Cape Coral Mayor Candidates- A.J. Boyd
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Education- Arch Bishop Williams College Preperatory School
Family- married, two children, two grandchildren
How Long In Cape Coral- 1986
Professional Background- Business owner, sales and marketing
Current Profession- Realtor (Land Brokers, Inc.)
Government Experience- former Cape Coral City Council Member (1998-2007)
Civic Organizations- charter member of Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation, President and Board of Directors of Harney Point Kiwanis, founding member and director of the Cape Coral Odyssey Board, founding member of “Bill” Austen Youth Center, founding member of Eagle Skate Park, Youth Crime Prevention Program, Police Athletic League (PAL) Board of Directors, Prelate of Caloosahatchee Moose Lodge #2395, Boy Scout Council Fundraising Committee, Cape Coral Tree Beautification Committee, Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce
Government Committees- Liaison to Cape Coral Planning & Zoning Board, Cape Coral Road Advisory Committee, Cape Coral Financial Advisory Committee
Why did you decide to run for office?
Basically, it comes down to how I truly feel about the city. I love the city. I want to stay here. I want to die here. I want my grandchildren to grow up here. The first time around it was my kids, now it is my grandchildren. I worked so hard for the things I have done for the city. I feel a lot of them have been passed up or advanced to where they should have been going for the last six years. When I announced 20 years ago, the difference being it was all about the kids and family. Most importantly it was about the learning. I remember when the numbers first came up, I was like, “Oh, my God, what am I going to do?” I took someone’s advice, and this is mostly why I am running right now. They said why president before vice-president. Why mayor before council person? Why not get on council get the learning curve out of the way and then proceed to mayor. That made a lot of sense to me. I said at the time when I originally ran for mayor that if I lose, I would run for mayor someday again. But, at that time I decided to run for the council and do my time there. I did and did nine years on the council. Took some time off for a couple of reasons. Mostly medical. I have some problems with my hips. It is not a big secret. I also needed some mental time. I needed to get out of the government for a while.
But it is truly the love of the city and the experience I can offer right out of the gate. No learning curve, and move the city to the next level.
What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the city, today?
By far, economic development.
Economic development is like an octopus. It has many arms. Not just one issue. We should improve our economic development, which in turn would improve our tax base. People say, “When you were on the council times were good.”
Actually, it wasn’t. When I got on to the council it was 1998, we were about to raise taxes. We were in the biggest lawsuit of our lives. Things were just crazy. Talk about learning.
For tax purposes only. I have a feeling we are going to be on a continuous climbing or raising of taxes in order to bring in the money the city needs to actually run. Currently we have 92% residential and 8% commercial tax base. That puts the bearings on the backs of the homeowner, and it shouldn’t be. It should be diversified through commercial growth. We almost were there. The problem was, commercial was rising when we were doing well. Residential was rising so fast that it offset the number.
The obvious effects of economic development is job creation, but for tax purposes we need economic development.
How do you plan to overcome that issue?
The main thing is the marketing of the city. I don’t think the city is properly marketed. I’ll tell you why. When we started marketing the city and people say we were able to market the city because of the boom. No, it could have boomed in Nowheresville, Kentucky or Ling Lang, Ohio or where ever. But, it boomed here because we were gearing up for a marketing plan and a process before the boom. So, when the boom happened it was perfect timing. That is why people were looking at Cape Coral going, “I’m going to move there. I am going to build there. I am going to raise a family. It is the second safest city in Florida, so on, and so forth.” We were ready for that.
Are you for or against the restarting of the Utilities Expansion Project (UEP) at this time?
I would have to say I am for it. My record also shows that. At one point, we stopped while we were digging, literally. We left holes in the ground and realized that wasn’t going to work. There was some games being played on the council at that time. That is why a few of us on council just decided to say we would just vote no on everything too. It was something that just happened. The next day, even the people who were originally voting no were saying they should not have done that.
The UEP is a necessary evil. I came from a city 30 years ago that had water lines and sewer lines under their feet. But, they were there 150 years ago, so no one gave it any thought. Unfortunately, the people that are here now have to deal with it in one way or another. As far as economic development it feeds off the utilities system. Big stores like a Walmart doesn’t build on a well and septic. Nor does a Disney. You can really talk big or small neither will come without utilities. With that being said, I would like to work obviously on keeping the numbers down as low as possible. There is never the perfect time for putting in and paying for the UEP. If it is bad times, people say they cannot afford to pay right now. If it is good times, people say the cost is too high to pay right now. I have some really cool plans for the North Cape before we proceed into another couple of phases.
To sum up, if I am being completely honest, I have to say I am for the UEP.
Public Service Tax/Fire Assessment- For or Against?
I am against taxes. I hope it is not too late, but, we have to look at bringing in other revenues with the formulas we already have such as our ad valorem taxes. Rather than taxing and feeing people to death. I am hearing from people all over the place that the taxes are out of control. Not necessarily the amount of taxes but where are they going to be taxed next. I can see where they are coming from. When you get a license at City Hall to be a plumber or whatever, they call it a license, but it is a tax. I mean come on. A tax is a tax is a tax, and I am dead against taxes. I said 20 years ago if we improved on economic development and market the city in the proper way we would be able to reduce the millage rate, and in turn still be able to do things we need with the money raised from that. Just like a business. That still holds true today.
I am against taxes in general. I will do everything in my power to decrease the millage rate if we can properly do economic development and market the city. The reason I say that is the true story is while, on my nine years on council, we dropped the millage rate from 6.843 to 4.832. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but that is two full mils over the course of what was going on. I have to remember, I was on the council when we built city hall. There were monster projects going on then. I cut the ribbon at the east/west corridor project. All these things were going on, and we had the funds to do it and never had to raise the millage rate in the nine years I was there.
If against, how do you propose to raise the needed $20 million?
Again, it falls back to asking are we too late? Was the job that I am talking about doing should have been done four years ago? Yes, that is why I am running. These things should have been looked at and done even though we were going through hard times they should have been worked on and at least started.
I will give you a simple example. If you turn on any of morning news shows, and you watch the weather you will see the city, and it has a big huge dot right in the middle of Cape Coral, and the person says, “The weather today is going to be beautiful in Fort Myers.” Pick up the phone and correct that. Use your power as mayor to have that corrected. It is that simple. I actually did that, and one of the stations changed it. However, it is back to Fort Myers today.
To answer your question, I don’t know. I am a little rusty, and I am going to have to dive into the books, which I am in the process of doing right now. I need to sit down with all the department heads and find out who is doing their jobs and who are not. Who can we help to do their job better? Do we need eliminations? What do we have to do? You can’t cut to the point that you are unfunctionable. So, I think it is a matter of biding time. If not, we will have to cross that bridge when we get to it. I may but heads with the city manager out of the gate, but that is alright, I have butted heads with managers before, and we came through it fine. It is all about finding the right solutions for the entire city.
In your opinion, how can the city invigorate commercial growth?
With incentives. There is no other way. The marketing is number one. If no one knows you are here, what good are you? The marketing is key. We need to literally be on the map, kiosks at the airport that is loaded with information. Those things have to start back up. We have to ensure the Economic Director is doing the best of their ability and generating commercial interest. I have been in marketing for many years. My boss’ mantra was no extra jobs that day, no paycheck. I turned a huge profit for that company. They had the best two years they ever had when I was marketing for them. To get the commercial growth, it is incentives. Think about it. What would drive you to come to Cape Coral? Sunny Florida? That is great if you are a tourist or a resident looking to relocate. Beaches? Yeah. The Fine dining? Sure. For businesses, it has to be incentives. These guys have to know you are willing to give them at a graduated scale tax incentives, impact fee credits. I just heard a story about a business who was looking to move into the city, and their impact fees were 60% of their actual overall cost of their project. Their project was like a $15 million project, no small amount. How can you have a $15 million project and expect to pay $8 million to $9 million just in impact fees? They said we will never build in Cape Coral.
There are other things we can do. Enticing software companies. Yes, everybody is going after them. We need to, as well. They are low impact on the system with high wage jobs.
It all comes down to incentives. It would be hard pressed for anyone to tell you any different. Why would you take a job with a new company if he is paying $6 an hour and you have to use your own car if this company is going to pay you $12 an hour and give you a company car? It is kind of common sense governing.
We also have to project the right image. Another example is the guy in town thinking about moving his $10 million company to Cape Coral. He is in his room at the Holiday Inn and happens to see the city council meeting on TV. He sees some of the stuff that has gone on recently and in the past. That comes down to what the mayor’s position is really about.
In your view, what is the role of a mayor/city council member?
The city council members decide issues, regulations and make the rules. Then the city manager follows through with it. The mayor, while still one vote has a couple of different arms to him. He has to be able to work with the rest of the council. If he comes up with good ideas and cannot work with the rest of the council, his ideas will never happen. That is when you end up with voting blocks. I know I can work with everyone up there. If they change, I feel confident I can work with whoever is in the positions. That is very important. The difference between the council and the mayor is, the mayor is the ambassador for the city. He is the face of Cape Coral. He is the guy people are going to think of when they say Cape Coral. You have to have good relationships with higher legislatures and good working ability with the local business community. The ribbon cuttings are all fun and stuff. But, it is more than that. You are the guy selling the city 24 hours a day. You are not just going to a council meeting and going home. If people like you, chances are they will like the city. If they don’t like you. Nothing gets done at the county level, state level, local businesses and more. There is a lot to it. One question people running for mayor should ask themselves is, “Can you afford to do it full-time?”
The last time I was in office was ungodly hours. If we get busy again or even 50% of that activity, when you include that and what is other roles are it is more than a full-time job. I am willing to do this full-time. I am not going to be a part-time stay at home mayor.
Recently Lee County reduced their impact fees. There have been calls for Cape Coral to do the same. What are your thoughts on an impact fee moratorium or reduction?
I think rather than a moratorium there should be two things; a tax incentive with a prorated charge which either you could say you bring x amount of business here with x size building and x amount of tax revenue that will generate x number of jobs we will give you a graduated scale like 80% of your taxes reduced for the first year, 60%, 40% as the years go on. In the fifth year, if you are not running well, big or small business you have problems. As far as impact fees goes, it is a tax. So of course I would love to say let’s get rid of it. However, that is a bigger nut to crack if you ask then where you would generate that revenue from. I will avoid that question completely and tell you that you will never get rid of impact fees completely. But, the other half to my incentive in bringing business here is basically the prorated scale or waivers that we give to businesses for something in return. We give you. You give us. That is the way it is going to have to be. Candidates for the last 20 years have said they are going to eliminate this and eliminate that, and we are going to live off love. But, the reality is that is never going to happen.
It is part of my campaign to have a system where we can offer impact fee credits. I have talked to people on P&Z and on the council, and a common denominator is that big businesses would love to move here but, it is too expensive to start the project. Not to just live here or do the project, but to start the project. They have $100,000 in drawings, fines, fees through the city. Then they have to navigate through the PDP process three or four times over. I laugh when I hear the current mayor say that he is responsible for putting Dollar Generals in on every corner, or he is responsible for doing one project every six months. When I was on the council our average night, was 12 to 15 PDPs. That was every Monday. It was phenomenal growth.
Describe the image of the city today as you see it, and how would you improve it?
The image of the city right now is one that has lost a lot of its respect from those looking in, county, and state, whoever it may be. The image of the city right now is that we went through some incredibly rough times. Again, the mayor wasn’t on the front line for that, even though it was banks, and he claims they are out of his reach, he should be in there fighting. If a plague were to go through here, the mayor should be at the hospital helping. If a fire goes through here, you grab a hose. You do whatever you can. It is your city. The banks came in here and destroyed the place and told the realtors, “You mow the lawns. You do this. You do that, and maybe you will get paid later.” No, there should have been a lot more done. Our image really got tainted because of the economic downturn.
What would I do about it? I would immediately work on improving the image as a positive come to Cape Coral you will love it, and it is the place to be. Yes, it will cost money. And, yes, I will throw some dollars at it. I don’t expect this not to cost. Just like in business, if you don’t spend some money, you are not going to grow. It is that simple. That sometimes scares people, but, I don’t beat around the bush. I tell it like it is. The economic side of this return will be 10,000 fold. Everything trickles down. As far as our image goes, it will be the place to be, the place to buy, the place to shop. Government can’t do all that by itself. It needs the partners. An example will be the KC’s Riverstop situation. We should work with them, not give them money, but work with them. Number one, they are a pre-existing business. I am not all about just bringing in new business. I dealt with the CRA the whole time I was on the council. I do understand local businesses and their needs. I think we need to concentrate on those to in order to improve our image. Now, that being said, as far as KC’s goes, and I am a boater, but I don’t have one now, so I am speaking neutral. I am not going to benefit in any way with this. They want to improve the area. Tell those who are taking over the property that if you go up a floor, put in some glass, make a nice restaurant, put in a nice bar on the bottom floor, and we will work with you on the permits, maybe waive some impact fees. All the things I said earlier about recruiting new businesses. Now you can rent the place for special occasions, and it attracts younger people. We have floats in the water there now. The city, in turn, will put finger floats in where the floats are now. 20 feet or 18 feet apart. Now we just went from docking seven boats there to 67 boats there. I generated traffic on water, not through the neighborhood and put Cape Coral on the map. Everything I have spoken about for the last 20 minutes, I did with one project. And, I have about 20 of these. That is a perfect example. It doesn’t sound like much, but people will come here in droves. You will get people from North Fort Myers, South Fort Myers. It would be slamming.
What is your vision for Cape Coral?
My vision is to maintain a few things. When I was a council member for nine years, we pretty much doubled the police force. At the time, we had a gang issue and we pretty much eliminated it. We built the Youth Center. My vision is to maintain the public safety, if not continue to improve on it. I think safety is one of those things that for commercial entities that want to come here, will factor into them moving here or not. My vision is to improve on the water. We need to be known for something or people will not come here. We cannot expand the beaches across the entire city. Miami is already known for clubs and everything. West Palm Beach is known for concerts. We under promote our canals, badly. More businesses like the one we were just talking about
How will you work to implement that vision?
I see the Cape, hopefully if they are enthused and want to do something turning the corner. Getting out of the slump we have been in. We have to stop the pain. I had friends who lost their houses, cars, jobs, everything, and I lost them. When I say lost them, they are gone. The bleeding has to stop. Right now they are putting a band aid on it. I see if I get in there, I have no problems communicating my message. I love the city. I am going to be here for some time. I want Cape Coral to be known as the place to go and live a safe life, good schooling systems. It also has to entice the 35 to 55 year olds. In order to do that we have to utilize the canals. We have to start heavily emphasizing and working with waterfront properties. There are so many waterfront properties that just aren’t being used. I see it going back to a positive mode. One of the things you will see on my website is bring back pride. People don’t seem to have pride in Cape Coral anymore. Until you fix that we are going to be back stepping constantly and making excuses as to why we are number three, four or five, instead of number one. I want Cape Coral to be number one. I will do whatever I have to do to make that happen.
How are you going to work and create consensus with the other members of the council, not only with your vision but all the other visions?
I believe one hand washes the other. I really do. I have always followed the letter of the law regarding the Sunshine Law. I never made any back door deals or anything crazy like that. I believe if you are a good listener that will get you far, especially on the council. I found that out in the nine years I was there. You have to give a little to get a little. There were a number of times I was in the gray area on a vote and didn’t whole heartedly love the idea. But, without doing damage or undue cost to the citizens I voted for it. I could sleep at night knowing it was the right thing in that council member’s eyes. Maybe, I only thought it was 85% right, but sometimes you have to work with them on ideas that are close to them. I believe I can work with the current council. I believe I can work with those running for the council. I have no problems working with people. You have to be workable to get anything done in this city, or it ends up being a 5-3 or a 4-4, and nothing gets done. The only people that suffer when that happens is the public. I have seen tit for tat many times over. At the end of the day on days like that, I would say we just spent six hours getting absolutely nothing done. I have no problems being a good listener and hearing what others have to say and working with them on a common goal.
What is your leadership experience and how will that play a role if elected?
I opened my first business when I was 19 years old. I bought my first house when I was 19 years old. I have been married 27 years. I have two incredible kids on honor rolls, received Do the Right Thing awards. They have grown up to be great kids. That takes leadership. That takes them watching me daily and deciding what they are going to do. If you are a bad leader, it will reflect in many ways, including your family. My family is only one example. Nine years on the council. I announced when I was 25 years old to run for Mayor of Cape Coral. I have had my head in the books ever since. While my friends were out driving fast cars and going night clubbing, I had the station wagon with two children and a Cape Coral budget book.
Leadership is one thing I feel I dominate over the other candidates in my race. I really wish they had heeded the same advice the gentleman told me 20 years ago. Do your time as a council member before trying to become the mayor. After this, I am not going to run for anything. I mean, I am going to run for mayor and hopefully win. I will do one term, possibly two, but after that I am retired from politics. I think being involved in politics and being a leader since I was 25 years old, add on possibly eight more years. That should be enough. I hold a few little titles that I get to enjoy like, the youngest ever elected to the council, one of the longest reigning members on council, one of the youngest to ever announce a run for mayor, the only to ever be elected by his peers for three consecutive years for Mayor Pro Tem. So, you ask how well I work with others, I think my record shows.
As far as leading, that comes from the heart. Brains obviously helps, but it comes from the heart. If you are really passionate about what you are doing, and I am passionate about Cape Coral, leading will fall into place. But, of course, a 25 year resume helps.