I appreciate the Herald's focus on changes at Bradenton's community redevelopment agencies, but am somewhat astounded that the media continues to be the primary source of misinformation that clouds the discussion.
In the most recent editorial alone, there are multiple factual errors:
1) Council is "fervent" in our actions on the CRAs but hardly hasty; there have been at least six public meetings over several months and the discussion was started with the one CRA executive director last year.
2) There has never been a discussion about "abolishing the DDA" nor does Council even have that power since it was created by the Florida Legislature. Most comments about the DDA have been positive and the only question is how best to use this valuable board to promote economic development.
3) You use innuendo to imply that if Council becomes the CRA board, we would not support community input yet there has been no call for changing the direction of the boards.
4) I did not propose a ity Department of Economic Development to "replace" the DDA but to support it. As I stated on multiple occasions, the Economic Development director should provide support and funding to make the DDA stronger.
5) And contrary to the article, my presentation was in writing with staffing and funding levels as well as general job descriptions.
Finally, while there is always need for community input when their money is being spent, the only real discussion point at this time is not whether the CRAs will continue to exist with continuity of vision and funding; that is a given in the short run. The only formal action undertaken to date by council is who sits as the CRA boards.
As you note, the CRAs have been successful and I have made three proposals that I believe, with input from my colleagues and the community, will move us to greater successes.
The first is for the City Council to sit as a unified CRA board for all of the CRAs. Along with the five council members would be two appointees, one from the CCRA and one from the 14th Street CRA. This allows for a unified strategy for the use of CRA funds and a common vision that will be necessary as we redefine our entire city.
Second, the DDA will continue its mission to promote our downtown business area, and I propose seeking legislative action to expand it to cover the areas that will be part of our downtown 35 years hence.
My proposal allocates $250,000 to promote their initiatives with additional funding available through the CRA and EDC as is necessary.
They have succeeded in building the framework for a burgeoning downtown, and with their help bringing in new business and development this framework can be fleshed out as the economy recovers.
And third, I have proposed the creation of a department-level Office of Economic Development to support the DDA and CRA board while having the ability to work in the entire city and not just in downtown. This will allow for an increased intensity of support to bring economic development while eliminating questions of whether community events and international travel are within the scope of a CRA's mission.
These changes will work to move the city forward as the initial creation of the CRAs did years ago.
Bemis Smith, represents Ward Four on Bradenton's City Council.