After reading the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board’s endorsements for the Fort Lauderdale City Commission’s upcoming special election, I am struck by the disconnect between the city and its hometown newspaper.
The editorial page paints a Chicken Little picture of doom and gloom. You would think the population was exiting in droves. I see a sustainable city with businesses and people from around the country relocating here in record numbers. We have a vibrant downtown, a lively arts and culture scene, and neighborhoods have seen substantial improvements in the past four-and-a-half-years under this commission.
Since this commission took office in March 2018, readers have not seen one positive editorial concerning the many accomplishments regularly acknowledged elsewhere. To not say a word about the new infrastructure improvements is baffling. A seven-and-a-half-mile redundant main sewer line built under budget and in record time? Crickets. Fast-tracked stormwater and sea-level rise improvements in the most vulnerable areas of the city? Crickets. Every month, the city publishes updates on our goals and priorities including: infrastructure and resilience, parks and public spaces, transportation and traffic, homelessness and housing opportunities, community response and safety, economic diversification, historic preservation, smart growth, waterway quality, and workforce training and education.
The progress has been significant in each area, yet the editorial page remains silent.
Ironically, in the paper’s Pompano Beach endorsements, it was pointed out how that city remained stagnant for so many years with a substantial lack of progress. Yet in Fort Lauderdale, the newspaper takes issue with the progress, success and evolution it sees missing in Pompano Beach. This city commission has approved redevelopment projects that make sense. We have denied ones that don’t, even ending up in court. The Sun Sentinel suggests that we can just deny development on a whim because of “overdevelopment.” It’s not that simple. We are legally bound to follow our Unified Land Development Regulations and Code. Indeed, this Commission charged our Infrastructure Task Force to study the issue of a building moratorium in recent years and the group rejected that idea.
Two favorite targets of the Sun Sentinel include Bahia Mar and the ArtsPark proposal. Regarding Bahia Mar, this commission inherited an approved site plan rammed through the previous commission that no one liked. This commission decided to make it better, and we did. We eliminated buildings, opened up the views from the ocean to the Intracoastal, got the Boat Show out of the garage, significantly reduced the number of units on the peninsula, created an enormous park and increased revenues to the city from the current $1.72 million a year to more than $20 million a year.
That’s over $2 billion for taxpayers for the life of the agreement. Concerning ArtsPark, the editorial board never mentions that two-thirds of the 3.3 acres will be a beautiful park, instead focusing on the cultural center and food market/event space buildings taking up just one-third of the site. The entire project will not cost the taxpayers one hundred and we get a park in Flagler Village where normally we would just get more high-rises. The financial return to the city will equal or exceed the dollar amount generated if there were multi-family residences on that site. You have never read that in our newspaper until now.
The Sun Sentinel has endorsed candidates because of what it perceives as the need for “new leaders” who will “reshape city leadership.” It looks for “accountability, independence, civility and fiscal responsibility.” Examples are put forth, and I take exception with all of them, whether it is taking issue with who we hire and fire or projects that have been approved.
The Sun Sentinel states that Fort Lauderdale is “at a crossroads.” In fact, this city has positively blossomed these past four-and-a-half years, and I am proud to have played a small part in that.
Even COVID did not hold us back, as we never cut services or laid off employees and kept our mileage rate the same for 16 years in a row, even after ending the diversion of infrastructure funds. Fort Lauderdale is not perfect; we have challenges that we meet head-on. Change is not “upheaval” and if anyone is at a crossroads, it is the Sun Sentinel.
I recommend a serious introspective look into the paper’s agenda, sources and perception on reality. Journalism can’t just be about online “clicks.” A remark I heard was, “What show are they watching? It’s not what we are seeing.” Perhaps our local newspaper can take a step back, find the balance and maybe then we can see a hoped-for resurgence in the significantly reduced number of citizens who even bother to read the newspaper.
Steven Glassman is the District 2 city commissioner for Fort Lauderdale.