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The Fort Lauderdale Forum Our Unique Civic Resource

Rob Dressler receiving honors for his service and stewardship of the Fort Lauderdale Forum group from new Forum Vice President, Lloyd Rhodes. Photo courtesy of Art Seitz. Rob Dressler receiving honors for his service and stewardship of the Fort Lauderdale Forum group from new Forum Vice President, Lloyd Rhodes. Photo courtesy of Art Seitz.

Have you ever wished you could enjoy informed, balanced discussions of important local issues with a group of friendly, interesting people, all for free? You can, at The Fort Lauderdale Forum.

Robert A. Dressler President Emeritus The Fort Lauderdale Forum.Robert A. Dressler President Emeritus The Fort Lauderdale Forum.Like the Forum of ancient Rome, the goal of The Fort Lauderdale Forum is to "provide a place for reasoned discussion of current issues affecting the lives of citizens in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County". The Forum is a non-profit, non-partisan organization which provides informational programs that are open to the public at no cost or obligation.

Background
The Forum was founded by former City Commissioner Jack Latona in 2003 as a place where small group of interested people could gather to discuss local issues. Jack asked me to take over in 2007, and I built on his concept by increasing attendance and expanding the program focus.

As the attendance grew, the Forum became a non-profit corporation, established a web site (www.FTLForum.org) and an annual "Sponsorship" program to cover costs. However, the Forum's application for tax-exempt status as an educational organization was apparently an innocent victim of the IRS political targeting scandal.

Programs
Since 2007, the Forum has hosted over 50 programs, covering a wide variety of subjects.
Many of the Forum's programs have focused on Fort Lauderdale, with panel discussions on such issues as the local economy, the budget and taxes, police and fire pensions, education, historic preservation, climate change, updates on the Beach and the Downtown/Urban Core, and an annual City Update by the Mayor and City Manager.

In 2008, the Forum hosted a series of discussions with former City officials and community activists which ultimately led to a city-wide visioning process and the Vision Plan for 2035, "Fast Forward Fort Lauderdale!", which was adopted by the City Commission last year and now guides all City decisions.

Other programs have discussed local history, including the City's Centennial, the rise and fall of Spring Break, and "Restoring the Shine" about the visioning process and bond issue of the 1980's that laid the groundwork for much of modern Fort Lauderdale. An annual "authors' panel" in April has showcased a dozen local fiction writers, including Jonathon King, Christine Kling, Deborah Sharp, Mel Taylor, and Gene Cryer.

The Forum's most recent programs dealt with controversial subjects like domestic surveillance by the NSA and whether
Florida should legalize marijuana for medical purposes, an issue which will be on the November ballot.

The Future
I retired at the end of 2013, but the Forum continues with a talented new Board: President, Alan Gabriel; Vice-Presidents/Programs: Peg Buchan and Lloyd Rhodes; Treasurer, Howard Elfman; Secretary/ Communications, Kathryn Dressler.

The next Forum program will be on February 26, with a "Crystal Ball" panel of local business leaders discussing the future of our local economy, followed by a panel discussion of the health care law in March, the authors' panel in April and the City Update in May. Forum programs are held from 7:30-8:45 am on the fourth Wednesday of most months at Broward College in downtown Fort Lauderdale. For more information, visit online at www.FTLForum.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to the email notice list.

Robert A. Dressler
President Emeritus
The Fort Lauderdale Forum

Publisher’s Note: Fort Lauderdale Media Associates, Inc. is proud to be a sponsor of the Fort Lauderdale Forum. We want to extend our ‘Thanks!’ and ‘Best Wishes!’ to Rob and to his colleague and founder of the Forum, Jack Latona, for their support and editorial contributions to CITYVIEW Magazine. You two are the best!

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