The State of the Boca Raton City Council Ahead of 2021 Elections

boca raton
Boca Raton City Council in 2020: Jeremy Rodgers, Andrea O'Rourke, Mayor Scott Singer, Monica Mayotte and Andy Thomson

Would Boca Raton’s March 9 election look different if the Navy hadn’t called Jeremy Rodgers to active duty?

Rodgers’ second and final term in Seat C would have ended next month. Had he remained stateside, the city council would not have been able to name Yvette Drucker to fill the seat in an interim basis, which is allowing her the advantage of running as an incumbent—even if unelected.

Given her record of volunteerism, Drucker would have been a credible candidate on her own. The incumbency advantage, however, could be what gets Drucker past former Councilwoman Constance Scott. She held the same seat from 2009 to 2015, also leaving because of term limits. Scott has remained active in her job at Florida Atlantic University.

To review, Rodgers wanted the council to choose his wife, Amanda Rodgers, for the interim position. She most likely would not have run for the seat, despite the name recognition.

Singer, Monica Mayotte and Andrea O’Rourke, however, chose Drucker—after almost no debate—from a pool of three applicants, Scott among them. Only Andy Thomson wanted to choose someone who didn’t intend to run.

Singer followed that up with an endorsement of Mayotte in Seat D against Brian Stenberg and Drucker, who he said would bring a “fresh perspective.” That was clearly a dig at Scott.  Another came when Scott said current council members share “a willingness to consider all facts and viewpoints, make our independent choices and work together to find common ground.” When Singer joined the council in 2014, he said, “a number of residents felt that we lacked” such an attitude. Scott, of course, was on that council.

O’Rourke also issued an email endorsement of Drucker and Mayotte, but it was superfluous. The real endorsement came when O’Rourke put Drucker on the council. O’Rourke and Mayotte have been like-minded on most issues since Mayotte joined the council in 2018.

Thomson told me that Drucker, Scott, Mayotte and Stenberg all asked for his endorsement. He declined, even though some have helped him. “I’ve known all of them for years,” Thomson said. “It would have been like picking friend over friend.”

If one assumes that Singer would prefer a four-vote bloc of himself, Drucker, Mayotte and O’Rourke, Boca Raton has been here before. In 2012, four of the five council members—including Scott—lined up against the campaign of incumbent Anthony Majhess. Scott and the others believed that Majhess was grandstanding on development issues.

Despite that opposition, Majhess won. That moment mirrored earlier elections when candidates lined up behind either the Greater Boca Raton Federation of Homeowners or the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. This year, the chamber has endorsed Scott and Stenberg.

Shelly Petrolia, Delray Beach’s polarizing mayor, is trying to control the city commission. She is campaigning against incumbents Adam Frankel and Ryan Boylston.

Singer doesn’t use Petrolia’s openly combative policies. He preaches collegiality while running meetings. He’s not trying to defeat any current council members. But the mayor is trying to get the council he wants.

That started in October, when he presided over Drucker’s appointment. Singer previously had written a letter to Scott, seeking to discourage her from running.

The mayor’s seat isn’t on the ballot. There is no statewide primary. Both increase voter participation in local elections. So both council races likely will turn on which campaign does better on turnout, especially with mail-in ballots.

And depending on the result, the dynamic of the next council may turn on someone who isn’t on the ballot but whose effect is clear: Jeremy Rodgers.

Boylston doesn’t endorse

Since Petrolia wants Boylston to lose, one might expect Boylston to endorse Petrolia’s opponent, Tracy Caruso.

Boylston, though, said he “doesn’t endorse from the dais.” He appears at events with other candidates only before groups that have endorsed him and others who attend. Boylston did say, though, that he supports any candidate “who doesn’t actively work against her colleagues.”

Boca council fundraising

Drucker raised an impressive $35,000 in January. Roughly $23,000 came from the development/real estate industry. I note that because of the support Drucker has from O’Rourke. Since her first campaign in 2017, O’Rourke has been vocal in opposition to what she considers overdevelopment.

Among Drucker’s other contributions are $1,500 from Ron Book, one of Tallahassee’s most influential lobbyists, and $500 from Palm Beach County Clerk of Courts Joe Abruzzo. She also got $1,000 from her husband, lawyer Gary Drucker, and $100 from former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. Sink lost the race for governor to Rick Scott in 2010.

Scott, Drucker’s main opponent in the four-candidate race, took in $14,000. That brings her total to $63,000, roughly $10,000 behind Drucker. Scott received $3,000 from the Realtors, who have endorsed her, and $1,000 from the firefighters union, which also endorsed her. Scott got $2,000 from El-Ad National Properties, developer of the downtown Alina condominium.

Josie Machovec, who’s also running in Seat C, got just $1,500. Her total contributions are just $2,200. She got $100 from one of the other plaintiffs in the mask lawsuit.

In Seat D, incumbent Monica Mayotte and challenger Brian Stenberg are about even overall. Mayotte raised $14,000 in January, giving her $63,000 in all. Fifty thousand of Mayotte’s total was a personal loan. Stenberg took in $13,000, making his total $68,000.

Like Scott, Stenberg got the Realtors endorsement and $3,000 in donations. Mayotte got $1,000 from the firefighters after receiving the union endorsement. She also received $2,000 from the Dunay, Miskel, and Backman law firm, the city’s most prominent land-use firm, and $3,000 from entities and individuals linked to the Group P6 development firm.

Mask talks continue as variants arrive

Plaintiffs who lost their appeal for an injunction against Palm Beach County’s mask ordinance will take their case to the Florida Supreme Court.

Louis Leo is one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Reality-denying James Tracy, the former Florida Atlantic University professor, is a former client. Leo said, “We are hopeful that the Florida Supreme Court will protect and defend our constitutional right to choose and refuse medical treatment.”

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was providing new guidance that wearing a KN95 mask or wearing a surgical mask under a cloth mask offers 95 percent protection from aerosols that might carry the virus. The CDC also was reminding Americans that masks offer the best protection against people spreading the virus. What Leo calls “treatment” keeps other prople from getting sick.

Florida leads the nation in cases of the COVID-19’s United Kingdom variant. Public health experts say that it’s between 30 percent and 50 percent more contagious than the original virus. The first of the Brazilian variant also has shown up in Florida. Even as vaccinations increase, the need for prevention continues.

Josie Machovec is one of those five plaintiffs. Her opposition to masks goes against not only all credible public health advice but the stated policy of Boca Raton.

“State of the City”

Singer used last week’s State of the City address to tell Boca Raton residents what has been going on related to the pandemic and despite the pandemic.

Work progresses, Singer said, on a $500 million infrastructure upgrade in older areas east of Interstate 95. It’s designed to modernize the utility system. Ask residents of Fort Lauderdale what can happen when cities neglect what’s out of sight, such as pipes. He noted that the city’s crime rate dropped in 2020 for the fourth straight year.

Singer said Boca Raton is the only Palm Beach County city getting two new elementary schools—Addison Mizner and Verde, both expanding to K-8—from the 2016 sales tax surcharge. Verde opened last fall. Addison Mizner is scheduled to open in August.

Because of the pandemic, Singer said, Boca Raton is placing ads in “San Francisco, Chicago and the Northeast” pitching the city to businesses. “Companies are taking note” of the city, Singer said, creating a “burgeoning buzz.”

Much of the unglamorous, day-to-day municipal work left Boca Raton better prepared to adjust when the pandemic hit last March. Fire Chief Tom Wood said the department had stockpiled enough protective equipment during the 2009 swine flu pandemic and the 2014 Ebola threat that it could wait to buy more until the first rush had subsided. Building officials could quickly pivot to online permit applications.

For all cities, but especially Boca Raton, the biggest uncertainty will be how much the pandemic has affected commercial property values. If the drops—from closings and restrictions—are significant, it could affect next year’s budgets.

PPE littering fines

mask

Sign of the COVID-19 times:

At tonight’s meeting, the Boca Raton City Council will consider an ordinance proposed by Councilman Andy Thomson that would quintuple littering fines when someone fails to property dispose of personal protective equipment, such as masks, face shields and gloves. The standard fine of $50 would increase to $250.

Delray water advisory

On Sunday, Delray Beach issued a water advisory. E-coli had been detected in a well that is out of operation and only was activated Friday for the city to test the water. There was “no health risk.” Nevertheless, since the city faces a potential $3 million fine from the Florida Department of Health, the city’s public relations consultant wanted me to know that the notice had gone out.