Can South Florida get it together to face the future?

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High-minded Seven50 effort tries to tackle big issues

By: Michael Mayo
January 15, 2014

What will South Florida look like in the year 2060? Will barrier islands be submerged because of rising seas? Will beaches be battered from erosion and hurricanes? Will there be enough water to drink and grow crops? Will we have a decent transit system? Will there be traffic jams everywhere, or will we get around by jetpacks (or gondolas)? Will tourists still flock here? Will our economy diversify, or will income and education disparity get worse? Will ArtBasel still be so damn pretentious?

These are some of the issues pondered in the past few years by a group known as Seven50. (OK, not the ArtBasel thing — that’s just me.) The seven stands for the seven counties in Southeast Florida: Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Monroe (the Keys), Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River. The 50 stands for 50 years. Politicians, planners, architects, business executives, developers, environmentalists and educators all took part.

On Wednesday, the group held its final summit at the Broward Convention Center. At one point, the mayors of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties all shared the stage to give their thoughts, a rare sight.

It was nice to have so many influential people in one room, thinking deep thoughts.

Especially in our instant-gratification society where politicians don’t usually see past the next election and media and social media tend to focus on the superficial and simple.

So consider this a good start. But given the complexity and diversity of our region, and the pettiness and parochialism that have often divided it, I wonder about the ability to keep the effort going.

After all, we live in a region with hundreds of municipalities and other governmental entities (hospital districts, water and sewer districts, transit and planning authorities), each with their own turf and egos to protect.

Can they really all come together for the common good? Even when spread over hundreds of miles, with different demographic and ideological makeups? How do we tackle issues related to climate change when certain political groups still deny climate change? Will politicians, crazed for campaign cash, ever say no to more development on the coastline or near the Everglades? How do you get buy-in (and funding) from all areas when it comes to things that might only impact limited areas? Will people in Weston or Wellington want to fund an eastern transit line?

Through all the high-minded talk of leadership and cooperation, one nagging image kept poppinig into my head: The locked gates and blocked roads separating Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines in far western Broward.

The gates went up last decade, after a long-simmering dispute over money, traffic, emergency services and “quality of life.”

If these two neighbors in the same part of the same county literally can’t find the common ground to solve the problems separating them, what hope is there for the rest of us?

And yet, given the crises of biblical proportions that we might soon face, how can we not at least try?


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