CHAIR’S MESSAGE – SUMMER 2023
Happy New (Fiscal) Year! It is my absolute pleasure to serve as your Chair for 2023-2024! I want to take this opportunity to thank our immediate Past Chair, Janette Smith for her exceptional hard work and leadership. I also want to give special thanks to Past Chair 2021-2022 Amanda Coffey, who works tirelessly on the Section’s technology resources, including the website and ListServ. Many thanks to the Section’s Executive Council and all committee chairs and members that make our Section successful.
As our Section year begins, we have many challenges facing local governments in Florida that we must ready ourselves to tackle. To name just a few of our challenges, we have: 1) the erosion of home rule through preemptions by the state; 2) new state laws affecting local ordinances and operations: 3) making room for affordable housing in communities already stressed by explosive growth; 4) partisan politics injected into local non-partisan elections; and 5) the lack of decorum in local government meeting rooms. How do we manage? We manage by continuing our hard work for our clients and keeping our advice focused on the law. It seems impossible to stay away from the constant distractions. However, I believe we all still make a difference as local government lawyers because we adjust to the changing times and stick to the law, despite the “noise”.
News used to come from just a couple of sources: network television stations, radio, and major newspapers. Everybody got the same messages in the same way, like the famous jingles from commercials that we just cannot get out of our heads. The way people get information has changed…the sources of news and messaging are practically infinite now with little control and little fact-checking. Elected officials are self-proclaimed experts on parliamentary procedure, and citizens critique the language of ordinances. You can blame the infinite sources of disinformation available and stay annoyed, OR you can look at this as another way of elected officials and citizens being “involved” in their local governments. It’s ok. Don’t take it personally. Doctors, teachers, engineers, plumbers, executives of large companies, and many others are told how they should do their jobs, too.
We have an opportunity to work together in this Section to produce new policies and procedures to deal with the challenges thrown at our communities like the Live Local Act, Business Impact Estimates for ordinances, Land Use and Development Regulations mandates and other new state laws. This year, the Section will improve its document library through the Section website so it will be searchable and user-friendly. The ListServ is very active and will continue to assist us in sharing questions and solutions for common issues. You must be a member of this Section to participate on the ListServ. The Section will also be offering more webinars this year on hot topics as well as partnering with other sections to provide webinars. The 47th Annual Local Government Conference to be held April 26-28, 2024, will be another great opportunity to network with our colleagues and find solutions to issues we face. I am ready for the challenges, and I am dedicated to working with all of you to collaborate on making our Section even more beneficial to members!