Civic activist and local attorney Virginia Sherlock provides an in-depth look at the upcoming Martin County Board of County Commissioners’ meeting:
Tuesday’s BOCC Agenda features the usual request for approval of hundreds of thousands of dollars of spending that Commissioners routinely rubber-stamp without any effort to prioritize or economize when it comes to using taxpayer dollars to match grant funding.
A horrible project put forward by an out-of-state developer who values profits more than our struggling river and estuary is back before the BOCC for final approval on the same day that Commissioners are being asked to adopt a resolution in support of National Estuaries Day.
A proposed new contract between the County and the Business Development Board will be up for discussion, along with a draft of suggested federal and state legislative priorities and an update on a proposed tourist development tax increase.
Kudos to Glenda Burgess, Jackie Trancynger, and Myra Galoci, who have applied for appointment to Neighborhood Advisory Committees in Jensen Beach and Rio. And the late Pat Mark will be recognized for her selfless work with young people while supervising what will be officially re-named the Pat Mark Rio-Jensen Skate Park.
Here’s a rundown on Agenda items of note:
Agenda Item 5A seeks appointment of members for the seven Neighborhood Advisory Committees. Glenda Burgess, Jackie Trancynger and Myra Galoci have each demonstrated the type of community involvement and dedication that should earn them spots on the NACs to which they have applied. This item is pre-set for 4:30 p.m.
Agenda Item 8A1 is the usual flurry of funding requests – 205 pages worth – that are virtually impossible to decipher. Most require thousands of dollars in matching funding from taxpayers. Commissioners routinely approve millions of dollars in grant application and funding requests without any attempt to comply with the requirement of Policy 14.1A.9 of our Comprehensive Plan requiring prioritization of capital improvements expenditures. When will the BOCC demand that staff comply with the prioritization requirement and stop throwing money at every project that’s partially funded with grants with long and costly strings attached?
Agenda Item 8A3 calls for adoption of a resolution supporting National Estuaries Day in Martin County. You can be sure that every commissioner will vote in favor of this resolution, even those who simultaneously vote to approve The Floridian and other projects that provide little or no protection for our estuary. (See Agenda Item 8C1)
Agenda Item 8A4 is a draft of federal and state legislative priorities to be adopted by the BOCC. The draft is generally well written and reasonable but contains a blanket endorsement of unidentified legislative priorities of dozens of organizations, including several that are questionable. Commissioners should not be endorsing legislative priorities of private industry and trade organizations like the American Association of Airport Executives and the Florida Engineering Society which represent private special interests and in some cases have priorities which are not shared by Martin County residents and taxpayers (such as the airport executives’ mission to grow and expand local commercial and general aviation airports). By endorsing the legislative priorities of the Florida Certification Board, is our BOCC endorsing the candidates and ballot issues supported by the organization’s large and very active PAC?
Agenda Item 8C1 seeks approval of the final site plan for The Floridian PUD Phase 2. The master site plan was approved by the “old commission” last year. Commissioners Sarah Heard and Anne Scott voted to re-consider the project but it was ratified by Doug Smith, John Haddox and Ed Fielding despite evidence of failure to comply with Comprehensive Plan policies and the shoreline protection zone designed to protect Bessey Creek (a wetlands of special concern) and the Aquatic Preserve of the North Fork of the St. Lucie River.
Agenda Item 8D2 is an update on a proposal to increase the Tourist Development Tax by a penny and re-allocate some “bed tax” revenues to fund inlet dredging and public beach improvements. The Convention & Visitors Bureau, which has a contract with the County to provide tourism marketing services, has rejected all objectives set out by the County Commission and objects to spending tourist tax dollars on anything other than marketing and promotion for local hotels and motels. The BOCC has delayed taking action on the tourist tax hike and the County’s tourism promotion structure to give the CVB time to come up with viable proposals for a new marketing plan. Absent willingness of the CVB to grow and to embrace the County’s natural resources as an important tourist attraction, the BOCC should allow the CVB contract to expire on September 30 and not renew the relationship for FY2014. The Arts Council will allow its contract to expire and will not renew its relationship with the County because it does not want to comply with the Public Records Act and the Sunshine Law. It is definitely time for Martin County’s tourism promotion efforts to be revamped.
Agenda Item 8E1 offers a proposed replacement contract with the Business Development Board for BOCC review. While the contract put forward by the County Attorney’s Office seems to be a good attempt to salvage a relationship that has deteriorated as rapidly as County funding has increased, BDB leadership apparently objects to key provisions of the proposed contract. The County Attorney proposes a 3-year contract with funding reduced from $648,000-a-year to a range of $250,000 to $460,000 annually. The BDB would be required to submit a budget to the BOCC for approval each year and would be required to comply with County travel policies. Annual audits would be required. Primary focus for economic development would be on existing local businesses. BDB leadership apparently wants to keep the huge slush fund amassed from taxpayer dollars over the last few years and wants to receive the quarterly payment the BOCC voted to withhold in July of this year. BDB doesn’t want the Commission to have budget approval and objects to a 6-month termination clause. And while BDB has agreed to reduce the size of its board, it proposes a 17-member board with 6 appointed by the BOCC. In other words, Martin County would provide 90% of the BDB’s funding, but only 35% of the BDB Board would be County representatives. The BDB needs a reality check. It’s time to pull the plug. This item is pre-set for 11:00 a.m.
Attend Tuesday’s meeting if you can. Call or e-mail commissioners with your thoughts and comments: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org