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Death on the Drive
The politicians who run Wilton
Manors have known for years that
Wilton Drive is not a neighborhood
road — but a death trap.
In fact, the city decided to create signs in the past
few months to post in local businesses warning
pedestrians to be individually safer in their actions
and more alert for passing vehicles.
But I am not here to sing their praise. I would prefer
their unanimous resignations.
You see, politicians are good at proclamations and
promises, celebrations and coronations. But actually
getting done what needs to be done is a whole other
For years, it has been transparent and known
to civic leaders that Wilton Drive is an unsafe state
highway that places pedestrians at risk- even before
you populate the locale with late night clubs pouring
It was in April of 2010 when Doug Blevins and Tom Tabor presented
to the city commission site plans, artist renderings and a cost analysis
to convert Wilton Drive into a neighborhood road with pedestrian
paths we could all feel proud of and safer walking upon.
“The vision we have is a traditional Town Center within the
community with small town charm and urban sophistication,” said
Doug Blevins, president at the time. “Our mission has been to assist
in creating a greater environment for residents, art, and commerce.”
From economic development to enhanced designs, the group
sought to change the face of the Drive to a subtler yet sophisticated
shopping area, adding security, safety, and opportunity to the mix.
First established in 2004, the group sought
to bolster the quality of life for residents and
guests along the drive, promoting arts, culture,
entertainment and special events in Wilton Manors.
The WMMS Street Initiative also hoped to beautify
the street and improve pedestrian safety, adding over
100 parking spaces and narrowing the road to smaller
and safer lanes. They knew and we all understood
that with the city’s growth, Wilton Drive was unsafe
The fundamental heart of the initiative allowed the
city to take back control of Wilton Drive (State Road
811) from Florida’s Department of Transportation,
changing the road from four lanes to two, using the
extra driving lanes as paid parking and completely
landscaping the area.
We already knew that pedestrian deaths in Florida
are higher than elsewhere in the nation, and as
more drivers used the Wilton Manors roads later in
the evening to patronize local venues, more serious
accidents would occur on Wilton Drive. They have,
and you did not need to be a rocket scientist to see
it coming. We all did, from editorial writers to city
planners to community leaders.
The issue was then, and is now, far more compelling than just
adding parking meters and building a parking lot. In articles SFGN
published in March and April of 2010, our paper noted that from
New York to Idaho, cities were innovatively and effectively addressing
aesthetics and safety in their communities.
Now it was our turn. Or so we thought.
“We want to achieve similar goals on The Drive,” Tom Tabor stated.
Five years later, it is easy to see we have not. We know what’s wrong.
We know what we had to do. We just have not done it.
Instead of building safer roads yesterday, our city commissioners
are posting warning signs today about how unsafe we really are. In
other words, instead of cleaning up the polluted lake you swim in, we
are just posting advisories for you not to drink the water.
This unsurprising political ineffectiveness explains why Donald
Trump is leading in all the polls. Faced with an obvious problem that
needed solving, five years later you look at the situation and see that
the politicians in power have achieved nothing.
What happened to the federal grant? What did
the city do about raising matching funds? What
happened to the task force? What happened to
Ordinance 962, designed to turn a deadly state road
into a neighborhood Main Street?
Our civic leaders still have dreams we can change.
They now operate under the umbrella of the Wilton
Manors Development Alliance, “sustaining small
town charm, creating urban sophistication.”
They view the Drive as a place where “commerce
art and housing enthusiastically coexist and provide
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “our castles
need to be in the air, but we must build foundations
Dreams are nice. Deeds are better.
Wilton Manors honored the memory of Diane
Cline, its former director of the Historical Society by
renaming a street in her honor. But the late Ms. Cline
would have been more appreciative of having all our
roads safer. In 2010, she told city commissioners
“Trees don’t kill. Speeding cars do.”
Five years later, we are mourning yet another
death of another pedestrian on that same road, this
time of a gentle man whose resonating soloist voice illuminated the
South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus for years.
We will miss you, Greg Futchi. But we never should have lost you
this way. Unfortunately, you lived in a city that couldn’t even build a
parking lot in five years, let alone provide you with safe roads.
column publisher’s editorial
Five years later,
we are mourning
death of another
that same road,
this time of a
gentle man whose
the South Florida
Gay Men’s Chorus
Photo: J.R. Davis.
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