One bill filed in the wake of an unfolding Tallahassee scandal eliminates the locally-created spending agencies. Another increases oversight.
Tallahassee Democrat by James Call
October 5, 2017
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, submitted a bill Thursday for the 2018 session that pulls in the reins on community redevelopment agencies. It specifies how and when they may spend money. And, it orders them to publish budgets and submit them within 10 days to their county commissioners.
Lee’s measure and a House companion that would eliminate the local-government neighborhood improvement districts come in the wake of a scathing 2016 Miami-Dade grand jury report and an unfolding Tallahassee scandal featuring undercover FBI agents and cross-country trips.
Local governments create CRAs to remove blight and spur development. They fund projects from tax money produced by increased property values. To qualify for the designation, a neighborhood must meet two of 15 conditions, ranging from a lack of parking to a lack of diversity of property ownership.
Five Tallahassee city commissioners and four Leon County commissioners make up the nine-member downtown CRA. Lee would have that board report spending decisions to the full seven-member County Commission.
Miami grand jurors found they appear to resemble slush funds. In Tallahassee, the FBI is looking into the interactions of local elected officials, appointed CRA officials and some of their business associates.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran calls many CRAs a ‘mini-me” of its local creator, mirroring the county or city commission that sponsored it.
In Tallahassee, critics say much of the downtown CRA’s work was not in blighted neighborhoods but instead was designed to give tax money to companies and businesses that didn’t need it.
Lee’s plan is to increase county oversight of CRAs, strengthen requirements for CRA board members and require they take four hours of ethics training every year. [READ MORE]