Campaign Updates, Atlantic Crossing Settlement and Other News of Note

Campaign finance update

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Mayor Susan Haynie and city council Seat B candidate Andrea O’Rourke were the winners from the latest batch of campaign finance reports leading up to Boca Raton’s election next Tuesday.

For the first three weeks of February, Haynie raised about $35,000. Haynie faces a challenge for re-election from Al Zucaro. He raised roughly $24,000 during the same period, but $5,000 came in the form of a loan and Zucaro also donated $9,000 to himself. Candidates can repay loans but not direct donations.

With these latest contributions, Haynie has raised $94,000 and spent $52,000. Zucaro has raised $52,000— almost half of that self-financed—and has spent roughly $35,000. Cash on hand can be especially important in the closing days of a municipal campaign.

O’Rourke is one of three candidates for the open Seat B. She raised about $10,000 for February, more than her total for all of January. Andy Thomson raised about $4,600. As of Monday, Emily Gentile submitted only the report covering from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10. During that time, she raised $1,700.

Thomson has been outspending his opponents. Through Feb. 24, he listed $36,000 in expenditures. Five Thomson mailers have already gone out. A Thomson ad ran during Saturday night’s ESPN broadcast of the Duke-North Carolina basketball game. O’Rourke had spent $23,000 and Gentile just $12,000. With O’Rourke having raised $81,000—$25,000 of that in loans—she has the most to spend, though I did hear Monday that Thomson expects to show a surge in the next report.

Seat A incumbent Scott Singer is now above $90,000 in contributions for his race against an opponent—Patti Dervishi—who raised less than $3,000 through Feb. 24. Singer spent about $26,000.

GoBoca

One of the big players in Boca Raton’s election is not a candidate. It’s a committee.

That would be GoBoca, a state-registered political action committee that has sent out four hyperbolic anti-Zucaro mailers. They trace Zucaro’s record back two decades, from when he served on the West Palm Beach City Commission to his actions and comments while running the non-profit BocaWatch website. Some of the issues the mailers cite are the lawsuits I reported, notably the unpaid $406,000 judgment from a business loan that a judge ruled Zucaro had spent on himself and the removal of $137,500 from his late uncle’s trust account. A judge in New York state called that action “fraudulent.”

With those pieces flailing Zucaro, Haynie has been able to send out four positive mailers, the most recent of which arrived Monday. They include a four-pager that covers everything from economic issues to transportation to public safety pension reform. Haynie did send a batch of anti-Zucaro opposition research ahead of her interview with the Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board, in which I participated.

All of Zucaro’s mailers have come through his campaign. After a couple of informational ones, the first anti-Haynie mailer came Monday.

Obviously, it could be instructive to know who is paying for the anti-Zucaro mailers. By checking campaign records last fall, I was able to report that ForBoca and Hillstone Restaurant Group were financing the campaign against last November’s waterfront ordinance. The revelation was hardly surprising—Hillstone was negotiating to lease the Wildflower site—but it was information that voters should have known.

Unfortunately, GoBoca lists no contributions or expenditures on the state website. The PAC was formed just last month. According to a letter from the Florida Department of State, GoBoca doesn’t have to file its first campaign finance report until Friday. I will try to reveal the money behind GoBoca in my post for next Tuesday—otherwise known as Election Day.

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In her latest mailer, Haynie is more accurate about Boca Raton’s tax rate.

At times, the mayor has claimed that Boca has the lowest rate of any city in Palm Beach County. That’s true—especially for full-service cities—if you include only the city’s direct operating and debt millage. Boca residents, however, also pay the Greater Boca Raton Beach & District tax. That revenue helps to finance the city’s enviable recreation system. The added millage also makes it harder to call Boca Raton’s overall tax rate “the lowest.”

The new mailer refers to the rate as “one of the lowest in South Florida.” Even in this era of “alternative facts,” that statement is 100 percent factual.

GEO stock

The stock price of Boca Raton-based GEO Group has more than doubled since Donald Trump won the presidential election. GEO operates for-profit federal detention centers, and such companies could benefit if the Trump administration rounds up lots of illegal immigrants. President Obama discontinued the use of private federal prisons, which GEO also operates. Trump believes in the use of such facilities.

GEO may operate worldwide, but it also has local needs. Last August, the company filed an application to change the Development of Regional Impact Development Order at its headquarters near Interstate 95 and Yamato Road. The company wants more office space and less residential. GEO also wants the city to submit that the change would not trigger a new state review.

The application is still going through city review, so the next council likely would decide. GEO has donated $1,000 to O’Rourke and $1,000 to Singer.

Ocean Palm

Another project that could come before the next council is Ocean Palm. The proposed eight-story, 70-unit condo would replace the three-story office building and Breakers of Boca Raton condo on the south side of Palmetto Park Road at the A1A intersection. One Ocean Boca LLC would be the developer, and the company has donated $1,000 to the Haynie campaign.

Atlantic Crossing settlement

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Last week, the Delray Beach City Commission approved its proposed settlement of the Atlantic Crossing lawsuit, but there was no celebrating.

“This wasn’t really a victory” for the city, Mayor Cary Glickstein told me Monday, echoing the sentiment he expressed during last Wednesday night’s discussion. “I think we spent the last year just pulling the project back to where it was.”

Glickstein means that Atlantic Crossing would have an access road from the west in addition to the main entrance at Atlantic Avenue and Northeast Seventh Avenue. Such a road had been in the original site plan, but wasn’t included when the commission approved a new plan in January 2014. Neighbors of Atlantic Crossing believe that the road would take some traffic from their streets.

With Al Jacquet having left office early, Jordana Jarjura is the only commissioner who didn’t vote last April to reject a site plan with what the majority considered an inadequate road. Edwards Companies, Atlantic Crossing’s developer, and the city then began paying lawyers in preparation for a trial in federal court over Edwards’ claim that Delray Beach has wrongly denied a permit. The city won the first round, but Edwards has appealed. The company seeks $40 million in damages.

Jarjura complained that the proposal is “not that much better” than the commission had before it a year ago.  “I think this was a big waste” of legal fees. She noted that while the proposal includes traffic-calming measures with the access road, it doesn’t include money for improvements to Veterans Park. Still, Jarjura made the vote unanimous, even if she was the least enthusiastic.

Glickstein said, “I don’t think you can look at the road in isolation.” Despite Jarura’s criticism of it, Glickstein believes that the road is a “substantial improvement” over previous plans. Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia agreed. “I think we gained a lot,” Petrolia said. “I have no regrets whatsoever,” Katz said.

From the discussion came the wispy smoke of the last tangle between Katz and Jarjura, who is not seeking re-election. Katz favored hiring the Weiss Serota firm for the Atlantic Crossing litigation. Jarjura has criticized the firm for, as she saw it, trying to undermine former City Attorney Noel Pfeffer and get the contract to provide Delray Beach’s legal services. That contract went to Lohman Law Group.

Last year, the city sought to keep on Pfeffer, who had resigned, while the search went on for a replacement. Jarjura favored the idea. Katz accused her of having an ethics conflict. Last week, seeking to rebut Katz on the Atlantic Crossing settlement, Jarjura said, “I know you don’t read things through.”

Edwards has until next Thursday to accept or reject the proposal. If Edwards accepts and a third party challenges the settlement, Edwards can back out.

DeJesus makes another move

Acting Delray Beach City Manager Neil de Jesus has made his second big personnel move.

De Jesus previously had fired Assistant City Manager Francine Ramaglia. This time, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Snyder resigned. Glickstein told me that de Jesus—on temporary assignment from his role as fire-rescue chief—had discussed the former CFO. “There had been ongoing issues.” Snyder succeeded Jack Warner, who retired last fall. Finance Director Laura Thezieme takes over. The city commission, with two new members after next week’s election, will start looking for a permanent manager at the end of the month.


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