Citing “a lot of discussion of restoring the image of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency)”, City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow has issued a memo proposing changes to how the Tallahassee CRA conducts business.
One of these changes include having the CRA Executive Director report directly to the CRA Board instead of the city manager.
The CRA, which has been the focus an ongoing federal investigation into government corruption, meets today at 6:00 p.m.
In a memo to “Board Members”, Matlow outlines his ideas, which address in part, Board membership, CRA management, Board Chair appointment, and accountability.
With regards to membership, Matlow proposes that the CRA take advantage of state statute language that allows for two additional members of the community to participate as Board members.
Matlow writes that this process is used in other jurisdictions and states, “What a statement it would make to our community to let them know we value their input and this agency, is in fact, community driven.”
Matlow also would like for the CRA Executive Director to report directly to the CRA Board.
Matlow notes that state law provides for the Executive Director to answer directly to the Board and adds “At such a critical juncture, I’d like to take a more hands on approach with the CRA and work directly with the Executive Director to address community concerns and let the community know that their grievances can be addressed effectively by the Board.”
Given recent changes to the Board membership, Matlow proposes “to rotate the Chair and Vice-Chair by annual nomination in line with CRTPA, Blueprint etc. “
On accountability, Matlow is recommending that final development agreements be approved by the Board, CRA projects be ranked based on community benefit and approved projects be required to meet specific performance targets.
Matlow is also proposing an appeals process for applicants with projects that get turned down by staff and a new approach for ensuring more community access to the CRA.
The full memo is included below.
Matlow Memo to CRA Board Members
There has been a lot of discussion of restoring the image of the CRA as we move into a more neighborhood-focused approach.
Between presentations and public comment, there may be less time for us to express our individual ideas so I thought I’d send them in advance of the discussion.
One item that has come up in recent meetings and in Monday’s agenda refers to the original structure in the state statute that allows for two additional Board members from the community to participate. What a statement it would make to our community to let them know we value their input and this agency, is in fact, community driven.
CRAs in Pompano Beach, Florida City, Port Orange, Opa Locka, Palmetto, Lake Alfred, Cape Coral among others employ this practice.
Executive Director and Agency Management
State law provides for the Executive Director to answer directly to the Board. At such a critical juncture, I’d like to take a more hands on approach with the CRA and work directly with the Executive Director to address community concerns and let the community know that their grievances can be addressed effectively by the Board. This would require rescinding the recent September 12, 2018 decision to put the CRA under the office of the City Manager. While I think the City Manager’s office is certainly capable of overseeing this function, allowing the CRA to operate with more independence would make it more responsive to the community (if two members are added to the Board, it would create an inconsistent relationship among the members as the City Manager would only be accountable to the Board members that are also Commissioners).
This governance structure is practiced in the CRAs within Tampa, North Miami Beach, Florida City, West Palm Beach, Pompano Beach, and Delray Beach, among others.
Prior to the county leaving in May 24, 2018 the CRA chair rotated between the Mayor and the County Commission Chair. With the new makeup of the City Commission, it makes the most sense to rotate the Chair and Vice-Chair by annual nomination in line with CRTPA, Blueprint etc.
At a recent Frenchtown/Southside Citizens Advisory Committee meeting there was a question concerning direct oversight of development agreements. One agreement referenced was the Big Bends Cares agreement that placed restrictions on the land uses of the Wallis Street properties and provided BBC with the right of first-refusal. It is my understanding that under current policy the final Development Agreement language is never approved by the CRA board. To add an additional level of oversight I would like to see final agreements approved by the CRA Board.
Jobs Created, Minority and Women Participation
In reviewing development agreements, many have objectives such as creating a certain amount of jobs in the area, providing certain services and minority and women participation. Of the agreements I have reviewed, these objectives are “recommendations,” but not a condition for funding. I’d like to strengthen these requirements and require verified reports.
The CAC also asked multiple questions regarding the criteria for determining the worthiness of investing in projects that will not produce TIF dollars and so called “community benefit” projects. I’d like to see us develop a clear process for ranking community benefit that includes a recommendation or numerical score assigned by the CAC.
Another issue constantly cited is the inability of someone to have their project presented to the board or brought to the CRA Board by a single Board Member. I believe we need a clear process and criteria for staff to tell an applicant why their project was rejected, but also an appeals process for an applicant to appeal directly to the board so everyone can be assured they are getting a fair assessment.
We still have visitors comment on the lack of accessibility in City Hall and the difficulty coming to visit. I believe the CRA is the type of agency that you should be able to drop-in to for more information. It should be located in one of the areas it serves and be easily accessible.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to a productive conversation Monday evening. Per Florida Sunshine rules, please do not reply to this email.
CRA Board Member Jeremy Matlow