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On May 4th and 5th , the City Council, senior City staff and a professional facilitator will convene at the City’s 6500 Congress Ave. location for their annual ‘Visioning Session.’ This exercise takes place ever year with the purpose of setting ‘top priorities’ to be accomplished during the next 12 month period.
This year will be a bit different. It is highly likely that a driving force in consideration will be the proverbial ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the golf course sale. $73 million is a great motivator…but do we, the residents, trust the current crop of elected leaders to exercise prudence in planning how to spend this one time windfall?
With the ongoing saga of the City of Boca Raton’s western municipal golf course, one topic has been consistently missing from the conversation. Any public body anticipating a windfall like this should have a transparent, responsible plan for it, but that is not the case here.
Does it make you wonder why? If so, you are not alone.
We all know the bureaucrats in city hall know exactly what they want to do with the money. I am not suggesting I have some specific insight into this, but there is no question the people inside city hall have a plan. In fact, many people think that plan is ‘city hall’ itself.
Planning continues to percolate about a new ‘city hall’, and some are intent on that project being a massive, multi-block reimagining of a significant part of our downtown including Mizner Park, our police department, city hall and surrounding recreation areas.
But this is just conjecture, because the problem is whatever their thoughts, they are not telling us, the residents. As a result, there are conversations happening all over town focused on what neighborhoods, businesses, schools, and individuals think we should do with the money.
I have an idea. It is a big idea, a unique idea for government.
I propose we do nothing with the $73 million at all.
I know this will come as a shocking affront to the people making all those plans in city hall they are not telling us about, but think about it. If we have needs, money has never been cheaper. So why use our money when we can borrow for next to nothing?
If we lockbox the $73 million for 18 months, let’s say, it would act as a cooling off period. Then perhaps we release a portion of the funds for debate on use, safeguarding the majority of the funds as reserves. Of course, this can be structured so in the event of an emergency need the funds can be made available.
But seriously, this sale is creating a true windfall. We do not need the money – we want the money – but that does not mean we have to turn around and spend it right away.
Why not be responsible? Why act like teenagers letting the money burn a hole in our collective pockets? We must be smarter than that.
This is a huge opportunity to be fiscally responsible, and be an example of how city government can be smarter…even if that ‘city hall’ plan might be the final plan?
Let’s exercise discipline….let’s exercise patience…and let’s engage the residents with the public and private sector on partnership ideas before we spend one penny of this taxpayer money.
More on this in the weeks to come!
Al Zucaro, Publisher