CITY WATCH

Who in Boca Raton would want to jeopardize the city’s “world class police fire & EMS services?” Anthony Majhess hopes voters don’t ask for the whole story.

The campaign flier that hit Boca Raton mailboxes early in the city’s election cycle didn’t actually mention Anthony Majhess, of course. It came from “Boca Raton First Responders,” which listed this address: 301 Crawford Blvd., Suite 206. That happens to be the address of Local 1560, Firefighters of Boca Raton—the firefighters’ union.

Majhess is a firefighter/paramedic for Palm Beach County, not Boca Raton. Still, unions back their own, and a look at Majhess’ contributions in his campaign for mayor against Susan Haynie shows lots of support from city firefighters and police officers. (The firefighters give their home addresses. The cops give theirs as 100 N.W. Second Ave.—the police station.)

The First Responders flier asked voters to cast ballots by mail. It’s a new tactic, which enables special interest groups like the firefighters union—and campaigns themselves—to know that certain votes have been cast. In low-turnout city elections, such vote drives can be crucial.

Despite its call to make “public safety ... Boca Raton’s top priority,” the union’s push for Majhess has less to do with protecting the public and more to do with firefighter pensions, and the union’s effort to avoid benefit cuts.

For Boca Raton, Delray Beach and many other cities in Florida, however, the public interest is drastic pension reform. Boca Raton’s 2012 long-term financial plan shows sharply increasing costs for the firefighters’ pension. The city hired a consultant, which produced recommendations of how changes could bring “sustainability” to the pension fund without raising taxes.

Majhess points out that the firefighters’ union made concessions in recent years. Many more concessions, though, will be needed. Majhess (roughly $94,000 in contributions) claims that Haynie (roughly $116,000 in contributions) is the candidate of development interests. He’s mostly right. Among other things, Haynie’s latest financial report shows a $1,000 contribution from the company building Palmetto Park City Center. Still, Majhess is the candidate of the unions, and that also should raise alarms.

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Boca Raton’s election may not take place until Tuesday, but Susan Haynie has been accessorizing since last September.

The license plate on Haynie’s Lexus SUV reads “MSBOCA.” It was a birthday present to herself, Haynie said while waiting to appear at last week’s candidate forum. She was surprised that the wording was available from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Perhaps “HERHONOR” was taken?

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Thirteen years ago, after disputes between Florida Atlantic University and Boca Raton over FAU’s growth, the idea arose to build a separate entrance to the university from Interstate 95. Work finally has begun.

The need is obvious. The intersection of Glades Road and NW 15th Ave.—FAU to the east, University Commons to the south, Cinemark, Boomers and the Boca Raton Airport to the north—is the most congested in Palm Beach County. From 8 to 9 weekday morning, work commuters jostle with FAU students getting off at Glades.

But one selling point for the interchange was FAU’s planned 42,000-seat, on-campus football stadium. What to do with all that game-day traffic?

Well, the stadium turned out to have 30,000 seats, and FAU had less than 4,000 season-ticket holders last season. Let’s see what happens first: Energetic new coach Charlie Partridge assembling a team that sells out the stadium—spring practice begins next week —or the stadium getting naming rights that stick.

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The election in Delray Beach could tip the balance of power in the city, and Delray and Boca Raton deserve credit for posting campaign finance reports on their websites from all the candidates.

Delray Beach lists the records on one long file, while Boca Raton posts the periodic reports under separate files. It takes fewer clicks to read the Boca reports, and the election gets more prominence on the city’s home page, but voters in each city can get the information.

Knowing the names behind the numbers, though, is harder. Checking those names and what goes with them and the winners will be one of this blog’s priorities.

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About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.