Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief Rebuilding After Hurricane

Recently re-elected to the seat of Mayor in South Florida’s Broward County, Barbara Sharief has expressed her dedication to continuing the work of growing Broward County’s economy by expanding the influence of local businesses. Her plan of action is centered around the newly issued 2016–2020 Commission Strategic Plan, available to view on the county commission’s website. The plan is based on Sharief’s first outline that was issued in 2013.

Known as Broward Means Business, this entirely self-funded action plan details ways to help improve the financial health of her constituents by enacting programs to provide foreclosure assistance and seminars on navigating through the economic slump and resulting unemployment issues.

“Businesses, big and small, are increasingly choosing to locate and expand in Broward County and these are all positive indicators that our local economy is strong and stable.” — Barbara Sharief

This four-year Strategic Plan focuses on several crucial qualities in regards to South Florida’s economy such as sustainable housing, public transportation systems, financial independence, and promoting culture through the arts. All of which promise to help the local community by providing a stable job market, economic opportunities, as well as humane and comfortable accommodations for all of Broward County’s residents.

Providing Relief From Irma

However, this can be difficult to do in the wake of a natural disaster. Despite all of the preparations and prior experience Florida has with hurricanes, nothing can truly prepare an entire population for the raw power a hurricane can unleash. Especially one large enough to cover the entire state at the same time.

In the aftermath of hurricane Irma, Mayor Barbara Sharief has worked tirelessly to organize relief efforts and reassure the public, even going so far as to lift the city-wide curfew less than 48 hours after the storm had passed, garnering a few raised eyebrows from other city mayors.

“Our goal right now is recovery and restoration, and that means that we need to get people back to work, get essential personnel back to work, get relief for the people who worked for the five days through the storm and get the businesses back up and running,” she said. “No curfew right now is necessary.”

Care Force activated to help Hurricane Irma victims.

With 89% of the county left without power after Hurricane Irma’s destruction, it was vital for relief personnel to be able to do their jobs quickly and unhindered. And despite the approximately half of the county’s stoplights being out of commission and a significant amount of foliage debris lining the roadways, many of Broward County’s major centers were up and running that Tuesday. Broward College reported that the majority of their power will still on and that classes could resume in the next few days, while Ft. Lauderdale airport had flights scheduled to come in and out with only minor delays expected.

Mayor Barbara Sharief addressing the county about safety measures for Hurricane Irma.

 

How Local Politicians Are Addressing The Opioid Addiction Crisis

by
James Westfield

The opioid addiction crisis is tearing apart our country. The ravages of heroin and painkilling pill addiction knows no boundaries, socio-economic class or gender bias. The effects of deaths from addiction, usually as a result of overdoses, are incalculable from both an emotional and financial standpoint.

Addiction tears apart families and communities with its invisible slaughter of those whose sin is often nothing more than a shoulder injury or a slip and fall at work.

The cycle works this way: someone gets injured and is then prescribed a synthetic opiate like oxycontin or hydrocodone. These painkillers, while highly effective at minimizing or eliminating pain are among the most addictive prescription pills ever created. The cycle continues when a patient cannot eliminate the addiction and then turns to heroin or fentanyl use, often with deadly consequences.

The cycle repeats on an alarming basis in communities as varied as Delray Beach, Florida and Montpelier, Vermont. The United States Federal government has finally begun to address this humanitarian and medical crises with the passing of legislation. Recently, in June of 2017, Congress passed a new bill allocating $2 Billion toward treating opioid addiction.

Here are some statistics, courtesy of the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

  • Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.
  • Opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain.
  • Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
  • Of the 20.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2015, 2 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 591,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
  • It is estimated that 23% of individuals who use heroin develop opioid addiction.
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.
  • From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales and substance use disorder treatment admissions related to prescription pain relievers increased in parallel.
  • The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the 1999 rate; sales of prescription pain relievers

Local politicians are now also becoming more proactive in addressing the catastrophe in their communities. Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief recently hosted a Town Hall Meeting illustrating how the County and the area of Fort Lauderdale are addressing the crisis. The meeting included local political leaders and law enforcement officials.

Officials in Vermont, Massachusetts and other states at both the local and state levels are exploring alternative treatments, the de-criminalization of opioid use by sending users to rehab clinics, and many other new policy initiatives with the hope of saving more lives.

One thing is sure, government is now taking a much more progressive and holistic view of drug overdoses, addiction and the spread of heroin in American communities.

The American Divide: Are Politicians Real People?

Politicians, like so many of us, are human. They react to human ideals in human ways. They will be skeptical of things have not witnessed or experienced for themselves and potentially hostile if a fact or idea that greatly challenges their worldview comes into question. However, when it comes to the leaders of our country, we expect them to rise about their natural inclinations towards greed and hostility to put fact, reason, and the duty of public service above all else.

Where this falls short is that we also feel that these people should exemplify similar traits and sympathies as the everyday person, making the distinction between professional distance and personability a very fine line. There is the added pitfall that the people chosen to hold public office also have the education and qualifications that few can obtain due to the expense of achieving them. That leaves a very small pool of individuals in our country’s capital with a life experience reminiscent of their working-class supporters.

A Study In Empathy

Along these lines, it can be seen that people who have experienced difficulties and tragedies are the ones most sympathetic to and critical of people experiencing a similar plight. According to the Psychology Today, it is sympathy that leads to empathy, caring, and eventually altruism – the selfless concern for others. However, it should also be noted that none of these things are guaranteed. That is to say that experiencing sympathy won’t always lead to experiencing empathy and so on and so forth. One great example of this would be current TSA regulations.

After 9/11, the TSA protocol was heightened considerably and now includes full body scans, pat downs by airport security, and potentially embarrassing body checks if an item underneath the clothing sets off the scanner. However, higher-ranking public officials including all members of Congress can skip this unpleasant process if they wish. In a 2010 quote from Hillary Clinton on the subject of enduring airport security pat downs, “Not if I could avoid it. I mean, who would?” And now they don’t have to. As of 2013, a significant portion of our elected officials has been permanently white listed by the TSA’s Precheck program.

Inspiration From A Common Cause

And therein lies the problem. On some level, it makes sense – after all these are our public officials who have been vetted by groups like the FBI. However, it starts to separate elected officials into a pool of privileged elite. Which is why people like Barbara Sharief are so important.

As the older sister of a brother with a chronic condition along with losing her father at the age of 14, Sharief was inundated with the importance of hard work and the fear that loss and instability can bring to the life of promising youth in our nation. Ever since she began making forays into the political field in 2013, her goals have been to provide her community with foreclosure assistance programs and economic opportunities geared towards entrepreneurial pursuits and introducing employers to the resources Broward County has to offer. It is her belief in her community and the experience she has going through similar hardships that push Sharief to continue her campaign each day.