Name: Maria “Mickie” Kellum
Occupation: Retired restaurant business owner, Brevard County Schools food services manager.
When did you move to Cape Canaveral: Moved to Cape Canaveral over 30 years ago.
Political/Government Experience: Cape Canaveral Advisory Board Member, Culture and Leisure Services; Project Manager and Treasurer for Ais Village Trail Public Archaeology Organization for Historical Preservation; former President of Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, Junior Vice Auxiliary at Post 348 American Legion; Trustee at VFW Auxiliary; Board Member of Space Coast Little League.
My Goals and Vision if I am Elected:
I am committed to listening to our citizens with professionalism and respect, so I can focus on the following issues and priorities for our community:
• Lower A1A speed limit, zero traffic-related deaths.
• Promote bikeable lanes.
• Complete sidewalks.
• Safer street lighting.
• Restore professionalism in public meetings.
• Reduce drug activity.
• Care for our existing parks.
• Safer beach access.
• Reduce major blight and improve appearance.
• Zero lagoon discharge.
• Clean drinking water.
• Unique community engagement events.
• Oyster and mangrove projects.
• Sea oats and dune improvements.
• Better code enforcement.
• Reduce debt from $20 million.
• Lower taxes and fees.
• Support small businesses.
• Hurricane and flood preparedness.
1. My Q: AS a newcomer, what's the single biggest issue I should be paying attention to in your (candidates) eyes?
City Finances. Within a few years, our debt has increased over 20 Million Dollars and we have stretched our debt to income ratio over 10% which may inhibit our ability to borrow in the future for critical needs. In order to pay for this growing liability, our current City Council has increased fees and recently passed a 20% tax increase when property values were increasing. I am not opposed to not taking on debt, but I am against borrowing significant amounts of money for amenities or “nice to have” when we could use that money for the necessities or “need to have.”
2. How will you help build a sense of cooperation, unity, and shared vision for the future of our community with the rest of the City Council and the citizens of Cape Canaveral in these times of divisiveness?
This is one of the reasons I chose to run. We cannot attack people, we have to attack the issues. I believe a divisive culture can be healed by establishing a new level of decorum with professionalism and common courtesy for one another. Most importantly, I will listen to the citizens and advocate for what I believe is best with good manners.
3. What programs would you like to add or improve to promote community interaction?
I would like to bring back community workshops and host community town hall meetings where people can listen to each other’s ideas and while the elected Council, City Managers and Staff can interact with the citizens in a casual setting that promotes creativity and openness.
4. Question: How do they feel about mandatory diversity training for all government positions?
Anything that makes us better people and nicer to each other I am in favor of supporting. I believe some of our City Staff already participates in diversity training, but I am not sure if it is mandatory and required for all positions. If not, I think it is worth looking into and holds value for our City as a whole.
5. I would like to know what each candidate is committing to the upkeep and cleanliness of the beach and what would be done to ensure the protection of the residential communities to ensure this town does not turn into a commercial location to support the cruise ships as a port of call.
When I am representing the citizens I will be steadfast in preserving our beautiful beaches and river. I will promote the “Three E’s” to Educate, Engage & Encourage. If we can change our mindset with what we do today it can positively affect our waterways and beaches tomorrow. We need to do our part in maintaining the upkeep and cleanliness of beaches and waterways. We need to do everything we can to ensure our commercial districts are not infringing on the residential community and neighbors.
6. Question: Do you believe there should be a special vote by the citizens to approve non-critical spending where the spends exceeds a predefined threshold, and if so, what dollar threshold would you recommend be set?
Yes, I believe spending over $500,000 on defined non-emergency/critical items such as parks and amenities should be decided by the people and put to a referendum. The citizens should be able to trust their council to spend their money wisely under this amount, but we could see over 50% of our debt totaling $10 Million Dollars in the near future committed to parks which may impact our ability to borrow in the near future on crucial services.
This happened due to the Council’s ability to approve large amounts of debt with the majority approving. This means that 3 people could approve millions of dollars in debt overnight that burdens future generations for decades. We need to limit this and utilize direct democracy on big financial decisions on non-emergency matters.
7. Are any of the candidates interested in enforcing residents, property owners, to keep properties clean?
I believe most of us want to respect private property rights, but I also believe that property owners should be following the City code and our City Staff should be enforcing the code. If we are not able to enforce the code we have in a reasonable manner then we need to make adjustments by either utilizing the resources we have in a better way or adding new people to the Code Enforcement Team to make sure that property owners are compliant.
If we support the code and simply do not enforce, selectively enforce or misinterpret the code then we risk creating frustration and inconsistencies in the community. We should be able to adequately enforce the code we have in place or amend it. It is a tough issue, that we need to keep in front of us and the recent decision to potentially replace the Code Enforcement Board of 7 volunteer citizens with one hired lawyer (Special Magistrate) should be reconsidered.
Another consideration is to utilize the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds for their intended purpose which is fixing blight. FL Law allows Cities to have matching funds for private properties that need paint, landscaping and or external redevelopment. So far, these funds have been used for public projects, but we could allocate a certain amount for others.
Many Cities have successfully implemented these programs which have transformed blighted non-code compliant properties into safe structures. The money is already in our budget, and it is going to be spent, so why not earmark at least 10% to the private sector and let the public properties benefit from the remaining 90%.
I also believe that many cases were elders and or property owners like widows who have been impacted by a fatal loss could benefit from community volunteerism to be the labor in helping on a case by case basis. If the CRA funds are approved to purchase the materials, the community can come together as a community action group that could help the elderly or disabled to help clean up their properties.
8. I'd like to hear about how each candidate will handle the city's fiscal responsibility and the wishes of the citizens
Fiscal responsibly is very important to me and everyone in our community. We may disagree on defining the priorities and that is where I hope to find alignment and fund what is most important first. To be direct, I do not believe we need to add any more to the debt for amenities until we pay the current liabilities down.
Looking back at the large windfalls of revenue coming in from the impact fees for new construction such as the hotels, we might have been able to fund all or at least a portion of the amenity type projects with our cash on hand as opposed to taking on long term debt and interest.
I think many of us support the improvement of our amenities such as our parks, recreational and cultural programs after we take care of flooding issues with stormwater, sewage issues with certain wastewater backing up and or safer streets by finishing our basic infrastructures such as sidewalks and lighting. And all of that should come after supporting our first responders. In short, I believe fiscal responsibility can be accomplished by aligning our priorities and holding the people we elect accountable.
9. What ideas do you have to combat the drug problem in Cape Canaveral?
I asked this question to our BCSO Commander Moros here in Cape Canaveral and she believed that it requires a much broader approach than simply law enforcement. Anyone who is paying attention to the local news and paper can see that the Brevard County Sheriff Office has recently made a significant focused impact on addressing the local drug problems across the County including Cape Canaveral. The Council voted to add another deputy this year, but I believe this should have happened earlier instead of being compromised to meet other lower priorities in the budget and we may need a few more.
Commander Moro’s shared the idea (which I agree) of thinking about other ways to encourage homeownership and or renters who live here permanently and call Cape Canaveral home. One way to measure this is to look at the number of homesteaded properties each year in correlation with drug crimes. If we can increase the homestead percentage and drug crimes lower, we may be onto something.
Also, applying and enforcing the existing code enforcement is another way to ensure we are holding everyone accountable who may be neglecting their properties due to drug abuse. Drug addiction is sad and complex, and I believe this is largely a health issue that could allow us to partner with organizations that can work on the other parts of the problem.
Ultimately, this is a multifaceted approach with the main idea being that we need to focus on all aspects of the issue such as health, crime, civil codes, community policing and good communication from the citizens to those who are trained to address the opioid epidemic.
10. What will you do for the abandoned, unfinished and blighted properties in Cape Canaveral, not just A1A, but in residential areas?
Great question and I touched on ways we can address this in question 7 above. I have owned a business and understand the responsibility of maintaining the building to meet the code, but also satisfy my customers. The blight in some areas of the city has been here as long as I have lived here for over 30 years and I believe this is part of the” Good Ole Boy” legacy who has left us to figure it out.
If we look at the City code, we can clearly observe violations that we need to enforce along and we can do this by utilizing a small portion of the funds we already have in the Community Redevelopment Agency which are designated to address blight. To date, the investments have been exclusively used for the public sector and the State of FL gave Cape Canaveral and Brevard County to work together on these blighted issues.
We can also keep the pressure on our elected FL State Legislature and FL Department of Transportation Staff to make the much-needed improvements on their road. Remember, this is FL STATE ROAD A1A and we are only influencers at the table. I fully support the formal approach and Resolutions sent to Tallahassee to communicate improving the safety of this road and redevelopment in the near future. We cannot give up on this.
A safer A1A is going to attract new investment and or make a stronger case for the existing property/business owners to improve their properties. We have direct control over enforcing the code we have I will do my best to find other solutions to this issue ONCE AND FOR ALL. We have to business-friendly and listen to the residents who have stated that blight is a top issue since the early community visioning workshops.
11. As the city continues to grow, we see a significant increase in traffic. My concern is the visibility at intersections for bicyclists and pedestrians. Most visibility of our intersections are blocked by overgrown vegetation! Next time you drive through Cape Canaveral, take a look as you approach any of our intersections. Is there plans to address this safety concern?
I think we have all seen exactly what you are concerned about and I agree with this visibility problem at intersections in our City. The landscaping maintenance in our City is contracted out to a private company and we need to hold them accountable to not let the delays in maintenance that recently happened with overgrowth in the right of ways.
However, I believe property owners who have not maintained their landscaping and or parking their vehicles and trailers in the right of ways. This comes back to a Code Enforcement issues to respect the easements and code we already have in place. Anyone who reads through these questions can see that the Code Enforcement Department has a very large responsibility as they are a part of many solutions.
As of now, I believe we have two full-time Code Enforcement Officers and a part-time Officer. We may need to look into adjusting this to three full-time officers and scheduling focused efforts dedicated to this issue alone. We will always need Code Enforcement to respond to new inquiries, but we need to survey and document every intersection that has an issue and notify the property owner with a time frame to address the issues and see it all the way through completion.
In the event a property remains neglected the City should consider lawfully, trimming the trees and or working with a community volunteer group to fix those who are in a qualified hardship. We may due to a “tree trimming permit fee wave month” or think of other ways to encourage massive action.
If elected, I will work with Council to request that our City Manager takes inventory of all the non-compliant intersections with a timeline to bring them to compliance. From there, it's all about accountability and communicating in a way that works with the property owners within an expedient timeline.
I want to thank the Administrators and Members who took the time to engage with me on the Cape Canaveral by the Sun, Space and Sea Facebook Group. I appreciate each and every one of you and hope that we can work together in a respectful and professional way to make our city that we all love a better place.
I certainly love this community and as your Council Member, I am committed to making our streets safer to keep up with growth in the area. I will be focused on fixing the blight in the City and caring for what we have here. I want to protect homeowners from rising fees/taxes and make sure we are spending your money wisely.
Please do not hesitate to call me and or email me if you need anything.
I hope to earn your vote on Tuesday, November 5th!