How will you address the budgetary shortfalls caused by the loss of the Better Jacksonville Plan, as well as the proposed amendments that change property tax exemptions? What is your plan to preserve the levels-of-service for Jacksonville Beach residents?
The revenue from the Better Jacksonville Plan, which is current roughly $2.3 million dollars, will end in 2030. At that time, the ½ cent tax will be shifted to pay into Jacksonville’s pension plans. This would mean that we, as residents of Jacksonville Beach, would be paying into two pension plans, one for our first responders and one for theirs. I would insist that the new City Manager form an agreement with the City of Jacksonville to ensure that Jacksonville continues to reimburse Jacksonville Beach for its share of the ½ cent sales revenues, which is currently done under the Better Jacksonville Plan.
As for the Save Our Homes amendment, if it passes in November, the financial impact on Jacksonville Beach will be more than a $500,000 reduction in revenue each year. Unlike the impact of the Better Jacksonville Plan, this would take place next year. Fortunately, Jacksonville Beach is financially very healthy. In fact, by 2020 the City will be out of debt, freeing up roughly $5 million dollars that has been going to debt services. In addition, increased property values will help to make up any shortfall without raising the millage rate. Still, even once the City is out of debt, there are still looming costs on the horizon, like changes to the actuarial tables for pensions and the replacement of some of our fixed assets like roads and infrastructure. The new Council will need to be fiscally prudent to ensure that the City is operating within its means which remaining competitive with other cities with regard to attracting residents, businesses, and highly qualified employees.
What are Jacksonville Beaches’ infrastructure needs when it comes to sea level rise and resiliency and what would you propose to address these issues?
Sea level rise is an issue currently impacting South Florida, and is starting to be felt in North Florida, predominately in Jacksonville’s Riverside and San Marco areas. We have not faced flooding issues with regard to sea level rise, but have, and still do, flooding in heavy rains. Indeed, excessive issuance of lot coverage variances have left some areas more vulnerable to flooding. Ensuring that our pumping stations are being proactively maintained, and that each has a backup pump at the ready, is the first step to make sure the water drains.
Secondly, all the ditches and pipes through which the water flows need to be maintained and cleared on a regular basis. In addition, now that the City is built out, it needs to assess whether the current paths through which storm water is pumped through the City are the most efficient, specifically in South Jacksonville Beach. While there are costs involved, these costs are far less than the costs of flooded homes and businesses. Finally, specifically with regard to storm water, a holistic assessment of our current Land Development Code is needed to make sure items such as lot coverage and land use are environmentally sound.
Do you agree with the current parking solution? Why or why not?
I agree with the current paid parking solution that is in effect downtown, specifically because Jacksonville Beach residents do not have to pay for parking in the lots. I would also like to see the addition of parking kiosks so that there is a time limit for street parking so that spaces open more regularly to encourage people to visit our local businesses. The current system covers all its costs, and the additional revenues come back into the City.
If the City moves ahead with a parking garage, a full cost analysis of a public parking garage versus entering into a public/private partnership for a garage will need to be completed. The assessment would need to make sure that it considers depreciation, maintenance, staffing, and the additional first responders and public works personnel who will be needed to address the increase in the number of people in the downtown area.
Please explain what personal and/or professional community service experience has prepared you to serve as an elected official for the citizens of Jacksonville Beach?
In my campaign, I talk about community a lot. I do this because it really is the core of who I am. As a child, I would walk door to door with my mom to collect money for my church’s Catholic Charities Appeal. My dad was heavily involved with our local government and served on the Beach Committee for many years.
Because of my upbringing, I worked for nonprofit organizations as well as at a high school in a mid-sized city working as a liaison between the schools and the business community. While there, I earned my master’s degree in Public Administration, and then left to pursue a PhD in Political Science with a focus in public and nonprofit management. All of these experiences have enabled me to view complex organizations like municipal governments as systems; I understand how everything fits together, as well as appreciate the long-term consequences of present actions.
I have been on the Jacksonville Beach Planning Commission for six years, so I understand density issues, and well as the need to find a middle ground, when possible.
In addition, I was on the Task Force of Consolidated Government. I understand the relationship between Jacksonville Beach and the City of Jacksonville, which will be very important because of the amount of change in the City’s leadership coupled with a new City Manager.
Finally, and this is critical, I understand the role of a city manager and can provide thorough oversight because of my professional experience. As an Associate Professor in UNF’s Masters of Public Administration Program, it is my job to train future department heads and City managers on how to create and enhance public value in the most efficient and effective way possible. This provides me with a unique perspective, especially because of the leadership changes currently occurring in the City.
What differentiates you from your opponent?
I am far more qualified than my opponent. I have broad experience in and knowledge of local government, beyond just the familiarity with land use issues I have gained through service on the service on the Planning Commission. This broader experience includes my education and a lifetime of learning about best practices of local governments by assessing municipalities across the country. I intend to use that broad experience to ensure Jacksonville Beach continues to be a unique place where people want to live, play, and visit.
With regard to development, my opponent has argued for the developers to keep the current regulation that allows up to six continuous townhouses. I favored reducing that number to four to lessen the impact on the neighborhoods with regard to density, parking, community character, and the quality of life for those who currently live in Jacksonville Beach. We have invested in this City. We have paid more per square foot for our homes than if we bought on the other side of the ditch. That extra cost was the value added one gets by living at the beach; we didn’t just buy a home, we bought into a life style.