Sunday, December 3, 2023

Recapping the Boca and Delray Elections as Coronavirus Crisis Continues

Mayor Shelly Petrolia won Delray Beach’s election.

Petrolia wasn’t on Tuesday’s ballot. But she had set out to take down Seat 2 City Commissioner Bill Bathurst or Seat 4 incumbent Shirley Johnson. Or both. Johnson won a second three-year term, but Juli Casale – Petrolia’s preferred candidate – beat Bathurst by 120 votes.

It was a remarkable upset because Bathurst raised $81,000 compared with $35,000 for Casale. Bathurst also is a fourth-generation Delray Beach resident while Casale moved to the city 15 years ago from Connecticut.

So what happened? The two other candidates, Jennifer Jones and Debra Tendrich, got roughly 30 percent of the vote. Would a two-person race have been different?

Did coronavirus-related problems at polling places affect the outcome? Bathurst’s consultant, Rick Asnani, said the campaign hoped for a big Election Day turnout that he said didn’t happen. Some pollworkers didn’t show up and voters were turned away.

During the campaign, Casale made much of Bathurst’s vote to allow a southern entrance to the Delray Place retail/dining complex on Federal Highway at Linton Boulevard. Casale said the approval posed a safety threat to residents of the adjoining Tropic Isle neighborhood.

Juli Casale

In the Tropic Isle precinct, however, Casale got just 15 more votes than Bathurst. Casale’s best performing precinct was Banyan Creek Elementary School, which is in her neighborhood. Indeed, a citywide review shows very few lopsided precincts. Casale won just enough votes here and there to earn that slim victory.

Which brings us to Petrolia’s influence. She made Casale the insurgent against the establishment. That would seem ironic, given that Petrolia is the mayor, but Petrolia made clear that she wanted to form a commission majority that would vote her way.

She’s one vote short. Her next target could be Ryan Boylston or Adam Frankel, both of whom are on the ballot in 2021. Boylston publicly criticized Petrolia’s effort against Bathurst and Johnson.

Also on the ballot will be Shelly Petrolia.

Delray commission meeting

Delray Beach will not hold Friday’s city commission organizational meeting.

Cities have these meetings after every election. Members choose who will be vice mayor and deputy vice mayor and will represent the city on area advisory boards. There is no new date.

Delray remains open for business

As of Thursday, City Hall remained open in Delray Beach. So did the beach and all parks.

delray beach city hall

Though the city is prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more on public property, bars and restaurants can stay open if they close at 10 p.m. and reduce the number of patrons by 50 percent. The city released an update on Thursday that didn’t make any major changes. It will be interesting to see whether Delray Beach soon follows Boca Raton’s lead.

Boca mayoral race

We now know that about 11 percent of voters in Boca Raton are contrarians.

That’s how much Bernard Korn – who may not even be a city resident – got on Tuesday against Mayor Scott Singer. Korn hardly campaigned, and he raised almost no money. No one of substance took his candidacy seriously.

Yet Korn got almost four times the percentage he got in August 2018, when he ran against Singer and Al Zucaro in the special election to complete Susan Haynie’s term. Despite the presidential primary, turnout for Boca Raton’s election was down about 4,000 votes from 2018. So many residents also didn’t take Korn’s candidacy seriously.

Singer gets a full, three-year term. He could for another in 2023. City term-limit rules apply only to full, consecutive terms.

Boca state of emergency

To understand why Boca Raton declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, look south.

Broward County is a coronavirus hot spot. Cases are mounting at senior living facilities. With Boca Raton as the southernmost city in Palm Beach County, “We had no choice,” a city spokeswoman said.

City Manager Leif Ahnell wanted Boca Raton to act as something of a firewall against the spread of the virus. The declaration closes City Hall and means that only essential services – fire, police, utilities, sanitation, and inspections and permits – will operate. At this point, the city plans to continue twice-a-week garbage pickup.

But all but small pocket parks are closed, along with the two libraries. One reason the declaration had to wait until Tuesday was that both locations were polling places. Next week’s city council meetings also are cancelled.

Non-essential business can stay open if they follow the guideline against gatherings of more than 10 people. This week, Town Center Mall and Cinemark became the latest to close until further notice.

One of the biggest changes was closing of bars and nightclubs for 30 days and ordering restaurants to offer only takeout or delivery orders. This would have been tough anytime, but the high season still has a few weeks to run, and with business travel nearly non-existent there aren’t the usual reservations from hotels.

So to help the many struggling businesses, the city is preparing a newsletter that will list restaurants offering food for pickup. The newsletter also will offer resources for small business owners and help to residents who must homeschool their children.

Among those who deserve our thanks during these unprecedented times are city employees. They are working long, stressful hours to keep things normal absent coherent guidance from federal and state officials. Florida is far behind other states.

Coronavirus testing issues

boca regional
Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

I wrote about a possible coronavirus case at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. The hospital provided a nonspecific response. On Thursday, the Palm Beach Post supplied details that underscore the dangerous confusion over virus testing.

The man in question is named Alan Levy, who lives in the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club neighborhood. He had traveled to Washington for the America Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference and returned to Boca Raton on March 3. His wife, his son and his son’s girlfriend accompanied him.

Nine days later, Levy began having symptoms similar to those associated with the virus. His attempt to get tested took him to a lab, the Florida Department of Health, his doctor, back to the Department of Health, the CDC, Palm Beach County and finally to Boca Regional, where he was admitted. He still doesn’t know if he has or had the virus.

Levy’s wife wrote about this struggle on the Nextdoor website. Levy’s son also had been sick. One hopes that someone in authority also has seen this story.

Keeping hospital beds empty

One way to keep beds at Boca Regional and other hospitals vacant for the most seriously ill patients is to reduce unnecessary hospital visits.

To that end, according to a news release, Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine “has prioritized” development of its Telehealth service. Modernizing Medicine will offer it free to users of the company’s electronic health records.

As the company notes, telemedicine doesn’t just ease the strain on hospital space. It lessens the chance of health care workers getting sick for any reason and makes the hospital safer for patients. Telehealth will be available for all of the company’s specialties: dermatology, gastroenterology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, otolaryngology, pain management and urology.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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