With the new year comes potential for much political change in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, beginning with the future of Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie.
At this point, Haynie remains the only candidate for Palm Beach County Commission District 4, which Steven Abrams must leave this year because of term limits. Haynie, though, must deal with the controversy from a Palm Beach Post article alleging that she violated ethics rules by voting on matters related to James and Marta Batmasian, the city’s largest private landowners.
Haynie supporters have told me that they wonder why the mayor hasn’t made a more full-throated, passionate defense. Instead, she has repeatedly cited the advisory ethics opinion obtained in 2013 from the city’s legal office.
That opinion said Haynie could vote, despite her husband’s property management company having a $12,000 annual contract with the master association of the Tivoli condo in Deerfield Beach. The Batmasians own most of the units in Tivoli, and the Post article stated that they control the association.
The opinion, however, cautioned that the facts presented to the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics for the opinion must not change. If they do, the opinion no longer may be valid.
From a legal standpoint, Haynie may prevail. From a political standpoint, however, she has a big problem.
One can assume that the county ethics commission is investigating those post-opinion votes. Though the commission doesn’t acknowledge investigations unless the staff finds probable cause to charge a public official with a violation, BocaWatch Publisher Al Zucaro has filed a complaint. Zucaro lost to Haynie last March and had been shopping the Tivoli story to reporters.
In addition, Zucaro has filed a complaint with the state ethics commission, alleging that Haynie failed to list income from her husband’s company on financial disclosure forms. As with the county ethics commission, nothing would become public unless the staff finds probable cause. Haynie has said the forms don’t require officials to list income from such companies.
Even if both investigations clear Haynie, there is no timetable for the investigations. Meanwhile, Haynie had raised just $15,400 as of Dec. 6 for the county commission race. She hasn’t had a formal campaign kickoff, but how can you have a big fundraiser with investigations out there?
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Until two months ago, Haynie likely had nearly a clear field. She probably wouldn’t have drawn a serious Republican primary challenger because the party wants to keep the seat. Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein, a Democrat, had agreed not to run.
If Haynie appears vulnerable—I’m told that her campaign has a poll out this week—challengers could appear, and things could get interesting.
City Councilman Scott Singer could decide to run for the county commission. Singer already has announced his candidacy for mayor—in March 2019. His kickoff reception is Jan. 18, two months before this year’s election.
Singer based that candidacy, however, on the presumption that Haynie would resign as mayor this November after running for the county commission. If Haynie left the commission race, her term as mayor wouldn’t expire until March 2020. Singer, a Republican, has shown that he wants higher office than the council, and the earlier commission race could be more attractive. Commissioners get eight years before term limits kick in.
If Singer moved to the commission race, so might Councilman Robert Weinroth, a Democrat. If the party picked up that seat, six of the seven commissioners would be Democrats.
Weinroth faces a challenger, Monica Mayotte, in March for his council seat. Until recent events, Weinroth seemed likely to challenge Singer for mayor in 2019— whatever happens in March—so a Singer-Weinroth commission race would be plausible.
If Weinroth ran for the commission, Andy Thomson might seek Weinroth’s council seat. Thomson got 40 percent of the vote last March against Andrea O’Rourke and might have won if Emily Gentile—the third candidate, who, like Thomson, positioned herself as different from O’Rourke—had dropped out. Thomson has said he wants to run again for city office.
But qualifying for the March 13 city election ends next Wednesday. Weinroth supported Thomson last year. Thomson would have to start raising money quickly. Mayotte had raised almost $37,000 through November, including a $25,000 personal loan. Thomson, though, could leverage his name recognition.
According to the latest campaign reports, Weinroth has raised more than $100,000 for his council reelection campaign. Singer has raised about $34,000 for his mayoral bid. Both could shift that money to the county commission by sending a letter to donors and getting their permission.
None of these shifts may happen. Haynie will decide on her schedule, not those of potential challengers. But what seemed certain three months ago about upcoming campaigns is much less certain.
New name in the council race
Speaking of change, Boca Raton City Councilman Jeremy Rodgers started the new year with an opponent.
Until a few days ago, it had appeared that Rodgers would win another three-year term in Seat B with no opposition. But first-time candidate Kim H. Do has filed paperwork to challenge Rodgers. She must qualify by paying the filing fee or submitting petition signatures.
The telephone number Do listed on her paperwork was not set up to take messages. According to the property appraiser’s office, she bought a house near Florida Atlantic University last May.
Bathurst wins seat
In Delray Beach, Bill Bathurst has won Seat 2 on the city commission without opposition. Jim Chard is resigning to run for mayor. Bathurst, managing partner of Golden Bear Realty, will take the seat in March.
So it will be Chard against fellow Commissioner Shelly Petrolia for Mayor, Eric Camacho and Richard Alteus against former Commissioner Adam Frankel in Seat 1—which Petrolia is leaving—and Ryan Boylston against incumbent Mitch Katz in Seat 3. Qualifying is over.
Though some faces will remain, up to 80 percent of the next commission lineup could change. There will be a new mayor. There will be new commissioners in Seat 1 and Seat 2. And Boylston could defeat Katz. The only person in the same chair would be Shirley Ervin Johnson in Seat 4.
Tri-Rail narrows Boca choices
Tri-Rail has narrowed the list of locations for a second Boca Raton station to two.
County Commissioner Steven Abrams said one is the site of the old Kings Market on Military Trail near Northwest 19th Street. The other, slightly larger, is behind the McDonalds on the north end of Boca Center.
Over the next few months, Abrams said, Tri-Rail staff will study the properties and do mock-ups of site plans. The station could open in 2020. The agency has money for construction and equipment but not for land buying. Crocker Partners owns both sites.
Big names bid for course design
Some of the biggest names in golf design want to renovate the former Ocean Breeze course into Boca National or whatever name the new layout gets.
The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District board must choose from among 15 proposals. The bidders include companies started by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman. They include names like Robert Trent Jones and others that have designed courses used for major championships. The bidders are as near as Lake Worth and Jupiter and as far away as Arizona and California.
It will cost an estimated $14 million to renovate Ocean Breeze, which the district is buying from Wells Fargo and Lennar. The city has a contract with GL Homes to sell the main municipal course on Glades Road west of the Florida Turnpike. In the best scenario, the city will wind down the western course just before the new Ocean Breeze opens.
District board chairman Bob Rollins said the proposals themselves are not yet public records. He said the board hopes to choose a designer this month.
New homes at Hidden Valley?
Speaking of golf courses, a developer wants to build 101 single-family homes on the former Hidden Valley Golf Course in northern Boca Raton.
The application goes before the planning and zoning board Thursday night. The staff recommends denial. Though the project meets or exceeds many development requirements, city planners note that the gated community would replace what is now 55 acres of open space and thus would be inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.
But the report also notes that the site would be ideal for public recreation. One suggestion for the former Ocean Breeze course, just north of Hidden Valley, was to make a large portion of the 200 acres general recreation, not golf. Perhaps the city and/or the beach and park district could consider acquiring Hidden Valley if the development is rejected. If the owner is unwilling to sell, the city and/or the district could consider eminent domain.