4 years in the life of Apopka FL

With the Apopka City elections less than 30 days away, campaign season is in high gear. Mail-in ballots have been sent out, and over 600 ballots have already been returned, according to reports. Apopka has approximately 31,000 registered voters. It would be considered a successful election if we can get 15%-20% to actually vote this time out. Of all the rights and freedoms we as Americans have, the right to vote is the most sacred, yet the one right taken completely for granted. As a Nation and as a City, we MUST do better.

Apopka has candidates running for both seats on the City Commission; however, most eyes are on the race for Mayor of Apopka. Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson is challenging current Mayor Joe Kilsheimer. The race for Mayor comes down to these questions:  Do the citizens of Apopka want to see our City spiral out of financial control and into bankruptcy and high taxes in the next couple of years, OR do we want some semblance of financial control and balance restored to the City’s financial life?WHAT has happened to the City’s balance reserves, built up over time and carefully managed by Mayor John Land.  And WHY is our exploding budget being managed, not by careful and prudent spending policies, but by loans and withdrawals from our reserves?

These last 4 years of Mayor K’s administration has seen more than it’s share of missteps and more questions than answers. Let’s review shall we? Let me know if I’ve missed anything.

Right after taking office, Mayor K saw the first order of business as voting himself a salary of $150,000., making him the highest paid Mayor in Orange County;

An inability to get a simple splashpad built, or even to secure acceptable bids for said splashpad; constant missteps in getting a Town Center started. After a sweetheart sale of the designated property, which saw the City LOSE over $12,000,000.00, the first shovel of dirt has yet to be turned. Which means, the City STILL does not get tax revenue on that land.

Several times over the last 4 years when employees were unable to cash their paychecks because the money wasn’t in the bank account. Of course, each time it was the bank’s fault; a pending lawsuit by several employees who were told to work overtime, during lunch periods, without pay;

On-going issue with the City’s wastewater facility and practices, resulting in, you guessed it, a lawsuit against the city;

A very nice deal with a developer, MMI, for them to build what amounted to a private off-ramp from the 414 leading right into their very nice development. The City fronts them millions to build the ramp, and low and behold, very nice contributions from these developers start showing up on Mayor K’s campaign contributors list.

In the ongoing saga of the City Manager who will not go away, former CAO Richard Anderson, involved in a hit and run accident (he hit then he ran), resulting in serious injury to the other driver, ended up suing the City of Apopka for wrongful termination. Then after Mayor Joe was involved in a complicated settlement deal that HE brought to the City Commission for approval, Joe did the only logical thing he could do: he voted AGAINST his own deal..

He dug up almost $60,000.00 from the reserves to pay for 4 scoreboards from a company in North Carolina, over a year ago. Only problem is the scoreboards have yet to be delivered, or even seen, except by a few.

Apopka begins and ends with an A – nothing more than a liberal feel-good program that has accomplished little, if any concrete, measureable results. Did I mention this program is run through a foundation, City of Life, run by a friend of the Mayor’s. Amount given thus far to the Mayor’s friend is in the 10’s of thousands of dollars.

Millions lost from a communications tower that is still in the box because the brain pans in the Kilsheimer administration did not secure a location before buying the tower.

Thousands of dollars in losses from City Run “festivals” like the Symphony under the Stars and the Old Florida Festival among them.

About a year ago, Mayor K and 3 of his buddies, including the friend from the aforementioned City of Life Foundation, put forth a private business plan worth $500,000.00 to a friend in the Florida State Legislature, for taxpayers to pick up the enormous tab.  Fortunately, this money grab died in committee.

And the on-going debate about the City of Apopka’s budget reserves, disappearing rapidly under Mayor K’s administration. Mayor Joe recently claimed at a City Commission meeting, that “sometimes no policy is a policy” and also, “the city does not have the luxury of having a reserve policy”.  With a little fancy arithmetic and some misdirection, Mayor K is trying to discredit Candidate Nelson’s claims about where the reserves were and were they are now. He even hired a blogger from Tampa, of very questionable reputation and ethics, to write a post filled with non-truths, attempting to debunk Nelson’s claims. However, Candidate Nelson’s information comes directly from the City’s OWN budget information, posted on the City’s website. Mayor Joe: figures DO NOT lie, but liars indeed figure.

This little walk down memory lane serves as a reminder of what happens to a City when it is irresponsibly and inexcusably mismanaged. Not to benefit all the Citizens, but a small percentage of campaign donors, developers, personal friends and a core base of joe-bot like supporters. So, which do you want, a city that will soon drown in its own debt, a city that will not be able to provide even basic city services in a few years? OR do you want a City that will be vibrant, growing and thriving because of sound fiscal policy and led by someone who gives personification to the term Public Servant. MY choice has been made: Bryan Nelson has received my vote and I pray he receives YOUR vote!

 

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4 years in the life of Apopka FL

STIF’s and the Apopka Taxpayer, Part 2

Two weeks have passed since the Apopka city Commission voted to table a motion regarding the granting of a STIF district near the 414 and Marden Road area. MMI Development is asking for this because they are offering to build an interchange in that area, giving easier access to their development projects, and by extension, the new Florida Hospital currently under construction. Synthetic tax incremental financing districts create funding for public/private projects by borrowing against FUTURE increase in tax revenue created by businesses and other projects expected to move to the district because of the main project; in this case, an interchange. That is why these are gambles at best; we are being asked to hedge our bets and quite possible, our futures, to obtain instant gratification and not worry about what tomorrow holds. What tomorrow could hold is a sluggish or failing economy; plans and visions that change; bankruptcies. What tomorrow could hold is Apopka taxpayers with a millstone around our necks that could take years, if not decades to remove.

Two weeks have passed, and this item is once again on the Apopka City Council meeting agenda for this Wednesday Sept 2, at 1:30 pm. This agreement was given to the Commission about 4 weeks ago; both Commissioner Arrowsmith and Commissioner Ruth were right to ask questions about an agreement that clearly neither fully understood. Mayor Kilsheimer’s smug reply to these questions was that the City had been negotiating this agreement for over 9 months, and to push this project back anymore would be “unfair” to those already counting on this agreement. The consensus was that the City was not saying NO to this agreement, only that more time was needed to study and understand this complex agreement and thus a motion to table this until the next meeting. The next meeting is upon us; have the Commissioners had time to fully review this agreement and get satisfactory answers to their questions? Does this agreement sufficiently protect the taxpayers of Apopka, or will we be stuck with a huge mistake if this gamble doesn’t pay off. The Mayor, CAO Irby and City Attorney Shephard would do well to answer any questions raised thoughtfully and respectfully, not in the arrogant, almost mocking tone taken lately with people who dare ask questions. Questions I have:  Who is counting on the agreement? Why are these people or entities counting on this agreement to go through? Have certain commitment already been made to others before an agreement was even presented to the Citizens of Apopka for a vote?

The big question remains: who will actually benefit from this STIF, the taxpayers of Apopka or MMI Development. If this is not a mutually beneficial agreement to all involved, especially the Apopka taxpayer, I would respectfully ask our Commissioners to vote NO on this STIF.

STIF’s and the Apopka Taxpayer, Part 2