Nutrients are what’s causing algae blooms threatening South Florida beaches, turning our otherwise crystal clear water poisonous and brown. These aren’t the kind of nutrients that are good for you like proteins and carbohydrates – instead these are the kind of nutrients plants use. Nitrogen and phosphorous are the two elements, the nutrients, that get into our freshwater systems and create environmental damage when their concentrations are too high. Beach-goers faced with warning signs and nasty water wonder how that damage occurs and where these two nutrients originate in South Florida waters.
Boca Raton is at a crossroads. As a recent vote in our City Council so dramatically illustrated, our elected officials were split 2-2 between the desires of developers and the wishes of local residents. At issue was whether to grant a zoning variance so that the developer of Tower 155 could use a vacant lot on SE Mizner Boulevard as a “staging area” to facilitate construction. SE Mizner Boulevard is a neighborhood, and neighbors objected vociferously to the creation of another construction site near their residences. Council Members Singer and Rogers sided with the developer; Council Members O’Rourke and Mayotte with the opposition. The proposed variance failed on a tie vote– a victory for the residents on SE Mizner.
Tower 155 is a twelve-story, two-acre building that an earlier Council vote allowed to be built on a 1.2 acre parcel. It may be the Taj Mahal (and priced accordingly), but it’s the Taj Mahal on a postage stamp. Just look at how it rises like a concrete and glass wall right next to the sidewalks on either side. The developer doesn’t even have enough room to maneuver his construction equipment without shutting off lanes of both SE Mizner and East Boca Raton Road. The existing alley between Tower 155 and the Post Office is now wide enough for little more than bowling. Don’t believe me? Take a walk or ride over there and see for yourself. The first thing you will ask is “Who approved this?”
The answer is Councilmen Singer, Weinroth, and Mullaugh on a 3-2 vote. Councilmen Weinroth and Mullaugh are no longer on the City Council—although Weinroth is running for Palm Beach County Commissioner this November. Scott Singer became Mayor of Boca following Mayor Haynie’s removal, and is currently running for election to a full term.
Councilman Singer’s elevation to Mayor created two Council seats to be filled on August 28th. The occupants of those two seats will determine the future direction of our City Council—and of our City. Three candidates are running for Mayor. Scott Singer and BocaWatch founder Al Zucaro are the two frontrunners. Running for Singer’s old seat (Seat A) are Andy Thomson, who has the endorsement of the Chamber and a lot of developers, and local activists Tamara McKee and Kathy Cottrell. BocaBeautiful.org is taking a close look at the positions and voting records of all the candidates and will be deciding about endorsements in the next few weeks. We think that Boca’s City Government needs a change of vision and direction. We are looking for the best people to deliver that change.
The election date was chosen because it is the day that Palm Beach County holds primary elections for the November ballot. It is ironic that such an important vote on Boca’s future will take place at a time when many residents are out of town. You can thank ex-Mayor Haynie’s legal difficulties for that. If you want to have a voice in Boca’s future it is important that you make sure you are registered to vote. You can find out by making a simple phone call to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office in Delray: 561-276-1226 or in West Palm Beach: 561-656-6200. They will tell you. The deadline for registration for the primary is July 30th.
Once registered, if you are not going to be in Boca on August 28th or for the early voting August 18-25, you can request an absentee ballot from the Supervisor of Elections office. The easiest way is on line at www.pbcelections.org. Just click on “vote by mail” and follow the instructions. If you don’t have a computer but have a car, take a leisurely drive up Congress to 345 S. Congress Ave, Room 103, in south Delray Beach and the friendly staff behind the counter will take good care of you. No fuss, no muss, no waiting. Absentee ballots will be mailed to you after July 24th at the address you provide. Be sure to mail it back well before August 28th so your vote will be counted. You can also call one of the phone numbers above and request a vote by mail application that, once you receive it, you can mail back and get your absentee ballot mailed to your non-Boca address.
On August 28th we will know which way Boca’s future lies. With a resident-friendly majority on our City Council and some fresh faces in City Government that future can be a lot brighter. The stakes on August 28th couldn’t be higher. Wherever you are, be sure to vote.
John C. Gore
Matt Spritz is running in the GOP primary for the Florida State House of Representative (District 89). Learn about who he is and the issues that are important to him. The primary is August 28 2018.
Political jargon is something that seems intentionally muddled. I learned about what separates an endorser from a supporter after reading a recent letter from a reader. It made me ask my Publisher, Al, what it means to endorse someone versus simply supporting them. Like many people I considered an endorsement as something exclusive: I thought you couldn’t give it to two political opponents in the same race for the same office. We talked about it a bit and he does like he usually does: looks up the local ordinance or state statute that’s relevant.
My name is Michael Bell. I am a 13 year resident of Boca Raton. I have been trying to follow the City Council government for the past six years through the commentary in BocaWatch and attending Council meetings.
I made a contribution to Scott Singer’s candidacy and agreed that he could use my name. THIS WAS BEFORE AL ZUCARO DECLARED HIS INTENTIONS. I have since made a contribution to Al’s campaign. I will vote (absentee ballot) for Al and not Scott because Al is the better man for the job of mayor.
Whether you are a recent subscriber or an original you must realize that Al has put his heart and soul into keeping us informed of the inner workings of City Council, or should I say mis-workings!
Who else has kept a tab on every vote and their consequence. Who has made us aware of the allegiance of elected officials and candidates for the coming election. Who, two years ago, while running for mayor, accused Susan Haynie of misdeeds. Who created an atmosphere that developed and gave voice to Andrea Levine O’Rourke and Monica Mayotte so that they would run for City council. Who is doing the same for Kathy Cottrell. Who has given a voice to others through BocaWatch videos of “What’s Boca Saying?” Who put a team together with people such as Jack McWalters, Katie Barr, Jessica Gray and James and Nancy Hendry.
And, who among the candidates is saying it’s not just the Council that has been negligent but the city manager, the city attorney and others.
Who for six years has had our backs………AL ZUCARO.
IT IS TIME FOR CHANGE……….LET’S HAVE AL’S BACK……..VOTE FOR AL!
PS: Absentee ballots are easy to get. Call 561-656-6200. Ask a team member to email or fax you the form. They must be signed by each individual and mailed back to be valid.
After reading this I wondered if its author is now officially an endorser of both Al Zucaro and Scott Singer. Clearly he states that his wish is for Al to win the race, as per his letter, and that his intention is to officially endorse Al by it. But does his writing this letter officially retract his endorsement from Scott? Does he have to write a similar letter to Scott telling him he officially un-endorses him in order for Scott to count his endorsers correctly?
Many political races result in opposing candidates receiving support from the same contributor. A contributor can support two opposing candidates. This happens often in Presidential elections, but usually the degree of support is greater for one of the candidates. For legal purposes, if someone contributes money to a campaign they can be counted as a Supporter. Supporters have to be counted for legal purposes, to make sure campaign finance laws are being followed.
A person can write a letter of endorsement, similar to the one shown above, without necessarily showing support by being a contributor. They can be called a supporter, but not a Supporter in terms of being a Contributor. They can say that they EXCLUSIVELY ENDORSE a candidate. That implies they’re definitely not supporting the opposition. They can state that they retract their endorsement, or make one endorsement exclusive. But without doing something like that, both candidates are free to claim that individual as an endorser.
Let’s take a look at the Florida Statute that functionally defines those terms:
Florida Statute 106.143(4) It is unlawful for any candidate or person on behalf of a candidate to represent that any person or organization supports such candidate, unless the person or organization so represented has given specific approval in writing to the candidate to make such representation.
From this statue it appears that anyone who supports a candidate becomes an endorser, automatically by virtue of the support. It would be a simple matter if the term “support” were limited to financial contributions. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be. Let’s think about today’s real world example: The “Endorsement” form on Scott Singer’s website. He asks for a name and email address, so he can count his website visitors as Endorsers. Ok, fair enough. Although anyone from out of town could sign up and submit a fake name, I’d expect his campaign to be doing some kind of vetting, making sure the people who sign up are actual residents. You could sign me up, or sign Al Zucaro’s name to it. I wonder if Scott would count me or Al. Technically Al Zucaro could become a Scott Singer Endorser, out of admiration for his opponent or just to be polite. Or maybe he’s put his name in that list because he’d want to receive Scott’s campaign emails?
If he was sincere about it, and wanted to be nice to Scott, would Scott count him? Would Scott list him as one of his Endorsers? He could, technically according to Florida Law.
I imagine back when the law was first envisioned it was somewhat laborious to get out your ink and quill, sit down at your desk and write an endorsement letter. It meant something substantial to a candidate to receive a physical piece of paper, signed by the constituent, where the constituent invested in paper, packaging and post.
But now, it’s quite different. I feel guilty, somewhat, being one of those “web developer” guys who digitized everything, bringing it all one click away. Now there’s 10,000 digital ways a voter can “support” and therefore “endorse” a candidate. Now an endorsement is instantaneous. Now it can be done with too few clicks.
Are these things endorsements?
- Sending a candidate money without any letter of endorsement?
- Sending an email that says “good luck” to a candidate without even mentioning the election?
- Sending a message to a candidate via social media, like a Facebook Message or a Twitter DM?
- Liking the candidate’s Facebook Page?
- Being a friend with the candidate’s Facebook Profile?
- Following the candidate on Twitter?
- Tweeting out an explicit statement of endorsement?
- Using the candidate’s name in a hashtag?
- Liking a Post or a Tweet from a candidate?
- Joining a candidate’s email list?
- Entering your name and email into an online “Endorsement” form without being told what it means?
- Being photographed with a sign supporting the candidate.
- Being photographed wearing a campaign T-shirt?
Is it cool for a candidate to tell you someone “endorsed” them because of the above? Florida Law says in some of those cases, in certain ways, it is.
What do you think?
Mike Caruso is running in the GOP primary for the Florida State House of Representative (District 89). Learn about who he is and the issues that are important to him. The primary is August 28 2018.
As a mayoral candidate in the upcoming August 28h election I’ve been walking all over Boca’s neighborhoods talking to residents face to face. Midtown keeps coming up. Residents are feeling frustrated with the process. They’ve been asking me, “what’s happening with Midtown” and “what’s your position on it?” As a resident I’ve had my own personal reactions to the facts as they’ve emerged, but as a publisher and candidate I’ve had a unique opportunity to hear about Midtown from all the different angles. This is a thorny issue but I’ll crystallize the state of Midtown, where the breakdown in communication is occurring, and how my perspective on it has transformed from listening.
What’s Happening with Midtown?
During the Small Area Plan meeting at the Spanish River Library, the facilitator announced a six (6) month time line for a draft report to the City Council; around November, 2018. Extrapolating further, the ‘plan’ would not be ready for City Council action until after the new year; a time delay of at least 9 months or more even in the best of circumstances. In the meantime, the area would remain blighted; the neighborhoods would remain in development limbo; the political and legal acrimony would proceed at fever pitch.
Complicating the matter now is that Crocker Partners, one of the developers has filed two lawsuits, one for damages with exposure to the City in the $135 million dollar range and one for declaratory relief.
Here is where the communication breakdown occurs.
The City Attorney apparently has instructed the council members that because of litigation, there should be no communication with the developer(s) on any matter involving the rezoning efforts and/or any potential negotiated compromise. All communications are shut down except through the mouths of lawyers.
How convenient and at what expense!
In fact, courts encourage communication and negotiation between parties. Have you never heard of ‘Court Ordered Mediation’?
Our elected officials again are deferring their responsibilities to protect the residents to the City Attorney; the same City Attorney whose actions or lack thereof are responsible for the city’s current ethics challenges. By shutting down communications our elected officials are left with no path to resolve the dispute resulting in the small area plan being further delayed for an indeterminate time.
Jack McWalter and I have spoken to Crocker directly, asking questions about this hypothetical Small Area Plan. For purposes of this discussion Jack and I used the latest iteration of the city staff’s draft ordinance and the public record presentations on the Midtown proposal at the P&Z Board and the City Council.
Originally, the Midtown Rezoning Plan proposed 2500 residential units for the entire geographic area; an area of approximately 300 acres. The P&Z Board recommended 600 units. Big difference from 2500….Since then, the Town Center Mall has opted out of the plan and Glades Plaza seems unlikely to move towards residential development; the small area planning process has a much smaller parcel to consider.
With those changes, there is now a new dynamic available for a renewed negotiation. Because the City Attorney’s instruction to the council members is to not engage, no communication or negotiation is progressing. Within the last 30 days, I have spoken three times with the developer in discussions to better understand the dynamics. These discussions have resulted in a completely different matrix for resident consideration.
Provided here is a visual for what amounts to a ‘small area plan’; a plan addressing elements such as unit count, density and allocations; Military Trail improvements; traffic; Tri-Rail requirements; street infrastructure/Infrastructure funding; building heights; street types; open space requirements; minimum floor area; existing building and structures; enhanced shuttle service; and more. In fact, this visual is exactly what the community has been asking for; a visual depicting what the developer envisions.
The entirety of these elements is far beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice it to say that the developer is open to negotiation on any or all of these. Some comments do however have to be established in the context of openness and transparency.
The visual shows a reduced developer requested unit count to 1500; a number still thought to be too high. Another concern is the southwest corner land parcel, west of Military Trail, currently suggests a 300 residential unit development. This is troubling. Community residents have expressed the desire for that space to remain open; sort of an Urban Green Space. The developer is committed to dedicating some portion of this land parcel for such a green space that residents can enjoy. Assuming such a dedication, the developer’s unit count would then reduce to a more manageable number below the 1500 unit mark; some suggestion has emerged that 1000 units would be a comfortable level.
Other considerations are that heights would not exceed 125 feet, a reduction from the 145 feet currently contemplated; street types remain a subject for further discussion; and, developer agrees to staff’s open space requirement providing that right of ways and setbacks count toward meeting the requirement. A compromise of 600 square foot units with an 800 square foot average is proposed. Grandfathering existing structures is an open topic with the developer willing to agree to structural alterations when alterations exceed 50% of the structure’s value. Finally, an enhanced shuttle is desired by all sides. Payment of this amenity is up for negotiation depending on whether a CRA is established to service the entire area in the future.
This suggestion is not offered as a final solution for the MidTown project. These elements are merely a restarting point for the community to consider and comment upon; a starting point to again open up dialogue designed to meet the needs and wants of the community, the developer and, ultimately, the residents.
Ugh! Restarting Again?
Take it from this lawyer with two thumbs: it’s better than litigation.
Leadership requires communication and negotiation. Litigation is counterproductive; a lose-lose proposition; neither side actually wins in the courtroom but, most of all, Boca Raton residents ultimately have to suffer through the fight and also suffer large potential financial loses not to mention the impacts on quality of life and property valuations. The differences in this suggested proposal from what the staff has said it wants and what the developer need to get are relatively small but the current litigation posture makes it near impossible to resolve.
It is time to exercise leadership and sit across the negotiating table to bring this deal to closure. It is time to arrive at a practical solution for what will be a defining project in Boca Raton. That is what leadership demands and elected officials are responsible for; that is what is in the best interest of the residents.
And why am I doing this, why am I opening my self up to criticism, to misleading political mailers like the one you may have received in the mail recently?
Leadership!, Leadership! Leadership! My Opponent, Acting Mayor Singer has not shown leadership in his past performance; his present performance; and, will not show leadership in the future.
Some residents, like my stubborn Editor Jason Pelish, suggest playing chicken with litigation, thinking $135 million of other people’s money, your money, is worth gambling to keep the population lower. $135 million pays for a lot of pensions, a lot of splashpads, and maybe even a park or two. That’s a lot to gamble when negotiation is still possible. My position on it is that we’ve got to keep negotiating, that dialog is the way.
Please stop the posturing and, for the sake of the residents, seize the moment!
Publisher of BocaWatch
Here’s a mid-summer 2018 update on Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s search for a partner. The Boca Raton Regional Hospital Board took the bold step acting from a position of strength to seek a larger health system partner that would mitigate the challenges of a stand-alone hospital in a complex and evolving health care industry. After substantial work to identify partner candidates, solicit and receive a dozen attractive proposals from some of the best health systems in the country, , and review each of the proposals in great detail including extensive discussions and entertaining site visits by several of the partners at our Boca Regional facilities, our board has narrowed the list of potential partners to Baptist Health of South Florida and the Cleveland Clinic.
Baptist Health of South Florida and the Cleveland Clinic would each make great partners. At the same time, they are quite different organizations and present different challenges and opportunities for Boca Raton Regional Hospital. We are privileged to have two outstanding organizations interested in partnering with Boca Raton Regional Hospital.
Over the next two months the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Board through a designated ad hoc Committee chaired by community leader Dick Schmidt and charged by the Board with making a recommendation in this matter will be conducting detailed due diligence on each of these partner candidates. At the same time, the two partner candidates will be taking a closer look at Boca Regional so they understand all of our strengths and challenges and can hit the ground running when we make a selection of the successful partner. We have already made site visits to the Cleveland Clinic’s Ohio and Florida hospitals as well as visiting several of the Baptist Health of South Florida hospitals. We are currently in the process of mutual documentary due diligence and well as negotiation of a detailed letter of intent with each of the finalist partner candidates for execution in the event they are selected as the successful partner.
At this time, I anticipate that our Board will select the successful partner for Boca Raton Regional Hospital in the next two months whereupon we will execute the detailed letter of intent with our selected partner and begin the process of completing final legal documents, regulatory approvals, and closing. I anticipate a closing with our selected partner by the end of the calendar year.
The Boca Raton Regional Hospital Board has pledged transparency through an open partnership search process from the start. Over the next several months, we will convene the Community Advisory Committee as things evolve and will host an open community meeting before a closing regarding this matter.
I applaud the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Board of Directors and Christine Lynn, Board Chair for their proactive step from a position of strength that will result in rebuilding our aged inpatient hospital facility, prepare us for evolving and difficult health care challenges, and most importantly continue to position Boca Raton Regional Hospital as the preeminent academic regional referral medical center in south Florida for decades to come. All of this is in fulfillment of our mission to serve our community with outstanding health care and patient satisfaction that is among the best in the country.
Publisher’s Comment: Once upon a time in the recent past, Acting Mayor Scott Singer contacted BocaWatch’s new Editor, Jason Pelish, to congratulate him on his new role. During that conversation Mr. Singer informed our Editor that some items reported by BocaWatch were factual untruths and distortions of his record; that BocaWatch and its publisher lie. In response, our Editor said that BocaWatch would print a retraction and correct the record for any reported factual assertion identified to be untrue. To date, Mr. Singer has failed to respond to this invitation; an invitation now over three months old.
Jack McWalter’s video commentary this week reports that Mr. Singer, in a recent campaign mailer, is again accusing BocaWatch of lies. Again, BocaWatch invites Mr. Singer to submit any factual untruths, and if, as he claims, there are lies, BocaWatch will publish a retraction to correct the record. Again, however, Mr. Singer, in his most recent campaign literature, demonstrates a faulty recollection of the facts. Two (2) weeks ago, BocaWatch published an accurate report of Mr. Singer’s voting history; a history demonstrating his ‘developer friendly’ four (4) year voting record; a history demonstrating his seeking out and accepting campaign funds from the very developers whose approvals he has been voting on; and, finally, as reported in this week’s article by Jim Wood, demonstrating an analysis of Mr. Singer’s campaign literature claims measured against the official records obtained from the City Clerk’s office. You the reader are invited to read these articles and view the video commentary to make your own assessments as to what belongs in the truth column opposed to what merits the ‘Liar Liar Pants on Fire’ designation.
On Monday, June 25, 2018 we received Scott Singer’s campaign literature in the mail and decided to perform a check of the three prominent assertions in the brochure. That is, school overcrowding, overdevelopment and traffic congestion. These three issues are important to Boca Raton voters.
Our fact checking follows the PolitiFact scoring system, i.e., there are six possible scores assigned to each assertion and they range from “True” to “Pants on Fire.”
Before we get into a discussion of the three assertions in the brochure, it is useful to establish an analysis framework. Scott Singer first became a member of Boca Raton’s City Council in April, 2014; over four years ago. Our analysis of the three assertions, therefore, spans the last four years.
The scoring and discussion of each point follows.
The assertion “Championed New Public School for Boca” is a distraction from the full extent of the Boca Raton school overcrowding problem. The City Council was alerted to the issue in 2015 by longtime resident Jack McWalter, but he was told that it was not the City Council’s problem. He persisted in highlighting the growing problem and in February, 2018 Chris Scarpa, another resident, spoke to City Council on the critical overcrowding problem at Boca Raton High School. Mr. Scarpa was also told by the mayor that it was not the City Council’s problem and the other City Council members sat silent, with the exception of Council Member O’Rourke.
The following table shows the current occupancy situation with public schools in the City of Boca Raton.
|Addison Mizner Elementary||K-5||869||996||87%|
|Boca Raton Elementary||K-5||424||401||106%|
|Del Prado Elementary||K-5||945||929||102%|
|J.C. Mitchell Elementary||K-5||997||1032||97%|
|Boca Raton Community Middle||6-8||1584||1417||112%|
|Don Estridge High Tech Middle||6-8||1264||1254||101%|
|Boca Raton Community High||9-12||3562||2928||122%|
|Spanish River Community High||9-12||2401||2259||106%|
- Source – School District of Palm Beach County – February FTE Enrollment Report SY2017-18 (FY2018) – February 9, 2018
- Calusa capacity includes 198 seats in modular buildings
Genuine leaders do not try to take credit for partial solutions. Instead, they exert leadership to implement a vision and prevent problems like school overcrowding from occurring. In addition to a new elementary school, which is forecasted to be available in August 2020, the school district is implementing measures to try to address existing capacity issues in Boca Raton schools.
The assertion “Record of opposing overdevelopment” is not backed-up by any facts. The following table shows that Scott Singer voted to approve 21 multi-family residential developments and to not approve a density increase to a previously approved development. This information was obtained from the Boca Raton city clerk’s voting database and spans the interval from April 8, 2014 until May 8, 2018.
|Vote Date||Dwelling Units||Yes Vote*||No Vote*||Development Name|
|6/10/2014||370||X||900 Broken Sound|
|9/9/2014||75||X||Spanish River Highlands|
|1/27/2015||282||X||6700 North Congress|
|8/10/2015||25||X||327 Royal Palm|
|10/27/2015||8||X||Pine Circle Villas|
|11/24/2105||409||X||University Village Density Increase|
|12/7/2015||104||X||Via Mizner + 164 Rm Hotel|
|12/8/2015||1||X||2500 North Ocean|
|11/22/2016||180||X||5500 Broken Sound|
|8/21/2017||193||X||375 Royal Palm|
|10/24/2017||70||X||1 S. Ocean|
|2/26/2018||48||X||475 Royal Palm|
*by Scott Singer
Many would argue that overdevelopment was already occurring in 2014 when Scott Singer joined the City Council and that when the above developments come on-line the problem will be made much worse.
The claim of “Smarter solutions to reduce traffic” is not backed up by results. In 1992 the City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Emil Danciu, adopted Ordinance 4035 which was designed to prevent traffic problems by requiring specified road and transportation improvements before downtown developments were approved. The following table using information from Ordinance 4035 shows the development thresholds.
|Max Sq Ft||Improvements|
The way to interpret this is that the maximum square feet of development cannot be exceeded until specified road and transportation improvements are completed. Some of the improvements are outside of the downtown. All of the improvements have been completed with the exception of improving the Camino/Dixie intersection, which is one of the four projects required to be completed to allow more than 3,000,000 square feet of development. The required improvement to that intersection was waived by Boca Raton’s Community Redevelopment Agency in January, 2015.
The current status of development in the downtown is that over 6,800,000 square feet has been developed or approved for development. Smart traffic management leadership would have extended the strategy of not approving any development until required road and transportation improvements were implemented.
In summary this article has examined three important claims from Scott Singer’s campaign literature. The claims are regarding Boca Raton school overcrowding, overdevelopment and traffic congestion. The claims about schools and traffic were found to be misleading as the total scope of the problems were not addressed or solved. The assertion “Record of opposing overdevelopment” is in no way supported by the facts.
The party BocaWatch threw for Yvonne and Al at Sugar Sand Park was really fun. Everyone was invited. It was especially nice to see opposing political candidates get together and enjoy some food, games and a wonderful day at one of Boca’s most iconic parks. County Commission Candidates Billy Vale and Bob Weinroth both took advantage of the free food truck catering their families. Council Candidate Kathy Cottrell was there with her husband and Tamara McKee stopped by to say “Hi” towards the end. Also making a cameo appearance was Beach and Park District Commissioner Steve Engle, one of five Commissioners responsible for this incredible family venue. If other candidates showed up I didn’t notice them; they missed out on the cake.