Sunday, November 27, 2022

Thomson Email Shows “Support” and Boca Grapples with Palmetto Traffic

Last weekend, Andy Thomson’s campaign sent out an email featuring a favorable comment about Thomson from Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer. Thomson is running for the Florida House seat that includes Boca Raton.

Headlined “A Message from Mayor Scott Singer,” the email contains this quote: “It’s been a pleasure to work with Andy Thomson,” who has served on the city council since 2018, overlapping Singer’s time as mayor.

The quote continues, “He knows our community and has served Boca Raton well. Andy works hard to find common ground and solutions and will work to protect Home Rule in Tallahassee.” Under home rule, cities and counties set their own policies. In recent years, the Legislature has passed many bills that local governments believe encroach on home rule.

Singer is a Republican. Thomson is a Democrat, running against Republican Peggy Gossett-Seidman, a Highland Beach town commissioner.

When we spoke Wednesday, Singer said Thomson’s campaign had asked if he would “say something nice about Andy, so I did.” Singer would not construe the quote as an endorsement. “That word isn’t in there.”

When I spoke with Thomson, he said, “Scott and I get along well,” which is true. The council is a mix of Democrats and Republicans, but partisanship almost never arises. Discussion is usually collegial.

One exception was at the start of the pandemic, when former Councilman Jeremy Rodgers led a demonstration against the same COVID-19 mitigation policies the city was advocating. His colleagues in both parties didn’t appreciate it.

Outside the council chambers, though, polarization reigns. Singer wondered why his comment was “noteworthy.” Perhaps because the House 91 race has become so partisan.

The Republican Party of Florida has been running a slew of TV ads against Thomson, linking him to President Biden. A recent mailer included Thomson’s cell phone number and urged residents to complain about traffic in Boca Raton. “I got a few curse-filled calls,” Thomson said.

Win or lose, Thomson must resign from the council after the Nov. 8 election. His seat is up next March.

Does Thomson consider Singer’s quote an endorsement? “I would call it support.”

Funds stacking in Palm Beach commission race

Here’s some perspective for how much money Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth has raised as he runs for a second and final term.

Robert Weinroth

Weinroth, a Democrat whose District 4 includes Boca Raton and Delray Beach, had $362,000 as of Oct. 7. Republican Marcia Woodward had $48,000.

Gregg Weiss, also seeking a second term as a Democrat, had raised $213,000 in a district that includes West Palm Beach. Michelle McGovern, running in the west-county district to succeed term-limited Melissa McKinlay, had $390,000 in direct contributions and another $244,000 from her committee.

McGovern, though, had a tough primary against State Rep. Matt Wilhite. He’s a county firefighter, and the union spent roughly $500,000 boosting his campaign. Weinroth had no opponent in the primary.

This seat is the closest thing to a swing district on the commission. Registration breaks down almost evenly along party lines. Weinroth is a moderate Democrat who pushed harder than others in his party to end pandemic restrictions in 2020. Woodward is a first-time candidate and election denier.

The race is far down a long ballot. But politics at these levels is getting nationalized. Example: the House 91 race.

Lake Wyman/Rutherford Park plan approved


Boca Raton has approved a plan for the new Lake Wyman/Rutherford Park.

Four months ago, the estimate came in at $15.5 million. That was well over the budget for the project, which will feature a new boardwalk at the park along the Intracoastal Waterway near 20th Street. Kayak trails and other amenities will revive what the city allowed to deteriorate.

City Manager Leif Ahnell noted that most of the excess came from the cost of lumber to build the boardwalk. By seeking a new bid, Ahnell said, the price might drop along with the price of lumber.

Ahnell was correct. As higher interest rates have cooled home building, lumber has become much cheaper. At Monday’s workshop meeting, the city council chose an option for Lake Wyman/Rutherford that will cost $9.5 million. Council members rejected a smaller plan that would have cost $7.9 million.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Pedestrian concerns on East Palmetto Park Road

An exchange this month showed how difficult it can be for cities to deal with seemingly simple problems.

In this case, it was cars driving too fast on the short stretch of East Palmetto Park Road in Boca Raton between the bridge and A1A and endangering pedestrians. Before the city council at its Oct. 11 workshop meeting was a report on the proposal to install two lighted crosswalks at Olive Way and Wavecrest Way

Neighbors, especially those in the Riviera neighborhood, wanted the crosswalks. But city traffic engineers advised against it, saying that the crosswalks actually could make crossing Palmetto Park Road less safe.

Why? Drivers coming east across the bridge sometimes go so fast that those in the crosswalk at Olive Way—closer to the bridge—might take safety for granted and get hit. The danger at Wavecrest Way—closer to the beach—would be drivers coming too quickly after they turn off A1A.

As one staff member said, “There’s a lot happening” on that stretch. There are two lanes of traffic. Cars park on both sides of the street. “There could be a false sense of safety.”

Ahnell pointed out that the city has issued twice as many tickets in that area as last year. Council members, however, were unhappy. Monica Mayotte wondered about the crosswalks if the city could just “do it anyway.”

Ahnell quickly jumped in. The staff, he noted, had concluded that the project would be unsafe. Ignoring that conclusion could put the city at great risk by “creating an unsafe situation.” Discussion proceeded to other options. Said Mayotte, “We’re all frustrated.”

Delray CRA appoints negotiator for BH3 lawsuit

Renee Jadusingh; photo via Delray CRA

On the agenda for today’s meeting of the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency is the appointment of Executive Director Renee Jadusingh as negotiator for the agency in the lawsuit by BH3.

The CRA chose the company to develop roughly nine acres east of the Fairfield Inn. Two years ago, the CRA board found BH3 in default. The company sued, claiming breach of contract. The CRA has countersued.

While the lawsuit goes on, nothing happens on what the CRA considers the most important redevelopment property on West Atlantic Avenue. Mediation is set for Nov. 30. Jadusingh would represent the agency in those talks. If there is no resolution, a trial will begin next February.

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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