Thursday, July 7, 2022

Notes on Campaign Financing by Seat, Delray Lifeguard Stands and Other News of Note

Vacation’s over for me. Back to work.

Campaign financing notes

Though they won’t turn down donations, many candidates for office in Boca Raton and Delray Beach are self-financing their campaigns.

Start with Boca Raton’s special election on Aug. 28. Four people want to fill City Council Seat A, which Scott Singer is leaving to run for mayor.

As of the May finance reports, Kathy Cottrell had loaned her campaign $25,000. She had raised only $800 in contributions. Andy Thomson had loaned himself $20,000, but he had received almost $17,000 in donations. Tamara McKee had raised $3,100, including a $2,800 loan.

In the mayor’s race, Al Zucaro had loaned himself $3,500. That number will rise; the BocaWatch publisher self-financed most of his unsuccessful campaign last year against Susan Haynie. Singer, who became mayor after Haynie’s suspension, is the fundraising outlier. He had raised about $84,000 through May with only a token amount from himself.

Seat A race

That four-way race for Seat A has become a three-way race. David Milledge has dropped out.

Milledge’s decision could help Thomson. Cottrell and McKee are East Boca residents and are pushing hard for the BocaWatch vote by complaining about “overdevelopment.” As he did a year ago in losing to Andrea O’Rourke—who supports Cottrell—Thomson casts himself as a moderate on the issue, saying that he will seek to strike a balance. Cottrell and McKee might take votes from each other. If that happens, it could improve Thomson’s chances.

And Hager’s seat

In the race to succeed term-limited State Rep. Bill Hager, the money really is flowing.

Michael Caruso, a CPA who lives in Delray Beach, has loaned his campaign $210,000. A state legislator makes about $30,000. Caruso first must get through the Republican primary. Then he would need another surge of money for the general election in District 89, which leans GOP but could be in play for the Democrats.

Caruso’s opponent, attorney Matt Spritz, is a comparative piker. He’s loaned his campaign just $40,000. Spritz, though, seems to have more of the establishment’s backing at this point.

Ocean Ridge Mayor James Bonfiglio—who also is a lawyer—is running in the House 89 Democratic primary. He has loaned his campaign $65,000. Realtor Ryan Rossi is the other Democrat and has raised about $15,000, with $1,000 coming from himself.

District 89 includes Boca Raton and much of Delray Beach. It then stretches north to take in affluent coastal neighborhoods all the way to Palm Beach.

Weinroth’s race

Robert Weinroth’s decision in January to leave his Boca Raton City Council race and run for the Palm Beach County Commission looks very good.

At the time, Weinroth was facing a tough reelection fight against Monica Mayotte, who went on to win. By withdrawing, however, Weinroth took on Susan Haynie. Though he is a Democrat and she is a Republican, they had been allies in Boca politics and even friends.

Now Haynie faces criminal charges of public corruption, which she has denied. Haynie dropped out of the commission race when she was charged. Meanwhile, Weinroth faces just token Republican opposition to succeed Steven Abrams in the District 4 commission seat.

Qualifying ended last month with the GOP unable to find a recognizable replacement for Haynie. Delray Beach Realtor Christina Morrison filed paperwork, but her campaign stalled. Party officials tried to recruit Bill Hager, but he wants to focus on his job testifying as an expert witness in insurance cases.

Boca Del Mar resident William Vale remains in the District 4 race as a Republican. Weinroth, though, has raised $130,000 to $6,400 for Vale. As we saw in the upset last week of Democratic congressman Joe Crowley, money doesn’t always determine outcomes. But I wouldn’t expect much help for Vale from the party.

Beach and park district

Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District Chairman Bob Rollins acknowledged that the agency has begun its transition away from the Art Koski Era.

Monday night, the board approved a contract with the Fort Lauderdale-based firm of Goren, Cherof, Doody & Ezrol to be the district’s lawyer. Koski had been on retainer for nearly 30 years. For now, the firm will bill by the hour.

For roughly five years beginning in 2012, Koski also was the district’s executive director and project manager. Though the district traditionally has had fewer than five fulltime employees, and though board members continually praised Koski’s work, the arrangement became increasingly problematic. From the outside, it seemed that Koski was supervising himself. He also maintained a private law practice. One of his cases was against the city.

In no more than six months, Rollins said, the district board should choose someone to be the fulltime, permanent director. That’s how the position worked until 2012. Rollins said the board likely would let Koski remain to help his successor and then perhaps finish out his service by overseeing renovation of the former Ocean Breeze golf course. The new firm will help the district write job descriptions and set salaries for staff members.

Beach and park and City Council

The news about Koski will further enliven the July 23 meeting between the beach and park district board and the city council.

Next week, the district board may vote on the contract with the design firm for the Ocean Breeze makeover. If that happens, Chairman Bob Rollins said the district might be able to give the council an idea of how much the renovation will cost. The district already paid $24 million for the land, with the city underwriting the bonds. Demolition will happen over the next two months.

Rollins also said the district board remains interesting in asking the council for direct money toward construction of the new course. Previously, the district had planned only to ask for another bond underwriting. Rollins told me the district also is talking to “some private sources.”

Delray’s new lifeguard towers

The story of Delray Beach and the city’s lifeguard towers never ends.

Anyone who contracts for a home improvement project knows that it takes longer and costs more. On the agenda for last month’s city commission meeting was a request for a roughly $20,000 change order and more time for the contractor to finish the eight stands. They will cost about $1.2 million.

As when the commission approved the purchase in December, a city staff member dutifully explained that there were reasons for the added cost and time. A memo explained that, among other things, “City advisory boards took longer than expected to agree on the color scheme for each lifeguard tower.” Sigh.

Mayor Shelly Petrolia was on the commission eight months ago. She filed a complaint with the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General, which investigated and found nothing wrong. As all four of her colleagues approved the change order, Petrolia voted no.

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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