Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Politics Play Out in Moore’s Evaluation and Boca War Chests Grow

You can see the politics of Delray Beach in the city commission’s evaluation of Manager Terrence Moore.

Ryan Bolyston and Adam Frankel, who generally agree on issues, gave Moore the highest ratings. Mayor Shelly Petrolia and Juli Casale, who generally agree on issues, rated Moore lower, though both said he is doing an acceptable job.

And Shirley Johnson, the capricious swing vote, was the outlier. She ranked Moore Unsatisfactory in 13 of 16 categories. Johnson basically called for Moore’s firing.

So let’s deal with the four credible evaluations after Moore’s first year of work.

Commissioners had to score Moore between 1 and 5 over those 16 categories, with 1 being Unsatisfactory and 5 being Outstanding. Commissioners could list things that they want Moore to keep doing and things that they wanted him to stop doing or improve on.

Frankel gave Moore the highest rating, with an average of 4.3, placing him in the category of Exceeds Expectations. Frankel awarded Moore nine Outstandings. The only 2—for Needs Improvement—was in following direction. More about that in a moment.

“Mr. Moore,” Frankel wrote, “has taken on a great number of projects in a very short time, which I feel is very ambitious.” Frankel also called Moore’s appointment of Russ Mager as police chief “a great choice.”

Boylston came next, with an average score of 3.4. Moore’s even demeanor, Boylston said, “helps to de-escalate” tensions that so often arise during commission meetings. Boylston also said Moore supports the staff during meetings.

On that note, Boylston told me Monday that he has seen improvement in staff meetings. Where Moore, Boylston said, once dominated the meetings, “Now, it has flipped. That’s good, because I think we have great department heads.”

Casale’s average score was 3, right in the middle. Like others, she praised Moore for his “access” and responsiveness to individual commissioners. But she also said that Moore needs to better “prioritize” projects.

In addition, Casale claimed that Moore worked on the trash-hauling contract “without properly consulting” City Attorney Lynn Gelin. “This proved to be problematic.” Casale offered no details or explanation.

Petrolia’s average for Moore was 2.75. She also praised his “dispute resolution” skills, responsiveness, and access.

The mayor then said, “I have questioned on several occasions items included on agendas that do not serve the best interest of the public. Some have been subsequently removed, but it is my opinion the city manager should be the first to question need vs. want on any agenda.” Like Casale, Petrolia did not offer examples.

Petrolia acknowledged that “a split commission makes some of [Moore’s] decisions difficult.” She understated.

Reading the evaluation, the clear sense is that Boylston and Frankel believe that Moore pays too much attention to Petrolia, Casale and their allies around the city while Petrolia and Casale believe that they don’t get enough attention.

Frankel wrote that “actions by a city manager” should not be taken “at the direction of one member and/or a minority of the city commission. The city manager should always seek consensus of a majority before initiating any actions.”

Boylston said he believes that the split commission has made Moore “gun shy.” He wants the manager to “trust his better instincts.” Every comment from a resident, Bolyston said, “is one out of 70,000,” referring to Delray Beach’s population. “No one is more or less deserving than any other.” Moore must “rise above the political or public pressure and stand strong behind his recommendation/position/action.”

Yet Petrolia cited a meeting with Moore that also involved Ken MacNamee, a Petrolia ally known for sending rambling, vituperative emails to commissioners and staff. Petrolia’s opponents consider MacNamee a gadfly who believes that his comments are much more deserving than any other.

“I am confident,” Petrolia wrote, “that Mr. Moore is knowledgeable about government given his years of experience. He has, however, chosen to make certain decisions that lead one to question his judgement (sic).”

Boylston looks at Moore and sees Delray Beach where it needs to be on his three priorities: a bond program for the water plant, a citywide improvement bond referendum for the March ballot and a public-private partnership for the main golf course.

In contrast, I suspect that Petrolia and Casale look at Moore and see inadequate progress on cleaning up the mess they created just after Moore began when they and Johnson evicted Old School Square. Whoever runs against Casale in March surely will make that his or her major campaign issue.

Moore doesn’t lack for direction. The dispute among commissioners is whose direction he should take. That’s a tough balance to strike in Delray Beach.

To look on the bright side:

Moore has lasted longer than his predecessor, George Gretsas. Even Petrolia and Casale acknowledge that Moore is popular with residents. And Johnson will be off the commission in March.

Boca war chests starting to grow

Speaking of elections, Boca Raton’s also doesn’t come until March, but Mayor Scott Singer isn’t waiting.

Through July, Singer had raised $58,000 toward his bid for a full second term. He started with a $25,000 haul in March, with the election a year away. At this point, Singer faces only token opposition, but on Monday he announced his official campaign launch on Sept. 15.

Fundraising also has begun for the two city council races. Seat A will come open because Andy Thomson is resigning to run for the Florida House. In Seat B, Andrea O’Rourke is term-limited after six years.

Francine Nachlas has filed to run in Seat A. Through July, she had raised almost $70,000, of which $50,000 is a personal loan. In Seat B, Mark Wigder has raised $15,000, including a $10,000 loan. Christen Ritchey, his opponent, has raised $15,000. Candidates must qualify in December.

House seat recount results

Republican candidate Dan Franzese

After a recount, Dan Franzese emerged from last week’s primary as the Republican nominee for U.S. House District 22. Franzese defeated Deborah Adeimy by just 130 votes.

Franzese, a former pension fund manager who lives in Palm Beach, will face five-term incumbent Lois Frankel, a former state legislator and mayor of West Palm Beach.

Frankel won her first term in 2012, in what then also was the 22nd District. It became the 21st District in 2016, when the Legislature had to redraw congressional maps because of Republican gerrymandering. Now the district, which includes Delray Beach, has back the original number. Though it once included parts of Broward County, it now is the only one entirely within Palm Beach County.

New Delray police chief

Speaking of Delray Beach’s new police chief, the city will hold a change of command ceremony for Mager at 6 p.m. today at Atlantic High School. The city also will honor Javaro Sims, the retiring chief, for three decades-plus of service.

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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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