To paraphrase Gershwin: “Summertime, and the politics ain’t easy”.
Boca Raton’s City Council faces some very important votes in the coming months. First among these is the controversial decision on whether to approve the massive Mizner 200 project, or to ask for further modifications to meet the concerns of its neighbors. And there will be important votes on other very large projects to follow, such as the proposed redevelopment of our Midtown.
As someone who has been working hard at this for the past four years, it seems a good time to step back, take a deep breath, and think about the political process that is driving Boca’s future– not only Boca, but hundreds of other communities like it across our nation. These are places that are both attractive and attracting: beautiful spots for retirees or job seekers to relocate, and extremely desirable places for developers to earn profits by ensuring that housing and lodging demand meets supply. It’s not just Boca. Talk to people in Naples, or Delray, or Boynton, or Jupiter, or Aspen or Scottsdale. Development is a torrid topic. But why have these development decisions become so difficult and contentious?
Perhaps it’s because when the paid advocates, consultants and lobbyists have finished their work, the root of the problem is that we are talking at each other and not to each other. Ours is an adversarial system, based on law, which encourages scoring points against one’s opponent, coming up with the killer argument, burying one’s adversary with a slurry of negative ads, or (in the bad old days) just having a politician or three in your pocket. Taking Mizner 200 as an example, we are told that on the one side we have the greedy NIMBY nimbus and, on the other, the greedy developers who assert their right to do whatever they wish with the property they own.
All sides are playing to their strengths. Opponents of the current design of Mizner 200 have organized a petition campaign to demonstrate public concern about the project and its impact on our already overcrowded Downtown. If you agree, you can sign up at BocaBeautiful.org or click on the Say “No” to Mizner 200 ad in BocaWatch. Supporters of the project have engaged high-powered public relations and legal talent. If you think that Mizner 200 is a great idea, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.
What about a less adversarial approach? Again, using Mizner 200 as an example, what about the interested parties– the developer, those who live in the neighboring properties and those who are concerned about traffic and congestion in Boca– sitting down and working out a common solution? The fact that this has not happened in the case of Mizner 200—and don’t believe those who tell you that it has– is no excuse for why it shouldn’t happen.
What a perfect opportunity for our City Council to sit, Solomon-like, when they meet to discuss this in July and say to all concerned: “Go away and work this out to the betterment of Boca.” Seems like common sense. Seems like a potential win-win. Seems like a smart approach to a growing civic and political problem.
The outcome may not be Versailles, but there is a good chance that it could be an intelligent compromise that everybody can live with. And one that could beneficially influence future development decisions in Boca Raton.
John C. Gore