League of Cities experts help city leaders address problems

 There are 412 towns, cities, villages, etc., in Florida, and many of us have the same challenges. So it’s a good idea to compare notes.

I did that earlier this month, as I attended the Florida League of Cities convention in Orlando.

As is the case anytime people with the same career get together, there was a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. In this case I learned that, yes, most people do get into local government with the idea of making their community better (rather than the money or fame).

Here are five takeaways:

  • Our water problems are being addressed. Ron DeSantis, who was not originally on the program, appeared at the first general session and talked for about 20 minutes. He spent a significant amount of time discussing solving such environmental issues as red tide. “Water is what makes our state unique and is a key to our economy,” DeSantis said. Later in the week, new South Florida Water Management Director Drew Bartlett addressed the South Florida contingent and did an excellent job providing specifics, including plans to create more reservoirs near Lake Okeechobee and decrease nitrogen runoff north of the lake. He also gave complete answers to more specific questions offered by municipal leaders who live closer to Lake O. I feel very good about the state and this topic. (Because Plantation made the news last week, I might write a longer piece about our waterways in the coming weeks.)
  • Hurricane Michael has had a greater effect on the state that we down here might think. Panama City was flattened, and FEMA money is paid via reimbursement, not up front. The Oct. 10, 2018, storm was the fourth-strongest recorded in history.
  • Relatedly, city staffs can at least prepare to make recovery easier. I attended a session where I learned about the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust. That’s the insurance about two-thirds of Florida’s 412 cities, including Plantation, have should a named storm damage city hall, parks, utilities, etc. The session provided specific details, which give me a good baseline when speaking with staff.
  • ADA lawyers have placed city web sites under attack. Disabled patrons who live hundreds of miles away, who really don’t have a true interest in your city’s activities, scour web sites for a lack of ADA compliance. (Most common are a lack of closed caption in video, and a failure that text is accessible via screen readers. Long-stored PDFs are also a problem.) The disabled patrons, called “producers,” team up with an attorney, who pockets nice fees as the result of a lawsuit. About 1,400 were filed against municipalities nationwide last year. So this explains why our web site isn’t as robust as we’d like it. Late note: An item is on Wednesday’s agenda that hires a company to bring Plantation.org up to speed.
  • Attaining a complete census count is worth the investment. The 2020 Census is based on where people are on April 1, 2020. Federal funding for such things as hospitals and roads are based on your population. Missing a person can cost a city $2,000 a year. Missing 50 would cost a city $1 million over 10 years. ($2,000 times 10 times 50.) Minorities and non-citizens are especially reluctant to turn in a census, for an unfounded fear that the government can access census data.

Here are the 11 sessions I attended. And here is a link to notes provided by the League of Cities:

Cities 101: Home Rule, Policy Making and Challenges

Local Government Websites and ADA Compliance

Water Reimagined: Unleashing Your Government Workforce to Innovate

2020 Census: What You City Needs to Know to Get an Accurate Count

Gov. Ron DeSantis address

Social Media: Leveraging Your Social Status in the Sunshine

You Can Weather the Storm: How a Successful Disaster Recovery Plan Can Get You Through It

Improving Your Local Economy: Opportunity Zones and DBE Programs

Drew Bartlett South Florida Water Management District

Engaging the public, Karen Freeman-Wilson, President National League of Cities

Small, medium and large innovations, Josh Linkner, Tech CEO and Author

This newsletter originates on NickSortal.com and is shared via various platforms. The best way to get it is to subscribe to my Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/NickSortalPlantationCityCouncil. Sharing is encouraged. My email is NSortal@Plantation.org and my phone is 954-498-5337.