In boxing’s glory days, they called it the “undercard” – the bouts leading up to the main event. That’s how Boca Raton’s election today shapes up.
Most focus is on the mayor’s race between Susan Haynie and Anthony Majhess, even though the job is ceremonial. At a Feb. 26 candidate forum, nearly half the crowd left after the mayoral candidates had finished. But the undercard also matters.
The council will have at least two new members and could have three. Haynie or Majhess would be a holdover, and Constance Scott (Seat C) isn’t on the ballot. Political novice Scott Singer, a former “Jeopardy” champion, was unchallenged for Seat A. Yaniv Alcalay, Rosetta Bailey and Robert Weinroth are first-time candidates for Seat D. Seat B incumbent Michael Mullaugh faces Mohamed Abdalla, Craig Ehrnst and Eric Gooden.
New council members, no matter what city, tend to overreach (“I ran a business, so I can run a city”) or defer too often to long-timers. We can presume that Singer, who had strong support from outgoing Mayor Susan Whelchel, would vote similarly to Haynie. Scott also is usually in the 4-1 majority when Majhess dissents. So is Mullaugh.
But there’s a difference between harmony on a council —good thing—and lockstep—potentially bad thing. If the election today goes a certain way, the big votes in Boca could be 5-0, not just 4-1. Haynie could be a de facto strong mayor, given her knowledge of city and regional issues and the ability of ceremonial mayors to set agendas.
We have seen in Delray Beach, though, that debate can be constructive. New mayor Cary Glickstein and new commissioner Shelly Petrolia have asked questions about city contracts, and the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General has supported their questioning.
It’s always been a puzzle in South Florida that turnout in elections closest to home is tiny. In Boca, it was about 8 percent in 2011 and 12 percent in 2012. But the power of the vote goes to the winner, no matter the turnout. So pay attention to the undercard.
Realtors throughout Florida are happy that the U.S. House passed legislation to, kind of, repeal the 2012 law that is causing massive increases in flood insurance premiums for some state residents. But the Senate passed a different version, so the issue isn’t settled. At least for now Boca Raton homeowners mostly are spectators. Emphasis on “for now.”
According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, only 277 of the 15,418 federal flood policies in the city would be subject to the higher rates. In Delray Beach, it’s just 425 of 8,278 policies. The percentage is significantly higher in Palm Beach, where nearly 2,000 of the town’s 7,652 homes are judged to be at risk of flooding and could pay much more.
But new maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency could place more homes in flood zones and make them subject to the 2012 law. So, yes, Boca Raton residents also should be telling Congress to pass a bill that is more like Senate’s, which would delay the increases for at least four years so FEMA can study the issue. More on this topic as it develops.
Speaking of floods, the Boca council just voted to withdraw from the Seven50 consortium, and to hear some residents talk, you would have thought that the city just fended off the Evil Empire.Seven50 is an effort to get the seven South Florida counties from Indian River to Monroe planning together to meet the challenges of the next 50 years. One of those challenges is rising seas, which now are threatening drinking water supplies—saltwater intrusion can ruin wellfields—but could drive homes and businesses from barrier islands and beyond.
Boca Raton joined Seven50 in 2011. The group put out a good report on climate change and rising seas. But Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties have withdrawn, saying Seven50 amounts to massive intrusion into local affairs. One speaker at the Boca council’s Feb. 11 meeting likened Seven50 to “communism.” The council voted unanimously to withdraw, while saying the city might get back in.As for the issue of rising seas, Boca’s home page does at least provide a weather forecast.
For more City Watch blogs, click here.About the Author
Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.