Former Mayor: Trolley System Threatens Residents With Endless Taxes, No Benefits

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

Pay attention, Fort Lauderdale residents.

This one could cost you money….forever.

Fort Lauderdale commissioners are considering giving the Fort Lauderdale trolley project almost unlimited ability to tax you….no matter where you live in the city.

So charges Eric Hersh, who lives in the Las Olas River House after almost a dozen years as Weston’s mayor.

Hersh looked at the language to approve the project being considered by Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners next Tuesday and was shocked.

“This is an opened ended ordinance to do special assessments anywhere in the city for mass transit. What they are selling the public isn’t what’s written in the resolution,” Hersh said in an interview with Browardbeat.com.

He says homeowners should strongly consider the downside of the project – taxes.

“There is no benefits for the residents in this. Maybe in 20 years. Maybe,” Hersh said.

The trolley is a transit system winding from downtown Fort Lauderdale to Broward General Medical Center and maybe someday the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.  A link to its website is here.

Asked to examine the project by fellow Las Olas River House residents, Hersh found:

“Everything they are selling to residents is not what’s being presented.  The residents need to be protected, but what (commissioners) have in front of them is basically a blank check.”

He fired off an e-mail to city commissioners and others late Thursday night after the language of the proposal was released.

Here it is.

 

 

Mayor & City Commissioners

 

City of Ft. Lauderdale

As a resident of Downtown Ft. Lauderdale, I have some serious concerns about the proposed ordinance and resolution establishing and levying the special tax for the Wave transportation system.

During public meetings, both with the DDA and members of the commission, what is being discussed publicly is NOT consistent with the ordinance and / or resolution being presented by City staff.  After numerous discussions and meetings with representatives of the DDA, there appears to be no effort by city staff to accommodate these concerns, therefore, I would request that the City Commission direct staff to amend the ordinance to address these issues.

My specific concerns are as follows:

1-             The residential portion of the special assessment is being advertised as $99 per year maximum.   Further, it has been said that with additional units being completed, this assessment would likely come down due to these additional units.

In fact, this is NOT what would happen.  The proposed 30% allocation to residential is based on the just value of residential vs commercial and undeveloped land.  This just value allocation would be re-calculated yearly, and therefore, since the developed residential units will also add to the just value, the percentage of assessment allocated to residential could easily rise, therefore REDUCING the commercial allocation, and INCREASING the residential.  Further, if the commercial land values don’t rise as fast as residential, in fact, the assessment could be higher than $99 per unit.  Considering the permitted residential units on the books right now, there is much more planned development of residential vs commercial, so clearly, the RESIDENTIAL COMPONANT will go up in future years.  This is NOT what has been promised.

Further, this justification puts an equal benefit to residents and businesses, as it’s 1 to 1 proportionate to the just valuations.   No reasonable person could argue that the benefit of the Wave is not higher for business than for residents.  The residential should be locked in at 30% of debt service, and divided by the total residential units in the district. 

2-             We have been told that this district would only be responsible for phase 1 of the Wave, and that future expansion would not be the responsibility of the this district.  That is not what the proposed ordinance or resolution states.  The ordinance sets the stage for this AND future assessments, without the need for further legislation.  Nowhere does it say that the assessments are limited to this phase, nor that cost overruns, or other improvements won’t be part of this assessment.  That is NOT what is being advertised to the public.

3-             The promises being made to residents should be in the enacting ordinance, not in the resolution.  This should be a matter of law.  There is no reason that future mass transit assessments can’t be as an amendment to the ordinance, or in new ordinances.  The City has refused to do this, as they have attempted to provide the ability to RAISE TAXES through this assessment without enacting more legislation.    The bottom line is that this is nothing more than an increase in taxes, and as such, it should be exactly as being told to the public.  This ordinance and resolution does not do that.

4-             There is no proper justification for the boundaries of the district.  It makes no sense that the commercial property down east as far as 15th street on Las Olas do not participate in the assessment district.  Certainly, those businesses will benefit by bringing more people downtown.  (If you buy into the whole sales pitch).  The Commission should expand the district to all those who could benefit, therefore reducing the burden to each.  In fact, if the Wave is a benefit that would be as large as advertised, there could be an even larger area that should participate.

5-             The City should consider using transportation sales tax revenue to provide the city’s required share.  This could be bonded out, and would reduce the need to further raise taxes.

6-             It has been said that the benefit to the residents is that it will increase valuations of property.  I believe your council will advise that potential increase in resale value is NOT valid justification for a special benefit tax.  In fact, the benefit to residents, within phase 1 of the Wave, is non-existent, and the benefit methodology report is vague at best in justifying any benefit to residents.  I personally do not believe that if challenged, this portion of the assessment would hold up. 

It should be noted that the DDA made a valiant attempt to have city staff address these concerns, and while I appreciate their efforts, it was to no avail.   It is my opinion that if the public fully understood the unlimited nature of this assessment, and the likely increasing responsibility of residential units on the overall assessments, there would be an uproar to say the least.  Having spent 19 years in public service, I truly believe that the only thing that is worse than raising taxes, is not being upfront as to the taxes being raised now and in the future.  

I appreciate you taking the time to consider this issues, and I respectfully request that the protections suggested above be written into the ordinance itself.

 

Sincerely,

 

Eric M. Hersh

 

 

 

25 thoughts on “Former Mayor: Trolley System Threatens Residents With Endless Taxes, No Benefits”

  1. I’d sure vote for you anytime Eric Hersh. Looks like the powers that be in FTL can’t see past their own noses.

  2. I have only the highest regard for Eric Hersh, and he served Weston well. Thank you for speaking out for the taxpayers of Ft. lauderdale. The blank check the city wants is a huge burden, on top of twenty year $340,000,000.00 pension obligations bonds approved 3-2 vote last September 2012. Any property owner in the city limits better wake up and realize the financial pain this administration and city manager is shoving down our throats again. Thank for Buddy for the only forum in the county on this very important decision.

  3. This coming from a former Mayor of a City that writes blank checks to vendors, never puts out competitive solicitations and has cozy relationships with vendors for years. Puhlease.

  4. You can bet this is more Jack Seiler trying to sneak one through for his friends. Seiler knows it will be a failure. He is not interested in the city, only in running for governor, if not next year, in five years. Fort Lauderdale already has the most debt of any city in the county and now will have more taxes thanks to Seiler.

  5. Few transit systems make money. Most are subsidized by the general budget or other taxes, like the Broward County bus system, as a way to help low-wage workers and seniors who don’t have cars.
    This streetcar system is being subsidized as a way to help developers build along the route. I Hersh is right that Fort Lauderdale residents should ask themselves whether they want to pay to allow more development or whether the trolley idea should be scrapped.

  6. Seem to remember Eric being close with Judy Stern. Looks like the friendship with Seiler and Stern is on the rocks since Seiler didnt jump when Judy and Barbra Stern tried to make him out to be a woman hater. I have to wonder if Stern is setting up Hersh vs Seiler in 2015. Add Seiler to the list along with Sheriff Israel, SA Mike Satz, Mosley, Rodstrom, Kristin Jacobs and Evan Jenne to name a few that were once friends with Judy only to be screwed over by her later.

  7. Seriously?!? Fort Lauderdale wants to pay for a TROLLEY from downtown to the airport?!?!?

    Apparently the advocates of this completely insane waste of money have no idea that Broward County Transit’s Route 1 already runs between Broward Central Terminal and the airport, and that Tri-Rail also provides similar transportation to and from the airport (at a higher price, though).

    Got money to spend on transportation? Here’s an idea: spend it to add more buses to Broward County Transit. Make it possible to arrive at the airport on the 2 AM red-eye flight from Tokyo and then take the bus to Broward Central Terminal and from there another bus or two to get home. Make it possible to get from home to the airport at 3 AM for a 4 AM flight. At present the whole county bus system shuts down around 11 PM to midnight, and doesn’t start running again until around 6 AM. Tri-Rail does the same thing.

    I hate being in the right lane behind a bus that’s about to stop as much as anyone, but if I had transportation money to allocate, especially the kind of money it would take to build and run this silly trolley, I’d sink every penny into the Broward County Transit system and try to get as close to “every 10 minutes, 24 / 7 / 365″ as I possibly could.

    Highway money available too? That should go into the long-promised, never-delivered traffic light synchronization overhaul. Los Angeles just completed their overhaul, and they are showing very significant reductions in travel time for everyone.

  8. @Harold
    to late to scrap because feds and state have already thrown money at it – just not enough
    the pipe dream that the mayor and 2 others on dais have for the city and bringing tourists from airport to downtown is driving this – not the needs wants and best interests of city taxpayers

  9. I have discussed the “Wave” with its director, and they have this trolley heading west along Griffin Road to the Colleges too, right from the airport. Many years from now, but who will land at the airport, take the trolley to college? Where will you rent a car? I also discussed this with the Marine Industry, the bridges will have to open so often, messing with marine traffic. What benefit do “all” the city residents get for their tax input?..Rico

  10. Mayor Seiler had a chance to do the right thing and cut ties with Ahern over his hateful woman comments about Barbie Stern. If he gets an opponent he can look to his fat friend and ask why. Myor forgot who picked him up as a little know Wilton Manors Commissioner and got him elected Mayor of Wilton Manors, a State Rep and Mayor of Fort Lauderdale. Ahern You have also put Mayor Seiler in a pickle(you do know Judy Stern was a big assest to Mayor Seiler getting re-elected-how quick they forget Judy). typical Seiler always trying to have it borht ways just like gay marriage. Pick a side you are either against Stern and gay marriage or your are not. No bs as usual, its not my fight line.
    oh well hopefully your fat pal Ahern can win the next election against Mayor Hersh who will have the full support of the gay community.

  11. Hersh is the only person I know who actually takes the time to read the mile high stack of documents on an issue vs taking for granted what is being told by politicians. It’s been told by everyone pushing for the trolly system that the residential burden would be capped at $99.00 per year for 25 years, plus to be diluted over time by future development. READ the Resolution and you’ll find the opposite!

  12. @HaHaHa
    what a concept – a bus every 10 minutes 24/7/365 – I’m with you!!
    just like NYC area
    the silly wave will make money for a handful of A/E’s, contractors, subs at huge cost over runs to taxpayers
    but city wants to control who goes where and what they actually see of the city – downtown, las olas.
    NOT SISTRUNK, not west broward to Amtrak station at Broward/I-95. the dumb citizens of ft ldle let this happen on their $$ then there is no hope for them.

  13. This WAVE is a money pit in the making. How is the trolley system working for the city?
    Put money into bettering the bus system. Fix the roads. Get traffic flowing not putting in more obstacles.

  14. So Hersh might be running for Mayor of Fort Lauderdale? Finally a good competitor!
    Seiler is the “event” guy not a Mayor of a city or a consideration for a governor. He is more like the ring master. The rest of the State of Florida don’t know Jack.

  15. So, later this week, I will be publishing a piece on my blog asking the question…

    Is Mayor Jack Seiler a homophobe? Is he anti-gay?

    I’ll provide you with some thoughtful ideas, and allow you to arrive at your own conclusion.

    Chaz
    MAOS

  16. Listen to #10″Cental Broward”. Someone actually called me to ask if this was me. I will only blog under”City activist Robert walsh”. I think Mr.Hirsh is taking this a little bit(little bit) to far. first of all this is actually Oridance 3 that was defered to June 4. Secound reading was never taken. Again this is for transporation issues (nothing else). To say that Mayor Seiler is making a bundle off this project is being very speculative. I do not run w/ speculation. Show me how Mayor Seiler is makin money.. I think the only one right now that could challenge Mayor Seiler is Former Comm.Tim Smith. Anyhow I agree w/ you Mr.Hirch there is other avenues that can be taken in regards to this Wave Tax. Which will be discussed Jun4 @ 6pm @ City Hall. Lets here your ideas Eric. These kind of commnets are your fault Lee Feldman(city manger). Imagine Comm.Rogers, who ‘s district this involves, was never even told of this wave tax. Don’t do it guys.

  17. This will be a bottomless pit into which you pour taxpayers’ money. Any politician that votes for it should be removed from office.

  18. The WAVE does not go to the airport. It runs only as far South on Andrews as Broward General now BrowaRd Health. Going North it ends at the Bus Terminal I certainly wouldn’t want that as a final destination. It is unsafe – no protection from the climate & weather (even as simple as sun & heat)

    Comm Rogers isn’t objective on this proposed transportation. Now he’s proposing that the First Baptist Church of which he his a member & leader NOT be taxed as a non profit. Wouldn’t that variance apply to all non profits in the taxing district?

    As with most ‘ideas’ presented by the City, there is NO Master Plan at least that active residents are aware of. Everything is piece me. The uninformed resident who blindly ends up paying the bills.

  19. @18 – Broward Central Terminal does have sun protection. There are shade-producing structures overhead. Passengers stand in the shade until their bus arrives, then they board the air-conditioned bus.

  20. Thanks Eric for all this useful information. Seems like they have lots of work to do to get my support.

  21. Has there ever been a forensic audit on the spending of taxpayer monies by Mr Wren? Do we just “WAVE” that money goodbye, nice slush fund. Hey Chaz follow the money.

  22. well goll-olly-oolly lee!seems like s-s decides this may be important and newsThank you Buddy and ex-Offcio Mayor Eric Herschfor the scoop because you reviewed backup docs

    ps as we all remember Chris Wren, current DDA guy used to head FLL zoning, Planning and Zoning, Economic Development , or whatever they aclled it back then

  23. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO PAY TAXES FOR SOMETHING YOU WILL NEVER USE, COME TO THE CITY COMMISSION TONIGHT, JUNE 4. PROTEST MAYOR JACK SEILER’S WASTEFUL STREETCAR BOONDOGGLE.

  24. @#7 – you are so right. Increase the bus service, lengthen and expand the routes add wi-fi. Why pay for all overhead lines, tracks, stations, work yards, etc. It’s ridiculous. What a waste of taxpayer $.

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