Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Math and Politics in Lake Worth - Upside-down and Backwards

I attended most of the City Commission meeting last night, leaving after the New Business items on the agenda. Only in Lake Worth would the saving of $250,000 be confused with excessive spending. That's right - saving considered spending - welcome to the world as viewed by Commissioner Cara Jennings.

Allow me to explain. During the past fiscal year (07-09), the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funded overtime police patrols within the CRA district to the tune of $185,000. That money was paid as part of an Interlocal Agreement from the CRA to the city. It was also done at the urging of Commissioner Cara Jennings - including an in-person plea for that funding at the first CRA meeting that I attended as a member last June. Here is an excerpt from the minutes of that meeting:

The feeling was that crime was out of control and the City Commission couldn't fund the desperately needed money for additional police coverage, especially within the CRA district. That vote was unanimous. Commissioner Jennings ended up using it on her website and campaign materials as one of her accomplishments. This from her campaign website:

When the CRA adopted its 08-09 budget, it reserved an increased amount of $340,000 towards Community Policing - doubling the previous fiscal year amount. However, in October 2008, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office took over policing duties in the city of Lake Worth - something that Commissioner Cara Jennings was against and voted "no" on the agreement. In essence, the CRA put in reserve $340,000 which would have been given to the Lake Worth Police Department had the takeover by the Sheriff's department not happened. In the world according to Commissioner Jennings, that money would have been GONE if her side prevailed on the Sheriff's contract.

Nearly everyone notices a drastically increased level of service and visibility since the Sheriff takeover. Thus, the CRA acted in January to reduce that $340,000 amount to $90,000 - a savings of $250,000 - and simply fund one officer to patrol within the CRA district, interact with code enforcement and be flexible as to the CRA's priorities. More bang for the buck and the ability to fine tune what that officer is doing - instead of throwing money ($340,000) down the rat hole. We may have never seen the benefit of that contribution had we stayed with the Lake Worth Police Department.

The details of which are laid out in this transmittal memorandum from staff to the CRA, which was the basis for a 6 to 1 vote to approve the reduction to $90,000.

Commissioner Jennings had this item placed on last night's City Commission agenda - after the fact - and declared the $90,000 to the Sheriff's office as an example of "excessive spending" on the part of the CRA.

Earth to Commissioner Jennings: Had you gotten your way with keeping the Lake Worth Police Department that amount would have been $340,000!

These substantial savings amount to one of the benefits of going with the Sheriff's department but Commissioner Jennings will never admit that. No, instead she chooses to grandstand on the issue. I tried to explain this to Commissioner Jennings' sidekick Annabeth Karson last night, but she had a hard time understanding English. Please tell your friends and neighbors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Chicken Little, aka lynn-a.blogspot, has a very different (wrong) take on the issue. I'm glad you're here Wes. Simple logic is very much needed in this city. Thank you.