By Mayor Joy Cooper
HALLANDALE BEACH - Tonight's forum will address police related issues
Policing and the use of force around our country has been under scrutiny since the unrest and protests in Sanford, Ferguson, New York and many other cities. During arrests over the years, our city regretfully, has not been immune to police involved shootings. Our officers put their lives on the line every day and the last thing they ever want to use is deadly force. The question becomes when it is being used, is it being used correctly? The use of force is extremely complex. Every single situation is different. Our city has hired an independent consultant team to evaluate all of our department's protocols and policies when it comes to use of force. But this issue is not just about police, it is about all stakeholders.
After Ferguson, Mayors around the country convened for the USCM leadership meeting in DC. One of the main topics was, “Is your city going to be the Ferguson?” Obviously, the dialogue was more on police and community relations and what lessons were learned from the mayor and others involved. We talked about steps that we could all be taking to improve them. Obviously it is not just about police relations but the harder dialogue of race relations. The discussion was very thought provoking.
After coming home from the conference, I shared my experience with our commission. I asked if they would support putting together a forum and inviting experts to talk about this very hard and complex issue. I also asked if our Chief could attend a special USCM Summit for Mayors and Chiefs for Community Policing issues. He came back motivated and empowered to tackle these tough issues.
Chief Flournoy has put together an excellent panel for a special forum tonight, Thursday, February 26th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. “Collaborate Communicate Connect” at our Hallandale Beach Cultural Center. The panel discussion is to help foster open communication with residents and improve police-community relations.
WTVJ NBC 6 anchor Willard Shepard will moderate the discussion. Panelists include: Chief Dwayne Flournoy, Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, Representative Shevrin Jones, Sanford (FL) Police Chief Cecil Smith, Hollywood Police Department Chaplain Pastor Michael Anderson, U.S. Department of Justice Conciliation Specialist Mildred Dupre de Robles, Attorney Brian Stewart, and FSU Professor Lance deHaven-Smith, PhD. We invite you to attend and become part of the dialogue and solution.
Last week, our CRA Board conducted a visioning session that was facilitated by FIU Professor Kevin Greiner. Mr. Greiner is also an attorney that specializes in Urban Planning. He is part of the Metropolitan Center which is one of the leading think tanks in South Florida that focuses on economic development, planning, community revitalization and public/private policy decisions.
This session was not intended to review our budget nor evaluate performance. It was an overview of trends, opportunities and issues facing our CRA. As board members, we were required to prepare a list of priority goals, action items and operating procedures that we would like to see addressed through the CRA in the coming years. Each board member had to make a five minute presentation explaining their ideas.
This was not the first visioning session we have done as a board. Keeping with our strategic planning goals, we have established that these visioning sessions take place every two years. After the presentation, it seemed clear that what we all shared were some mutual goals and priorities. We need to not lose sight of the projects that had been provided as a catalyst in the past; completion of the Foster Gateway Project, OB Johnson Park, complete streets and affordable housing. Economic development and job creation also needs to be improved and expanded.
Mr. Greiner shared with the board something that we have all known for a long time that we are positioned to be extremely successful, in so long as we focus on leveraging our tax increment financing and make investments in our infrastructure. The other key to success will be leveraging public/private partnership to enhance our economic vitality. The strategic planning and timing of these investments will be critical. He also told us that we should take advantage of tax credits not only TIF to incentivize private investments. This tool would make our area even more desirable. The final report will be compiled and brought forward on a future CRA agenda.
Many of our residents that live of A1A are aware that FDOT has begun work on the long awaited road improvements that include beautification and safety enhancements. As our readers recall, our city had done all of the underground work to avoid having to do repairs after the project was done. Some residents have questioned why there is more work taking place on fire hydrants and water pipes. It is a question that needs a bit of explanation.
The project includes the installation of signal mast arms. To install the large bases and create access to electrical power and switch boxes, the FDOT contractor had to dig underground to prepare. Regretfully, just like the rest of our city, there are many utility lines that are not marked. These include: electric, cable, phone and gas.
While installing the mast arms, the contractor found that their lines would encroach on the fire hydrant lines. They have also found that due to many more unmarked utilities, much more work and time will be needed for the relocation and running power for the lights. The sidewalk work was not bid to cover all of the relocation necessary, nor did it account for the time needed to coordinate.
FDOT representatives and their contractor briefed our commission on these delays and what it would mean to our city. Currently, they are continuing work on the mast arm installation, signals, pedestrian countdowns, crosswalks and the repaving of the entire roadway. This portion of the project will be completed by September of this year. That is the good news.
The bad news is, that they have to rebid the decorative lighting and sidewalk portion of the project due to the additional work needed. This bid will go out in September and work will commence in March after season 2016. The work on the sidewalks and lighting are projected to complete within six months, September that year.
This week will mark the end of Black History Month. In celebration on Friday, February 25th, there will be a special celebration connected to our monthly “Forth Fridays on Foster” Event. Starting from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. come out to Foster Park for food fun and entertainment.
As always, please feel free to contact me any time with your questions, concerns and ideas on how to make our city a better place at my office: (954) 457-1318. On my cell/text at: (954) 632-5700. Or visit my web-site at: www.mayorjoycooper.com.