Monday, February 5, 2018

Note. This is a “work in progress”.
Please check back tomorrow
for more information.

The blog post below addresses the question, “After the elections next March, time for a big decision: Should the City of Lake Worth take over the CRA?”

First off, when the City of Lake Worth’s Community Redevelopment Agency is disbanded, which is likely in the not-too-distant future, this City of Lake Worth needs to pay honor and tribute to remind present as well as future residents of this City about all the hard work, effort and dedication by the ever-professional Staff and Director of the CRA, Joan Oliva.

For some background, know that it was Yours Truly, Wes Blackman, who as a volunteer board member of the CRA made the motion to go forward with Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP-2) back in 2009. For some perspective, that was many years prior to the current beat reporter sent to this City from The Palm Beach Post. I think the beat reporter back then was Willie Howard. And I think Andrew Marra was still on the Post editorial board too.

What’s interesting now is all the news about all the new business establishments opening up in this City of Lake Worth. Ironically, as bad as things were back in 2009, nine years later it’s The Palm Beach Post that is “up for sale” while so many businesses are choosing to invest in this City of Lake Worth.

One can see how the Lake Worth CRA can become a last minute target leading up to Election Day. This is nothing new. It’s sort of like a tradition now in this City. I’ve been a quite frequent critic of the CRA. And I’ve also been a very big fan of the CRA. I believe the CRA has made some big mistakes and think they’ve made a lot of very good decisions as well.

But all-in-all, at the end of the day, our City of Lake Worth is a much better place today because of all the hard work by Joan Oliva and the CRA and why this City needs to start planning for the biggest party and tribute ever if it does come to pass our Community Redevelopment Agency does get taken over by the Lake Worth City Commission.

The political battle over CRAs is shaping up to be a huge one this year. Below is just one of the many news items resurrected recently to remind everyone about what’s to come up soon in Tallahassee. From Kate Payne at WFSU News, “Lawmaker Repeats Call For CRA Transparency, Accountability”:

     Under [District 57 State Representative Jake] Rayburn’s bill, CRAs would have to conduct ethics training, open competitive bids, and file annual performance reports. Agencies would have to post project lists and funding plans, as well as changes in property values and vacancy rates.
     The bill would also phase out active CRAs by September 2038 or earlier. And the Legislature would approve any new CRAs, instead of local governments.
     The bill is largely similar to a House plan that emerged last session, but failed to get traction in the Senate.

Remember, the ultimate success of a CRA is to go out of business; no longer be necessary.

Are we reaching that point when the City needs to say “Thank You” to the Lake Worth CRA and take it over? Who can better allocate that tax revenue going forward, elected officials who deal with constituents every single day or the un-electeds at the CRA?

Consider this:

  • Beginning this March elected members to the City Commission will begin serving 3-year terms (Commissioner Andy Amoroso was unopposed and will automatically serve a 3 year term). The hope is this will create a more deliberative body without the pressure having to run for election every two years.
  • Our City Commission received a well-deserved pay raise. The reasoning by City Manager Michael Bornstein is this will attract a better pool of candidates and retain the most qualified people to run for seats on the Commission. We’ll know if that’s true on Election Day, March 13th.
  • April 16th, 2018 will mark Bornstein’s 6th year as the city manager. A positive sign of stability and good management.
  • Last month, January 2018, will mark 10 years running the CRA by Exec. Director Joan Oliva. Back in 2008 the City was “dysfunction junction” and Oliva was a big part of changing all that.
So. Back to the question, after the elections next March — and if the City Commission continues its positive trajectory — is it time for the City to take over and capture that tax revenue from the CRA?

A lot will depend on what the voters do next March.

However. . . it should be noted, taking into consideration the last 25–30 years of Lake Worth political history, these last 5 years have been a welcome but very unusual time of political stability, comparatively speaking.