The Boca Raton City Council May Need To Fill a Seat, and the Fight Is On

boca city council
Boca Raton City Council

We learned Monday that the Boca Raton City Council doesn’t need to get involved in election politics.

Having asked for applicants to serve the remainder of Jeremy Rodgers’ term, the council got nearly three dozen. Though some clearly have better qualifications, there are no frivolous candidates, based on my reading of their resumes and listening to their comments during Monday’s council workshop meeting.

So the council almost certainly can pick someone to serve in Rodgers’ seat until the March election without picking someone who’s already in the March election.

Those two applicants are community volunteer Yvette Drucker and former City Councilwoman Constance Scott. Each noted the obvious–that she intends to run. Each also would like the head start that would come from serving on the council through the fall and winter.

But the council then would be taking sides, which would hurt the council’s credibility. Fortunately, there are plenty of better options.

I counted about a dozen applicants, apart from Drucker and Scott, who could serve capably. Not all would commit to passing on the election. Among those are Realtor Brian Stenberg and lawyer Spencer Siegel.

That still leaves other good choices. Among others, there’s lawyer Julie Vianale, who has several years of involvement with the Rotary Club of Boca Raton. There’s Pete Martinez, chairman and CEO of Sivotec Analytics. There’s Terry Randolph, the first chairman of the Community Advisory Panel.

The wild card could be Amanda Rodgers, Jeremy Rodgers’ wife. Rodgers wanted the council to pick her, and she has applied.

Passing the seat from spouse to spouse, Amanda Rodgers said Monday, would be “the least” the council could do to respect Jeremy Rodgers’ service in the Naval Reserve. The call to active duty created what the city calls the “temporarily unoccupied” status of the seat.

In her application, Amanda Rodgers said, “Councilmember Rodgers and I have discussed most issues to come before the council, and I have agreed with every one of his votes. I am the resident to vote most like Councilmember Rodgers.

“His seat should be filled with someone that would vote as he did out of respect for the residents who voted for him. This is an opportunity for the mayor and council members to show they value the residents most by choosing the person that would best represent him on council. I can guarantee you that person is me.”

When Jeremy Rodgers communicated to the council that it was time to fill his seat–because he likely won’t be back before March–he clearly presumed that the council would grant his wish. That didn’t happen.

So if the council now chooses Amanda Rodgers, would she run herself? If the council doesn’t choose her, would she enter the race? If she didn’t want to go against Drucker and Scott, would she challenge Monica Mayotte, who at this point has no opponent?

And what about Jeremy Rodgers? Technically, he hasn’t resigned. If his deployment ended sooner than expected, he would have the option of returning and displacing whomever the council picked.

All of which suggests that council members should make the safest, least political pick possible. How will they decide? That also isn’t clear, even though they tried to make it clear on Monday.

Apparently, they will narrow the field through nominations. But they didn’t decide how many nominees each can submit or who will nominate first.

The other option is not to fill the seat. An email circulated over the weekend, featuring a clip from 2018. Mayor Scott Singer and Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke said there was no need to fill the vacancy–caused by then-Mayor Susan Haynie’s suspension–until the special election in August.

Council members will make their decision at tonight’s meeting. It could get messy or go cleanly. For the city’s benefit, the cleaner the better.

Fundraising has already begun

As Scott told the council, she already is campaigning for Rodgers’ seat. So is Drucker.

Both candidates turned in fundraising reports for September. Drucker has raised $16,000, including a $5,000 loan to herself and $1,000 from her husband. Another $1,000 came from a Junior League colleague.

Scott raised $10,000 in September and did not make any personal loans. She got $1,000 each from political actions committees controlled by her campaign consultants and $1,000 from Big Idea Strategies, a business-coaching firm in West Palm Beach. Other donations include $500 from Cypress Realty, which owns two properties in Midtown that the company has tried to redevelop, and $500 from Derek Vander Ploeg, a prominent architect who has designed some of the new downtown buildings.

Is the third wave of COVID here?

mask

News reports last week suggested that there was a COVID-19 “hot spot” in Boca Raton. Not really.

I spoke Monday with Palm Beach County Health Director Alina Alonso. She briefed the county commission last week on the latest COVID-19 metrics, as she does almost every two weeks.

Local public health officials, Alsonso said, don’t use the term “hot spot” these days. They hear from the 38 cities about potential problem areas and, if necessary, send resources for added testing. Alonso said Boca Raton has not asked for anything.

The obvious area of concern is the presence of Florida Atlantic University and Lynn University. Colleges in other states have become sources of new outbreaks because of what students do off campus. Alonso, though, said FAU and Lynn “have been great” about protocols.

Countywide, however, Alonso is worried. Recent numbers are up. Gov. DeSantis has prohibited cities and counties from enforcing mask mandates on individuals. COVID Act Now has raised Palm Beach County’s level to “At Risk of Outbreak.” Like the rest of the state, we may be entering the third wave.

Owls take the field–barely

Whatever Alonso’s comments about FAU, the football team keeps having problems.

For Saturday’s game at Marshall University, which the Owls lost, FAU had just 57 players because of COVID-19 cases and quarantines. Teams need at dress at least 53 players or they must forfeit. Because of virus issues, FAU has played just two games this season.

Real estate update

real estate

National home sales declined unexpectedly in September, but analysts aren’t worried.

South Florida Realtors have enjoyed a very good run, more because of the pandemic than despite it. Local people in higher-paying jobs have done much better, and many people are fleeing the Northeast. Housing has helped to offset regional job losses in hospitality.

Last month’s 3.5 percent drop mostly offset a similar increase in August. According to Wells Fargo, however, “Sales are still trending high on a three-month moving average basis.”

In addition, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Homebuilders Index hit a record of 85 this month.

Boca startups get a boost

Boca Raton bills itself as a home for startup companies. On that theme, the county commission this month approved a $200,000 grant for the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University.

Robert Weinroth is the commissioner who represents Boca Raton. A news release from his office said the money “will assist FAU’s Global Ventures, an entrepreneurial initiative assisting international and domestic second-stage technology startups.” A second-stage company is one that has reached the point where it can grow.

Last month, the International Innovation Business Association designated Global Ventures as a soft landings center. That means the park helps companies make entries into new markets. Andrew Duffell, president of the research park, said the designation would help FAU attract more tech tenants.