Gateway Sun

If there’s one thing operating this publication has taught me, it’s that local elections matter because the people elected can shape communities. Gateway is no different.

For people who may be new here, every home and business in Gateway and Pelican Preserve resides within the Gateway Services Community Development District. The GSCDD is overseen by an elected five-person Board of Supervisors, with each board member serving a four year term.

In the 2018 elections, candidates can run for Seat 4 and Seat 5 on the GSCDD board. Seats 1, 2 and 3 were contested in the 2016 elections, and will be again in 2020.

So today we begin with our first Seat 4 candidate, Jim Brann from Hampton Park.

Brann is a Kansas native who spent 25 years working with MCI and Verizon as a Director of Sales, working in a technical sales role to provide communications solutions for very large corporations.

He is also an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, and we certainly thank him for his service.

Brann has been married to his wife, Linda, for nearly 30 years. They live in Hampton Park and have three children and nine grandchildren.

Unlike some candidates from the past who only started to show up at GSCDD meetings once they decided they wanted to run for office, Brann has attended nearly every single district meeting over the past several years.

Brann’s focus has been pretty narrow at the meetings until recently, focusing on issues regarding the Hampton Park community. Of course, that’s what’s to be expected, since Brann is a key member of the Hampton Park HOA board.

To his credit, Brann has gotten some things done on behalf of his HOA.

He’s persuaded a notoriously stingy developer (WCI/Lennar) to build a fence next to Hampton Park and Griffin Drive, got FPL to install lighting at the back Hampton Park entrance, worked tirelessly to get the State of Florida to build a sound barrier wall along SR-82, and perhaps most importantly, he was a bit of a “middle-man” (and an effective one) between the GSCDD and Lennar in order to facilitate the transfer of ownership of Hampton Park’s ponds to the Gateway District.

Again, for the benefit of new residents, the GSCDD has four main roles: water and sewer services (including the community’s irrigation system), landscaping, parks and recreation, and pond maintenance — which is where we’ll begin with Brann’s campaign platform.

Property developers hate owning ponds, to put it mildly. Whereas for the GSCDD, owning and maintaining Gateway’s ponds is one of the very reasons the district exists in the first place.

So when Hampton Park’s developer (Lennar) was threatening to transfer the ponds to the Hampton Park HOA instead of to an uncooperative GSCDD, all hell broke loose. One Supervisor wasn’t happy with how the ponds were built and equally unsatisfied with Lennar’s plan to fix them. Lennar for their part believed they’d done everything required of them, and were simply going to dump pond ownership on the HOA if the CDD didn’t take them.

Brann was right in the middle of the entire dispute, working to broker a truce and negotiating with all sides to make sure the right outcome happened. And it took months (years?) of wrangling, but it finally happened just a few weeks ago. The GSCDD will – or perhaps already does – own Hampton Park’s ponds. As they should.

As for the “very expensive” (Brann’s words, but I concur) Lake Bank Restoration Project, Brann said he wants a third party to evaluate whether any further work is necessary.

This is a good step, because despite their high opinion of their own engineering capabilities, the GSCDD are clearly not experts when it comes to pond repairs. The compounding errors of this project lay squarely at the feet of the GSCDD itself, and if Brann wants an independent expert to come in and offer a new approach, I’m all for it.

The Lake Bank Restoration Project began as a $3 million issue. Then it became a $12 million issue. And suddenly it ballooned to about $25-30 million project before sanity was restored and 3 out of the 5 Supervisors voted to hit the brakes earlier this year.

Brann says his priority is to determine whether or not the project is even required, and that he doesn’t want the GSCDD making that determination on their own.

As for landscaping, Brann says he would like to “add lots of color” as well as “upgrading the sprinkler systems to save water and money in all our common landscape areas.”

Indeed, much of the irrigation system is antiquated. But as with anything else, we’ll see how the GSCDD wants to prioritize their available funds. However the irrigation system is a common topic at district meetings.

In terms of the Parks & Recreation department, Brann says he wants to “fix major issues with our Parks and Recreation program; e.g. our dog park is a disgrace and we are subsidizing use of our Soccer Park by non-residents.”

It’s Day 1 of the campaign, so we’ll have plenty of opportunity to dig deeper in to Brann’s plans for the amenities. But he is correct that the Dog Park was permitted to deteriorate by GSCDD staff. Fortunately Public Works Manager Michael Tisch has a newfound zest for pleasing Gateway residents young and old, and has finally gotten around to sorting out some of the Dog Park issues.

And Brann’s top priority, according to a platform document contained on his website – electjimbrann.net – is to “Ensure your tax dollars are spent wisely and keep assessments as low as possible.”

GSCDD assessments have been rising at a rate of about 20% per year over the past few years, and I shudder to think what the assessments would look like if the Lake Bank Restoration Project was still going full steam ahead.

No candidate can promise to lower assessments right now. There’s just too much work to do in the community.

So while promising to spend as “wisely” as possible may sound vague, it’s all any candidate can truthfully offer. Brann was wise not to over-promise in this regard.

We certainly look forward to seeing what changes and improvements Brann would suggest to keep assessments “as low as possible”. Should he be elected he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do that, because the current Board of Supervisors have set the district on a path of getting things done that are long overdue.

That means many projects, many important decisions, and plenty of your money spent.

We shall see if Brann becomes one of the five people tasked with making those decisions on Gateway’s behalf.

Election day is November 6, 2018.

Brann’s website is electjimbrann.net.

Brann has an opponent running for Seat 4, whom we will profile at a later date.

Tomorrow we will profile Supervisor Doug Banks, who has announced he will seek another term in Seat 5.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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