Maybe the most contentious subject facing our elected leaders in recent times. The “Golf in Boca” story is long, sordid, and full of details and minutiae that could be – have been – argued for years. The players are the City of Boca Raton (City) and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District (BPD), and taxpayers (that’s you and me!) footing all the bills.
- At BPD’s request, the City borrowed $20M to purchase the old Ocean Breeze golf course property surrounding Boca Teeca, and signed an agreement with BPD to pay back the loan to the City, at which time BPD would take title to the property. BPD asserted that cash flow from an operational golf course would generate the cash to pay back the loan, and began design work on the development of the golf course.
- The goat-rodeo began when BPD requested an additional $20M from the City to finance development of the golf course. The City, as the steward of our taxpayer dollars, thankfully started reviewing the details of this additional $20M request.
- Recently, the City proposed a new agreement with BPD which you can read here. The core of the agreement is that the City, rather than BPD, would build and operate the golf course on the old Ocean Breeze property that is less costly than the originally proposed design by Price-Fazio. BPD rejected this proposal in a 5-0 vote at their January 6 meeting. They decided to go it on their own and pursue building the Price-Fazio design. This tentative plan builds the course in pieces over the next several years.
So where does that leave us?
Here is the overarching question – Is BPD interested in Golf in Boca for the benefit of our citizens? Or are they more interested in control of Golf in Boca? BPD rejected an agreement that would facilitate the rapid development of this golf course, which the citizen taxpayers of this city could begin to use and enjoy. Isn’t that the fundamental mission of BPD? To provide parks and recreation to the citizens?
Additional questions about Golf in Boca worth thinking about
- BPD promised, many times, that they would not increase taxes in order to build this golf course. It is widely known that BPD’s budget barely sustains its current obligations, or is even falling behind. So how can BPD, if they ‘go it alone’ build a golf course with zero new money? Should they turn their attention to managing what they already have and let the City build the golf course?
- The City is the “bank”, which means the taxpayers are the bank. Banks want collateral. Banks want a guarantee they will be paid. Banks will take over if they don’t get paid. So it seems that the City (taxpayers) is being reasonable to assume responsibility for golf course operations they are paying for, particularly since this project is already $20M in debt.
- As one-sided as the new agreement may be, we should always remember the Golden Rule, “If you got the gold, you make the rules”. The City has the cash to make this happen now and is willing to do so. BPD would have to raise taxes or borrow. Really?
- And finally, BPD has zero experience operating a golf course, while the City has operated two municipal courses for decades. Who would you rather have at the helm?
It is worth noting that I don’t have a strong opinion about Golf in Boca. My interest in this issue is good governance. That said, assuming that Ocean Breeze gets developed as a golf course, rather than some other public use (a distinct possibility), I’d bet my money, and this is my money, that the new agreement gives us Golf in Boca sooner, and with no new taxes.
What can you do? Form an opinion and send it to both BPD and the City Council.
Good governance begins with citizen involvement. Have your voice heard at City Hall by contacting your City Council/CRA Members at firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Members (left to right): Council Member Yvette Drucker, Deputy Mayor Andrea Levine O’Rourke, Mayor Scott Singer, CRA Chair Monica Mayotte and CRA Vice Chair Andy Thomson
Greater Beach and Parks Commissioners: