The State Of The City Part VI: We Have Stopped “Kicking The Cans Down The Road”
By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper
July 13, 2023
Over the weeks, I have shared The State of the City Series. This is Part VI and the Final Portion. It covers the threats our City is facing in the coming years. While we are very proud, our city’s fiscal situation is stable due to the hard work of our City Manager, Commission and Staff. We have stopped “Kicking the cans down the road” and are addressing the most vital parts of our City’s Infrastructure. We still have plenty of work to do.
So, what threats can unbalance this stability? There is always the threat of Hurricanes, Economic Instability, Supply Chain Issues, Workforce Issues, Pension and Labor Costs and God forbid, another Pandemic! But we do have current threats that we have already geared up for and are working with our neighboring cities.
Seaweed. Yes I did say Seaweed. The Sargassum Bloom is coming and we have seen some bands from it already. We had to invest in new tractors and are keeping up with cleaning. We all are extremely concerned about the large cost of disposal. Our Staff has even set up a specific landing page to inform our residents.
The other threat is not a surprise, Housing Costs. While many people have migrated here our population has not really grown significantly. Recent figures show that the majority of growth is North and to the West due to the Cost Of Living. The rent for two-bedroom one bath apartments is going upwards to $2,000 - $3000 Dollars. The other side of that sword. We continue to focus on creating more units that are affordable.
Our Sustainable Development Department under the Leadership of Director Vanesa Leroy has already requested and received five hundred units to be utilized for housing. We are also laying the groundwork to apply for an additional four thousand to be built within our Regional Activity Center. This is the area between Federal Highway and the FEC. If these units are applied for, there must be a percentage of inclusionary units.
While many developers prefer to pay as you go, that model simply has not worked. I mentioned the City Center but there are also many infill developments including Solaris which will be affordable units. This would not be possible without the County and the CRA.
In addition, our CRA has been helping residents with Rental Assistance. We created a program where if someone’s rent has increased over 20% we will help pay the difference to the property owner for 12 months up to $6,000 dollars in assistance until renters can catch up financially or find other housing.
We all know about the astronomical insurance costs but that is a job for our Legislators. This year, though, we approved restarting our Hurricane Window and Retrofit Program East of the CRA. This was possible due to cost savings measures and will help reduce Windstorm Costs for those and make our City safer.
The other issue, while certainly not new, seems to have resulted from a combination of COVID-19, the Cost Of Living and the Opioid Crisis. Increases in the Homeless population. It is truly tragic, but it is something every city is dealing with. We are trying to do what we can with these needy individuals, but we cannot force them to get help.
Some things to know. It is illegal to Loiter on Private Property that is posted “No Trespassing.” On Private Property we can make the homeless leave and share with them where to get help. It is illegal to sleep in public right away. We can ask individuals if they want help or ask them to move along.
Now there is an added issue, it is now legal for people to Panhandle on public property. The Supreme Court ruled that is a form of Free Speech. Our City Attorney is reviewing our current Law that regulates Safety and the Blocking Of Traffic to see if it can still be Enforced. But for now, anyone on our Sidewalks or at our Parks is FREE to Panhandle.
To address this issue in an empathic manner we have hired a Community Service Officer, Iman Sandman in the Police Department. Please call the Police Non-Emergency Number to report the homeless person and he will collaborate with you at: (954) 764-4357. You can always call me as well at: (954) 632-5700.
I have been studying this issue and while some people are simply down on their luck, but many homeless are Mentally Ill or have Addictions. Not everyone has a family, a support group, or resources to get help. And some are so entrenched in their reality they simply refuse help. This does not mean we cannot avoid tough decisions to address this quality-of-life issue for all our residents.
Mental Health actually for everyone has become an issue. We do not always talk about it, but it has gotten to unbearable proportions. Even the U.S. Conference Of Mayors began a Mental Health Task Force. It is not just about the homeless but all of us. Since COVID-19 many of us, whether it's family, school or business Stress, adapting back into the new routine has not been easy. In Florida, the lack of Gun Regulations has made Stress even more deadly.
For our children we held the opening of the new home of our Police Activities League. Children can go there and enjoy after school activities, sports, the arts, or simple quiet time in the library.
Our partner’s at Memorial have also partnered with PAL. “One City At A Time:” Offering FREE Health Checkups, Testing and Assistance to all ages every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the next year this includes a Woman’s Health and a Mental Health Component.
I have one thing to ask you. On your tables are cards and information about PAL. Readers can get involved too! Visit PAL Facebook for more information. Please consider supporting their efforts. You don’t have to commit full time as they want to work with your desires to help our students within your availability.
As always, I am available for your questions, concerns and ideas to help make our City a better place. Please feel free to reach out to me at my Office: (954) 457-1318. On my Cell/Text at: (954) 632-5700. Or Email me at: email@example.com.