Genece Minshew for City Commission Seat 5, Fernandina Beach
EDITOR’S NOTE: A few weeks ago, we offered the seven Fernandina Beach City Council candidates an opportunity to submit a 1,000-word essay on whatever is on their minds about the city. This is the second essay submitted. (And don’t forget that the Observer is sponsoring a candidate forum at City Hall this Friday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. All are welcome, and the forum will be streamed and taped for community use afterward.)
By Genece Minshew
I am running for City Commission Seat 5. Thanks to the Observer for the opportunity to provide voters more information about me and my campaign.
You’ve probably seen my campaign materials that focus on what we can do better. Let’s begin with discussions on creating a strategic plan for the city that would include infrastructure support and maintenance, use of city property, resiliency and storm water issues, how to support and maintain our historic downtown, density and environmental stewardship. Then we set a time frame including goals to get this strategic planning started, with a final draft plan presented by the city manager in the 3rd quarter 2023. It is the responsibility of the city manager and staff to put together a long-term plan in order for our city to prosper.
Next, we’ll re-examine how the annual budget is being prepared and presented. I would like to see three budgets presented to the commission, each one based on the three millage rates: the proposed, the rollback and the adjusted rollback. I want the city manager and department heads to weigh in on where and how budget reductions based on the millage rate should be handled.
The way it is now, the city commission randomly removes items from the budget without a good understanding of the implications. I would also like to see the workshops prior to budget approval be focused on different department budgets with the department heads coming in front of the city commission to discuss and defend their budget recommendations. This way the budget workshops can be focused and allow the commission to delve into the budget and understand the implications of budget reductions and additions.
We need a clear and concise maintenance plan for all city property and infrastructure that will feed into the yearly expense budget and the capital improvement budget. While I believe this has started, it should be completed in time for the 2023/24 budget cycle, which starts in June 2023.
I want to close Top Tracer at the Golf Course. It was a bad decision from the very start, based on a very poor set of data. It loses money every day and needs to be closed to save about $60K a year. Top Tracer was to bring in $200K in revenue (another bad assumption). In the recently completed budget cycle there is no revenue, just a loss of $20K. It puts the golf course budget $220K in the hole. It needs to be closed and turned into a covered driving range.
And, speaking of the driving range, its drainage needs to be fixed. It was to be fixed as part of the $700K original Top Tracer project and was not. The driving range and therefore Top Tracer are regularly closed due to the standing water in the driving range. Let’s identify what needs to be done about drainage at the driving range and get it in the capital improvement plan.
I want to work on improving our relationship with the county. We must begin to work better together in order to move forward. I believe that we can find common ground to work collectively. We must interact with integrity and professionalism in all our communications with the county and with other agencies in our community.
I want to re-open the discussion on the columbarium for Bosque Bello Cemetery. There is an excellent plan just sitting on the shelf and if we are to extend the life of our city cemetery, we must take action. This project can quickly become self-supporting by pre-selling niches. So, let’s move it forward.
I want the city to take a hard look at all the property it owns, and let’s see where and how we can use some of that property for affordable or workforce housing. This may become a long-term project, but the need is critical. We need to start. Soon.
I want to improve the citizens’ interactions and interfaces with the city to make the customer experience better. This means understanding how many different ways a citizen interacts with the city and how we can improve those various interactions. It means setting expectations and goals and then giving our city employees the tools and training needed to meet those goals.
I want to ensure that our police force gets the support they need to continue doing a great job. As we’ve seen from recent headlines, they have a lot on their plate in order to keep Fernandina Beach the safe place to live and work that we all value. Public safety is always the first priority of every city government.
And, finally, I want to see better metrics and status on city objectives and goals. Today, updates on projects or departmental goals are haphazard. I would like to see a clear set of benchmarks that are tracked and measured on a monthly basis. This would become a regular component of one of the city commission meetings each month and would allow everyone to better understand how effectively the city is running and managing resources included in the budget.
I know this is a long and ambitious list, but this is the way to be better and I know we can do it together. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with city voters. You can go to my web site at www.minshewforyou.com for more information. Thank you for your interest and remember to vote Minshew for You on Nov. 8, 2022.