In honor of Festivus, I would originally publish a story about “airing my grievances,” which falls around the same time as the fictional holiday except for Michael Mayo of the Sun-Sentinel already took the idea. Instead, I’ve written a Christmas list or wish list of sorts, so maybe Santa can help us make Tamarac a better place to live. So here are a few things I’m asking Santa for this year:
1. Hire a new Community Development Director for our city
A community development director handles all the planning, zoning, and code enforcement of the city. After August, Jennifer Bramley was hired by the City of Coral Springs as a Deputy City Manager; we have been in limbo. We need someone to improve the aesthetics of our city, gain a tighter control code enforcement department and bring in a wealth of new ideas.
UPDATE: At our December Commission Meeting, our newly hired Director was introduced. More on her in 2014.
2. Please open up our parks on Mondays
Since 2010 when the city was faced with a $4.7 million budget gap, it was decided that one of the things they would do was close our parks on Mondays. They were never reopened. No other city has closed its parks on Mondays, which is an absolute embarrassment for them not to open them up.
I’m even more disappointed in our Mayor and commissioners, who haven’t had enough fight in them to demand that they open back up 100 percent. At a city commission meeting, the mayor even stated that our parks need a “rest” on Mondays. I’ve never heard of other parks in Broward County needing a rest on Mondays.
3. Speaking of parks, can you spare a few more?
Coral Springs boasts that there is a park within half a mile from every home. The closest park to my neighborhood of 893 homes is 4.3 miles. We could sure use a park out here.
Years ago, Tamarac was a retirement mecca. Not anymore. The city is trying to attract more and more younger families, but small parks with playgrounds are not close to many families. I understand money is tight; however, we own one parcel of land that can be converted next to the Broward Teacher’s Union on 61st Street and University that sits empty. This could be developed into a small park, at least for Mainlands 9 and 10.
4. Please make people nicer on our roads
I hope Santa reads this because this is a real problem in this city. Everyone needs to lay off the horns and drive a little friendlier around here. But that wish is tough because there are so many stupid drivers out there that shouldn’t even be behind the wheel in the first place. I bet if BSO did more crackdowns, they’d find that half these bozos were driving uninsured or with suspended licenses.
5. Please tell the City Commission to Ban Panhandlers at Major intersections
In Florida, 40 right-of-way canvassers have been injured, and three have been killed on roadways. They are a danger and a liability to our city.
After hearing about Miramar and Pembroke Pines creating this ordinance, I approached the city commission to bring this forward. I believe most of the commission was receptive to the idea of an ordinance. However, City Attorney Sam Gorin said they needed to take a wait-and-see approach to see if the current lawsuit from the street vending company held up in U.S District Court. The great news is a federal judge upheld the ordinance in November. This gave the Cities of Coral Springs and Lauderhill the go-ahead to pass their ordinances. Tamarac added it to their agenda at the December 11 commission meeting, where they voted to move ahead and investigate it further. We should hear more news in the first quarter of 2014.
6. Please tell smokers that our streets are not their ashtrays
Treat people who throw cigarette butts out of the car windows the same as we would with people who throw out litter. These smokers, who would never so much as throw a fast food container out of their cars, yet are littering our streets with thousands of cigarette butts every year.
Florida litter laws say that anyone who dumps litter weighing under 15 pounds is guilty of a noncriminal infraction punishable by a civil penalty of $100, from which $50 is deposited in the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund. Think BSO is going to enforce these culprits? Not a chance.
7. Tell parents to have faith in our public school system
Let’s encourage more parents to support Broward County Public Schools rather than Charter schools. No more Touchdown for Life, Pivot, or Everest taking students away. In 2011, Touchdowns4life, a Charter middle school, was open for eight years until it closed suddenly after being behind on its rent in a strip shopping center leaving parents scrambling to find other options. Many parents with children in Renaissance and Charter School of Excellence are very pleased with them; however, both are still for-profit schools, and not only do they take students away from public schools, but they also take our tax dollars away. Once public schools are under-enrolled, teachers are laid off. We must support our public schools and keep them strong.
8. Remind our residents never to forget Patte Atkins-Grad
We must never elect inept politicians that would not only lie to their fellow commission members but to their very own constituents about the source of their gifts from those that wanted their vote. Last year at this time, a team of volunteers was just in the planning stages in what would be Broward County’s first successful recall through the Supervisor of Elections Office (SOE) to remove Commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad. Recall volunteers worked tirelessly throughout the year to have several rounds of petitions signed and verified from the SOE. Thousands of residents in Tamarac District Two signed the petition and must never forget that they had the power to recall an elected city official.
Several sources say that politicians hoping to get a multimillion-dollar land deal passed, Atkins-Grad was an easy target to persuade to run as a puppet commissioner.
Although she insisted she was always for the land deal, she still accepted gifts from the developer consisting of a downpayment for a new BMW and $4,000 towards a celebration party without disclosing these gifts before her vote.
A jury acquitted Patte Atkins-Grad, for corruption charges, after her defense attorney’s strategy of saying she was “way over her head.” Volunteers with the recall committee weren’t sure if her vote still wasn’t for sale and wanted her legally removed.
Atkins-Grad’s behavior may have been a source of embarrassment for our city, but citizens must never get complacent and elect city officials that would potentially let history repeat itself.
9. Please make our next elected commission ban the scam cams
Last December, the city commission, which is the same one that is currently in office, now voted ‘yes’ to allow red-light cameras in Tamarac. Moving forward because of safety reasons, yet giving no public figures for accidents at intersections, they voted on a contract with American Traffic Solutions.
Since August, the cameras are already being expanded into different locations around the city in search of more
people to protect revenue. Even the Florida Senate’s transportation chair, Jeff Brandes, of St. Petersburg, wants them gone. Brandes, who filed SB 144 in September, told the Tampa Bay Times. “This program was originally sold as being about safety,” Brandes said. “I have come to believe that it’s now about revenue.”
Of the $158 collected from every citation, the state takes $83. The remaining $75 is split between the city and the camera vendor. More on Red light cameras
We haven’t even begun to see the fallout from those who tried to fight the cameras with the city-hired judge magistrates who must hear these cases. Citizens will soon realize they’ll be in some kangaroo court and be “guilty until proven innocent.”
10. Remind our city that religion has no place in government
Maria Brown contacted local activist and Atheist Chaz Stevens, nationally known after placing a Festivus Pole in the Florida State Capital, and asked him if he could do anything about the religious display in front of the library Tamarac. For over a year, Brown, who has been an Atheist, had seen the items each year said. “It’s an imposition of my lack of beliefs. Why do they have that on public grounds where I pay taxes?”
Stevens informed her that a Festivus pole was placed at City hall just days before – alongside the manger and the menorah.
Tamarac City Hall is a public building – a government building. Religion does not belong in city hall. Coral Springs and North Lauderhill, as well as a host of other cities around Broward County, may have realized this as well, which is why they prefer to display nonreligious items such as trees and reindeer on city property during the holidays.
Tamarac should be too. This isn’t the city taking a stand on one religion over another – it’s quite the opposite. It’s the separation of government and religion. When the city displayed a Menorah and a Nativity scene, Stevens asked the city to add the Festivus pole – however, his version was adorned with Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer cans. Stevens told the News Service of Florida that the Festivus pole “is my ridiculous statement versus what I consider, as an atheist, as their ridiculous statement.”
The city should keep it simple and non-religious in 2014. If they open themselves up to some religions, they have to open themselves to every religion out there.
11. Please encourage more citizens that they are an important part of our government
Anyone can make a difference in local government; they need to get involved. Whether you want to become more involved in your local homeowner’s association, volunteer for a committee, or want to run for city government, start somewhere but start getting involved. Everyone is too busy, and everyone is counting on someone else to make the right decisions for them.
In 2014, our city will have three seats up for election: Discuss with your family over the holidays and decide if you want to become a candidate to be our next mayor or city commissioner.
Have a Merry Christmas. Happy Festivus, and a Happy New Year.