Our Mayor, one vote for El Rio, ignores 27,245 votes for the Wildflower – Outrageous!

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Born and raised in Chicago and a graduate of Loyola University. I went on to study at Chicago Kent Law, part of Illinois Institute of Technology, but stopped short to serve in the US Army for 3 years. Moved to Boca Raton with my family 35 years ago and began a 32 year career with IBM as Sales Executive and Business Director Manager with the Manufacturing Technology Center - now the Don Estridge School. Volunteering is in my blood, I especially enjoy working to raise money for children with special needs at the Jewish Community Center and look back fondly on the years spent coaching soccer and supporting Boca Jets football. My two children attended Addison Mizner, St Andrew's, Boca High, and are both graduates of University of Florida. If I sound like a fighter I am, beat cancer three times and I support all survivors who face that same challenge.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunately, Mr. McWalter is uninformed about the Hillsboro El Rio Park. The park has been in the City’s plans since 1988. Major capital funding for the park was approved by City Council in 2015. The park is 29 acres and includes playground, basketball, tennis, pickle ball, picnicking, and a soft launch for kayaks and paddle boards. Dr. Stevens’ comments at the Park and Rec Board meeting were about the need for a boat dock, not the park itself. It is not a question of El Rio versus Wildflower. We can and will do both. For a full history of the park, see the Facebook page
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/111307035868541/

    • Unfortunately, Mr Johnson isn’t informed about my involvement in the Hillsboro El Rio park. In 1980 I bought a house in River Forest which is part of Palm Beach Farms. I had small kids and immediately started to fight for more parks especially soccer fields since both my kids played soccer and I was a coach. Why do you think that soccer field is there now. I got into a ugly shouting match with Mayor Danciu since he disliked all of us IBMers causing to much traffic and congestion and demanding more parks for our kids. Mickey Gomez remembers me from those days. I think Mickey walks on water for his dedication to this city. I laud you Dave for keeping up the fight. I quit or gave up after my kids grew up and they are now in their 40’s. I disappeared for 25 years on this issue. Now I am fighting for parks for my grandchildren. LOL. I want to draw attention to all our parks and not just the wildflower site. We have the same goals but different ways of getting there. Developers want to steal our parks and this city council is in cohoots with them. Join us in our fight. March 2018 we have a chance to replace at least one and maybe 2 council members . I think it is ironic that most of us are present or former IBM guys fighting for our kids and grandchildren after 37 years.

  2. Jack,

    Please fully disclose what cities you are getting advice from regarding your two city manager friends. I don’t know many residents in Boca who want their cities run like they run things in California.

    The El-Rio park has been discussed for YEARS. It has been brought up at goal-setting by residents in the neighborhood FOR YEARS. In the 2.5 years I’ve been on council, David Johnson has probably spoken on it 3 or 4 times. Here’s a sun sentinel article from ** 2015 ** with details:

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/boca-raton/sfl-city-moves-forward-with-completing-hillsboro-el-rio-park-20151210-photogallery.html.
    If the link doesn’t work, just google “boca raton el rio park news”. it took me 5 seconds to find this.

    May I suggest instead of spending time questioning city managers in California, you ask some very basic questions of our own city (staff, or myself jrodgers@myboca.us) so you have a full set of facts to work from. We’re here to help.

    Final point, 27,245 votes for the Wildflower? Really??? James Hendrey, Chairman of the petition committee, was ADAMANT that referendum was about ALL of the waterfront parks, not just Wildflower.

    Mixing fact with fiction is confusing everyone.

    • Jeremy, “really”. Ronald Reagan once said the most terrifying words in the English language were ” I am from the government and I am here to help”. I think it is important that Boca residents know you are ok with developers stealing our parks for a restaurant. I was in those meetings 15 years ago and the 2 Susans tried to bs us into thinking the city bought that property for a restaurant. LOL. Above you think it is ok to attack James Hendry. You are really attacking 29k of us. We picked him as our leader to fight the ruthless chamber and the city council which spent maybe a million dollars and also accused us of being Nazi’s. Are you part of this cabal?. Many think you are . I can’t believe you are that stupid. I just back from Portland where the number one priority in their budget is parks. Also, visited my 2 sister cities in California and got an earful from college buddies. They said we have to change our city charter and comprehensive plan and replace our council with citizen friendly ADULTS and not children. As far as El Rio I was working on that park 37 years ago which is longer than you have been alive. See my note to Dave Johnson for details. You are a puzzle to many of us. We can’t figure out if you are part of the cabal or not. Well we got 6 months to find out.

  3. Sorry guys, you got this one all wrong. Just because Jack didn’t know about the El Rio Park doesn’t mean it popped out of nowhere. And it’s WAY more than a “dock” – It’s a passive/active park. If you want to see the design, you should stop in on on Mickey Gomez in Parks and Recreation and see the plans.

    Some facts:
    1. El Rio Park has been “Coming Soon” for more than the 24 years that I have lived in this neighborhood!
    2. Plans were drawn up but shelved during the downturn.
    3. After the recovery, there have been half a dozen noticed public meetings for input – well attended by the public, much like the Wildflower meetings.
    4. The council has discussed and voted on this park in regular meetings for the last 2-3 years
    5 The first year ~$500K was budgeted to to produce the initial designs and estimates for construction
    6 It now appears the the park is to be fully funded in the capital plan. After close to 30 years, it’s about time!

    Bottom line – this is not new at all. In fact, it’s one of the oldest, ongoing discussions about park space in the entire city. El Rio predates the Wildflower by decades…..

    So here’s the lesson: Discovering a line item in a budget that you don’t understand means you need to do some homework to find out it’s history. Many of you know how to reach me. Please feel free to call or write and I would be happy to fill you in on details.

    Most of all, get the facts before jumping to conclusions………….

    • Joe, you get all the facts about me before you jump to conclusions. I have been working for that park for 37 years when I bought a house in Palm Beach Farms. I gave up 25 years ago when my kids went off to college. I got into a shouting match in city hall with Mayor Danciu about parks and schools. Why do you think that soccer field is there. I was a nightmare for city hall 35 years ago. Just ask Mickey Gomez. Joe, I wrote the history so I don’t need you telling me what El Rio is all about. I am tired of dancing with city councils. I call it the texas 2 step. One step forward and 2 steps back. We need to get rid of this council if they don’t build not only El Rio but also wildflower site and many others. I am tired of being lied to, being mislead ,etc. I don’t trust this city council. They are in cohoots with developers. Joe, grow up and get with the program. Join us . March 2018 can’t come soon enough.

  4. Just watched your video, and the budget break down is great! I’ve lived in Palm Beach Farms for 19 years, very involved in our city and a consummate voter. I’ve been hearing about how the South part of El Rio park was going to be developed, with a wetlands area, dock and passive tennis courts for at least 10 years. This is not a “new” plan. I think it was put “in plans” when the fire station was finished, and/or in the master plan for El Rio park in general. That land was set aside for this future plan. If my memory serves me, I remember something about it having ecological importance (turtles or owls?) and thus had to be developed in a certain way. And we (South East Boca, PB Farms, Boca Square, Royal Palm, Camino Gardens, Carriage Hill etc) would LOVE to have such a park here. This part of Boca is filled with the kind of people who like nature, aren’t scared of it, and are green. This part of Boca votes and would LOVE to be able to ride bikes to a park to play tennis on first come/first serve courts, or drive and park with a paddleboard, hop off a dock and have a nice paddle. This is not some sneaked in plan; it’s been on the books for a very long time. You are simply incorrect. I respect your passion, intelligence, fiscal focus and research, but the conspiracy theorist tone about sneaked in plans, and the nastiestness of your tone referring snidely to how many children a public servant has and where a public servant lives and how that influences where parks get built, negates your mission. I encourage you to not pit neighborhoods against each other, not bring anyone’s children into anything and keep up your excellent research and advocacy for Boca Raton. Thank you.

    • Miss McKee your memory serves you correct. It is actually a former garbage dump (up through the 1950s!) so the development of the park requires a special reinforcement and more expensive building process to get things right and make sure the park doesn’t sink.

      Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers

    • Tamara, I have lived in that area for 37 years. I am mad as hell because past city councils have promised us a park for that long. I was the cities biggest nightmare 35 years ago advocating a soccer field over there. I was a coach and I needed fields for my kids. I once challenged Mayor Danciu to a fight in his bar 30 years ago when he said boca had enough parks and IBMers should leave if they don’t like it. This is what Haynie said to all those who don’t like all the traffic “just move”. Got it on tape when she was having a cocktail gathering with all her developer friends from the boca chamber of commerce. I apologize for my tone and attitude but not my motives. I want boca to be a better place to raise kids and also grow old. My video was intended to get everyone’s attention that we need to focus on all our parks not just one. I was being lighthearted when I referenced a “dozen kids” having fun. Jeremy and Scott know that. Is it unreasonable to want a park where my grandchildren can go and look at the fish or maybe fish. To late for my kids. I am tired of city council lies and BS. March 2018 can’t come soon enough.

    • Good morning Mr. Johnson, Your comment is posted and welcomed. Today’s blast hit at 6:00 A.M. this morning. Your comment came in at 8:46 A.M., less than one hour ago…This is my first opportunity to post the morning comments. I will try to be more timely in the future. Thank you for your readership and for posting the comment. BocaWatch’s purpose is to provide a platform for residents to voice their positions….Al Zucaro, Publisher

  5. I’m with Joe. I’ve lived in Palm Beach Farms for almost 21 years. There have been signs about a ‘new’ park at this location the entire time I’ve lived here, way before the fire station was there. It’s more than a dock the last time I saw the plans. You should contact David Johnson. He’s had a Facebook page to gather support for this park called Families Supporting the El Rio Hillsboro Park for many years. The park was in the budget to be developed until the Great Recession in 2007/2008. It was put on hold indefinitely until now. C’mon Jack, I love your videos, but I don’t think his was a topic to gripe about. There are so many other pressing issues in this budget!

    • Monica, I disagree with you that “There are so many other pressing issues in this budget”. Over $100k was spent on the referendum, 70 workers, and $1000’s spent getting it passed. For what??? To stop a city council that voted to sign a contract with a restaurant without resident input. It was a corrupt give away contract to Houston’s. I maintain there was a series of crimes commtted. I was the first nigthmare 37 years ago wanting a soccer field on 18th. So I don’t need you or Joe telling me history of El Rio. I was escorted out of city hall by mayor Danciu at a meeting when he refused to invest in any parks for our kids. I gave up 20 years ago when I kids grew up. I laud both of you for continuing the fight for El Rio. I am now fighting for mine and your grandchildren. Why don’t we get a pledge from the guys running for city council next year that they will invest in all the parks including El Rio. Fat chance. We know where Weinroth and the mayor stands. To me that is a ” pressing issue”.

  6. Jack, I thoroughly enjoy your videos and analysis, but I really think you missed the mark about the El Rio Hillsboro Park. This park has been in the planning stages since I before moved to Boca Raton in 1996. I remember there being money in the budget for the entire park development, not just a boat launch, prior to the Great Recession in 2007/2008. It was around that timeframe, due to budget cuts because of the recession, the park was put on hold. Please contact David Johnson and his Facebook page, Families Supporting the Hillsboro El Rio Park, and you can read the history of the neighborhood advocacy for the park. Thank you for all your dedication to the city of Boca Raton.

    • Monica, I first visited boca in 1972 for 3 months of training with IBM and I promised myself to come back and raise a family which I did in 1980. I finished my career with IBM in boca after 32 years and been retired for about 12 years. I know Addison Mizner, Boca high, St Andrews, Gators, and JCC where I was a member for 25 years,etc. I have been retired from local politics for about 20 years but came back and joined Boca Watch because I am mad as hell at what this city has become. I remember being in a meeting about 25 years ago when I was soccer coach with Art Bellisari and Mickey Gomez whom I view as two lions in our community. Their love for our kids is unmatched. We needed more parks and they lead the charge. I am sickened by the tactics of the developers and their disgusting influence on our city council. We need growth but do we need outsiders telling us what they will build without citizen input. March 2018 elections will be for the soul of boca. If we lose those 2 seats boca will be a congested urban area. Busing north will be the norm. Monica, get involved and become an activist.

  7. EDSA has shared conceptual plans and recommendations for our parks on two occasions. Although I may have missed it, I don’t recall hearing that dollars were budgeted for any of the parks in the Waterfront Study. Given the fact that all of the parks are under consideration for restoration, asking for clarification on allocated funds is not unreasonable.

  8. I think the El Rio Park is a pimple on the butt of a rhino. The more alarming point Jack makes is how Boca City Hall failed to submit projects for the penny sales surtax and allowed us to be set up as a donor city for everyone else in the county.

    To wit, the difference the Boca City Manager says we’ll get back ($52M) and what the county says we’ll get back ($61M) would pay for the cost of the El Rio park line item plus twice what’s been allocated to Wildflower and Wyman.

    Jack cleverly used the El Rio park as a ploy to render those issues explicit. I view the 27,245 votes (two thirds) as Boca residents halting the plans to “Revenue Positive Develop” our Intracoastal Waterfront Parks. So a budget item of $6.5M for a park not on the Intracoastal compared to $1.675M for two that are and another $1M for a plan smacks of feet dragging at worst, uninspired at best. IMHO.

    I live in Carriage Hill and would much rather see Boca’s strong financial position used to move the ball on Wildflower, Lake Wyman, Rutherford etc, which are in dis-repair and an artificial reef to replace the one killed by last year’s beach dredging before a dime is squandered going forward in the quagmire of building El Rio Park Phase II over a dump. Jack shows how both could be done. Doing both would be inspiring and show leadership.

  9. My comments inline below:

    Katie Barr August 29, 2017 at 2:25 pm – Reply

    EDSA has shared conceptual plans and recommendations for our parks on two occasions. Although I may have missed it, I don’t recall hearing that dollars were budgeted for any of the parks in the Waterfront Study. Given the fact that all of the parks are under consideration for restoration, asking for clarification on allocated funds is not unreasonable.

    * My Comment – I agree, but that was not the gist of the video. It was full of accusations and innuendo, not an analysis of the process which got us here, which was a legitimate and VERY long term process. It was not hidden, or deceitful in any way. In fact, it was managed better, IMHO, than any number of parks issues I’ve seen in the last ten years,

    Les Wilson August 29, 2017 at 2:25 pm – Reply

    I think the El Rio Park is a pimple on the butt of a rhino. The more alarming point Jack makes is how Boca City Hall failed to submit projects for the penny sales surtax and allowed us to be set up as a donor city for everyone else in the county.

    To wit, the difference the Boca City Manager says we’ll get back ($52M) and what the county says we’ll get back ($61M) would pay for the cost of the El Rio park line item plus twice what’s been allocated to Wildflower and Wyman.

    Jack cleverly used the El Rio park as a ploy to render those issues explicit. I view the 27,245 votes (two thirds) as Boca residents halting the plans to “Revenue Positive Develop” our Intracoastal Waterfront Parks. So a budget item of $6.5M for a park not on the Intracoastal compared to $1.675M for two that are and another $1M for a plan smacks of feet dragging at worst, uninspired at best. IMHO.

    I live in Carriage Hill and would much rather see Boca’s strong financial position used to move the ball on Wildflower, Lake Wyman, Rutherford etc, which are in dis-repair and an artificial reef to replace the one killed by last year’s beach dredging before a dime is squandered going forward in the quagmire of building El Rio Park Phase II over a dump. Jack shows how both could be done. Doing both would be inspiring and show leadership.

    * My comment: Agreed. Do both. Better yet, do three. Do Wildflower. Do El Rio. And then maybe we could do a “Boca Reef” park? The dredging has been going on for decades. It’s easily killed billions of living things. And it’s not just for beach restoration, it’s for beach widening, which makes me wonder about our priorities. Please know – less reef, less beach. Keep killing the reef, you keep killing the beach. Is anybody interested in helping to form a multi-city council determined to find a way of preserving both beaches and reefs? I am happy to lead, start, chair, participate in such a venture

    Additionally, Jack’s theme was, “Where did this come from”? The answer is: Years of hard work by a lot of people who care just as much about El Rio as they do about Wildflower. This was NOT a surprise. It’s been in the works for decades….

  10. Jacks theme was not “Where did this come from”. If there was one, it’s the same as in many previous commentaries about trust, transparency, bad governance as indicators of a shadow government of the donor class. I think the El Rio Park funding was a great tool to tell it

    • With respect, still disagree. If one wants to bringnegative examples of trust, transparency, and shadow government, El Rio is not an example. In fact, it’s an example of just the opposite! Years of planning. All in Public. All debated and discussed. Not sure why this was picked as an example of bad governance. It is, by any measure, an example of long, well thought out planning in the public eye. 30 years worth, for g-d’s sake!

      And I’m not sure where the “donor class” came into this conversation?

      • You asserted Jack’s theme was something it wasn’t. I corrected you and explained his theme. Donor class came from that. Jack used El Rio as a mirror to make his theme visible.

        Doing something based on how long it’s been championed is bad leadership. That was Archstone’s argument and was also recently argued by Angelo Bianco to put 4000 people into Midtown. In this video, Jack is showing you that spending $6.5M for a park on a dump vs 1.675 on Wyman and Wildflower in an environment where the city and the county differ by more than both of those together with $300M in reserves is bad governance. He says it belies a shadow government. That’s Jacks point. El Rio was his tool.

  11. When my wife and I moved into Camino Lakes 30 years ago this summer, the realtor told us about the great El Rio park that we would have “shortly,” just down the street from us. Over the years it has been delayed, and delayed, and delayed. Finally, in the last year or two we’ve been able to get some movement. This park did not pop out of someone’s fevered imagination recently; it’s been a long time coming. To back-burner it yet again in favor of the Project du Jour would be an insult to the patient residents of the south end of Boca Raton.

    • Bill, myself, you, and your wife were fools. I was promised the same thing by the real estate agent when I bought my house in 1980 in Palm Beach Farms on 20th street. I also think you are an idiot for being so patient for 30 years. I was promised great schools that were available. I went down to St Joan of Arc and was told there was a 3 year waiting period and the public grammer schools were all grossly over crowded . I was a fool. I don’t care if you are insulted since you are “patient”. I was part of the original group that was fighting for El Rio but gave up 25 years ago when I realized that the city didn’t care about us or our need for parks. I want investment in all our parks. I want a “Project du Jour” for my grandchildren to look at the fish and if I live long enough go play at El Rio. You and your wife need to get mad . We don’t need a city council that wants us to play the texas 2 step. We need a pledge from the 2 council members that they will advocate spending money on our parks NOW. If not get rid of them. Join us . Become activists. Talk to your neighbors. Get as mad as I me. I am tired of being a fool of.

      • Welcome home Jack and thank you for your passions with the betterment of Boca Raton and for fighting the good fight for more transparency and accountability by and from elected and appointed public officials. In one of today’s posts, you apologize for your tone but not your position. There is no need for you to apologize for anything. The amount of time and energy you dedicate to prepare and present an educated opinion in a resistant and hostile government atmosphere within city hall and at the school board is commendable. Transparency and accountability within these public forums leaves a lot to be desired. Residents would be better served if they become ‘mad as hell’ at the half truths and hidden agenda that you attempt to bring to our attention. Welcome home and continue to do the good work. Your voice is welcomed and important….Thank you. Al Zucaro, Publisher

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