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BUDGET SPEECH

As we gather today, the first day of this budget workshop session, we begin where this City has been seemingly lax on its financial responsibilities. We have known for many months what our obligations and responsibilities are, yet this administration has again failed to plan accordingly. Today, and for the better part of the last decade, the forefront of all of the major issues of our city have not been resolved.

Cooper City and its residents are on a sure path to financial failure, as there have been misplaced priorities regarding services, deficits and future revenues. We are faced with challenges that must be confronted and resolved now, not in the ‘foreseeable future’. We have a major downward turn to immediately face in regards to tax cuts and revenues. Some minor reductions have already been implemented by the this administrative board, and the cuts mandated by the State have been implemented

This is not meant to be conveyed as a doomsday scenario, by any means, but we live in a time of extraordinary and historic economic, political and social transformation. Today, we face challenges that collectively are as alarming and as complex as any we have ever confronted. We must face reality.

Unfortunately, we also live in a time when public confidence in this institution, charged with governing and molding our local society, have reached all-time lows because they have failed to act and failed to achieve. In particular, we have a political system that is growing increasingly incapable of addressing the historic financial challenges that now conspire against our city’s future. Our current political culture offers too little leadership and too much negativity. Instead of solving problems, too many of our city leaders and residents have been focused on personal and ad homonym attacks and assigning blame.

The inability of our political leaders and their process to consistently confront and solve the issues of our day is an emerging crisis. A crisis that leaves us on the brink of a dubious and tragic distinction; the first generation of Cooper City resident who will not leave their children with a life better than their own. And so as we gather here today, the opportunity before us is more than routine or self-serving. This is the opportunity to be the type of genuine political leaders that our people so desperately desire and our politics so desperately needs. To seize this opportunity will require us to do three things.

First, residents and this administration alike, must together imagine our future. We must put aside our political and personal differences and we must offer a clear vision of tomorrow that will unite and inspire our people, not divide and discourage them. We simply cannot lead this city if we cannot articulate where we want to go or how we plan to get there and without the full support of each and every resident.

Second, the political process must become a battlefield of ideas, not partisanship or personalities. A forum for all parties, and for every member, resident and business owner, to offer their ideas on how to accomplish our shared vision. Ideas that offer our people real choices and real hope for this city’s future. A place where people can all agree or already agree on where they want to go, the only question being the best way to get there.

Third, our work here must be about solving problems, not winning debates, elections or personality contests. That means that we must be open to all points of view, taking the best that everyone has to offer, without political gamesmanship.

I also caution each of you to avoid post and pre-election rhetoric or, alternatively, post and pre-election despair. The emerging consensus in our city today is neither support for nor rejection of our political beliefs. The emerging consensus is the widespread belief that politics is broken. The belief is that it doesn’t matter who gets elected because nothing is going to happen, nothing is going to change, and I reject that consensus.

This reality is illustrated by the 90 miles that separate the southernmost tip of our state from the land of Communism . At this very moment, somewhere in Cuba , people are preparing to risk their lives and cross the Florida straits on an inner tube, because they can not choose their leaders. Yet ironically here in Florida and right here in our own city, a place people risk their lives to get to in search of freedom and democracy, in our last election, the majority of the people eligible to vote for positive change, chose not to. 

They chose not to because they are wholly disenchanted with politics. Disenchanted because at a time when we face challenges as difficult and as daunting as any in our past, our politics is too much about winning and our leaders are too much about blame and personal gain.

At a time when politics seems incapable of solving the most basic of problems, all across this city men and women of simple means and little formal influence are changing the world. They do not sit and wait for their government to act first. With or without this administration, they see pain and move to heal it. They see sorrow and seek to soothe it. They see a need and strive to meet it. They see success and strive to attain it.

The people now deserve more than what they now receive from our governing institution. They deserve leaders who will speak for those who can not speak for themselves. Who will use their influence on behalf of those who have none of their own. Leaders who will unite us through our common hopes, rather than divide us through our darkest fears. 

The city desperately needs the great voices of this political era who will call us to the great causes of our time. I challenge all of you to make it your deepest aspiration to provide and support that type of leadership. Reject the political culture we have inherited, and in its place a create one worthy of the great people whom we serve and the great causes that await us.

Regarding our budget, in the long term, we can not regulate nor legislate our way to more stable and affordable budget. The only way to bring lower tax rates is to make the cost of our services less expensive. So we must invest in the science and the practice of mitigation and frugality.

Runaway budgets and taxes threaten the standard of living of thousands of homeowners and renters, and the bottom of lines of our businesses, big and small. We must pass meaningful, comprehensive and immediate budget and tax relief this month.

Along with our challenges, we are also met with extraordinary opportunities.

The opportunity to design a world class system of municipal government available to all, regardless of where they live or their status in life. To accomplish this will require us to do three things:

First, we should do away with the current lackadaisical standards and in its place create a new public service curriculum comparable to those of the leading business systems in the world. Customer service, both internal and external, must be priority one.

Second, we should make it the central mission statement of our public services to insure that all of our shareholders are extremely satisfied with our performance, and if not, make it happen on each and every basis.

Third, we must recognize that while we must hold all our employees to the same high standards, some will require more help than others to meet those standards. We must mentor our employees as front line representatives of this great city and administration to provide outstanding customer service, second to none.

If an employee is being mentored or employed in an unstable environment, they have one strike against them. If they also live or work in a dangerous neighborhood of politics, that is two strikes against them. And if they have no access to this administration, management and policy by objective, that employee has three strikes against them. That employee will treat both the internal and external customer with contempt.

It doesn’t matter how good the policy may be. It won’t matter how small the city’s size. It won’t matter how much you pay that employee. An employee with three strikes against them is going to struggle to learn and progress in the arena of outstanding customer service and loyalty to his or her management team unless you directly address those three strikes.

And addressing those three strikes is not an option, it is a mandatory obligation and it will save us money. You see, the cities we compete against, they do not even try to teach employees in those circumstances. But the fact is that we will, and that sets us apart from the rest of the county, and the state. It is one of the things that make
America and this city ‘someplace special.’ Without this commitment, we are nothing more than another bloated corporate government with a big stick.

And so the opportunity before us now is to do something this municipality has never done before. To create a world class system of municipal government by and for the people, and make available to all our employees and shareholders, irrespective of where they are in life, the best that we all have to offer. It starts now with our management of the budget.

Another opportunity before us is to serve as a model for local government efficiency and independence. On the issue of opportunity, dependence on taxable sources and capitalism have come together to create opportunities no one could have envisioned just a few short years ago.

Today, our city has the opportunity to pursue bold policies, not just because they are good for the city or the environment, but because we can actually save money, and make a difference in peoples lives.

The city must head towards diversification. Those changes will require technological advances that make such measures cost effective such as Mr. Bailey’s initiative. The demand towards such advances will create a local industry to meet it. Cooper City should be the silicon valley of that emerging industry in regards to our local government operations.

Throughout the last few months we have all heard the calls for bipartisanship and amicability.

But bipartisanship is one of the most abused and most misunderstood terms in all of politics.

It doesn’t mean getting along for the sake of getting along.

It doesn’t mean abandoning your principles so that you fit in with the majority or a certain class.

True bipartisanship, the kind envisioned by those who designed this system of government, the kind our people deserve, is one where all parties share a common vision of the future, and spend all their time and energy debating how to bring that vision into reality, not bickering about petty issues, personal feelings, opinions, politics and status in life, and take the lead to make it happen.

That is what I hope the culture of the City of Cooper City will be in the future. A place where all parties agree on where they want to go, and what they spend all their time and energy debating on, and which would be the best way to get there for the sake of all of us who reside and work here.

Let us agree here today to adopt among ourselves and our meeting agendas, a simple and unwritten rule, as we already have the written rules which seem ignored.

We will not rise to criticize someone else’s idea or statements unless we are prepared to offer an alternative, positive idea of our own.

That alternative, positive idea can be a new idea. It can be a way to improve the idea that has been offered. Or it can simply be a defense of the status quo. No more personal attacks.

If the residents, who attack others, including those on this dais, are serious about positive change and not personal gain, then they will immediately stop the attacks and offer well thought solutions.

If the incumbents and future candidates, including their campaign managers and those on this dais, are serious about positive change for our city’s future and not their own personal gain, then they will also immediately stop the personal and violent attacks, they will stop attacking created character, they will stop making up outright lies, they will stop the improprieties and the ethics violations relating to current and future political campaigns, and they will start working with their opponents for the common good of all of us here in our city. If not, they have no place here.

For too long this city’s politics and those in office has been about scoring political points and damaging your opponent by deceit and misinformation rather than addressing or working toward solving real problems. By adopting and adhering to this one simple rule, our work here will become about problem solving for all, regardless of personal contempt and hatred, regardless of personal gain or status.

One of the most important challenges facing our city, outside of our financial future, is our extremely tarnished image, and I have a vision as to exactly how I hope it will change for the common good. As we all stated in the last inauguration, we all promised to work together, not across party lines or personalities, and it simply has not happened. We have lied to the people and allowed each other to continue to denigrate this city, and we are the laughing stock of
South Florida .

Our image has to change now, and that change must include our residents, especially those select few who continually gossip negativity toward this administration or come here to this chamber to deliberately undermine, attack, deceive, and ignore their own truth and vision.

I congratulate the members of the Commission, in particular for accepting this challenge and accepting my proposition of the boldest and most sweeping initiative and budget reform in
Cooper City ’s history.

And I congratulate the members of this Commission and Management Team for hopefully responding, not with a press release, or political statement, but with an agreement and a solid plan of their own.

On these issues, all of us share a common vision. We all agree that taxes are too high, government is too complacent, customer service is in dire need of repair, and services are below par. Now let us spend the next few weeks debating on what is the best way to bring them to perfection, not wasting our time on new or frivolous ordinances, personal attacks or petty partisan politics.

And if we do this, not only can we solve the budget crisis, we will help usher in a new political culture that will be the envy of every city in the county and of this state.

CONCLUSION

Recent events remind us that our time on this earth is very limited and our time in this process even more so.

For a brief period of time, my colleagues on this dais and I are entrusted with the extraordinary power to impact the real lives of real people. Here in our own city, we will solve with leadership and less dollars, problems that too many people around the world still must solve with violence and war.

Today marks the beginning of a new challenge. As I look back at the history of this city, I clearly recall that our best days were those spent on bold policy and big ideas, taking them to fruition. And our worst days where those we spent focused on just about everything else.

To tackle the big and relevant issues of the day with bold and innovative ideas is without question the most rewarding way to serve, and we are entrusted by the people to do just that. Serve the people.

What will it take to confront and solve the big problems of our time?

What will it take to fully capitalize on the opportunities before us?

It will take what it has always taken, leadership, trust, honesty, fairness, consistency, quality and equity.

We live in a society obsessed with public opinion, politics and lawyers. But leadership has never been about popularity.

Leadership can not be measured in a poll or even in the result of an election. Leadership is not about status in life, how many diplomas one hangs on the wall, professional history or how many organizations you belong to. Leadership is about being true to your responsibilities and goals, and implementing them to perfection for the will of the people.

It can only be truly seen with the benefit of time, from the perspective of years, not days.

If we are to truly lead, then we must allow history and our results to be the ultimate judge of our leadership and our work, not today’s gossip or tomorrow’s newspapers.

We must aspire always to do the right thing and to be on the right side, even if it is not the politically winning side. It’s not about winning and politics. It’s about serving the people. It’s not about a fat paycheck and good benefits. It’s about serving the people.

Do not be afraid to offer ideas that draw opposition. Remember, if no one is against your idea, then your idea probably doesn’t do anything, and isn’t worth the effort to convey.


As I close let me share one more observation. Over the years I have noticed that this city’s political process is made up two kinds of people.

Those who came here to be somebody, and those who came here to do something.

Ironically, only the one’s who came here to do something, ever became someone! The one’s who came here to do something, have attempted to be stifled by the ones who came here simply to be somebody. I am here to do something!

As the governing body of
Cooper City , we directly represent millions in revenues, numbers of employees, tens of thousands of residents, thousands of business owners, and we have the obligation to adhere to these principles that I have just enumerated.

It is our duty to remember our oath of office at all times, and to follow the standing rules, not just when it is convenient, not when it benefits a certain issue or party, or a popular belief, but at all times. We must be one-hundred percent consistent to be trusted by our city’s shareholders.

We, as the city’s board of directors, must be consistent, eradicating and openly questioning, without fear of reprisal, improprieties or any appearances of such.

Our residents must also become a part of, and come together, to fully support this winning team, working with us, not against us, to support and achieve our common goals and visions, regardless of politics and personalities. If not, this Administration cannot ever expect to succeed.

So as we begin our new and continued work for the future of this city as a new administration, lets us all, city employees, residents and business owners alike, aspire to directly confront and immediately resolve the problems of our time. Let us work together diligently, to resolve the issues previously addressed, not yet resolved.

Lets us all, as a team, endeavor to seize upon the unique opportunities that come before our city.

Let us establish a culture of ideas, harmony, trust and camaraderie. Let us establish a place, truly ‘someplace special’, where everyone agrees on what we need to do and again, spend all of their time and energy debating on what is the best way to do it, not debating about personalities, insignificant political issues and the past. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is unknown.

If we succeed, nothing we will ever do in public service will be more meaningful. Above all else, let us, as a governing body, lead as we were elected to do. I truly thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

 

 

Political advertisement paid for and approved by John Sims, Nonpartisan, for Cooper City Commissioner, District 1