Saturday, April 20, 2024

Boca mayoral race news & other news of note from Boca and Delray

This just in: Singer won’t challenge Haynie

Boca Raton City Councilman Scott Singer will not challenge Mayor Susan Haynie in March.

Last week, Singer filed for re-election to Seat A, which he won in 2014 without opposition. Singer had told me in July that he was considering a run against Haynie.

Since then, according to my sources, Singer has held several meetings with individuals—most of them developers—who might finance a campaign against the mayor without getting the commitments that would be necessary. The most recent meeting took place last week. Singer’s choice of backers is ironic; he has been courting residents who regularly speak against development in general and against downtown development in particular.

Singer’s decision affected the plans of Andy Thomson, a lawyer with the Boca Raton firm of Baritz & Coleman whose candidacy long had been rumored. If Singer had challenged Haynie, Thomson could have run for Singer’s seat, which would have been open.

Instead, Thompson joined Emily Gentile and Andrea O’Rourke as candidates for Seat B, which is open in March because Mike Mullaugh is term-limited. Seats C (Jeremy Rodgers) and D (Robert Weinroth) are not up next year. Boca Raton doesn’t require candidates to live in certain districts. All seats are at-large.

The official qualifying period is from Jan. 3 to Jan. 11. If Singer sticks with his plan to run for re-election—which makes sense—but still hopes to be mayor—which he likely does—he could play a long game from his council seat in a second term.

If Haynie won a new three-year term, she might leave early to run in November 2018 for the county commission seat of term-limited Steven Abrams. Haynie would be a strong candidate, and she could not run for another term as mayor without sitting out a cycle.

If Haynie won the commission seat, there could be a special election for mayor in early 2019. That would happen under the recently passed ordinance that Singer sponsored. Turnout is low in special elections; such races favor those whose supporters are most committed. Singer could try to rely on anti-development voters in the Golden Triangle and near the beach who also oppose a restaurant on the Wildflower property. On Monday, Singer holds his “visioning session” on possible other uses of the property.

Depending on events, however, some of Singer’s council colleagues may see scenarios in which they could win a special election. Boca Raton has enough voting blocs to give anyone optimism. Singer’s decision last week means that the big battle in March will be for Mullaugh’s seat. Even if Singer doesn’t run for mayor this time, though, the race to succeed Haynie already has begun.

Palmetto Park Road task force

Boca Raton City Council members love the idea of a citizen-led group to advise on development of the Palmetto Park Road beach district. They don’t love the idea of a formal task force to do so.

The idea was before the council at its Monday workshop meetings. The Riviera Civic Association, which includes three neighborhoods east of the Intracoastal Waterway, proposed a task force that would meet for a year with help from city staff and issue a report. Other task force members would represent Investments Limited. According to the company’s land-use lawyer, Robert Eisen, Investments Limited owns roughly half of the property in that area and “almost everything” on the north side of Palmetto Park Road.

Council members, however, worried about adherence to the Sunshine Law with such a formal group that included city participation. They suggested that residents wouldn’t be able to have the sort of informal discussion that might help to shape a plan. Eisen and Riviera Civic Association representative Mark Simmons got only what Scott Singer called the council’s “encouragement” to proceed, perhaps with a city planner available for questions.

That stated reason makes sense. The residents and Investments Limited also were asking for something that Boca Raton hasn’t approved for any other neighborhood. The North Federal Highway effort probably comes closest, but there was a citywide need to redevelop that portion of Boca. Also, the effort hasn’t achieved much in 15 years.

Here’s another possible unstated reason for the council’s reluctance.

The beachfront area includes the site of Chabad East Boca. Some could see this task force as a means of heading off that project if the chabad loses one of the three lawsuits against it and must reapply. If the city helps the task force, the city could be complicit in blocking the chabad.

Mayor Haynie noted—as she did after the council approved the chabad last year—that the city approached these same residents 10 years ago with an offer to change zoning that allows commercial development just one street away from single-family homes. The residents weren’t interested. “I just wanted to get a deadline for this,” Eisen said after the meeting. “A deadline from the city makes everyone focus.” I suggested that the interested parties now could set a personal deadline. “Yeah,” Eisen responded. “We know how that always goes.”

And the Beach & Park Dstrict

Boca Raton Beach & Park District board member Earl Starkoff announced over the weekend that the third-place finisher in the Aug. 30 primary has endorsed him.

Though he’s the incumbent, Starkoff finished second in the Seat 3 race to Erin Wright, who got 38 percent to Starkoff’s 37 percent. They will face each other in the Nov. 8 runoff. The endorsement of Starkoff comes from John Costello, who got the other 25 percent.

A news release from Starkoff quoted Costello as saying that the district should be “a close but independent partner” with Boca Raton. The city and the district are at adds over an agreement for joint management and maintenance of their shared parks and beaches.

Frankel wants a seat on police and fire board

Adam Frankel doesn’t live in Boca Raton, but he wants the city council to overlook that and put him on the Police and Fire Pension Board. He cites his work on Delray Beach’s police/fire pension board.
As I reported, Delray Beach wants to abolish that board and create smaller, separate police and fire pension boards. The city negotiated the change with the unions.

The city commission sought the change to establish more control over the boards and their investment decisions. City officials calculated that the police/fire fund’s returns were lousy. In its September 2014 report— the most recent—the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University ranked Delray Beach’s police-fire pension fund among the state’s lowest performers in terms of solvency and investment return. The pension board oversees the fund. Frankel, a former Delray Beach city commissioner, sat on the board from March 2008 until June of this year. He cited that experience as the reason why he should get a similar post in Boca.

Under Boca Raton’s code, the city council can waive the residency requirement for pension board members “if, in its discretion, it determines that the city’s interests would be best served by appointing a non-resident.” Council members might want to check with their counterparts in Delray Beach before voting tonight on the appointment.

Delray City Attorney process

Item WS.2 on tonight’s Delray Beach City Commission workshop meeting agenda reads: “Discussion of process for the selection of a city attorney.”

Hoo, boy.

When this topic last came before the commission in July, it featured an accusation by Commissioner Mitch Katz that Jordana Jarjura couldn’t vote on whether to hire former City Attorney Noel Pfeffer as a temp until the commission replaced him. Katz argued— without notice and without making a persuasive case—that Jarjura had an ethical conflict. She fired back at the next meeting, and got support from Mayor Cary Glickstein and Commissioner Al Jacquet. Katz apologized.

Then everyone went on summer break for five weeks without hiring Pfeffer, who resigned over the summer for a job in private practice. The legal department continues 40 percent shorthanded under Interim City Attorney Janice Rustin. Monday was the last day for the city to accept applications from individuals seeking the top job—Rustin said she doesn’t want it—or firms offering their services.

Those applications won’t be public for 30 days, and the commission won’t make the choice for weeks. The goal tonight is to figure out what the choice is.

In an email, Glickstein said, “I don’t see this as a ‘What do we want?’ discussion. There is already commission consensus we do not want a law firm as a permanent solution. The commission majority understands the reasons large, full-service cities like ours don’t hire law firms as their city attorney.” By “majority,” Glickstein means himself, Jarjura and Jacquet. All are lawyers.

“That said,” Glickstein added, “given the recent events we observed regarding our departing city attorney, we may need a hybrid relationship as an interim solution, whereby we have a designated city attorney employed by a private law firm who has principal responsibility for overseeing our city attorney office. Under this scenario, we can continue looking for a full-time city attorney, or the hybrid relationship morphs into the private lawyer becoming our city attorney.”

Katz told me Monday, “I’m open to looking at anything. I just want us to come out of this with a competent attorney.”

Jarjura: special events

In reporting last week on Delray Beach’s new special events policy, I did not hear back from Commissioner Jarjura in time for my deadline. Here are her comments in support of the policy and accompanying guidebook to which the commission gave final approval.

“My goals have been twofold—public safety and cost recovery. First, and most important, public safety. We live in a world where we unfortunately need to be properly prepared for large crowds and emergency management situations. Additionally, we must ensure our police and fire have the capacity to serve the residents citywide in addition to the events and with the significant overdose epidemic our city is combating.

“The second goal was to ensure that the city’s costs are being recouped. . .We are not looking to turn a profit or to cancel events. And I certainly don’t fault anyone for making their money from these events. I just don’t feel taxpayer dollars should subsidize these private, for-profit events. I believe the policy we passed has enough flexibility built in for non-profits and other events that meet certain criteria to seek assistance on some of these costs, and as issues come up we can address (them.)

“City staff worked very hard on this with many of the event planners and businesses impacted to try and meet the above goals. It is unfortunate that certain individuals that have been involved in the process from the start are choosing to misrepresent the facts and the process. I get being disappointed that their personal profit margins will be impacted, but certainly as individuals that have helped market our city they can understand the very serious needs our city should be focusing its funding on. If we don’t have the proper infrastructure and our residents/visitors aren’t kept safe, there is no amount of economic development that the Bacon & Bourbon Fest can do to combat that.”

Notice: Railroad Crossing closure

The Florida East Coast Railway crossing at Northwest 20th Street in Boca Raton will be closed at 6 p.m. tonight because of construction related to All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger service. The crossing is expected to reopen at 6 p.m. Saturday, but previous crossings have ended sooner and later, depending on the work.

According to All Aboard Florida, 20th Street will be the last closing in Boca Raton linked to Brightline work, which includes safety improvements at crossings and double-tracking. One more closing is scheduled for Delray Beach, at Lindell Boulevard, early next month.

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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