As we begin to enter a new political and social season here in Boca Raton, it seems useful to evaluate our progress, accomplishments and challenges. To that end, BocaWatch and its contributors want to thank all of you in providing the trust and encouragement for our efforts.

During this time and based in large measure on your inputs, BocaWatch has reached new heights; achieved a new, more user friendly format; and developed a database of significant reach. Each week with our email blasts, we touch thousands of readers with the materials contained.

BocaWatch continues to provide a platform to the observing public; has built a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter; and provides commentary on the governmental graces or lack thereof in our local government, its elected and appointed officials and those that would come to the public stage with their projects whether for the public good, bad and, in some cases, just plain ugly.

We take pride in having created this platform and providing this voice. Our database demographics reach mostly the local Boca Raton resident or observer with a higher than average economic base; a base of significant political import for local government matters; matters concerning the look, feel and sense of place that Boca Raton has been and is moving towards.

Not to say that these efforts have not been challenging.

The status quo is so entrenched; the corruptors so pervasive; and the public so overwhelmed that for all these efforts, large challenges remain. Many items, often complained of in the public debate, remain unresolved.

Items like the public’s demand for an audited review of the fiscal situation at the Mizner Park Cultural Center, an audit required by the terms of its contract but remaining unfilled under the leadership of its current insider board of directors in cooperation with an overlooking City Council. Another unresolved matter is the future of the Interim Design Guidelines and the overdevelopment of the downtown core. This overdevelopment argument is perhaps the most pressing item raising the public concern. These are just a small sampling of items that BocaWatch brings to the forefront.

So where do we go from here….

Last month, following the guidelines of state election law, BocaWatch PAC reorganized to become a Political Action Committee for issues as well as candidates in local elections.

BocaWatch will seek out and support candidates that demonstrate a willingness to give voice to the people; a voice that will impose a discipline for the development community to live within; a voice that will reject the ever-expanding overdevelopment as seen in projects like Palmetto Promenade (formerly the Archstone), the Mark, a failed experimental project under the IDG; and the overbearing structures that are popping up throughout the core of Boca Raton’s downtown. With the March ’17 elections now within an 18-month window, preparing options for the voting public becomes the number one priority if true change is to be achieved.

Suffice it to say that unless and until new faces and voices are elevated to elected office, the status quo will remain in place and continue to chip away at the revered and historical Boca Raton vision. Developer profit is a driving force – a force difficult to combat. Elected officials need to weigh the unbridled demands for profit against the quality of life demands of the resident; a scale that has been made unbalanced with the activities of the recent past.

From the last election cycle, the public has seen small glimpse of changes. The City Council as a whole is becoming more responsive. The creation of a public information officer should prove useful for information gathering apart from the delaying tactic of a Public Records Request. The resident friendly pattern of Councilmen Singer and Rodgers with their open forums for the resident to express collective and individual concerns has become useful and welcomed.

Council members have begun to challenge staff’s often-misleading presentations. This is perhaps the most needed change, a change that is slowly taking hold and finally, the recognizable need by the Council to provide action items not merely lip service to the resident’s concerns or risk the political peril of an angry electorate….

Another item worth mentioning is BocaWatch’s use of video to provide the institutional and historical prospective. Boca Raton has an extremely well developed video library and platform.

All City Council, CRA, and Boca Raton Regional Airport meetings are captured and preserved for institutional recollection. BocaWatch has begun to use this library as a resource to remind the elected official of the history on any given subject. This is a resource second to none – using their own words to remind them about the reasoning upon which they previously acted….excellent.

BocaWatch is experimenting with other video applications. In the future you can expect for us to post video interviews of public persons/officials on topics of interest to the public.

And finally, BocaWatch continue to believe that there is little chance to achieve political victory inside City Hall. This past year has seen the use of outside agencies as the moderator for good governance. BocaWatch encourages citizens to continue to speak up and file complaints with these watchdog agencies.

Although a slow process, the use of these agencies will convey a chilling effect on the powers that be to modulate their behavior or risk public reprimand for their efforts.

Remember, changing behavioral patterns is difficult but if it were easy anyone could do it….Stay the course….