The Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates (NEBA) held our monthly membership meeting on September 22, featuring a panel debate on the proposed Children’s Services Council (CSC). CSC panelists comprised, of Emily Fritz and Terry Madigan (representing opposition to the CSC) and Jon Moyle and Tom Derzypolski (representing support for the CSC), provided opening comments explaining their positions on the CSC, and then answered probing questions about the proposal relative to costs, benchmarks and other issues. 

Supporters argue that a CSC is needed because it will fight to end child abuse, address pre-natal issues and offer dedicated funding to Pre-K among other things. Moreover, they claim kids have mental health issues and 50 percent who show up to kindergarten are not ready to learn. “The status quo is not working here” said Jon Moyle, which he used to partially justify a new agency comprised of a “dream team of local leaders.”  

Opponents argue that of the nine current CSCs operating in counties across Florida, Leon County currently ranks higher than seven of them in the Child Well-Being Index.  Only Martin and Palm Beach counties ranked higher. Madigan noted that the annual salary of the executive director of the Palm Beach County CSC is $250,000. “How much of that goes to the kids?” Fritz added “we all want the best for our children, but a new bureaucracy with expensive overhead is not the way to do it and now is not the time to pass along a tax increase to the residents and businesses of Leon County.”

The debate was cordial, informative and exhibited a public discourse that has been missing in our society for too long. Members left the luncheon better educated on perspectives from both sides of the issue and armed to make an informed decision on the CSC measure come this November.   

The meeting closed with NEBA president Doug Wheeler sharing results from a NEBA member poll that revealed a supermajority of small-business owners, over 80 percent, oppose the proposed countywide ballot measure that would create a CSC. Other results revealed that more than 72 percent of respondents have experienced negative impacts to their business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and that nearly 54 percent feel Leon County officials have failed to support small business owners during the crisis.