Positions on Palm Beach County’s proposed sales tax increase mark the principal difference between veteran politician Dave Kerner and environmental activist Drew Martin, the two leading candidates for the central Palm Beach County Commission District 3 seat.
The two — each praised his opponent during interviews with The Palm Beach Post — are competing in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. Whoever wins will face no-party candidate Sean C. Hogan and a write-in slot on the Nov. 8 ballot to fill the seat being vacated by the term-limited Shelley Vana, who is running to replace retiring county Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits.
Martin, a 62-year-old software designer, has argued that the proposed 1-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax add-on, which will go to county voters Nov. 8, is regressive — meaning it will have a proportionally bigger impact on lower-income residents than on higher-income ones.
He also says the county should raise revenue by making developers pay more for the road and building demands their projects create. He says he might not have opposed a bond issue. And he said 10 years of the extra 1 percent sales tax is too long. The proposal would raise the sales tax in the county from 6 percent to 7 percent, and would be split among the county government, the county school district and all the county’s municipalities.
Kerner, a 32-year-old attorney who will leave his state House seat at the end of his term this fall, says the extra sales tax is needed and putting things off is worse. He said if it is regressive, taking away the money it would give to education is even more regressive.
Martin agrees there’s a backlog of work on roads and buildings but says the county should use money that will come from rising property values and not spend millions of tax dollars on Major League Baseball spring training parks such as the one the county is helping pay for on 45th Street in West Palm Beach and the one being discussed for John Prince Park, near Lake Worth.
Martin, who has been a member of the Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservation Board for eight years and is conservation chairman of the Loxahatchee Group of the Sierra Club, dismissed the idea he’s a one-issue candidate and could be as open to criticism that he’s too close to environmental issues as others are accused of being too pro-growth. He said even if he is, he and Commissioner Paulette Burdick still would be a minority on what he calls a mostly pro-development commission.
Kerner, the son of a long-time Lake Worth police officer and a police officer himself in Alachua from 2004 to 2008 and with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission from 2008 to 2012, noted his background in law enforcement and said there needs a way to pay for more sheriff’s deputies when new developments come on line. He also favors a review panel for police shootings, noting it would be only advisory.
Regarding the issue of western development, both said they would have opposed granting development variances to Minto West, now Westlake, although Kerner called the vote “the best deal that could be done.” Martin said growth is destroying the environment, which he said is bad for business. “The environment helps our property values, helps sell our county, brings the tourists here,” he said.
Both also supported limiting development in the county’s Agricultural Reserve west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. Kerner also said charter revisions that would lock the commission into limits on development should be put to county voters.
“It’s one of the things that protects us from being Broward County,” Kerner said.
The office of commissioner carries a 4-year term and pays $95,888 a year, plus a car allowance of $550 a month or use of a take-home car. Commissioners are limited to two full terms.
District 3 includes parts of Lake Worth, Palm Springs and Boynton Beach and unincorporated areas generally south of Lantana Road and north of the C. Stanley Weaver Canal.
Democrats in the district have a 44.1-to-25.3 percent registration advantage over Republicans. Only registered Democrats can vote in the Aug. 30 primary.
Get the candidates’ background and views in their own words in The Post’s exclusive Know Your Candidates online guide, pbpo.st/kycp2016.
EXCLUSIVE ELECTION COVERAGE
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