Broward County Commissioner - Lois Wexler - The Latest News
June 2011
Message From The Commissioner

The Broward County Commission and County staff are channeling your hard-earned tax dollars to provide scores of helping hands. Some are modest projects, such as alerting you when construction may snarl traffic on I-595. Others are profound, such as the 2-1-1 Broward Hotline, which provides immediate crisis advice and referrals to long-term solutions to those dealing with crushing problems.

This community should be proud that we have joined together to help each other in these times of need. This newsletter focuses on some of these tiny and major shafts of sunlight providing help and hope for our residents.

2-1-1 Broward: Your Help Line

An elderly mother slipping into the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. A wife concerned her husband is suicidal. A family finding itself homeless in the middle of the night. A student afraid to tell her parents that she is the target of cyber bullies. A parent wondering whether her child has hearing problems.

The recession has hurt our ability to cope with the challenges of surviving troubled times. It certainly has crippled the elderly and the disabled, as well as the growing ranks of needy in our community.

Nearly everyone needs help at some time. Unfortunately, many people are paralyzed by embarrassment or because they simply have no idea where to find the help they need.
But that help is a simple phone call away. Just dial the digits 2-1-1 from any telephone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

2-1-1 Broward is a free, confidential gateway to a wide variety of services in our community. No call goes unanswered. You are connected to a trained counselor who can offer help in any language. Empathetic listeners give emotional support, assess your need, list options and services available, provide contact information for exactly the right agency, and help you develop an action plan before you get off the phone. No run around.

Despite state budget cuts, a surprisingly wide array of social services remains available to all Floridians. They range from support groups to informational Web sites to hotlines. 2-1-1 Broward has been a “front door” that has opened to help between 110,000 and 130,000 people each year. Callers include business owners seeking family services for an employee, homeless families living in their cars, parents with children with special needs, uninsured diabetics needing insulin, single mothers who can’t feed their children, seniors who live alone and need a daily call, people helping friends with substance abuse issues and widowed dads who need child care to keep their job.

If you are too self-conscious to talk to someone, details about services plus instant advice for individual problems, can be found by visiting, www.211-broward.org. The Web site also provides an easy method for donating to this non-profit service.

2-1-1 Broward is funded by your County tax dollars as well as by grants from the United Way, Children’s Services Council and the state Department of Children and Family Services, among other groups and individuals. It’s an example of government, non-profit agencies and private citizens still providing practical help to you and your neighbors in times of trouble.

Hurricane Season, Again

Summer may mean tanning on the beaches to tourists, but Broward residents know it better as the start of hurricane season.

Your County government is ready to help you if and when a disaster strikes. But disasters across the country in recent weeks remind us all that it may take some time before the help you need reaches you.

We strongly urge you to make plans with your family and friends for the likelihood that you will have to provide for your own needs for at least three – even five days –if a hurricane strikes Broward County.

Some people are overwhelmed by the prospect of preparations. What do I actually need to do before a storm forms offshore? What food and materials do I need to buy? How can I afford it?

The County provides many tools to assist you, including checklists to take the panic out of preparations, and informative facts sheets on topics ranging from trimming your trees before an emergency to reporting home damage after an emergency. These are available on our Web site, www.broward.org/hurricane. There’s also additional emergency preparedness information for the elderly and those with disabilities and/or special medical needs, available at www.broward.org/atrisk.

One of the most helpful and popular tools on our hurricane preparedness Web site is a list of food and other items to buy in order to be fully prepared for a storm. Our Shopping Guide is especially useful because it spreads the cost of assembling your hurricane kit over eight weeks.

Other services can be very important to you in an emergency, but involve a little preparation:

  •  Have a shelter plan, even if your plan is to shelter at home. Mass Care shelters are available to all and are operated by the American Red Cross. If you have special medical needs and expect to use a special medical needs shelter, pre-registration is encouraged, but not required. Call Broward County Human Services Department at 954-357-6385 (TTY 954-357-5608). Special medical needs shelters are operated by the Broward Health Department.
  • You can pre-register for paratransit transportation, if you think you may need it. Call Broward County Human Services Department at 954-357-6385 (TTY 954-357-5608).You are not obligated to take advantage of special medical needs shelter or paratransit transportation services if your plans change.
  • Broward County has a pet-friendly shelter for residents living in evacuation areas, operated by the American Red Cross and the Humane Society of Broward County. Pre-registration is required, and pets must be accompanied by their owners. Call the Humane Society at 954-989-3977.
  • In a recovery, some residents may be especially vulnerable, especially those with health issues who may find themselves stranded on the upper floors of a building, without power, or unable to call for help. As an extra measure of security, these individuals should register with Broward County’s Vulnerable Population Registry. The Registry allows people who are disabled, frail or have health issues to register in advance with their city so that emergency workers may plan a better response to vulnerable residents in a recovery effort. Each city may use the Registry in a different way, and registering is not a guarantee of services. For more information or to register, call 954-831-4000 or 3-1-1.
Stay Connected

The county also has added new ways for residents to stay up to date with important public safety information before, during and after a storm.

  • Follow us on Twitter@ReadyBroward – nearly 1,000 residents are already following!
  • Subscribe to receive Hurricane Update eMails. To subscribe, visit www.broward.org/hurricane.
  • Bookmark the Home Damage Assessment Program on your smartphone or other mobile device – http://gis.broward.org/mda
  • Call the Hurricane Hotline at 954-831-4000 or 3-1-1 – there to answer your questions Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during normal conditions, and 24/7 during an emergency.
Surviving I-595

The patience to cope with sluggish and backed-up traffic will become as necessary as a driver’s license for at least the next three years during the mega-overhaul of Interstate 595. Astute motorists can ease the pain by becoming aware of precisely when and where work will be concentrated. Armed with this information, drivers can plan detours or add extra travel time to trips.

A map of lane and ramp closures, updated every few days, is available at
www.i-595.com/construction. The maps take a little practice to decipher at first, but reading them can become second nature. A detailed list of work and closures accompanies each map. With two major exceptions in our district, immediate plans call for keeping open the same number of lanes during the busiest hours, although the configuration of lanes might change. Full lane closures and/or detours are to be limited, usually between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., Sundays through Thursdays.

The major exceptions involve creating much smoother on and off access to the highway on so-called braided ramps. But the limited working space between I-595 and SR 84 requires shutting down some current ramps while building them.

Two ramps will be closed completely for 135 days beginning sometime in July:

  • The ramp leading off westbound SR 84 onto westbound I-595, located west of Pine Island Road. This ramp also served as the westbound entrance to I-595 coming from University.
  • The ramp leading off westbound I-595 onto westbound SR 84, located at Exit 3 for Nob Hill Road.

The new replacement ramps will open in the late fall. Major closures aside, anyone who has seen how a stalled car on the shoulder can stymie traffic knows that construction itself can snarl some flow at any time.

A wise precaution is to identify alternatives routes now for the days when specific sections of I-595 and its exits are under construction. Comprehensive information about the project, including opportunities for feedback from the public, can be found at
www.i-595.com.

The NEW Young At Art

A few weeks ago, a crane slowly settled a live oak on top of the roof of the Young At Art Museum and Broward County Library complex being built at 11584 W. State Road 84 in Davie.

Setting the official tree of the Town of Davie on the 55,000-square-foot building symbolized continuing progress on the $21 million project.

When the complex opens next spring, the structure is expected to be the epicenter of cultural arts education for families. It will feature four permanent galleries: GreenScapes, CultureScapes, WonderScapes and ArtScapes. The Institute Studios will offer painting/drawing, ceramics, printmaking, digital photography, 4D video design and a preschool curriculum.

The structure will house a 10,000 square-foot branch library, a national traveling exhibition gallery, a theater, a teen center, recording studio, gift shop, Creative Café and a preschool classroom that will accommodate 22 children.

During the topping off ceremony, Young At Art officials announced that it has been named the only children’s museum in the state to be accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition to be bestowed on a museum.

Accreditation is a formal process that examines and qualifies all of a museum's operations. Young At Art was noted for its stead