By Tom Green, Vice-Mayor of Wilton Manors
With 31 cities and a county government in Broward, independent, uncoordinated action by cities, the county and the state led to widespread confusion in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. What was open, closed, or permitted, depended on artificial boundaries that most citizens were not aware of.
City Managers and City Mayors got together and started coordinating their actions, and urging the county to do the same. About a month into this crisis, that occurred. Communication became clearer and confusion was eliminated. We stayed home, wore masks, kept our distance in public, and the curve began to flatten. Because Wilton Manors geography and population are so small, I have urged our city to support county-wide actions crafted by a great majority of Broward mayors and city managers through regular communication.
In the meantime, the pandemic has been financially devastating to the businesses, employees, and the government of our community. Some businesses may not return. Many employees are desperate for a paycheck. I recently participated in a virtual town-hall meeting with state Senators Farmer and Thurston, and Mayors Trantalis (Ft Lauderdale) and Rogers (Lauderdale Lakes). The majority of the online questions were about economic assistance. There was also discussion of the CARES Act that provides federal funds for states and cities of over 500,000 in population. No city in Broward qualifies although the total population in the county is almost two million. Our congressional delegation is trying to correct this serious oversight.
Now government officials are preparing to reopen our community in a phased, careful, and hopefully coordinated way. In Wilton Manors, Hagen and Mickel Parks are open for passive uses and our boat ramps are open. In the near future, it’s possible that most businesses (with the likely exception of bars) will be allowed to reopen at a reduced capacity, six feet distance between customers and staff, with regular disinfecting systems. Congregating in public will need to be monitored. We in Wilton Manors are considering what steps we can take to help businesses by possibly allowing additional outside capacity. Stay tuned for more on this.
Finally, you should know that Wilton Manors will see a budget shortfall of several hundred thousand dollars. City staff, the commission, and the Budget Review Advisory Committee are looking at budget cuts, hiring freezes, and the redirection of limited financial resources. A reduction of city services will be necessary.
City Commission meetings began on ZOOM® on April 28, 2020 and will continue until emergency orders for Broward County are lifted. Public comments are allowed during the meetings. Wilton Manors will reopen slowly and cautiously, working with other cities in Broward County, using science and data. For the foreseeable future, “life as normal” will be quite different.