The 3/14/2017 Boca Raton election revealed serious divisions that likely will not be easily reconciled in the next few years. Two different cultural perspectives and an undercurrent of party partisanship in this supposedly nonpartisan election will continue to divide residents. Jim Wood’s color precinct maps in the 3/31/2017 BocaWatch reveal much about these divisions.
Both the Boca Raton faction concerned about maintaining the City as a jurisdiction of liveable neighborhoods and the faction working to transform Boca Raton into a “world-class city” can claim partial victories. In 11/2016 the victory for a neighborhood park for the Wildflower site showed a two-to-one dominance for the neighborhood-oriented people then. Considering that two 3/2017 winners each have a multi-decades-long history of Boca Raton city and community involvement—more than the other candidates–a neighborhood perspective won support of the voters. The one popular winning candidate with a foot in both camps will continue to face difficult decisions with major divisive issues that will arise in this new term.
People raised with the mostly traditional and mostly conservative values of neighborhoods know intuitively the civilized perspectives and behavior required for a certain healthy quality-of-life for raising children and maintaining stable families. They pay taxes for that. Good schools give children direction to succeed in life. Uncongested traffic enables families to travel daily and dependably to schools, neighborhood businesses in neighborhood shopping centers, parks, and churches/synagogues for the social activities and networks of a family-centered society. Single-family houses with lawns allow parents to watch their children playing outside. Neighborhoods safe from crime, drug cultures, and molesters provide the necessary environment for a healthy neighborhood culture.
People hoping to continue transformation of Boca Raton to a “world-class city” offer attractive and popular enticements—cafes, gourmet restaurants, live music, theatre, museums, public art, luxury shopping, “walkability,” and a prosperous central business district. All those features require government subsidies and a much higher density of population than the neighborhoods, and which often bring businesses and cultures not welcome in the neighborhoods. Only taller buildings can provide the housing for more people in a restricted area. More people create more traffic.
Excessive traffic became the lightning-rod issue of the election, and will remain and likely grow to frustrate and anger Boca residents.
None of the winners should be totally satisfied with their results. Susan Haynie did not win her own precinct and besmirched her reputation with her virulent mailers personally attacking Al Zucaro. Scott Singer lost the downtown precinct most affected by increased traffic created by the overdevelopment there, and had the greatest number of under-votes where people did not vote for anyone in his Seat A race. Andrea O’Rourke won a plurality of votes, but not a majority against two candidates considered pro-development and business-friendly.
After the election, a campaign manager commented that a Democrat office-holder had turned this election into a partisan race. Two observations provide evidence for this partisanship.
Though born here, Seat B candidate Andrew Thomson had only recently moved to Boca Raton after living in Atlanta, GA and Broward County, but had always registered Democrat in Florida and was the only Democrat in the races. Large signs advertising his candidacy appeared in most business areas—indicating both his pro-overdevelopment purposes that his campaign stump speech unsuccessfully concealed, and that a lot of money backed his campaign. The least number of neighborhood house yard signs appeared for him—indicating his limited support there; he won mostly in the newer areas of the City. His larger vote turn-out than longer-term and longer-participating Emily Gentile indicated a level of organization that only a party can provide.
On 3/7/2017, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher appeared at the Federation of Boca Raton Homeowners Associations morning meeting. She made two remarks that unwittingly indicated the methods of voter fraud in elections here. She said that technology now enables candidates to monitor who has voted and who has not. She also stated that a Federal judge had ruled that disputed, mismatched signatures for a voter can be determined and decided by county officials.
The logical conclusion from Bucher’s statements illustrates one method of voter fraud. In a low-turnout election, fraudulent absentee and late-afternoon ballots could easily be cast for registered voters known not to show up at these local elections—if no effective poll-watching occurs. Mismatched signatures will be ignored. Under-votes may indicate this type of ballot-stuffing in this election, and it could explain popular candidate Scott Singer’s huge under-votes. More days for early voting and more absentee balloting creates more opportunities for voter fraud, and this dishonesty will only increase without effective measures to stop it.