Can’t believe 2017 is over already?  Ready to let that old year go?  Well, we can’t say goodbye without a fond look back at some of the most significant events, good and not so great, that affected our humble hamlet last  year.

Which ones meant the most to you?  What will you miss?  What will you happily kiss off?  What do you look forward to continuing into 2018?  As always, we look forward to hearing from you, our honored readers.  Let us know what we can give you more of in the coming months.

And to all, good times, good health, and good news in the new year.

1)  SIGN OF THE TIMES

People demonstrate in favor of taking down signs named after Confederate generals in Hollywood.

Statues tumbled around the country and our city had its own little civil war as battles raged Hollywood-style at commission meetings over the course of several months.  

We’re talking constituents camping out at city hall, planning for a long evening, SWAT teams perched on the roofs over Hollywood Circle, arrests being made and more as the arguments went late into the night.  In the end, the protestors won — streets named after Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest are being changed to streets called Liberty, Hope and Freedom.   

Signs to change soon.

2) IRMAGEDDON

After years of false alarms, we finally had another hurricane. Irma was, in contrast to her grandmotherly name, the biggest and strongest storm to come our way in a long time and watching the forecasts, there was no way we were going to avoid a hit from this one. Handymen across the state abandoned their regular work to board up windows and batten down hatches.  After all, the storm was bigger than the whole state of Florida.

Fortunately, though, she decided to take a turn and bad as it was, for Hollywood, it could have been a whole lot worse.  Hollywood lost some sand, a few roofs and a lot of trees and most tragically 12 lives due to heat exposure at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills following the hurricane.

GOOD MEN MUST DIE, BUT DEATH CANNOT KILL THEIR NAMES.                                                                                                    – Danish Proverb

Following examinations, the Medical Examiner’s office ruled the manner of death of 12 of the 14 deceased as homicides with the cause of death attributed to environmental heat exposure at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

The Hollywood Police Department focused its ongoing investigation into the homicide deaths of the following twelve people:

Carolyn Eatherly, DOB 8-13-39
Gail Nova, DOB 2-22-46
Estella Hendricks, DOB 1-4-46
Bobby Owens, DOB 5-16-33
Miguel Franco, DOB 9-5-25
Manuel Mendieta, DOB 8-26-21
Albertina Vega, DOB 10-10-17
Betty Hibbard, DOB 1-11-33
Carlos Canal, DOB 11-4-23
Martha Murray, DOB 1-10-23
Dolores Biamonte, DOB 2-25-60
Cecilia Franco, DOB 4-2-27

3) I THINK I MISSED MY EXIT

 

4) YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL

Hollywood Hills junior quarterback Holly Neher made history when she  became the first female quarterback to start a varsity football game in Broward County.

 

“It was amazing” said Neher, who is only the second girl in the 51-year history of her 2,000-student high school to play on the varsity football team.

She is a highly regarded quarterback for the Hollywood Hills High School football team and played a significant role on the team this season.

 

5) TO-GO DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN GONE

Reader response was strong to a summer Hollywood Commission announcement that single-use Styrofoam (polystyrene plastic) products would soon be prohibited at Hollywood’s beaches and parks.  

The new ordinance would apply to restaurants, although one prohibiting disposable food service products has been on Hollywood’s books since 1996 — albeit unenforced.

Businesses caught breaking that ordinance could be subject to a $500 fine.   And according to the new consumer-focused prohibition, violators would also be faced with fines of up to $500 or up to 60 days in jail.  

Sadly, the new rule has been withdrawn from discussion for the time being, after extensive debates among Hollywood commissioners and residents.  At issue are the questions of clarity and enforcement.  While it’s not a done deal, it may be awhile before all the key points are addressed and figured out to the satisfaction of all involved.

Meanwhile, if people just don’t litter, the whole thing becomes a non-issue.

6) MAY THE COURSE BE WITH YOU

Last year, a really adorable hotel at Hollywood Beach was knocked down and turned into a parking lot.  Parking was deemed the highest and best use of the land at the beach.

This year, it looks like there are several higher and better uses edging out luxury game playing as one by one, Hollywood’s golf courses are being squeezed down to 9 holes or out entirely to make way for more expensive housing (at Hillcrest), affordable housing (at Sunset, proposed and scrapped) and housing in general (the discussion about the Club at Emerald Hills died down in 2016).  

We’re still waiting to see what happens at the Diplomat Golf Club and while the Adventure Park at Sunset was deemed not within the zoning code, it looks like it may become either a campground or a cemetery (both okay, according to zoning) neither of which will really benefit the residents of Hollywood (at least not while they’re alive).   This issue is clearly not going to go away quietly.  Fore.

7) WHAT IS THIS, PARK AVENUE?

Five years of free downtown parking came to an end last month as those new-fangled multi-space meters sprung up all over downtown Hollywood and in the parking garages on North 19th and South 20th Avenues.  

Yes, we know it’s going to bring additional revenue to the city and the official line is that it’s supposed to increase turnover and create more parking availability for consumers.  

Responses so far from both business owners and shoppers/diners are mixed.  This writer’s personal opinion?  Get rid of the spots reserved for the valets — I can park my own darn car.  But that’s just MHO.  Busy season will see how it plays out.  

Please be kind and help out visitors and seniors struggling with the new machines.  You’ll be there yourself one day.

8) I’D LIKE MY ONE PHONE CALL PLEASE

It was not a great year for the now former City Attorney Jeffrey Sheffel.  After a good start with a pay raise that took his salary over the $200k mark, concerns started appearing regarding cost overruns involving his office and complaints about how he treated some of his staff.  Members of the board of commissioners were split over whether or not he should stay on, balancing these issues with his significant knowledge of the law and of Hollywood.

Ultimately, though, it was a DUI on the Hollywood Boulevard bridge that led to an accepted separation agreement between Sheffel and the city.  The agreement was not considered a firing nor a resignation.  His accident, captured on video, and subsequent arrest took place hours after the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sheffel’s car became wedged between a concrete wall and guard rail and later had to be removed by crane.  

Mayor Josh Levy complimented Sheffel on his skill and professionalism and thanked him for his service to the City of Hollywood.   Under the terms of his contract, Sheffel received 20 weeks’ severance pay.  

He was replaced by Douglas Gonzales who previously served as the city attorney for Margate.

9) DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT

Crane spotting is the new people watching around Downtown Hollywood as we witness new development line Young Circle. From the 111-room CIRC Hotel to the Hollywood Circle project which includes a new 47,604 square foot Publix, substantial developments are paving the way for a walkable, transit-oriented Downtown neighborhood center. Next up: festoon lighting on Hollywood Boulevard.

Hollywood Circle is a 25-story mixed-use development in the center of Downtown Hollywood currently under construction.

10) AND TO ALL A GOOD AND SAFER CITY

Like everywhere, the City of Hollywood Police Department have their hands full getting rid of the bad guys and protecting the good citizens of our fair city. But these guys really go the extra mile.  

Acting Chief of Police Chris O’Brien is particularly pleased with the work his team did on the horrible case of animal abuse that drew our community together earlier this year.    

“Although we have had many success stories throughout the year, such as our PAL summer camp, Shop with a Cop, Thanksgiving meal deliveries and our upcoming event where will bring toys to over 60 less fortunate families,” he told the Gazette, “at the top of the list certainly has to be the arrest of the individual who killed Ollie. I am so proud of my Detectives and Officers who worked so hard to ensure they got justice for Ollie.”

At the top of our list, though, it the fact that crime in Hollywood is down overall.  Chief O’Brien reports that although he won’t have the finalized numbers until the end of January, the department is on track to show an overall reduction citywide.  

To most residents of Hollywood, that’s the best new year’s news of all.