Email exchange of November 13-17 between attorney Dan Lobeck and Assistant County Administrator Mark Cunningham regarding the methodology for Fiscal Neutrality:
From: Mark Cunningham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Transparency In Formulation of Fiscal Neutrality Methodology
Date: November 17, 2014 at 8:03:40 PM EST
To: Dan Lobeck <email@example.com>
Cc: Catherine Antunes <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Vicki Nighswander <email@example.com>, Thomas Polk <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Allen Parsons <email@example.com>, William Spaeth <firstname.lastname@example.org>, BCC <BCC@scgov.net>, Paul Caragiulo <Paul.Caragiulo@sarasotagov.
com>, Alan Maio <email@example.com>, "firstname.lastname@example.org " <email@example.com >, "zac.anderson@heraldtribune. com" <zac.anderson@heraldtribune. com>, "Van Berkel, Jessie" <jessie.vanberkel@ heraldtribune.com>, "Tryon, Tom" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, William Zoller <email@example.com>
Good Afternoon Mr. Lobeck:
I have already outlined the process to you and everyone-else on this email chain.
If you have information you want to provide germane to the subject methodology, you may do so at anytime and they will be considered and made available in an appropriate and public manner.
As you are well aware, unless otherwise protected by law, all information submitted to the County becomes public information, are subject to public inspection, and are also subject to a public records request. The County has always accepted input from anyone, including "stakeholders" during public proceedings, and this will also apply to this methodology process.
If you have in your possession any "private pre-draft communication between AECOM and various development interest," please send them to me or any County employee and they will become public. I am not aware of, nor do I have any such communications in my possession.
If you have information of County staff facilitating such communication, please submit them to me or any County employee and they too will become public. I am not aware of any such facilitations.
Unless otherwise protected by law, all communications (including this chain of emails) with County employees are open, transparent and available to the public. If you have information you want to submit regarding this or any other matter, please submit it and it will be considered as deem appropriate. As you are also aware, we are governed by the "sunshine" law and we will govern ourselves accordingly.
Have a very pleasant evening.
Mark A. Cunningham, AICP, CPM
Assistant County Administrator
1660 Ringling Blvd.
Sarasota, Florida 34236
Sarasota County, Florida
On Nov 17, 2014, at 4:07 PM, Dan Lobeck <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Mark:You continue, with some exception, to answer questions other than the ones I am asking.Please see my continuing questions in bold blue below.I look forward to your responsive response.Thank you,-- Dan LobeckMr. Lobeck:Please see below for my responses to your questions in bold red font.Sincerely,Mark:This most certainly does not answer any of my questions.Do you intend to answer them?I have asked about the pre-draft input process and you keep coming back by saying that there will be an opportunity for public input on the draft. There is not a public working group associated with this process. It is a technical effort between County staff and AECOM; as such, there is no planned pre-draft input process. I have not asked anything about a “public working group”. I am concerned about private pre-draft communications between AECOM and various development interests, including but not limited to the fiscal neutrality consultant who Pat Neal has hired for that purpose and introduced at the adoption hearing on the Sarasota 2050 amendments. The County’s contract with AECOM clearly calls for special AECOM communications with “stakeholders”, apart from any general public input on a published draft – that is what I am asking about.My concern is that the development interests are being given exclusive and secretive input on the creation of that draft.Again:(1) Are you and other County staff aware of communications by development interests with AECOM in the preparation of the draft of the fiscal neutrality methodology, to date or planned, and if so what are they? I am not aware of any such communication. Who on staff would know?(2) Have you or other County staff done anything to facilitate such communications, and if so how? Not to my knowledge. Who on staff would know?(3) Will I and other taxpayer representatives on the Sarasota 2050 Task Force be given an equal opportunity to communicate with AECOM in the preparation of its draft, and if so how may we do that? Please see the public input process outlined in my initial email. That process only addresses public input after the draft is prepared. The question, once again, is (emphasis added): “Will I and other taxpayer representatives on the Sarasota 2050 Task Force be given an equal opportunity to communicate with AECOM in the preparation of its draft, and if so how may we do that?”(4) How does the County respond to my request that – for the sake of the transparency that the County says it seeks – such communications by development interests and others be in writing, as they are communicated or at least after the fact in notes by AECOM, and shared with other “stakeholders” including taxpayer advocates such as me? All work products and drafts will be available on the County website as they are developed and throughout the process. Will those “work products” include all written communications between persons in the private sector and AECOM as well as between AECOM County staff and officials? That is what I am clearly asking about.Please do not respond again by stating that after AECOM produces its draft it will be posted online and the public given an opportunity to comment on it. At that point, it seems likely that the horse will be well out of the barn.Thank you for your considerations.-- Dan LobeckGood Afternoon Mr. Lobeck:As I stated in my initial email to you: “all work products and drafts will be available on the County website as they are developed and throughout the process.” I also stated in my initial email that “we are planning on allowing a one month window for input on the DRAFT technical report/Methodology. Subsequently, additional public input will be provided for during the public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the Board.”The above referenced opportunities and documents will be available to the public at the same time and in the same manner to ensure equity.Sincerely,Are you telling me that you and other County staff are completely unaware of communications by development interests with AECOM in the preparation of the draft of the fiscal neutrality methodology, to date or planned?And are you telling me that you and other County staff have done and will do nothing to facilitate such communications?What about my request for the taxpayer interests represented by the Sarasota 2050 Task Force to have comparable communications? What about my request that such communications by development interests and others be in writing, as they are communicated or at least after the fact in notes by AECOM, and shared with other “stakeholders” including taxpayer advocates such as me?It will be a farce if the developers are given exclusive, secretive access to AECOM in the creation of the draft and then there is the charade of an open process in the vetting of that draft.Is that what you want?There is a limited opportunity to prevent that charade, if you desired to do so.Again, thank you for your considerations.-- Dan LobeckGood Morning Mr. Lobeck:As stated in my previous email, the development of the Fiscal Neutrality Methodology will be coordinated through Sarasota County staff and the technical consultant, AECOM. There is not a public working group associated with this process. The public input process is outlined below, will be available to all, and allows equal opportunity for all. I cannot speak to your claim of “development interests are already hard at work influence the draft,” as County staff has no such meetings planned or scheduled. Again, there are no public working groups.Sincerely,Mark:Thank you for your email.However, you have not responded to any of my specific requests for measures that would provide transparency and inclusiveness in the process. Am I to take it that those requests are denied?Significantly, you do not address at all the opportunities for public input and transparency during the three months that lead up to AECOM’s production of a draft Methodology. That may be the most important time at all, with the post-draft process you describe being an attempt to ride a horse that is already galloping out of the barn.I am very sure that the development interests are already hard at work influencing that draft, including through the opportunities given to “stakeholders” for private input in the County’s contract with AECOM. Are the taxpayers not to be provided access to those communications or to be given comparable opportunities for input to AECOM’s preparation of the draft?I look forward to your response to this at your earliest opportunity.Thank you for your considerations,-- Dan LobeckGood Afternoon Mr. Lobeck, et al:Over the past few days, several emails were sent to the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners (the Board) under the subject heading regarding public input associate with the development and adoption of the pending Fiscal Neutrality Methodology. As such, I would like to take this opportunity shine some light on the process going forward.The development of the Fiscal Neutrality Methodology will be coordinated through Sarasota County staff and a technical consultant, AECOM, which has been the County’s primary, independent reviewer of Fiscal Neutrality analyses. AECOM has a national practice in conducting Fiscal Impact Analyses.Please be advised that there is not a public working group associated with the development of this Methodology. Notwithstanding, there will be several opportunities for public review & input, the first of which will occur at a milestone that will result in a DRAFT technical report/Methodology. We anticipate this will occur approximately 3 months into the process. We estimate that the project will be approximately 7 months long. We are planning on allowing one month window for input on the DRAFT technical report/Methodology. Subsequently, additional public input will be provided for during the public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the Board.Below are the project steps that include public input:1. A draft document will be made available for public review (scheduled to occur through the month of March).· Drafts sent to the Planning contact lists requesting feedback.· Drafts posted on County web page for 2050 Evaluation with request for feedback.· Advertisements for comment period are posted in paper and on County web sites.2. Public comments are compiled and digested by staff and consultant in drafting revisions to the draft analytical report and technical manual.3. Public hearing advertised for and scheduled in front of the Planning Commission.4. Public comments are compiled and digested by staff and consultant in drafting revisions to the draft analytical report and technical manual.5. Public hearing advertised for and scheduled in front of the Board.6. Public comments are compiled and digested by staff and consultant in drafting revisions to the draft analytical report and technical manual.7. Board approves a Resolution adopting a set methodology for determining Fiscal Neutrality on 2050 developments.In addition to the above, all work products and drafts will be available on the County website as they are developed and throughout the process.If you have any additional questions, please let me, and I will ensure that staff provide a timely response. Please feel free to forward this email to all interested parties.Sincerely,Mark A. Cunningham, AICP, CPMAssistant County Administrator1660 Ringling Blvd.Sarasota, FL 34236Email: email@example.comCommissioners:This is to follow up requests by the Sarasota 2050 Action Network for transparency and public participation in the formulation of a new fiscal neutrality methodology by the County’s consultant for that purpose, AECOM.I have reviewed your contract with AECOM. There are numerous provisions for consultations between the consultant and “stakeholders”, presumably representatives of development interests.Two points:(1) Certainly, taxpayers are stakeholders in this too. As such, this is to request an opportunity for participation by me and other representatives of the Sarasota 2050 Action Network in the formulation of the fiscal neutrality methodology, equal to that given to the development interests.(2) All steps needed to make this a transparent process should be undertaken, as transparency is the stated goal of the new methodology and it will have no chance at credibility if the process is not transparent. There should be no secret, behind-the-scenes machinations by development interests to influence AECOM to formulate a methodology that favors developers’ interests over the taxpayers’ interests. As such, this is to request that the County require that all communications with AECOM about the methodology be in writing and that all such communications (including all to date) be promptly provided to other stakeholders requesting a copy, including by this request Cathy Antunes as chair of the Sarasota 2050 Action Network and myself. Also, if there are to be communications to AECOM verbally rather than in writing, this is to request that AECOM be required to make an accurate and complete written report of all such communications, and again that such reports be provided to all stakeholders who request them, such as is hereby provided. Further, this is to request that all stakeholders, including the Sarasota 2050 Action Network and myself, be given notice of any conferences by stakeholders, staff or Commissioners with AECOM, upon such meetings being scheduled and be provided an opportunity to sit in on such conferences to unobtrusively observe and record.I look forward to a substantive response for the County at the earliest opportunity.Thank you for your considerations of this request.Dan LobeckPresident, Control Growth Now