By Jane Smith
Reality came in the form of defined goals and clear objectives for the Delray Beach City Commission and its Community Redevelopment Agency board.
Seeing their plans in black and white created a somber mood among both groups when they held separate sessions in April.
That atmosphere contrasted with the lively sessions held in February when everyone was feeling invigorated to wrestle ideas into achievable outcomes. City commissioners also want the agency to pay more for the downtown costs, because it collects more than 80 percent of the property taxes generated there.
The two groups met in a joint session on April 29, after this edition was printed.
At the Delray Beach City Commission workshop on April 14, its chief financial officer, Jack Warner, sought commission approval for the city’s goals. He gave a “state of the city” presentation: Delray Beach is managed day-to-day with people keeping their heads down and getting work done without a long-range plan; has half of its general fund coming from property taxes; has adhered strictly to its budget leading to obsolete and under-maintained infrastructure; has some services not up to its standards; and is not properly organized, allowing silos to form and staffing to be out of sync with important functions.
He recommended the city adopt a multiyear planning and budgeting process where the initial plan is the basis for next year’s budget; grow and diversify its revenue base; institute a scheduled repair and replacement program of fleet, technology and buildings; focus on high-value programs such as Clean and Safe for the downtown, limited special events, a master plan for the beach; and align staffing to commission-approved objectives and levels of service. He also wants to see the city create and staff an information technology department to serve internal and external needs.
Vice Mayor Shelly Petrolia called the presentation “a downer. After the goal-setting session I felt uplifted.
“We’re being told we don’t have enough money or enough time or enough people or enough bandwidth,” she said. “I think we have a lot of money that is coming into this city; it’s just not used right.”
City Manager Don Cooper said this is the first step to resolve those issues and suggested she hold onto that positive feeling.
Mayor Cary Glickstein said he appreciated the presentation. “These things are usually more sobering than they are energizing,” he said, “but I think it was an accurate codification of what we discussed.”
He assured his fellow commissioners that they have seen progress, “but it is coming painfully slow.”
He advised Cooper and Warner to “be bold.” The commission passed the goals unanimously.
At the CRA session on April 23, Executive Director Jeff Costello received a similar response when he presented the agency’s eight goals for approval.
“They will be the basis for our budget. They are more manageable than the 19 we had last year,” he said.
He stressed that they were not in the order of importance, just a listing of goals. They are: Adopt and implement Phase II for the Delray Beach Center for the Arts; survey northwest/southwest neighborhood alleys; implement parking management system; redefine and restructure the Clean and Safe program; evaluate the West Atlantic redevelopment plan; implement redevelopment strategies for North Federal Highway area; study relocation of Caring Kitchen; and implement Veterans Park improvement plan.
He faced only a few questions, such as whether the goals can be modified and could another goal be added about exploring programs at the Tennis Center.
His board approved the goals. Commissioner Cathy Balestriere was absent.
By Jane Smith