Last week: The passing of E. Clay Shaw was sad for our community — not just because he was a great statesman but because he embodied a bygone era when congressional leaders worked for the betterment of the country with a bipartisan spirit rather than acting like a dysfunctional family. His accomplishments are legendary — not just for South Florida but all Americans. I had the privilege of working with him when he chaired the Centennial Committee, a fitting end to his long career in public service. As a country, we desperately need leaders who will follow in his footsteps.
Looking ahead: Late breaking news — our Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau won eight Flagler Awards, including Best of Show, at Visit Florida's Governor's Conference on Tourism in Orlando. Their creativity and hard work, under the direction of President Nicki Grossman, have propelled this destination to be celebrating 44 consecutive months of hotel occupancy growth. Congratulations to the team, especially Francine Mason, vice president of communications, Carlos Molinet, senior vice president, and the folks at Starmark, our ad agency and M.Silver & Associates, our PR agency.
Last week: The heroic victory of Diana Nyad successfully swimming 112 miles from Cuba to Key West, after having failed 4 times. She is an inspiration for all of us to never give up on our dreams; that age is just a conversation; and how important it is to surround ourselves with supporters who believe in us. Anything is possible.
Looking ahead: As we move into the heart of hurricane season, we must beware of our complacency. Are we prepared, both individually, in our businesses and as a community?
Last week: 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington. I also just saw The Butler. Yes, we have come a long way but there is very far yet to go. And not just equality for African Americans, but for all people. I have a dream--to live in a world without prejudice; without war; without hunger.
Looking ahead: There is a joint City of Fort Lauderdale Commission meeting with the Beach Redevelopment Advisory Board on Monday, Sept 23, City Hall at 7 pm. This is a very important meeting to discuss how the CRA's remaining $40-plus million will be spent before the CRA sunsets in 2019. There are some exciting public projects that will be discussed, all of which will enhance our image as a world-class destination for visitors and residents.
Last week: Major progress. Marina Lofts gets city commission approval, paving the way for a bold new skyline by award-winning Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. This project will create affordable luxury rentals to attract young professionals and be a boon for our economy. Other great news, July home prices are up 28 percent in a year; hotel occupancy up for 44 consecutive months and revenue per available room (rev par) and average daily rates are on the upswing.
Next week: Spa Chic begins Sept. 1. Created by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Spa Chic is offered during the month of September. You can indulge in $99 spa visits at 14 different resorts and day spas. Go ahead a treat yourself. Visit sunny.org/spachic for deals.
Last week: Take your pick. Alleged kickbacks for two more public officials, this time two mayors who the people elected to office. Heroic baseball icons, who make an obscene amount of money to play a game, suspended. A 17-year-old award winning graffiti artist killed by a police Taser. What didn't make the news is 16,000 children dying every day of hunger related issues — that's one child every 13 seconds. 925 million people hungry around the world. Where are our statesmen? Where is our global conscience?
Looking ahead: On Aug. 20, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission will vote on Marina Lofts, a vibrant mixed-use development, designed by a world-famous architect, creating affordable rental housing in a design-driven urban environment. This project will reinvigorate the Riverwalk, generate hundreds of jobs and millions in tax revenues. It will highlight our marina industry and honor our environment; create a destination and home for young professionals; and advance our city's vision for downtown. I urge the commission to vote for this project and for our future.
Last week: Great sunny news for tourism--our number one industry. Our biggest June occupancy on record. 71% up 6.4%. We are now celebrating 43 months of occupancy growth. Average Daily Rate (ADR) is also up 27 out of last 28 months and Rev Par (Revenue per available room), which is a key indicator for hoteliers, is up 23 out of last 24 months. The hotels are forecasting this upward trend to continue which is good news for all of us.
Looking ahead: Although our tourism occupancy is up, our group business is a concern among the hospitality industry. We need to continue to have the convention center expansion and a possible convention center hotel on the front burner as well as short term creative approaches to generate group business in this highly competitive market.
Last week: The acquittal verdict of George Zimmerman has created a large local and national impact. Although legally justice may have been served, morally and ethically are a different matter. It has focused our attention on "stand your ground" and its far-reaching impact. And, the racial disparity that still exists in our nation. Hopefully, we can move forward to address these issues in a peaceful yet thoughtful manner. The major issue for our local arts community is that renowned and respected Bonnie Clearwater will be the new director of the Museum of Art., propelling us into a new era.
Looking ahead: With Miami Beach approving the $1.1 billion dollar deal to build their convention center, Broward County must keep our convention center expansion and hotel project on the front burner. We need to bring the hoteliers, commissioners and other stakeholders to the table to work cooperatively.
Last week: The ongoing bloodshed and unrest in Egypt following the military coup. Images of blood running in the streets were horrific. I spent 2 weeks there 2 years ago after the revolution. The people were so energized by the possibility of freedom. The ensuing events have been heart breaking, and the economic impact from loss of tourism devastating.
Looking ahead: The outcome of the Zimmerman trial and concern for violent outbreaks after the verdict.
Looking ahead: This coming week is July 4 and communities are coming together to celebrate independence, family and fun. Let the fireworks light up our lives.
Last week: Supreme Court ruling overturning DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and its ban on federal benefits for same-sex couples as well as rejecting California's same-sex marriage ban. Next step is to eliminate all laws that limit the rights of gays and lesbians.
Looking ahead: In the weeks ahead, the forwarding of a master plan for the Convention Center expansion and an on-site hotel.
Last week’s headline: U.S., Taliban talk peace. As John Lennon wrote, Give Peace a Chance. Isn't it time for humanity to stop the insanity?Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun