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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While many folks across the nation were enjoying the Memorial Day weekend an army of concerned and engaged residents of Boca Raton submitted signed petitions in an effort to have a say in the development of Boca Raton’s city-owned waterfront properties.
The essence of the petition embraces several aspects: First and foremost is citizen involvement in the governmental process. Second is the sheer magnitude by which thousands of residents have participated. Third, and certainly not least, is having the citizens determine, by referendum vote, the future of certain city-owned property.
Why Did it Come to This?
To no one’s surprise, Boca Raton has the reputation of a developer dominated city. This domination has its grip on all the important aspects of getting things done within the City and of recent times is more often to the detriment of Boca’s residents. In spite of the fact that this powerful developer group is small in number, they have successfully raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the campaigns for candidates of their choice to do their bidding. Much of the money finds its way to PAC’s based in Tallahassee which conduct well-funded, well-orchestrated, factually incorrect attack campaigns against candidates who dare to run against the “bought and paid for”. I am not suggesting that monies go directly to the pockets of candidates. I am stating that campaign funding wins favors in Boca Raton.
So, what are residents to do when they feel disenfranchised? When they feel their voices are not heard? When they feel their elected officials are not making smart choices? THEY TAKE ACTION!
Frustrated that in spite of the facts showing evidence that residents favor a park-like atmosphere with waterfront accessibility for all at the Wildflower Property and the adjoining Silver Palm Park boat launch, the City is proceeding with a high-end commercial, brick & mortar development that minimizes the resident’s access. Thus, the petition was born.
It is no easy task to obtain the necessary signatures to bring this resolution to a vote. However, within thirty days, the petitioners were able to garner twice the number of signatures required to move forward. The 2,000+ signatures gathered in that short time period, post-season mind you, speaks volumes. To date, that volume has gone ignored by our elected officials.
In fact, right now our City Council is prepared to take action on the Wildflower site prior to the completion of a pending Comprehensive Waterfront Study. Nor has the traffic study of E. Palmetto Park Road and Fifth Avenue been resolved. And then there is the matter of the pending petition of which City Officials are fully aware. The Council is proceeding despite the associated legal risk. Sadly, such is the state of politics in our City. The final hearing for the Hillstone restaurant lease on the Wildflower property will take place in the dead of the summer on July 26th.
What Comes Next?
Upon Submission of the petition signatures, the City is obligated to review and forward to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections for voter registration verification. This is a three-week process. After that, the City Council may 1) adopt the proposed Ordinance that the residents petitioned for 2) reject the proposed ordinance or 3) simply ignore it. If the Council’s chooses the latter two, the Ordinance will be voted upon as a referendum issue at an election date yet to be determined. Kudos is in order for all those who gave of their valuable time and participated in bringing the Ordinance forward. Schedule of meetings
A Word to the Wise!
As a backdrop to all this is the insistence by that small power group in control of many Council votes, that the residents who speak out are simply a few “naysayers”. That is their robotic answer to all things when faced with opposition. Make no mistake …. This is an army of concerned residents that vote. City Council – Heads Up! Are you listening?