A County Update – with Commissioner Steven Abrams

Appointed by Charlie Crist in 2009 and twice returned to office, Steven Abrams is currently our longest serving Republican Commissioner, and one of only two out of seven (Hal Valeche is the other, elected in 2012).

Speaking at our October lunch, Steve gave a relatively upbeat synopsis of the county economy, describing the low unemployment and other official statistics, as well as anecdotal “unofficial” measurements such as the uptick in traffic, tourism, and garbage collection.

The commission isn’t typically partisan he said, noting that they were in general agreement about allowing Uber to operate in the county, but there are exceptions.

Next week for example (Tuesday at 5pm) Mayor Vana is holding a public hearing on a county proclamation to support the Obama Executive Amnesty, and asking that the state of Florida withdraw from the lawsuit opposing it. If you think such unilateral amnesty is unconstitutional, you may want to attend the meeting and give them your thoughts.

In the Q&A, the commissioner was asked some substantive questions concerning the upcoming proposal for a 1 cent sales tax to fund infrastructure, and Monday’s vote to allow more development in the Ag reserve.

The sales tax proposal, if approved, would appear on the November ballot, but because both Fire/Rescue and the School System would also like to increase the sales tax, it may or may not happen. As you consider this possibility, remember that this September, the county passed the largest budget, with the largest adopted tax in county history. The millage did not increase, but the significant run up in property valuation produced a massive windfall. Steve spoke about the possibility, but did not say one way or the other whether he supports the sales tax referendum. A voted General Obligation Bond issue is also on the table to fund roads and bridges.

On the Ag Reserve (that area west of Boca, Delray and Boynton where the county bought $100M worth of land to keep in agriculture), they just voted to ease the rules on selling development rights for small, non-contiguous parcels. This will have the effect of increasing the number of houses that can be developed by about 1000, although Steve argued that the total will not exceed the amount envisioned in the master plan in 1999 (which is about 14,000 homes). What he didn’t say is that the way the land has been developed to date, the contiguity rules limited it to about 13,000. To his credit, Steve has a well thought-out set of reasons for his yes vote, and it is a relatively complex issue pitting developers and small landowners against environmentalists and groups like the League of Woman Voters.

Several candidates or their surrogates were in attendance, including CD18 candidate Rebecca Negron. Club VP Meg Shannon spoke for CD18 candidate Rick Kozell, and club Treasurer Bette Anne Starkey spoke for Jeb Bush.

Join us for the next lunch on Wednesday, November 18th where we will present a tribute to our troops and veterans with Colonel Arthur DeRuve.

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