Every month, signs pop up in the many communities of Hollywood, inviting people to the various Civic Association meetings in the area.
Wikipedia defines these associations as a type of organization whose official goal is to improve neighborhoods through volunteer work by its members.
But really, a civic association is so much more.
A document put together by the The Country Club Hills Civic Association in Virginia says that in general, its objectives are “to preserve, enhance, and plan for the orderly development of the neighborhood and to promote the general welfare, safety and civic spirit of the community. The power of a civic association” it says, “is organized public opinion.”
Here in Hollywood, the City has 19 recognized civic associations, according to Terry Cantrell, president of the Hollywood Lakes Civic Association (HLCA), one of the more active civic associations in the city. Of the 19, 17 are members of the Hollywood Council of Civic Associations (HCCA).
The website of the HCCA says it lives by the belief that our neighborhood associations can become a more effective force for neighborhood improvement when we work together toward common goals.
The Civic Associations clearly believe there is power in numbers.
The HCCA works both citywide and regionally as a member of the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, to support regional goals aimed at improving the quality of life in every neighborhood.
“There are a lot of ‘generic’ issues in every neighborhood,” said Cliff Germano, president of the HCCA, “the ones that every association will likely struggle with at some time, such as crime and code enforcement, and then there are some specific issues, like flooding, which will affect some areas and not others. As a group, we try to address both the generic and the specific, and help support all of our members whenever they have an issue where they need help.
“We try to work both ways, and a lot of times, when one neighborhood is experiencing an issue, having the other groups behind them carries a lot of weight at City Hall.”
Lynn Smith is the president and founder of the Downtown/Parkside/Royal Poinciana Civic Association, the newest one in Hollywood, founded in August 2018, as a blended association for the three neighborhoods.
“Historically, the Civic Associations have always been active in Hollywood, but not as much as they are now,” said Smith, citing a huge spurt in membership and meeting attendance since the merging of the three groups. “A number of them have worked on, and were instrumental in passing, the GO Bond. It seems that they have become stronger and stronger, and now they have enough clout to really have the city listen.”
In this issue we introduce an ongoing coverage of Hollywood’s various Civic Associations and how they impact the daily life of our city and our citizens. We begin here with the Hollywood Lakes Civic Association, which covers the area bounded by the Intracoastal Waterway, Federal Highway, Sheridan Street and the south city limits.
It is, believes Cantrell, the oldest Association in the city, founded in 1961. He has been on the board of directors since 1998 and president for 13 years.
Cantrell feels it is important to distinguish between a Civic Association and an HOA.
“Many people confuse the two,” he noted, “but they are two radically different things. While an HOA is a mandatory membership organization, with dues and rules, a Civic Association is non-mandatory, with voluntary membership.
“With a Civic Association, as it says in our mission statement, the primary purpose and objective (of the Hollywood Lakes Civic Association) is to improve and promote civic, cultural and recreational interest in the Lakes section of Hollywood, FL.
“With us, people join because they appreciate, believe in, respect and like what we stand for.”
So, what does a Civic Association actually do? A variety of things, said Cantrell.
“We spend a lot of time at City Hall, speaking on issues that affect our area. We help people in the area when help is needed, even if they are not due-paying members. We have an excellent, active board and by-laws by which we run the organization. We are a 501(c)4 non-profit organization and we have to file taxes as that.”
Cantrell takes pride in the organization and its many accomplishments, though when pressed, he focused on three.
“I am most proud of our newsletter,” he admitted. “When my wife, Lynn Cantrell, and I originally got involved, it was much smaller, and it cost a lot more to produce. Now we’ve also got a website, and the newsletter has slowly developed to where it is now up to 28 pages, mostly color, contains advertising which supports it, and it goes to 7,000 people in the area, four times a year.”
Second, he said, are the lively monthly general meetings and members-only social events, where neighbors meet, mingle, and get excited and involved in local issues.
Finally, Cantrell and others are active in representing the community at City Hall.
“We’re very visible at commission and other meetings, speaking about issues that affect our neighborhood, for example, the vacation rental situation,” he said. “We helped write the current ordinance that is now in effect, and which hopefully will stay in effect.”
At the HLCA April meeting, the vacation rentals were the first topic discussed. Currently, Florida state government is trying to take back the rights of the local authorities to regulate vacation rentals in residential communities, and HOAs and CAs alike are lobbying to keep that authority in the hands of the neighborhoods rather than at the state level. Members were strongly urged to write to their representatives in Tallahassee to keep that power local.
But it was the secondary topic that really got the attendees involved. Representatives of the Parks and Recreation Department came to speak about boats “squatting” in North and South Lakes, sparking a spirited debate about the designation of the Lakes as recreational areas versus installing moorings to discourage illegal anchoring and bring revenue to the county.
The meeting ended before tempers really flared, and an ad-hoc committee of concerned citizens was formed to address the situation head on. This is exactly the power and the purpose of a Civic Association.
Watch this space next month when we visit the meeting and see what’s up at the Downtown/Parkside/Royal Poinciana Civic Association.