Waffling West Palm Beach puts out ‘closed for business’ sign

closed for businessIf you had attended the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency meeting Monday, you would have thought “Hometown Democracy” was alive and well in West Palm Beach.

In 2010, two out of three Floridians voted against the Hometown Democracy constitutional amendment because it would have killed jobs and destroyed Florida’s economic future. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who survived the experiment in St. Petersburg Beach.

Also in 2010, 54 percent of West Palm Beach voters turned down then-Mayor Lois Frankel’s request to build more than five stories on the former City Hall site. Recently, West Palm Beach commissioners passed a motion to let voters decide if the same site is worthy of the same exemption Frankel sought. If these leaders truly want growth, and desire to expand their tax base, they must select a proposal among the three finalists that brings the most economic benefit and new, permanent jobs to the city and surrounding areas. After all, bringing benefits to the citizens of West Palm Beach is what city leaders were elected to do.

Critics of the Hometown Democracy amendment said its passage would create great uncertainty, more expense to finance future campaigns and delays in new projects. Critics also said the amendment was designed to make government ineffective – if not pointless. And it was clear, from the first hour of Monday’s CRA meeting, that commissioners were confused and at a loss for an effective process, even though staff attempted to clarify. Throwing the issue to a vote is a harmful ploy designed to slow down – if not eliminate – future growth in West Palm Beach.

Is Florida open for business or not?

What our state needs is a responsible, pro-growth agenda, forged by our elected officials, that will lead us out of the economic winter that began four years ago. We need to be able to respond to those business owners who desire to move their businesses and jobs to Florida. This means we must reduce the time it takes to place the first shovel in the ground, which can take three years or longer before required approvals and permits are obtained. If we allow our elected officials to “let voters decide” what gets built and what doesn’t, it will extend approvals even longer, and favorable outcomes will become few and far between. All reasons to reject Florida as a top choice.

Wouldn’t you imagine the 8,000 or so recently unemployed space shuttle workers, coupled with those businesses that thrived when they were employed, would desperately welcome a company like Boeing or Airbus to invest substantial capital to start designing, testing and building a new generation of commercial aircraft at Cape Canaveral? So why doesn’t Boeing or Airbus come? Well, perhaps they read that officials of Bethesda Hospital “worked for nine years to get the (new) hospital approved and built” here, as The Palm Beach Post reported Wednesday.

We Floridians enjoy the best year-round weather in the United States, as well as a very low state tax system. We also have 11 public universities and 28 colleges. We produce and graduate more than 100,000 bright, young job-seekers each year. Don’t they deserve the same opportunity to obtain a job, earn an income, buy a home and raise a family within the state in which they were born, just like the generations before them? Only through a responsible, pro-growth agenda will we be able to create the new jobs they desire and deserve.

What has hindered our progress as a state has been our inability to provide timely, shovel-ready sites in substantially less time compared to competing states. To make matters worse, if we permit government – such as the West Palm Beach City Commission – to allow voters to decide the fate of future developments, we are going in the wrong direction. Such actions by governments, and the failure of business leaders to counter them, will all but eliminate Florida from future consideration for businesses to relocate.

John R. Smith

John R. Smith

John R. Smith is chairman of BIZPAC, the Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County, and owner of a financial services company.
John R. Smith


10 thoughts on “Waffling West Palm Beach puts out ‘closed for business’ sign

  1. Bob Kenny says:

    Our elected and appointed officials should listen more to history. Thomas Jefferson was credited with saying, "He governs best who governs least.". They should also emphasize to words which are alien to them; Streamline and Privatize.

  2. Chance Hammond says:

    The problem in WPB is that for the last 10 years or more, the city has developed an anti-business reputation. Builders are reluctant to commit capital there. Businesses don't want to risk capital in a city that has discarded the welcome mat. The oh-so-dewy-eyed naturtalists and holier-than-thou "city view" loudmouiths won't let WPB "build up", and the city has little room to "build out". Impractical building height limiits have hurt the city. The big gorilla in city hall is the anti-growth staff, and an often-hostile building dept. Until WPB elected officials have the courage to exercise some leadership and stop worrying about getting elected next time, they will continue to fail to lead their city out of the anti-business wilderness.

  3. Irma Gordon says:

    Cutting through "red tape" opens many opportunities for small and large business growth. Attracting major companies to consider relocating to FL, plus unemployed youth and recent college graduates, is a "perfect storm" in a positive way. It's a match made in Heaven. Let's put FL on the map, as the State to go to and the State that LOVES businesses and putting people to WORK !

  4. Cassandra says:

    I hope Florida is open for business. Thank you for this article.

    I am certain that anyone with children in their twenties will want us to attract and gain businesses in South Florida so that our children can work and raise their families here after they graduate college. That is a big priority for me and I intend to make my feelings clear to my elected officials.

  5. Special Operator says:

    Look at what Charleston, S. C. has done and COPY THEM. They lost a massive Navy base years ago (similiar to the situation at the Cape) and they have now replaced it with a massive Boeing plant. State and local government worked "hand and glove" to do what needed to be done. Governor Scott is totally focused on creating jobs by bringing in new employers and creating the environment for local businesses to expand…………PBC needs to work with the State to move quickly to create the environment to "welcome business expansions and sitings"!!!!!! Remember………………IBM left Boca years ago because of a "stupid move" by the State…………………15,000 jobs gone over the passage of one bill by the Legislature. Communities that want to retain and attract jobs must "think smart"………………………………….PBC at one time "thought and operated smart", but its been a long time.

  6. Sid says:

    John R:

    We have many successful business leaders who live and work in WPB. We just can't get them to run for the city commission. Those that stay out of politics are inevitably governed by those that don't.

  7. BYSTANDER says:

    If WPB wants business to come it must first clean up its own house. There is a lack of focus in the administration. Missing is the proper long term projections of cost. The water system needs a comprehensive plan put into effect. Growth and inferstructure plans are done on a peicemeal basis. There is no comprehensive move foward plan as the Mayor based all of it on Digital Domain. The lack of true leadership is dealt with by blaming others at city hall. Business does not want to locate in a city gone sour.

  8. Concerned about wpb says:

    I agree with Sid. The fact that many PBC and WPB commissioners are worried about re-election leaves this area hamstrung.

  9. Bill Bader says:

    West Palm Beach is anti small business They want a small business, around the corner from my business, to spend $80,000.00 to redo the parking area and put drainage in on a building that has been there for as long as I can remember and I've lived here for 43 years. They need to wake up and realize that small business stimulates the economy and provides jobs.

    The 5 story hotel can be built in a very short time and will confer with the wishes of the voters. The other ones want to have Condos attached when probably 50% of the Downtown Condos are unsold. Wake up and smell the roses.

  10. What do you expect from a city run by Democrats.

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