Sunrise Mayor: Counseling for County-City Relationship?




The relationship between the County and municipalities has been the topic of much discussion lately.  Some say relations are at an all-time low.  If true, what is going on?


You Never Really Listen To Me!

Some city officials feel as if their opinions are treated by members of the County Commission as unimportant or that the County Commission sometimes acts as if decisions made at the city level are made with less deliberation.

That belief is paternalistic, hypersensitivity or fact depending on where you sit, I guess.


How Dare You Talk Back?


Some say it is because 18 municipalities decided to enforce a partnership agreement between the County and participating municipalities involving the Resource Recovery Board (“RRB”), the agency that handled much of the County’s garbage until last year.

In 1986, the RRB partnership set a specific termination date.  On termination, the agreement unequivocally requires the accumulated RRB assets to be equitably divided between the County and the participating municipalities.

Prior to termination, the County’s public financial disclosure documents valued the net assets of the partnership, largely land used for waste disposal, at more than $100 million.  Oddly, when it came time to equitably divide the assets, the County for the first time said the assets actually have a negative value.

Prior to the termination, there was a year of wrangling which led nowhere.  The County refused to turn over documents without public records requests and took actions that worried the municipalities.

After lawyers got involved, the County agreed to protect the assets until resolution.

The municipalities requested a formal mediation to resolve the issues; the County initially resisted and wanted more time to have staff and lawyers debate the issues.

Ultimately, the County agreed to go to mediation — something most doubt would have ever happened at this stage were lawyers not involved.  Personally, I think mediation can produce an amicable resolution.


Don’t You Remember When You …


Some think lingering resentment on both sides is carryover scarring from past battles long since forgotten by most.

Some say maybe the E911 consolidation effort, one of the most important public safety advancements in decades, is partially to blame. Now much of E911, the county’s system handling emergency fire, police and EMS phone calls, has been or will be merged.

Municipalities promoted a stable financial plan meant to protect the E911 system from future infighting and predictable problems of hoping each city would make timely payments to pay for their share of the service.

Some on the County Commission wanted a different funding mechanism that was rejected on a close vote.

In fact, last July, many worried the action of the 18 municipalities initiating the RRB litigation might jeopardize the E911 funding plan in the then upcoming budget – as if one issue had anything to do with the other.

Rank fear or a deeper understanding of how things happen in this County?

One County Commissioner reportedly proclaimed proudly she keeps a list of the cities who sued the County on her office wall.  Presumably, this serves a dual purpose: a reminder when making decisions regarding completely unrelated matters and a message to municipalities who may want to take action in the future.

Another County Commissioner wrote a letter to the Sun Sentinel publicly blaming the cities for the RRB litigation, alleging the cities refused to engage in “meaningful compromise” or to “put minor differences aside”.   He says communication is the key to cooperation but is that type of communication productive at mending bridges? Doesn’t it simply invite a negative and resentful response?


A Partnership That is Here to Stay


Like it or not, the County and municipalities are intertwined in so many ways.


  • For fiscal year 2012-2013, sales tax revenue returned by the State to Broward County for distribution was $170 million.  The County Commission, pursuant to Florida law, received 40% of those sales tax dollars, or roughly $69 million – an increase of over $4 million from the year before.  The remainder was divided among the cities based upon population of each municipality, not where the dollars were generated.


  • Tourism, whether going to the beach or shopping at Sawgrass Mills Mall, benefits the entire County, generating important revenue in multiple different ways.


  • Creation of jobs in one municipality can help other municipalities and the County in many obvious ways.


  • Municipalities are on the front line of issues the County Commission can’t solve on their own.   Municipalities led the way on trying to stop synthetic drug distribution in neighborhood stores, the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and predatory towing.


  • On the other hand, there are some things the County can tackle more effectively, like when the County Commission took steps to improve safety for daycare children, the E911 consolidation, synchronizing traffic lights and important regional transportation initiatives.


We don’t need counseling.  We need to listen and try to see the world through another’s eyes when making decisions.

We may not always agree.  But, respectful collaboration as equal partners and decisions on the merits are fundamental to our success and will define our legacy.


(Michael J. Ryan is the mayor of Sunrise.)

5 Responses to “Sunrise Mayor: Counseling for County-City Relationship?”

  1. John Henry says:

    Mike Ryan: The answer to a question that nobody has asked.

    Don’t you have a MAIG meeting to go to or a backyard shooting range to shut down?

  2. count lf chodkiewicz chudzikiewicz says:

    No one lands at Mia or ft Lauderdale/hollywood airport n says take me to Miramar sunrise Weston plantation, places as a 68 yr old native Florida I have never seen. Why should the get a dime of resort tax money?

  3. Seth Platt says:

    Much of the E911 infrastructure being procured by Broward County is being done so through sole source or narrowly structured procurements which have resulted in the current provider being the only one who can or will reply. It behooves the Cities to encourage appropriate market competition of the cities resources so that they do not overpay as had happened in the past with the monopoly perpetuated by the garbage ILA.

  4. Fake Jaime Cole says:

    Mayor Ryan forgets to mention that those landfills have significant possible liabilities because of the potential pollution cleanups necessitated in the future. If the cities want to agree in a contract to pay for any future cleanup, I’m sure the county would agree to turn over the money. Otherwise that money should be kept for a potential multi-million dollar cleanup.

  5. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Like it or not the County calls the shots. As far as these cities suing etc, I like Comm.Lamarca’s editorial in today’s paper. He is offering to sit down w/ these cities to work out your differences. Give him the chance. I love you cities spending all this money on legal fees w/ our money….