Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Deerfield Beach District 2 Community Meeting June 21, 2011

Last night’s community meeting went really well.  I would have liked more District 2 residents to have attended, but you have to be grateful that at least a few of us are interested in working toward a better future for our community.

The meeting was called to order at about 7:05 p.m. with the opening prayer by Mr. Ben Preston, candidate for District 2 City Commissioner.
We began with a discussion on the CODB Commission Agenda for Tuesday June 21, 2011.  We discussed the below agenda items:

#12 RESOLUTION-FIRE ASSESSMENT FEE: The City renewing the annual rate of $135 for residents and the rates for commercial, institution, and industrial/warehouse.

The City Manager is hereby directed to prepare, or cause to be prepared, an updated Assessment Roll for the Fiscal Year commencing October 1, 2011, in the manner provided in the Ordinance. The updated Assessment Roll shall include all Tax Parcels within the Property Use Categories, including those Buildings located on a parcel of Institutional Property whose Building use is wholly exempt from ad valorem taxation under Florida law, which properties have been exempted from the Fire Rescue Assessment program in the past, but will be included within the definition of Assessed Property for the Fiscal Year beginning October 1, 2011. The City Manager shall apportion the estimated Fire Rescue Assessed Cost to be recovered through Fire Rescue Assessments in the manner set forth in this Preliminary Rate Resolution.

I have spoken with Miguel Agustin, CODB Assistant Finance Director, and he indicated that the above language related to the inclusion of properties, namely churches and non-profits, that were previously exempt from the Fire Assessment Fee in the assessment roll was an oversight by the City and these properties will not be included in the assessment roll and therefore will remain exempted from the fees.  I went by the City this morning and obtained a copy of the revised ordinance from the City Clerk.

#13 RESOLUTION-PRIVATE CLUBS: The City is looking to impose a mandated closing time for establishments that qualify as “private clubs”, such as the Legion Hall, to close by 2am and to make all owner/operators of said establishments responsible for removing loiterers who intoxicated from their premises.

          SEC. 6-35. PRIVATE CLUBS.
Private clubs at which alcoholic beverages are, or are available to be, sold, dispensed, consumed, possessed or offered for sale or consumption on the premises shall be required to be closed between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday and between the hours of 3:00 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. on Sunday.
It shall be unlawful for any intoxicated person to loiter in and about the premises used or occupied by a private club, and it shall be the duty of the operator of the private club to remove such intoxicated persons from the premises.

#33 GENERAL ITEMS-RESOLUTION/QUALIFIED TARGET INDUSTRY: The City of Deerfield is looking to approve Federated Precision, Inc,  a manufacturer of  aviation parts, funds to entice them into setting up their headquarters here in the City through this program, which provides a tax refund of $3,000/job created in a qualified area to the company.  The tax refund is shared between the Federal Gov’t, the County, and the City.   Federated Precision Inc. has stated they would bring 66 jobs to the local economy.

Approval for participation in the QTI program would allow Federated Precision Inc. a $3,000 tax refund per qualified, high paying job created and a $2,000 per job bonus for creating jobs in the highly desired manufacturing sector. The expense of the tax refund is shared through a partnership between the host city, county and state, with the State of Florida contributing 80%, Broward County contributing 10% and the City of Deerfield Beach contributing the remaining 10%. Federated Precision qualifies for $330,000 in QTI tax refunds. If approve d, the State of Florida would contribute $264,000 while Broward County and the City of Deerfield Beach would contribute $33,000 each.  These funds are paid out by the   three parties over a period of between four (4) and six (6) years, depending on the rate of job creation by the company. This translates into payments in the range of from $5,500 - $8,250 annually, depending on the rate that new jobs are created. Additional job creation above and beyond this agreement is not included in this approval.  The City of Deerfield faces no financial risk of not receiving return on its investment as this is a performance based program. In other words, if the company doesn’t create jobs, the City of Deerfield does not pay its contribution   toward the incentive. The company will recruit heavily locally and will also rely on job training and referrals through Workforce One and local colleges and universities.  The company is ready to make a facility location decision based on the outcome of the City of Deerfield’s commitment to participate in the funding of the QTI incentive. The City must make its commitment via Resolution to begin the process.  If approved, a similar request will be placed on the 6/28/2011 Broward County Commission Agenda for consideration.

This would seem to be a good thing as long as the job creation actually benefits the local economy.  At this time there is no safeguard in place to ensure that this happens.  The company just has to go through the process of local hiring, but no guarantees are made that they hire locally. 

Following the discussion on these agenda items a small impromptu forum was held between Ben Preston, Gloria Battle and me. 

The question was related to the QTI ordinance.  Ben Preston started it off by stating that if he were District 2 Commissioner and resident he wants D2 to be able to compete on the same level as the other three districts.  To accomplish this he would speak with City Manager to implement an aesthetics project to beautify the District and then he would talk to Chief Sudler to ensure that BSO would increase patrols to ensure security and safety for the businesses and the residents.  He stated that he would offer potential new businesses tax incentives to get them to locate to D2.  He gave an example of a graduated tax scale for the first 4 years with the business being exempt from (City) taxes the first year and bringing them to 100% full tax payments within a set time span.  He also indicated that he would sit with the businesses and the City Manager to suggest that the majority of new hires come from within D2 and Deerfield Beach. 

Gloria Battle spoke next and she indicated that would put a strong emphasis on the Dixie Highway Corridor, which she indicated still has parcels of land that are privately owned by D2 residents whose families have had the land for years.  She indicated that she would like to see the land leased by the land owners to potential businesses, that way both parties benefit.  The business benefits from obtaining the prime real estate in D2 and the resident/landowner benefits because it becomes a revenue source for them and their descendants as long as they maintain ownership of the leased properties.  She indicated that she would look to impose a mandated hiring requirement that a percentage of new hires must come from D2 and Deerfield Beach on any new business to the district to ensure that D2 employment candidates are seriously considered for hiring.  Ms. Battle also indicated that District 2 is primarily composed of Single and Multi-Family residents and the Commercial properties are limited, so we have to capitalize on the available land in the district.

I advised that I agree with both their ideas, however, what both left out is a discussion with the residents.  I advised that we need to go “back to the basics” because BSO and the City can only do so much with regard to aesthetics and security.  Aesthetically, the City can do many things in the district, but if the residents are not on board with the decision(s) then vandalism and crime will continue deterring businesses from coming to the district.  I advised that the Duly-elected Commissioner has to be willing and able to communicate with “ALL” their constituents and explain to them in no uncertain terms that if you want jobs, we have the opportunity to have businesses come to our district but the City needs our help.  We have to begin by cleaning up our yards and if need be help in our neighbors yard and the City will begin properly maintaining its properties in the district.  An Open and Honest conversation must be had explaining that businesses, and therefore jobs, will not come if they are afraid of our community.  This open dialogue must be initiated to ensure the growth and prosperity of the district.  I continued on to say that while this is being done, we must bring in businesses that will service the community and that will provide a benefit, job opportunity and a service to the residents of the district, as well as appeals to the needs of Deerfield Beach.  This will bring needed tax revenue for the District and the City.  I went further to indicate that at the June 7 City Commission Meeting when the City Manager stated that figures in ad valorem revenue per district he did not explain that district 2 is comprised of residents and does not have as many commercial properties and businesses as the other districts.  We as residents of district 2 have to go back to the basics and rebuild our foundation to compel the City and entice potential new businesses to seriously consider our district for business development, but this must be done sensibly and with the best interest of the current residents in mind.

After the candidates spoke, the floor was opened up to the public and a discussion ensued.  Pam Millitello addressed the group and advised that when she was Commissioner, before the redistricting when part of the current District 2 was included with District 1, she drove her district and she saw the blight located on City owned properties and she persistently contacted the City Manager and Public works to have it cleaned.  She indicated that only because she was adamant about the City taking care of the problem on their land did something happen.  David Cohen spoke and advised that the problem is not the City’s, but the residents and the people who are dumping.  He indicated that the residents of District 2 need to clean up after themselves.  It was made abundantly clear to Mr. Cohen that many times the residents are not the culprits behind the dumping, people and businesses come from different districts and dump in open spaces and on City property.  I explained to Mr. Cohen that regardless of who did it, it is the City’s job to clean up the swells, their land, and all other properties that our tax dollars are paying for them to clean.  I referenced the scenario given by Bill Ganz about the complaints he received from District 4 residents about their bulk trash being scattered by unknowns and it making the area look bad.  He indicated that Sanitation still comes by and picks up the mess to ensure that his district remains aesthetically pleasing.  We all pay the same in garbage fees and therefore we should all receive the same service.  David Cohen protested and stated that the residents of District 4 clean up their properties and I advised him that per Ganz’s story he indicated that the Sanitation Dept. cleaned it up not the residents with their bare hands that Mr. Cohen would have us believe.  He then asked “what do you do about the abandoned properties?” and I explained to him that this is also the City’s job.  We have Code Enforcement for that and therefore, it is the City’s job to clean it up and then go after the property owner, not just leave the property blighted because they can’t bill someone.  Mr. Cohen agreed and told a story about an incident that happened to him when dealing with Code Enforcement.  It was brought to the group’s attention that the City also has properties that are not up to code with regard to the height of vegetation, i.e. overgrown weeds and grasses, which would get anyone else cited by Code Enforcement.  We finished this topic with the understanding that the City contributes to the blight in District 2 and that it will be up to us, the residents, to ensure the City begins enforcing its own code on the offending people, residents and itself. 

[I will be going out and taking pictures of the City properties that are not up to code, to show the City at the next meeting in August.]

I advised the group that no matter who wins, the City and any and all groups that receive Federal monies need to do a better job in advertising their programs to “ALL” the people who the funds were intended to benefit.  Historically, this has not been done affectively and therefore those who would need the assistance most have been left out.  This lack of free-flowing information has contributed to the environment within “our little town” that has seen three elected officials jailed and other organizations investigated for possible fraud and corruption.

I also explained that the City’s public meetings need to be opened up to the public for input, like all major cities in Broward have done.  Although the law under Florida Statute 286.011 does not explicitly give the public the right to speak at “public meeting” under the Sunshine Law, many Cities have implemented a process for the public to be included in the decision making process and since Deerfield Beach does not have an actual rule on the books limiting the the topic of public speech at Commission Meetings (see resolution 2007/052), the public needs to be allowed to participate in the decision making process.  The Deerfield Beach Commission has a historical record of not doing the right thing, as made evident by the June 21, 2011 statements made by Bill Ganz about the lack of “intestinal fortitude”.  The current process discourages the public from participation and when it should be encouraging us.

We also discussed the need for District 2 residents to get on and vote and Absentee ballot request were handed out.  I advised that the deadline to request absentee ballots is Wednesday July 13, 2011.  I informed the group if they need to they can call me or one of the other candidates and we will pick up the completed, signed, and sealed ballot and deliver it to the BSOE office.  We, all three candidates in attendance, agreed that it would be in the best interest of our district to have a good voter turnout so we can regain our power within Deerfield and show that we are ready to participate and deserve an equal place at the table in this municipality.

Meeting adjourned at 8:28pm

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