Wednesday, May 22, 2024

What’s Up in Delray, From Plastic Straws to a New Police Chief—Plus, a Major Hospital Announcement

Delray Beach wants to become the latest city to ban plastic straws in restaurants.

On Tuesday’s city commission agenda is an ordinance that would allow plastic straws only if diners ask for them. After 18 months, restaurants couldn’t offer them at all. Deerfield Beach instituted a ban that takes effect in April. So have other Florida cities.

According to the staff memo, city administrators worried about how the city would enforce the ordinance. While acknowledging that the lack of a civil citation “poses a challenge” for code enforcement officers, the memo states that “it was concluded that the primary objective of the ordinance is to force behavioral changes among food establishments and shift consumer preferences.” In other words, the hope is that customers simply will stop asking for the straws and restaurants won’t buy them.

To that end, the city will give code enforcement officers “educational materials” about the ordinance and show restaurants how to comply. Those materials could include information about the dangers of plastic straws.

You may have seen pictures of sea turtles with plastic straws up their nostrils. That’s just one example. Almost 8 percent of all plastic in the world comes from straws. So much plastic winds up in the ocean that the World Economic Fund believes that by 2050 plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish. That plastic can wind in humans through the food chain when marine life eat it.

In addition to cities, companies are acting. Starbucks plans to phase out plastic straws by next year. McDonalds has done so in Britain. KFC has in Singapore.

Delray Beach, which especially feels the effects of rising seas, has prided itself on promoting sustainability. The straw ban would be part of that policy.

Though “continual warnings” likely would work, the memo notes, fines would drive home the point. If the city chose to impose them, they might range from $100 for the first violation in 12 months to $500 for the third.

Notably, the memo asks for commission approval before the start of the Legislature’s annual session in March. Staff members correctly worry that home-rule opponents in Tallahassee might prohibit cities and counties from banning the straws.

Raise for Lauzier?

Also on the Tuesday agenda is consideration of a raise or bonus for Delray Beach City Manager Mark Lauzier.

The manager makes $235,000 a year. He started in November 2017. Only two elected officials—Mayor Shelly Petrolia and Commissioner Shirley Johnson—remain from the group that chose him. But all three new members—commissioners Bill Bathurst, Ryan Boylston and Adam Frankel—gave Lauzier strong reviews on the evaluation forms they submitted about six months ago.

What 2019 brings

This will be an important year for Lauzier. It will be the first budget cycle he has gone through since making some early management changes. Essentially, this will be Lauzier’s first budget.

And soon, Lauzier also faces his most important decision: the choice of a police chief.

Jeffrey Goldman had held the job since January 2014. Last year, Lauzier made Goldman an acting assistant city manager and allowed the two assistant chiefs to audition in the top job. First came Maria Olsen. Now it’s Javaro Sims.

The choice would matter in any city. In Delray Beach, it matters even more.

First, the police department is a big part of the city’s fight against opioid abuse and bad sober homes. Goldman made Delray Beach the first department in Florida to hire an outreach coordinator. Ariana Ciancio has drawn widespread praise for her work in connecting city government with those in recovery.

Second, Goldman has maintained the department’s strong relationship with all segments of the city, especially minority residents. I remember a 2015 meeting in the Old School Square Fieldhouse. The West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition sponsored the meeting.

Around the country, tensions were high because of high-profile police shootings of minorities. Goldman, however, got warm applause and kind words.

Delray Beach’s police turnaround began when former City Manager David Harden hired Richard Overman as chief in 1991. That turnaround got the city through the Jerrod Wilson shooting in 2005. The city expects Lauzier to choose a chief who will continue it.

In an email, Lauzier said he would discuss his selection process “a little bit” at tonight’s meeting. He plans to decide “no later than the end of February.” In making the decision, Lauzier said, he is “asking and talking to many members of the public and police department as I assess the performance” of Olsen and Sims.

Swinton bike lanes

Lauzier also is dealing with another issue that has stirred up some residents: the Florida of Department of Transportation’s plan for Swinton Avenue.

Using a federal grant, the state proposes to repave and add bike lanes along a mile of the historic roadway that is the spine of the city. The first version, however, called for removal of trees and other changes that seemed to threaten the road’s character. Residents who heard from FDOT officials last month didn’t like the concept.

In an email, Lauzier said nothing is final. “We are at the public input and design development phase. Public input has indicated significant concerns about the initial impact on the trees within the public right-of-way associated with the key objective of the project —bike lanes and sidewalks.”

The state, Lauzier said, “has heard the input loud and clear and has made tweaks that could end up cutting the tree loss very significantly.” On Jan. 22, the city commission “will weigh in on possible project scope, design ideas and related policy matters at a public workshop. FDOT will be in attendance and (provide) a detailed presentation.”

Downtown Roundabout extension

Speaking of transportation, the Delray Beach City Commission—as expected—will extend the Downtown Roundabout for another three months, through April. The cost will be $120,000.

After the commission abruptly ended the trolley service in September—the end of the budget year—the commission reinstated the trolley from November through January so the city could search for a new operator through a Request for Proposal.

Approval will come at tonight’s meeting. The commission likely will discuss ridership over the last three months. Commissioner Ryan Boylston said the Downtown Development Authority has had staffers ride the trolley to take pictures for skeptics who doubt the ridership.

Boylston said he would not support public money for an on-demand service because those who want it tend to be more affluent. The trolley, which makes 23 stops and runs between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the week and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends attracts many employees who work downtown and residents who lack cars or need service to the Tri-Rail station.

Changes in Municipal Services

Boca Raton’s director of municipal services is “transitioning” out of the job, according to a city spokeswoman.

Dan Grippo will be around for three months. During that time, Bob DiChristopher will be acting director. He had the title previously and came out of retirement. After Grippo leaves, the city will name a permanent director.

The position is a key one. The department oversees sanitation and all public works operations. It’s the one that essentially keeps the city functioning.

Clear-cutting canals

The Lake Worth Drainage District has finished its clear-cutting along canals in Boca Raton. Apparently, the new look is the permanent look.

The city has put in new plants and otherwise spruced up the north side of the canal along Palmetto Park Road. A city spokeswoman said that work could proceed because the right-of-way belongs to the county, not the district. Palmetto Park Road also is a gateway to the city, and the work had made the canal bank an eyesore.

Attempts to fix up the banks of neighborhood canals would be problematic, the spokeswoman said, because the district might strip it all again the next time. After all the back and forth last year, there likely were no Christmas cards between the district and the city.

Hospital announcement

Boca Raton Regional Hospital

Boca Raton Regional Hospital plans a “major announcement” for Tuesday morning. The news release said the hospital will reveal its fundraising campaign for the campus makeover and its “lofty goals.” The gathering will feature CEO Jerry Fedele and some of the hospital’s biggest donors.



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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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