City Commissioner Matlow Proposes CRA Reforms

City Commissioner Matlow Proposes CRA Reforms

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.

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Matlow Memo to CRA Board Members

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.

Board Membership 

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. 

Board Chair 

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.

Development Agreements

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.

Community Benefit 

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.

Appeals

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.

Community Access

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.

Yours,

CRA Board Member Jeremy Matlow

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10 Responses to "City Commissioner Matlow Proposes CRA Reforms"

  1. Steve   April 8, 2019 at 9:42 am

    So he wants the Executive Director to answer directly to the Board(aligning it with State Statutes). But then says “I’d like to take a more hands on approach with the CRA and work directly with the Executive Director”. If the City Commission wants the CRA to focus on something, they should go through the CRA board, and not directly to the Executive Director.

    Reply
    • forth   April 9, 2019 at 9:23 pm

      Steve, The City commission also serves as the CRA Board, so his comment made sense.

      Reply
  2. dave   April 8, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Here is a Citizen Suggestion…….. NO MORE CRA PROJECTS THAT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH STUDENT HOUSING.

    Reply
  3. Hope   April 8, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Abolish the CRA!

    Reply
    • Vernon   April 8, 2019 at 5:40 pm

      Amen! It should be against the law to give taxpayers money to any private business…
      FOR ANY REASON!! The CRA begs corruption…pure and simple… and we know Tallahassee officials have had a hard time resisting. While it may seem reasonable to award tens of thousands of dollars to a “worthwhile project”…there’s nothing to stop the money from going to their political donors…or an influential official pushing a project for a “quid pro quo.”

      Reply
      • forth   April 9, 2019 at 9:35 pm

        Hope, The CRA uses property tax from the CRA district to do their projects. They dont use your tax dollars. Without the CRA the City would use YOUR tax dollars to do improvements in South Side.

        Vernon, When you say “there is nothing to keep the money from going to political donors…” how do you know that? Are you familiar with the rules they use to review projects? How familiar are you with their work? I’m guessing not very….

        It’s so easy to criticize when you aren’t burdened by facts.

        Reply
        • MT   April 10, 2019 at 4:57 pm

          I didn’t know property tax isn’t tax. Is that a fact? Also, the fact that it comes from that district’s property tax is even more hilarious. Looks to me like Vernon is just repeating what he’s reading. Maybe the FBI will help us out with the facts.

          Reply
          • forth   April 13, 2019 at 7:26 pm

            MT, I have done a lot of homework on CRAs recently. I learned that the CRA uses the property taxes that are generated in the CRA district to do their projects. That’s just a fact. They don’t use other property tax money from elsewhere in the City, i.e. your taxes…

            We are very quick to condem people on this Board, so I usually stay away. But I know the people involved in this situation and it makes me ill to see how badly some good people have been treated while other people are able to manipulate the situation for their own benefit and future promotions.

            Read the FBI subpoenas and the indictments. You will learn that the CRA was not a subject of the investigation, nor was the agency charged with anything. They just provided reams of information. Also, according to a Democrat article, the CRA director (Manning) tried to stop Maddox by telling City Administration about his alleged activities. She never mentioned that, but a letter in the article lays it out.

            So, all this time, were we having fun condeming the wrong people? It looks that way. Fortunately the FBI did a good job rounding up evidence on the real suspects. But several innocent people were hurt. It is time for that to stop. I hope my home town is a better place than we appear to be in this comment section. We cant afford to waste good people, can we?

  4. S   April 9, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    Try tens of millions

    Reply
  5. Courtney   April 15, 2019 at 7:05 am

    I’d sure love to see some of the CRA magic in the North Monroe corridor from I-10 to 6th…the CRA needs oversights clearly…I think this is a great way to limit the power of those on the board and the mayor as well….

    Reply

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