Boca Raton residents are voting this summer for a new mayor and a new city council member because of the legal troubles of suspended mayor Susan Haynie.
Days after Haynie’s arrest in April on public corruption charges, deputy mayor Scott Singer was sworn in as mayor, setting up special elections Aug. 28 both for the mayor’s office and the council seat he vacated.
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Mayoral candidate Al Zucaro, 69, had much to do with setting these events in motion, having leveled the accusations that led to the exposure of Haynie’s business ties to a major developer. As publisher of the online BocaWatch, the onetime West Palm Beach city commissioner is a tireless critic of over-development and of city officials whom he considers supine to developers.
In truth, Boca Raton is struggling to balance a surge of development with the frustrations of thicker traffic and the threats to open green space.
Zucaro deserves credit for giving voice to residents who have felt steamrollered by the city’s growth. His BocaWatch helped catapult two members onto the city council (Andrea O’Rourke and Monica Mayotte). But his condemnations of the city’s management are so relentless, they seem divorced from the reality of one of the most admired towns in South Florida.
Singer, in contrast, has been a critic of over-development without being a flamethrower. Responding to the need for transparency in government, he has initiated “telephone town halls.” At the latest one, he said, 800 residents called in for a discussion of city issues and distrust.
“I’ve actually lowered the temperature and made the community stronger,” he told the Post Editorial Board.
A Harvard and Georgetown-educated attorney, Singer, 42, supports “reasonable growth.”
“I’ve opposed some of the biggest proposals for development in the city,” he said, “and I’ve approved others.” Among steps to cope with growth’s impacts, he said, “I put the plan together for Boca Raton to get the first new school in more than a decade.”
Zucaro has attacked Singer for taking contributions from developers with projects in the city. But unlike the Haynie situation, these donations are public record and Singer has no business relationships with the donors. Singer insists that his decision-making isn’t governed by his contributors’ list.
In our view, Singer deserves to continue as mayor.
City Council Seat A: Three strong candidates are competing for Singer’s old council seat.
Kathy Cottrell, 60, a consultant who coaches corporate executives on business leadership, says she’s the “voice of the residents” who are deeply concerned about over-development and its impacts on traffic, congestion, noise and green space. “Residents believe too many variances are going to developers,” she told the Editorial Board.
Tamara McKee, 48, says it is urgently important to restore citizens’ trust in government in the wake of the Haynie arrest. She proposes an ordinance that would require all elected officials to release their tax returns to make public their sources of income.
McKee — an actor, model, brand influencer and real estate sales associate — is a trustee of the city General Employees’ Pension Board; a governor-appointed member of the Florida Real Estate Appraisers Board; and a former member of the city’s Elder Affairs Board. And she cites more than 30 nonprofit organizations in Boca Raton for which she has volunteered.
Our endorsement, however, goes to attorney Andy Thomson, 35, who ran for City Council a year ago, but lost to O’Rourke. When meeting the Editorial Board, Thomson was the candidate who gave the most concrete, well-thought-out answers to solving city problems.
The one-time engineer takes keen interest in traffic issues (he represents Boca Raton on the Palm Beach County Transportation Planning Agency’s Citizen Advisory Committee). To alleviate congestion, he proposes lengthening left-turn lanes at certain Military Trail intersections that back up during rush hours. Downtown, he would divert through-traffic onto Dixie Highway so that Federal Highway can be turned into a more pedestrian- and shopper-friendly street.
Thomson makes a strong case for adding another Tri-Rail station, noting the train’s importance to retail and restaurant workers who must travel into Boca Raton as they don’t earn enough to live in the city.
Supported by the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce; police, firefighters and service workers’ unions, and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Thomson is a solid choice for Boca Raton City Council Seat A.
Read all of The Post’s endorsements online at www.MyPalmBeachPost.com/2018-endorsements.