"My family's long history in public service inspired me to follow in those footsteps, leading me to a 36-year career in Fire, Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Management. From my vantage point, I believe we need to once again make public safety a priority in Broward County.
When I speak with people from all over the county, the biggest concern on their minds is having exceptional police and fire protection for their families. Broward County residents want better cooperation between police departments and believe their Emergency Medical Services need to operate seamlessly so we can all travel safely anywhere in Broward County.
With nearly four decades of government experience in public safety, I know what it takes to get things done, I have the patience to work with county government bureaucracies, and have the experience and drive to make Broward a safer and better place to live."
LIST OF KEY ISSUES
Over the last few decades, Broward County has stopped providing direct Fire Service, Emergency Medical Services and Law Enforcement to its residents. The last vestiges of Fire and EMS were given to the Sheriff's Office several years ago. Nonetheless, the County has a responsibility for the continuity of public safety throughout the County and not just in the four square miles of unincorporated Broward County.
One aspect of this countywide provision of public safety is a rapid response to calls for help for emergencies reported to 911. Broward County had a unique opportunity to conserve valuable resources by consolidating the emergency call taking, as well as police and fire dispatch. The implemented plan has three call taking and dispatch centers unlike the previous configuration that had many haphazardly located centers throughout the county. This consolidation resulted in an increase in Ad Valorem taxes, which was to be offset by decreases in call taking and dispatch times, as well as saving taxpayers though greater efficiencies. This new program needs to be reviewed quickly and it must have an honest assessment as to what needs to be done to guarantee the metrics established by the municipal users are met or exceeded. I believe the initial plan was solid but its implementation was anything but solid.
The Broward County workforce has many good, hardworking people who strive to overachieve in their respective positions. I have been to every department, including the Airport and Sea Port when I was with the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO), as well as when I was the Director of Emergency Management, where I had the privilege of having met with hundreds of members of the county workforce.
Many are long-time employees who have seen our county grow, and have gone for almost a decade with only a minimal number of paltry raises. If we want a dedicated workforce, we must pay them a decent and deserving wage. We must then give these county employees good direction and have them work on projects and programs that directly improve the lives of the residents and increase business opportunities, especially relating to jobs. I believe we need to implement a plan to provide exceptional employees a guaranteed annual salary increase based on merit.
As I meet with business owners throughout the Broward County, the most common concern I hear is that government often times seems to act like it is an opponent of business instead of a supporter. Businesses throughout the county need a responsible and supportive government that will not slow them down with needless red tape or fees that only serve to stifle growth.
When business owners are confident that their moderate to long-term business outlooks are good, they will expand their businesses, which will boost job creation, and improve local economies. Broward County must do everything within its control to attract and maintain good businesses that put people to work. The recent calamity with Uber demonstrates how not to treat potential clean businesses.
In towns throughout the United States, Uber has provided thousands of people in those communities full time work or part time work to augment their current salaries. It was not the negotiations that were the problem, but the fact they were treated as a threat to the status quo, not as a welcomed new business that will provide opportunities to thousands in this community. We must encourage Uber and other companies, especially clean high technology companies, to expand into Broward County.
Of all the major financial risks we face within Broward County government, two of the most threatening risks are, the continuing weak local economy and the impact of the not-fully-implemented Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It is an undeniable fact, that the Affordable Care Act will have a negative financial impact on the County. First, full-time county employees, including BSO deputies will receive medical coverage paid for, in varying amounts, by the county.
These costs are expected to rise, potentially squeezing out funding for many other important programs, which could jeopardize public safety. The first response many elected officials is to raise taxes. I believe County Commissioners have a propensity to spend all the revenues and continue to ask for more once the initial funds have been spent. In reality, taxes can remain in check and government services can continue unabated. Taxes should never be the first answer. County elected officials must determine what functions the County should be doing and trim or defund those programs that are not in the best interest of the taxpayers. Busineess we should be doing must work efficiently and effectively.
We need to identify wasteful spending and cut it. The recession and lower revenues from Ad Valorem taxes was a teaching moment for both the county commission and county administration, who learned you can still run county government with less revenues.
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING
A few years ago the state Legislature wrestled with changing how phones are used while an individual is operating a motor vehicle. At that time, legislators were only able to make texting while driving a secondary offense. A traffic law offender can only be ticketed when another offense caused the person to be stopped by the police in the first place.
There were several television and bumper sticker campaigns to help people realize the dangers of texting while driving. I am sure we can all agree that those campaigns have not decreased this enormously dangerous practice of texting while driving. In fact, the problem has grown more pervasive as it impacts others while driving and endangers all of us. The Broward County Commission cannot pass laws that will abate this crisis, but they can work with other county commissions and Sheriff’s offices to pressure the state Legislature into passing a responsible “hands free” law for the use of cellular phones in vehicles. I will champion that law.