CRA Organization: 2008
February 21, 2008, 12:00 AM
Filed under: City Staff, CRA Districts

February 21, 2008

The new City Commission met as the CRA Board this week for an overview of both beach and downtown CRA districts. The agenda consisted of Power Point presentations in which staff detailed their respective CRA accomplishments and future plans.

It became clear that having two CRA staffs has resulted in much duplication of effort in the area of advertising and promotion. One can’t help but ask whether advertising is a proper expenditure of CRA funds which are intended by statute to eliminate slum and blight. And then, why isn’t CRA advertising — to the extent it may be a proper expenditure — handled by one person on behalf of both CRA districts. It seems wasteful to have Beach CRA staff “selling” the beach to tourists around the world, and Downtown CRA staff doing the same for downtown — as if the beach and downtown were two separate cities. Other seemingly excessive CRA expenditures were detailed in an earlier Balance Sheet article.

Another anomaly is the Beach CRA’s extensive fleet of maintenance equipment — various tractors, vacuums, street sweepers, and other cleaning machinery — equipment that would seem more appropriately purchased and handled by the city’s public works department. Is the purchase, operation, and maintenance of such an array of equipment germane to the Beach CRA’s mission or should some of this machinery be available for use city-wide?

Mayor Bober noted that the statutory purpose of the CRA districts is to remove slum and blight. He thinks the CRAs have strayed from their core purpose and need to refocus their efforts.

In addition, the dual presentations served to raise a question about how our CRA districts are structured.  It is interesting to look at CRA governance in other Florida cities for comparison.  Often three elements are present:

  • CRA Board made up of elected officials to set policy and budgets
  • Advisory Board for each CRA District to provide guidance on project plans
  • City Staff to plan projects, coordinate initiatives, and manage redevelopment funding

Hollywood has only the first element.  We have no advisory board for either of our CRA districts.  We have separate CRA staff instead of using regular city staff to handle CRA projects and funding.

Vice Mayor Blattner spoke forcefully of the need to have the CRA directors report to the city manager, rather than operate independently as they have been.  He said he will bring such a motion to the next CRA Board meeting.  We believe that it would behoove the CRA Board also to examine ways to eliminate duplication of effort between the two CRA staffs.  Is it time to have a single CRA staff with a single director, as noted several years ago by the County Commission’s auditor? And finally, can staff and CRA Board find more ways to transfer CRA funds into the city’s general fund so that these special districts benefit the entire city more than they have?  We hope so.

P.S.  Notable above all else was the manner in which the CRA Board meeting was conducted.  It was managed efficiently with respect accorded to all.  Everyone — elected officials and staff — remained calm, focused, and cordial to one another.  The Mayor noted at the end that one of his goals was to have shorter meetings.  He urged staff whenever possible to avoid the use of long Power Point presentations as has been the custom in past years.  He suggested that the CRA presentations at this meeting could have been provided as part of the backup for Board members and the public in advance of the meeting.  In that way, much actual meeting time could be saved.  In short, from all appearances to date, we have a breath of fresh air at city hall!

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