Monday, December 4, 2023

Petrolia Announces For Mayor, Budgets in Boca and Delray and More

Petrolia’s announcement

Commissioner Shelly Petrolia.
Commissioner Shelly Petrolia.

Delray Beach City Commissioner Shelly Petrolia will run for mayor next March.

Petrolia announced her decision this week on the TakeBackDelrayBeach Faceboook page. Petrolia has held the District 1 seat since 2013 and could have run for another three-year term. She was unopposed in 2015.

The TakeBackDelrayBeach administrator is Kelly Barrette, who ran unsuccessfully against Jim Chard this year for the open District 2 seat. Petrolia openly supported Barrette in that race and Josh Smith in District 4. Barrette and Smith lost by wide margins, so Petrolia’s decision is interesting. Mitch Katz, who has filed for reelection to Seat 3, also backed Barrette and Smith.

Mayor Cary Glickstein is eligible to run for another term. He told me Wednesday that he hasn’t decided.

Boca and Delray budgets


Boca Raton and Delray Beach have released their preliminary 2017-18 budgets.

City Manager Leif Ahnell proposes hiring 34 additional employees in Boca and increasing the operating budget by almost $10 million. The tax rate would not change, but residents would pay more because of rising property values. Ahnell also wants to raise the fire fee by $20 for every homeowner. Increases for commercial properties would depend on the size of the property.

Notably, Ahnell wants to create a deputy director position in the Development Services Department. The city council has heard complaints about the slow pace of development approvals. Ahnell also wants to hire another assistant fire chief, which would restore a position that was cut during the recession. He proposes adding four firefighters and four police officers.

Those hires align with the council’s stated goal to maintain levels of key services. The council also wants the city to promote itself more, so Ahnell’s budget includes two positions for public relations and digital media.

Similarly, Delray Beach Interim City Manager Neal de Jesus said his budget would address the basics: services and backlogged repair work. De Jesus wants five new police officers—all outside the Community Redevelopment Agency boundaries—and eight additional firefighter/paramedics. Obviously, that second request is to deal with the continuing opioid epidemic.

As in Boca Raton, the tax rate would be essentially unchanged, but bills would rise. Delray Beach’s tax roll, de Jesus said, is at a record level. He proposes an increase of roughly $460,000 to the operating budget.

Both cities must hold two public hearings on their budgets next month before approving them in time for the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year. I will have more after digging deeper into the numbers.

Police and fire contracts

Boca Raton and Delray Beach both spend most of their operating budgets on public safety. So police and fire contracts are major financial factors.

A city spokeswoman said Boca Raton has not finalized new, three-year contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF). The next meetings are with the police union on Sept. 12 and the fire union on Sept. 19.

Delray Beach already approved a new firefighter contract. Mayor Glickstein and commissioners Petrolia and Katz all praised the union, with Glickstein saying the Police Benevolent Association “could take a page” from the IAFF. All three could be on the ballot next March. The police contract expires next year.

As part of pension reform during the last negotiations, Delray Beach and the unions agreed to create separate police and fire pension boards—they have been combined—and also combine their administrative functions with the general employees fund. The city commission believes that the change will increase accountability and improve returns on the funds’ investments.

The transition, however, is not finished, because of what Glickstein called the funds’ “significant assets and rules regarding them.” The city’s legal team, he said, is preparing a timeline to complete the transition.

Weinroth’s war chest

Boca Raton City Councilman Robert Weinroth had a good fundraising month in June and a better one in July.

After raising about $16,000 for his March reelection campaign for Seat D, Weinroth added $18,500. He has a major fundraising event next month. No one has filed papers to challenge Weinroth, who would serve seven years if he wins again. The city has six-year term limits, but Weinroth first won in 2014 to fill out the last year of a term. He won a full term in 2015 without opposition.

Among Weinroth’s new contributions is $1,000 from Arnstein & Lehr, the firm that employs one of the lawyers representing GL Homes. GL is one of the bidders for the western golf course. Weinroth also received $1,000 from Art Koski. He’s executive director of the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District, which wants the council to underwrite bonds for the district’s $24 million purchase of the former Ocean Breeze golf course and money to make the course playable. Koksi also is suing the city over approval of Chabad East Boca, which Weinroth supported.

And Weinroth got $1,000 from Marta Batmasian. Her company, Investments Limited, has applied to build Phase 2 of the Royal Palm Place redevelopment. Investments Limited would tear down and replace some retail space and build nearly 300 residential units. The project is in the early stages of city review.

Rodgers raising funds, too

Also on the 2018 ballot is Councilman Jeremy Rodgers, who holds Seat C. His fundraising total for July, his first month since filing for reelection, shows nearly $13,000, including a $5,000 loan from Rodgers.

Among his contributions, Rodgers got $1,000 from attorney Bonnie Miskel. She represented Elad Properties, developer of Mizner 200. Rodgers, like the rest of the council, voted for the revised project this month. Miskel also represents Boca Raton Regional Hospital and Town Center Mall, among other clients, before the council.

Rodgers got $500 from architect Doug Mummaw, who designed that Royal Palm Place Phase 2 project on which the council might vote. Rodgers received $500 from Boca Beautiful President John Gore, whose group might weigh in on Mummaw’s project. Another $500 came from the law firm that represents Via Verde, one of four homeowner associations that surround Midtown. This fall, the council could set rules for Midtown development.

In addition, Rodgers got $250 from Katherine MacDougall, one of Koski’s plaintiffs in that Chabad East Boca lawsuit. Rodgers received $250 from Neil Haynie, who is married to Mayor Susan Haynie, and $250 from Seat A Councilman Scott Singer.

Annexing Highland Beach?

As he promised during the Boca Raton City Council’s goal-setting session in May, Councilman Rodgers is exploring the idea of the city annexing Highland Beach.

Rodgers believes that costs would drop for both cities if they combined services, though he doesn’t have data to prove that. He is seeking online comment from residents of both cities. Highland Beach has about 4,000 residents, almost all of whom live in high-rise condos.

As Rodgers acknowledges, this annexation—which is his initiative, not the council’s—would be a heavy lift. Voters in both cities would have to approve it. If the Boca council and the Highland Beach Town Commission didn’t put the proposal on the ballot, getting it to referendum through petition would require signatures from 15 percent of Boca Raton voters who cast ballots in the most recent city election and 20 percent of registered voters in Highland Beach.

This issue also involves Delray Beach. In July 2016, the city signed a new 10-year contract to provide fire-rescue services in Highland Beach. The deal essentially gives Delray Beach an extra fire station. Mayor Haynie said Highland Beach approached Boca Raton, which decided that the deal wouldn’t work financially.

I get Rodgers’ point about Boca Raton’s need for revenue. More likely, though, the city will try again on annexing a few neighborhoods on the northwest border. But Rodgers certainly thinks big.

Rumor control

We saw recently in Boca Raton one more example of how rumors can run unchecked on social media.

Just north of Addison Mizner Elementary School on Southwest 12th Avenue is the Center for Spiritual Living. For years, the church has allowed Addison Mizner parents to use its parking lot. The school fits tightly into the residential neighborhood. Parking is beyond tight.

As school opened two weeks ago, however, word went out that the church had closed off the parking lot. Outrage followed. How could the church do this?

But as pastor Jill Guerra told me, the problem was not with the church. Addison Mizner had not obtained the usual insurance policy that indemnifies the church from any accidents related to school activities. Such a policy is normal and proper. The organizers of Boca Raton’s Boating & Beach for People With Disabilities must have similar policies when they use Spanish River Park.

The school obtained the policy, and the parking lot is back in use. If they haven’t already done so, those who criticized the church might want to apologize.

Boca Hoops a slam dunk

Boca Raton residents may argue about growth, but everyone agrees that recreation is one of the city’s best amenities. With that in mind, here’s a shout-out for the people who started Boca Hoops nearly three decades ago.

My son and daughter played just about every rec league sport in the city: baseball, softball, flag football, soccer. Until Boca Hoops, however, there was no basketball. In 1989, however, Jody Forstot—a Boca physician—Mike Doyle and Bob Mullin started the league.

My grandsons will play this year in the 29th season. As its website states, Boca Hoops helped to plan the Sugar Sand fieldhouse where most of the games take place. During last weekend’s jamboree, a banner saluted the 34 original sponsors of Boca Hoops. Thanks to them, thanks to the founders and thanks to all the people who each year make possible what not long ago didn’t exist and what now we can’t imagine the city without.

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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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