Goodman: Up in smoke: Florida Legislature chokes on medical pot

With staggering ineptitude, the Florida Legislature managed to let down millions of Floridians — yet again — by failing to pass a bill to reasonably regulate medical marijuana.

After hammering out almost all the disagreements between them, the House and Senate failed on Friday to bridge their differences over the number of dispensaries the state should have as time ran out on the 2017 legislative session.

This leaves implementation of Amendment 2, passed by an overwhelming 71 percent of Florida voters last November, in the hands of state Department of Health. This is the same bureaucracy that took more than two years to make a low-THC version of medical marijuana, called Charlotte’s Web, available to the small, qualifying number of people with seizures after the Florida Legislature OK’d that very limited use in 2014.

Or as the News Service of Florida put it, they’re the same bunch “who have been harshly criticized by legislators, patients, vendors — and judges — for their handling of the state’s current medical marijuana regulations.”

“The Florida Legislature chose political gamesmanship over the will of 71 percent of voters,” said Ben Pollara, executive director of the group Florida for Care, who also served as campaign manager for the political committee that backed the amendment. “The will of the people was thwarted again today by Tallahassee politicians, but they can’t deny us forever. Florida for Care will continue fighting to implement the Constitution and bring a compassionate medical marijuana law to this state’s patients.”

The House and Senate had started the legislative session with quite different approaches toward regulating medical marijuana for the much wider number of patients for whom November’s vote’s vote is supposed to benefit.

The House took a much more restrictive approach, but in recent conferences with the Senate, the two chambers came much closer — except on the subject of dispensaries.

The Senate on Thursday modified its proposal to limit each marijuana operator a maximum of 10 retail locations. The number would have increased as the number of eligible patients registered in a statewide database grew.

But, while the House originally wanted fewer licensed marijuana operators in the state, the House’s bill would have allowed the purveyors to have an unlimited number of storefronts.

Critics maintained that an unlimited number of dispensaries would give an unfair advantage to the seven operators currently licensed by the state. (News Service of Florida)

In other words, the politicians squabbled about the potential for a few operators to claim monopolies on the prospective marijuana market, rather than act with the urgency that the amendment requires.

Under the language of the amendment, which went into effect Jan. 3, key regulations are supposed to be in place by early June. That includes the rules for issuing patient I.D. cards; establishing laws and standards for caregivers and growers/distributors/dispensaries (now known as “medical marijuana treatment centers” or MMTCs); and defining the amounts of the drug that can be allotted to patients.

And by early September, the Health Department “shall begin issuing qualifying patient and caregiver identification cards, and registering MMTCs.”

If the deadlines aren’t met, “any Florida citizen shall have standing to seek judicial relief” to force the department to meet its now-constitutional duty.

Is it too early to start drafting the lawsuits?

UPDATE 9;45 a.m.

In the wake of the defeat, the man who bankrolled the medical marijuana campaign, trial lawyer John Morgan, has turned on Pollara, the political consultant who shepherded the bill, blaming him for the legislation’s failure. Politico reports:

Morgan called Pollara a “sellout” for his involvement in lobbying over capping the number of medical marijuana retail distribution centers in Florida. The issue of caps ultimately led to the death of the bill.

“It had nothing to do with patients, but had to do with profits,” Morgan said, accusing Pollara’s Florida for Care group of representing potential medical marijuana distributors who wanted a foothold in the Sunshine State.

But Pollara said he pushed for the caps because he didn’t want the limited number of current medical-marijuana providers to monopolize the market and jack up prices for patients.

“This is painful for me. I love John. I looked up to him as a mentor, but he’s just wrong on this,” Pollara said. “At the end of the day, I didn’t kill this bill. I didn’t want it to die. I told our lobbying team to do whatever they could to get a deal cut. But ultimately we weren’t the ones with the ability to cut a deal.”

Morgan isn’t hearing it. He said his split with Pollara is final, a once-unthinkable schism that’s akin to Batman and Robin going separate ways.

But Politico writers Daniel Ducassi and Marc Caputo go on to put the matter in perspective:

In refusing to cut Pollara any slack, Morgan pays relatively short shrift to the idea that, in the waning days of the legislative session — which had to go into overtime because House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President John Negron disagreed on so much — any small dispute over a bill in the final days would be its death knell. Since the caps issue killed the bill, those who fought for them are to blame for the bill’s failure.

The fate of medical marijuana in the Florida Legislature was always iffy. The GOP-controlled Legislature, where rank-and-file conservatives don’t want to appear soft on drugs, only began approving medical marijuana laws when it looked as if voters would do it without legislative input.

UPDATE 1 p.m.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is asking for the Legislature to convene a special session to enact the medical marijuana amendment.

The former congresswoman and daughter of former Florida Gov. Bob Graham issued a press release, stating:

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” Graham said. “Floridians spent years begging the legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

Failure to enact Amendment Two to legalize medical marijuana, which passed with 71.32 percent approval in 2016, is just the latest example of the legislature ignoring Florida voters.

“Go back to the lottery, or even more recently, Forever Florida, and all you see is the legislature playing shell games with voters. Sadly, no one should be shocked they’ve turned a blind eye to Floridians facing chronic diseases,” Graham said.

For the third year in a row, the legislature is misappropriating funds for Florida Forever, a land and water conservation program supported by 74.96 percent of Florida voters in 2014.

“If my kids acted like the legislature when I told them to clean their rooms, they’d still be grounded,” Graham said. “As governor, I will force the legislature to fulfill their responsibilities, including calling them into special session if needed, to enact medical marijuana legalization.”

 

 

Christie: Post readers question whether Judge Santino should remain on bench

Palm Beach County Judge Dana Santino, seen here celebrating her win last fall, could be removed from the bench for allegedly violating judicial canons on her way to victory. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

New Palm Beach County Judge Dana Santino, who ran for office by accusing her defense-attorney opponent of defending — gasp! — accused criminals, faces a Wednesday hearing before Fifth Circuit Court Judge Michelle Morley regarding charges that she violated four judicial canons on her way to victory last fall.

And our readers are weighing in on whether she should resign from the bench.

This morning, Lee Ann Grieser of Lantana, suggested just that:

Dana Santino wants a double standard that allows her to forget about ethics and break the rules while she sits in judgment of other rule breakers (“Santino says she broke rules in election but still fit to be judge,” Friday). There’s enough hypocrisy in public life without this.

Gregg Lerman was absolutely correct when he said her letter of apology several months after the election was “too little, too late.” It reeks of crocodile tears from Santino. If Santino is “deeply remorseful” for violating judicial canons mandating professional competence, dignity, and integrity of the judiciary, she will make a public apology and resign immediately.

She could then spend some time reading the U.S. Constitution where the Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to an attorney.

Santino and Lerman, a longtime criminal defense attorney, waged a pitched battle for the county judge seat, which went to a runoff where Santino beat Lerman by about 2 percent. She is now serving as a county judge.

But among her campaign tactics was a Facebook page called “The Truth About Gregg Lerman,” which listed the victims of criminal clients Lerman had represented. The page was taken down after complaints from other defense attorneys.

“If you look at the Facebook page made on her behalf, it made me look like I was a murderer and a rapist and child molester,” Lerman said.

Lerman, who received a letter of apology from Santino on Friday, told the Post that he wasn’t surprised by her admissions or swayed by her apology, which he described as too little, too late.

“She is trying to protect herself from the Facebook page, which was the most egregious,” said Lerman, who filed a complaint that led to charges by the commission. But, he said, Santino’s task will be difficult. “The email and the Facebook page say the same things,” he said

Earlier this month, the investigative panel of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission filed charges with the Florida Supreme Court against Santino, alleging she violated a judicial canon that declares a candidate for judge must maintain the “dignity appropriate to the judicial office.”

Morley, chair of a panel that will make recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court. Punishment for violation of judicial canons can range from a reprimand to removal from office.

Take our poll here on what you think should happen:

Post Endorsements: Litt, Klug, McCRay best picks in Tuesday’s runoffs

An election worker sets out signs at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church on Florida Mango Road. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Tuesday’s three municipal runoff elections have one thing in common: issues that come with the next phase of growth management.

For Boynton Beach, it’s reinvigorating and redeveloping a problem area that is the “heart” of the city. For Palm Beach Gardens, it is bringing proposed far-flung communities smoothly into the city. And for Jupiter, it’s finding a compromise for the future of a beloved waterfront.

Voters must go to the polls one more time to decide who will help lead them in finding answers to these issues, and more, in their respective cities.

With that in mind, the Post Editorial Board is reiterating our endorsements in Tuesday’s races.

PALM BEACH GARDENS: LITT

Rachelle Litt

For the Group 5 seat, the Post endorses Rachelle Litt, 61, a pharmacist at Jupiter Medical Center. Litt believes there is a need to actively seek a regional solution to traffic pressures. She places a heavier emphasis on preserving green space and improving recreation facilities than does her opponent. A 30-year resident, she and her physician husband raised three children in the city. We believe that her life experience — as well as her close knowledge of the healthcare sector, a growing part of the town’s economy — give her an edge.

JUPITER: KLUG

Ben Klug

Ben Klug, a 38-year-old custom metal fabricator, like Councilman Wayne Posner, brings a practical approach to managing growth and avoiding “over-development.” Like Posner, Klug is fine with a final Love Street plan that is smaller than the original and eliminates the troublesome land swap between the town and Modica. But it’s Klug’s desire to “represent everything Jupiter” that gives him an edge for the District 2 seat — from finding a way to improve critical police and fire-rescue radio communications on the beach to supporting the work at El Sol to helping businesses work with the town’s workforce housing ordinance.

BOYNTON BEACH: MCCRAY

Mack McCray

Vice Mayor Mack McCray says he has momentum and the focus to continue tackling stubborn issues in the Heart of Boynton neighborhood, and the Post is endorsing him for another term in District 2 to do just that. The Riverwalk Plaza and 500 Ocean projects show that downtown Boynton Beach is starting to move, according to McCray, who adds that he is finally working with a cohesive commission whose members are not focused solely on their own agendas. “We all agree attracting business development to the Heart of Boynton is a frustration,” he said. The commission’s new control of the Community Redevelopment Agency, which many saw as a power grab, leaves them with little excuse to not make clear progress.

ELECTION COVERAGE

To see The Post Editorial Board’s endorsements, visit PalmBeachPost.com/endorsements.

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.

Post endorsements: In Royal Palm Beach, choose Adana-Espinoza, retain Swift

A future extension of Sstate Road 7 to ease traffic remains a major issue for Royal Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

It seems every municipality in Palm Beach County counts growth as an issue. But when it comes to managing growth, the Village of Royal Palm Beach has to be concerned about the towns and communities around it as much as within its own borders.

This a challenge the village council hasn’t always met well. Royal Palm Beach is still bedeviled by through-traffic from Loxahatchee Groves and The Acreage. And traffic on some its own side streets are literally accidents waiting to happen.

As build-out continues, the village council will have to contend with both if residents are going to be able to move in, out and around safely, and smoothly.

Renatta Adan-Espinoza

Voters on Tuesday will have a choice between four candidates in two races vying to tackle those issues, and more. The Post recommends longtime Councilman David Swift to retain Seat 2, and relative newcomer Renatta Adan-Espinoza for Seat 4.

Adan-Espinoza, 47, makes up for a lack of political experience with a palpable energy and work ethic focused on better communicating with residents to solve lingering issues within the village — such as heavily trafficked side streets that have become dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists. “We’re doing traffic studies — some for a second time — when all you have to do is walk the street and see for yourself how bad it is,” she said. “I’m for building and expanding the tax base, but we also need to take care of our existing community schools, roads and canals.”

The co-founder and principal of the Academy for Positive Learning charter school in Lake Worth, Adan-Espinoza is also no stranger to budgeting, and working with disparate interests to get the job done. “Communication is the key,” she said.

She is challenging incumbent Jan Rodusky, chief grants officer for the Palm Beach County Cultural Council, who was appointed to the village council to fill out the remainder of now-Mayor Fred Pinto’s term. Rodusky, 50, said she’s had a big learning curve over the past 11 months but is ready to tackle issues like a mobility plan for traffic and public safety.

But whereas Rodusky says she has met with residents at major events like WestFest, Adan-Espinoza says she has gone door-to-door to listen to their frustrations.

David Swift

While 29 years is a long time to serve on the council, it is difficult to discount Swift’s wealth of experience on regional growth issues — especially as land is being cleared for a 200-acre, mixed-use development off Southern Boulevard. As he told the Post Editorial Board, “There’s no kind of development that I haven’t seen.”

Challenger Richard Valuntas, who is trying to return to the village council after losing his seat last year, believes Swift has served long enough. He said his legal background will be a greater asset to the village.

But that’s not what the village needs right now. With growth pressure from Westlake and the lingering State Road 7 extension issue, Swift — as a known quantity — should be better able to navigate relationships on behalf of the village.

Post endorsements: In Ocean Ridge, MaGruder, Yablong

Four candidates — Richard Bajakian, James A. Bonfiglio, Don MaGruder and Nan Yablong — are running for two spots on the town commission. Voters are to pick two of them.

MaGruder, 74, a retired law firm administrator, and Yablong, 65, a retired nurse and CEO of a health management company, are both longtime residents with a good understanding of the problems facing their affluent barrier-island town, mainly managing flooding and rising traffic.

MaGruder, a member of the town Board of Adjustment, emphasizes affordability issues amid soaring land values. Yablong says she’d use her management skills to set performance standards for town jobs. Both would be solid choices to help lead the town of 1,800 people.

Neither Bonfiglio, an attorney and current vice mayor, nor Bajakian, a radiologist who sits on the town Zoning & Planning Commission, met with the Post Editorial Board.

The new commission will have a legal mess to deal with. In January, Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella resigned after being accused in October of shooting a gun in his backyard while intoxicated. A police lieutenant who authorities said was in Lucibella’s backyard, was fired and is suing the town.

Lucibella is facing charges of resisting arrest with violence, firing a weapon in residential or public property and using a firearm under the influence of alcohol. He has pleaded not guilty.

 

 

Post endorsements: In Highland Beach, Brown, Ebbs and Donaldson

The town commission of Highland Beach could get a makeover, with two commission seats and the mayor’s post being contested on Tuesday.

Ron Brown

With Mayor Bernard Featherman termed out, a former vice mayor, Ronald D. Brown, is facing a current commissioner, Carl Feldman. The two have clashed over a 2012 ordinance that raised the town’s spending cap to $1.7 million from $350,000 to finance renovations to the town hall and police station.

Brown is proud of the renovations; Feldman objected to the ordinance, which ultimately drew a ruling from the county Inspector General, who said it violated the 1991 town charter requiring voter approval for any expenditures of more than $350,000.

A retired pilot of fighter jets and commercial airliners, Brown, 70, was vice mayor from 2012 to 2015 and is president of the Bel Lido Property Owners Association. He said he wants to the job of mayor “because the town is standing still.” Feldman, a retired manufacturing engineer and businessman who has lived in the barrier-island town of 3,700 since 2000, declined to meet with the Post Editorial Board.

Once again, spending is an issue: Brown says the current commission has become so intent on keeping the millage rate low that the town’s quality of life is hurting. Chief example: town employees, feeling the pinch in their paychecks and benefits, voted to form a union.

“I think we had a commission that wasn’t working with the town employees. They were working for themselves,” Brown said. He noted that his own taxes were reduced by just $146 a year; he’d much rather see the town, where the median household income in 2015 was an estimated $103,000, have “topline services.”

Brown wants to improve relations with the employees; undertake a restoration of the three-mile walkway that’s heavily used by walkers and joggers; and secure rapidly dwindling green space.

Melissa Ebbs

With Feldman abdicating his council seat to run for mayor, three newcomers are vying to fill the remaining two years of his term: family physician Dr. Melissa Ebbs; retired vice president of AT&T sales Elyse Riesa; and retired Vietnam veteran Carl Gehman. Gehman declined to meet with the Editorial Board.

Riesa, 65, who became interested in town affairs by founding a volunteer emergency-response team, says her top priority is keeping taxes low. She faithfully attends town meetings. “I have been holding them accountable. I’ve been keeping watch,” she said. “We have lot of retired people on fixed incomes.”

Ebbs, 36, says she “feels very strongly about our green spaces; we don’t have many left.” She should know. She grew up in Highland Beach before going to the University of Miami and then to London for medical and surgical studies. Now she’s back. “I’ll be a fresh face,” she said. Among her ideas: call on the doctors she knows to hold health-based seminars  in the town library.

Barry Donaldson

Competing for another seat on the council are Rhoda Zelniker, the incumbent, and Barry Donaldson, an architect who has chaired the town’s Board of Adjustment and Appeals. The council term is for three years.

Zelinker, 70, retired from the corporate furniture industry, touts her opposition to the 2012 spending-cap raise and her vigilance in keeping taxes low. Donaldson, like Brown, argues that the council has become too tight-fisted, and blames it for souring relations with employees.

And as an architect, the 67-year old Donaldson says he can offer expertise as the town grapples with persistent flooding, redesigns the walkway and upgrades building codes.

With the town nearing build-out and the increasing prospect of rising sea levels, “I think we’re at a very pivotal point in our small town,” he said. That kind of strategic thinking is very valuable.

We’re recommending Brown, Ebbs and Donaldson.

Palm Beach Post endorsements for the March 14 municipal elections will be posted online throughout this week on a city by city basis. They will be published in total in the Sunday, March 12, print edition.

Post endorsements: In Lantana, return Deringer and Aridas

Two Lantana Town Council seats will be decided in on Tuesday.

Tom Deringer

Group 3: Tom Deringer, 63, has been a council member for 15 years. Owner of Palm Beach Tire Pros & Auto Repair, he’s been part of a cohesive council that has moved the town of 10,000 forward with the mixed-use Water Tower Commons on the old A.G. Holley State Hospital site, and a promising apartment project on the site of the old Cenacle Sisters ministry. For the first time in several years he has an opponent, Edward Shropshire — and even Shropshire says that Deringer has done a good job.

Shropshire, 64, is a longtime resident, retired from the Cemex (Rinker) Materials Corp. He wants to step up code enforcement to improve ill-kept properties and look for ways to encourage more citizen participation at town council meetings.

That’s not a compelling enough reason to sideline Deringer, who’s also on Lantana Elementary School Advisory Council, Lantana Historical Society, works with the Literacy Coalition and belongs to the Chamber of Commerce. Although he’s served a long time, he says he’s “just getting started.”

If voters feel that 15 years is long enough for anyone to serve, Shropshire would be a solid replacement. But without compelling cause, we see no reason for Deringer to step aside.

Philip Aridas

Group 4: Philip Aridas, 62, first elected in 2011, is seeking re-election for the Group 4 seat. A Palm Beach County park ranger, he has been a town resident for 30 years. He says he wants to ensure that Water Tower Commons, the biggest construction project in ages, “shall be a maximum value add for the residents,” use proceeds from the penny sales tax to improve streets and repair town properties and relocate the police station to a larger facility.

His opponent, stay-at-home mother Suzanne Gordon, 38, lacks Aridas’ knowledge of town affairs. In her interview with the Editorial Board, she billed herself as the only council member who wouldn’t reside on the barrier island — but Aridas noted that he lives on the mainland, just a few blocks from Gordon herself.

We recommend Aridas and Deringer.

Palm Beach Post endorsements for the March 14 municipal elections will be posted online throughout this week on a city by city basis. They will be published in total in the Sunday, March 12, print edition.

Post endorsements: In Greenacres, Pearce, Albert

If there ever was a time for Greenacres to put an end to years of tumult and divisiveness, this Tuesday is it.

For the first time in 29 years, this city of roughly 40,000 will have a new mayor. Sam Ferreri, who first came into that position at the tail end of the Reagan Administration, will not seek a 15th term. Miffed by the direction of the City Council in recent years — refer back to the aforementioned “tumult and divisiveness” — the 61-year-old says he’s had enough of the infighting.

That’s good. Because now maybe the council can get on with a more cohesive vision for where the city should be headed over the next 5 or 10 years.

Jonathan Pearce

But first, there is the matter of replacing Ferreri. The Post recommends current District 4 Councilman Jonathan Pearce. The source of much of Ferreri’s angst and ire the past several years, Pearce has a clear vision for where and how he’d like to lead the city. For the “how,” for example, he’ll immediately propose — as part of a charter review — limiting the mayor to four consecutive terms, or eight years. As for the “where,” he’d like to beef up the accreditation of the Fire-Rescue Services Department over the next two years and continue to add to an undermanned Code Enforcement Department to help bring along the older section of the city.

“We’re in good financial shape, and have good momentum,” Pearce said, adding that the city needs to capitalize with more projects like the new Nissan dealership coming to Lake Worth Road.

Pearce’s opponent, Joel Flores, agreed with the message of fiscal responsibility and economic development. The 35-year-old political newcomer said, however, the city has been hamstrung by “complete divisiveness and two groups going in opposite directions.”

“I want to bring the city together,” said Flores, who sits on the city Planning Commission, by implementing a visionary program for infrastructure improvement that would attract investors and business to the city.

We agree. But Pearce already has good working relationships in the city that put him in a much better position to make that happen.

Michael Albert

In the District 5 race, the Post recommends Michael D. Albert to replace incumbent Councilwoman Paula Bousquet. Albert, 35, said the city has to do a better job of communicating with residents so they can give more input on the direction of their city. “There needs to be a lot more listening and collaboration on the council,” he said.

He, Bousquet and a third candidate, retired Greenacres police officer William E. Kluth, pretty much agree on issues such as more annexation of parcels to the west, improving infrastructure with money from the penny sales tax hike and attracting business investment.

But Bousquet’s council experience also includes coming down on the wrong side of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office vote that has largely contributed to the divisive atmosphere.

It’s time to move on. Albert, associate director of Concord Law School and Kaplan University, will bring a much-needed perspective to the city council that focuses on young families. For example, he told the Post Editorial Board that park improvements are fine but investing in a water park for families with kids is better.

That kind of novel, innovative thinking will be useful on the council.

Palm Beach Post endorsements for the March 14 municipal elections will be posted online throughout this week on a city by city basis. They will be published in total in the Sunday, March 12, print edition.

Post endorsements: In Hypoluxo, retain Brown

Michael Brown

Michael Brown, 66, who became interim mayor of this waterfront town of 2,700 people upon the death in November of longtime mayor Kenneth Schultz, has been a member of the town council for 14 years and vice mayor for six.

The retired accountant has a firm grasp of the issues, foremost of which is a decision on whether to switch from Manalapan’s water system to Boynton Beach’s when the current contract expires in 2020.

He is opposed by David Karpinia, 55, an electrical engineer and lawyer, whose main issue is crime. He states that “our crime rate is twice the national average” (actually, it’s 64 percent higher than the average, according to online sources) and wants more responsiveness from the contracted Lantana police. Brown says the police service is satisfactory and that Hypoluxo “is one of the safest cities in Palm Beach County.”

Asked about his sources of information, Karpinia cites Google, whereas Brown refers to years of faithful attendance at town council meetings. Karpinia did not dispute that he has attended only a handful.

The Post endorses Brown to retain the mayor’s seat.