CRA board appointments
The Delray Beach City Commission got halfway Tuesday night toward creating a new board for the community redevelopment agency.
One headline is that the board won’t be all new. Mayor Cary Glickstein nominated CRA Chairman Reggie Cox for another four-year term. Cox also got support from commissioners Jim Chard and Shirley Ervin Johnson.
Had the March election gone differently, Cox would have been a one-termer. Commissioner Shelly Petrolia voted against him, and Commissioner Mitch Katz told me that he wouldn’t support any incumbents. Katz, who missed the meeting because of travel problems from the relentless rains, and Petrolia voted last month to disband the CRA board. In March, Chard and Johnson defeated candidates whom Katz and Petrolia backed.
Still, if the commission wants change at the CRA, why return Cox? Chard told me, “Reggie is recognized as a leader in the Northwest neighborhood. To remove him would have been a bit of disservice to that community.” It’s also worth noting that Cox opposed choosing Uptown Atlantic to develop the three, CRA-owned acres east of the Fairfield Inn. Last December, after three years, the CRA terminated the purchase agreement with Uptown Atlantic for breach of contract.
In an email, Johnson said, “If you review the record, you will see that I have always been ‘supportive’ of the CRA,” which she called “a key difference” between her and Josh Smith, Johnson’s opponent in March. “My vote in support of renominating Mr. Cox would then be an extension of that support. I have attached no conditions for this support but would only encourage more interaction/communication between our two bodies.”
Entering the meeting, Chard was the only commissioner not scheduled to offer an appointment. He got a chance when Johnson’s two choices couldn’t get a majority. Glickstein and Chard voted against Annette Gray. Chard and Petrolia voted against Samuel Spear.
Chard’s first choice, Ryan Boylston, also failed on a split vote. But his second choice, Morris Carstarphen, got a unanimous vote. Carstarphen, a longtime employee of Target Stores who lives in the Rosemont Park neighborhood, has served on the West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition. The commission made clear at its goal-session meeting last month that West Atlantic is the redevelopment priority.
On his application, Carstarphen also showed that his priorities for the CRA mirror the commission’s priorities. He wants the CRA board to be “better stewards” of public money and establish better communication with the commission. He also would like the CRA to be “rated on ALL projects.”
The commission will fill the other seats at its June 20 meeting. Petrolia deferred to that date after her first choice, Allen Zeller, failed to get even a second. Katz is scheduled to make the other appointment.
Boca agrees to regional climate change compact
Especially in contrast to Delray Beach, Boca Raton had been a laggard in supporting the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact and endorsing the Mayors Climate Action Pledge. That changed last month, when the council adopted a resolution backing both.
Members of the city’s green living advisory board had raised the subject at the city council’s goal-setting session. Councilman Robert Weinroth proposed the resolution. The council acted just before President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, joining Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries to do so.
Mayor Susan Haynie acknowledged that it took Boca Raton two years to act. The compact, she said, “became kind of controversial. Counties were pulling out.” Yes, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River withdrew from what had been the seven-county compact, but the “controversy” had more to do with climate denial among elected officials. They made the same arguments Trump did: the compact tramples on local sovereignty.
In fact, it doesn’t. As City Manager Leif Ahnell said, the compact makes no demands of the city. Instead, it “provides options that each regional and local government may align to their own plans and adopt and utilize based on their interests and vision for the future.” Boca Raton doesn’t have as much routine high-tide flooding as Delray Beach, but the city has as much interest in dealing with the effects of climate change. Approval of the resolution should lead to more focus on the problem.
Sober home issue
Similarly, sober homes can appear to be more of an issue in Delray Beach than Boca Raton. Delray is moving quickly on new regulations. In Boca, City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser will “report back soon,” Haynie said on whether the city should seek new rules. In the last decade, Boca Raton lost a lawsuit over the city’s attempt to restrict where sober homes could go.
The issue, however, doesn’t stop at the Delray-Boca line. Councilman Weinroth commented at a recent meeting that the fire department had reported five drug overdoses in one 24-hour shift. That’s almost routine in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. Many addicts who once used prescription painkillers now use cheaper heroin, which can be laced with the powerful addictive fentanyl.
One aspect of the issue is city rules on how many unrelated individuals can share a home. Boca Raton’s limit is three. In April, a group called Centerhills Enterprises withdrew its request for a reasonable accommodation under federal law for what would have been a sober home on Northwest Fifth Avenue just south of Spanish River Boulevard. According to a letter from Frieser to Centerhills’ attorney, seven “clients” were living there.
Because of sober houses and the renting out of single-family homes to college students and vacationers, Boca Raton wants to create a rental registration system. Mayor Haynie said she hears more complaints these days about vacation rentals than sober houses. The proposal was due to the council late last year. “I don’t know what the holdup is,” Haynie said. A city spokeswoman said staff hopes to put the proposal on the July meeting agenda.
More woes for Jacquet
It’s been a bad stretch for ex-Delray Beach City Commissioner/State Rep. Al Jacquet.
In March, The Palm Beach Post reported that Jacquet and his fellow Haitian-American and political ally, Mack Bernard, exploited loopholes in state law by helping voters fill in their mail-in ballots. Rumors of the tactic were around last year when Jacquet was running for State House District 88 and Bernard was running for County Commission District 7. Both districts include many of Delray Beach’s minority neighborhoods.
Jacquet’s and Bernard’s victory margins came from mail-in ballots. When The Post interviewed him about entering homes and helping voters, Jacquet issued a classic non-denial denial: “I worked hard and played by the rules! No laws were broken. I will not answer to your trumped up scare tactics. Blacks have been terrorized long enough!”
Then last week, the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics found probable cause to investigate Jacquet for violations of two ethics rules. According to the complaint, Jacquet allegedly got the Delray Beach Police Department to wrongly void a $35 parking ticket he received. Jacquet said he had forgotten to display his city commissioner pass that supposedly absolved him of the violations. The city issues no such passes.
Jacquet is charged with misuse of public office and corrupt misuse of public position. The alleged violations are not criminal.
Sugar Sand cost overrun
On Tuesday, I discussed the $500,000 cost overrun for reconstruction of the playground at Sugar Sand Park. Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District Chairman Bob Rollins explained his decision to approve the payment.
Craig Ehrnst was the only board member to vote against the payment. In an email from Australia, where he is on vacation, Ehrnst said, “I think (Rollins’) comments are consistent with sentiment expressed at the meeting. For me, I voted against it because the entire process did not seem proper: fixed-price proposals, and then time and material change orders after the fact.
“The $500,000 overrun surprised everyone and was not expected. The entire playground project was not well thought out from a financial management perspective, and no one seemed accountable for project delays/cost.” Ehrnst said the makeover of the swimming and tennis center and new field at Patch Reef Park “will provide the district an opportunity to redeem themselves.”
Correction: In my Tuesday post, I said Scott Singer is the only attorney on the Boca Raton City Council. Robert Weinroth also is an attorney.