Boca Budget’s Missing Important Priority

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This Way to Sustainability words on a green freeway sign to illustrate business practices that manage renewable resources for a viable long term plan that benefits everyone

 

PUBLISHER’S COMMENT:   

UPDATE….UPDATE….

Victories for the residents has come in a many small ways.  Having a responsive City Council and City Administration has been the resident’s guiding principle and heralded often in the articles of BocaWatch.   At last night’s final budget hearing before approval of the 2017-18 budget, the City Council took action in two very resident driven initiatives. 

Monica Mayotte’s article below encouraging the Council to approve a ‘Sustainability Officer’ position has been heard and answered.  Monica has been championing this position for some time and the Council has responded….Incredible what can happen when the Council has within its ranks ‘resident friendly’ voices.  Thank you Councilmember Andrea O’Rourke, the Council’s ‘resident friendly’ voice, for this mood change.   

Kudos are also in order for the City Council’s ‘resident friendly’ directional changes to the Waterfront Masterplan.  Through the efforts of many and the incredible voice of Margaret Fitzsimons, the City Council voted to make the “Downtown Waterfront” (Wildflower/Silver Palm) the top priority of all properties in the Waterfront Masterplan.  The Council shifted $4.3 million to help  fund this initiative.  The majority of the Council also voiced support for the resident driven “2020 Vision” initiative to move forward.  Again thank you Councilmember O’Rourke for being the impetus in these clearly ‘resident friendly’ victories.  Al Zucaro, Publisher

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I attended Boca Raton’s Tentative Budget Hearing (first reading) meeting early last week. Two public readings are the formality that must be done to provide opportunity for city residents to obtain a glimpse of how the city intends to spend its money for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Here is some of what I learned from the meeting.

Some of the city’s policy priorities that appeal to me for the coming year are:

  • Comprehensive Waterfront Master Plan
  • Downtown Traffic Alternative Study
  • Art in Public Places
  • Culture of Innovation
  • City Campus Master Plan

There are several more priorities mentioned in the budget, but I feel these are of greater importance.

We all just experienced Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever to develop in the Atlantic Ocean. Boca Raton was lucky in that we just received the outskirts of it, but we still had a lot of power outages and debris is still sitting on our streets. We may not be so lucky when the next storm develops, so we must start planning now.

Climate change doesn’t cause hurricanes, but it does increase their intensity with stronger winds and higher storm surge.  For this reason, Southeast Florida is preparing to make our area more resilient by developing regional plans to mitigate and adapt to our changing environment.

This past spring, Mayor Haynie and every city council member signed the Mayor’s Pledge for the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact.  Boca Raton has now joined 33 other cities in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties by signing this pledge.

Our city leaders may think that signing this pledge is a symbolic gesture, but it is not. Once the pledge is signed there are steps that cities are expected to take to begin planning for a “vibrant and sustainable city”. The quoted phrase in the previous sentence is taken from Boca Raton’s own Guiding Principles.

The first step after signing the pledge is to hire a Sustainability Officer to implement those pieces of the Regional Climate Action Plan (RCAP) that make sense for Boca Raton. Some of the high-level tasks of the RCAP are:

  1. Providing the common framework for sustainable communities and transportation planning to be aligned across the region
  2. Recognizing the need to protect and address vulnerable water supply and water supply infrastructure, and preserve fragile natural systems and agricultural resources
  3. Providing steps to move towards resilience and reducing emissions through exploring alternatives and decreasing the use of energy and fuel
  4. Building upon the strength of effective emergency responders and integrating climate change hazards in risk reduction and emergency management planning
  5. Providing for effective public outreach initiatives to educate the public on the consequences of climate change and providing guidance for developing and influencing public policies related to climate change

The most important policy priority that was NOT included in the 2017-2018 budget is the hiring of a Sustainability Officer. This person would have the expertise to plan and implement these five points of the RCAP initiatives, in addition to many other strategies to protect our city.  The economic benefits provided by a Sustainability officer far outweigh the salary costs. Boca Raton would join most every other municipality in the state that already have a Sustainability officer on staff and are reaping the benefits.

The residents of Boca Raton are fortunate that our city is financially healthy. The cost of a Sustainability Office is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the city’s entire budget. A Sustainability Officer will take the necessary steps to help protect our city’s future for our children, grandchildren and local businesses. It must be added as a top priority in the 2017-2018 budget.

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Monica is a 20-year Boca Raton resident and the former chairperson of the city’s Green Living Advisory Board. She is the Florida Regional Climate Reality Leader for the Climate Reality Project (www.climaterealityproject.org) and a volunteer for the Citizens Climate Lobby (www.citizensclimatelobby.org). Over the past several years, she has been committed to advocating for a sustainable lifestyle for all by reducing our impact on our environment by eliminating the use of fossil fuels for energy, through water protection and conservation, and by healthy living.

1 COMMENT

  1. To complement Ms. Mayotte’s article, one important aspect of her ask is worth highlighting as an assumed part of her message. Such a position will take into account sustaining our enjoyment of electrical power during and after storms. Electric service is important to the health, welfare and safety of all citizens. Food in our refrigerators, air conditioning, street and traffic lights for safety – all may be affected for days or even weeks.

    The City must follow current and creat additional, enforceable codes requiring residential and commercial property owners keep their ornamental landscaping from affecting power lines.

    We have seen from Irma, Wilma and a host of other storms – common sense reduction and maintenance of vegetation will make a significant difference while reducing cost and inconvenience for many. Thank you Monica for highlighting this important position and direction for our city.

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