The All-America City Award, which Delray Beach has won twice, is given by the National Civic League annually to 10 communities in the United States. It recognizes those cities whose citizens work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results.
On March 24, the boating community of Delray Beach organized a meeting at Veterans Park to come up with an improvement plan and a reasonable marina dock-fee increase for the city that would allow its current citizens to stay in their live-aboard slips and still provide the city with increased revenue.
That’s revenue the mayor and City Commission say they need for improvements on the Intracoastal Waterway seawall. The wall is in place to protect the homeowners of the Marina Historic District from rising water levels, not those floating upon it.
All attempts to oppose or discuss the city’s 60 percent increase have fallen on deaf ears. Since the imposed rate hike, five slips have vacated; 12 of the 15 others who at the meeting said they have plans to vacate at the end of their lease; and the so-called “waiting list” that was used to sway and threaten the current residents has mysteriously gone away.
The marina citizens, in keeping with the All-American City theme, are trying to do their part to come up with an uncommon result for their neighborhood. The question is, will the mayor and his city commission continue their arrogance and ignore citizens’ efforts or work together with them to tackle this growing community problem.
As a West Palm Beach resident, I read with great interest the article in Friday’s Post regarding the Palm Beach International Boat Show (“Rain doused prospects for record boat show attendance”).
The article reports the annual estimated “value” to the local community at “more than $76 million” from the boat show itself, and an additional benefit to the community of “nearly $2 billion” from the marine industry. The numbers are highly suspect.
Were the estimates made by qualified, independent consultants after appropriate study, or are these “estimates” just sales pitches from the promoters of the show? The article did not disclose the direct and indirect cost of the show to the city. Equally significantly, it failed to consider the enormous inconvenience to the public that results directly from the show.
The promoter of the show says that it “is now ranked among the largest boat and yacht shows in the nation.” Precisely because of its size and duration, and the time it takes to set up and disband the show, it severely disrupts traffic, access to residences and to small businesses throughout downtown and along the waterfront.
Who benefits from all of this “March madness”? Certainly not the small businesses that can’t be reached because of traffic and parking issues. Is the city reimbursed for all of its direct and indirect expenses, including policing, landscaping, etc.? Is the city adequately compensated for the use of its streets and waterfront? If not, why not?
Need evidence? Fine. Take a look at Boynton Beach in the March 15 election. District 3 winner Christina Romelus ousted incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick in a three-way race with James Brake. Of 4,002 casting ballots, six fewer votes for Romelus would have triggered a runoff with Fitzpatrick, according to the city clerk.
In Royal Palm Beach, Councilor Richard Valuntus was ousted in a testy race by Selena Smith by 161 votes out of 6,607 cast. And in Palm Beach Shores, the two mayoral candidates were separated by 13 votes out of 543.
And get this: In the Town of Palm Beach, where a controversial $90 million project to bury utility lines was on the ballot, it won by just 62 votes out of 4,286 cast.
These tight votes a being brought into question now because, as the Post’s Eliot Kleinberg reported on Sunday, it’s possible that 2,000 provisional ballots that were tossed to ban those residents from voting in the March 15 presidential primaries also disallowed their vote in one of 20 municipal elections.
And while that mess is still being sorted out — and I’m sure, lawsuits being weighed — there are runoff elections on Tuesday (March 29) in Jupiter, Boynton Beach, Riviera Beach and Pahokee.
How big a deal is this? Riviera Beach is sponsoring a day-long Get Out the Vote campaign to remind its residents to go to the polls.
They’ve got the right idea. And a good thing to remember is that these local races are all nonpartisan. That means you don’t have to have a party affiliation to vote, just legally be registered and a resident.
A reminder: Of Tuesday’s four remaining municipalities, the Post Editorial Board endorsed candidates in three races. You’ll find the link to them at www.mypalmbeachpost.com/endorsements.
When I mention to folks that I’ve just returned from Cuba (visited March 16-20), invariably the response is one of surprise followed by the breathless questions: “You’ve been to Cuba? What was it like?”
You’d think the answer would be easy, but I’m often caught off guard by where to start. I usually give the knee-jerk response, “It was an adventure” or “It’s a very interesting place.”
I know; a real cop out answer.
Truthfully, it is a very interesting place that is quite an adventure. But does it start with just getting there (which was an ALL-DAY adventure all in itself)? Do I talk about the great food (like garlic octopus), the addictive coffee or plentiful rum (it’s about more than just Havana Club)? How about the fact that I wish I could bottle whatever allows Cubans to be so less stressed than us Americans?
As my Sunday column shows, I chose to focus on a few notable things that really defined the Cuban people and my trip for me; especially when it came to the U.S.-Cuba embargo. And it was capped by the arrival of President Barack Obama for his historic visit to the Communist island.
The following email from a reader is typical of the responses I’ve gotten:
“Airport window… Loved your column today. It described our feelings about Cuba exactly. What wonderful people and how little they make do with… Among other places we stayed was a bed and breakfast owned by a Dr… He worked in Havana all week and wife took in visitors… Immaculate. 3 pigs were slaughtered in the yard next to us… what a contrast… could go on and on.. Have been to many places but none like Cuba.
Our of our guide was the architect overseeing remake of old Havana and he said they are afraid the infrastructure will not be able to handle the influx of cruise ships etc. .. God bless Cuba.
Signed a spoiled blessed American. Again thanks for your column… I’m saving it.”
Regarding “idea of luring Atlanta Braves” (Thursday): County Commissioner Hal Valeche and his colleagues need to figure out “a creative way” to fund the best schools in the country, and to attend to the maintenance of the innumerable infrastructure needs throughout the county.
We don’t have enough money for these most fundamental functions of local government without raising sales taxes, but we can find “a creative way” to pour tens of millions of dollars into subsidizing baseball millionaires.
The hubris of the suggestion that there is “a creative way” to rig the system for a baseball billionaire boggles the mind and suggests just how isolated not only Mr. Valeche is but also any commissioner who would even entertain the idea.
Indeed, any county commissioner who votes for more subsidies for baseball millionaires should be voted out of office.
Hal Valeche, who met with Braves officials over breakfast on Wednesday morning, had voted against the $2.7 billion sales tax plan on Tuesday, saying it strayed too far from its original purpose of repairing roads and schools because it contained $121 million for cultural institutions and possibly another $40 million for economic development projects. And throughout the hours of discussion, he sounded every bit the tight-fisted conservative.
But after chowing down with top Braves officials, Valeche said, “I told them I would try as hard as I could to figure out a creative way to finance this.”
The dreamed-of facilities for the Braves, which the club wants to build in John Prince Park, just west of Lake Worth, could cost up to $100 million.
Commissioners Shelley Vana, Priscilla Taylor and Melissa McKinlay also sounded receptive to the idea, after meeting with the team’s President John Schuerholz and Chairman Terry McGuirk. “It’s an amazing opportunity to have a really popular team with a really great following,” Vana said.
Vana also acknowledged that the project would be “a heavy-duty lift.”
You think? County officials, working with the Palm Beach County Schools, are going to have a tough enough time this year persuading residents to boost the sales tax to 7 cents from 6 cents for 10 years. The case for the tax hike is an urgent need to keep up roads, bridges, vehicles and buildings that went to seed during the belt-tightening years of the recession. Now they’re going to argue that millionaire team owners need tourist-tax dollars, state money and possibly city contributions, too?
Less than a year ago, the commission earmarked $113 million for the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. The clubs will be sharing the $144-million Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, now being built in West Palm Beach. The state also pledged $50 million for that facility. And the teams are pitching in with at least $67 million overall in annual installments over 30 years, plus cost overruns.
The county already is the spring home of the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals, which share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. Adding a fifth club, the popular Braves, would make Palm Beach County a cynosure of preseason baseball. No doubt, thousands of fans and countless media reports would follow.
The Braves , who trained in West Palm Beach from 1962 to 1997 before moving to Orlando, are also considering a move to Sarasota. But Taylor said, “They really want to come back.”
If the Braves are so eager, the commissioners ought to drive a hard bargain. Perhaps allow the team to lease land at the park at no cost, but put the construction costs on the team, being very careful about spending the people’s money.
Too many municipalities have been burned by professional sports teams that promised big economic benefits from stadiums that never materialized. Taxpayers should be wary of playing this game.
It is sickening that Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa would go on TV and stumble about this event (“Pep rally stunt sparks fire at Atlantic High,” March 16). The obvious reason is that he is trying to protect his job and that of others.
These people are supposed to be in a position to make a decision, which goes up the ladder of supervision, which apparently has no concerns. Where is the School Board response to this event? Are they going to take proper action?
Americans always remember to thank veterans. But, given that last Sunday was Canine Veterans Day, let’s not forget to thank our four-legged veterans for their service, too.
Soldiers rely on military service dogs to sniff out explosives, listen for ambushes or take down combatants. Military dogs make soldiers feel safe, and for good reason: Since coming into the armed forces in 1942, service dogs have been saving an estimated 150 to 200 warriors’ lives each.
Even off of the front lines, these dogs keep saving lives by helping soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. Our veterans — human and animals — have each other’s backs.
It’s time to show that we’ve got theirs, too.
We need to thank all our veterans — of both species.
ROBIN GANZERT, WASHINGTON, D.C.Editor’s note: Robin Ganzert is president and CEO of the American Humane Association.
Recently, The Palm Beach Post, delivered to our house, included a letter appealing for support for the Wounded Warriors Project. I don’t understand why our U.S. Defense Department doesn’t take care of our wounded warriors.
Our national defense budget is more than $600 billion. What kind of great nation, with so much money to spend on its military, would not take care of its wounded warriors — but would rather depend on the voluntary contributions of its citizens, whose taxes already support our vast military expenditures?
This is in response to the March 9 letter, “Focus movement on drug dealers.” The pro-life movement that held signs and educated the public at the Kravis Center recently was about teaching our children the value of life and strong family values that are, many times, absent in homes today.
Abortions, like drugs, can destroy a family in an instant. So I would ask the writer to grab a sign of his own and stand next to us so we can fight both battles at once. Perhaps we can learn from one another and change the world just a bit.