In the past, residents have always had to settle and celebrate ‘small’ victories in their struggles within City Hall….Well, this past few weeks have realized opportunity to celebrate even greater advances in numerous areas of residents’ concerns.  Listed below are some recent successes and their impacts. 

1)     The Circuit Court’s ruling on the Chabad at 770 E. Palmetto Park:  Reported last week in BocaWatch, Circuit Court Case Number 50-2015-CA-009676-XXXX-MB, Royal Palm Beach Estate v. City of Boca Raton was decided for the Petitioner, David Roberts, against the City of Boca Raton.  The ruling was a complete vindication against the City, the City Administration and the City Attorney. This matter has now been remanded back to the City for further action…Congratulations to Mr. Roberts for his diligence and dedication to right the wrong and do it on his own time and dime…A MAJOR VICTORY…

2)     The Federal Court Discrimination Lawsuit on the Chabad at 770 E. Palmetto Park building permit approval process:  Reported in BocaWatch, February, 2016, two Boca Raton citizens filed a discrimination law suit in U.S. District Court against the City; GAGLIARDI et al vs. The City of Boca Raton Florida, Case Number 9:16-cv-80195-KAM.   Currently this case is working its way through the court with pre-trial motions pending, while preparing for discovery and depositions.   Court records reveal a recent submission by the Plaintiffs listing numerous anticipated witnesses, amongst them numerous present and past City Council members; an opportunity to examine how decisions are made on the 3rd floor of City Hall…expected to be a truly revealing moment.  The matter is working its way to an anticipated early 2017 trial date.  More on this as details emerge.

3)      Councilman Singer’s proposed ordinance for filling vacancies on the City Council: Ordinance #5350, introduced by Councilman Scott Singer, addresses the manner in which vacancies are filled.  BocaWatch reported last month that in the event of the Mayor’s slot becoming vacant, the Mayor is replaced by the Deputy Mayor; a situation that would prevent the residents voting to fill the vacant seat.  Also, in the event that a council member’s seat other than the Mayor would become vacant, that vacancy is filled by the majority vote of the remaining four council members.  Councilman Singer argued on behalf of the residents that this is an inequitable situation preventing a special election for residents to fill the vacancy.  By a unanimous vote, the City Council has approved ballot language for the August 30th elections to change the City Charter…A MAJOR VICTORY…Be sure to exercise your vote in the August election to give you, the citizen, your American right to vote on future local elections.

4)    Councilman Weinroth’s proposed ordinance for Councilmembers’ compensation:  Ordinance 5352 introduced by Councilman Robert Weinroth seeks to increase the City Council members’ compensation some 400%.  Originally proposed with a clause tying future compensation increases to increases of compensation for County Commissioners, the ordinance met with resistance from the observing public.  Councilman Weinroth’s proposed language eliminates this automatic increase formula but keeps intact the suggested increase.  The people will have an opportunity to speak on the issue of compensation increases now, and in the future….preserving the participation of the voting public….A MAJOR VICTORY

5)    The Wildflower Site’s Conditional Use Permit:  At the request of the petitioner, Hillstone Restaurants,  the application for a conditional use permit to build a restaurant on the Wildflower property is being postponed until December, 2016 along with the contract for lease/sale of the property to the Petitioner.  After considerable uproar and the submission of enough signatures to force a referendum vote on this matter, the Petitioner decided to ask for the postponement until after the anticipated November referendum vote is completed.  The postponement will allow for the terms and conditions of the proposed version of a lease to be better analyzed and presented to the public for comment and suggestion.  Per the City Attorney, neither the site plan nor the lease terms are approved.  At the P&Z meeting of June 9, the site plan was approved while the lease terms were not.  Per the City Attorney, the City Council is the final arbitrator for approval, so expect more on this over the next few months.  A MAJOR VICTORY.

6)     The Citizen City-Owned Land Petition Drive:  The Petition drive has resulted in the issuance of a Certificate of Sufficiency by the Supervisor of Elections.  Over 2000 signatures were gathered and submitted with over 1700 verified.  The City Council has recognized that a referendum vote is now required and, indications are that the Council may consider adopting the ordinance without vote but with some language modification.  The thought process leading to this possibility may be linked to a previous referendum initiative litigated in 2012 where the court ruled that the proposed ballot language was “neither facially unconstitutional in its entirety, nor contrary to or expressly preempted by state law.” (see City of Boca Raton and Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District v. Martin SIML, as chairman and on behalf of Petitioner’s Committee, Fourth DCA Case Nos. 4D11-1561, 4D11-1591)…The current petition language concerning city owned land on the west side of the intracoastal is modeled after the language reviewed in 2012 that concerned the city owned land on the east side of the intracoastal waterway.  A comparison of the 2012 language with the 2016 language may logically negate the need for a special referendum vote…..A MAJOR VICTORY.

There are other advances that might be worthy of mention but these are, in my opinion, outstanding.  Of course, the reported results are by no means the end of the story.  These, and others, are on-going and our continued diligence and awareness is paramount.  Without these efforts, we lose….Diligence has gotten us very far over the last two years…..We, residents, are an effective voice and should be proud of our accomplishments…..

Remember, Your vote is your voice….let your voice be heard….

NEXT ELECTIONS:  AUGUST 30th including The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District Commissioners, along the primaries for various elected offices and local approved referendum initiatives!!!

 Al Zucaro, Publisher