Delray Commission Candidates Form Political Alliances; Other Boca/Delray News

city watch

Delray commission alliances revealed through campaign contributions

The candidates for Delray Beach’s March 14 election are set — and so are the political alliances.

Seats 2 and 4 on the city commission are up. Both are open, after Jordana Jarjura announced that she would not seek re-election in Seat 4. Jarjura, though, remains in the election indirectly.

Four candidates are competing for Seat 2, from which the term-limited Al Jacquet resigned last fall after his election to the Florida House. The two main candidates are Kelly Barrette, who operates the TakeBackDelrayBeach Facebook page, and Jim Chard, who serves on the city’s site plan review and appearance board.

Jarjura first nominated Chard to fill the Seat 2 vacancy. Chard’s contributions include $500 from Gulf Building, Jarjura’s current employer, and $500 from the Conrad & Scherer law firm, Jarjura’s previous employer. One of the partners at Conrad & Scherer is former Delray Beach City Attorney Noel Pfeffer.

He resigned last year after clashing repeatedly with commissioner Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia. Jarjura supported Pfeffer. Barrette’s contributions include $100 from Katz and $500 from Anthony Petrolia, Shelly Petrolia’s husband.

Chard has raised about $36,000, including a $10,000 loan from himself. He has received $500 from two former Delray Beach mayors — Tom Lynch and Jeff Perlman — $250 from Reggie Cox, chairman of the community redevelopment agency and $100 from former commissioner Fred Fetzer.

Bruce Bastian, who lost to Katz in 2015 — Jarjura supported Bastian; he entered early, while Katz got in late — gave Chard $250. County Commissioner/former Delray Beach City Commissioner Mack Bernard gave Chard $100. Chard has $1,000 in contributions from Colony Hotel owner Jestena Bouhgton, developer Scott Porten and Woo Creative, whose owner is civic activist Ryan Boylson. Chard also received $1,000 from Atlantic Bakery.

Barrette has raised about $16,000, including a $4,000 loan. She has received $3,000 from Delray Beach accountant Warren Roy, his wife and Roy’s firm.

At this point, there’s less money in the Seat 4 race, but the alliances are similar.

Shirley Johnson is opposing Josh Smith. He sought appointment to the Jacquet vacancy. Katz and Petrolia supported him. Jarjura and Mayor Cary Glickstein wanted Yvonne Odom. Jarjura switched her support to Odom after the first round of voting.

Johnson has received $100 from Odom. Like Chard, she got $250 from Reggie Cox. She also received $500 from Herman Stevens, who serves with Cox on the CRA board, and former city commissioner Angeleta Gray. Johnson seems to be drawing support from African-American residents who urged the commission to name Odom over Smith for the Jacquet vacancy. In a sign that she might get help from Chard supporters, Johnson received $1,000 from Scott Porten.

As for Smith, he got $500 from Anthony Petrolia. He also received $1,000 from Ken MacNamee, who regularly sends long, angry emails to city commissioners and administrators. MacNamee does not target Katz and Petrolia, but he has been especially critical of Glickstein and Jarjura, and regularly bashed Pfeffer.

So Katz and Petrolia hope to form a four-person majority with Barrette and Smith. Though Glickstein, Katz, Jarjura and Petrolia at one time worked for and otherwise supported each other, that reformist alliance frayed. We will see next month what new alliances emerge.

FAU loses round in Tracy lawsuit

Florida Atlantic University has lost its latest attempt to dismiss the lawsuit by conspiracy theorist James Tracy.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Robin Rosenberg ruled against FAU on all counts. In December, Rosenberg gave the university a split decision, but allowed Tracy the chance to file a new complaint that clarified his contention that FAU violated his constitutional rights by firing him. Though Tracy attracted notoriety by claiming on a website unrelated to FAU that mass murders such as the Sandy Hook School shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing didn’t happen, the university fired Tracy for failing to report his outside blogging.

Rosenberg’s ruling doesn’t address the merits of Tracy’s case. It states only that he now is presenting a case the court can hear. Among other things, Tracy claims that FAU President John Kelly and other administrators used him as the “poster child” in a campaign to weaken the strength of the faculty union.

In this time of supposed “post-truth” and “alternative facts,” it will be interesting to see if this case touches on the question of what happens when constitutionally protected speech is demonstrably false. Would the Sandy Hook parents who lost their children have to testify? Or a trial could turn on more technical matters related to Tracy’s contract with FAU. The university has seven days to respond to Tracy’s new complaint.

Mr. Sandman, bring me some sand

I wrote recently about Boca Raton’s successful search for domestic sand to be pumped onto the city’s beaches when they erode, as they inevitably do. One missing element was when Boca will need the next such project, after completing work on the central beach. According to a city official, the south beach will need more work in 2020. The northern and central beaches are scheduled for renourishment in 2024, but the work could come sooner if storms cause more erosion.

FAU student district update

fau

The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council has submitted its report on the proposed student district for FAU along 20th Street east of the campus. Administrators are reviewing the report and will prepare a presentation for the Boca Raton City Council.

As with other projects, the city needs to start things moving. The report recommends that the city begin work this spring on a University District Master Plan, which would cover the area bounded by Spanish River Boulevard, Interstate 95, Glades Road and Federal Highway. 20th Street might emerge as the spine, but the study should look at the broader area.

As FAU implements its plan to have all freshman and sophomores live on campus, the university and the city should collaborate on “management and oversight” of off-campus housing complexes like University Park. Notably, campus police would be the first responders, with the city’s department assisting if needed.

The university also should apprise the city regularly about its plans for a hotel and conference center on Glades Road at the southeast corner of the campus. To improve relations between FAU and the city, the planning council recommends that they establish a chapter of the International Town & Gown Association. The planning council also recommends that city council members and FAU trustees meet regularly. According to the report, the last such meeting took place in 2009.

Mayor Susan Haynie and council members Jeremy Rodgers, Scott Singer and Robert Weinroth attended the “visioning session” in December that produced this report. So did FAU President John Kelly. The report notes that creating a student district would help FAU as it seeks to become more of a traditional, residential campus and would help the city by getting students out of single-family neighborhoods. City staff is busy, but this issue should get to the council as soon as possible.

Possible Ag Reserve land sale a slippery slope

Yet another threat to the Palm Beach County Agricultural Area has emerged.

Eighteen years ago, voters taxed themselves $150 million for land purchases to keep as much farming in the 22,000-acre reserve as possible. Now the South Florida Water Management District wants to sell the largest parcel bought with that public money. That would be the nearly 600-acre tract known as the Pero Farms property.

The South Florida Water Management took a 61 percent share in the property, envisioning it for use as a reservoir. The district no longer wants to build the reservoir and wants to sell the land, supposedly for other Everglades restoration projects. The county commission — by a supermajority of five votes — must agree to any sale. If the commission refuses, however, the district might be able to force a sale through the courts.

Supporters of the sale argue that it could include an easement limiting use of the land to farming. Critics respond that a future commission could remove the easement, which is true. Like the critics, I would point out that the district wouldn’t be so desperate for money if Gov. Rick Scott hadn’t ordered such deep budget cuts.

One option, of course, would be for the county to buy out the water management district. On Tuesday, the county commission heard a report that the district had appraisals valuing its share at roughly $9.1 million but might be willing to sell for 90 percent of that appraised value. That would mean a payment of $8.2 million. There are no related bond funds available.

Keeping development off that land is crucial. If it goes, so might the rest of the reserve. For now, the water management district should back off.

Downtown shuttle service needs a replacement

All candidates in Boca Raton’s election agree that downtown needs a shuttle/trolley service. The Downtowner, whose revenue came from advertising on the company’s vehicles, recently decamped to Tampa. At Monday’s meeting, city council members acting as the community redevelopment agency will discuss options for a replacement shuttle and other services, such as a shared bicycle program.

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