The Chamber of Horrors

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As a Boca Raton resident who is concerned with what’s happening in our town, I naturally look to the web for information and analysis. One has to be cautious reading traditional media, as their articles are often colored by the publication’s need for ad revenue, or the bias of the owner/editor or a particular reporter.

There are actually four websites that deal with local issues. The first is the official site of the City of Boca Raton which, to be honest, is neither reader nor resident friendly. Trying to find out what is happening or, more importantly, what is about to happen on ci.boca-raton.fl.us can be a frustrating and futile experience. Then there is our organization’s website, BocaBeautiful.org. We are a non-profit whose primary concern is the pace and density of development in downtown Boca. Third is BocaWatch, a self-styled citizen watchdog organization with about 20,000 followers on social media. And finally there is forBoca.com which represents the views of the Boca Chamber of Commerce, and whose principal mission seems to be to discredit BocaWatch. BocaWatch’s success in helping secure 67% approval of the “Boca Question” on last November’s ballot seems to have stirred the Chamber to action, both on their website and in the courts, where forBoca.org is suing to have the ballot question results invalidated.

Hell hath no fury like a Chamber of Commerce scorned. In a recent post, forBoca.com charged that “The (ballot) initiative question is designed exclusively to benefit the selfish interests of a few wealthy property owners, and they are trying to scare you into giving them their way. It’s nothing short of civic terrorism.” Or “BocaWatch’s slick marketing machine is filling cyberspace with half-truths, falsehoods and outright lies, all designed to serve its leader’s selfish interests.” Wow. Rants like that, coupled with personal attacks on BocaWatch founder Al Zucaro and the men and women who worked tirelessly for passage of the ballot initiative makes for titillating reading, but are about as accurate as a supermarket tabloid.

The real story behind last November’s ballot initiative was not whether the City should sanction a restaurant on land it owns adjacent to the Intracoastal, it was a referendum on development in Boca. That’s what has the developers and their allies at the Chamber so scared. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of anger out there and the ballot question gave voters a chance to vote for more open space and to express their displeasure with Boca’s building binge in general. The politicians seem to have taken notice. The Chamber is in denial—perhaps because they receive considerable funding from developers, big and small. Perhaps because the business of business is business. Period.

The battle of the two websites (BocaWatch and forBoca.org) is sure to heat up over the coming months, as the election campaign for three seats on Boca’s City Council progresses, particularly now that Boca Watch founder Al Zucaro has announced he is running against incumbent Mayor Susan Haynie. BocaBeautiful.org will be weighing in as well, but (I hope) in a more detached and reasonable way. We have no interest in the politics of personal destruction. We do have an interest in Boca’s future, and we are not a bunch of “selfish millionaires” or “civic terrorists.”

This election is going to be about Boca’s future and who we want to be guiding it. If you are happy with what has happened here over the last eight years, you can vote for more of the same. If you are unhappy and would like to see a change, you will have a real opportunity to express those views on March 14th. In the meantime, be sure to check out those four websites for all the news that’s fit—and unfit—to print.

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John, President of BocaBeautiful.org is a 13-year Boca resident and lives in Downtown Boca. He is also Chairman and CEO of Political Solutions International LLC, a consulting firm which advises a wide range of clients on government relations organization, competence, issue management and strategy. Prior to his chairing Political Solutions International, Mr. Gore served from 1996-2002 as Group Vice President, Government and Public Affairs, for the British Petroleum Company in London. In that capacity Mr. Gore was responsible for BP’s government and public affairs activities in over 70 countries. He is a 1970 graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and attended Georgetown University Law School. He is married to the former Antonia Stepovich of Fairbanks, Alaska. His outside interests include golf, creative writing, and the arts.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Who lives across from the Wild Flower site? Who threatened to sue the city for noise coming across on the Wildflower site? Who could See the drainage out fall at the Wildflower site? Who assisted in writing the ordinance that included stormwater as a permitted use? Who Spearheaded the petition? talk about self interest

  2. Now that downtown Boca has been destroyed, the developers are looking to do the same to Military Trail with their Midtown Center adding 2500 condos, shopping, a rail station and 10,000 more cars to Military Trail. Their main objective is the 2500 condos at a rental fee of $2,500 a month. If the citizens are not heard as they have not been in the past, this destruction of our beautiful city will continue, not for our benefit (as they say it will be), but for their greed.

  3. Downtown Boca could have been something really special but it is a sterile, concrete jungle, completely devoid of any cohesiveness. RIP Downtown Boca, please don’t let midtown go the same route!

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