State of the City: Much to do, but we’re up to the task, Fort Lauderdale mayor says

Fort Lauderdale has much to fix, but also much to brag about, Mayor Dean Trantalis said Thursday in his first State of the City Address.

The city has taken on a host of big-city issues in the past year, he said: broken sewer pipes, the “raiding” of money from the sewer fund to prop up the budget, homelessness, lack of affordable housing, traffic congestion and high tide flooding because of climate change. (“We do say those words here in Fort Lauderdale,” he said.)

The city can’t check off any of its problems as “completed.” But Trantalis said progress has been made on each of them, and the city has come a long way.

“Who would have thought that the trading post that was Fort Lauderdale would have turned into the megalopolis that it is today?” he said.

Trantalis also pushed two general obligation bonds the city is asking voters to approve in the March election. A $100 million bond would pay for a new police headquarters; a $200 million bond would fund improvements for every park in the city. They would be paid for with an increase in property taxes.

The city also in the past year stopped hosting gun shows at War Memorial Auditorium, and Trantalis announced Thursday night — to loud applause — that Florida Gun Shows Inc. dropped its legal challenge this week.

“It was guns in the middle of a kid’s playground,” he said.

The city is in talks with the Florida Panthers to remake that portion of Holiday Park for ice hockey and other sports.

At Lockhart Stadium in the city’s northern end, two groups are competing to revive it with professional soccer and youth soccer training.

Major crime is down, and the police department is fully staffed, he said.

A new city-county government campus is on the horizon, as is a new federal courthouse downtown.

Trantalis lauded downtown development, new amenities, and redevelopment at the beach.Yet, he said, the commission is taking a more responsible approach to development.

“No neighborhood is going to be infringed upon and their quality of life sacrificed,” he said.

As he concluded his remarks, the mayor asked for applause to honor prominent Fort Lauderdale residents who died in the past year: business giant Wayne Huizenga, hotelier Jack Ireland, beach activist John Weaver, police officer and neighborhood activist Ron Centamore, historian Merrilyn Rathbun, businessman and activist Birch Willey and Arnold Abbott, who fought the city so that he could feed the homeless.

“May they rest in peace,” Trantalis said. “Their contributions to Fort Lauderdale will continue to live on.”

The event doubled as the annual citizen recognition awards. Honored founders this year are Ramola Motwani and her late husband Ramesh “Bob” Motwani. Exemplary former employee is Franklin Adderley, the former police chief. Distinguished citizen is Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation. Citizen of the year is Jo Ann Smith.

Brittany Wallman can be reached at or 954-356-4541. Find her on Twitter @BrittanyWallman.

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