A public-private partnership (P3) is a contractual arrangement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity.  Through such an agreement, the skills and assets of each sector (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for the use of the general public;

Wikipedia defines P3 as a cooperative arrangement between two or more public and private sectors, typically of a long-term nature.” Investopedia states that the P3 can be used to finance, build and operate projects of a varying nature….

It is a rare situation when ‘developers’ have an opportunity to ‘give back’ to the community while advancing their individual self-interest.

Well, a recent public records request indicates that is exactly what is proposed in Boca Raton and has been available but virtually ignored since October ‘16.  Rumor has it that the delay was manufactured for political reasons; to not have this as an issue in the March ‘17 municipal election.  However, even if that is true, there is no excuse for this opportunity to remain un-responded too since and for the City to not now engage a discussion exploring the taxpayer benefits for a sound business outcome; an outcome proving to be illusive to our elected officials.

So what am I talking about?

In fairness, this P3 matter was brought up in the recent visioning session held by the CRA/City Council in early May ‘17.  The specifics were glossed over and no follow up seems apparent.  Mayor Haynie referenced by name the Related Group as the developer group who approached the City in October ‘16 with an unsolicited offer on the ‘master campus plan.’  In the visioning session, the Mayor dismissed the importance of the offer with some sort of predetermined belief as to what Related might want for their involvement.

Related is an internationally acclaimed private sector company, perhaps, the leading land developer in the state of Florida.  Related’s interest is in the “Master Plan” for a proposed municipal complex.  The municipal complex master plan had been an active discussion with the City Council for many months.  The City Council has retained the services of an outside consultant to inventory the geographic area and identify municipal elements needed to be included in such a municipal complex.

The Related Companies’ offer is extremely on point.  Related has the talent and tools to define a ‘master campus plan’ and implement it in an efficient and timely manner; characteristics that our council and staff constantly demonstrate a lack thereof.  Related has special knowledge, expertise, buying power and experience to assist our city in this plan. Related has done numerous similar iconic projects around the country; CityPlace in West Palm Beach being a nearby successful P3 partnership with a municipal government.  Finally, Related’s reputation and financial stability is above reproach.

Receiving an unsolicited offer is not an anomaly in the Boca Raton. The city has had some success when dealing with properties that have more value than previously realized; the pending Municipal Golf Course sale being a prime example on leveraging value.

Residents and taxpayers benefit from the possibility of a public-private partnership.  Related, a private entity, would work with the City to prepare the ‘master plan’ using their expertise and at their expense.  Under this scenario, Related would contribute tens of millions of dollars to the project in both ‘in kind’ and ‘hard’ assets. Finally, Related would allow the CRA/City Council to make intelligent, informed decisions based upon expertise not contained within the city administration and at no cost to the Taxpayer.

So why would Related do all this?

Certainly there is a profit motivation.  Related has requested the opportunity to open dialogue with the Mayor, City Council members, and the City Manager to negotiate the terms of this proposed P3 arrangement.  The average municipality would welcome a group like Related to propose a public-private deal like this in their realm.  Why not Boca?

Starting with the October 12th letter and now followed up with numerous unanswered inquiries, the lack of professionalism and demonstrated disrespect is amazing.   One has to wonder why the Mayor and/or City Manager would not engage even in a discussion that potentially may include some sort of land swap resulting in a cash transaction and a civic development; perhaps a new performing arts center for the residents’ benefit but not at the residents’ (i.e. taxpayers) costs.

IT COSTS NOTHING TO OPEN A DISCUSSION THAT EXPLORES OPTIONS!

Below is the October 12th letter to Mayor Haynie copying the City Manager.  Being somewhat of a cynic, I have to wonder if the Mayor and manager’s silence is because Related has not chosen the commensurate lobbyist(s)/attorney(s) to usher this project through the political process; to wit:  The Boca Way!

Letter to Mayor Haynie

One would also think that the other City Council/CRA members, especially CRA Chair Scott Singer (who wants to run for Mayor when Mayor Haynie steps down to run for County Commission in 2018), would have great interest in a multi-million dollar private-public investment with significant upside potential for the residents of Boca Raton?

Or is the Council’s motif to simply spend taxpayer dollars, including the proceeds from the sale of the western golf course, without at least a fair analysis of this P3 unsolicited offer?

Certainly not proceeding with a prudent fiscal analysis is out of character for our City Manager, a demonstrated fiscal conservative, who surely realizes the upside financial possibility presented.

Who or what is holding him back? Investigating this business transaction should be a ‘no-brainer’ for our elected officials!

Does anyone else see a discernible pattern in Boca Raton where ‘outsider’ interests and opportunities when presented are ignored or incessantly delayed no matter what these interests may bring for the benefit of the residents?

It, once again, raises the question of who do our elected officials represent?  A more than rhetorical question poised to be answered in a mere 9 months, when we, the residents, will have the opportunity to fill two more seats on the council with ‘resident friendly’ voices…..

REMEMBER YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE….LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD IN THE UPCOMING MARCH ‘18 CITY COUNCIL ELECTIONS!

Al Zucaro, Publisher