Candidates forum open to the public

 October 9th candidate forum

6:30pm  at  Boulevard Heights recreation center

 

Our city is in financial crisis

In the last few months I’ve heard nothing but words and empty promises coming from some of the new candidates and also the 2 incumbents running for the commissioner seats in districts 1,3,and 5 in our city. Most of them seem to be running under the exact same platform “Fix up our city”.

Unfortunately they have failed before they even began because our city whether any candidate or city official would like to admit it, is in a financial crisis and before any promises can be kept we need to collectively solve this enormous issue at hand. 

And to solve any problem you first need to look at ideas and come up with a solution. So far these officials seemed to be so lost and at a shortage of ideas right away they believe raising taxes is the only fix. 

Wrong! We are already one of the highest taxed city’s in Broward County and raising our taxes is not a good solution nor is it feasible. 

As a business owner and a past CFO of several large companies I’m no stranger to going over budgets and can give you 100 different ways to save money, but at the end of the day there is only one solution that can solve our city’s budget shortfalls almost instantaneously and that solution is to put an end to the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency). 

In most cases across the state the majority of the municipal CRAs do allot of good and help drive the economic development engine for city’s as it did for the City Of Hollywood. But unfortunately it has outlived it’s usefulness and is now has become a slush fund of sorts and it is only allocated mainly to only upper class or high tourism sections of the city like the beach and Downtown districts. 

The problem is, we need to remember Hollywood is bigger than just those 2 areas and Hollywood as a whole is suffering because no one will step up and face the fact that we need that money from the CRA put back into the general fund where is needed to keep our city from certain bankruptcy. 

To put it terms people can relate to. 

If you were cut down on hours at your job or your spouse lost their job and bills were pilling up your only choice would be to cut down on luxuries and focus on paying the essential bills. 

Let’s say those bills are your rent/mortgage, electric, water, food, and cable tv. Well rent is a must, you need food to survive, electricity to live, but you can go with out a luxury like cable tv. The CRA while at one point was useful has become a luxury to our city like cable tv and we can no longer can afford it and have to get rid of it. 

Financially and economically it’s a no brainer but yet some officials won’t look at it as a solution but they rather say our city will lose money if it’s disbanded, which is partially true that some of the almost 40 million dollars the CRA collects will go back to Broward County but this isn’t a bad thing because Hollywood is a part of the county and that money will go into other much needed areas of the country such things as our schools and school safety. Is that really bad? 

But the most important aspect of it is roughly 20 million will go back into the city’s general fund to cover the financial crisis we are in with our budget shortfalls. That money can restore our first responders and city workers pension funds, help us obtain new much needed police officers and firefighters. Keep the city from outsourcing city workers jobs like they did with the sanitation department a few years back. 

And besides covering the 10 million that’s in the red every year it give us at least another 10 million a year to add much needed new lighting, fix our roads, repair the parks, and keep our green space throughout Hollywood. 

Is that 20 million alone not worth Sunsetting and disbanding the CRA? I believe so. 

Well the great thing is our residents are becoming more informed with each passing day and along with campaign signs all over our city by now you have noticed the NO CRA signs in yards of our residents showing support with the ending this city slush fund. 

I believe we need to inform our neighbors and arm them with knowledge about why it’s so pertinent for disbanding the CRA.

Then if our current commission cant do their jobs and end the reign of the CRA we then need to have our residents put it to vote. 

Like I said, knowledge is a weapon and we are in a financial battle so please share on your Facebook page or tell a friend but we need everyone to work as a community to help our city, the city we love, Hollywood.

Happening now

Margaritaville







August 3rd 2018


http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-sb-margaritaville-hollywood-garage-money-20180803-story.html




Critics want to know why Hollywood commissioners agreed to give the developer of Margaritaville $28 million in taxpayer money five years ago.

And they will soon be able to get all the details in a workshop proposed by City Manager Wazir Ishmael.

“I suggest we have a workshop that goes over this … so we can go over what transpired,” he told commissioners Wednesday night. “There’s some confusion. I want to set up a meeting, the sooner the better.”

The proposal was quickly supported by commissioners. An exact date has not been set.

Questions about the deal came up after the recent sale of the property. The resort sold for $190 million in mid-April to a private equity firm, KSL Capital Partners.

Several commissioners are now defending the deal that was struck with Hollywood developer Lon Tabatchnick years ago.

Taxpayers kicked in $28 million to help bring the Jimmy Buffett-themed resort to Hollywood beach. Turns out it was a loan that became a grant between an earlier draft and final version.

Commissioner Peter Hernandez, who voted against the deal in 2013, is not one


“Pandora’s box is being opened with this,” Hernandez told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “It didn’t make financial sense for the city at the time — and it doesn’t make any sense today.”

Hollywood is getting its investment back through yearly rent payments and property taxes, say defenders of the deal.

The 349-room, 17-story Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort opened in fall 2015. The address: 1111 North Ocean Drive, just south of Johnson Street and A1A. (By Arlene Satchell)

Mayor Josh Levy said he looked forward to bringing the controversy to a close.

“The city made no giveaway,” he told the Sun Sentinel after the meeting. “It was a $28 million investment that will be yielding the city hundreds of millions of dollars in rent and property taxes over the next 99 years.”

The 349-room, 17-story resort opened in 2015 on 5 acres of city-owned land at Johnson Street and the Broadwalk.

“I’m not as excited as some of my colleagues about the deal that went through,” Hernandez said. “I’ve been watching the tapes [of prior public meetings]. And I see a lot of smoke and mirrors. We owe it to the residents to protect their money.”

Hollywood officials are currently reviewing documents to determine whether the city is owed any money from the sale, the city manager said.

Hernandez said Wednesday it looks like the developer made a profit of $111 million when he sold the property.

In a recent interview, Tabatchnick told the Sun Sentinel he did make a profit on the deal, but declined to reveal details.

Iconic lifeguard towers

They were supposed to be stunning new lifeguard towers that turned heads, but the most eye-opening thing about them is their price tags.

Hollywood is the latest South Florida city to face sticker shock when looking to replace its crumbling stands. The lowest bid on the iconic Art Deco design the city had worked on for more than two years was $3.8 million for 21 towers, commissioners learned this week.

“When you tell people you’re going to spend $190,000 on a lifeguard tower, they roll their eyes at you,” Commissioner Peter Hernandez said. “It’s a staggering amount of money for the square foot.”

Now they’re back to the drawing board, looking for cheaper options.

Delray Beach recently spent $155,000 apiece to replace its lifeguard towers, Hollywood commissioners were told.

“Pompano went through a situation like we did,” said Susan Goldberg, deputy director of Hollywood’s redevelopment agency. “They had an incredible design and put it out to bid four times” but could not get a good deal on the cost.

But there are deals out there, Goldberg told commissioners.

Hallandale Beach spent $86,000 on each of its towers while Dania Beach got a much better deal by using prefabricated towers that cost only $43,000 each, Goldberg.

Hollywood’s wooden lifeguard towers have been on the beach for more than 20 years and won’t last much longer, city officials say.

“They have reached the end of their lifespan,” Goldberg said.

Hollywood is getting new lifeguard stands next year. Lifeguard towers have changed over the years, with some cities coming up with elaborate designs as a way to showcase their beaches. (Sun Sentinel)

Building new towers based on the old design would cost $1.7 million. And using prefabricated towers similar to those in Dania Beach would cost $1.2 million.

Hollywood officials will put the project back out to bid and are expected to bring a new plan to commissioners in September.

Commissioner Traci Callari likes the idea of replicating Hollywood’s wooden towers.

“I don’t want to be like everybody else,” she said. “I prefer the wood lifeguard towers.’’

But Mayor Josh Levy and a few other commissioners still want to see that Art Deco design used for six first aid stations. The 15 lifeguard towers within the boundaries of Hollywood’s redevelopment agency could be made with fiberglass or wood.

“We know wood works,” Levy said. “It has withstood the test of time. The ones we have on the beach have been there since 1996.”

Community Redevelopment Agency CRA

It’s not your typical “Beware of Dog” sign.

In Hollywood, the police union is posting signs on neighborhood lawns warning residents about the city’s Community Redevelopment agency. 

The cops say the CRA takes too much of a bite out of the city’s budget. To help spread the word, the police union paid for 100 signs. And Hollywood’s other two unions plan to pitch in for 100 more, says police union leader Jeff Marano.

The idea is to drive the people at City Hall nuts — and give residents a bit of a clue about where their tax money is going, Marano says.

For the uninformed, CRAs funnel tax money into blighted areas that would otherwise go to the city and county. Hollywood’s CRA has two districts: downtown and the beach. (And some in Hollywood scoff at the notion that the cash-rich beach district is blighted.)

But Jorge Camejo, head of the CRA, said: “There’s just so much misinformation out there and there’s so much emotion. The facts are the facts.”

And the facts, he said, are that the city is better off with his agency than without it.

If the unions get their wish, the CRA’s beach district would close up shop well before its 2027 expiration date. And that, Marano says, would free up millions to help cure Hollywood’s yearly budget gap.