Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
Jan. 8, 2017
Guilt by association is a bad way for the Florida Legislature to make policy.
Across Florida are 224 community redevelopment agencies, almost all associated with cities. As the name implies, they seek to improve blighted areas, mostly — but not always — downtowns. One of the most successful has helped to redevelop the beach in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, some have been run badly and perhaps criminally. Redevelopment agencies were the subject of grand jury investigations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. In Broward, a grand jury found $2 million in questionable spending in Hallandale Beach.
There’s more. Last summer, Tallahassee’s redevelopment agency turned over 90,000 pages of documents in response to an FBI subpoena. And as the South Florida Sun Sentinel has reported, the two principals of the company that runs the agency in Pompano Beach bought property within the agency’s boundaries. Though the purchases apparently were legal, the optics are bad.
Sensible legislation in Tallahassee could increase oversight and discourage bad practices without assuming that every such agency is a den of thieves. Bills in the House and Senate both have passed one committee, but only one would be helpful.
The House version is particularly harsh and treats all such agencies the same. It would require legislative approval for any new ones and abolish all of them in 20 years — all of them already have similar “sunset” provisions — unless a supermajority of their boards voted otherwise. There also would be limits on certain spending.
Such micromanaging could hurt successful redevelopment agencies and cause collateral damage to cities. Delray Beach is one example.
Community redevelopment agencies work this way: When property values rise within the area designated for redevelopment, the increased tax revenue can be spent only in that area. The idea is that the money gets reinvested and thus enhances redevelopment.