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Confusion on Bradenton's intent to transition CRA authority continues to June 24 vote

Council members accused of not making it clear why they support oversight of Community Redevelopment Agency

BRADENTON -- Some Bradenton City Council members, such as Ward 4 Bemis Smith and Ward 5 Harold Byrd Jr., said they remain frustrated over "public misperception" on why most council members support the transition of community redevelopment agency authority to the city council.

Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown and Mayor Wayne Poston said the supporting council members are not making a case for why the change is necessary.

"You aren't explaining why we are doing it," said Poston.

One point is clear. City council will likely vote June 24 on whether to make the transition.

Brown said he isn't against the concept, but doesn't believe council members have a defined plan to move forward.

"I still think there is some confusion on this body on what we are going to have to do," Brown said.

Should the resolution pass Wednesday, it is expected to become effective Jan. 1.

Smith and Byrd have said the most important decision is to move forward. The details, they say, will come into focus during the transition period.

Brown said the council is gambling existing CRA boards will continue working under a "lame duck" environment. Brown said research has shown Bradenton's CRAs are effective.

"I found out that even though some things could improve, Bradenton is the benchmark for the way it's working now," he said.

Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo has advocated elected officials must be responsible for spending taxpayer dollars .

Gallo had strong words for CRA board members who decide to quit: "Then they should get on down the road. I heard about the possibility of board members not wanting to be involved and that bothers me to hear that. In my mind, these people allegedly are dedicated to the revitalization of Bradenton. If we have people who want to pick up their ball and go home, then they aren't the kind of people we want on the boards anyway."

Bradenton has three CRA districts, including the CCRA in East Bradenton. The downtown Bradenton CRA and the 14th Street West CRA are under control of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.

It appears the DDA board's authority over the downtown core will remain intact. The future of DDA staff, however, remains uncertain.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.

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