Post endorsements: In Delray Beach, Chard and Johnson

The city commission could be in for big changes, with two seats up for election on Tuesday. It’s now a divided council, with two of the members, Shelley Petrolia and Mitch Katz, forming a reliable bloc.

The usually five-member council has been reduced to four since the board failed to agree on a replacement for Al Jacquet, who resigned in November to run for the state House. This election will restore the panel to its full complement.

Vying for Seat 2 are Jim Chard, Kelly Barrette, Richard Alteus and Anneze Barthelemy. Neither Alteus nor Barthelemy accepted invitations to meet with the Post Editorial Board.

Barrette, 54, is the founder and administrator of TakeBackDelrayBeach, a Facebook page that airs views on city issues. A six-year resident of the city and a former art gallery owner, she led a citizen campaign to appeal the lack of a two-way road within the much-disputed Atlantic Crossing downtown mixed-use project. Endorsed by Petrolia and Katz (Petrolia’s husband and Katz donated to her campaign), she said at a recent candidate forum: “When you elect me, you will have the majority of commissioners who will put the priorities of citizens first.”

Jim Chard

Chard, 72, is a retired business executive and a Harvard-trained city planner who worked in three New York City mayoral administrations. A 14-year Delray resident, He is vice chairman of the Delray’s Site Plan Review and Appearance Board, has served on the Congress Avenue Task Force and Drug Abuse Task Force, is helping rewrite the city’s Comprehensive Plan and headed Human Powered Delray to ease bicycling and walking in the city, among other civic activities. As a volunteer, he wrote $35 million in grant applications for the city, which so far have netted about $10 million.

Both Barrette and Chard say it’s urgent to grab hold of the town’s sober-home problem and guard against overdevelopment. But Chard puts a much-needed emphasis on diversifying the economy by developing class A office space, and is more thoughtful about how to build thriving neighborhoods. A slew of groups has endorsed him, including the Northwest Southwest Neighborhood Alliance and five mayors.

Chard also calls for a return to civility in the town’s politics.

“We should have five people up there that respect one another and deal with things on an objective basis,” he said, “rather than have supporters attack one another.” We agree.

For Seat 4, two longtime community activists — and former allies — are facing each other. Shirley Johnson had been Josh Smith Jr.’s campaign treasurer when he ran for city commission in 2014. Now, Johnson says she is opposing Smith because of unspecified issues of character and temperament, and says she doubts his independence because of close ties to Petrolia and Katz, whom she blames for “causing some of the divisiveness and unrest and loss of respect” emanating from the city commission.

Their split became apparent late last year when the city commission deadlocked over filling Jacquet’s vacated Seat 2. Petrolia and Katz wanted Smith. Mayor Cary Glickstein, and council member Jordana Jarjura wanted Yvonne Odom. So did every speaker who addressed the commission, including Johnson.

Smith, 76, is a 51-year Delray resident with postgraduate degrees from Florida Atlantic University. He retired from a long career as a teacher and principal in local public schools dating back to segregation days. He taught chemistry, advanced chemistry and algebra, and coached football.

Shirley Johnson

Johnson, 70, is a 38-year resident who is retired after a 26-year career in management and systems analysis at IBM. Her bachelor’s degree from Howard University is in political science.

Both candidates say they favor responsible development in West Atlantic neighborhoods and back city efforts to attack badly run sober homes. But Johnson takes a broader view of city problems, speaking of the need to bring business to the Congress Avenue corridor, preserving history with “appropriate preservation” and “getting serious” about environmental-minded policies, particularly threats from climate change.

While both candidates say they’d be independent thinkers on the commission, Smith would have to shake off suspicions that he is under the influence of the two sitting commissioners who pushed so hard to place him there several months ago.

Smith touts his frequent attendance at city commission meetings, but Johnson says she appeared there to advocate for paved roads and repaired properties in the historically black, mostly residential sections west of Swinton Avenue. Indeed, it is she who has the endorsement of the Northwest Southwest Neighborhood Alliance.

For their more reasoned approaches to city problems and their intent to bring a more civil tone to city politics, we recommend Chard and Johnson.