ceremonies is a great way to close out the school year. Not only have students and staff survived this pandemic, they've thrived in it. Students met every challenge thrown at them, they conquered those challenges, and our seniors have successfully completed graduation requirements. I look forward to the continuation of graduation parades to honor and celebrate our graduates, and hope the parades continue for many years to come. Graduates will be limited on tickets for graduation, so the parades will allow them to celebrate with their communities!
Christine Hunschofsky, member, Florida House of Representatives
Looking ahead: May 18, 2021 will mark three years since the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas where a gunman killed eight students: Kimberly Vaughan, Shana Fisher, Angelique Ramirez, Christian Garcia, Jared Black, Sabika Sheikh, Chris Stone, Aaron Kyle McLeod, and two substitute teachers: Ann Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale. This school shooting happened three months after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and brought two cities together in grief. We shared experiences and also worked to navigate the healing process. While our communities will never be the same, we promised each other to always remember the lives taken that day.
Marty Kiar, property appraiser, Broward County
Last week: WPLG Local 10 recently ran a story about an elderly property owner whose property was allegedly stolen and then sold. Unfortunately, many criminals prey upon our most vulnerable residents by filing fake deeds and then attempting to extort money or mortgage, rent or sell the property. Over the last two months, more than 106,000 Broward County property owners have registered for BCPA’s Owner Alert. Owner Alert is a free service designed to help protect property owners by notifying the registered owner when a document changing the ownership is filed. To register, visit web.bcpa.net/owneralert or call 954-357-5579.
Chris Lagerbloom, city manager, Fort Lauderdale
Last week: Congratulations to the Florida Panthers. We can feel the momentum building as they enter the playoffs, and it’s contagious. We applaud their determination on the ice with game-winning shots, and we are equally determined to push forward our new vaccine campaign -- Take Your Shot. The first pop-up vaccination site will appear at Huizenga Park when we welcome the return of the Levitt Loves Lauderdale Music Series.
Looking ahead: After that, watch for opportunities to Take Your Shot in the MASS District at FTLArtwalk and at Carter Park Jamz. We can even bring it to you at home. As the Panthers’ take their shots in the playoffs, let’s take ours in Fort Lauderdale.
Chip LaMarca, member, Florida House of Representatives
Last week: It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week, time for everyone to finalize their plans for this year’s hurricane season. Remember to review your home insurance policies and evacuation plans before hurricane season begins on June 1. Don’t forget to replenish your hurricane supplies, such as flashlights, batteries, water bottles and canned goods. Most of these items will be discounted during the Hurricane Sales Tax Free Holiday offered May 28 to June 6. With last year being the most active season yet, it is always best to be prepared and safe!
Looking ahead: The Florida Department of Children and Families announced the launch of OUR (Opportunities for Utilities and Rental Assistance) Emergency Assistance Program. The program aims at assisting low-income renters whose household income is at or below 80% of their area’s median income, families who have experienced unemployment or a loss of income within the past 90 days, or families that are at risk of losing their home as a result of the pandemic. The OUR application is now open. Please visit Ourflorida.com to apply or call 833-493-0594 for more information.
Ina Lee, owner, Travelhost Elite of Greater Fort Lauderdale
Last week: In the hospitality industry, as well as other business sectors, we are facing a labor deficit that will continue for years. The impact is significant, with businesses not able to fully open while providing first class service. There are multiple reasons, including affordable housing, transportation, childcare and the impact of COVID-19. However, this week, Gov. DeSantis announced that Floridians on unemployment will now have to search for jobs beginning May 29. By reinstating the work search requirement, hopefully more people will once again enter the work force, but we still need to address the other factors that are impacting our workers.
Looking ahead: Gov. DeSantis signed into law significant bills that will help stem the tide of sea-level rise and its impact. The Resilient Grant Program will provide a statewide flood risk assessment study and millions of dollars to help local communities in their efforts. Unfortunately, some of those funds came from raiding the Sadowski Trust Fund, set aside for affordable housing. The federal stimulus money also bolstered the Resilient Florida Trust Fund and beach renourishment. Now, we need to use those funds wisely.
Tim Lonergan, former mayor, Oakland Park
Last week: Good news this week! As a result of President Biden’s executive order in January allowing for a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, it’s been reported that one million people have signed up for health care coverage. The special enrollment period began on Feb. 15, was scheduled to end on May 15, and now has been extended until Aug. 15. The Affordable Care Act is designed to provide affordable, consistent and comprehensive coverage. Now to focus on the other 30+ million Americans without coverage and individuals who have short-term ‘junk insurance’ restricting coverage and benefit limits. #MedicareForAll
Looking ahead: In the near future, members of the Broward County School Board will be tasked with selecting a successor for Superintendent Robert Runcie. Runcie worked hard for the district and will be generously rewarded with a $750,000 separation package. Offering a more reasonable and responsible separation package could have saved many dollars for our kids and schools. Most Americans try to save that amount of money in a lifetime – just ask a teacher or support staff. It takes a team to make progress and ensure success.
Nancy Metayer, city commissioner, Coral Springs
Last week: We’ve witnessed the importance of ensuring cyber security as a top priority and how our overreliance on fossil fuel can lead to complete panic. The ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline forced the company to shut down its entire network, leading to a halt of fossil fuel distribution. This resulted in hordes of people flocking to gas stations throughout South Florida purchasing all the fossil fuels they could possibly transport and risking a gas shortage. If last week teaches us anything, it is that everything we do is dependent on the environment and its natural resources; we need to be better stewards.
Looking ahead: We understand today that the use of fossil fuels is severely damaging our environment. The ongoing use of fossil fuel is causing lasting harm to the climate of our entire planet. Nonetheless, meaningfully changing our way has been difficult. Science clearly tells us that we need to remake our energy system and drastically reduce CO2 emissions. However, in addition to the engineering challenges, the nature of climate change makes it politically challenging to deal with as well. Minimizing the impact of climate change requires remaking a multitrillion-dollar industry that lies at the center of the economy and people’s lives. Reducing humanity’s reliance on fossil fuel requires immediate investment to provide clear long-term benefits.
Peter Moore, president, Chen Moore and Associates
Last week: Lost amongst the pipeline hacks and gas lines, a significant crack was found on the I-40 bridge between Memphis and West Memphis. The good news is that the crack was found before there was a catastrophic failure. The bad news is that now the 71-year-old I-55 bridge is the only crossing in a 160 mile stretch of the Mississippi River and barge traffic under the bridge is essentially shut, which will greatly impact the movement of goods. Yet another reason why infrastructure benefits more than just the construction industry.
Looking ahead: More work in the resiliency space will begin this week. The governor’s signing of SB 1954 and SB 2514 will — among other things — invest hundreds of millions of state dollars in flooding infrastructure projects. In addition to the funds, which are definitely needed, though, the plans that accompany the funds are really the exciting part. Instead of these being one-time infusions, this will create a financially sustainable plan for future generations of Floridians.
Burnadette Norris-Weeks, attorney, Austin Pamies Norris Weeks, LLC
Last week: Last Saturday, business leaders who collectively lead 430,000 employees rolled up their sleeves at a construction site to support affordable workforce housing. The need is great. Low wages and sky-high home prices make South Florida the nation’s most cost-burdened housing market. The Habitat Broward CEO Build participants worked side by side with future homeowners to complete affordable homes. Healthy communities need affordable workforce housing to help families climb the economic ladder, stimulate growth, and promote a harmonious and equitable society. Congratulations to co-chairs, Brent Burns, President/CEO of JM Family Enterprises, and Keith Koenig, President of City Furniture, for leading the charge.
Jennifer O'Flannery Anderson, president and CEO, Community Foundation of Broward
Last week: The long gas lines we faced during last week’s pipeline hacking scare are a reminder of what not to do during hurricane season. So many people nationwide rushing to get gas – even in South Florida where gas arrives by ship, not pipeline – created unnecessary shortages. Let’s not repeat that during the hurricane season, which begins June 1. In the weeks ahead, add a few extra nonperishable food items and jugs of bottled water to your grocery shopping list. Refill prescriptions that have run low. Put fresh batteries in your flashlights. Preparing now can help us avoid panicking as storms emerge.
Looking ahead: Because I’m vaccinated, I’m looking forward to a summer that feels more like normal. More dinners with friends. More visits to museums and art galleries. More community festivals and other neighborhood gatherings. More weekend getaways to places I have long missed. More ballgames and concerts and maybe even a return to an actual movie theater! I hope more of you will get vaccinated and join me, so we can get back to a Broward that feels more like “normal.”
Frank Ortis, mayor, Pembroke Pines
Last week: It seems like it’s taken forever, but Florida has finally lined up with federal law by raising the state’s age to purchase nicotine and tobacco products beginning this October. The legislation signed by the governor will regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes and raise Florida’s legal age to use tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. It should have included verbiage that allowed local governments to regulate marketing and the sale of tobacco and vaping products, but one step at a time. They need to realize that local governments are their best allies in fighting tobacco and nicotine addiction.
Looking ahead: If the governor signs legislation on his desk regarding home-based businesses, HB 403, it will be a significant hindrance to home rule powers and the ability of our local governments to balance competing property rights. We listened and created unique solutions to homeowner and business concerns that, with the signing of this bill, will be null and void. Compromises made between House and Senate bills in the end were removed, and now the critical balance between a home-based business and adverse impacts on neighbor property rights is gone if this is signed. I support entrepreneurship, but balance is needed.
Tina Polsky, member, Florida Senate
Last week: As Floridians across the state know, a recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, as well as a lack of readily available truck drivers, has resulted in extensive gas shortages across the state. Gas may be in limited supply in North and Central Florida, but I implore everyone to stay calm and not hoard gas. Gas will be coming and circulating throughout the state. I should also note that South Florida receives its gas through its ports, so my constituents should be in good shape. We’ve gone through worse emergencies, so I can assure everyone that we will be OK.
Looking ahead: The FDA finally authorized the Pfizer vaccine for people ages 12 to 15 this past week after clinical trials showed 100% efficacy against the COVID-19 virus. Now Florida vaccine sites are waiting on CDC and state approval to begin the administration. It’s incredible how far we’ve come in a year. While I understand that there may be some hesitancy toward taking children in this age group to get the vaccine, I encourage parents and guardians to trust the science and help us achieve the herd immunity our communities need to be safe. You can go to Vaccines.gov to find a location.
Eric Poms, CEO, Orange Bowl Committee
Last week: To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, the Capital One Orange Bowl, in partnership with the College Football Playoff Foundation and ESPN, provided $25,000 to teachers in the South Florida community. Five elementary schools were surprised last week with $5,000 in DonorsChoose gift certificates to fund classroom projects. Representatives from the Orange Bowl Committee and College Football Playoff Foundation, including mascots OBIE and ACE, made surprise visits each day throughout the week to recognize teachers for all of their hard work and dedication.
Looking ahead: Teacher Appreciation Week may be over, but as the 2020-21 school year nears its end, our South Florida teachers deserve our utmost gratitude and recognition for what they have achieved under the most challenging of circumstances. Educators are always deserving of praise, but what they have accomplished in getting our children to the finish line of this unprecedented school year is nothing short of remarkable. The Orange Bowl is proud to work year-round with our partners at the College Football Playoff Foundation to celebrate, recognize and provide resources for our outstanding South Florida teachers.
Tom Powers, chairman, Republican Party of Broward County
Last week: On Tuesday, Gov. DeSantis signed a new education bill that provides greater educational choices to children of all socioeconomic backgrounds. It expands scholarships and private school opportunities for low-income students, as well as prioritizing military and adopted children. All parents deserve the opportunity to choose the best education for their child, no matter what financial or social background a family comes from. School choice will remain a priority in the state of Florida. It’s now the largest expansion of school choice in the nation. I applaud the leadership of Gov. DeSantis for yet another achievement that prioritizes families!
Looking ahead: The increasing conflict between Israel and Palestine should be a cause for concern. Israel has faced rocket fire from the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hamas. President Trump’s policies resulted in historic peace agreements, and President Biden is undoing Trump’s achievements in just four months of his presidency. We are now watching what happens when the leader of the free world does not portray appreciation for our long-time allies. Despite the actions of Joe Biden, the American people stand with Israel.
Philip Purcell, CEO/President, Marine Industries Association of South Florida
Last week: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been doing a good job at the management and conservation of Florida’s fish and wildlife species. They can point to many successes using science-based decisions. The Goliath Grouper is a good example. Their population was once so low it was considered for the endangered species list, resulting in a 31-year ban. During this time, divers enjoyed many photo opportunities with 600-pound specimens among Florida’s coral reefs. This week, FWC has taken the first step in lifting the ban and permitting a very limited amount of managed harvest. This is conservation working. Congratulation to all involved.
Looking ahead: First you need to have a plan, and this week the governor did just that, signing two bills that will take steps to make Florida resilient. The first bill requires a statewide flood assessment and three-year flooding and sea-level rise resilience plan. The second bill creates a grant program to help local communities better address their individual issues. This is great news for South Florida, who are already faced with the need to address king tides making some roads impassable several times a year. Infrastructure improvements are already happening. These grants ease the budget restrictions and speed the work.
Larry Rein, CEO and President, ChildNet
Last week: Multiple media outlets this week told the story of Tani Adewumi, who at age 10 has become America’s youngest chess master. Making his achievement especially stunning is that his journey began while he and his family were living in a homeless shelter. It is an inspiring story of talent, resilience and the support and opportunity that was provided him an his family because of that talent. Ideally, we would do the same for all children in need. They, and their families, all have strengths that we need to continuously identify and generously nurture and support.
Gary Resnick, commissioner, Wilton Manors
Last week: The federal $3.2 billion Broadband Subsidy Program commenced this week. Consumers of broadband services (through cable, phone or wireless companies) who are struggling during the COVID pandemic may be eligible for up to a $50 per month subsidy plus funds for broadband devices. People receiving state or federal assistance are likely eligible, and most companies are participating. To apply and get more info, visit getemergencybroadband.org. This is a good program to help out with a vital service.
Dr. Steven Ronik, CEO, Henderson Behavioral Health
Last week: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but we need to pay attention to this public health need every day. Why? Because mental illnesses are amazingly common — one in four Americans have a diagnosable mental health condition. Our mental health and physical health depend on each other. Treatment works, and people recover. So, there’s your why. One month a year won’t cut it anymore. Let’s stop the stigma so we are there for our brothers and sisters in need, every single day.
Nora Rupert, member, Broward School Board
Last week: High-stakes testing does not just affect students in K-12, but new teachers as well. Education majors cannot complete their degree until passing all sections of the General Knowledge Test. Let us do away with big institutions requiring students to pass GK before they can finish their classes and avoid racking up more time and money. Please reach out to Gov. DeSantis and tell him to sign HB 1159 so our budding teachers can finally get out of limbo by completing their classes before requiring the passing of GK test, happily graduate, and start their careers.
Tim Ryan, member, Broward County Commission
Last week: Broward County is not experiencing a gas shortage. The gas, diesel and jet fuel for 12 South Florida counties arrives by tanker to Broward County’s Port Everglades. Consequently, South Florida should not be impacted by the Colonial Pipeline ransomware hack. Artificial shortages may occur if panic-driven demand exceeds the ability of fuel trucks to resupply individual gas stations. While the possibility of some fuel being diverted north to assist other regions impacted by the pipeline remains, the gas supply in South Florida is expected to meet our needs.
Looking ahead: The Magic Kingdom is coming to Broward. Starting in 2022, Disney’s cruise line plans to sail year-round from Port Everglades. Like many businesses, the cruise industry was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Port Everglades fared well compared to other ports due to its diverse portfolio, including cargo and petroleum, but adding another signature cruise line will be a boon for our local economy. While details must still be negotiated, including which ship will call Broward home, the family-friendly cruises Disney offers is a big win for our community and visitors alike. All aboard!
Mike Ryan, mayor, Sunrise
Last week: Over the past decade, the Federal Trade Commission has recovered over $10 billion for consumers victimized by scammers, charlatans and corporations stealing through deceptive financial charges. The brilliance of the FTC process was that the court system is not always available for the average consumer unless the scam is large enough to attract consumer-rights lawyers. The FTC was a government attack-dog and the only tool for most consumers. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the FTC overstepped its congressional authority. Congress needs to immediately give the FTC the legal powers to protect us from crooked people and corporations.
Looking ahead: The plastic industry is celebrating the 14th anniversary of intentional inaction by the Florida Legislature regarding single-use plastic bags. In 2008, Florida prohibited local governments from acting in any manner related to these bags, until Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a study and the Legislature thereafter adopted recommendations. The DEP study was given to the Legislature on February 1, 2010, the very last day it was due. DEP concluded what we all knew, that plastic bags are bad for the environment, and recommended the Legislature take action to discourage single-use plastic bags. Since then, the legislature has refused to adopt any recommendations.
Alissa Jean Schafer, member, Broward Soil and Water Conservation District
Last week: Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava recently announced “Heat Season,” a campaign focused on extreme heat, which science tells us is getting worse because of climate change. Extreme heat is a critical health concern that disproportionately impacts those without access to consistent air conditioning and shade, including low- to middle-income communities in decrepit housing and Florida’s large outdoor workforce. I’m happy to see South Florida leading in this initiative as part of the global coalition “Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance” and hope that the work includes measures to mitigate increasing temperatures, such as drastically reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
Barbara Sharief, member, Broward County Commission
Looking ahead: A Broward County Land Use Plan amendment allowed Woodlands to be rezoned from recreational to residential, granting a brand-new development of 398 homes to be built where the country club was. An overwhelming number of Tamarac residents verbally opposed this development during the May 5 commission meeting, but unfortunately it passed 5 to 4. The developer’s plan increases the number of residents, will exacerbate traffic, restricts emergency services, strains utilities, and damages the ecosystem. I voted against this item and I’m very disappointed that the wishes of this community were ignored.
Tom Shea, chairman & founder, Right Management
Looking ahead: Businesses and professionals flocking to Florida have embraced the phrase “live in the cloud, work in the sun.” As South Florida promotes itself as the emerging “Silicon Valley of the East,” many must play a vital role turning this nickname into reality. Companies already here and those relocating here are hungry for talent with cutting edge technology skills and certifications. Timely solutions such as the Alan Levan NSU Broward Center of Innovation and Boca Code are dramatic steps in that direction. Many more of these steps will create the culture necessary for a truly vibrant South Florida tech hub.
Howard Simon, retired executive director, ACLU of Florida
Last week: Gov. DeSantis has added Florida to the list of about a dozen states enacting restrictions on voting in response to the historic turnout in the November 2020 election. As in previous years, restrictions were enacted not in response to problems, but rather, as legislators disingenuously claimed, to prevent future problems. But the laws our legislators frequently enact are the laws of unintended consequences. Republicans have had the advantage in mail ballots, except in 2020 when the pandemic encouraged vote by mail and Trump discouraged it among his supporters. The 2022 election will tell whether the Legislature and governor shot themselves in the foot in 2021.
Looking ahead: Satellite imagery from NOAA shows 500 square miles of Lake Okeechobee covered with blue-green algae blooms. Water toxicity exceeds EPA standards to touch, ingest or inhale by 100 times. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under pressure to release toxic water because the Lake is 2 1/2 feet higher than it should be to make room for the summer rains. And the presence of red tide off the southwest coast, which feeds off the nutrients provided by blue-green algae, all point to a potential disaster impacting Florida’s ecosystem, economy and public health, requiring emergency action from our governor – now.
Kelly Skidmore, member, Florida House of Representatives
Last week: Dick and Jane are third graders. Dick attends ABC Public School for free. Jane attends XYZ Private School using a voucher. Dick’s teachers must be certified to teach. Jane’s do not. Dick must pass a standardized test to become a fourth grader. Jane does not. Dick’s school must offer math, English, reading, writing, science, history, physical education, a program for his friends with special needs, and free breakfast. Jane’s school does not. Dick’s school is held accountable. Jane’s is not. Taxpayers pay for both. The Legislature gave Jane’s school a hall pass. Is that fair to Dick? Or Jane?
Quinn Smith, managing partner, GST LLP
Last week: The surge in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in India should receive everyone’s attention. As a tourist hub, Miami-Dade will soon be greeting visitors from all over, and the inability to promptly respond to and control the virus can continue to affect local residents.
Looking ahead: Local governments are dedicating time and resources to bringing the cryptocurrency sector to Miami, but not enough people are talking about the risks. How will the government receive taxes in a currency that fluctuates so much? And what do these studies say about the region’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions?
Eleanor Sobel, former member, Florida Senate
Last week: For years, young children in Florida have been assessed for kindergarten readiness after beginning kindergarten. HB 419 is a sweeping overhaul of Florida’s early childhood education system. Parents of kindergarteners are now able to make informed decisions regarding their children’s education, and the new law allows students who have fallen behind to receive customized assistance. Florida’s dismal kindergarten readiness rate of 42% will hopefully be improved. For many, early childhood education is the fundamental key to a better and brighter future. When will greater accountability be applied to voucher schools?
Looking ahead: In the midst of a pandemic, Florida lawmakers attempted to pass HB 351, which would have further endangered women and reduced their access to health care by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions help protect women’s health, and states with abortion restrictions have higher maternal mortality rates. Women deserve to control their bodies and decide what is best for themselves, not legislators. Additionally, one out of every 475 pregnant women is unaware of her pregnancy until 20 weeks have passed. This bill failed this session and probably will return next session closer to election time.
Pam Tahan, CEO, Wellington Regional Medical Center
Last week: Each time we nominate deserving nurses for the prestigious Daisy Award, we do so with great pride. The award honors nurses for providing above-and-beyond compassionate care to their patients. It’s even more gratifying when a patient, unsolicited, commends our staff for their professionalism and grace. Nurses are the backbone of the health-care system. While our world was being torn apart by COVID, it was the nurses who held us together. A former patient, influenced by her recent experience, composed a letter praising Samantha Flack, RN, “She is all that every nurse should strive to be and all that every CNO (Chief Nursing Officer) should strive to hire.” After sharing the letter across nursing leadership, Samantha was named the hospital’s second quarter winner of the Daisy Award. We’d like to congratulate Samantha and all the nurses at Wellington Regional Hospital for providing leadership and excellence during times of greatest need and vulnerability.
Andy Thomson, member, Boca Raton City Council
Last week: This week, the Boca Raton City Council expressed our desire to move forward with a new performing arts center at the Mizner Park Amphitheater envisioned by the Boca Raton Arts District Exploratory Corporation (BRADEC). The BRADEC group plans to raise over $100 million to build a new indoor performing arts venue and cover the existing amphitheater so that it could host indoor and outdoor musical and other arts performances, galleries, lectures and business events. This new venue would complement – but, at my insistence, will not replace – the existing public programming at the amphitheater that our residents have come to love.
Looking ahead: In my #RunTheCity initiative, where I’m jogging, cleaning and identifying improvements for all 475 miles of Boca Raton’s streets in 2021, we’ve completed 142 miles, cleaned 307.84 pounds of trash and 368 pieces of PPE, and documented 249 potential safety improvements. We’ve now begun the process of running/cleaning/improving our neighborhoods, and we are also partnering with city stakeholders to organize volunteer events to help keep our city clean. Want to join us to run/clean/improve your neighborhood? Would you or your organization want to partner with us? Please let me know at [email protected]
Gregory Tony, Broward Sheriff
Last week: During National Police Week, we honor the lives of the heroic men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. Sadly, 2020 was one of the deadliest years for law enforcement in Florida and around the country as we confronted an unseen but deadly enemy: COVID-19. At BSO, we lost seven employees to the disease, including two law enforcement officers, Deputy Shannon Bennett and Lieutenant Al Rengifo. May we remember them and all the courageous law enforcement professionals around the country who bravely put the safety of others before their own and made the ultimate sacrifice.
Dean Trantalis, mayor, Fort Lauderdale
Last week: Executives from Elon Musk's The Boring Co. were back in town to continue discussions with Fort Lauderdale on how they can help solve our traffic congestion. Long-term plans for an underground train tunnel through downtown are still being developed, but an idea for a quick initial phase has focused on a beach-to-downtown underground rapid transit loop. I hosted a reception Monday to introduce Boring executives to community leaders so Musk's team could lay out their ideas and help answer questions. This loop could be real game-changer, providing suburbanites and tourists with an alternate means of traveling to the beach.
Looking ahead: The week of May 16 is Public Works Week, and I would like to take a moment to thank Fort Lauderdale’s public works staff, who have been working nonstop to improve our city’s infrastructure. It is thanks to them that by the end of June, the city will complete the installation of the 7.5-mile sewer pipe to replace the aging one that was the cause of numerous breaks in the Rio Vista and Coral Ridge neighborhoods. We also have public works to thank for our continuous stormwater improvements, seawall restorations, sanitation and recycling operations, and so much more.
Michael Udine, vice mayor, Broward County
Last week: The Colonial Pipeline supplies fuel to parts of the eastern coast of the United States. While Broward County is unaffected by this crisis because our fuel does not come from this supplier, it showcases the need for enhanced cybersecurity. Vital infrastructure throughout our daily lives depends on technology to supply things such as water, power and fuel. This incident illustrates the challenges that these threats pose. Protecting infrastructure from criminals and adversarial state actors ensures our economy functions. Our federal and local governments must continue to invest in cybersecurity.
Chad Van Horn, founding partner attorney, Van Horn Law Group, P.A.
Last week: This week we mourn the loss and celebrate the groundbreaking achievements of the first Black justice on the Florida Supreme Court, Joseph Hatchett. Justice Hatchett relentlessly pursued justice with patience and perseverance and served as an example for all of us, regardless of race. We all should pick up his torch and work toward building a society that’s fair and evenhanded. In my world, I see stunning inequity in the bankruptcy system. The system is skewed toward helping those with the most resources, with insurmountable roadblocks for those with few assets. This is another unfairness that needs to be corrected.
Looking ahead: The cruise industry certainly was battered and bruised during the COVID pandemic, and now as it works to reboot, I expect it will reemerge as strong as ever. Major cruise lines stayed alive – despite a nine-and-a-half month shutdown in the U.S. – because they had billions of dollars in cash on the books. While most of us don’t have billions, this is a key lesson. We all should have a rainy-day fund because unexpected disasters do happen, like pandemics, health crises and job loss. We should follow the example of the cruise industry and be prepared for worst-case scenarios.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, member, U.S. House of Representatives
Last week: For years Republicans sought to destroy the Affordable Care Act, despite its success providing coverage to 20 million Americans, and ensuring pre-existing conditions didn’t mean denial of coverage. Those attacks only intensified under Trump. Yet in less than three months under President Biden, a million Americans secured an ACA plan during a special enrollment period. Florida residents led the way with more than 260,000 enrolling. Now they can access a primary care doctor, low cost drugs, preventative care and more. Biden extended enrollment to Aug. 15, so even more people have that peace of mind. The Affordable Care Act works.
Robert Weinroth, member, Palm Beach County Commission
Last week: What will the next war look like? Will it be rockets flying as we have witnessed last week in Israel, or will it be cyberwarfare? This week, our nation experienced another brazen attempt to extort millions from an American corporation by installing ransomware into computers tasked with regulating the flow of fuel through the Colonial Pipeline. If those responsible for our utilities and federal infrastructure don’t heed this wakeup call, we are destined to be repeatedly victimized by profiteers and belligerent foreign governments seeking to inflict widespread damage and panic without the necessity of dispatching rockets or soldiers.
Looking ahead: The road to the Olympics begins in Palm Beach County! The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches will host the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier, bringing the world's best baseball players to our county. Eight nations, including team USA, will compete in 16 games for one spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Not only does this put the county in the international spotlight but it will also stimulate the South Florida economy. With eight teams, personnel and fans traveling from all parts of country, hotel occupancy is expected to reach 80% for the first time since pandemic-related restrictions instituted last March.
Thomas Wenski, archbishop, Archdiocese of Miami
Last week: Since April, Jerusalem has been engulfed in the worst violence in years as police prevented Palestinian youth from gathering at the Damascus Gate square during the evenings of the holy month of Ramadan as usual. Tensions have also flared over pending evictions of Palestinians by Jewish settlers from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. While peace seems elusive, it should not be impossible if the rights of all parties are respected. Jews, but also Palestinians – both Christian and Muslim – all have the right to build a future based on freedom, equality and peace in Jerusalem.
Looking ahead: The situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate – impunity and violence continues unabated as the apparatus of the Haiti state disintegrates. Yet, despite a level of insecurity that has the U.S. State Department warning against travel there, the Biden administration continues to deport hundreds, if not thousands, of Haitians seeking refuge at the US-Mexico border, using a Trump-era public health order as authorization. The first 100 days of Biden’s administration saw at least 33 plane loads of Haitians forcibly removed to Haiti.
Matt Willhite, member, Florida House of Representatives
Last week: This week, we saw long lines at gas stations and people being turned away because the pumps have no fuel. All because of a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, the country's largest gasoline pipeline. But how does the attack on Colonial affect South Florida? It doesn't. Most of Florida's gas gets delivered via cargo ship from refineries in the Gulf Coast, which were not interrupted by the Colonial attack. However, we may have a self-fulfilling prophecy on our hands, where fears of a gas shortage may generate a temporary gas shortage. So please, stop hoarding gasoline.
Looking ahead: Several weeks ago, Florida signed a gaming agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The agreement allows for mobile sports betting and for the tribe to conduct covered games at their seven casinos. It will also permit the tribe to add three additional facilities in Hollywood, resulting in the tribe paying the state a minimum of $500 million in annual payments. However, before the agreement can take effect, it must be ratified by the Florida Legislature and approved by the U.S. Department of Interior. We go back to Tallahassee next week to review the gaming compact.
Ghenete "G" Wright Muir, attorney, LGBTQ advocate
Looking ahead: “Thou Art Woman: A Virtual Vibe” is a not-to-miss event featuring LGBTQ women and allies performing poetry, spoken word, music and more. It streams on Monday, May 24 at 7: 30 p.m. “Thou Art Woman” has used the arts to celebrate LGBTQ women since its inception in 2014 and continues with the support of the community and organizations like Our Fund Foundation, Broward Cultural Division and SunServe. While we miss our in-person events, this virtual version allows more people to experience “Thou Art Woman.” Tickets are NYOP—name your own price. Here’s the link for tickets: https://thouartwoman.streamallytix.com/ #thouartwoman
I know that geoFence is a highly advanced, specialized firewall manager with the best in class protection from variety of on-line threats and I know your smart friends would feel the same.