This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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With the window of opportunity for candidate filing now closed, BocaWatch will be taking a much closer look at the Beach and Park District’s upcoming elections. Elections where three seats, a controlling majority, are at risk. Over the next few weeks, interviews will be conducted with the candidates and reported. At the end of this process, BocaWatch will publish its findings and recommendations for the August 30th contests. A ‘palm card’ will be published for our residents to take to the ballot box on this and other voter items of local interest.
Two weeks ago in my article “The ‘Democratic’ Process”, the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District election was highlighted. Tracking our readership’s interest indicates that District issues are of significant import to the voting public. One commentator even suggested that BocaWatch address the Beach and Park District with as much ‘scrutiny’ as done in City Hall. BocaWatch accepts this suggestion and over the next few weeks will do just that…
Starting here, starting now….
In the last month, after attending two Beach and Park District meetings, this writer has observed a professional and transparent demonstration of open government; a breath of fresh air compared to the City Council/CRA meetings conducted in City Hall.
As support for this statement, the following observation is offered. In November, 2015, the City sent a proposed O&M Master Interlocal Agrmt B&P District for response. How that Master Agreement was created is a bit of a mystery but more on that later.
In early June, the City’s Master Operating Agreement document was presented by the B & P District’s legal counsel to the District Commissioners for their input. District Counsel offered comments and recommendations for developing a response to the City.
In an open and transparent meeting, the B & P District Commissioners engaged in discussion with Counsel and amongst themselves, resulting in suggested language changes to the City’s document and instructions to Counsel to transmit these changes to the City; all this done in full public view.
The District board also discussed efforts to meet with the city. Chairman Bob Rollins reported that a suggested date of July 25th was offered to the City for scheduling a meeting of the two bodies to move forward on the agreement and other outstanding items. This date, without a public discussion, was rejected by the City.
Rejected by whom?
Certainly not the City Council as this was not a topic of discussion in the recent council workshop or meetings. Who then makes such a decision…staff? The City Attorney? Who? Especially with a decision that seems to allow a certain City Council member who stated in the City’s recent visioning annual planning session that he ‘hates’ the District ‘s leadership and vocally complains that the B & P District is the constant cause for unnecessary delay.
Having now rejected the July date, and with the City Council on summer schedule there is little chance a joint meeting between the City and the District can take place before at least September…but this is not my major concern….
My major concern is that there has been little open and transparent government in developing this Master Operating Agreement with the B & P District or in the City’s deliberations as to the terms and conditions wanted with the district.
Mentioned at the District meeting this week was that at least one City Councilmember has contacted their staff for additional information. This suggests that the Councilmember has been provided the District’s suggested changes. Extrapolating from there, one can assume that all Councilmembers have now received the information.
Here is the question….
When will these proposed language changes suggested by the District be discussed with the City Council collectively in the Sunshine, in Chambers with the public present?
When will there be an open and transparent discussion allowing the public to understand the true dynamics of the alleged scheduling impasse with the District?
To my knowledge, this has never been done and is not anticipated to be done in preparation for the City’s response to the District.
Assuming that the individual Councilmembers are aware of the District’s proposed changes and assuming that the Administration and/or the City Attorney have met with Councilmembers separately, a response to the District’s language changes can actually be formulated…..but….MAY NOT BE TRANSMITTED BACK TO THE DISTRICT….
…Because the individual comments of each Councilmember is not the collective response of the City Council. Without the Council coming together in full view of the public, there is NO official position that can be transmitted back to the District.
Staff’s ‘polling’ of the individual sentiments of a Councilmember does not make for an official act of the collective council nor does it substitute for the open and transparent government demanded by electors as well as required by state law.
‘Ethically challenged’….a phrase that will be used often from now on….whenever the public is not provided the information for their meaningful participation in and understanding of the political and legislative process.
To the commentator on my article “The Democratic Process”….your comments are petty. The 5:30 start time is no more difficult than the CRA’s 1:00 P.M. start time or the City Council’s mid-afternoon workshop and is just 30 minutes earlier than the City Council’s 6:00 P.M. start time.
Yes, there are no televised meetings. The District’s current office/conference area is not equipped for such an option. However, contrary to your assertion that the District is building a “Taj Mahal”, their efforts are to construct a community center that will provide, in part, for an expanded office and meeting space. It is a fair encouragement that there should be broadcast capability designed into that site and that suggestion will be made….
As promised, this is the beginning of a ‘closer scrutiny’ of the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District. BocaWatch will let the public decide which is a more open and transparent process…so far, hands down, the City loses…..
Your vote is your voice….let your voice by heard….August 30th
Al Zucaro, Publisher
I again welcome greater scrutiny of Beach & Park District and reiterate my comments most of which were not addressed:
1. There is no need to spend $4MM plus on a “Community Center” which has been billed as a HQ for the District wherein the City would be glad to televise meetings on Granicus at City Hall and where there are adequate meeting facilities NOW. Fully half of the “Community Center which seeks to use a soon to demolished building (which could be repurposed) is to be used as executive space for the District. The purpose of the District as Mr. Singer has previously stated is to support the City Park system–not build unneeded infrastructure for itself. That money could be used for parks, to buy oceanfront land or even help purchase Boca Teeca golf course! It is a “Taj Mahal” Spend that money on DeHoernle Park.
2. The expenditure of District monies should be of great concern to residents. The District has none of the oversight capabilities the City has? They dropped the ball on purchasing oceanfront property (because they were asleep at the wheel–being reactive not pro-active) and award multi-million dollar contracts with limited oversight. None of the BOD has ANY experience in College and/or Professional Sports yet they want to have battles over astro-turf with the City.
3. It is a conflict “per se” for the District’s attorney to also serve and the “Interim Director” (Interim as in going on at least 4 years now) and receive a “double salary” at taxpayer’s expense, while at the same time representing residents in lawsuits’ against the City? Not a way to win friends and influence people?
4. The District further “subsidizes” sports activities by not charging proper use fees and further “hoards” of Non-City and Non-District residents use both City and District facilities which City taxpayers pay to maintain–a little known fact. This money and the wear and tear could be used for “pocket parks” and to preserve greenspace…While “monetization” is often attacked–it shouldn’t be if the money is used to preserve greenspace or promote athletic activities. How about indoor tennis or an indoor shooting range or a City beach club (Ocean Strand)? The District has universally ignored PPP offers for new activities solely because they don’t want to rock the boat or do anything that might influence their power structure. They could care less what residents want–because with their non-existent sports experience they know better?
5. Boca Watch has made comments about hypothetical political scenarios involving the Mayor and vacancy appointments. Do the residents know a single declared Republican member of the District BOD? That’s because the elections are tied to the Democrat primary–when generally only Democrats come out to vote. Quite a fix I would say…..Mr. Zucaro a fellow Republican should comment on that?
6. There is great opportunity for Residents and BocaWatch members to have the District do great things, many are concerned with parks and open space yet no one attends their meetings which are intentionally designed to NOT be transparent or easy to attend. 6:30PM yes. But I am sorry 5:30PM on a Monday is NOT an easy them frame to participate. A little BREXIT shakeup would do a little good–watch & see.
The City Council has manufactured the riff between it and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District. The Council and City management want to grab and control what the District represents. Citizens will lose should the City gain control. Why? Just as with our Federal Government, the split between the City and District offers a “check and balance”. We desperately need this. The City Government and Council are of one mind, a mind directed by local developers and the Chamber of Commerce. The people are at the mercy of the City and its desire to “build and take” is evidenced by what you see downtown and the efforts of the City, at the coercion of the Chamber of Commerce, to steal the Wildflower Park from Citizens at a bargain basement price – ripping off the people.
Here’s the capper. I was approached by a friend of Mayor Haynie to propose the following: The solution to the Wildflower issue is for the District to buy the land from the City. Good suggestion? I think not. Mayor Haynie likes to cover her tracks by having others pay for her mistakes as in 2500 N Ocean where she suggested the District save her backside there too by buying the land in question, at a hugely inflated price, because she made bad decisions that worked against the community.
I, for one, would not change a single thing in our Beach and Park District. We must protect our parks. I say this as the Committee Chairman for the proposed ordinance protecting our waterfront parks on the west side of the Intracoastal. The City will continue and try to sell our parks, as with the Wildflower so a few business people can make more money off the backs of the public. We must keep it the way it is and leave the Beach and Park District members in place at the next election.