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Financial difficulties related to high pension and healthcare costs are among the most significant challenges facing the City of Hollywood, City Manager Dr. Wazir Ishmael said during his State of the City presentation. He made the remarks at a recent Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce meeting.
During the presentation, residents were also asked to share their concerns about the City. “It is a fact that Hollywood is a great city. We are located on the Interstate, we have a good downtown section with lots of potential and the people of Hollywood are great,” Ishmael said. He said that airport, port and railroad systems are important assets.
Ishmael did not hide, however, what he and other Hollywood leaders see as the biggest problem: finances. “We are being squeezed by crushing pension costs and healthcare costs,” he said.
Much of the money collected in property taxes goes toward paying the pensions and healthcare costs of retirees, some of whom have expensive health issues. The 13th check is a continuing concern. This takes away money from current needed services such as parks and public safety, he said.
Ishmael said that Hollywood can become a “cool” city – a city where people want to live and work. For this to happen, it will have to use its many resources well and be smart. “Great cities have smart growth and do more with less,” he said.
Mixed land use is important as is a compact design. Hollywood should have more of a sense of place, he said. The neighborhoods need to be walk-able and there needs to be lots of open spaces. Ishmael said he is encouraged by the Regional Activity Center that will allow for mixed use development, including buildings with shops and offices on the lower floors and living spaces on the top floors. He believes the 441 transit-oriented corridor also offers strong possibilities for development.
Ishmael said the need is strong for social cohesion and for an environment where people can interact with one another. He stressed that to attract companies to Hollywood, there needs to an availability of skilled labor, access to markets and a high quality of life. According to Ishmael, the City also must expand existing industry in areas such as healthcare, tourism, marketing and aerospace.
Ishmael said the City government must also do more with less by eliminating duplicate services, working smarter and eliminating waste. He encouraged residents to get involved in the City by sponsoring events or participating in community efforts such as beach cleanups.