1. What previous actions by you demonstrate that you have the honesty, integrity, ethics and personal character to be an elected official?
I have always strived to be the most honest and ethical person with integrity and strong personal character. Throughout my professional career, I have always been entrusted with important positions and many of these jobs have been with governmental entities at the federal, state, county and municipal levels.
Prior to voting on projects at the Planning and Zoning Board meetings, I thoroughly studied the back-up materials and typically drove to the sites of the existing and/or proposed projects to familiarize myself with the land and surrounding land uses. I felt this was an important step to being a conscientious board member.
The endorsements of many elected officials including: County Commissioners Kristin Jacobs and Ilene Lieberman, Clerk of Courts Howard Forman, State Representatives Jim Waldman and Kelly Skidmore, State Senator Jeremy Ring, City Commissioners Marilyn Gerber and Lou Sarbone indicate their belief that I have the honesty, integrity, ethics and personal character to be an elected official also.When County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs recently endorsed my candidacy for the Coconut Creek City Commission, she said:"Please consider this email as my official endorsement for your candidacy for Coconut Creek City Commission Dist. E. I can't think of a citizen who has given more of their personal time, energy and heart to the betterment of Coconut Creek than you. You have given freely of yourself, expecting nothing in return, save the great feeling of knowing your doing your part to move the City forward. Your inherent integrity and character will be a tremendous asset to a city which is already considered Class A. I wish you the best of luck in this new challenge!" --Kristin
When I decided to run for the city commission, I was serving on the Planning & Zoning Board. I wanted to be certain from an ethics and legal standpoint that I resigned from the board and announced my candidacy for the commission properly. Therefore, I consulted the city attorney and followed the steps required.
Through my various roles in County and Municipal Government and as a member of the City's Planning and Zoning Board, I have become educated about the Sunshine Law and have had the responsibility to follow its provisions. Several weeks ago, I also attended a Broward Days Workshop on the Sunshine Law to re-familiarize myself with the various provisions.
2. What are your top priorities if elected, including your long-term vision for the city? Do you have any city ordinances, policies, regulations or charter amendments to suggest?
My top priorities:
· Improving our bulk trash pick up program by establishing the city into quadrants for pick-ups on one of four days. It is not safe to have bulk trash sitting around for so long, which happens all too often. Advertising one day results in bulk trash being left outside for days at a time.
· Maintaining and enhancing our land development policies to ensure a continuing smart growth approach and a balance of commercial, residential and light industrial to sustain our tax base into the future.
· Helping small businesses cut through the bureaucratic maze and review policies pertaining to permit reviews and inspections.
· Keeping our parks well maintained and improve drainage on the fields, where needed. I have advocated on numerous occasions for a city park in the north end of the city with swings and a playground.
· Assuming the responsibilities of keeping our waterways clean and overseeing proper drainage by starting with the abolishment of the Cocomar Water Control District.
· Ensuring the availability of clean drinking water and identifying opportunities to utilize reused water for parks, greenways, and medians. I would like to serve on the County's Water Advisory Board to help be an important voice in the future of meeting our water needs countywide. Our sustainability is dependent on water and we constantly need to look at creative ways to respect and protect our water supply.
· Assisting mobile home owners with additional relocation assistance when mobile home parks are sold and residents are going to be displaced.
City ordinances, policies, regulations or charter amendments to suggest.Keeping City Hall closed on Fridays, especially when Holidays occur the following Mondays, is a policy that should be reviewed to ensure efficiency with the building permit process. I am hearing that there are delays with plan reviews and inspections that have some builders and business owners upset.
Since the job of Mayor currently rotates every year and is determined by the elected commissioners, I believe the next Charter Review Board should study whether or not an elected at-large mayor would be appropriate. It also may be worth studying whether the districted commissioners should continue to be elected citywide or by the voters in their respective district.
I would like to see the City of Coconut Creek assume the duties of the Cocomar Water Control District and dissolve the dependent water control district because I do not feel there is enough accountability having three people appointed by the County Commission act quickly enough to keep the waterway systems well maintained and functioning properly. The canal systems, particularly in the South Creek area of Coconut Creek, are filled with algae, dead fish and need major work. Almost ten years ago, I was Executive Director of the 1998-2000 Broward County Management and Efficiency Study Committee and we studied water control districts throughout Broward County. The Committee recommended dissolving or consolidating many water control districts and transferring responsibilities to the applicable cities.
Holding a one day City-wide Bulk Trash Pick-up is not working. Many times, my neighborhood must be one of the last to be picked up because bulk trash sits outside for several days. While the most recent bulk trash pick-up was scheduled for April 23rd, my bulk trash was not picked up until April 26th. Similar situations have happened in the past in my neighborhood also. It is often unsafe and unsanitary to leave this bulk trash outside for several days. I believe the city could be divided into four zones and assign different dates to the different zones. I spoke before the City Commission about this in 2005 and again at one of John Kelly's Town Hall workshops in April 2008.
3. Where in the city budget would you like to decrease and increase spending, and why?
The city staff does a fine job preparing a budget and has been recognized numerous times for "Excellence in Financial Reporting." Steps are well underway to review the current budget and find continuing ways to achieve cost efficiencies. I do believe there are ways, however, we can decrease and increase spending and find new opportunities for revenue.
I would like to see another code enforcement officer added who can travel the city and help ensure that code violations may be written seven days a week. Rotating zoned areas also may be a good way to have a new set of eyes reviewing the communities, particularly in certain sections of South Creek. The additional violations identified and written up will likely provide revenue to pay for the additional code officer.
I would like to see the Parks and Recreation budget evaluated to determine how the Community Center can be re-opened on Sundays for residents to utilize the Fitness Center. Many days the Community Center is relatively quiet and there are multiple staffers in the building. Schedules may need to be adjusted on certain days.
From visiting with attendees at recent municipal-sponsored concerts and movies, it is apparent that many Margate residents and visitors attend our free functions. Perhaps non-Coconut Creek residents should be charged for parking and/or attendance to help offset the costs.
4. Briefly discuss your views on these issues:a.) The performance of the city manager and how it could be improved.
John Kelly has done an outstanding job managing the City, hiring excellent department directors and sharing his environmental vision for the City. From participating in the City's recent Citizen's Academy, it is evident to me that staff morale across all departments is positive. Employees have opportunities for career advancement, higher education and training. Everyone talks about how happy they are to work for the City. As a member and immediate past Chair of the Coconut Creek Planning and Zoning Advisory Board, I have gotten to know City Manager John Kelly and many of the staff and believe they are incredible assets to the City of Coconut Creek.
Of course, no one is perfect and we can all improve our performance. The one critique I do have is that John Kelly held a meeting with city staff several months designating Deputy City Manager Dave Rivera the "heir apparent" to the job of City Manager upon his retirement with other key personnel being promoted also. I believe John should have waited to discuss this with staff until after formally submitting his retirement letter and having the City Commission discuss the future, as to whether they wanted to hire a search firm to assist in identifying suitable replacements for City Manager, advertise for applications, and/or hire from within. While Dave Rivera is an experienced administrator and a fine candidate for City Manager, this should not be a decision predetermined by the current city manager.
On April 11th, John Kelly submitted a letter announcing his retirement effective in June 2008. On April 24th, the City Commission discussed at their Workshop Meeting to have City Attorney Paul Stuart begin negotiations with Deputy City Manager Dave Rivera to become the next City Manager. A final decision will not be made until after the new commissioner is seated but I believe this workshop could have been held after the election to discuss the hiring of the next city manager.
b.) The best and worst decisions by the City Commission recently, and how its performance could be improved.
The best decision by the City Commission recently was the adoption of the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee Trust Fund. This is an innovative step to require commercial builders to contribute toward a trust fund that can be utilized to assist qualified prospective homeowners with down payments or repair existing homes. Another good decision by the City Commission was to adopt green building requirements for the Main Street area and require projects obtain LEED certification.
The worst decision of the City Commission recently was renewing a three year franchise agreement on January 10th for garbage and bulk trash pickups, hauling, disposal and recycling services without going through a bidding process.
I believe the performance of the City Commission could be improved by holding annual workshops with the Planning and Zoning Board, the Environmental Board and other Advisory Boards to discuss the City's visions for the future. One practice that occurs from time to time that disturbs me is the scheduling of certain agenda items whereby the Planning Board meets on Wednesday night and the City Commission meets the following night to discuss and act on the same item. There is not sufficient time to prepare the minutes of the Planning and Zoning Board in time for the City Commissioners to review prior to their meeting. They are relying on brief staff recollections of a meeting. If expedited actions are absolutely necessary, the applicant should pay a higher amount so that minutes can be transcribed for that particular item(s) and given to Commissioners prior to their meeting.
c.) Ways to upgrade older neighborhoods and fight blight.
The best way to upgrade older neighborhoods and fight blight is to focus on code enforcement seven days a week and encourage neighborhoods to have "Clean-Up Days." If neighbors get together on a regular basis to set aside weekend days from time to time to clean up their yards, paint their structures, and plant flowers, this will encourage others to take more pride in their community. After looking at the canals throughout the South Creek area, I also believe a neighborhood Waterway clean-up activity would improve the area. Many cities participated in the Countywide Waterway clean-up recently but Coconut Creek was not one of the cities to participate. I know there is a dredging project that just got started in Lake Julie in South Creek but much more needs to be done throughout the Coconut Creek Waterways.
Finding ways to deal with abandoned properties and properties facing foreclosures also is a big issue. There may be federal and state programs that could be utilized to assist homeowners and renovate these properties.
d.) Ways to improve city growth management, make sure services keep pace and cope with eventual buildout.
The City of Coconut Creek has done an outstanding job in managing growth thus far and putting an emphasis on diversifying the city with commercial and light industry to sustain the city's tax base into the future, balanced with the residential developments. With the Seminole Tribe potentially becoming the largest developer in the city with the expansion of the casino and the construction of a parking garage and hotel, it will be critically important to work with the Tribe to negotiate contributions to improving the road system around the Main Street area, traffic lights and other infrastructure. As long as the City can continue to take the lead role in providing water, sewer, fire and EMS services to the Casino for its expansion, hotel, parking garage, and other projects, we will be able to obtain growing funds for capital improvements that will help the City keep pace with services and cope with eventual buildout. Stronger efforts must be made to work with small business owners also to assist them through the development process. Keeping City Hall closed on Fridays, especially when Holidays occur the following Mondays, is a policy that should be reviewed. Builders and business owners have voiced concerns to me about delays with permit reviews and inspections.
e.) Ways for the city to cooperate with surrounding cities and county government.
The best ways for the City of Coconut Creek to cooperate with surrounding cities and county government are to take an active role participating in the Broward League of Cities and the Northwest Council of Mayors to network and develop good relationships with other municipal and county officials. I believe it also is important to communicate with county commissioners on a regular basis via email, phone calls and attendance at County Commission meetings. Continuing commissioner participation on the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Resource Recovery Board are also critically important to maintain and develop relationships with multiple cities and county government. I also believe commissioner service on the Broward County Planning Council and the Broward Water Advisory Board will be especially important in the years ahead.
The Coconut Creek City Commission also took a first step last Thursday, April 23rd to begin negotiations with the cities of Coral Springs, Margate and Parkland for providing automatic aid for providing fire services within the four cities.
f.) Ways to improve the city's downtown area.
Ways to improve the city's downtown area are to ensure continuing community participation in the development process by holding public forums. The city took an important step to require all new building be developed in an energy efficient manner and become LEED certified. To date, the City also has been incredibly pro-active in having a master plan prepared for the downtown Main Street (aka Creek Commons) area. While a comprehensive set of guidelines are in place, the City will allow some flexibility to continually improve projects as development techniques may change. For example, canals were initially suggested throughout the Main Street area. After the designers of the proposed Marbella project met with county staffers to discuss the canals, a more innovative design with bioswales was recommended. Another key feature is that the City Commission will have final site plan approval with these projects which differs from the rest of the city whereby the Planning and Zoning Board has final site plan approval.
g.) Ways to improve relations among different ethnic groups in the city.
There are numerous ways to improve relations among different ethnic groups in the city, beginning with a conscious effort to make the city's advisory boards more reflective of our growing community diversity. I also propose to establish a Multi-Ethnic Advisory Board to encourage persons of all ethnicities in our city to gather on a monthly basis to improve communications and respect each other's differences. I look forward to the day when the Main Street area could hold a Multi-Ethnic Cultural Festival with a sampling of foods from various nations and the opportunities to share musical and dance performances.
h.) Your thoughts on proposed annexations of unincorporated areas, if any.
In order to meet the Florida Legislature's goal that all unincorporated areas be either annexed into existing cities or incorporated as new municipalities by 2010, annexation of the Hillsboro Pines area into the City of Coconut Creek is a key goal in the immediate future. No other city providing services or forming a new city is realistic. My own neighborhood of Country Woods is bordered on two sides by several pockets of unincorporated residential areas in Hillsboro Pines. I believe it is important to urge the Broward County Board of County Commissioners to create a new "Partnership Committee" comprised of municipal and county leaders and staff, as well as unincorporated area neighborhood organization representatives and surrounding Coconut Creek homeowners' association representatives.
Similar to what had been done in 2002 for other unincorporated areas, the Partnership Committee could discuss inter-local agreements for garbage pick-up, cable television, police, fire and EMS services that should result in cost savings to the County. With the County currently providing services to small pockets of residential areas, the expenses must be exorbitant. I believe we should immediately work toward establishing an annexation plan and encourage inter-local agreements for the City to provide services to the Hillsboro Pines areas. The Partnership Committee also can identify infrastructure projects (for water and sewer) and issues that need to be addressed. There are code enforcement challenges in these areas that need to be improved and businesses providing services to the public that may need to be "grandfathered in."
In May 2005, I attended a Coconut Creek City Commission meeting and raised the annexation issue and volunteered to assist. I was never contacted in this regard. While several piecemeal annexations of large homes and acreage have occurred in recent years that have helped the City's tax base, several newer residents of unincorporated areas have signed voluntary annexations to come into the City. I believe these annexations correctly have been stalled by the Legislature. During the past few years, I have spoken to Sandy Harris, Executive Director of the Broward Legislative Delegation, several times conveying my opposition to the City's voluntary "cherry-picking" approach to annexation. A new Legislative Delegation-directed Annexation Committee is needed this year to help ensure the unincorporated areas are annexed in a rational and timely manner.
Twenty-five years ago, I was an annexation consultant to the City of Coconut Creek for several months after gaining valuable experience with the annexation and local bill process while working for the Broward Legislative Delegation. I assisted the City in preparing an expansive proposal for the annexation of lands that was successfully approved by the Broward Legislative Delegation and the Florida Legislature. I am willing to actively participate in Annexation Committees to help ensure a smooth transition of the Hillsboro Pines areas into the City of Coconut Creek.
5. How can city government become more responsive, accountable, streamlined, efficient, productive and user-friendly?
City government could become more responsive by dividing the city into quadrants and establishing a Bulk-Trash program lasting four days.
City government could become more accountable by televising City Commission meetings and/or making the meetings viewable via the Internet.
City government could become more streamlined by abolishing the Cocomar Water Control district and assuming the responsibilities for drainage and canal clean-ups.
City government could become more efficient by reviewing the policy for a four-day work week and providing building services for permit reviews and inspections on Fridays.
City government could become more productive by utilizing more advisory committees and continually encouraging residents to serve on city boards.
City government could become more user-friendly by providing more detailed city commission agendas, particularly with multi-part Selection and Evaluation Committee items in the purchase of goods and services.
6. What should be done to increase public trust in government and voter turnout in city elections?
Increasing public trust in government will take the willingness of all city commissioners to be true to their words and to respect the opinions and recommendations of their constituents.
One way to increase voter turnout in city elections may occur if regular city elections are held in Novembers of even numbered years when other general elections are held. However, I am not convinced that November is the best time to hold municipal elections because ballots are often quite long and municipal elections would be typically near the end of a ballot.
While basic information does exist on the City's website about the forthcoming election, there is no detailed information about each candidate. All four candidates could have been asked to provide a fact sheet. Other ways to encourage voter turnout are to place banners and/or signs throughout the city highlighting the city election date and encouraging residents to vote. I would like to see information on the City's website about the ease of obtaining an absentee ballot by calling the Supervisor of Elections office at 954.357.7050.
I provided contact information for obtaining an absentee ballot on my initial literature and posters. My campaign also distributed hundreds of self-addressed postcards to the Broward Supervisor of Elections so that registered voters could request absentee ballots for the May 6th special election.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my goals and ideas with you. I ask for your endorsement of my candidacy to the Coconut Creek City Commission, Dist. E.Copyright © 2015, CT Now