Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cocoa Beach Mayor and Commission Candidate Forum: VIDEO

An Election Forum for candidates running for city offices in Cocoa Beach, Florida was held on Saturday, October 6, 2012, at 10 a.m. in the Cocoa Beach Library.  The Forum was sponsored by the Citizens' Action Committee and was open to the public.  All candidates except for Barry Plans appeared at the hearing.

Some of the issues discussed by the candidates were the Cocoa Beach Ranger program, which both Mayoral candidates David Netterstrom and Ann Herzog both supported.

At only one point during the forum did one candidate attack another.  Mayoral candidate Ann Herzog turned towards her opponent, David Netterstrom, and asked him if he was suppose to be a cheerleader for the City of Cocoa Beach [regarding bring in more economic development] then why haven't you done it yet?  The attack elicited some groans from the audience.

All of the candidates supported to keep in place the 5-0 voting rule regarding high-density development in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

The issue of fire and police pay and pension cuts became a heated issue during the forum.

 "The biggest thing I see for Cocoa Beach...and it has been unable to be addressed... and now is the time to do it... we have three union contracts coming up... the city's payroll and costs have to be addressed," Seat 2 Commission candidate Don John said in his introductory statement. "I work with people every day that don't make what they made five years ago... and to continue to give raises out and to continue not to look at retirement I think is a problem.... they do a great job but their retirement is 47%.... it is entirely unsustainable."

"We are a Cadillac service at a Wal-Mart price and are the best deal in town," Cocoa Beach Firefighter and Firefighters Retirement Board Secretary Matthew Erickson said in an e-mail after the forum. "Portfolios are market driven and there is a tendency to take a snap shot of the worst economic time in our nations history since the 1930's - two significant recessions in one decade as well as the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and the near-collapse of the world financial market as we know it.  Of course the plan is not going to be firing on all cylinders right now but it has a smoothing process that better absorbs the ups and downs of the market."

"The City has had viable retirement plans for their employees for over three decades.  Cities have lost a large chunk of their discretionary spending and while some Cities have enriched labor costs and services, Cocoa Beach is not one of those Cities," Erickson added.  "We are staffed at half the National Standard and our Retirement plan benefits are the minimum required by state statute. We provide the highest ISO rating in the County and per person have more education than any other department in the County."

Erickson offered the following financial numbers regarding the current pension plan's financial health:

As of last quarter, the Fire Retirement plan had a 15.93% net gain FYTD - performing in the top 1% in it's peer group.  In 08/11, it had $6,737,851.  As of 08/12, it has $8,345,633.
In 09/11, the total "mortgage" was $12,180,832 with $6,963,778 of the mortgage paid down and $5,217,074 remaining.
With the most recent gains this year, the pension now has $8,345,633 of the mortgage paid down and $3,835,199 remaining.

Cocoa Beach Voters will be voting for four City Commission Seats with the following candidates: 

Seat 1  

David Stephen Netterstrom   
Ann Herzog

Seat 2  

Timothy Scott Tumulty           
Don John                     
Barry Plans

Seat 3  

Ben Malik                              
Mary Jane Nail

Seat 5  

Adrianne Dillon                      
Eric Edward Herrburger