South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board Fort Lauderdale 2009 City Candidates Questionnaire By Charlotte Rodstrom 1. The economic condition that the city faces today will require a new strategy for economic growth which will need to be implemented. In the NW specifically, the first priority will be to establish a plan which stabilizes the neighborhood. Additionally, increased crime prevention measures and code enforcement will be needed to reach that goal. Once that goal is accomplished then new incentives need t o be put in place so investment can begin. Investment can take on many forms: businesses, private enterprise and individuals, all requiring different planning and incentives. Portions of the NW meet the criteria for several funding opportunities. The NW is hungry for development and we as city officials should not stand in the way of that progress. 2. At this point it is rather meaningless to criticize the behavior of the outgoing commission. I will just say that I would hope that the new members of the commission remember that governing should not be personal. We are there to do the public’s business, I would hope that the new Mayor conduct the meetings with professionalism and decorum. The Mayor leads the debate and controls the gavel at the meetings. The Mayor needs to recognize that he or she is the image of the city and our positive image is important to our overall success. 3. As you know I have been an outspoken critic of the city manager’s management style. We have had five finance directors and several major department heads that have been replaced at least once and in some instances two or three times. He is very difficult to work for and consequently has been unable to hire and retain good talent. Most recently he reshuffled his entire management staff with no explanation. The manager was unable to control the costs on the$550,000,000 Waterworks 2011 project which went $200,000,000 over budget. The same thing happened with the Fire Bond $40,000,000 renovations. For example, the plan called for 10 stations and the first station cost the city $6.2 million. It was obvious we were going to go over budget, but no attempt was made to correct it. Had I not questioned the cost overruns we would have gone deep into debt. Speaking of which, is the $300,000,000 unfunded liability in the city employee pension fund which staff only addressed after I brought it to their attention. I have repeatedly asked for budget workshops and involvement of the budget advisory board which he has opposed. He has kept important information from the commission regarding agenda items and has taken the commission floor off the FYI computer system that is accessed by his staff, legal, and the clerk’s office. He has been heard to have screamed and yelled frequently at both the city clerk and the city auditor whom are not his employees. These are just a sample of some of my observations should you desire more, I would be happy to discuss. 4. I have asked that we pay special attention to properties that have been foreclosed through a comprehensive foreclosure plan. We must make sure code enforcement is active in these instances. We also have to prevent properties from falling into disarray, by cutting the lawns if necessary and removing the trash in a timely fashion. We cannot afford to allow areas of the city to become rundown, thereby making it more difficult to attract redevelopment. Our city has been awarded $3.7 million in grants from the Federal Government to buy, restore and or to renovate foreclosed homes. It would be my desire to have these homes once completed to be offered for sale to police, fire, teachers and medical personal at an affordable price. 5. My campaign slogan is “she kept her word”. When I was a candidate in 2005 the promises I made were real and not just election rhetoric. I have to the best of my ability fulfilled those promises. I believe in full and complete transparency. I have abstained and not voted even when I had the appearance of a conflict despite the city attorney’s opinion that I could vote. The public has a right to know everything about me, and I am an open book. 6. My top priorities are being able to deliver the best services in this challenged economic environment. This is not the time to raise taxes while folks are losing their jobs and their homes. With the shortfall in revenues, it will become necessary to make significant cuts. We must retain our essential services and in some cases increase services in areas such as fighting crime and code enforcement. There are some policies I would like to see put in place, such as, for the city manager to be reviewed annually. In addition I would like to see the city attorney and the city auditor is present in all negotiation as it relates to change orders. Presently the Office of Professional Standards is under the manager’s office, which to me is a direct conflict. When complaints are made against the city manager or his immediate staff then the city attorney’s office should be brought in to investigate. 7. Before we make any promises regarding the increase of expenditures we need to better understand how significant the reduction in revenue collections will be. We know property values are falling as well as, reduced sales tax, gas tax and franchise fees. We will have a significant budget shortfall which will require a full review of our must haves versus our wants. 8. a.)The best decision was not raising taxes in this difficult financial environment. The worst decision was balancing the budget with the city’s reserve funds and being unable to reduce expenditures. b.)The ULDR is a very good guideline for development. However it is often times ignored by the commission. We need to be very mindful of the overdevelopment on the barrier island and equally cognizant of the necessity for redevelopment in downtown and the western parts of the city. c.) The city has improved its relationship with the county in recent years. An example of this is $2.5 million contribution for the Sistrunk street improvements. The city also did extremely well with the county’s land purchase program. Commissioners have been active with the League of Cities which I will encourage should I be returned to office. d.) Major improvements for the downtown would have to include a mass transit component and a better plan for our homeless population. e.) The city at my request, has implemented a Creole liaison for police and code enforcement for the large Haitian population in District two. f.) I would welcome annexation of the unincorporated areas contiguous to the city so long as the legislature provides a revenue neutral transition. Given our current budget situation it would not be fair for us to pick up that financial burden. 9. Accountability starts at the top. The city manager must set the example by agreeing to have an annual review. We need to immediately start the budget review process and evaluate every single expenditure. The city manager has not been cooperative in this regard, for example, last year’s budget was provided to the commission in late July before the city recess, which gave the commission little time to discuss. The capital budget has been presented to the commission months after the budget approval hearings; I find this to be unacceptable. Hopefully I will have the support of my colleagues should I be re-elected to change the city’s past practice and adopt zero based budgeting in order to examine every dollar the city spends. 10. The public trust can be restored with greater emphasis on stricter enforcement for those who abuse the public’s trust. Voter turnout historically has been low in city elections. However the voters in the city’s election are very well informed. When they get into the car to vote they know who they are voting for and why. There have been a number of cities that have changed their elections to November to save money and increase voter turnout. This has positives and negatives. Large turnouts favor incumbents who have strong name recognition. It makes it very difficult for a newcomer to emerge because they are overshadowed by all the other races and ballot questions. This past election the ballot was four pages long and the city’s candidates would have been at the end of the ballot. Nevertheless, this topic merits further discussion. 11. I have served on the commission for the past three years and I have the experience to hit the ground running on day one. Furthermore I have a proven record of accomplishment. I will always ask the tough questions and put serving the public as my first priority.
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