Delray Beach Election: Meet the Candidates (Mayor and Seat 3)

With elections in Boca Raton and Delray Beach set for March 13, CityWatch today begins a series of candidate profiles. They will detail the candidates’ background, records and positions on issue.

Last year, Boca Raton was the bigger story with the mayor’s seat up along with two city council seats—a majority on the five-member council. This year, it’s reversed. Delray Beach will elect a mayor and two city commissioners—also a majority.

So we will start with Delray Beach, where one race already has been decided. Bill Bathurst, managing broker of Delray Beach-based Golden Bear Realty, won Seat 1 without opposition. Here are the races for mayor and Seat 3, with the candidates listed in alphabetical order:

Mayor

Jim Chard

Jim Chard

Background: Chard, who moved to Delray Beach in 2004 when working for a software developer, has served on the Site Plan Review and Appearance Board, the Congress Avenue Task Force and the panel overseeing the updating of the city’s comprehensive plan. He was elected to Seat 2 last March and said he also attends many non-commission meetings, such as those of the community redevelopment agency and the West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition.

Among his noteworthy votes as a commissioner, Chard has voted against a commission takeover of the CRA and for a fire training center. Chard has endorsements from the police and firefighters union, the Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale and the Northwest Southwest Neighborhood Alliance.

On the record: Chard sees two major issues. The first is “turbulence at City Hall. The staff is demoralized.” Chard blames much of it on Petrolia, for micro-managing rather than setting policy.

The second, he said, is the failure to complete key projects. “I want to get things done,” especially on West Atlantic Avenue. “The commission,” Chard said, “has ignored the CRA.”

Though Chard acknowledges that the commission “can’t tell them what to do,” Chard said he has “called everyone who might want to develop” the CRA-owned three blocks next to the Fairfield Inn and wants the agency to market the site nationally. Chard believes that economic development citywide will attract middle-class families and thus help Delray Beach’s under-capacity schools.

On sober houses and the city’s opioid crisis, Chard gives Glickstein “full credit” for leading the city’s efforts that have resulted in recent, dramatic drops in drug overdoses. Petrolia, he said, “was not involved.” He would “continue” Glickstein’s advocacy in such matters as the city’s lawsuit against drug companies and distributors.

Chard predicts “a real financial crisis” if the Legislature restricts how CRAs can spend money and voters in November add $25,000 to the homestead exemption. The CRA helps to finance non-profit groups such as Old School Square and Arts Garage. “They need to be more self-sufficient,” Chard said, “but (the commission) has to give them the tools.”

Though Delray Beach has a city manager form of government, Chard said the mayor is “first among equals. The mayor sets the tone, and I believe that I would set a much better tone.”

Shelly Petrolia

Shelly Petrolia

Background: A longtime Realtor in Delray Beach, Petrolia was elected to Seat 1 on the city commission in 2013. She won a second term in 2015 without opposition. Petrolia announced her candidacy for mayor last fall, before Cary Glickstein had decided that he would not seek a new term.

Early on, Petrolia voted to challenge the trash-hauling contract that had been extended before she took office. The city won its lawsuit and the new contract was several million dollars cheaper. Petrolia also voted for police and fire pension reform that made the respective funds more solvent and for the deal on the Auburn Trace housing complex that netted the city about $11 million.

Petrolia voted for sober house regulations and to reduce the number of special events downtown. Petrolia voted against the iPic project and the fire training center. She voted for the commission to take over the CRA, a proposal that failed 3-2.

Petrolia has filed at least two complaints against her colleagues with the Office of Inspector General. One was over the iPic approval. That complaint was dismissed. The other was over the purchase in December of eight lifeguard stands that Petrolia said were too expensive. That complaint is pending.

The National Organization for Women has endorsed Petrolia.

On the record: Of Chard, Petrolia said, “I have five years on the commission. He has less than one. We have very different views of the city and different histories. We couldn’t be more different. He has fewer accomplishments than me—none, actually, that I can name.”

Delray Beach has been updating its land development regulations since Petrolia took office. She has been the most critical among the commissioners of what she considers overdevelopment downtown, voting against the iPic project. Petrolia did vote last December, though, to approve the Ray hotel in Pineapple Grove.

Petrolia has asked successive city managers to lower the tax rate. She takes credit for the decrease since 2014 of roughly 40 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value. For a $300,000 homestead, that means a difference of $120.

“I led on the (trash contract) and a lot of other things that have saved residents money,” Petrolia said. “I look at (Chard) and say, ‘What have you done?’”

Back story: A year ago, Petrolia and her husband worked to defeat Chard. They supported Kelly Barrette, a regular commission critic on social media. Chard got 56 percent of the vote in a four-candidate race, which was twice Barrette’s total.

Seat 3

Ryan Boylston

Ryan Boylston

Background: Boylston owns Woo Creative, a Delray Beach-based marketing company. He has served on the board of the Downtown Development Authority and serves now on the city’s education board.

Boylston tried to run against Petrolia in 2015, but he failed to obtain enough signatures to make the ballot by petition. When told that he had come up short, Boylston sued, alleging problems at the city clerk’s office. He lost. This year, he first filed to run in the open Seat 1 before switching to run against Katz. He is endorsed by the Realtors of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale and the Service Employees International Union.

On the record: “I don’t think the current leadership reflects the community,” Boylston said. “Delray was built on public gatherings. We don’t do that anymore. Shelly and Mitch spend too much time playing politics.” He cited their opposition to the appointment of Yvonne Odom to complete the term of Al Jacquet. Mayor Cary Glickstein and Vice Mayor Jordana Jarjura favored Odom, so the commission deadlocked and the position went unfilled for four months

Boylston said former Commissioner Jarjura, with whom Katz and Petrolia often clashed, was “very professional.” He said Jarjura chose not to seek a second term in 2017 “because she didn’t want to continue” in such a poisonous atmosphere.

Unlike all the other candidates, Boylston would seek to make the city attorney once again a staff position. Currently, the three staff lawyers work under Max Lohman, an outside attorney, and another lawyer from his firm. Boylston has no issue with Lohman’s work, but that position “shouldn’t be outsourced.”

Boylston also differs from the commission in his attitude toward the city’s contract with the company that promotes the annual Association of Tennis Professionals event at the city complex. The commission filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the 25-year contract, alleging that the city awarded it in 2005 without bidding.

Under the contract, the city—mostly through the CRA—pays the promoter more than $1 million each year, with the amount rising annually. Boylston, who has received a $1,000 contribution from the promoter, said the commission “sees the cost, not the value” of the event. He would prefer to renegotiate the contract, not end it.

Boylston praises Mayor Glickstein for a “great job” on sober homes. Elsewhere, though, “City Hall turnover is at a record high. Our schools are on the decline. In Boca Raton, they’re overcrowded. In Delray, they’re talking about closing schools. That’s insane.”

Mitch Katz

Mitch Katz

Background: Katz, a program manager for a company that provides services to for-profit colleges, was elected to the city commission in 2015. He previously had been president of his homeowner association and had been involved in city education issues.

On the commission, Katz voted against the iPic project. He supported the two proposals for regulating sober homes. Like Petrolia, he regularly has called for cutting the tax rate. Also like Petrolia, Katz worked to defeat Chard and Shirley Ervin Johnson last year. Johnson routed their preferred candidate, as Chard routed their preferred candidate.

During a 2016 meeting, Katz accused then-Commissioner Jarjura of an ethics violation during debate over whether to retain Noel Pfeffer on a temporary basis as city attorney after he had announced that he had taken a job with a private firm. Katz had no foundation for his claim, and Glickstein and then-Commissioner Al Jacquet rebuked him. Katz later issued an apology.

On the record: “There’s a lot that you learn once you’re on the commission,” Katz said. “But I am willing to listen to anybody,” noting that he holds quarterly town hall-type meetings.

Boylston, Katz said, “sees Delray as a mini-metropolis. He is open to a super-duper downtown. I want to remember what brought people here and preserve that.” Katz did vote for the Ray Hotel in Pineapple Grove because the overall help the developer can bring to downtown.

On iPic, Katz does not regret his vote. He voted to allow a movie theater downtown, but he opposed the added height and the abandonment of a public alley. Katz said the project will “kill a block” on Federal Highway. That’s the eastern side of the project, whose main entrance will be a block away on Southeast Fourth Avenue.

Katz said “personal agendas” have hampered efforts to redevelop West Atlantic Avenue. The commission’s meetings with the CRA “have helped,” but Katz said more coordination must happen city staff and CRA staff.

Of his confronting Jarjura, Katz said, “I could have handled it better.” Of his work against Chard and Johnson, now his colleagues, Katz said, “I wouldn’t do that again. I had to slip and fall a couple of times. But I am not in this for my self-interest. I have no business in the city. I think I’m the better candidate.”

Back story: The Coastal Star reported that when Boylston served on the Downtown Development Authority the agency ran ads in the Delray Newspaper, which Boylston started with other investors. The founding of the paper came after Boylston joined the DDA board.

According to a First Amendment lawyer the Coastal Star quoted, the fact that the paper came after Boylston began serving on the DDA “appears to be a clear violation of Florida’s ethics law.” Boylston responded that he voted only on overall budgets, not line items, so there was no conflict. The ads amounted to about $23,000 during Boylston’s time on the board.

Talk around Delray Beach has been that Katz asked for the DDA records and gave them to the Coastal Star because Delray Beach residents Carolyn and Price Patton own a share of the paper and each has given $1,000 to Katz’s campaign. I asked Coastal Star Editor Mary Kate Leming for a response. (Full disclosure: Leming and I were colleagues at The Palm Beach Post for two decades. Price Patton also worked with us at the Post.)

In an email, Leming said the paper made its own public records request regarding “business ties with each of the Delray candidates and their spouses. Only Boylston was found to have ties because of his marketing firm and the newspaper. We then used those company names in our public records requests to the various agencies and the city.” She does not know if Katz made a similar request.

In addition, Leming said the paper does not endorse in campaigns. She and two others are the “principal investors” and none of them makes campaign donations. The Pattons are “minority investors” who “have long been politically active in Delray Beach.”

Arts Warehouse opening

The Delray Beach Arts Warehouse holds its official opening tonight. The incubator, financed by the community redevelopment agency, held a soft opening last year. The building offers space to artists who need help learning to turn their craft into a business. It is designed to compensate for the loss of Artists Alley, the warehouses that private investors in Boca Raton bought.

Police union endorses Mayotte

Boca Raton City Council Seat D candidate Monica Mayotte previously had received the endorsement from the firefighters union. The police union now has endorsed her. Though the city and the firefighters have agreed to a new contract, negotiations continue on the police contract.

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