Grassroots Groups Host Council Candidate Forum

On February 28, PBG Watch, along with the South Florida 912 and the Palm Beach County Tea Party, Taxpayer Action Board and the Palm Beach Gardens Residents Coalition hosted a candidate forum for City Council election, featuring former Mayor David Levy and challenger attorney James D’Loughy.. Moderated by Daniel Martell, CEO of the PBC Economic Council, the candidates were asked a set of questions about current issues facing our city, some of which proved to offer a real choice between the candidates. Present for the forum (and keeping them honest) was former Councilman and now County Commissioner Hal Valeche, and Councilman and former Mayor Eric Jablin.

The meeting was kicked off by the leaders of the sponsoring groups, including Shannon Armstrong, leader of South Florida 912, Michael Riordan, President of Palm Beach County Tea Party, Kevin Easton, President of Palm Beach Gardens Resident’s Coalition, and Fred and Iris Scheibl, co-founders of the Taxpayer Action Board (TAB) and PBG Watch. Timekeeping duties were performed by Barbara Grossman.

Below you will find a summary of the event, with the questions that were asked, and a link to a video of that section of the forum.

Forum Questions
Opening Statement:

James D’Loughy: Business attorney, bring business sense to the council

David Levy: Environmental consultant, very accessible, will help solve people’s problems

Question 1, Budget and Spending: With property valuations bottoming out, there was less pressure this year on programs and tax rates. Assuming we see increasing valuations in future years, how can we prevent the explosion of spending that occurred during the last period of rising property values? What can you say to the employees who want raises and the special interests that want more funding for their programs?

James D’Loughy: We can prevent it by having some businessmen on the council who know about saving for a rainy day, not overcommitting to our employees and having to break deals with them after the fact. Believes in performance based raises, not across the board, to incent improvement. Across the board increases is socialism. You have to work with special interests but should make sure it benefits the taxpayer.

David Levy: Started on the council in 2004 at the start of the real estate boom, weren’t spending like crazy – put 4-20M in the reserve fund, cut expenses by $9M during the recession by making govt more efficient, don’t expect to hire any more staff, nor expand the services we already have. Employees should occasionally get a cost of living adjustment because of inflation. Support 2% proposed raise since we cut back on staff and they are working harder than ever.

Question 2, Economic Development: Attracting businesses and jobs to the city can be approached in a number of ways. One is to provide tax incentives and outright payouts for infrastructure development like the county did with Scripps. Another is to subsidize private business directly. Another way is to make the city attractive as a place to create or expand a business by reducing the tax burden and simplifying the permitting process. What is your preferred approach to economic development?

James D’Loughy:Attract business by making this an attractive place to live and people will come. Keep density low and minimize traffic, call on retired top executives in the area like Jack Welch to attract companies from around the world, work with the BDB and Enterprise Florida, build businesses not more homes.

David Levy:Proud of simplifying permitting – can now get one in 3 days, most business-friendly thing you can do, why so many business people supporting me.

Question 3, Environment: The city has many beautiful parks and green space that add to our quality of life, and areas that are environmentally sensitive have been protected. When the economy improves and more land is developed (specifically Vavrus Ranch), how would you maintain a balance between no-growth environmental activism and overly prolific development?

James D’Loughy:Respect private property rights, need balanced approach, preserve watersheds and envrionmentally sensitive areas.

David Levy:We’ve been good at this, 40% of PBG is in conservation, best use of Vavrus is public use, financing of which we would need help from state or federal government.

Question 4, Ethics: The voters overwhelmingly approved the Inspector General and Ethics Ordinances and their application to municipal as well as county government. 15 cities (now 14) including Palm Beach Gardens have sued the county over the planned IG funding mechanism, but many would say it is an attempt to thwart the wishes of the voters. How should this standoff be resolved and what is your view of Karen Marcus’ proposal to de-fund the IG auditing function – an operation that the IG has said is central to any certified Inspector General operation?

James D’Loughy:Not proud of the city – lawsuits are a zero sum game, council as public servants have duty to listen to the electorate, city has been arrogant – IG would have cost $30K last year and they should have paid it, given the conviction of corrupt county politicians, we need the IG to insure transparency and good business practices

David Levy:The City of PBG has always supported the Inspector General, but taxpayers were told it was funded by .25% of contracts but instead we have a system that we can’t estimate the amount – this is why WPB filed the lawsuit against the county and PBG joined them. Suit has gone on too long, PBG wants to be proactive and solve the lawsuit, the sooner the better

Question 5, Ethics: The city has been criticized by the IG and others for renewing the Waste Management contract without allowing competing bids, and placing the item on the agenda for a vote with no prior notice. What will you do if elected to insure an open and fair contracting process?

James D’Loughy:Responsibility to the taxpayer to get the best price – it is business 101 to bid it out when there are other companies who want to bid, Joe Russo voted against it and so would I have

David Levy: In year 6 of 7 year contract, negotiated with Waste Management to see what they came up with, I think we got the best price, agreed to not raise rates in year 7, nor the next 5, we may have got a better price but I doubt it and am proud of what we did.

Question 6, Charter: The city attempted to “clean up” the charter and bring it into compliance with state law and practice with a 2012 ballot amendment which failed. The amendment was criticized as having been developed without a charter committee, and ignoring past proposals. What is the next step? What other charter issues should be considered (eg. term limits)

James D’Loughy: God forbid the founding fathers would have acted like that – having the city manager direct the city attorney to rewrite the charter, propasal was not understandable and I’m glad it failed, needs to be of the people, not of the government.

David Levy: Tried to do too much too quickly, should form a charter review committee and have them add and subtract from the one that failed, then change it piecemeal over the next couple of years.

Selected Additional Questions from the Audience:
Written questions submitted by the audience included topics on Vavrus development, annexations, term limits, voter turnout, truancy, council process, vision, pay raises, evaluation of the City Manager, and council member benefits.
Closing Statement:


3 Responses to “Grassroots Groups Host Council Candidate Forum”
  1. barbara grossman says:

    I would like to thank the patriots who care about their community for showing up for this important forum , and ask that they please tell their neighbors to get out and vote on March 12,2013. The out come of this election is important to all of us who live in Palm Beach Gardens.

    Many thanks to the Palm Beach County Tea Party, South Florida 912,PBG Resident Coalition & the Tax Payer Action Board

  2. Pat HUGHEY says:

    Thanks to sponsers, particapants and all persons attending the candidate forum of 02-28-13. An informed voter will make a better decision. Encourage your friends and neighbors to learn as much as they can about the candidates and their views/vision for Palm Beach Gardens, Vote on March 12th. No VOTE, no VOICE!!!!

  3. Thanks to all who put the forum together. Thanks to Kevin Easton and others who actually had to complain to the City to put up ONE slide on the new City billboard about the upcoming election. Former Mayor Levy and Council, why so secretive about notifying the residents about the election?

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