Sunday, April 14, 2024

Jarjura Bows Out; Other Boca/ Delray Political Notes

Jarjura calls it a day



On Friday, Delray Beach City Commissioner Jordana Jarjura shook up the city’s March 14 election with an email announcing that she would not seek a second term.

Jarjura had filed paperwork to run for re-election, but she told me in December that she didn’t intend to hold her campaign kickoff until this month. Jarjura told me on Monday that she based her decision on many recent events, up to the commission’s failure last Tuesday to approve a settlement in the Atlantic Crossing case.

Her email noted the recent dysfunction on the dais. The commission’s “dynamic,” Jarjura wrote, “has become a detriment to its effectiveness and a poor reflection of Delray’s character. I believe my limited time during this stage of my life can be better spent contributing to our city in other ways as a private citizen.”

Yet much of Jarjura’s email read more like campaign material. She cited the commission’s accomplishments since she took office in March 2014. Delray Beach has police and fire pension reform that greatly reduced the city’s unfunded liabilities and gave current first responders a raise with back pay. A quarter-billion-dollar capital improvement plan will upgrade public facilities in many neighborhoods.

In addition, the Auburn Trace housing complex is under new management. The deal netted Delray Beach several million dollars for housing initiatives, which the commission has yet to specify. The city has begun work on regulating sober homes, approved new land development regulations and approved the iPic project.

Jarjura, however, also acknowledged the “gutter politics” of recent months, such as Commissioner Mitch Katz’s accusation that Jarjura would have risked an ethics violation by voting for a contract to retain ex-City Attorney Noel Pfeffer on a temporary basis while the commission searched for a successor. “Far too many decisions,” she wrote, “appear to have been made off the dais, contrary to the facts, to expert opinions and to the rule of law.”

Not surprisingly, Jarjura also cited the commission’s failure on the presumably non-controversial task of appointing someone to complete Al Jacquet’s Seat 2 term. She and Mayor Cary Glickstein had favored Yvonne Odom. Katz and Shelly Petrolia wanted Josh Smith, who had run unsuccessfully against Katz and two others in 2015. At the two meetings when the commission considered the issue, many residents spoke in support of Odom. None spoke for Smith.

With the notable exception of Atlantic Crossing, Glickstein and Jarjura had tended to be on one side of an issue with Katz and Petrolia on the other. Yet all have supported and/or donated to each other. Jarjura’s departure reinforces the notion that outside forces have played a big role in the commission’s inability to disagree without being disagreeable toward each other.

Before Jarjura’s decision, a robocall to city residents accused her of being a racist for not supporting Smith. This election could show whether Delray Beach still deserves its long-running reputation for good government.

And who’s in the race

Jarjura’s departure leaves eight people who have filed paperwork to run for the Delray commission—five in Seat 2 and three in Jarjura’s Seat 4.

One of the Seat 2 names is James Chard, chairman of the Site Plan Review and Advisory Board, among other civic activities. Through December, he had loaned his campaign $10,000 and raised $6,800. Jarjura first nominated Chard for the Seat 2 vacancy. When he got no other votes, she switched to Odom.

Another Seat 2 name is Kelly Barrette, who operates the TakeBackDelray Facebook page and who says on her campaign website that she wants to “build a city government that puts citizens before special interests.” Barrette had loaned her campaign $4,000 and raised $1,500 through December.

Barrette is seen as an ally of Katz and Petrolia. In 2015, Katz nominated her for a seat on the historic preservation board. Petrolia seconded the nomination. Glickstein opposed it, saying that after the commission’s first major vote on the iPic project—Glickstein favored it —Barrette had called the mayor “a fraud” in a text message.

Such an attitude, Glickstein said, would not work on an advisory board that stresses collaboration and collegiality. Jarjura and Jacquet joined with Glickstein to oppose Barrette’s nomination. As Glickstein explained his opposition, Barrette shouted at him.

Though he sought appointment to Seat 2 and pledged not to run if appointed, Smith now is running in Seat 4. He told me Monday that Katz and Petrolia are supporting him. The others to file paperwork are Shirley Johnson and Joseph Bernadel, who serves on the community redevelopment agency. None has done much, if any, fund-raising, and I’m told that Bernadel intends to drop out.

Qualifying begins today at noon and runs through noon on Feb. 14. Candidates can file for either seat, regardless of where they live. If there are more than two candidates in a race, the candidate who gets the most votes will win outright. Delray Beach has no runoffs.

City manager update

Jarjura won’t be on the commission that picks a permanent manager, but she, Glickstein, Katz and Petrolia made clear recently what they want: a superstar. Good luck with that.

Acting City Manager Neal de Jesus sought the commission’s direction as he prepared to advertise the position. (De Jesus will return to being fire-rescue director when the new manager starts.) The main question was what the commission was willing to pay.

Advertising a salary in the $150,000-$200,000 range that Don Cooper was making, de Jesus said, will get the city one class of applicant. That class, however, may be economy, when Delray Beach needs first-class. “We are no slouch city,” de Jesus said. Glickstein said he wants a “senior executive” type, and not necessarily someone who has been a city manager. Katz wants “a leader,” not “another caretaker.”

Though Delray Beach has much to offer potential candidates—a vibrant economy, tough issues, such as sober homes—the city must deal with the sort of citizen sniping that drove off City Clerk Chevelle Nubin and often aimed at Cooper. “With the kooks here,” Glickstein said, “you just can’t do your job.”

Perhaps money will overcome that obstacle. The starting advertised salary will be $200,000. And from the sound of it, holdovers Glickstein, Katz and Petrolia would be willing to offer as much as $275,000.

Mayoral thoughts

Since it’s never too early to talk about Delray Beach’s 2018 election, Mayor Glickstein and Commissioner Petrolia would be about to run even though the city has term limits and both have been on the ballot twice.

When Glickstein and Petrolia ran in 2013, their respective seats had two years remaining on their three-year terms because the previous officeholders had left early. Both won full three-year terms in 2015—Glickstein in a rematch with Tom Carney and Petrolia without opposition. Term limits don’t kick in until an officeholder completes two consecutive full terms. The term-limit rules are the same in Boca Raton.

Uptown Atlantic

The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency voted last week to seek new bids for the CRA-assembled properties that were to be Uptown Atlantic.

In doing so, the CRA rejected the idea of first going back to the bidders whom the agency rejected in 2013 for Equity Delray. In December, the CRA terminated its purchase agreement, finding Equity in breach.

For that deal, the properties amounted to about six acres. Since then, the CRA has added some land, bringing the total closer to eight acres. The site is just east of the Fairfield Inn on West Atlantic Avenue.

iPic deadline

Today is the deadline for iPic to get building permits from Delray Beach for the company’s Fourth and Fifth Delray project. And the race is on.

According to Bonnie Miskel, the attorney who represents iPic, the company is fine with the city but is awaiting approval from the Florida Department of Transportation. The staffer who must sign off wasn’t in the office on Monday. “I hope he’s back (Tuesday),” Miskel said, “or we’re in trouble.”

If the state blesses the project, Miskel said, the plan is for iPic to close Feb. 22 on purchase of the former home of the city’s library and chamber of commerce. The community redevelopment agency assembled the site, and chose iPic in late 2013. The project would bring a movie theater, a restaurant to serve moviegoers, and office space that would include iPic’s headquarters.

Miskel added that there might be some flexibility if the state is late, but the company wants to start demolition as soon as possible. In the best case, Miskel said, construction would take nine months. Starting promptly, though, at least could mean that the exterior work doesn’t disrupt the area throughout high season.

Boca firefighter endorsements

The Boca Raton firefighters union did something unusual but not unprecedented. The union endorsed all three candidates in the Seat B city council race.

Emily Gentile, Andrea O’Rourke and Andy Thomson are competing to succeed term-limited Mike Mullaugh. Each would have liked the endorsement from Local 1560 of the International Association of Firefighters. The union supported the successful campaigns in November of two challengers for the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District. They defeated longtime incumbents.

Union president Matt Welhaf told me Monday that the union previously has multi-endorsed. “We could work with all of them,” he said of the Seat B candidates. They all support our issues.”

The union’s contract expires on Sept. 30, at the end of the budget year. It’s a three-year deal, but the city council didn’t ratify it until 2015 because of a disagreement over pension issues. Ultimately, the fire and police unions agreed to changes that should save Boca Raton nearly $100 million in pension costs over 30 years. In addition, Welhaf said, the department is adding firefighters to keep up with population growth.

Local 1560 did choose in the other two races on the March 14 ballot. For Seat A, the union supports incumbent Scott Singer. For mayor, the union supports incumbent Susan Haynie.

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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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