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.
CITY COMMISSION SEAT 1: In a three-way race, a former two-term commissioner, Adam Frankel, faces newcomer Eric Camacho and a previously unsuccessful candidate, Richard Alteus.
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.”
CITY COMMISSION SEAT 2: For the two years remaining on the term for Seat 2, Realtor William Bathurst is running unopposed.
Read all of The Post’s endorsements online at www.MyPalmBeachPost.com/2018-endorsements.