DELRAY BEACH – Pat Archer wants to return to her old haunts. Specifically, Delray Beach City Hall, where she served six years as a city commissioner and three years as a Planning and Zoning Board member.
She’s one of four candidates running for Commission Seat 2 in Tuesday’s municipal election. Also in the race are Christina Morrison, a member of the financial review board; Al Jacquet, an attorney and legislative aide to state Rep. (and former Delray City Commissioner) Mack Bernard; and David Armstrong, a candidate whose claim to fame is a plan for a clothing-optional beach in the city.
Archer said she has something the others don’t have: experience. She also has the backing of all six previous mayors of Delray Beach, according to a campaign pamphlet she recently sent to voters. Current Mayor Nelson “Woodie” McDuffie has also thrown his support her way.
After leaving the commission in 2006 due to term limits, Archer has remained active in government and community affairs for a while, she said. But a family illness forced her to take another track.
“Family comes first,” said the 68-year-old Archer, who has been married to her husband, David, for 19 years. She said her daughter-in-law took sick for 18 months before passing away. Archer stepped in to care for her granddaughter, who is now 8 years old.
Being out of the loop didn’t mean Archer was out of touch, she said. She knows the issues facing Delray – among them a major budget deficit and a long-standing struggle with the city’s transient housing situation that may land Delray in court.
“The budget is the biggest thing,” Archer said. Delray is more than $3 million in the hole after plans to institute a fire tax failed.
“We went through a bit of a fiasco,” she said, noting that “the city hasn’t been living within its means.”
City Manager David Harden has presented budget options, but they won’t solve the problem, Archer said. Instead, she believes delaying capital improvement projects will cause more problems in the future.
“We’ve got to get a handle on our spending,” she said. “As a city, we have to live within our means. I have had six years of city and many years of corporate budgeting experience. I will not make the mistake of approving any spending that is in excess of our revenues.”
Not only is the city staring down a potentially crippling budget hole, it has a $91.5 million unfunded pension liability, something “that our children’s children’s children will have to pay,” Archer said.
Archer is also taking aim at the transient housing ordinance. When Caron Foundation proposed locating a treatment facility for recovering alcoholics and drug users – commonly known as a sober house — in a mansion on the tony State Road A1A strip, the neighborhood raised a ruckus.
The city tried to remedy the problem by lowering the number of transients allowed in single-family homes. Caron is suing the city over the ordinance change.
“As chair of the city’s Drug Task Force, I have been working on drug treatment and transient housing issues for almost 15 years,” Archer said. “This is not a new issue for me. I am thrilled to see the commission has begun to realistically deal with this problem.”
She said the response should have started when sober houses were placed in less-affluent neighborhoods.
The candidate said she is also taking another look at the need for parking meters in the city, a revenue generator she has favored in the past, and she is reviewing how Sarasota handled a similar initiative.
“I’ve been criticized for being for parking meters,” she said. “But if they are detrimental, I won’t vote for them.”
Archer wants to return to the commission to restore the “vision” it once had.
“There has been a lot of turnover. We once had a stable commission, we had a vision. We don’t have a vision now. There is no historical perspective,” she said. “We need to pull our act together.”
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