Monday, October 25, 2021

Terrence Moore Chosen as Delray City Manager & More

On Tuesday, the Delray Beach City Commission chose Terrence Moore to be the new manager. Today at 1:45 p.m., the commission will vote on Moore’s contract. Approval would make the hiring official.

The quick negotiations showed how much Delray Beach wants Moore and Moore wants Delray Beach. Before the unanimous choice, Adam Frankel had been a none-of-the above vote. None of the candidates had impressed him.

So what happened?

“I based my first impression,” Frankel said, “on what I had seen on paper and the Internet.” When Frankel spoke with Moore in person, “He blew me away.” Moore impressed with both his professional and personal stories.

Moore has spent 30 years working for local governments in five states, including Florida. He has been a manager in four cities in four states. The largest—roughly 102,000—was Las Cruces, N.M. The smallest—15,000—was his most recent job in College Park, an Atlanta suburb.

But College Park may have been the most complicated. It’s home to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest in the world. An arena is home to teams from the Women’s National Basketball Association and the NBA’s G League.

It had been unclear why Moore was no longer with College Park. Frankel said Moore told him that the city never had issued more than one-year contracts since he started in 2013. When city council members rejected his request for a longer contract, Frankel said, Moore told them that he would look for another job. Three months ago, he was a finalist in Daytona Beach.

As for the personal, Moore grew up in a tough neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. His grandmother raised him. During his public interview with the commission, Moore choked up when talking about her. Moore got a track scholarship to the University of Illinois and graduated in three years.

Moore is not the first African-American to lead Delray Beach. That was Louie Chapman, whom the commission hired on a split vote to succeed David Harden in 2013. He had held the job for 22 years.

Chapman, however, lasted only about 18 months. Since Chapman was forced out, no “permanent” manager has lasted more than two years. Three people have had the job on an interim basis—one of them for two stints.

So it may matter that the vote on Moore was unanimous. The discussion lasted only 10 minutes. In addition, the city’s human resources department ran this search. An outside firm conducted the searches that produced Mark Lauzier and George Gretsas. The commission fired both.

Lauzier sued, and the case may got to trial next year. Gretsas’ departure was especially controversial. The commission suspended him based on one set of charges, but the city attorney rewrote the charges for the vote that fired Gretsas.

Moore won’t face many major hiring decisions early. All department head positions are filled. There is an opening for a second assistant city manager. Frankel may not be the only one suggesting that Moore hire the current interim manager, former Purchasing Director Jennifer Alvarez.

Moore promised to be a “servant leader.” Apparently, he will get his chance very soon. Frankel said, “I think he’s going to be spectacular.”

New manager, same problems

delray

Moore will inherit Delray Beach’s battle with the Florida Department of Health over 13 years of water violations.

I reported last week that the city faces a $1.8 million fine proposed in a final order. I’m starting to think that the details of what happens from here are a state secret.

Department officials promised that I would get a statement Tuesday. The statement hadn’t arrived by deadline for this post.

From Delray Beach’s perspective, a spokeswoman for the water department issued this statement: “The city attorney and legal team are reviewing the proposal and will enter into negotiations with the DOH. If the terms of the consent order are favorable to both parties, the final consent order will be presented to the city commission for review and approval prior to being executed by the interim city manager.”

If the commission approves his contract, Moore might start in time for him to be involved in that decision. Frankel and other commissioners noted that Moore has overseen several large building projects. You can presume that his next will be a new water plant for Delray Beach.

Boca car crash ripples

Predictably, elected officials reacted quickly after last weekend’s car crash just west of Boca Raton that killed five people. Predictably, none of the reactions addressed the primary cause of the crash.

An 18-year-old driver lost control of his car on West Camino Real near Military Trail. Six children were in the back seat. All were thrown from the car. Two 13-year-old passengers were killed along with the driver. The other two deaths were a couple in another vehicle that the driver struck.

County Commissioner Robert Weinroth asked county officials to conduct a speed study of the area. Camino Real is a county road, and Weinroth said results of the study will help the sheriff’s office enforce speed limits. In a statement, Weinroth called the study “a small step in the right direction.”

During Monday’s Boca Raton City Council meeting, Mayor Scott Singer referenced the regular complaints from residents about speeding, especially downtown. City police officers, Singer said, have written roughly 2,400 tickets this year, including about 600 downtown. He noted that again during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The real problem, though, is that six very young people weren’t home at 12:35 a.m. on a Sunday. Why were they out? Why did they get into that back seat?

The Palm Beach Post reported that a close friend of the 13-year-old victims—also a student at Boca Raton Middle School—had been in that back seat but asked to get out. Her curfew, she told the reporter, had been approaching.

No traffic study and no amount of tickets can address how young people make decisions. At the urging of former Rep. Irv Slosberg, whose daughter died in a sadly similar crash 25 years ago, the Legislature passed several highway safety bills. Some were good. Some were symbolic. None would have prevented the crash that killed five young people in a back seat. That is not something for government. That is something for parents and their children.

New environmental ordinance in Boca

Tuesday was World Ocean Day. Boca Raton marked it with an ordinance designed to limit the sort of trash that has become such a threat to ocean dwellers—and humans.

The city council unanimously approved an ordinance regarding Styrofoam products, plastic balloons and confetti on city property. Councilwoman Monica Mayotte, who has made sustainability issues her priority, championed the ordinance.

Under the ordinance, private vendors who work events and people who rent pavilions cannot use such products. Several speakers, including a filmmaker, noted the scourge that plastic trash has become for ocean dwellers. Those microplastics get to humans when people eat seafood.

Mayotte is not aiming at families who bring takeout meals to parks. She does hope, however, that local restaurants will note the ordinance and change their packaging. Perhaps families will think about what they bring to parks. “I’m hoping,” Mayotte told me, “for a lot of education” on the topic.

Actual enforcement won’t start until Jan. 1, 2023. Mayotte wants to see how things develop “over the next eight months” before the council sets an enforcement policy. Mayotte narrowed the ordinance, she said, after City Manager Leif Ahnell said the city might need to hire more code enforcement officers. So the ordinance will apply to those who sign contracts for staging events or using pavilions. Palm Beach County has a similar law.

Property taxes on the rise

Property taxes in Boca Raton and Delray Beach will go up. That seemed unlikely a year ago.

According to the June 1 preliminary estimates from the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, values in Boca Raton increased 2.7 percent over the last year. In Delray Beach, the increase was nearly five percent. Countywide, values rose by slightly more than five percent.

When the pandemic hit and businesses closed, local officials feared something like a repeat of 2008, when values crated because of the real estate bust. Instead, the residential market boomed. Though many commercial properties declined, the drop was less that some analysts had feared.

So even if Boca Raton and Delray Beach keep their tax rates the same, property owners will pay more than they did last year. The same goes for the county tax that city residents pay. For bills to stay the same, a city or county would have to cut taxes to the rollback rate.

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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