Hallandale Beach: City Officials Are Confronting Local & Worldwide Issues

By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper

March 10, 2022

Last Thursday, our City united with many of our Ukrainian friends and neighbors to raise the Ukrainian flag at our City Hall. It was both heart wrenching and inspirational. While we are all extremely saddened by the horrific actions of President Putin, we are inspired by the resolve of the Ukrainian people to live in Democracy and Freedom. Their strength should be a beacon of hope to those that are oppressed. I also find that it should be a reminder of how fragile Democracy is and how blessed we are, as a nation.

Many of the individuals that were at City Hall came from the Ukraine over 8 years ago in hopes of finding a life for their families. Some came to school for education and some also immigrated due to the unrest and instability in that region of the world. As I wrote last week, the history of the Ukrainian and Russian people have been in turmoil for decades.

Commissioner Anabelle Taub has also been working closely with the group and has emotional ties to their cause. Her mother was actually sent from Russia to Israel, so she herself was a refugee. As we watch history unfold this time around, it is unavoidable to not be aware or silent because of modern technology. We are all seeing and have the ability to see the devastation in real time that this act of terror is having on the people of the Ukraine.

Last meeting Commissioner Lazarow, Vice Mayor Butler and I supported a letter drafted by Commissioner Taub that was sent directly to the White House encouraging President Joe Biden to support Ukraine and their efforts.

Our meeting last week coincided with the annual leadership meeting of the United States conference of Mayors of which I am a trustee. I had the ability to connect directly with the Intergovernmental Relations Officer of the White House to ensure that this letter got delivered. In addition, we found out that there are already refugee families that are here in our City who were visiting and got stuck here. In the coming days we will be working very closely to make sure resources get to these individuals. We will have Collection Sites set up and will begin the efforts to support humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Our City Commission will continue to support the efforts of the United States to divest from Russia as well as stop and cut off the purchase of oil from Russia. We understand that people are already reeling from the recession and oil prices are creeping higher but we must do everything possible with economic sanctions and choke the Russian Economy.

During the USCM Meeting we heard directly from the Mayor of Kiev who was reaching us via telephone from an undisclosed area. We also heard from the Ambassador of Ukraine who is also urging everyone around the globe to enforce strict economic sanctions against Russia. On Friday, the day after our event at City Hall, I brought a flag which was draped in front of President Suarez for our press conference and communications with the Ambassador and it did not go unnoticed. Actually, every act big or small that we can do to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people in this war should be done. President Putin has put their loved ones in harm’s way and tore away their comfort. Our community support of Ukraine is heartwarming. I did hear one complaint about the flag being flown but I do need to let our residents know that this is only temporary. We had discussed doing it for two weeks but certainly we will fly the Ukrainian Flag hopefully below the US Flag until Ukraine finds peace!

We also directed our Staff to look into ways so that we can make collections for Ukraine. While money will help there is a list of items that they are requesting to be sent to help address the needs of the refugees as well as those caught in the crosshairs of war. Sadly a lot of these needs are for children.

In other City News, our Staff and the Community Redevelopment Agency did an amazing job on the Hallandale Beach Food & Groove Family Fun Day. This partnership continues to be very successful in highlighting many of our Community’s Restaurants. In the coming months, we are looking into A Renaissance Festival along First Avenue. In addition, after many years we should finally begin to see the construction of The Hallandale Beach City Center Project, which is located at Foster Road and Dixie Highway. It’s new development will continue to show progress in addressing key areas highlighted on the under utilized Corridor. This addition will help bring jobs and business events and more importantly, additional housing options.

Not only are many of us facing the pains of recession, the new crisis that is sweeping our nation is a housing crisis. Affordable housing has become less and less attainable in every community. We have seen a 40% increase in rental costs throughout our City. These added units couldn’t come soon enough. In addition, our City is looking towards applying to Broward County for 500 emergency housing units.

In our City, there are certain land development codes that provide free development. Over the years we have seen applications for various parcels that were granted the ability to utilize what we call Flexi units to add to commercial sites to create mixed use. Due to many hurricanes we were granted extensions for their developments. This is not new, however years back I had requested when we negotiate development agreements that there is a use it or lose it clause. Due to the ability for developers to fall under acts of emergencies the concept of use it or lose it has been ineffective. Some extensions will last until 2026, so this means that we are out of units to create more infill development. 500 units will help but we are actually in the process of applying for additional units as part of our regional activity center. The City is in the process of applying to Broward County for more units.

Over the years we have established specific areas between US-1 and Dixie Highway to focus on redevelopment that will be linked directly to transportation. The linkage between transportation and affordable housing is critical. Financial models have shown signs that financial distress is caused when people are paying an excess of 40% of their annual budget on housing. This combined with the cost of transportation, car insurance and gas prices put those under financial constraints at a disadvantage when it comes to the job market. The ability to get people out of their cars and connected with jobs can be a game changer for those trying to succeed particularly in the lower to middle classes.

I often hear complaints about traffic and our South Florida Region. In reality traffic is everywhere since transportation has not kept up with population growth and development. In reality South Florida particularly Miami Dade and Broward are fully filled out. Out west, Miramar and Pembroke Pines have fewer and fewer vacant lots to add housing. More importantly they have less transportation than we do on the eastern coast. The population of Miami-Dade and Broward alone are well over 6 million at this point. We are actually landlocked. From seagrass to Sawgrass South Florida has grown and it’s truly an urban area. The other game changer that has taken place is the new Pennytax as well as the new infrastructure passed by Congress. Over the next couple years we will see many projects being built because of these new infrastructure dollars.

Now that our City Hall is fully open and we are having meetings in person I am encouraging all of our residents to begin to get involved in the process. We have our regular Commission Meetings but there are also Planning And Zoning Meetings that are taking place. You can sign up at: http://www.cohb.org/ and receive notifications of every meeting as well as watch our regular Meetings On-line. You can also review all of our agendas and minutes.

We are also doing major infrastructure improvements to our lift stations and pumping stations around the City. These projects are vitally important. Construction is not a pleasant process. There will be dust and disruption to traffic flows in certain areas around the construction. Our Staff will do its best to mediate these impacts but we are asking for patience and understanding from our residents and businesses.

In the coming months, I will welcome our residents to sign up on my Facebook Page and/or my other Social Media accounts to receive notices of some Planned Meetings that I will be hosting to discuss questions and concerns of our residents. Communication is key and I will ensure that the questions and concerns of our residents and readers can be addressed that are critical to our City.

As always, feel free to contact me anytime with your questions, concerns and ideas on how to make our City a great place to live, work and play! I am available by phone or text at: (954) 632-5700. E-mail me at: jcooper@cohb.org Or visit my Facebook and Web-Site At: http://www.mayorjoycooper.com/