A tax increase is not on the agenda for either of the two candidates running for the Parkland Commission District One seat that fell vacant due to the death of Commissioner Jay Smith.
At an election debate hosted last week by the Heron Bay Men’s Club, both Stacy Kagan and John Willis said they were not in favor of raising taxes. The two candidates, both of them newcomers to the political scene, fielded questions on a variety of issues like schools, the wedge and fire services.
“With the amount of development we are going to have, the city does not have to raise taxes,” Willis, an attorney, said. “Property values are going up as well. We have the fifth lowest tax rate in the county and I want that to continue. I do not want taxes raised.”
“With the economy being the way it is, I have no desire to raise taxes,” Kagan, an insurance agent, said. “The commission is very good at negotiating with builders and bringing new money in.”
Kagan said she was excited by the prospect of development in the wedge but added that she had her concerns as well. “The city expects a population growth of 11,000 to 13,000. I figure another 20,000 drivers. I can imagine busy streets and busy intersections. We need to preserve the nature and hometown feel of the city even when there is development in the wedge area.”
“There will be about 43,000 people in Parkland when the wedge is fully developed,” Willis, who has been endorsed by Mayor Michael Udine and Vice Mayor Dave Rosenof, said. “The city has set aside land for schools. I will make sure the school board builds the schools, and in a timely manner.”
“We have a fabulous and strong leadership,” Kagan said. “But it is time for change. It is time to have a woman, a mom, on the commission. I am open to new ideas and believe in innovation. I have the passion, the experience, the knowledge and the background needed for the job.”
Willis, who is currently the chairman of the city’s education advisory board, said he was the right person to replace Smith on the commission. “I am involved [and] I will stay involved. The current city commission is doing a great job. There are issues on which we have disagreed politely with each other, like when WCI was allowed to build in the city. I think we can work well together.”
Kagan said she would ensure enrichment programs for students that would supplement the education they get in schools. “Arts, music and Spanish are not offered on a regular basis in schools anymore. Parents are concerned. We can offer enrichment programs for our kids with the help of teachers who have lost jobs due to the budget cuts. I already have an art, dance and drama teacher willing to volunteer their time.”
“I know what our schools need,” Willis said. “They need Wi-Fi in high and middle schools. Our PTAs have raised over $2 million in the last 4 to 5 years. We now have the Parkland education fund. All these entities work together. We supplement schools every chance we get. Not many cities do that.”
Responding to a question, Kagan and Willis both said they were in favor of a veteran’s park being built in the city. The candidates said they did not favor the proposal for a joint fire department involving Coral Springs, Parkland, Coconut Creek and Margate.
Residents wanted the candidates’ views on signage, an issue that has generated plenty of debate in the city. Kagan said she believed in signage but said it would have to look right and suit Parkland. Willis said businesses in the city would do significantly better once construction starts in the wedge.
“The economy will take care of the situation,” Willis said. “There are plenty of businesses that would love to come into Parkland.
Ron Wolff, one of the residents who attended the meeting, said Willis would be his pick. “John has more experience. He has worked with the city on a lot of things and understands the process better.”
Trina Robinson, Parkland resident and anchor of “Live Miami at 11 a.m.,” weekday mornings on NBC channel 6, was the moderator. Darrell Miles of the Heron Bay Men’s Club welcomed the candidates and residents.
The special election will take place Jan. 31.
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