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.
League of Women Voters
How have you already been volunteering and serving the City?
I have been volunteering and serving the City in multiple ways since I moved here in 2010. I am a current member of Jacksonville Beach’s Planning Commission, which I have served on since 2013. In this capacity, I strive to balance the concerns of the citizens with the goals of the businesses to help shape a vibrant community.
In 2013-2014, I was appointed to serve on Jacksonville’s Task Force on Consolidated Government to represent the Beaches. The Task Force was charged with analyzing all aspects of the impact of the County’s consolidation in 1968 to identify what was working, what was not working, and to provide recommendations on how to improve the structure of government so that it can best serve all its residents.
I am a graduate of the Jacksonville Beach Police Citizens Police Academy and am a current member of its Alumni Association. In this capacity, I volunteer weekly at the police station helping individuals who come to the station with questions, and direct them to the appropriate person or department. In addition, I am a volunteer role-player for the SWAT team’s active shooter trainings.
I have also served on the board for two nonprofit organizations that are focused on improving the quality of life at the Beaches: Beaches Watch through education, and Jacksonville Beach Deck the Chairs through a month-long holiday light art extravaganza. While serving on each board, I facilitated the strategic planning process and wrote the strategic plan for both organizations. Finally, I continue to volunteer with multiple local nonprofits to help improve the lives of those who live in Jacksonville Beach.
What do you hope to accomplish as a council member?
I am committed to using my experience and skills to ensure the City maintains its laid-back, ‘beachy’ feel, maintain and enhance public safety, ensure smart growth and development, and promote an increase in the level of government’s transparency and accountability to citizens. Jacksonville Beach is a fantastic place to live, and I want everyone who lives here to be proud of the City and the quality of life we have in this community.
What is the most pressing issue facing the Council?
The City is at an inflection point. There are currently a lot of businesses interest in investing in our downtown area to help shape it into a downtown that both our residents and visitors will enjoy. However, processes need to be streamlined and there must be a sense of progress and security in order to encourage investment. One of the most pressing issues facing the Council is the divide between the quality of life in the neighborhoods and the downtown central business district. Too many residents feel that all the attention and resources are provided to the downtown, and not enough in the neighborhoods.
Since I moved here in 2010, the focus for the downtown area has been on attracting more visitors. I believe that this is the wrong focus; the City needs to ask, how can it create the conditions to attract our residents to patronize our local businesses in that area, as well as our public spaces. If our residents begin to frequent our downtown area instead of going to the Beaches Town Center or Ponte Vedra Beach to eat and shop, then we would attract visitors with the same interests as our residents and the two groups would mesh together much better than what is currently happening.
If you received a $1 million dollar grant that the City could you use in any way, what would you do with it, and why?
Since there are two pools of money that can only be used to improve designated areas of the City (the Downtown Redevelopment area and the South Beach Redevelopment Area), I would use the $1 million dollars to provide grants in the amount of $60,000 - $80,000 per year for 25 years to nonprofits and community/neighborhood organizations in Jacksonville Beach, to provide seed money for new programs or services, or to build capacity for existing programs or services that will improve the lives of those who live in Jacksonville Beach. This way, those organizations and public programs that are meeting specific needs of individual neighborhoods can receive the support they need to make Jacksonville Beach a place that all residents are proud call home.
Northeast Florida Association of Realtors
What do you believe to be the top five issues in your campaign?
Quality of Life - I will retain and strengthen our beaches quality of life. This includes bikable and walkable neighborhoods, community events, and our protecting our environmental treasures.
Public Safety - I will work to ensure that public safety at the Beach remains a priority by attracting and retaining highly qualified first responders.
Smart Growth - I will use my experience and knowledge to have the City reassess its strategic development to meet current and future needs of our neighborhoods, as well as the business districts.
Transparency and Accountability - I will continue to push for more government transparency and accountability through both traditional means, as well as electronic, in order to keep residents informed and engaged.
Strong Fiscal Management - I will work to ensure the City stays fiscally sound while maintaining a high quality of services.
Please give three reasons why you should be elected to this office:
My experience in local government has provided my with a unique skill-set that can be used to not only ensure that Jacksonville Beach moves forward in a positive manner, but that Jacksonville Beach residents are also receiving services from the county that we have already paid for in our property taxes. This has become increasingly important as the top leadership within the City changes.
My knowledge of how government works will allow me to make policy decisions that will look out for the best interests of those who have, or who are thinking about, investing in property to live at the beach, by strategically analyzing any long-term impacts of the policy.
I have demonstrated my commitment to the community through my service and involvement in local meetings, workshops, and nonprofits. This commitment will continue since Jacksonville Beach is my home, and I will work to make sure it maintains its ‘beachy-ness’ and laid-back feel that make it unique.
List major endorsements received for this race/campaign:
John Delaney, Former UNF President and Former Mayor of Jacksonville
Bill Gulliford, Jacksonville City Council
Charlie Latham, Mayor of Jacksonville Beach
Elaine Brown, Mayor of Neptune Beach
Ellen Glasser, Mayor of Atlantic Beach
Bruce Thomason, former Jacksonville Beach Police Chief & Current Jacksonville Beach City Council Member
Lee Buck, Jacksonville Beach City Council Member
Terry DeLoach, DeLoach Properties, Former Jacksonville Beach Planning Commissioner