It is an exciting time for the city of Florence. Voters can speak up on August 23rd and cast their vote for the "Goode" of Florence. I've known Susan for probably more years than I want to think about and she has always been the same. Consistent in what she does and how she does it.
This past April our senior class met at Coffee High School to take a photo together before the building gets torn down. Afterwards several classmates went to Wildwood Tavern for lunch and it was here I learned of her intent to run for mayor. I was a little bit shocked to say the least because this is her first time to run for any office. After talking with her and listening to what she said, I was very much impressed. Susan has done her homework on what she feels is best for Florence. She is dotting every i and crossing every t because as she spoke, you could see her concern and hear it in her voice. I walked away thinking,... she really does love Florence Alabama.
Susan has been gracious enough to let me share her thoughts and in essence, her platform and her ideas for a better Florence. Visit her Facebook page Susan Romine Goode and keep up with her during this campaign and even send her a request for a yard sign. So here now is part one of "Goode For Florence".
My vision for Florence is to properly market the strong assets we already have in place, and use these strengths to educate and recruit the quality jobs needed that will lead to a higher standard of living for our citizens in both income and quality of life. This will require an efficient and effective management team within our city and well-planned long term goals. Part of my goal is to create partnerships within our city as well as partnerships outside the municipal building. Partnering within our municipality gives us efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Partnering with other organizations brings us opportunities for innovative thinking and access to knowledge we may not have within our city departments. We must establish processes that would require this city to plan, implement and complete projects in a timely manner, while keeping our focus on our long range goals.
2. What do you believe are (or should be) the City’s three most pressing concerns?
• Lack of quality jobs. To attract jobs we must invest in our people and our infrastructure. We must continue to provide high quality educational opportunities and tools to our citizens. The new infrastructure in the 21st century is the Internet and broadband wireless. We should have the ability to provide fast, reliable, affordable connectivity for businesses willing to relocate here. All businesses, manufacturing, government, health care, etc., need this service. With a new hospital on the horizon this should have already been adopted into our long range plan for the city.
• Efficient and responsible spending of our taxpayer dollars. Because our citizens work hard for their money and the taxes we ask them to pay, we should work even harder to effectively manage the money they provide. As of 9-30-15, the audit report for the City of Florence showed that more than 10 million dollars of the capital projects money borrowed in August 2013 at an interest rate of 4.02% has gone unused. The City has paid over $1.2 million in interest on this portion of money. A hefty price for nothing in return. When borrowing money, we need leadership with the ability to complete the task at hand. Responsible spending also means we adequately fund our essential services (things we need) before we fund non-essentials (things we want). We have almost completed an Indian mound museum, currently at a price of $1.7+million, prior to breaking ground on an animal shelter. The city also has no transition plan in place for senior citizens when the agreement ends for the use of the old Florence Country Club. We are spending taxpayer dollars maintaining and paying utilities on property we do not own while still paying 4.02% interest ($241,200 thus far) on the $2 million that was borrowed for a senior citizen center in 2013.
• Aging utilities with no realistic plan to address replacement and growth of the city. We cannot attract businesses when our water lines are crumbling. The City of Florence has over 108 miles of galvanized pipe that is between 50-70 years old. We have no realistic plan in place for funding or replacement of these disintegrating lines. The plan is to be reactive and replace and repair when breaks occur. How well do you think this reactive vs proactive plan will work in the next few years as the repairs escalate? We should be dedicating an amount of money to a capital replacement fund that will cover this future inevitable expense
3. What goals would you accomplish by the end of your first 2 years?
Implement a plan that aggressively promotes growth of local businesses, as well as promoting our city and its resources to industry and businesses outside our area. First and foremost, we have to recruit quality jobs to this area. When you have lost as many jobs in the last four years as we have in Florence, job recruitment becomes a top priority for the economic vitality of a city and its residents.
We also need to implement necessary technology upgrades within our city departments. This seems to be a very neglected area which in many cases directly impacts our customer service. For instance, to change a residential electrical service, a citizen must take off work, physically go to the electricity department, take a number and sit and wait to be called back into a booth to speak with a customer service representative. The customer service representative then hand writes your receipt which you then take and stand in line to give to another customer service representative in a different booth. This process can take hours out of a work day for an individual. Other cities allow this process to be done online from your home 24/7. They still have walk in service for those who need the assistance but the majority of service transfers and installs are done online. On our City of Florence mobile website the quick links for contact numbers have not been updated to include the 256 prefix so clicking on the link gives you an invalid phone number. The City of Florence needs to create an “ease of doing business” structure for its residents and businesses.
4. What obstacles do you foresee that would make it difficult to accomplish these goals?
The biggest obstacle I foresee might be the current mindset of our city leaders. They tend to be reactive instead of proactive. The City Council will need to be willing to embrace change for us to implement and aggressively pursue a long term proactive plan for management of our city and its growth.
5. How would you overcome these obstacles in order to still accomplish your goals by the end of your last 2 years?
Clear communication with the public and our other stakeholders is the key to overcoming the obstacles that might hinder progress. Currently, it is difficult to gather information on how our money is being spent. I would promote a culture to publish progress reports monthly to our residents. And, with capital projects, we should report on costs associated with those projects.
When we appoint people to boards, tourism, housing, industrial development, parks and recreation, etc., within our city, they should be people who are invested in those specific areas. We need people on our boards who bring knowledge or resources that enhance the ability of their specific board to offer the best suggestions and guidance to our city leaders. We do not need people appointed to a board simply as a figurehead or political favor.
6. What three specific under achievements of the current mayor would you reform, outperform, and how?
• It does not appear the current mayor has a long term plan in place for the city of Florence. A long term plan would have helped eliminate the mistakes that have been made with the project estimates and borrowing for past projects. I would require more planning to be done prior to any money being borrowed for a project. The design and architectural drawings should be complete with estimates of structure cost as well as any cost associated with land purchase and location of land needed for project. When all associated costs are finalized, then the project is put out for bid. If the project comes in over the original estimated budget, the project should be reevaluated as to whether it is still viable for the city. We must have the discipline to put a project on indefinite hold if it becomes evident during the planning process that it is not in the best interest of our taxpayers to move forward.
• He has not taken a leadership role to complete the approved capital projects. In September of 2013, the Times Daily stated that Haddock and Jordan were working to establish a time line for each capital project and have instructed appropriate department heads to begin that task. Yet, as of May 2016, very few projects have been started and only two completed; the $100,000 given to Salvation Army for their Center of Hope, and the $1.7 million (cost estimate stated in March 2014 Times Daily article had increased to $2.35 million) for additional ball fields at the Sportsplex. Haddock and Jordan rejected all bids on the Indian mound museum in September 2015 because they were more than the $1.25 budgeted. The original budget for the Indian Mound museum in 2013 was $1.077 million. Times Daily quoted Dick Jordan in an article dated September 2015 “To be fiscally responsible, I think we should reject all the bids,” Jordan said. “I talked to (Mayor) Mickey (Haddock) and he agreed”. The current budget for this project has been increased twice and is now $1.723 million with the project still under construction. Streetscaping began on Tennessee Street in April 2016 but prior projects that have been either completed or in progress are excessively over budget. Will funds even be available to complete the animal shelter which, according to an article dated March 2013 in the Times Daily, was originally at the top of the City Council’s capital projects list.
• He has not taken a firm stand for the citizens of Florence with the prioritization of the capital projects. When it became obvious that the capital projects costs were so poorly estimated the Mayor should have taken a stand for the citizens of Florence and worked to complete projects that are essential services for the taxpayers instead of silently allowing non-essential projects to take a priority position.
7. What three achievements would you want to leave as your legacy should you become the top servant of the People of Florence?
• I would like to leave the City with a thorough evaluation process for its departments which would encourage and reward departments and employees for efficiency and those working toward higher standards for customer service.
• I want to implement a standard that requires careful planning in regards to the spending of taxpayer dollars.
• I want to implement term limits for both the City Council and Mayor.