Walkable West Palm Beach candidate Questionnaire – Twelve questions with Mayor Jeri Muoio
Many thanks to Mayor Muoio for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.
- What is your approach to economic development? Do you favor ‘economic hunting’ or ‘economic gardening’, and which approach or combination of approaches would you pursue if elected to office? Would you consider certifying West Palm Beach as a Level II economic gardening program to support existing businesses and entrepreneurs?
At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, Kelly Smallridge, Director of the BDB talked about the great work we have been doing in West Palm Beach in both attracting businesses and growing business. I am the first Mayor to have an Economic a Development Director and he has been working on both attracting and growing businesses. I have been an early supporter of Start up West Palm Beach and a great believer in the importance of incubating businesses here in our city. I would definitely consider certifying West Palm Beach as a level II economic gardening program.
- How would you remove impediments and make it easier to build small projects, rather than the half or full city block development that is prevalent?
As we are revising our codes we should do so with this in mind. Small projects are important, but must also be economically viable for the developer. In addition, it is important to take a comprehensive look to determine where small projects might best be encouraged.
- A City committee recently listed 17 action items that are ‘ready to go’ in the Jeff Speck study. Would you commit to implementing at least one of these ideas in your first 60 days in office, or do you believe more traffic studies are warranted before anything is implemented?
I have already committed. Many of those action items are already in the works and should be under way in the next few weeks.
- Is transportation planning best in the engineering department, or under Planning? Which department leads in the vision for street design?
We have many cross disciplinary teams working together effectively in City Hall. It is important, that no matter where a department is on the organizational chart, it understands the overall vision and all work together to achieve that vision
- In his downtown Walkability study, walkability expert Jeff Speck states that while palms can be beautiful, in an urban environment they do not provide the many benefits of street shade trees and therefore we should focus on street trees that provide shade in downtown. Do you agree with this assessment? How would you respond to the diseased palms on Clematis that were planted two years ago?
I have been a proponent of shade trees on Clematis and throughout our city. We brought forward a plan to bring more trees to Clematis but it was voted down by the City Commission at the urging of my opponent. The Palms had to be removed because they were diseased. They will be replaced with a species that is resistant to the particular disease. I am happy to say we have a new landscape planner who will help us to determine which shade tree will be the best replacement.
- Street trees often suffer from maintenance neglect, despite the fact they are one of the highest returning investments a city can make in its urban infrastructure. It is common for city departments to ‘pass the buck’ in order to avoid responsibility. How would you correct the issues with maintenance neglect and ensure this valuable civic infrastructure is protected and nurtured? Who would be responsible?
I must disagree with you on your statement that it is common for city departments to pass the buck. Recently I moved landscape maintenance to our public works department. You will see significant improvements.
- West Palm Beach has a strong track record of innovation in livable streets and walkability enhancements. A Transportation Concurrency Exception Area east of I-95 makes it easier to do livable street design without Level of Service obstacles. Would you consider assigning a Livable Streets Transportation Engineer, such as West Palm Beach had in the past, to manage these areas in order to insure we continue to make our city more livable and walkable?
I would be willing to consider it, if the budget allows
- Would you favor implementing a parking wayfinding signage program for downtown immediately? Or would you wait to create a master plan for the entire city before acting? How would such a program be funded?
We have a design and a quote and a budget and should see this moving forward in 90 days.
- Where do you stand on the Broadway corridor and South Dixie Corridor efforts? Do you believe the priority for this right of way should be the convenience of drivers passing through it, or enhancing the potential of properties and neighborhoods located adjacent to it?
The priority should be forth making them a walkable community asset.
- In a 2012 “Face of the City” proposal, 10 new tree planters were planned on Clematis Street in order to accommodate new shade trees on the street. Doing so would have meant the loss of 7 on-street parking spots. How would you balance the important placemaking and economic benefits of street trees against the parking needs of downtown?
I was a strong proponent for giving up the parking spaces and having more trees
- Okeechobee Boulevard is a real liability for the city. To encourage non-motorized mobility across the boulevard, and then not strive to provide safe passage, is a serious problem. How would you work to make Okeechobee Boulevard east of I-95 a more inviting place for people on foot and on bike, and how would you propose to fund such plan? Would you consider a local match using City funds such as CRA TIF dollars if it would move the project ahead?
We are currently working with the County, the Convention Center, Related company and planners to explore alternatives for addressing the passage across Okeechobee. All parties are committed to solving this problem.
- The Northwest neighborhood is harmed as a result of being disconnected from the rest of the urban fabric. Banyan Boulevard, the FEC railway, and the Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard bridge serve as ‘border vacuums’ that blight adjacent properties and inhibit redevelopment. Would you make this removing these impediments a priority? Would you consider the creation of connector streets between Douglass and Division Avenue to tie into the greater downtown urban grid network? How would such improvements be funded?
Yes. Funding could include CRA funding as well as grants.