Questions From Atlantic Beach Commissioner Cindy Anderson

Below are my answers to the questions posed to all candidates by Commissioner Anderson (who is not running for re-election) on the Atlantic Beach Politics page.

My answers reflect my 10+ years of experience as the Atlantic Beach Public Works Director / City Engineer, as well as what I have learned through participation in recent years in City workshops, priority planning and budget discussions.

1. Are you for or against paid parking in Town Center? Why?

I am against paid parking in Town Center and believe the pilot program is a failed effort that should be allowed to die a natural death. The primary reason given by the City Commission for the pilot project was to improve turnover to assist the Town Center merchants. It was not viewed as a revenue generator. Before paid parking was implemented, almost all Atlantic Beach right of way parking spaces were marked as Two-hour parking, however this limit was never enforced.

If elected, I will urge the Commission to return to time-limited parking with enforcement, probably with a three-hour limit based on the recent consensus for change to the paid parking standards for the Atlantic Beach portion of Town Center.

2. Are you for or against paid parking at all Atlantic Beach accesses? Why? How far west of the beach would you choose to require paid parking, if you are in favor of it?

I am adamantly opposed to expanding paid parking anywhere outside of Town Center. I believe paid parking for beach accesses is a “solution in search of a problem.” The issue at 18th and 19th Street accesses in a normal (non-COVID) year would be limited to some summer weekends. Putting a year-round paid parking program in place would be extreme overkill.

3. Are you for or against the proposed Charter amendment on the ballot? Why?

I am against the proposed Charter Amendment which would change the Mayor’s term of office from two to four years. As the Charter is currently written, the Mayor and two Commissioner seats are up for grabs every election. Atlantic Beach voters can elect a new majority (mayor & two commissioners) every two years if they feel things are not moving in the right direction. This, in fact, is what occurred in the 2017 election – the Mayor and two Commissioners vying for re-election were defeated. A four-year term for the Mayor would do away with the voter’s ability to make that choice every election.

4. Are you for or against adding a bike park in Donner Park? Why?

I am very much in favor of adding additional amenities to City Parks on the west side of Mayport Road, including a bike park and potentially a splash pad. I think the actual location of any new amenities should wait until the Parks Master Plan is completed and approved by the City Commission. This master plan should include a list of proposed projects by park and a proposed capital improvement plan with projects prioritized.

5. For or against reducing the number of parking spaces on 18th St. below 45? Why?

I am against reducing the number of parking spaces at the 18th Street Access from the existing 51 spaces. Because of the Comprehensive plan requirement to maintain the current number of existing beach access spaces, any reduction here would have to be replaced elsewhere and there is no place we could add spaces without causing the same type of opposition we currently see at 18th Street. The number of spaces here is a historic fact, every resident complaining knew the parking area existed when they moved there. There is no arguing with the fact that the demand has risen dramatically over the last several years, but reducing supply is the wrong answer. We should instead be looking at ways to direct more beach goers to use the beach and other facilities in Hanna Park.

6. For or against protecting personal safety and private property regulating parades and processions in the City? Why?

I am for protecting personal safety and private property rights, while at the same time I understand the Freedom of Assembly and Right to Peacefully Protest issues raised in the recent Commission discussion. I do think we should proceed to develop a well thought out, legally enforceable ordinance now, rather than waiting for an incident to occur and trying to respond afterwards.

7. For or against hiring an in-house attorney for the City, in light of annual legal billings in excess of $150,000. Why?

I am in favor of hiring an in-house attorney, though not primarily driven by the current billing averages. An in-house, salaried attorney would provide full time legal access for Commissioners and Staff, in addition to coverage of Commission and Board meetings, and be available to also attend meetings between staff and residents when deemed prudent, without concern for additional cost.

8. For or against Video surveillance cameras added to high populated or high crime areas to aid public safety? Why?

I would be for video cameras in high crime areas if I were aware of any such areas in Atlantic Beach. I am not in favor of placing video cameras just based on population or activity level. The video cameras the City has installed now are generally not monitored as a ‘live’ feed, but only when an issue or complaint arises, so they would usually provide only after-the-fact information. I am not in favor of adding manpower just to monitor security camera feeds.

9. For or against adding more sidewalks to high traffic streets in the City? Why?

I am for adding sidewalks and multi-purpose (bike) paths to all high traffic streets in Atlantic Beach (e.g., Main Street). Sidewalks and bike paths are an important tool to reduce pedestrian and/or bicycle and vehicle accidents. I also believe the sidewalk and bike path network should be expanded to provide better connectivity between our City parks and preserves. Giving residents a better, safer way to access our parks would be a win-win for all of our citizens.

10. What is your plan for funding needed infrastructure improvements in parts of the City which presently flood during and after major storms?

My plan first includes ensuring the flood control projects in the 2018 Stormwater Master Plan Update are prioritized over all other capital projects, and that they are funded, designed, and constructed as rapidly as fiscally possible. Because home flooding has such a great impact on the residents that experience it, infrastructure projects that improve the existing conditions must be fast tracked. Because the current Stormwater Utility fee does not fully pay for the Operations and Maintenance of our existing stormwater systems, capital improvement funds must come from other sources. The Better Jax Plan ½ Cent Sales Tax Fund or the Local Option Gas Tax Fund are two possible sources of funding, as well as using the Stormwater Utility Reserve funds (but not below the 25% requirement).

11. What is your plan to improve adaptability and resiliency in the face of continuing water level rise on this island?

Sea Level Rise is a longer-term issue that will have to be addressed in stages. Begin by using the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity strategies (Protection, Accommodation, Strategic Relocation, Avoidance, and Procedural) to develop an Atlantic Beach specific plan to update our Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations. One aspect of the Procedural step that can be addressed immediately is by requiring that all new structures built or reconstructed in a flood zone have finished floor elevations at or above the 100-year Base Flood Elevation (BFE). Also, the City should evaluate the feasibility of providing grant assistance to homeowners of existing homes in the flood plain to adapt their homes by raising their existing floor level. Another aspect may be to assist Conservation Organizations such as the Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute or North Florida Land Trust in obtaining conservation easements on undeveloped land along the marsh to prevent their future development. I would also ensure that sea level rise is specifically addressed in all infrastructure Master Plans.

12. If we go into recession next year, where would you propose budget cuts to the City’s budget?

If budget cuts are necessary, the first place to look for cuts would be capital projects that are not stormwater or water & sewer related. All equipment and vehicle purchases would be reviewed to evaluate whether they were necessary or could be put off to future years. Any vacant staff positions would be evaluated for need and the position left unfilled unless essential. Typically, in the past, the Public Works Department has absorbed the brunt of any fiscally driven cuts, but because the Public Safety Department consumes the largest portion of the City’s budget, a complete review of their budget would be in order. Staff furloughs / layoffs and pension fund ‘holidays’ would not be under consideration.

13. Do you think COAB gets a fair shake from COJ in revenue sharing?

Actual “Revenue Sharing” dollars come from the State and are allocated on a per capita basis. The Better Jacksonville Plan ½ Cent sales tax is the major ‘revenue’ sharing fund, providing an estimated $905,000 in the proposed FY 21 budget. This is followed by the Local Option Gas Tax ($472,000) and Convention Development Tax Fund ($72,000) as sources of revenue shared from COJ. I believe these funds are allocated on either a per capita basis or by Interlocal Agreement. The concern here should be that when the Better Jacksonville Plan ½ Cent sales tax ends in 2030 and is replaced by the COJ Pension Fund ½ Cent sales tax, this major source of revenue to Atlantic Beach will end.

14. Do you think COAB got sufficient support from JSO during the COVID beach shut down? How would you have handled the COVID situation differently, or was it sufficient?

Based on statements made by Interim Chief Guallilo we received all the support from JSO that we asked for. I think this level of support was adequate. Coordination with the other Beach Mayors was good, but much confusion was generated regarding whether proclamations / restrictions published by the Mayor of Jacksonville applied to the Beach Cities. I would work to ensure any announcement from COJ is backed up with an explanation of applicability from the City, on social as well as conventional media.

15. Do you think the COAB should buy any further land in the future for any reason? If so, what would be a good reason? How would you fund it?

I am opposed to using Ad Valorem (Property Tax) dollars to take land off the Tax Roles. If we use Grant Funds or other donations to purchase property, I could be convinced to use a portion of City Funds if there is a match requirement to obtain a grant. I am opposed to buying any more land for park purposes until we properly fund and maintain the Park System we already have.I also believe the City should seriously investigate using Hazard Mitigation Grant Funds to buy and demolish frequently flooded properties such as those on the lower end of Aquatic Garden and Stanley Road and build stormwater storage facilities on the vacated properties. I do not think the City should use Eminent Domain to acquire properties for this effort.

16. Is there any capital project you propose, other than stormwater protection and sewage?

The City should continue to pursue extending public water (and sewer) to all areas of Atlantic Beach, with a goal to completely eliminate septic sewer systems within the City limits within the 10-year Master Plan. Additionally, the Master Plan for Veterans Memorial Park approved by an earlier Commission to add restrooms and additional facilities to the park should be funded.

17. Do you support our current tree ordinance and feel that it adequately protects our invaluable tree canopy? Do you support strengthening the current ordinance? If not, why?

I support the current tree ordinance as an improvement on earlier efforts, but do not think it provides the maximum level of protection the City could legislate. The State has pre-empted some of our abilities here, but the ordinance and especially the mitigation requirements could and should be strengthened.

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