Monday, July 20, 2009

Special City Commission Meeting - 5:30 p.m. today re Future of CRA

Tonight is when we find out what the disposition of the CRA will be. At issue is whether the CRA board will continue to be an independent board appointed with volunteer citizens as it is now, or if it will be absorbed by the City Commission. Back on June 8th, interviews were to be held where more than 30 people, many with strong qualifications, planned to be interviewed. These people were turned around at the door with little notice the day of the meeting that the very future of the CRA as an independent board was at stake.

The reason for the abrupt turn about stems from an issue related to the terms of CRA board members. State statute requires staggered terms for a CRA board so that the make-up of a board is not radically altered from one appointment cycle to another - something that promotes continuity and institutional memory - commodities that Lake Worth is usually short on. Had the City Commission gone ahead, it appeared that the new appointments would not have been staggered and the possibility existed that six (6) new people could have been appointed to the seven (7) member board at one time. This non-staggered term issue was a long standing one. Staff and the city attorney were asked to research how it came to be long before the June 8th meeting. True to form, information on the how and a little bit about the why came late in the week before the June 8th meeting.

Even though take-over of the CRA was never mentioned during two joint CRA/City Commission meetings earlier this year, Vice Mayor Golden, project manager of the Lake Worth CDC used this as an opportunity to grab control of CRA money and consolidate power. Here is an excerpt from the minutes of the June 8th meeting:

You may recall the Vice Mayor Golden's agency applied to the CRA for a $300,000 grant or forgivable loan after her previous failed attempt to take over the functions of the CRA. Regarding the reference to "turmoil" - I'm not sure what she meant about various members of the CRA being in turmoil. In the year that I have served on the CRA, I haven't experienced any turmoil. Our discussions have always been focused on the issue at hand and up until recently, communication with the City Commission has been better than in the past.

The Commission was about to take action right then and there, but then decided it would be best to give proper notice of such a takeover - thus we have the meeting tonight.

Here is how Commissioner Jennings saw this possibility - taken from the minutes:

I guess Commissioner Jennings sees this either as an opportunity to make political appointments - not based on whether or not an applicant has knowledge of redevelopment. It seems like some of the discussion tonight will revolve around the CRA becoming an advisory board - one that makes recommendations to the City Commission.

We'll see what happens tonight. Click title for link to complete back-up material.