Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce Annual Legislative Luncheon 2017

Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce Annual Legislative Luncheon

November 21, 2017

Michael S. Weiner Moderator


The diverse panel of civil servants, from the local and state levels, on the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce DBCC’s Annual Legislative Luncheon at Bethesda Health answered text in audience questions asked by moderator Michael Weiner Special Councel at Sachs Sacs & Caplan, one of the luncheon sponsors.  The engaging panel included Congresswoman Lois Frankel from Florida’s 21st District,  Representative Lori Berman, Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein, and Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie.  


The opening two-part question first addressed House Bill 13  Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs).


Congresswoman Frankel responded by pointing out two of the best CRA examples are Atlantic Avenue and Downtown West Palm Beach’s Old Northwood.  She went on to explain that if taxes are properly used you can bond some large projects; this can be a great tool if used properly.


The second part of the question addressed Federal Tax Legislation and local Homestead exemptions.


Congresswoman Frankel explained that Tax Reform is appropriate, there are currently two plans: one passed by the House and one circulating in the Senate.  Frankel went on to say these were not really tax reform plans, but rather tax cuts to benefit the very rich.  Florida is home to many senior citizens.  These plans would add a trillion or more dollars to the deficit and include cuts in Medicare which will greatly affect our senior population.  These plans include continued allowances for reduction of income and property taxes.  There are mortgage deductions for up to $500,000?.  There is a predicted reduction of 13% in property values in Palm Beach County which would result in discouraging people from investing in and buying homes.  The important closing point is that “our economy is very sensitive to the housing market.  Especially here in Florida we need to protect our housing market.”


Representative Berman addressed the Homestead Bill on the ballot in November 2018 that would offer a tax break for homes over $125,000.  If passed, this Bill would negatively impact our taxes available for funding services such as emergency services.  Frankel points out that because Florida does not have a state income tax, we need our property taxes.  Glickstein added that if the additional homestead tax break passes it will cost the city $1.5 million, “hurting us where we can least afford it.”  Glickstein explained that when the homestead tax break is combined with CRAs, which absorb many non-brick and mortar expenses, cities are facing a significant economic threat.  


The next question addressed Sober Homes.  


Mayor Haynie pointed out that Boca Raton was the first city to take Sober Homes to court, while the city did not win, she triumphantly espoused, “it was the best $3 million we ever spent.”  Many sober homes moved to Delray Beach as a result of this judicial action.  Haynie points out that the Sober Homes are ruining neighborhoods; other citites are looking to us for guidance on how we dealt with this issue.  


Mayor Glickstein added that there has been a shift of the recovery footprint out of Delray Beach too adding, “Thankfully unscrupulous operators are moving.”  Glickstein explained that Frankel helped to craft a statement with the Department of Justice and HUD.  An ordinance for all group homes was passed this summer (Sun-Sentinal article.)  Glickstein went on to point out that a number of treatment centers licenses are not being renewed, unfortunately some people aren’t in the business for healing, but for profit.  On an ominous note Glickstein referenced that we are not seeing a reduction in numbers in the opioid crisis, rather we are tracking on 2016 numbers.


Representative Berman added that Florida State Attorney David Aronberg’s task force had resulted in a number of bad actors being arrested. This began with policy work including the state attorney’s May 2017  zoning study.  Berman compassionately explained the need to break the stigma of the co-dependent issues of drug addiction and mental health which are often dually diagnosed.  Shamefully we are 49th in spending, we need more beds and more money to help people; the recommended $50 million is but a drop in the bucket.  We need more money to handle the problem, we are seeing overflow issues throughout society ie foster care and jails. There is an increase in the number of children put in foster care due to parents who are addicted to opiates.  Jails are the number one health care provider, Berman emphatically states, “this is a problem!”


Frankel reported that opioid deaths are at staggering levels, we can not discriminate between sober homes and any other group homes.  There are federal laws that are good laws that protect people with disabilities.  Drug and alcohol addiction are disabilities.  Frankel met with the Assistant Secretary of HUD to tour Delray and sit in a room with code enforces and first responders to discuss sober homes.  This resulted in HUD and the Dept. of Justice to refine their opinon on advising local governments regarding placement of group homes.  “We are all in favor of people getting help, but (there needs to be) balance between good, clean safe neighborhoods and where people get help” Frankel explained.  The outcome was an ordinance to regulate the placement of group homes and the ability to enforce it.   


The final question focused on Sunny Day Flooding.


Glickstein warned of the negative impact on  historical neighborhoods and local governments.  Global warming has moved beyond theory and hypothesis to harsh grave realities.  Hainey expressed the need to invest in infrastructure in order to be resilient to address these issues.


The luncheon closed with DBCC’s Vin Nolan imploring the audience, “ You’re involvement is an important function of your civic duty!”