A Meeting of the Minds

History has to start somewhere…

…and the entrance to Historic Town Hall is an apropos setting for the founders of the recently formed group, Citizens Requiring Accountability from Politicians.

Sue & Jim Lloyd, John & Marisol Mede, Debbie & Brent Headberg

These Lake Park neighbors are the founding members of the group, and have been taking a stand, speaking out and holding town leaders accountable, both individually and as a group. As more neighbors and residents begin to see there are “concerned others” out there who are actively working to keep things in check, the group’s numbers have begun to grow.

Last night, eight concerned residents were on hand, along with a few Town employees and officials, to listen as Town Manager, Maria Davis spoke on the topic of Lake Park’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

The meeting came about after resident, Susan Lloyd, made public comments questioning the CRA at last week’s town commission meeting. The Town Manager, in the hope of changing Mrs. Lloyd’s perception of the CRA and with the intention of setting her straight about the particulars in regard to this government agency, invited her along with others to an informational meeting on the topic. At the meeting, Ms. Davis provided a history of the CRA in Lake Park, and the residents were provided an opportunity to ask questions and get some insight into where the town leaders stand on this facet of Lake Park government.

In the end, how one feels about the CRA tends to boil down to the individual’s belief about the role of government. Those who support the CRA tend to favor more government. They see the Community Redevelopment Agency as a great thing for the town. They believe that through the CRA they have a better shot at getting businesses into town and getting those businesses growing through government intervention. By helping fund town businesses through advertising, events and by procuring grant money from county, state and federal agencies (also your taxes), they hope to increase the number of businesses in the CRA district and thereby boost revenue. It’s a redistributive technique, in a manner of speaking, whereby those within CRA boundaries are “helped along” by property owner taxes which we as residents pay. These are in addition to myriad other taxes we pay at the town, county, state and national level that end up going toward these “free money” grants.

Those on the other side of the fence feel that supply and demand best decide what will or won’t work in regard to business, and they would question why our town continues to make the CRA the major thrust of their time, effort and our money. Why continue this expensive endeavor, especially when after years of this effort empty store fronts and complicated accounting procedures leave a whole host of questions floating about?

To many, the troubling thing about the CRA is that in order to fund it, the town pays  a TIF (Tax Increment Fund). This is based on town property values and is also supplemented by a county TIF. However, for years our town government, not knowing the obligation they were under (in having a CRA which existed but was doing little) from 1999 to 2006, under state statutes, ran up a whopping $2,103,159.00 delinquency in penalties and interest. As a result, the town owes a remaining balance of $853,159.00 to this agency, which according to their handbook and their webpage, “costs the taxpayers nothing”. The town was only obligated to pay the interest, and by a simple resolution of the town commission to not pay the penalty, could have/ should have saved the taxpayers $69,501! Members of C.R.A.P. want to know why such an action is not the first item on the next commission meeting’s agenda.

Add to this, the never-ending procurement of grants (Please see previous post “Free Money Fairytales, Part One” for more on this topic). Grants come with binding strings attached which limit our freedom, and there are also usually added costs and innumerable complications as a result. By the way, the Town Manager and Finance Director are committed to the CRA for 30 years! All of this has implications for us as residents and affects what we can and cannot do in the future. Clearly this is an issue which requires further research and a whole lot more attention by Lake Park residents. We hope you will make it an item of interest and concern and join us as we look more closely at the CRA.

The meeting is over, but as days go by, we will be bringing you news and information on this topic and how it affects you, your town and your wallet. If you would like to join those of us holding our town politicians accountable, please call John Mede. His contact information is provided on the blog’s sidebar to the right.

All in all, it was a historic night in the life of Citizens Requiring Accountability from Politicians. Our “citizens” stepped up once again, unabashedly, and did what they set out to do by requiring accountability from Lake Park politicians. Bravo Citizens! Thank you.

Thanks to Jim and Sue Lloyd and Brent Headberg for much of the information in this post.