Sunday, May 26, 2024

Campaign Updates and Good News for Two Top Boca Companies

The Federation of Boca Raton Homeowner Associations will hold a debate tonight for candidates in the Aug. 28 special election. The debate will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the city complex at 6500 N. Congress Ave. in Boca Raton. I will moderate the debate.

FAU Campus Threat

Florida Atlantic University President John Kelly obviously made the right decision to cancel Wednesday’s summer commencement after campus police determined a “credible threat.”

The cancellation was rotten luck for the graduates and their families. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, though, no one should take chances. Inconvenience beats death or injury.

The university announced Wednesday a “special ceremony” this week—details to come—for foreign and out-of-state students. All others will have their own ceremony next week—details to come. Students who can’t make those dates can attend the December ceremony. FAU will honor all summer grads at the season-opening football game Sept. 8 against Air Force.

Though FAU asked for and received help from the Boca Raton Police Department, it remains the campus department’s case. FAU still could seek help from Boca Raton or any other agency as it investigates who left the problematic note in a bathroom.

Campaign updates

If Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer loses to BocaWatch Publisher Al Zucaro, it won’t be for lack of money.

According to the latest campaign finance reports, Singer raised another $23,000 between July 1 and 27. That gives him a total of $138,000. Zucaro raised $7,500, bringing his total to $32,000. That’s obviously a staggering advantage for Singer. Zucaro, of course, continues to use BocaWatch as his campaign website.

One interesting development in the new reports is the emergence of big money from outside the city. Singer got $3,000 from committees affiliated with the state’s Realtors and $2,000 from the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. Andy Thomson, who is running for Seat A on the city council, got $1,000 from the economic council and the same $3,000 from the Realtors.

Though most of their contributions go to legislative candidates, the Realtors sometimes get involved in local elections. They did so in Delray Beach’s March election.

It is less common for the economic council to back city candidates. I can’t remember it happening since I started this blog in 2014. But officials of the Greater Boca Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed Singer and Thomson, speak regularly with their counterparts at similar business groups.

Singer also received $4,000 from individuals and entities associated with Boca Raton-based NextGen Management, a software developer. He got $1,000 from Richard Schmidt, chairman of the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Board of Trustees, and $1,000 from the police union, which has endorsed him.

Zucaro got $500 from mega-philanthropist Christine Lynn and $250 from Jerry Fedele, Boca Regional’s CEO. Another $350 came from Boca Beautiful President John Gore, whose group often appears on BocaWatch.

Thomson continues to lead the Seat A candidates in fundraising. He listed another $21,000 in the new report, giving him $73,000. Tamara McKee loaned her campaign another $20,000. Of McKee’s cumulative $53,000, all but $10,000 is from loans.

Kathy Cottrell listed another $4,000, bringing her total to $44,000, including a $25,000 loan. Cottrell received $1,000 from Marilyn Wick, who owns the eponymous theater and costume museum on North Federal Highway. She also got $1,000 from Gerald Gagliardi. He is one of two residents who sued over Chabad East Boca, claiming that the city violated the First Amendment by helping Jewish residents at the expense of Christian residents.

Thomson’s new total shows many $25 contributions, a departure from his first two reports. He also got $1,000 from the police and fire unions, which have endorsed him, and $1,000 from developer Jamie Danburg. Another $1,000 came from the law firm that represents GL Homes, which has a contract to buy the city’s western golf course. Thomson also got $500 from Frank Barbieri, the school board member whose district includes Boca Raton.

Singer mailer

Acting Mayor Scott Singer

Singer’s latest mailer comes with two interesting endorsements.

They are from Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel, the members of Congress who represent Boca Raton and Delray Beach. Both are Democrats. Singer is a Republican, like Zucaro.

City elections are nonpartisan. If it’s unusual for the county’s economic coalition to involve itself in Boca Raton elections, it’s rarer for members of Congress to do so.

Town Center on upward swing  

It was heartening—if not terribly surprising—to hear that Town Center Mall’s parent company is doing well despite all the retail industry’s problems.

During a recent conference call with analysts, Simon Property Group CEO David Simon said sales per square foot at the company’s properties increased 4.6 percent last year. “Demand at our highly productive centers,” Simon said, also is rising. The stock price is about 50 points below its apex but is trading near a 52-week high.

Simon, which owns all or part of 233 “retail/real estate properties lists Town Center among its “high-quality portfolio.” The mall, which has 220 stores, is undergoing a major makeover, which is scheduled for completion at the end of the year. Town Center recently announced the addition of several new stores and said more are coming.

And Office Depot has good news

Also heartening was the news that Boca Raton-based Office Depot beat analysts’ second-quarter estimates for income and sales.

CEO Gerry Smith, who reportedly has shaken up senior management since taking over in January 2017, said the results supported the company’s push to become more of what Smith has called a “business services platform” and less of a big-box retailer.

Service-related revenue, Smith said, was 16 percent of Office Depot’s total—double the same period last year. Smith told the Associated Press that he wants it to be 20 percent. The company also has introduced many new in-store products, improved its subscription service for everyday items like toner and paper and retrained employees to improve “engagement” with customers.

Office Depot’s stock price is still only about $3, barely half its 52-week high. But the company that bought Office Max in 2014 is trying to remake itself in the face of competition from online retailers.

Success would be great for this area, since Office Depot employs about 2,000 people at its headquarters on Military Trail between Yamato and Clint Moore roads. That headquarters might be gone by now if a federal judge hadn’t blocked the company’s merger with Staples.

With Office Max, Office Depot was the buyer, and the headquarters stayed in Boca Raton. Staples, which is based near Boston, would have been the buyer. At least for now, Office Depot appears to be seeking a future on its own.

Kiffin and FAU rankings

Coach Lane Kiffin (Photo by Eduardo Schneider)

“The Lane Train” rolls on. Sports Illustrated has FAU 25th in its preseason college football rankings. Head Coach Lane Kiffin has the Owls where they never have been in terms of national exposure. Maybe Kiffin’s magic will be enough finally to get that name donor for the stadium. It’s been more than five years since the GEO Group debacle that cost former President Mary Jane Saunders her job.


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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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