By Jill Fox
The race for Seat 4 on the Parkland city commission is heating up between newcomer Robert Brannen and the incumbent, Bob Mayersohn.
Brannen is a native Floridian and owner of Happy House Outdoor Living, which supplies pools, shade structures, and louvered roof systems for residential, commercial, and architectural design applications.
He is challenging City Commissioner Bob Mayersohn, who owns a food brokerage company, where he is an outside independent sales agent for food manufacturers. Mayersohn has served District 4 since November 2016, most recently as Parkland’s vice mayor.
Parkland Talk asked both candidates the same questions about their platforms and what they want for Parkland.
How has COVID-19 affected your campaigning efforts?
Brannen: We’ve been putting on events where we can keep to CDC guidelines, and it’s been pretty productive. We had one with Kona ice cream, I cooked hot dogs, and we kept social distancing. It’s tough. Social media is probably the best route right now, but not being able to meet people and talk to them personally, for me, this has been a major challenge.
Mayersohn: Obviously, the landscape is different in the sense that the normal way to reach voters is knocking on doors and having community events that you’re a part of. So being able to really chat with individuals is through a chatbox, and you’re not getting that one-on-one contact. Most of it is phone calls and relying on those more than the typical events where people can see you and talk to you, where there is more of a pulse.
Will you favor retaining the Broward Sheriff’s Office or looking into Parkland having its own policing agency?
Brannen: That’s something the community as a whole needs to decide if it makes sense to spend that kind of money to get the resources we need for Parkland to have our own police department.
I would like us to forge better relationships with BSO, where we have a certain group that’s dedicated to our town to give us a little more of that hometown feel, which I know we all like. But having a Parkland police department would be awesome; I’m on both sides of the fence there. I’m more community-driven in that idea. I think, at this point, money-wise and resource-wise, that BSO is the way to go.
Mayersohn: I think BSO in Parkland is doing a great job, but I’m uncomfortable with having your sheriff face an election every four years. I’d like to have our own police force, but there are things we would need to look at and investigate, like what it would cost us at an infrastructure standpoint, some technical needs, hiring officers, a lot of things would have to coordinate. But I’m willing to look into it because there is a different command presence of having your own, then there is having an outside independent law enforcement. Nothing against BSO, but the idea of having your own really gives a different mindset.
What is the status of the Heron Bay Golf Course, and what would be your plan for that property?
Brannen: I’m definitely not a fan of building. I’m a believer that if you already have the facilities there, all you need to do is invest and make those facilities better, and it can be driving revenue for that community– It just has to be done right. I don’t know if it’s feasible, but it’s something that has to be discussed and talked about amongst the community.
My wife and I are very involved in the world of golf, so we’re reaching out to people. I’m actually in Coral Springs right now trying to familiarize myself with the status, and I’m talking with ClubLink on Thursday to see what their agenda is.
Mayersohn: I know that the golf course has a property owner, and ClubLink is the management company, a portion of it is in Coral Springs, and some in Parkland.
Heron Bay wasn’t really designed as a golf course community when it was built, so who’s going to pay for it?
I’m hearing that people want green spaces, passive parks, some commercial development, but that is yet to be determined.
The whole idea is to see what parties are interested in. I’ve been leaning on the folks in Heron Bay to give me an idea of where they’re at because those are the ones who have the most vested interest in it.
What is your position on the current school impact fees and how they are being used?
Brannen: I’m not super familiar with them. I don’t really have a stance; I would need to be more educated on that.
Mayersohn: I’ve been arguing about this since before I became a commissioner. The school board is allowed to utilize school educational impact fees, which are about $8800 per home in Parkland. The amount of money that has been out there has been used to pay off debt service, but not necessarily in Parkland.
I don’t support it. I think the impact fee in our area should be used to pay off debt in our area. At this point, there’s nothing we can do. I’ve spoken to school board members about it, but our hands are tied.
Can you explain where the Lox Road process is right now?
Brannen: I’m not familiar with the time frame. I just don’t see how widening the road will help. They think that will help with traffic, but I can’t imagine how that will help.
Mayersohn: 2023. They are working on design development, but a shortage of funding keeps pushing it back. The city has money in reserve but is waiting on contributions from FDOT, Broward County, and others, which would help mitigate our cost. We’re trying to accelerate the process, but a lot of it at this point is a lack of funding.
The road will have sidewalks, bike lanes, a median, foliage to give it a cleaner look and make it more safe. This will help to slow down traffic and make it a safer environment.
Are you familiar with the Burt Harris Jr. Act? How does it affect development in Parkland?
Mayersohn: It’s an important piece of legislation that gives leverage. The act protects private property rights. If a property owner feels their fair market value or ability to do something on their property has been burdened by the government, then they have a right to bring a claim against the government.
So, if Gator Acres wants to build and we tell them no, they can file a Burt Harris Jr. claim and probably win. Basically, we can’t tell them no.
What are your feelings on the Pine Tree Estates Lawsuit? (Pine Tree Estates is suing the city over the ownership and maintenance of streets.)
Brannen: The argument is figuring out whether or not it’s a public road. People have a right to stand up for something they believe in. I understand where the residents are coming from, and I believe in what they’re doing. There has been no communication. Pine Tree Estates had to pull a trigger on something to stop the clock from ticking so this could come back to the table and be discussed.
Mayersohn: The question is who owns the roads– The city or the residents? It’s not easily defined. It’s a complex issue, and I never had the opportunity to discuss this with the residents and talk about the ideas that are out there. It’s a challenge.
The intent was to have a discussion in strategic planning, The City Manager sent a letter asking for feedback, and the residents were unhappy and started a lawsuit.
No one invited me to any of their conversations. I can’t fault the residents because, at the end of 2019, we changed our commissioner districting.
Did you speak to anyone from the city before you joined the lawsuit?
Brannen: Nope, I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to anyone personally about the lawsuit. I did a lot of talking with the community so I could understand it completely.
If elected, will you remain a part of the lawsuit?
Brannen: I think, as a plaintiff, I would most likely have to abstain from voting on the Pine Tree Estates road issue. That is the downside.
If I get elected, and I can’t vote on the issue because of the lawsuit, I may be able to voluntarily withdraw from the suit. I would do that if allowed, so I can vote on the issue. I will know that answer when elected.
What other activities would you like to see in the city, and how do you plan on funding them?
Brannen: I’ve heard a lot of what used to be done here in Parkland.
I grew up on a ranch in Opa Locka, where we rode in parades every year, and I would love to see stuff like that. More activities and more functions to get the community involved. I would love to see the community fill up the stadium at the high school football games. School spirit builds a thriving community, that hometown community feel – we’re missing a piece of that right now.
Mayersohn: We’re trying to do more with senior activities and family-friendly events. I would look at what residents want and look at ways to fund it. There may be grants available that we can utilize. We can readjust the budget and look for opportunities within that budget. We could get sponsorships, like with our fishing tournament, but the current environment makes it more difficult.
Why are you the right person for the job?
Brannen: I’m really excited for the opportunity to be able to have a shot on getting in on this commission. I know if I get in there, people will see something different, and I will fight, and I’m committed to it.
I have a business that runs on its own and all the time in the world to commit myself to the commission, the schools, the activities. I’m excited for it, and I hope people see me that way.
Mayersohn: I think the important part for people to understand is that from my perspective, not as a candidate or an elected official, but from a resident’s standpoint, I want to make sure that our commission has experience on the dais because you need that balance. We are going to have two new commissioners and a new mayor, and there is a learning curve. The voters really need to look at somebody who has experience, who has relationships, who has consistently been involved with county government as well as what goes on in the state. I have a business I’ve cultivated over the last 25 years that gives me the flexibility to do the job.
It’s just a great way for me to advocate for what I’m passionate about, what I believe in, and wanting to create the best environment for our residents as well as the future for our children. I want to serve the community and make it a great place to live.
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