Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Moore’s Positive Self-evaluation and Security Concerns at Calusa

Delray Beach City Manager Terrence Moore has evaluated himself before the city commission does. Not surprisingly, Moore likes what he sees.

In a document titled “Leadership and Accomplishments,” Moore ranges over almost all city departments. For all its breadth, though, the 28-page documents can be hard to follow.

Moore discusses water and utility issues—a big deal in Delray Beach—over several sections rather than in one. There’s a lot of bureaucratese. Example: Moore refers to “financial support opportunities” when he seems to mean “grants.” New marina fees, he said, “became effective” on Oct. 1 of this year.

Here are the highlights:

Moore notes his selection of Russ Mager to succeed Javaro Sims as police chief. Sims doesn’t leave until Aug. 31, but Moore said he announced the choice early enough for Mager to meet with other department heads before he starts. Moore also touts the new, three-year police contract.

Delray Beach has joined the Race To Zero campaign to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. By next year, Moore said, the city will have a plan to reduce its emissions by 50 percent in 2030 and be carbon-neutral in 2050.

In the last year, Moore said, Delray Beach has made “significant progress” toward finally offering online submittals for development and permit applications. Moore said the city will phase in the system “over the next several months.”

In recent months, Moore has hired a new assistant city manager and finance director. I’ve heard comments, off the record, about many top administrators leaving. Moore may have heard similar comments. His report states that turnover between April 2021 and April 2022 was 6.7 percent. There is no comparison to prior years.

The proposed budget, Moore says, “advances the city’s progress across several priorities while making organizational changes to be cost-effective and more efficient.” There’s that bureaucratese again. One example Moore cites is his reorganization of the purchasing department.

In addition, Moore said, the city spent $25,000 on a program to trap, neuter and release feral cats. Delray Beach got a $20 million grant to reinforce areas against rising seas. He’s working with the Downtown Development Authority to improve trash pickup on and near Atlantic Avenue.

Merely by reaching his one-year anniversary, Moore is ahead of his predecessor. After barely six months in 2020, Mayor Shelly Petrolia and commissioners Juli Casale and Shirley Johnson put George Gretsas on notice that they intended to fire him. Gretsas has sued, claiming wrongful termination.

I would expect commissioners to press Moore on the city’s unfinished business. Such as:

What’s up with the new water plant? Commissioners approved higher rates to build it, but the city hasn’t issued a revenue bond. Moore said staff members are studying “revised cost estimates.” And how much will what Moore calls “larger filtration systems” cost to nearly eliminate carcinogenic “forever chemicals” from the water?

Then there’s the general obligation bond, which a property tax increase would finance, for projects such as a new city hall. Moore said the city has “initiated dialogue” with financial advisors. The commission has only a short time to approve a proposal for the March ballot.

Moore makes $230,000. Commissioners likely will discuss his performance at one of their two meetings this month.

Concerns about Calusa campus safety

The opening of Blue Lake Elementary School in Boca Raton will reduce crowding at Calusa Elementary. Some Calusa parents, however, don’t like what they see at their children’s campus compared to Blue Lake.

They see a campus with all the post-Stoneman Douglas safety improvements. At last month’s city council meeting, some of those parents spoke about their fears that Calusa’s 35-year-old campus doesn’t offer enough security. The massacre in Uvalde, Tex., surely heightened those fears.

Mayor Scott Singer told the parents that officials from the school district and the city’s police department had “walked the campus” the previous week. He promised that the district would make improvements before schools open next Wednesday.

Palm Beach County School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri was at the meeting. “They had some legitimate concerns,” Barbieri said of the parents.

District administrators don’t like to discuss specific security issues at each school, but Barbieri said Calusa “backs up to parking lots.” Changes will prevent anyone from scoping out the school from there. “We’re doing what we can. Security is the first thing on anyone’s mind.”

One reason for the quick response is that Calusa, unlike most schools, has a safety committee. Another is that more affluent parents can mobilize quickly. Still another is that Barbieri can get, as Singer put it, “the right people in the room” promptly to respond.

The irony is that when district staff members were drawing Blue Lake’s boundaries, many parents nearer the new school wanted to keep their children at Calusa. Now Blue Lake is complete and suddenly Calusa appears to be lacking.

Another Brightline death

brightline

The latest Brightline-related fatality happened Tuesday morning in Delray Beach.

Investigators said the victim was a man who tried to cross the tracks north of Linton Boulevard, not at a crossing. It was the 18th Brightline fatality in Palm Beach County.

As with every other death, Brightline was not at fault. All fatalities have been caused by drivers illegally going around gates or people being on the tracks illegally, either to take a shortcut or to commit suicide by train.

This month, Broward County officials will meet with representatives of the Federal Railway Administration. The FRA could rescind the county’s quiet zone based on those deaths or wait for the county to make even more safety improvements. If the quiet zone went away in Broward, regulators likely would re-examine the one in Palm Beach County.

An update on Boca’s conversion therapy ban

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has asked Boca Raton to remove its ban on conversion therapy for minors.

Last month, Boca Raton and Palm Beach County—which has a similar ban—lost their request for a rehearing before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel of the court overturned a trial judge’s ruling that the bans were constitutional. Conversion therapy seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Rand Hoch founded the human rights council. He wants the city to approve a resolution critical of conversion therapy—putting the city on record against the practice—rather than risk losing at the U.S. Supreme Court. Based on the court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Hoch said, he wants to avoid a ruling that could strike down bans nationwide. The 11th Circuit ruling affects only Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

In a news release, Hoch states that County Attorney Denise Coffman has emailed commissioners with her recommendation that they repeal the ordinance. An appeal to the Supreme Court, Coffman said, would not succeed.

The city council meets next on Aug. 22.

Update: The city council will hold a special meeting on Friday to discussion the conversion therapy ban.

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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