To view original article click here.
By Editorial board
December 16, 2012
It is an ambitious undertaking: Bringing together officials, residents and volunteers from seven South Florida counties to identify key regional issues and develop a 50-year plan to address these issues.
Such are the multilayered objectives of Seven50, a cooperative effort of the Treasure Coast and South Florida Regional Planning councils.
The seven counties participating in Seven50 are Broward, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach and St. Lucie. There also are dozens of municipalities and other organizations throughout the region taking part in Seven50.
In June 2010, the regional councils were awarded a $4.25 million grant through the national Sustainable Communities Initiative. These funds, matched by in-kind efforts from local governments, will be used to conduct a comprehensive regional planning study.
Toward this objective, Seven50 held a summit in Delray Beach in June — attended by more than 500 people — and created work groups to look at transportation, housing, health care, leisure services, education and water issues. The organization then conducted meetings in each of the seven counties — inviting all community members, and seeking their input — as part of its Work Group Road Show.
Seven50 is a reality. Though still in its formative stages, the organization likely will play some role in shaping the future of South Florida. For this reason, it is advantageous for officials on the Treasure Coast to have a seat at the table.
Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari objects to the county’s participation in Seven50. Solari outlined several of these objections in a Nov. 30 letter to Michael Busha, executive director of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. Solari’s chief objection is his contention that Seven50 doesn’t represent the values of a majority of county residents. According to Solari, these values include limited government, local decision making, property rights and fiscal responsibility.
Solari concluded his letter by stating, “I can understand the desire for people to want to build a better, brave new world. However, after reading the ‘Regional Vision and Blueprint for Economic Prosperity’ and attending the Work Group Road Show on Oct. 25, it is clear to me that you are building a world that many in Indian River County will not be able to afford, based on a set of ‘deeply held values’ inimical to the majority of residents of Indian River County.”
On Tuesday, the County Commission will consider a proposal, sponsored by Solari, to opt out of Seven50.
While Solari has raises some legitimate issues that merit further discussion, opting out of Seven50 would be premature.
There is value in addressing issues from a regional — as opposed to a county by county — perspective. The Treasure Coast and South Florida are facing important, recurring issues that extend far beyond county lines.
Improving regional transportation corridors and re-creating a flow-way south from Lake Okeechobee — to protect the state’s environment, particularly the Everglades and Indian River Lagoon — are two prime examples. Then there are local issues, such as the maintenance of beaches and dredging of inlets, that may be addressed more efficiently through joint efforts and regional cooperation.
No question, the “blueprint” effort could be a boondoggle, a wasted effort that sits on shelves. But pulling out now could jeopardize future federal funding opportunities that could help solve local problems. Pulling out would give up a worthwhile seat at the table.
Indian River County should remain part of Seven50 — at least for now.