Pinellas Mayors: Cities Feel ‘Under Attack’ by Legislature
A majority of Pinellas County mayors say an “anti-local government trend” in the state Legislature is aimed at handicapping the ability of local governments to serve their communities.
PINELLAS COUNTY – The Pinellas County Mayors’ Council has sent Legislators a letter outlining their concerns about state attempts to prevent cities and towns from passing rules that govern their own residents.
Thus far, 14 of the county’s 24 mayors have signed onto the letter:
“Together we are local government!
“Last session, key leaders in Tallahassee introduced a variety of legislation that aimed to handicap LOCAL [sic] government’s ability to serve its community. The Mayors’ Council of Pinellas County believes this anti-local government trend will likely continue into the 2018 session due to members of the Legislature believing that the Florida Legislature has the constitutional right to preempt local governments. Therefore, it is more important than ever before that mayors unite to remind our state representatives and state senators that over 40 years ago, Floridians voted to empower themselves with the right of local self-government – known as Home Rule.
“Cities continue to feel as if they are under attack by some state legislators seeking to stifle their ability to self-govern, eliminate citizens ability to engage policymakers at a LOCAL [sic] public forum and force financially healthy cities to significantly spend down reserves, crippling the ability to self-sustain themselves during economic downturns and emergency situations, as well as negatively impacting their credit rating resulting in being subject to pay high interest rates.
“Our residents expect various city services: water, sewer, garbage collection, storm water systems, roads, sidewalks, fire protection, law enforcement, libraries, parks and recreation. They also expect city officials to exercise regulatory powers when necessary to protect public health, safety, and community standards specific to the municipality in which they choose to live. These expectations cannot be met if city officials do not have the authority to respond to local needs and preferences, or to address them in a timely manner. If municipal authority is stripped away by state legislators, citizens will have to deal directly with these legislators during a 60 day session in Tallahassee instead of at bi-weekly city council meetings being conducted year round.
“Another concern mayors have this legislative session is that potential new legislation may be introduced that could force healthy cities to become fiscally unstable. We can all understand the importance of healthy reserves, especially after Hurricane Irma. The cost of clean-up alone caused many cities to have to tap into reserves while waiting for reimbursement by the federal government. Further, this type of irresponsible legislation would limit a city’s ability to mitigate risks such as revenue shortfalls and unanticipated expenditures which could negatively impact credit ratings. This is obviously another way for the state to garner control over local government spending – spending which is determined by you the citizens through LOCAL [sic] public forums and citizen budget advisory committees. Forcing reductions to a city’s general reserves reveals a financially irresponsible mindset coming from state leaders.
“Lastly, any legislative efforts to dismantle the structure of or eliminate the funding for Community Redevelopments Agencies (CRA) would be a gigantic leap backwards for economic growth and development. A majority of cities have made significant CRA investments in infrastructure, blight removal and public safety resulting in private investments that have further increased the attractiveness and livability of formerly blighted areas. As property values rise, many CRAs reinvest these revenues in additional improvements, creating a self-sustaining cycle of revitalization. Unfortunately, the majority of these responsible and highly successful CRAs are not spotlighted – shamefully, only the few bad actors are making headlines and can be corrected without dismantling the CRA program.”
For a listing of and links to Pinellas County’s 24 municipalities, go to pinellascounty.org.
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