Former Mayor Castigates Council on Stadium Actions

Michael Martino, former Mayor and Gardens Councilman for many years, has been sending written questions about the stadium to the City Council, and so far has received no answers. In his latest letter, included below, he takes issue with the perceived arrogance and disrespect which the Council has directed toward those who object to the proposal.

As it has always been our experience that questions to Council or staff on most things are answered in a timely fashion, the stonewalling that Mr. Martino has received suggests that the behind the scenes maneuvering on the stadium is anything but business as usual.

The following is the full text of Mayor Martino’s latest letter to Council:

Michael Martino
320 Balsam Street
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410

December 12, 2013

To Mayor and City Council:

As a Mayor and City Councilman for the City of Palm Beach Gardens I probably participated in over 1500 meetings during the course of my twenty years of service on behalf of the residents of the City. When I served the public had much more access to their City Council. Four meetings per month were held, two regular meetings and two workshop meetings, not one per month as is currently practiced. I have not attended a Palm Beach Gardens council meeting in probably close to 10 years until recently.

Owing to my interest in the City initiated baseball stadium complex proposal off Central Boulevard I attended the recent November 7th and December 5th City Council meetings. I really wish I had not. I was deeply disappointed in how those meetings were conducted. It was not the Chairman; it was not the manner, or the methods, or even the rules but rather the atmosphere and the attitude.

At the very least at these two meetings, especially when discussing, or rather, not discussing the City’s stadium complex proposal, it is my opinion the City Council and its administration embarrassed themselves. Your demeanor concerning information requested by members of the public about the City’s stadium complex proposal was awful. It was at times an insult to the intelligence of those in attendance, condescending, arrogant, and disrespectful.

The Mayor and City Council offered little in the way of substance on the stadium complex proposal. During the November and December meetings the Mayor and City Council flatly refused to answer reasonable questions presented in writing by myself and those asked by many residents at both meetings. Concerning the stadium complex proposal, I am of the opinion the City Council should answer the simplest of the questions that have been raised. This question is not subject to Florida Statutes, does not require traffic studies, does not need a financial analysis, it does not require a deal, and so on. That simple question is…

Mayor and City Council
“Are you “FOR” or “AGAINST” the proposed stadium complex site off Central Boulevard?”

In my opinion, the Mayor and City Council cling to answers, such as, there is no proposal, I know nothing, or I can’t answer that because of Florida State Statute (FS) 288.075 implies I don’t have to. I am hopeful that more than nothing is known after eighteen months of this proposal floating around, and hiding behind FS 288.075 is at best a questionable excuse. The City has not produced any evidence that it has met the intent of FS 288.075 requirements nor has the City publicly displayed any documentation requesting the statutes benefits. Further, parts of FS 288.075 provisions regarding the stadium complex have already been met, thus, the statute may not even be relevant.

Even though it is your responsibility to do so, the Mayor and City Council choose not to answer reasonable questions about the stadium complex proposal. Members of the City Council even deny in newspaper articles that a City initiated stadium complex proposal exists and reaffirmed those denials directly into the faces of the residents that attended the December 5th City Council meeting.

Since the City Council chooses not to answer reasonable questions about the stadium complex proposal and even is denying a proposal exists, than let me offer some facts…

  1. The City of Palm Beach Gardens hired a Public Relations firm to promote a stadium complex proposal for a baseball Spring Training Complex off Central Boulevard at a cost of $60,000 in taxpayer money.
  2. Starting at least as far back as July of 2013, the City‘s $60,000 Public Relations firm and various unnamed City officials have made several presentations to various business entities and private organizations about a Spring Training Complex off Central Boulevard. A stadium complex site plan proposal and other information offered insights concerning this Spring Training complex to these organizations.
  3. On October 16th, 2013 at the Doubletree Hotel on PGA Boulevard the City advertised and hosted a full blown public presentation complete with poster boards highlighting pertinent information and site plans for a stadium complex proposal off Central Boulevard. Also, on display was financial information, traffic information, tourism information, etc. Answering questions for the 300 or so persons who attended were the City Manager, other City department heads and officials, the City’s $60,000 Public Relations firm, Palm Beach County officials, and other pertinent parties. Also, in attendance welcoming the attendees was the owner of the Houston Astros baseball team, one of the teams interested in the stadium complex proposal site as their Spring Training facility.
  4. An editorial on November 16th, 2013 the Palm Beach Post gave thumbs up to “the proposed location for a spring training stadium in Palm Beach Gardens” off Central Boulevard.
  5. Also on November 16th in an article in the local section of the Palm Beach Post a Gardens council member is quoted as saying “I would love to be able to tell you what my position is” and continued, “At this point, there is no proposal to base a decision on”. Illustrated in this same article as this quote is a site plan proposal of a “Proposed two-team baseball stadium site” off Central Boulevard in the Gardens.
  6. On the City of Palm Beach Gardens official website under “Important Links” is a link, “Baseball proposal FAQs”, that transports one to a post titled Spring Training Baseball. This post clearly delineates a site plan for a stadium complex off Central Boulevard in the Gardens. Under this site plan is the declarative sentence, “The City of Palm Beach Gardens is currently considering a proposal for a dual-Major League Baseball Spring Training facility.
  7. A City Council member has publicly stated that a commitment by the teams to the stadium complex proposal is needed by the end of the year. Still another member will not commit until the financial questions concerning the stadium complex proposal have been answered. There is a third member who vehemently denies a proposal exists.

And may I take some further liberties to inform about the following pieces of information that have been circulating…

  1. It has been brought to my attention that a Gardens council member was visiting some of the business establishments along the PGA Boulevard corridor touting the stadium complex proposal and that these businesses would do well to support it.
  2. Reportedly, at a recent meeting of various North County Home Owners Associations the Palm Beach Gardens City Manager was the featured speaker. His subject was the Palm Beach Gardens proposal for a dual-team Spring Training Complex off Central Boulevard. In his company was a representative of the $60,000 public relations firm the City hired to promote the stadium complex proposal. Also in attendance, by mere coincidence I am sure, were certain City Council members. At least one of these Council members commented on the presentation concerning the stadium complex proposal by the manager. It may have been raining that day so the Florida Sunshine Law may have been washed away.
  3. One City Council member has privately stated to city residents that the handling by the City of this stadium complex proposal has been abominable (may not be the member’s exact word but the meaning is close). Yet the member remains publicly mute.
  4. Apparently, the principals of Timber Trace Elementary School and the Watson B. Duncan Middle School principals had a lengthy “informational” meeting on December 4th with the Mayor, the City Manager, the Chief of Police and other city officials. Displayed for the principals were site plan maps, charts, and other information of the proposed stadium complex. It was inferred to me that discussed were such details, as extra security for games held during school hours, parts of the 117th North road will be closed off at all games during school hours, and other elements of the proposed stadium complex as it would be used by the various teams.

So what are we as residents of Palm Beach Gardens to believe? Is a proposal for a stadium complex real or imaginary? Does a proposal exist or doesn’t it? One could make light of all this by asking, “Who is kidding who here?” but this is not a laughing matter. In the City of Palm Beach Gardens a major policy decision has been made to pursue a proposal to build a dual-team Major League Spring Training facility in the middle of a prestigious residential area…

  • directly affecting the property values and the quality of life of the residents of some 1900 homes and many thousands more on the periphery,
  • affecting the safety of the students of two first rate school facilities,
  • destroying a City park,
  • upsetting the tranquility of the City tennis courts,
  • endangering environmentally sensitive land and all the non-human critters that live there,
  • creating more traffic problems for an area of the city that has enough congestion scheduled,
  • and with a price tag pegged at $100,000,000.

When the City Council denies the existence of a stadium complex proposal the council members are at variance with the truth. The City Council denials fly in the face of reality. With each denial that a stadium complex proposal exists the City Council members insult the intelligence of the residents of the Gardens. Each denial calls into question the competence of this City Council and its administration.

The City Council attempts to parse its words. The City Council would have us believe the stadium complex proposal is not a proposal at all but merely a concept. A concept is something conceived in the mind, or a thought. A proposal is an offer to accept or adopt something, or an act. Spending $60,000 to hire a Public Relations firm to market a stadium complex proposal is an act. Creating a site plan for a stadium complex proposal and putting it on paper is an act. Marketing a stadium complex proposal to business organizations, homeowner associations, the public, and creating a link on the City’s website depicting the stadium complex proposal site plans and related information, all are acts

If we are to believe the City Council that they have little or nothing to do with this stadium complex proposal, a major policy decision, than who is responsible? Why was this major policy judgment delegated away by the elected City Council?

By its Charter the type of government that is established for the City of Palm Beach Gardens is a
City Council-City Manager form of government. It is not a City Manager- City Council government. It is my opinion that the City Council has abdicated some, if not all, of their governmental authority and responsibility on the stadium complex proposal issue, and quite possibly others, to the City Manager. That is unacceptable governance and needs corrective measures immediately. 

After their election, City Council members take an oath of office, swearing to represent the trust given to them by the residents of the City of Palm Beach Gardens. The protection of the residents’ health and welfare, and their quality of life, should be the foremost concern for a City Council member as decisions are made on behalf of the residents.

City Council members are elected to serve the residents of Palm Beach Gardens. Council members are not elected to serve any other masters, not Major League Baseball or any of its owners, not Palm Beach County, not the Grapefruit League, not the Tourist Development Board, or any other entities.

Finally, the longer questions go unanswered concerning the stadium complex proposal the more the ugliness of speculation rears its head. Laws of propriety may be called into question. Transparency and openness can be challenged. Ethics become part of the conversation. If the Mayor and City Council were to ask my advice, and I am not holding my breath that you will, I would strongly suggest…

  • a workshop meeting devoted only to the stadium complex proposal to answer the lingering questions surrounding this proposal be publicly advertised and scheduled for January of 2014
  • that the City Council answer the simple question spelled out above and below, sooner rather than later, better yet how about right now…
“Are you “FOR” or “AGAINST” the proposed stadium complex site off Central Boulevard?”

Michael Martino

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