BRIC Leading the Way, Delray Drama, and a New Park

BRIC
From left: Gianna Castera, Dan Cane, Dr. Joel Herbst

At the home of the old Boca Raton economy, the talk was about the new Boca Raton economy.

Two weeks ago, Crocker Partners – which owns the Boca Raton Innovation Campus (BRIC) — hosted a discussion titled “Leading the Way in STEM Education.” STEM is the longtime acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. A new version adds Arts and calls it STEAM.

One panelist was Dan Cane, founder of Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine. The other was Joel Herbst, principal of A.D. Henderson University School and Florida Atlantic University High School. It’s on FAU’s main campus in Boca Raton.

Almost 40 years ago, IBM rolled out its personal computer that engineers developed at BRIC, which then was home to thousands of IBM employees. Only a few hundred still work in the city, and Crocker wants BRIC – which has 35 tenants that employ 6,000 people — to enhance Boca Raton’s new reputation as a home for tech start-ups such as Modernizing Medicine.

Through BRIC, a Crocker spokeswoman said, “We are devoted to creating a launch pad for innovative ideas not just by our tenants but for the entire community.” Previous programs focused on how art and technology can work together, health and wellness, and autism.

Cane showed his commitment through the Cane Institute for Advanced Technologies, which engages Henderson/FAU students to work on “solving society’s toughest problems.” Henderson/FAU High is a lab school, designed to discover teaching methods that others can replicate, but it’s still a public school. As a result, Cane said, fundraising can be “tricky.”

So Cane and his wife, Debra Cane, endowed the institute with a $1 million grant. Cane said it enables him, Herbst and others to “explain to adults” what this “new nexus” can do for Henderson/FAU and elsewhere to fix what Herbst called the “broken model” of American K-12 public education.

Companies such as his, Cane said, “struggle for engineers.” Though salaries for engineering graduates average $90,000, the United States has nearly one million vacant STEM job openings. South Florida, Cane said, is “a net exporter of talent.” The U.S. remains “the envy of the world” in higher education, Cane added, but most of those foreigners go home and take their talents with them.

BRIC

Enter Henderson/FAU High. Herbst said the school starts young and aims especially at girls and minorities. There’s an all-girls coding team in the first grade. Thirty percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The focus is on “project-based learning.”

Cane said the school is “getting an international reputation.” Herbst said that he would be disappointed “if we don’t replicate this all over the United States.”

Crocker plans to hold such events four times each year as part of what the company spokeswoman calls BRIC’s “repositioning.” BRIC formed a program board of local leaders and includes at least one in every event.

Cane and Herbst are board members. The spokeswoman said Mickey Zitzmann, FAU’s director of external affairs, approached BRIC about using them to “educate the community” about the Cane Institute.

IBM’s personal computer was a technology breakthrough. Perhaps others will come from graduates of FAU High who develop theirs in Boca Raton. I’ll have a further report on the school after taking a tour.

Delray political drama continues

I reported last week Delray Beach City Commission Ryan Boylston’s comments about the Seat 4 race in the March 17 election. Here’s a follow-up.

Delray Beach Commissioner Ryan Boylston

Boylston criticized the candidacy of Chris Davey, a white man, because his victory would result in a whites-only commission for the first time since the 1960s. Incumbent Shirley Johnson and the third candidate, Angela Burns, are African-American.

I had been unable to reach Davey before deadline for that blog post. I spoke with him last week.

Boylston said he hoped that Davey would “do the right thing” and drop out. Davey responded, “I find his thinking unbelievable in this day and age.” Race, Davey said, should not be a factor.

“I’ve looked at Commissioner Johnson’s performance on the dais,” Davey said. “We need improvement. She’s a nice woman, but it’s obvious that she doesn’t understand the issues.”

Davey said he tried to recruit a minority, whom he would not name, to challenge Johnson. Doing so, he said, took time. When the effort failed, Davey said, he decided to run himself. That explains why he filed just before the qualifying period ended last month.

Though Davey has been an ally of Mayor Shelly Petrolia, who is campaigning publicly against Johnson and District 2 Commissioner Bill Bathurst, Davey said the mayor did not recruit him. Davey ran for the commission once previously, losing to Al Jacquet in 2014.

One factor in that election was anti-Davey mailers came from an organization that did not disclose its donors. Similarly, when Petrolia ran for mayor in 2018, Davey acted as agent for an organization called Progressives of Delray. It sent out mailers critical of Petrolia’s opponent, Jim Chard. It did not disclose the identity of its donors.

I asked Davey about that seeming contradiction. Why would he embrace what someone had used against him?

Davey said, caustically, “The rules of the casino were explained to me” during that 2014 campaign. He did not rule out Progressives for Delray’s involvement this year.

Hillsboro El Rio Park

Phase 2 of Boca Raton’s Hillsboro El Rio South Park will open on Feb. 22 after a 9:30 a.m. ribbon cutting.

The 14-acre facility will include basketball, pickleball and volleyball courts, a launch for non-motorized boats on the El Rio Canal, pavilions, a large “multi-age” playground and an open play area. A crosswalk on will connect the park with the soccer and baseball fields across Southwest 18th Street. They opened in 2002.

Planning for this park, which will cost nearly $8 million, aligned with the city’s waterfront master plan. It called for more public access to waterways within the city, which the boat launch at the southern end will provide.

When I moved to Boca Raton in November 1985 to a home very near Hillsboro El Rio, people told us that our children – then six and one – would be able to use the park. Instead, the property – formerly the city’s landfill – nearly became a driving range. After the north side opened, the Great Recession delayed the south side. I can’t wait to visit — with my grandchildren.

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer

Mayor Singer & the new park

Mayor Scott Singer will make remarks at the opening of Hillsboro El Rio Park South. Interestingly, money for the park came from the one-cent sales tax surcharge that county voters approved in November 2016. That summer, Singer – then a council member – asked his colleagues to approve a resolution against the tax. He got no takers.

Beach restoration

According to a city spokeswoman, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in March will begin a restoration project for Boca Raton’s northern beachfront. That’s generally the Spanish River Park area.

The work will repair erosion damage from Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Though the city will monitor it, this is an Army Corps project. The work must be done by April 30, when turtle-nesting season begins.

Dispensaries in Boca?

At tonight’s meeting, the Boca Raton City Council will hold the first of two hearings on an ordinance that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries. Staff remains opposed to the ordinance. The second hearing likely will take place on Feb. 11.

And a correction

Correction: In writing last week about Brightline, I said that there is no “quiet zone” along the western CSX track that Tri-Rail uses. Steven Abrams, the agency’s executive director, told me that there has been a quiet zone in Palm Beach County “for years” and that Broward County recently approved one.