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Listen Up Boca! – Ignorance is no Excuse

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Transcript of video:

Ignorance is no excuse….

For over one year now, Susan Haynie has denied any unethical practices; denied any breach of the public trust in her secret financial ties with the largest commercial land owner in downtown Boca Raton.

In the last six months, there have been numerous stories written by reputable organizations uncovering facts that tend to make Ms. Haynie’s denial doubtful.  However, many people, including the members of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and the City Council, appeared to be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The argument to take no action was that Ms. Haynie was the subject of both county and state ethics commission complaints and those complaints would provide resolution for the alleged ‘breach’  of the public trust.

This non-action position by our elected officials has provided ‘political cover’ for Ms. Haynie and she has been acting like ‘business as usual’ for way too long a period of time now.

On April 16, 2018….that ‘political cover’ evaporated.  The Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics entered into a negotiated settlement with Ms. Haynie where our Mayor admits to a violation of the ethics law and accepts the most severe penalty the County Commission on Ethics can impose.

The benefit of the doubt is no longer available….

Ms. Haynie accepted culpability for the ethics violation and agreed to the fine and public reprimand.  She has now declared this to be the end of the underlying incident and states she is trustworthy to be elected to the County Commission seat D; a higher seat she seeks later this year.

Is this the end of the matter….not even maybe!!!

The County COE asserted the harshest penalty they could and, yes, the ethics inquiry is ended in PBC.  However, the State of Florida Commission on Ethics is still investigating. Ms. Haynie’s ethical challenges are ongoing with an anticipated probable cause hearing in the near future.

The State COE has much more serious outcomes available to it.  It can fine up to $10,000 per violation; it can recommend her removal from office to the Governor; it can refer the matter to the State Attorney for investigation and prosecution.

So, from Ms. Haynie’s point of view, this matter is far from over.

From the resident’s POV, the results to date are wholly unacceptable.

The hearing process employed by Ms. Haynie’s attorney, Tallahassee based Mark Herron, has been to avoid the evidentiary hearing and negotiate a settlement with the COE; a convenient outcome for all sides except the resident.

Why…the resident gets to know only a limited amount of admitted facts; but does not get to know the entirety of the circumstances…

This became evident in the County COE’s documentation that establishes in Count one, misuse of office, the activities may have been inadvertent and unintentional; a legal conclusion made without the benefit of a full blown hearing.

In Count two, failure to disclose conflict, the County COE found her to be in violation but, due to the lack of evidence, could not conclude whether her activity was intentional or unintentional.  This inability is the exact point of negotiating a settlement rather than submit to an evidentiary hearing.

This strategy is most likely being employed at the State COE as well…

Hopefully the state COE will not accept a negotiated settlement and conduct the hearing where the facts can be presented and the residents can hear the extent of her unethical activities; her breach of the public trust.  We will have to wait and see…

In the meantime, I refer you back to my commentary of November 27 2017, titled Not My Job, where it is pointed out to the other members of the CRA that the Community Redevelopment Act provides for legal process to conduct an evidentiary hearing of any CRA member who is deemed to have acted inappropriately with penalties if that action is  sustained.

Deputy Mayor Scott Singer, then CRA Chair, refused to consider bringing this action forward and sat quiet allowing an unethical member to remain on the body taking votes that directly and/or indirectly affect outcomes of the very commercial land owner that is named in the ethics violations.

Then Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers also sat on his hands by not evoking the available tools in the City Charter to bring this matter to a head at the city council arguing that the COE actions would bring the appropriate closure…

Well Closure has arrived….

What action will the CRA/City Council take now???

What excuse will be argued for not taking a corrective action???

In the last election cycle, both Jeremy Rodgers and Scott Singer were politically aligned with Susan Haynie; each publically demonstrated their support for the other; each appeared at the other’s fundraisers and those of Armand Grossman, their supported candidate for City Council.

Rodgers even stood up at a recent Republican Executive Committee meeting and publically endorsed Susan Haynie for the county commission seat with Scott Singer standing on his right hand shoulder and Arman Grossman on his left.

No wonder they refused to move forward with an evidentiary hearing in Council chambers; a hearing that would provide Ms. Haynie with due process; with proper notice; and, with the statutory right to be heard and represented by counsel.

In the past 6 weeks, Ms. Haynie has been found to have violated ethics in two different matters. In each of these it was the result of a settlement and in each there was finding by the County COE that her actions were Inadvertent

Give me a break…

An elected official over the last 16 years claims she did not know taking $600 in tickets from a vendor doing business with the city and/or voting on matters that financially benefit a client of her private outside business are ethics concerns.  Such excuse is pure folly…laughable….Ethics 101 addresses these blatant matters.

The benefit of the doubt is gone….non-existent any longer.  The State COE’s action is pending with very serious outcomes possible; and the public still remains represented by an admitted ethics violator.

The time to act has long come and gone…but better late than never…

Ms. Haynie has only one path out of this quagmire…RESIGN!

Allow the residents the opportunity to replace her for the betterment of the political body.

Only time will tell what the other four elected officials choose to do….

But to do nothing is not acceptable especially in light of the Ms. Haynie’s admission and the broad language of the stipulated agreement and order.

The breach of public trust remains and will remain so long as Ms. Haynie is allowed to continue to participate in setting public policy for the residents in the city of Boca Raton

Thank you.

Al Zucaro
Publisher
BocaWatch

 

 

 

Advantage Beach and Parks Commissioners

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Hidden Valley is the perfect home for the Nadal Tennis School.

Publisher’s Comment:    

In tennis terms….’Advantage Beach and Parks Commissioners’….for responding so quickly to the voice of the people.  People treasure the parks.  The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District is the custodian of these treasures.  Five elected officials are the representative voices of the people.  So…to see these representatives of the people act in sync with those they represent reassures and restores faith in government; government ‘of the people’; ‘by the people’; and ‘for the people’.
Thank you Commissioners from the people……..


Al Zucaro
Publisher 

(image by Jessica Gray)

What is a Bicycle Friendly Community?

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You’ve seen the purple signs proclaiming Boca Raton as a Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC), but what does that really mean? This brief article explains the BFC award in general as well as Boca’s BFC status in particular.

The League of American Bicyclists created the BFC program in 1995 as a roadmap for improving conditions for bicycling in communities across the US. That is, community leaders are provided with feedback on the status of their community’s bicycling-related status as well as suggestions for improvement. The areas addressed are:

  • Engineering: Creating safe and convenient places to ride and park
  • Education: Giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride
  • Encouragement: Creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling
  • Enforcement: Ensuring safe roads for all users
  • Evaluation & Planning: Planning for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option

Communities that are interested in participating in the BFC program are required to have a government official complete an application consisting of more than 80 questions regarding the above five areas. The application is then reviewed by the League and a score assigned. The score determines the award level. The following chart shows the latest BFC award ranking.

Communities who receive awards must reapply every four years to receive an evaluation and a determination of an award level, if any. Since its inception in 1995 over 1,500 community applications have been processed and 430 communities are currently recognized as BFC’s. The reason for requiring re-applying every four years is that the bar for qualifying for awards continues to be raised.

Boca’s first BFC award was a bronze level in 2003. At that time there were only a few BFC’s in Florida and none in Palm Beach County. Today there are 26 BFC’s in Florida and Boca is still the only BFC in Palm Beach County. Of the 26 BFC’s in Florida seven have the silver award and 19 have the bronze award. Click here to see Boca’s latest report card.

Our city scored very good in the category of Bicycle Education in Schools. Here is a League comment on Boca’s most recent award.

Renewing Bronze BFC Boca Raton, FL, is committed to “providing more opportunities for education and outreach to younger riders.” The city has offered a three-week bicycle education program that includes off-bike (pedestrian safety) and on-bike (bicycle riding skills) components. Two out of five of the Boca Raton elementary schools received bike education last year. The other three will receive education within the next few years.

May is National Bicycle Month (Florida Bicycle Month is March) so let’s use this as motivation to take advantage of the bicycling opportunities in Boca. Where to go? The City makes available some awesome cycling maps in print format and on-line. Print maps are available in City Hall as well as other places around the City and on-line cycling maps are available at: https://www.myboca.us/420/About-Bicycling.

Susan Haynie: Today’s Image of Our City

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Susan Haynie - Today's Face of Boca Raton

Not all of us are cut out for politics. Some people are attracted to it. Some people do well in it. But like anything else, no matter how hard you try, there’s always going to be things working against you. Some risks pay off. Some risks cost instead. People who dedicate years of their lives to service often have all their good work overshadowed by controversy and negative attention. To some this seems unfair. To others, simple, minor technicalities can imply larger issues; they could be just the tip of the iceberg. Whether the accusations against Susan Haynie are fair or not, they hurt Boca. Will Susan Haynie realize how much it’s hurting us and go back to just being our neighbor again?

If Parking Isn’t “Recycled” then Nature Loses

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There’s a big difference between paved land and land that’s green. Requiring a business to pave over otherwise green land to create unnecessary parking spaces isn’t Earth-friendly. However there is a way to maximize the utility of parking spaces while minimizing the impact it has on our environment, our stress levels and our mental health.

A Common Sense Approach to Boca’s Downtown Parking Problems

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A Common Sense Approach To Parking in Boca's Downtown

As Boca has grown, so has frustration over traffic and parking. The problem with traffic is that we have too many cars on too few streets. The problem with parking has always been ascribed to the “fact” that too many cars are looking for too few spaces.

The Great American Cleanup 2018

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58 volunteers removed 105 pounds of marine debris in two hours at South Beach Park in Boca Raton on Saturday, April 14th in observation of the Great American Cleanup. This county wide cleanup is sponsored by Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful, Gumbo Limbo and the Solid Waste Authority every April in an effort to make Palm Beach County neighborhoods and public spaces a safe, more enjoyable place.

Thanks For Your Participation In Our Patch Reef Park Poll

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Your voice was heard. You matter. Public sentiment was made clear by everyone who participated in this weekend’s Patch Reef Park poll.  When we put it up on this site Saturday night it was obvious how getting responses wasn’t going to be an issue. Many of you helped by sharing it on Facebook. Your help there made a big difference. Word got around quick.

We had expected to put the call-to-action about the poll on Tuesday’s email blast. After Monday night it became clear we shouldn’t; we didn’t have to. The deal between the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District and the Nadal Organization was officially taken off the table today. There’s no point in asking you to take the poll – the issue is history.

The reason? Public sentiment became impossible to ignore. We’d like to take credit for it, but we really can’t. This is just a website, words and pictures glowing on screens. What matters is YOU. Without your participation, participation here, participation in City Hall and participation in the voting booth none of this would matter.

There’s nothing worse than publishing something nobody reads, publishing something few people are interested in, publishing a poll that nobody participates in. This is only worth doing because of YOU. You read this – we can see that. You are interested in our content – we can see that. And thank you so much for participation in the poll. We can see what’s important to you, and we’re glad to see just how much we’re all on the same page. It’s nice to know.

Some conclusions are in order. Let’s explore what we learned.

  • It seems like the participants were very pro-green-space. People don’t like the idea of their parks getting paved over, getting concrete instead of trees.
  • Only 8% of the participants indicated that green space preservation is not important to them. The rest, 92%, stated how green space preservation drives their vote.
  • Since Legal Counsel is such an important element to defending green spaces we asked if this role should have a special responsibility to use legal powers for preservation, not to promote development. The people expect counsel to be a steward of the land, not an exploiter of it.
  • Even when a project has strong merit people still choose to have legal counsel refrain from speaking on its behalf if it threatens green space.
  • Rafael Nadal didn’t really have as many fans as you’d expect for how well known he is. If he did then they would have flooded our poll to add more “yes” votes. It makes you wonder if he could have actually been the draw the project’s proponents claimed it would be. Where were those anxious students?
  • The BocaWatch audience isn’t shy about filling out polls that matter to them.

Are there any other conclusions you see when you look at the results of the poll? Is there anyone who let you know about it on social media who you want to thank here? Let us know in the comments. Thanks again.

In Progress: The Commercialization of Parks

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In Progress: The Commercialization of Parks

Original Art by Jessica Gray

Publisher’s comment:   A Restaurant on the Wildflower; A High School in Sugar Sand Park; A Tennis Center in Patch Reef Park…three recent attempts to ‘commercialize’ Boca Raton parks…three attempts pushed back by the ‘voice’ of residents.  A voice that could not be clearer; to wit:  Elected officials attempting to ‘commercialize’ the parks do not have their finger on the ‘pulse’ of this community.   To the residents:  Remember, stay alert, stay informed and, most of all, continue to let your voice be heard…Al Zucaro

Crocker Partners: Winning Friends and Influencing People?

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On Thursday April 12th, local newspapers reported two stories about developer Crocker Partners and the City of Boca Raton.

Reported in the Palm Beach Post was Crocker Partners $170 million dollar purchase of the old IBM Site, now known as Innovation Village, located just west of I-95 on Yamato Road. The property currently houses the iconic 1.8 million square foot IBM building on a 130 Acre site. Per the Post, the building is approximately 70 percent leased with plans developing to improve common area amenities for existing and future tenants. Also being “explored” are additional uses for the site, including rental apartments, retail commercial shops and “maybe” a hotel; a village type plan. Being in a Planned Mobility District (PMD), the idea of expanding uages to a mixture of office, retail and residential area is available. More on this later….

Reported that same day in the Sun-Sentinel was Crocker Partners notifying City officials of its intent to sue over the city’s failure to adopt valid land use regulations within the required period of time under the PMD legislation adopted years ago. Crocker alleges that this failure to implement regulations is tantamount to the creation of an impermissible building moratorium. For this, Crocker is seeking damages in the amount of $137 million dollars. Under Florida law, the notice of intent is required. Once served, a 120 day clock begins ticking for the city to take corrective action. If unresolved , the lawsuit can move forward.

Let the ‘legal’ games begin.

The City Attorney is reported to have this notice of intent under advisement. Instructions have already been given to the elected officials of this pending action and conversations with parties should be avoided. It is anticipated that a cone of silence will be in place and discussions of legal strategy held out of the public eye. More on this as the situation evolves.

There are, however, other items deserving comment.

First, the Planned Mobility District was originally put in place covering the northwest sector of the city to stimulate economic development. Over the years it has been altered on a number of occasions obscuring the original intent to create live work areas designed to take trips off our roadways; to wit: by encouraging development that would be walk and bike friendly. Really?

In recent years PMD regulations have been modified allowing for greater residential opportunity and less commercial. One commentator has been heard on the public record stating that the PMD has now become nothing more then a ‘landowner relief act.’ Examples of this can be seen all along the corridors in the city’s northwest area. A perfect example is the ‘Allure’ residential project on the corner of Clint Moore and Congress; a residential project promoting itself as ‘luxury apartments’ with little if any commercial or retail within walking or biking distance.

What’s with this?…. and, what happened to the PMD selling point of providing ‘workforce housing?’

Workforce housing…that sounds familiar…The Midtown master developer, Crocker Partners, have been heard often to say that the 2500 units it is requesting are directed at providing ‘workforce housing.’ Really? Not at their stated price points!

The merits of an actual lawsuit are not the intent of this article. The intent here is to suggest that it may be time to revisit the PMD regulation; time to see if PMD has met its original aspirations; its objective of reducing trips on the city’s roadways.

It is interesting that Crocker Partners is threatening to sue the city on the one hand and will be coming into to the city for approvals for the IBM site on the other…Perhaps this is a Trumpian strategy meant to get the city to take an action; to acquiesce to Crockers Partners demands…only time will tell…..

However, the City Council should not blink…go to the mat with this….stay the course with the small area plan currently being developed; stay to course in implementing regulations consistent with the small area plan; and, push back at these ‘bully’ tactics….

Remember….you represent the residents’ interests. The developer/property owner has rights and property rights must be protected but… protected within a scheme that is in the best interests of the residents not the pecuniary interests of the developer.

One final observation…

The legal process will be costly, time consuming and litigious…Fight this fight…Get other cities to join in….Get the Palm Beach County League of Cities to take an active role…get the Florida League of Cities involved….

Cities cannot roll over and play dead in this instance….this is a fight worth fighting now that the gauntlet has been thrown down!!!

Al Zucaro

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