Here’s what we know: as far back as 2011, and possibly earlier, city officials were keen to eliminate golf courses in Boca Raton. Basically the decision to start selling off courses was made without a backup plan to replace the taxpayer’s public course.
The Sun Sentinel reported in 2011 that Susan Haynie, as Deputy Mayor, told them, “The size and location of the championship course, west of the city limits, probably would hold the most appeal for developers … I’m not looking to plug a gap. I’m looking to sell an asset.”
Constance Scott was quoted as saying, “Golf revenues are declining. Here’s an asset that we have. Maybe we should consider a sale.”
Notice – the push was not to replace the course with an alternative public use of green space, but to sell it for development. Why?
Well, it is very expensive to run a large city especially when city hall ranks as the forth largest employer in Boca Raton.
Seekers of public office know it is impossible to get elected if one raises taxes. Additionally, a candidate without the support of city employees might as well drop out of the race. So the idea of layoffs or cut backs in benefits is off the table.
Then how do you keep a city government afloat without tightening the belt – one way is to sell assets.
To make the sale of those assets palatable one must start a campaign to convince taxpayers that a public amenity is obsolete. Thus started the push to convince residents that golf was not adding to the ambiance of our coastal city, but was a drain on the city’s bank account.
In 2011 the entire country was limping out of the real estate recession. People were facing foreclosures, job losses and bankruptcies. Leisure activities were not a top priority. We have come through those lean times and are now in remarkably good financial health. Today, the argument that we need to eliminate an amenity no longer holds water.
Here’s what else we know: one only has to Google ‘Boca Raton’ to see how our city is described to the world.
“Boca Raton is a city on Florida’s southeastern coast, known for its golf courses, parks and beaches”. Simply said, the Greater Beach and Parks District keeps Boca Raton on the map. These dedicated Commissioners are the closest thing to volunteers one will find in government today.
On January 27th the City and District will have a joint meeting to determine the best route forward. We have exhausted the debate. We have the design and resources – taxpayers will pay the bill one way or another. All that’s missing is the handshake between the City and the Beach and Parks.
Let’s take this opportunity to come together and make this invaluable addition to our portfolio a reality.