Thursday, May 23, 2024

Moms Demand Action, the Delray CRA Faces Some Decisions and More Items of Note

It was all about orange Saturday morning at Boca Raton’s Lake Wyman Park.

Orange shirts. Orange snow cones. Orange Gatorade. Orange tablecloths. Moms Demand Action, which organized the rally against gun violence, asked attendees to wear orange, because hunters wear that color in the field as a safety measure. Some who didn’t have official gear showed up in University of Miami orange. Close enough.

About 200 people came, which was a good turnout on a warm, humid day. More than 400 similar events took place Saturday around the country. Mayor Scott Singer and city council members Monica Mayotte and Andrea O’Rourke were there. All voted for the city to join a lawsuit challenging the state law that imposes penalties on local officials who try to pass any sort of firearms regulation. Singer said Saturday’s event “will bring awareness.”

Though the group is called Moms Demand Action, roughly as many men as women were at Lake Wyman. I asked organizer Kelly Devito about the name. She said, “We like to say that men are man enough to be a mom.”

Two men made short, powerful remarks. The first was Mike Marino, a Boca Raton resident who teaches at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, from which he also graduated. He spoke of victim Joaquin Oliver, who had been one of Marino’s favorite students.

After the shooting, Marino said, he would turn on his classroom lights in the morning “and see an empty chair.” Joaquin’s classmates would graduate the next day. Marino always will wonder what Oliver might have done with a life that ended far too soon.

Luke Sherlock (Photo by Randy Schultz)
Luke Sherlock speaks about his neice Gina Rose Montalto, who was killed at the Parkland shooting. (Photo by Randy Schultz)

Luke Sherlock, who also lives in Boca Raton, recalled another victim—his niece, 14-year Gina Rose Montalto. Sherlock remembered the agonizing wait on Feb. 14 and how the later it got, the more certain among his family that the news would be bad.

“I don’t know how to respond,” Sherlock said of the shooting. Though there is laughter some days, “We’re never going to be completely happy again.”

To those in the campaign against gun violence, Sherlock said, “I regret not getting involved sooner.” He would read about a mass shooting, “and then I went on. I thought this would never happen to me.”

Organizers stressed respect for Second Amendment rights and see their movement as appealing to the majority of firearms owners. Sherlock criticized the “gun-crazed, loud minority” that blocks change. He told the crowd, “Get up. Get loud. The next school shooter is out there.”

Added school security?

Boca Raton is still waiting to see if the city must budget next year for added school security.

After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the legislature ordered school districts to have at least one police officer on every campus. Legislators, however, failed to allocate enough money for the added cops.

Since the Parkland shooting, Boca Raton has been paying officers overtime to patrol elementary schools. School police work the other campuses. Mayor Scott Singer said at the Moms Demand Action rally that the city has not received a specific request from the school district for help in complying with the new law.

One reason is that the school district still is talking with other agencies, notably the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told me Monday that he “had a discussion” with Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy. Bradshaw said his office would help only using full-time deputies—not overtime—and would need 90 days notice to have deputies in place.

Last week, Bradshaw said, Fennoy requested 50 deputies who would receive overtime. Bradshaw said Fennoy wants their salaries to be in the middle range and for the sheriff’s office to pay for cars and mileage.

“We can’t do that,” Bradshaw said.

So the discussions will continue. Boca Raton’s budget year starts Oct. 1. School starts Aug. 13.

Delray CRA decisions

At tonight’s meeting, Delray Beach city commissioners will make their next decisions on the community redevelopment agency. But how many decisions will they make?

The commission will decide whether to appoint two CRA board members who would serve with the mayor and four commissioners. The previous board, which the new commission abolished, had seven members whom the commission appointed.

Commissioners Bill Bathurst and Ryan Boylston have opposed expanding the board. Shirley Ervin Johnson has expressed support. Mayor Shirley Petrolia and Commissioner Adam Frankel have been less committal. All want the CRA to focus on redevelopment of West Atlantic Avenue.

If commissioners expand the CRA, they then must decide whether to also name the new members Tuesday night. If that happens, the next decision will be to choose a chairman—who would run the meetings—and vice-chairman. In Boca Raton, where the council also acts as the CRA, the mayor traditionally has not chaired the CRA meetings. Delray Beach could decide differently.

If the commission expands the CRA, watch to see if Angeleta Gray gets one of the spots. A former city commissioner, Gray is a political ally of Johnson, who pushed hardest for taking over the CRA.

Old School Square

oldschoolsquareSchool_building_webAs I had reported, Rob Steele abruptly resigned three weeks ago as CEO of Old School Square. Elise Johnson, vice chairman of the board, told me Monday that Chief Financial Officer Kim Jones and the board are running the organization until the board picks a new leader.

The city commission had scheduled for tonight a request from Old School Square for $240,000. Johnson, though, said the board has withdrawn that request.

Instead, Johnson said, Old School Square will ask the commission when it meets Monday as the CRA to approve the agency’s fourth-quarter payment now. As with Arts Garage, the CRA budgets quarterly payments for Old School Square but usually approves the money afterward as reimbursement for programming and other expenses.

In a report last September on Old School Square, the CRA noted that ticket revenue for April through June of 2017 had been down 55 percent. Other attendance measures also had decreased. The new policy on special events has meant fewer festivals that donated money.

So there’s a lot going on, but Johnson said the board is making progress. The advance payment would allow the board time “to restructure in an orderly manner.”

Creation of Old School Square three decades ago led to Delray Beach’s revival. A master plan envisions Old School Square continuing as a civic hub. The new, million-dollar Christmas tree debuted this year. Johnson said the board will keep “working very hard” internally and with the city on Old School Square’s finances and management.

The Evert tennis event

Delray Beach may be suing the promoter of the annual pro tennis event, but the city commission tonight likely will renew though 2022 the agreement with Chris Evert to hold her annual charity event at the city complex.

The city’s contribution would be $61,000 this year and rise to $69,000 after five years. City Manager Mark Lauzier said Delray Beach more than recoups the investment in terms of charitable donations, hotel bookings and publicity. Evert moved the event from Boca Raton in 1998.

Quiet zone not so quiet?

brightlineResidents of southeast Boca Raton—like me— might be wondering why they keep hearing Brightline train horns. Didn’t the city establish a quiet zone?

Yes, but Deerfield Beach has not yet done so. Engineers must continue to sound their horns as trains approach the Hillsboro Boulevard crossing. The sound can carry to Boca Raton.

A Brightline spokeswoman said Broward County intends to file the quite zone, which will cover all cities from Deerfield Beach to Hallandale Beach. The company told the county’s transportation planning agency that it would complete the required safety improvements by “mid-summer.” Once the county files for the quiet zone, 21 days must pass before the horns go silent.

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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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