PB: Dubois Taking the Lead on DRTF?

by SDM

You may have seen a story in the Palmetto Bay News where Vice Mayor John Dubois raises some very serious questions about the village administration’s plan for downtown Palmetto Bay. Among his comments, SDM found these to be right on point:

  • “The missing link is the financial plan with projections,” the vice mayor said. “We have seen a 90-slide PowerPoint, but a PowerPoint is not a plan. We need a written plan that is properly documented.”
  • DuBois asked how many years it would take for return-on-investment for the project, and who the first seven anchor tenants of the new shopping area would be.

Incredibly, one member of the DRTF committee responded that “[t]he redevelopment plans can’t all be driven by return-on-investment…” And, “[Palmetto Bay is] not business, this is government, and government is supposed to create a better environment for people.”

While it is strictly true that government is not a business, it’s resources are not infinite; choices must be made. So, when Palmetto Bay is presented with a project like downtown redevelopment where some $2.5 million will be spent from village reserves, a reasonable question to ask is “what are we getting for the money?”

Generally, a government expenditure on road construction, for example, would come from a dedicated source of funding like gas taxes, fees or revenue sharing. What Mr. Dubois is correctly pointing out is that Palmetto Bay is being asked to “invest” in the downtown using general funds, rather than dedicated revenues.

We as residents are giving up something precious when we agree to spend reserve money in the downtown. We are giving up the opportunity to reserve against future downturns and/or to spend that money on some other activity that will “create a better environment for people.” Most importantly, we are giving up flexibility.

The other thing we think Mr. Dubois should be concerned about is the task force’s murky behavior. We’ve pointed out that they don’t keep minutes – or at least that the don’t post them on their site. We’ve also been told by people we trust that some of the members of the task force are speculating on the downtown.

That’s all well and good so long as the decisions the council makes are not being influenced by the speculators. In other words, if downtown Palmetto Bay needs road improvements and sidewalks, then those needs should stand on their own two feet and clearly benefit the entire community.

However, if a speculator needs some specific work that will make her property more valuable – which can benefit the village – then a return on investment model makes perfect sense. Again, the village must employ some rational mechanism to choose between competing expenditures, so why not use a reliable, time-tested methodology like ROI?

SDM Says: The DRTF is a good thing and is doing important work. We wish we could feel confident that it’s on the straight and narrow path. Vice Mayor Dubois has our support to hold the task force accountable and we think his colleagues on the council should join him in doing so.

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