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Pandemic Planning: Fort Lauderdale City Leaders Workshop Goals For Year Ahead Amid COVID

Matias J. Ocner
Miami Herald
City commissioners put an emphasis on parks during Friday's workshop, thinking about how people enjoy the outdoors in Fort Lauderdale.

With a large emphasis on parks, infrastructure, and moving ahead with plans during (and after) COVID-19 — Fort Lauderdale commissioners dreamed up what can get done in 2021.

City leaders in Fort Lauderdale meet every year to dream up what they want to see in the city. They usually meet at the Women's Club downtown and there are several recurring goals that get thought through each year: new traffic and transportation solutions, waterway quality, infrastructure, addressing homelessness — but hat annual meeting looked different this year.

The meeting was partially in person and partially over a video conference call.

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Several of the same priorities from last year stayed in the city's list for 2021. City Mayor Dean Trantalis reflected on some of them in a new light, after what the city's been through over the last year with massive sewage spills and COVID-19.

"Humans plan, and God laughs so let's hope that we have more control of what happens during the course of the year," he said.

Promised sewer fixes are on track with a new main pipe on track to be complete by June, according to City Manager Chris Lagerbloom.

Like cities around the country, Fort Lauderdale may have to weigh other projects more carefully this year because of continued economic fallout from COVID-19.

Funding requests from local nonprofits have skyrocketed across the board as their own budgets have taken a hit: social welfare and elderly programs, arts, culture, and historical programs, and education programs have asked the city for money.

"There's about 17, 18 or 19 different [nonprofit] groups we've provided funding to in the past," Lagerbloom said.

Now, things are much different.

"The response has been overwhelming. We've had 109 requests for funding," he said.

Lagerbloom told the commission that city staff does not yet know how much money will be available to distribute to nonprofits — that will have to be based on a future tax digest. His goal was to get a sense of what issues the commissioners would weigh funding over others.

Commissioner Heather Moraitis argued ranking nonprofits was too tall a task to give input on so early in the year.

"I need to know where we are with our budget before I can decide how much I think we should give," she said. "I need to see if we're gonna have a conversation about raising our taxes."

The City is moving ahead to spend money from a parks bond passed in 2019. Parks and outdoor spaces were moved into the list of top priorities for 2021.

Moraitis said she’s personally hoping to see an orchid or butterfly garden get included in the final plans for the park near the Inter Miami CF stadium.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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