The following is a video interview with AllOnGeorgia-Camden about the candidacy of Jay Moreno. Most of the details of the topics can be heard by playing the video.
Whether you agree with him or not, Moreno has been a consistent voice on many community policy matters facing the city of St. Marys and Camden County for several years. With a policy background in public administration, Jay Moreno wants to correct some long-term issues the city has struggled with for several years.
Moreno, Savannah native, has lived in St. Marys for about 26 years but did a lot of work throughout the area before making St. Marys, GA his home. Moreno has run for city council and county commissioner before but hopes to capitalize on the political angst he believes has been caused by previous and current council members.
“It’s often said that Moreno has an agenda, in a pejorative sense of the word, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I do have an agenda with several different benchmarks, or goals, but my agenda this year is to remove one-seventh of the total number of elected officials currently serving,” said Moreno referring to the incumbent, Jim Gant.
Moreno further discusses why he should replace the incumbent further in the video interview.
His Campaign Sign –
Moreno’s political sign he toats around town in his travels has received some interest among the public. Moreno discusses the meaning behind his sign and believes it reflects some of the sentiments many citizens in St. Marys are feeling about the current policies implemented by past and current city council members.
“I am not just running against Jim Gant; I am running against all seven and the current incumbents,” said Moreno. “The whole bunch has proven over the last decade or so that they have lost touchwhat a city government of 16,000 [people] should be all about and what it should be doing.”
Moreno explains how past and current councils are implementing policies of much larger communities and they continue to hire city officials that appear to be bringing such “big city” type policies to St. Marys.
Moreno emphasizes on his sign the phrase that says, ‘Full funding for common needs!’
“That is all a city should be doing; is filling a prescribed list of legitimate needs that only the city should fulfill; that’s police protection, fire protection, water supply, sewer matters, and in this community – drainage is a big problem. We have neglected basic needs for wants,” said Moreno.
The Issues –
Intercoastal Gateway Project – Eight years later, no developer.
Moreno discusses at length the problem with the purchase of that property, which was spearheaded by his incumbent opponent. “No end in sight” is how Moreno describes the project as he feels the city will continue to throw more money at an unstable idea for the community.
“There should be clear lines of demarcation between government entities/non-profits and private enterprise; they should not compete against each other nor should they ‘get in bed together’. We will find a unicorn down there before we find someone who wants to sink a bunch of personal money into a joint development project on that property,” said Moreno.
Moreno maintains the property should be sold if the city does not back off the current height restriction of the conceptual proposal of a conference/hotel center. Moreno further discusses the problems with building a large structure on the Gateway property, as previous core samples revealed inadequate measures that could support a large structure.
“A potential buyer is going to see that and say, ‘no way in the world,’” said Moreno. “All I see is years more of financial bleeding. They should have let the late Calvin Lang buy it. Selling it at a loss now will put a finite end to this bleeding.”
Moreno was asked about what he would like to see happen to the property if it was never to be sold.
More details are discussed in the interview.
Drainage and Infrastructure –
Moreno discusses the drainage neglect in the city, particularly in Crooked River Plantation. The discussion moves into the concept of the city creating an enterprise fund to strictly deal with drainage and stormwater control.
Moreno said he would prefer an enterprise fund method over taking money from the general fund to mitigate stormwater control; however, he said he is not in favor with the city’s approach to how they want to collect the fees for this fund. He feels it will scare away potential businesses to the community.
Moreno explains for the viewers the intent for how the fund is going to work based on the amount of imperviable surfaces that are on one’s property, such as a driveway and a back-porch patio.
“They want a consultant to come in and look at the status quo and all the filled in ditches and recommend what we should do. It would make far more sense to clean out all the ditches and get all the existing drainage infrastructure functioning to maximum capacity, and then call in a consultant if we have to,” said Moreno.
Hurricane recovery efforts –
Moreno believes the communications in the county and city, based on the lack of experience with recent hurricanes, performed at a reasonable level. However, Moreno was critical of the timeliness of getting things back to normal on the city’s waterfront.
More can be heard in the interview about this discussion.
Newly proposed building and zoning codes –
Moreno gives his thoughts on the controversial building and zoning codes. Moreno finds very little use in the codes except for subdividing the lots and allowing people to build extra dwelling units on their own property.
Moreno said he is strictly opposed to the ‘Tiny House’ concept, the smaller square footage allowances, and the potential for densification of smaller dwellings among pre-existing larger homes.
Moreno was asked what he would do with the codes if he inherited them as an elected councilmember.
Moreno maintains that if three new council members are voted in, the new council members can mobilize more citizen support to put pressure on the those that support the newly proposed building and zoning codes.
“I think we could create enough ire among the citizens where the other four would back off,” said Moreno.
Moreno is critical and cautious of the densification allowed by the possibility of cottage cluster type dwellings among the pre-existing larger homes.
“If [the council] does pass it, I am for rescinding the whole thing,” said Moreno. “Just scrap it. A lot of this thing is about aesthetics.”
Economic Development & Current City Projects –
Moreno has confidence in the Wharf St. Marys project at the Old Mill site and near the North River. However, Moreno maintains that the city continues to have an infatuation with subsidizing downtown businesses. Moreno strongly feels free market forces will take care of the downtown area and the city should get out of the subsidizing the downtown business area.
“The priorities are totally out of whack in this town.” said Moreno.
“He who has the political clout, as demonstrated by turn-out rates, is the one the gets the most contention…,” said Moreno as he refers to the importance of voter turn-out in the city.
Moreno gives a connection to how low voter turn-out has also contributed to the imbalance of priorities in city policy. He maintains that voters must get out and vote to change the direction of the city for the future, or the influence from a few will continue to make the policies for the community.
Moreno also feels the economic development improvement should just not be centered in St. Marys, but the entire county. He maintains that the county’s Joint Development Authority (JDA) did not take advantage of the recent economic improvement as compared to other surrounding cities.
“We are not doing a very good job,” he said. Moreno would like to see better resources, input, and changes to the JDA.
Taxes and Fees –
Moreno was asked if he were on council, would he have voted for the recent tax increase of 16.89 percent and he also gives his philosophy on taxation from city government.
Moreno said he was against the most recent tax increase and explains that the recent tax increase is directly related to securing the incumbency on the council by citing the additional resources for Public Works and other basic services for political expediency.
“They should have been doing small incremental increases, yearly, if in fact, the needs they gave, were justified. What they will do is raid the reserves in the general fund until they cannot do that anymore,” said Moreno.
“Oh, we’ve got drainage problems,” Moreno explains referring to the current taxation mindset of the council. “That’s a cover story.”
Moreno believes the current tax philosophy is setting the city up for problems in the future and he further discusses this in the video interview in detail.
Authorities and Boards –
Public Service Authority financial fallout –
Attendance of the PSA Board is said to be spotty, particularly from each city’s mayors, according to Moreno. He believes the lack of oversight from the Board is a main issue for the financial issues of the PSA.
Moreno feels the entire program should be brought underneath the purview of the county government.
“We need someone in finance that works numbers, day in and day out,” said Moreno. “There is no excuse whatsoever. It needs to be turned over to the county to keep an eagle’s eye on this issue.”
Moreno wants the PSA agreement on funding by the tax digest model to be used, but currently, the PSA was not being funded that way. Moreno feels that the county and the city views Georgia law as a suggestion, and not law. Moreno wants the authorities and boards in the community to be accountable to the citizens.
Hospital Authority –
The relationship between the Hospital Authority and the City needs work together for the benefits of the senior citizens. Moreno would like to turn over all operations of the Senior Citizen program over to the Hospital Authority. Currently, the Authority funds and subsidized many programs, including the food program, for the Senior Center.
“You can’t have this Frankenstein of a monster arrangement here; it needs to be all city or all Hospital Authority. I think it needs to be the Hospital Authority; they are the ones with $3.7 million,” Moreno said.
Moreno also believes a main problem with the Authority is there has not been enough turnover on the Authority members.
As far as the function of the Senior Center Task Force to recommend new changes for the future of the senior citizens program, Moreno feels the entire task force idea has created angst in the relationship between the city and the Authority.
“They are trying to fix a problem that really did not exist,” said Moreno.
AllOnGeorgia asked Moreno if he were on council, and oversaw the Task Force’s functions, how would he deal with facilitating the relationship between the Task Force and the Authority. Moreno said he would decommission the Task Force citing they are not helping without any communication with the Hospital Authority.
More about the Authority can be heard in on the video in detail.
District Voting & Fair Representation on City Council –
Moreno has been an ardent supporter of fair representation in the city. Currently, the city has an At-Large voting selection process and would like to see it changed to district voting. Moreno maintains that such a voting selection process creates a better connection with the community and aligns with the specialized needs within the city.
Moreno encourages voters to get out and vote so the people can change the course of action in these policies related to economic development, building/zoning, and the recent tax increases.
“If we are not a political threat, we are not tended to,” said Moreno. “If we go to districts, that can’t happen. Districts are the only conceivable way to stop what has happened over past 10 years.”
“The voting block of Osprey Cove and Cumberland Harbor in the future will be hard to stop, unless we change the make of the council and place in voting districts,” said Moreno.
He maintains that not having voting districts will continue the policies causing stagnation to basic services in the community.
Moreno wants voters to know that not voting at all is tantamount to a vote for the incumbent and wants the voters to know they will not be disappointed with his work on council if he is elected.
The municipal elections take place on November 6, 2018. The deadline to register to vote in the November 6 election is Tuesday, October 9, 2018.
More election information can be found by clicking, here.
Entire video interview –