PB: SDM’s Early Agenda For 2014

by SDM

Since several candidates have raised their craniums above the Palmetto Bay din, SDM figures it’s time to think about what we want those candidates to do for our little village.

Before getting into specifics, let’s recount the known (including incumbents) and rumored (denoted with an *) candidates:

Mayor

Shelley Stanczyk (i)

Patrick Fiore*

Peter England

Super Secret Candidate Number 1*

District 1

Karyn Cunningham

David Zisman

District 3

Joan Lindsay (i)

Super Secret Candidate #2*

We know you’re dying to learn the names of the SSCs, but SDM has not been told these folks are actually running so we’re not going to blow their cover today. We can say that if either or both decide to run, these races will become instantly more interesting.

Palmetto Bay’s Shrinking Reserves

The first and most important item facing the next council will be the financial disaster the current administration left to future generations.

At one time, Palmetto Bay enjoyed more than $10 million in reserves. We’ve attempted in these pages to explain just what that represents by showing how much growth is required to replenish such a sum. (See Everyone’s Rich on Friday.)

The truth is that Palmetto Bay is not going to grow itself back to financial health, especially if the village government continues to spend more each year than it brings in. This is precisely what your village manager has recommended in the past two budgets and, shamefully, he has gotten the votes he needed.

It is also true that cutting the budget is hard and causes pain to residents and employees, but are we prepared to raise taxes to support a perpetually growing government? Whatever happened to “government light” as former Mayor Flinn called it?

Just last year, the village paid for two additional police officers that were not requested by the department director. That makes two years in a row your village council has purchased services that they were not willing to pay for out of current revenue. Instead, they raided reserves.

SDM Wonders: Since we know where the incumbents (Stanczyk, Fiore and Lindsay) stand on these expenditures, what do the challengers think about them? Will they continue to eat the seed corn laid in by previous administrations or will they curb the ever-increasing appetite of the Ron Williams machine?

Franjo Triangle

Part of the Williams master plan is to take our eyes off the ball by pushing the very necessary development of the Franjo Triangle as a budget balancer.

The only thing SDM can say about this idea is that it’s the right thing to do for the wrong reason.

We’ve shown that even the most optimistic scenarios for the Franjo Triangle will not save Palmetto Bay’s budget. In fact, we see nothing in the record that even attempts to quantify the administration’s claim that its plans for the Triangle will result in a healthier budget over any given time period.

But…and this is a big but…SDM supports fully the idea that Palmetto Bay should be trying to transform the Franjo Triangle. We should undertake this activity because it will create a center of gravity for our town: a place to go for food and entertainment.

At the same time, the village must honor the residents who choose to stay in the Triangle. We think they deserve the chance to preserve their lifestyles to the greatest extent possible while also recognizing that change is coming.

SDM sees the Triangle as a Coconut Grove where there is a “downtown” of high rises integrating into a funky neighborhood of old Florida homes. Maybe over time the homes convert to small businesses and restaurants… who knows?

One thing we do know is that no amount of central planning will necessarily cause the change we imagine. The change can be helped along by careful thinking, marketing and public investment that is linked to actual private investment, but in and of itself, no government can force the change to happen.

And, they certainly shouldn’t be building future budgets on what are at best wild hypotheticals.

SDM Wonders: How do the candidates see the Triangle’s development? Will they support the changes proposed by the committee? How will they integrate the needs of the current residents?

Our Crumbling Community Dialogue

Though our economic challenges are serious, SDM believes our community dialogue is in far worse shape. Sure, some of you would love to blame SDM for the deterioration, but do you really think it’s all our fault? (We’re not talking to you Kaptain Kreepy.)

We try to be careful with our language here, though we admit to poking fun at certain easy targets. But in the end, this site is just a little blip on the radar compared to the commentary at council meetings, for example.

Frankly, we believe that the folks over at CCOCI and those working with Mayor Stanczyk on her website deserve a larger share of blame for bringing us so low. We believe their tactics of pitting homeowners against private schools and churches was politically motivated and socially corrosive from the start.

BTW, we also think the current mayor runs a terrible meeting, which doesn’t help matters.

So SDM Wonders: How will candidates try to bring harmony back to Palmetto Bay? Can we have a dialogue that respects individual points of view while encouraging a healthy dialogue on the serious issues confronting the village?

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