The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board met with candidates for offices in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Lake Worth, Loxahatchee Groves, Riviera Beach, Royal Palm Beach, Wellington and West Palm Beach to talk about the issues facing their towns in the March 13 election.
We are publishing our endorsements here.
Please check back for updates as we make our determinations before Election Day on the races in these municipalities.
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Boca Raton: For city council, Mayotte, Rodgers best picks
Boca Raton (Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans/flickr.com)
Boca Raton is thriving, with a AAA financial rating, A-rated schools and well-tended amenities that include hundreds of acres of parks and two libraries.
Or, it’s worrisomely crowded as its downtown fills with high-rise condos and plans are debated over a big mixed-use project called Midtown, near Town Center mall.
COUNCIL SEAT D: Armand Grossman, a former educator vying for City Council Seat D in the March 13 election, favors the former description, going so far as to call school overcrowding a good sign of the city’s progress because it shows that people want to move in.
The Post endorses his opponent, Monica Mayotte, who takes a more realistic view of growth’s impacts. “Development projects,” she said, “must address our quality of life issues — traffic, parking, overcrowded schools, open green space.”
Mayotte, 55, is a member of the city’s Green Living Advisory Board and a contributor to Boca Watch, the gadfly website associated with Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke and failed mayoral candidate Al Zucaro. She works as a sustainability specialist for JM Family Enterprises, the parent corporation for Jim Moran auto dealerships.
High priorities for her are “to be the voice of the residents” and “to restore respect and transparency to our council.” Mayotte, we believe, would help ensure that development decisions take traffic, green space and school crowding into account.
Grossman, 75, entered the election at the last minute after Councilman Robert Weinroth made a surprise decision to run for County Commission this fall against the politically wounded Boca mayor, Susan Haynie.
Neither Grossman nor Mayotte has held office in Boca Raton before. A third candidate, Paul Preste, did not answer a Post questionnaire or respond to an invitation to meet with the Editorial Board.
Rodgers, a 39-year-old engineer with IBM, has been pushing to increase tech jobs in the city, especially for veterans. That’s important for attracting younger people and expand the tax base.
Rodgers will provide needed continuity on a council that is undergoing much change. We endorse him keeping his seat.
Delray Beach: Chard for mayor; Boylston, Camacho for commission
Delray Beach (Photo by Mberjano/flickr.com)
Once again, Delray Beach is debating whether the qualities that made it the “Village by the Sea” are disappearing under thunderous tourist traffic and mushrooming million-dollar condos.
It’s a transition that’s been made all the more complicated by divisions on the city commission and heavy turnover in the city staff.
MAYOR: Shelly Petrolia, a council member since 2013, has knowledge and experience. But she doesn’t seem to understand that relationships and community trust are essential for a mayor to excel.
Petrolia boasts that she came in as a reformer — indeed, she pushed hard against a no-bid trash collection contract that, frankly, smelled — but her actions in recent years belie that mantle. By refusing to budge on a candidate she liked, she left a vacated commission seat unfilled for three months and angered much of the city’s minority community. Last year, she actively campaigned against two candidates who ended up winning their seats (one was her current opponent, James Chard), establishing rifts that have been slow to heal.
Asked about the divisiveness, she dismisses it as “an overblown ploy by the city’s ‘old guard’ to put themselves back in power.”
Chard, though elected to the commission only last year, offers an open mind to the city’s diverse communities and businesses. A Harvard-educated MBA and city planner, Chard, 73, has spent several years working on various city boards and has taken the time to study the issues and build relationships — without old entanglements.
A great example is “The Set,” the new name for the old Northwest/Southwest neighborhood that has been perennially passed over by the Delray CRA. Chard is well positioned to mediate a vision and strategy between the CRA and the community.
More broadly, Chard wants the city to get serious about diversifying its economy beyond the hospitality industry and downtown. For example, he says, “a more creative approach like mixed-use and public-private partnerships is needed for the Congress Avenue corridor.”
For Delray mayor in the March 13 election, the Post endorses Chard.
Frankel, an attorney, has the most experience, but also carries the baggage of past civic controversies. Alteus, a former police officer, would strongly advocate for underserved neighborhoods, but is light on details about city issues.
Camacho, a 40-year-old IT support specialist, emphasizes his intention to end the “very polarizing” atmosphere that surrounds city discussions. “I want to get all the parties together to work collectively to resolve our differences and move the city forward,” he told us.
We endorse Camacho — and not just for that reason. He wants to diversify Delray’s economy. And as a former math teacher, he wants the city to push harder on problems involving public education.
CITY COMMISSION SEAT 3: In the contest for Seat 3, incumbent Mitch Katz is facing Ryan Boylston, founder and CEO of Woo Creative, a marketing firm whose clients include the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative, which promotes the city’s image.
In his first term, Katz showed a disappointing lack of independence, often taking Petrolia’s lead. That’s one reason The Post endorses the 35-year-old Boylston, hoping that his ties to downtown interests won’t prevent him from focusing on the city’s broader needs.
Although Boylston is a member of the city Downtown Development Board, his campaign pitch emphasizes the need to vary Delray’s economy beyond restaurants and hotels. “Improving our schools, parks and walkability of our communities will attract families back to Delray Beach,” he told us.
Boylston also says he’s committed to a change of tone. Divisiveness, he says, has driven away city staff and discourages new business from moving in. Instead, he says, he hopes to instill a “team atmosphere” on the commission and among civic groups.
”There’s been too much politics — all about positioning for the next election,” he said. “I won’t do that.”
Greenacres: Keep Dugo, bring back Pearce for council
A year after the decades-long reign of Mayor Sam Ferreri came to an end, Greenacres is poised to take another major step forward with six charter amendments addressing three of the city’s most controversial topics of the past several years: council term limits; hiring the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office; and firing a city manager.
Also, on March 13, voters will decide which two of four candidates on the ballot can play well enough with others to keep the city on its current trajectory.
DISTRICT 3: The dust appears to have settled on the discord that marked many of the council’s meetings in recent years. Through it all, Councilwoman Judy Dugo, 70, has maintained a singular focus on making the city safer. With that, she was a key voice for the city’s 51-member police force merging with PBSO.
While one can argue with the heavy-handed way in which the deal was done, there is no debate about the result. Overall crime is down, and available law-enforcement resources are far better.
Dugo, whom The Post recommends for a third term, considers that an important first step in preparing the city for growth. “We’re now talking about economic growth,” she told The Post Editorial Board, “and hiring a marketing person that can help us conceptualize a vision.”
That vision, she adds, will include improving infrastructure, beautification of medians, code enforcement and “filling a number of empty storefronts in our shopping centers.”
Her opponent is pharmacy owner Brian Willever, 50. Willever questions whether the PBSO deal is financially sustainable, and offers it is an example of the need for more resident involvement in such major decisions.
DISTRICT 4: The Post endorses Jonathan Pearce to return to his former seat on the council. Pearce, who last year lost a bid to replace Ferreri as mayor, was a solid contributor as a council member when he wasn’t sparring with Ferreri. With Ferreri gone, the scuffles should be, too.
Pearce, president and CEO of DMJ Holdings, is a fiscal hawk who will help the city advance on economic development issues. To that end, he’d like to further beef up code enforcement and get accreditation for the fire-rescue department.
Incumbent Councilman Anderson Thelusme, who was appointed to the seat when Pearce stepped down to run for mayor, also sees his financial background as a plus for the city as well as representing “voices that are not being heard.”.
Lake Worth: Vote Triolo for mayor, Malega for commission
MAYOR: In the nearly 6½ years that Pam Triolo has been mayor, Lake Worth’s taxable valuation has risen from a total of $990 million to $1.6 billion.
Long-neglected streets, water and sewer lines have at last begun to be upgraded thanks to a voter-approved $40 million bond issue. A solar farm is producing 2 megawatts of power on a former landfill, one reason the city-owned utility’s notoriously high electric bills are dropping a bit. “We’re now 18 cents cheaper than FPL for residential,” she boasts.
Triolo, 50, who runs her own advertising, marketing and public relations firm, has demonstrated an ability to push the city forward despite its reputation for fractious politics — no small feat.
When she took office in 2009, the city had more than 2,200 vacant, foreclosed and abandoned properties. With new codes enacted and enforcement improved, there were fewer than 500 in 2017.
Crime rates, fueled by the heroin epidemic, too, have improved. The latest figures for the first six months of last year show a 13 percent drop.
Triolo is opposed by Drew Martin, 64, an environmental activist and former member of the Palm Beach County Soil and Water Conservation District. He ran unsuccessfully for the County Commission two years ago.
Sarah Parr Malega
COMMISSION DISTRICT 1: Incumbent Scott Maxwell, 59, has held this seat for nine continuous years, and for two years before that. It’s time he made way for a challenger with fresher ideas.
Sarah Malega, 42, is a gym owner, personal auto shopper and neighborhood activist who said she twice voted for Maxwell, only to be disappointed in his responses to such intensely local problems as run-down properties and too-few stop signs.
As a business owner, she backs “smart business growth.” And she thinks systematically. For instance, she suggests two specific improvements for code enforcement: upgrading archaic software, and hiring four part-time officers to handle simple problems such as a mattress on a porch, freeing full-time officers to delve into more serious complaints and occupancy inspections.
In the March 13 election, we endorse Triolo and Malega.
Loxahatchee Groves: Jarriel experience needed
Loxahatchee Groves’ quaint, rural town image needs an upgrade.
Hurricane Irma exposed much-needed work on some 16 miles of dirt roads that had been the responsibility of the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District. The town took over maintenance responsibility for the roads, which ended up with large pits in some, about two weeks after the storm.
SEAT 3: How best to handle this new-found responsibility — and likely more — going forward is the key question in the March 13 election for Loxahatchee Groves residents.
The Post endorses incumbent Councilman Ron Jarriel, 66, who has both the knowledge and experience to best deal with the roads issue, as well as a take over of the Water Control District if residents decide that’s what they want. The question will be on the ballot in the fall if Gov. Rick Scott signs HB 1093, which would make the district dependent on the town.
Jarriel, a Loxahatchee Groves native, spent nine years as supervisor of the district before serving three terms on the Town Council. A fiscal conservative, Jarriel spearheaded an initiative for $890,000 in drainage improvements. And if residents decide to take control of district, he wants to dedicate the money Loxahatchee Groves now pays the district for road improvements to continue for that use.
But residents have been complaining about road and drainage maintenance for years, which is why Jarriel has drawn two challengers in his bid for a fourth term — Neil O’Neal, 21, and Phillis Maniglia, 60, both Realtors.
Maniglia did not respond to an invitation to meet with The Post Editorial Board.
O’Neal favors levying an assessment or increasing the town’s property tax rate. “Property tax revenue is eaten up by PBSO, administration and code enforcement,” he said. “The roads are so bad they flood after a good rain; we need to acquire more funding.”
Jarriel agrees, but adds, “If we increase the tax rate, we have to give the residents something more, like trash pick-up.”
Riviera Beach: Anderson, Botel right choice for council
Riviera Beach (Courtesy O'Donnell Agency)
Seven openings for top-level positions. A majority of the city council threatened with a voter recall. A county Office of Inspector General spending probe.
For Riviera Beach voters, the main question in Tuesday’s election is: “How to clean up this mess, and get the city back on track?”
DISTRICT 2: To start, the Post recommends re-electing Councilwoman KaShamba Miller-Anderson, 44, to a second term. Miller-Anderson, now the council chair, was thrust into a leadership role where she has responded as a consistent voice of reason./p>
To be sure, it has been difficult. Miller-Anderson helped get the long-stalled Riviera Beach Marina Development project going again, only to see it stall after she helped force out CRA chief Tony Brown. Then came the tumult that has ensued since the controversial firing of former City Manager Jonathan Evans.
City council meetings have become chaotic as a citizen-led group seeks to oust the three councilors who voted, with little-to-no explanation, to fire Evans. “We had a good amount of momentum, working together until about six months ago,” Miller-Anderson said, referring to Evans firing. “But this lack of transparency on the council is making it too difficult to move forward” on issues like improved public safety and job growth.
Her opponent, Keith Golden, 44, says it was this stagnation and lack of focus that stirred him to challenge Anderson. A battalion chief with the Palm Beach Fire-Rescue Department, Golden said he can cut through the “distractions” and bring people together.
DISTRICT 4: There is good reason that Councilwoman Dawn Pardo, 57, has not had a serious challenger in her 10 years on the dais. Her leadership on economic growth issues has been consistent.
But she failed residents miserably when she voted — along with Terence Davis and Lynne Hubbard — to abruptly fire Evans last fall. Worse, Pardo freely admits that she knew the vote was likely improper, but she did it anyway. That’s not only disappointing, it’s irredeemable; her vote is partially to blame for the turmoil in which the city now finds itself.
The Post recommends former educator Julia Botel, 69, to replace Pardo on the council. The ongoing citizen uproar in the wake of the Evans vote makes it difficult to see how the city moves forward otherwise.
Botel prioritizes hiring a “qualified” city manager, cutting wasteful spending and transparency to help restore residents’ trust in the council.
Royal Palm Beach: Keep Pinto, Smith on council
Royal Palm Beach
You would think, with all of the hyperbole — tinged with a certain level of animus — during this election campaign, that Royal Palm Beach has some serious “issues” dividing the village. But it doesn’t. At least not when compared to many municipalities in the county.
Royal Palm Beach is sitting on a roughly $80 million reserve, operating debt-free and expanding its tax base with smart development like the Tuttle mixed-use project near State Road 7 and Southern Boulevard. While the village did have a specific issue with vehicle break-ins, even that now seems well in hand.
The animosity between these two candidates is indicative of lasting divisions — and wounds — once inflicted by a “good old boy” network that seemed to shut down any real dissent.
Pinto, whose leadership style can certainly come across as abrasive, still has work to do in healing those divisions. But the same can be said of those backing Webster’s campaign — after three consecutive losses.
While her credentials are still impeccable, she readily admits that the primary reason she is running is to “return integrity” to the mayor’s office after a domestic incident in which Pinto was arrested and spent a night in jail with no charges filed. Though embarrassing and disturbing, Pinto has apologized for the incident, and he and his wife from all outward appearances have reconciled their differences.
“I’d really like to keep personal politics out of our village administration,” Pinto said.
Because we’ve seen no evidence that the incident is indicative of a deeper leadership flaw, the Post is endorsing Pinto in the March 13 election. He has provided solid fiscal leadership, while prioritizing infrastructure improvements and public safety and emphasizing more community involvement.
GROUP 3: And leading the way on community involvement is Councilwoman Selena Smith, 45, whom The Post is endorsing to keep her seat on the dais.
Smith, in addition to providing a strong independent voice, has established herself as a leader on senior living issues and transparency on the council. She also worked to re-vamp the village’s sign ordinance, which benefited local businesses, and initiated meetings with code enforcement and residents.
In addition to keeping the community updated via social media like Facebook, Smith said she walks the community to talk with residents face-to-face.
Her opponent is Sam Roman, 48, a local business entrepreneur and community outreach coordinator with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Wellington: Siskind, McGovern needed for leadership
Wellington: Siskind, McGovern needed for leadership
In Wellington, this year’s election for two Village Council seats lacks the polarizing rhetoric and soaring campaign contributions of 2016. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues for voters to weigh.
These same voters who decided to limit development within the Equestrian Preserve by approving a controversial charter amendment, on March 13 must decide who is best equipped to handle Wellington’s continued transition to a mature city.
SEAT 2: Councilwoman Tanya Siskind, 49, has served ably since her appointment two years ago when Anne Gerwig stepped down to become mayor. Recognizing her strengths, she right away stepped up to become a leading voice supporting the village’s public schools.
The Post endorses Siskind because she has also made public safety a top priority, as strengthening the village’s already good relationship with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office will be key to the success of initiatives like Operation Wild Stallion — a three-month crackdown on driving under the influence and underage drinking. Siskind also emphasizes the importance of the village being proactive about joining the county’s fight against the opioid epidemic.
“We’re in a good position, financially, but we must remain fiscally responsible,” Siskind told The Post Editorial Board. For example, she said village staffing is “right where it should be currently at about 314 employees for 63,000 residents, but we can reduce that to about 280 or so through attrition and by doing away with unnecessary positions and still maintain a higher quality of service.”
Her opponent is Frank Ferrano, a 61-year-old auto parts store owner and former village utilities department director, who also prioritizes fiscal responsibility, but whose warnings about future shortfalls seem ill-founded.
SEAT 3: The Post endorses Councilman John McGovern, 43, for re-election.
McGovern says the village “has to begin adjusting to the fact that growth is causing the village to become the geographic center of Palm Beach County.”
Beyond committing to keep taxes low and funding public safety, he said, “we have to place an emphasis on overall strategic planning.”
His opponent, Bart Novack, 61, did not accept an invitation to meet with The Post Editorial Board.
West Palm Beach: Elect Shoaf, Materio to commission
West Palm Beach
With development, traffic and livability issues looming large in West Palm Beach, voters citywide on Tuesday will decide on two seats on the city commission — the one for District 1, on the city’s north end, and for District 5, on the south end.
DISTRICT 1: Either Kelly Shoaf or Martina Tate-Walker will fill the seat being vacated by Sylvia Moffett, who has declined to seek another term after representing the district since 2011. Neither now holds public office.
Shoaf, 34, is a vice president of purchasing for a hotel real-estate investment trust. She’s secretary of the Old Northwood Neighborhood Association, a board member of West Palm 100 and on the planning committee for the Marathon of the Palm Beaches.
Tate-Walker, 69, is a pastor for the Omnipotent Outreach Ministry and a talk-show host. She serves on the city’s Community Action Board and Citizen Observatory Patrol, and unsuccessfully ran against Moffet for this seat in 2016.
Both say they’re passionate about their neighborhoods and wish to reduce crime, foster more-affordable housing and encourage economic growth, though differing on emphasis. Shoaf talks about “the kind of jobs that retain talent” and attract young professionals; Tate-Walker mentions jobs for those without higher education.
Shoaf is the clear choice. She displays a surer grasp of specific city issues and a broader vision for city development, such as imagining North Broadway as an arts or tech district. She has worked with local groups, including Inner City Innovators, to counter youth violence.
Shoaf’s financial background, which includes an MBA from the University of Florida, will be an asset on the commission. Advocating smart growth, she says that she supports arts, tech and innovative districts to foster economic growth in the city.
Lambert, 38, is former president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County and former executive director of Leadership Palm Beach County. She’s now a productivity strategist for a company that helps professionals work more efficiently. Her city involvements extend from the Forum Club, Sunfest Board and Grassy Waters Conservancy to the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches.
Lambert claims that Materio has accomplished little during her term until recently, when the commissioner helped secure a new deal for the city’s neglected golf course. But Materio has a persuasive explanation: it took almost five years to assemble all the pieces of the deal, among which were a partial redesign of the course, a new boutique hotel/clubhouse, parking for next-door Forest Hill High School and the fate of a vacated shopping plaza. The payoff, beyond reviving a beloved amenity, is a projected $1.8 million annually for parks and recreation.
Materio, 61, co-owner of McMow Art Glass, has deep roots in the district as a founder of the South End Neighborhood Association. “I’ve lived here for 45 years,” she says. “I’m the people’s commissioner.”
Materio cast one of the three “no” votes in September that scuttled the 25-story One Flagler, a decision we applaud. Lambert, rather than saying she would reject the tower if it came up again, told The Post Editorial Board that the city urgently needs more Class A office space and that she favors “innovative business districts” like the one that would have permitted One Flagler.
The residents of the district deserve to benefit from Materio’s feisty defense of their interests. The Post endorses her for another term.