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Monday, July 3, 2017

#SharingEconomy - Hollywood City Commission's 2nd hearing on its latest version of its ill-considered Vacation Rental legislation come up Monday afternoon. Will reasonable compromise and specificity finally trump arrogance and greed? Would be nice for a change! #tourism

#SharingEconomy - Hollywood City Commission's 2nd hearing on its latest version of its ill-considered Vacation Rental legislation come up Monday afternoon. 
Will reasonable compromise and specificity finally trump arrogance and greed? Would be nice for a change! #tourism

Updated on July 3rd at 2:55 PM -see bottom

I'm writing this blog post on Sunday night, the night before the Hollywood City Commission's second hearing on its latest version of its ill-considered Vacation Rental legislation, agenda item #34. Meeting starts promptly at 1 PM. 

There is clearly a case to be made on Monday afternoon for compromise and reasonable, achievable legislation that resolves most of the legitimate concerns of Hollywood City Hall, pacifies the angry, vituperative and influential neighbors from Hollywood Lakes, and, of course, helps raise the morale and hopes of very-concerned Airbnb hosts, who for months have wanted greater specificity and yet were made had to fly under-the-radar like they were Public Enemy Number One, because of the consistently unfair and one-sided manner that this issue has been publicly handled and presented in Hollywood (and Broward) for far too long.

Having read every single article about Vacation Rentals that has appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times or Florida Trend magazine of the past three years, and checked the video archives of WFOR, NBC6, WSVN and Local10, all before the city of Hollywood's pubic presentation one month ago, I can vouch that I was right all along in my thinking even before I started doing my research.

This area of Florida is rich in public officials and bureaucrats eager to appear in public to be seen as playing the role of vigilant defenders of neighborhood Quality of Life, but behind 
closed doors, they play their preferred role of thinly-disguised holdup men, eager for a big score of cold hard cash at the expense of Airbnb, travel hosts and others for the public kitty.
More money to spend on stuff!

No matter what individual travel hosts say at the hearing, compelling or not, regardless of whom they are affiliated with, or even what Tom Martinelli, the head of Public Policy in Florida for Airbnb might say or suggest at the meeting that sounds logical or inspired, the die is already cast.
The electeds and the bureaucrats will be the ones wearing the White Hats afterward, not anyone else, even if you are the one who saves a deal that threatens to come apart because of their greed or desire to be shown driving a hard bargain against big, bad Airbnb & Company.
Our South Florida pols and bureaucrats, they sure do love them some straw men!

In public, they expect hosts and the Vacation Rental industry to jump thru their hoops and be happy about it, and for others to provide enormous amounts of information to them, while they in turn are vague about what they can give interested individuals and groups in the way of information or assurances.
Or conveniently forget about past promises to treat everyone fairly.

Having gone to so many Hollywood City Commission meetings over the years, and about 85% of the ones held since the November election brought two new faces to the dais, Mayor Josh Levy and District 1 Commissioner Debra Case, I must say that I was NOT at all prepared that at the first hearing on this matter that so many Hollywood Commissioners appeared so publicly tone-deaf and myopic. 
Even to the idea of multiple competing companies cooperating on an issue past a certain point not being seen as a possible cause for anti-trust or legal action by someone.
It was just par for the course as this issue has chugged along.
They just don't see the bigger issues involved, just their own POV.

For those of you who are new to this issue or who might've forgotten what led to this point, one month ago I wrote an honest and well-circulated account of the city's quite disastrous dog-and-pony show led by Laurie Mertens-Black, the closest thing to a lynch mob I have ever seen in Hollywood -at least in a civic setting.

The many Hollywood Police who were there seemed not at all interested in preventing the constant verbal threats and taunts that filled the air as you would reasonably expect. 
That's how nuts it was.
I urge you to take a look at it before tomorrow's meeting starts.

Updated: A veritable trainwreck of a public meeting. Wednesday's embarrassing 

Vacation Rental Ordinance Amendment presentation at Hollywood City Hall was 

not a pretty sight by any stretch of the imagination


Now you can guess why I didn't speak that night?
Why I didn't ask any of the dozen of good questions that I had researched and written out in advance, just in case we had to hand in our questions instead of being able to ask them ourselves, an oft-used trick in South Florida political and govt. circles to prevent well-informed citizens from being able to ask hard questions.
Or even more importantly, follow-up questions!

Speaking truth to power is not now or ever been a problem for me, but doing so at the same time as I feel like I'm hitting my head against a wall -and accomplishing nothing- is a different thing altogether.
I chose to save my powder and live to fight another day.

When I'm finished here, I'll be sending out some 125-odd emails around -and some tweets via my Twitter handle, @hbbtruthto some local TV & print reporters to persuade, induce or otherwise get them to show up and give an honest account of what transpires Monday afternoon, instead of following the now-familiar Miami TV narrative of finding the angriest "citizen" in the room, and then making that person and their particular case/cause/issue the new "norm."

Besides being guided by my own personal opinions about how this particular 
#sharingeconomy issue has been handled, poorly, as it has been in almost every city after another in South Florida -to say nothing of poorly covered by the South Florida news media- by trying to adopt a one-size-fits-all mindset, instead of trying to go after persistent bad actors who comprise a disproportionate share of all complaints, I'm also guided by my own personal experiences with Airbnb, as well as other guests who have used it in this area and throughout South Florida and Europe.

Take my word for it, I have talked with them for HOURS about their Airbnb experiences as well as what they like and dislike about the South Florida, Broward and Fort Lauderdale
and Hollywood hospitality and tourism scene.
I only wish the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau did as much talking to actual travelers as I do, since it's clear that follow up and understanding consumers is NOT high on their list of things to do.
Perhaps if the CVB did as much talking with paying consumers s I have, they would realize how much travelers to our area feel taken advantage of, especially at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

As it happens, I am very, very close to someone who is a very successful Airbnb host in the area. I would likely have brought her with me to the last City Commission meeting on this issue except for the fact that she was traveling in Europe then.
Staying at Airbnb properties while there, of course.

if anyone wants to have some pre-game talk about all of this, I'll be in the lobby outside Hollywood City Hall Chambers about 30 minutes prior to the meeting, in what is Hollywood's de facto 'spin room.'





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