Former Mayor Martino on Term Limits: Registered Voters are the Real Winners!

Finally! This November 4th registered voters of Palm Beach Gardens will get to cast their ballot for or against term limits for their City Council. This ballot initiative has been on the horizon for a number of years with a number of fits and starts.

However, once Mr. James D’Loughy pledged his leadership to the Palm Beach Gardens Needs Term Limits political committee things began to move in earnest. Recently, Mr. Michael Peragine took command of the committee’s effort to gather the necessary certified registered voter signatures and the finish line was crossed.

But the committee, Messrs. D’Loughy and Peragine, had hurdles to overcome. They needed to convince a reluctant City Council to request the Supervisor of Elections to place the initiative on the ballot. Then they had to convince that same Supervisor of Elections to put the language on the November ballot. In both cases their tenacity for their cause was rewarded with success.

So, a hearty congratulation is in order for Messrs. D’Loughy and Peragine, and their committee for pursuing the democratic opportunities that our government presents. But perhaps, also, a big THANK YOU should be offered by the registered voters of Palm beach Gardens who are the real winners because they get to decide.

Michael Martino

August Council – Updates on Minto and Plat 1.

The August Council meeting started with the pledge of allegiance. At roll call it was noted that Joe Russo was absent.

August 7, 2014

Don Hearing gave an update on the proposed Minto project. The project is set to go for approval by county commissioners on August 27 with final vote and approval October 29th. Council members discussed traffic concerns with the proposed 4546 homes and commercial space. Mr. Hearing said that 50 million dollars in road impact fees should help to ensure improvements with the existing infrastructure. He did not say who this money would be given to, or how it would be allocated. He did say that our County would like to see this development happen to rebalance the land use in that area. The project would have sewer and water installed to make it a sustainable area.

There was a Plat 1 presentation update with assurance that code enforcement is working to correct problems. Some problems mentioned were language barriers and tracking down some of the absentee owners. Council member Tinsley suggested grants similar to what the City did to help fix up homes along Military Trail when that area fell in to disrepair years ago. There was no grant money allocated by the council to help fix Plat 1 at this time.

The City Manager report mentioned the fire department rookie training program. A Channel 25 news reporter had joined in the training and did a story on the training. He also mentioned that the police department received an Excellence in Policing Award for their latest Frog_et Me Not Safety program.

The City Attorney issue was also discussed by the City Manager. Our city has a contract with Corbett and White to represent our city. Max Lohman (our current city attorney) worked for Corbett but has left them to start the Lohman Law Group. Our City Manager recommended hiring the Loman Law Group to keep stability and continuity in our city. Council discussed this and decided to put it on a future agenda when council member Russo could voice his opinion.

There was a discussion about the Term Limits resolution passed last month. The SOE (Supervisor of Elections) has issues with putting it on the ballot. Our City Attorney has sent a letter to the SOE and is awaiting a reply. James D’Loughy has filed suit against the SOE. He asked that the city help the SOE comply and compel with the referendum items.

Consent Agenda items were passed 4-0.

Resolution 52 (Elm Street item) the land and maintenance responsibilities were given up. The resolution passed 4-0.

Resolution 49 (City Employee SEIU agreement) passed 4-0. These pay increases will cost the city $159,000 a year.

Resolution 50 (Florida League of Cities annual conference) Passed 3-0. Council member Tinsley abstained from the vote as she felt it could be a conflict of interest as she is the one being sent to the conference.

At the Items for Council Action/Discussion, Council member Tinsley asked the Council to allocate some time on a future agenda to discuss parks and recreation shortfalls. There is a need for more multi-purpose fields for residents. She wants to discuss the options including the County owned property that was slated to be used for the stadium. It will be brought up at the 2nd September council meeting.

Note that the budget will be discussed and voted on in September. The 1st meeting in September will be on a Wednesday, September 3rd. The 2nd Council meeting for the budget is scheduled for Thursday September 18th.

Meeting adjourned at 9:55 PM.

Reference: Letter from Steve Martino to City Council on conditions in Plat 1

(Editor:  This is the text of the letter that resident Steve Martino sent to the Council on 7/11/14.  He also spoke to the issues at the July 10th City Council meeting.)

Mayor and City Council,

The City of Palm Beach Gardens was chartered in 1959. The original 6 plats and plats PGA 1 and 2,
together with some of the later annexed areas, such as, the Town Hall Home sections, can be
considered for senior citizen status.

These areas are the heart and soul of the City of Palm Beach Gardens. This is where the City of Palm
Beach Gardens cut its teeth. Here is where it learned to walk tall and be proud. Many of today’s
50,000 residents may not know that it is here that the cornerstones were laid and the
foundations built on which the charm, character, and beauty of Palm Beach Gardens that we
enjoy today was crafted. The first City Council members, the first City board volunteers, the first
volunteer fire department members, the first coaches, directors, and concession Moms for the
Palm Beach Gardens Youth Athletic Association, the first residents who insisted on high quality
levels of education in our local schools, and so on, all lived in these original plats. It’s from the
dedication and hard work of these original residents that the traditions of volunteerism, fiscal
responsibility and high level of municipal services in our City government, and the other great
Gardens’ attributes where woven into the fabric of our City.

In essence, the City Council and City Administration are the HOA for these areas. In my opinion, it is
time long overdue for the City Council to take stock of these areas with an eye toward the
attendant problems that age can and is manifesting. In my presentation at the July 10th City
Council meeting I related some of my concerns and observations about the Plat 1 neighborhood
which is the neighborhood I grew up in and therefore most familiar with. Below I attempt to
highlight just a few of the obvious City areas that need corrective measures…

1. The Multi-family duplexes throughout the City but particularly along Holly Drive between
Ironwood and Lighthouse Drive in Plat 1.
2. City owned property on the corner of Ironwood and Lighthouse Drive.
3. City swale areas along Holly Drive on the east side between Ironwood and Lighthouse Drive.
4. City swale areas along Lighthouse Drive to Riverside Drive.
5. Medians along Alternate A1A between RCA Blvd and the City’s south boundary.
6. Median and city swales along Keating Drive from Northlake Blvd.
7. Paving of Holly Drive and other neighborhood streets and sidewalks in need of repair.
8. Cross-walk, street stop bars, and lane line separators in some areas need attention.
9. Paver stone areas of MacArthur Blvd. as well as some sidewalks could use a pressure cleaning.
10. Canals in general, particularly along Gardens East Drive in the Sandalwood and Meridian areas.
11. The Promenade Shopping Plaza, as well as, other commercial areas in the original plats.
12. Absentee owners of investment and rental properties.

It is imperative that the City Council commit to a face lift for these neighborhoods before the aging
process becomes irreversible. A City Council policy of enhancement, appearance, beautification,
and improvement should be considered now before it is too late. Among many suggestions that
can be offered to solve some of the problems, I would offer the following as a starting point…

1. Identify enhancement, appearance, beautification, and improvement needs directly related to
City responsibilities such as, roads, sidewalks, swales, and medians, etc. and make them better.
2. A review of the neighborhoods to identify the obvious and potential problems, such as the
duplex properties on Holly Drive, and absentee owners of investment and rental properties.
3. A review of city codes and ordinances with the intent to remove the inappropriate and
modernize for today’s needs.
4. Perhaps, additional code compliance officers should be considered for these neighborhoods.
5. Add to WOW program requesting City personnel to identify neighborhood enhancement needs.
6. Reinvigorate the Community Action Support Team and the Property Maintenance Standards.
7. Consider implementing an Enhancement hotline and/or a specific Enhancement link and/or area
on the City’s website that is customer friendly.
8. Emphasize to our residents that the City, in its enhancement and compliance efforts, desires to
be their friend and partner in seeking improvements in a helpful manner.
9. Perhaps, create a Gardens list of businesses that are willing to offer services to our needy
residents on a volunteer basis or at least at discounted rates.
10. Consider an umbrella-type City-wide Enhancement, Appearance, and Beautification program
with resident, HOA, and civic organizations participation.

None of what is needed to provide corrective measures or that I am suggesting as fixes are budget
busting propositions. Taxes need not be increased and assessments are not necessary. The
policies can be modestly budgeted for and cost effectively administered by the City
Administration once established by the City Council. The policies can be administered over
number of budget years, if need be. Quite frankly, it is my opinion that these initiatives, if
commenced and implemented with the fortitude for success, will enhance and increase
property values, thus, providing an increase in property taxes that could make the program
revenue neutral.

My goal, if you will, is not just to complain or point fingers, and so forth. I have no ax to grind. I am
just a resident with concerns. In the main, we have a great City to call our home. I want to help
to keep it that way. Simply said I want our City to be the best it can be every day. Our City’s
appearance is a first impression that should underscore who and what we are. The City’s
appearance is an indicator to those of us who live here, to our visitors and guests who come
here, to our business prospects who are considering moving here, and to our neighbors, that we
value and care for, our properties, our people, and our quality of life.

I look forward to your response, comment and opinion. Thank you for your service to our City.

Steven Martino

Next City Council meeting on Thursday August 7th at 7pm

The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, August 7th at 7pm at City Hall.  It’s not a long agenda but there are several interesting items on the list.

Here are some highlights:

  • Presentations:
    • Update on Minto: if you’re interested in PBC western development
    • Plat 1 Update: resident Steve Martino spoke about several issues with this older area in the City.  This is a response from the City.  View Steve’s letter to the city here.
  • City Manager Report:
    • City Attorney Retention: Max Lohman has left the employ of Corbett, White and Davis and has formed Lohman Law Group.  The City Manager proposes that Mr. Lohman be retained rather than taking the services of another attorney from his former employer
    • Special Issue Referendum Election:  In July the Council pass Resolution 48, 2014 to resolve an issue between the City and the SOE about placing the Term Limits questions on the ballot, assuming PBGNTL submits the required petitions.  Apparently issues still exist with SOE.
  • Consent agenda:
    • Renewal of the City’s health insurance with Florida Blue, a plat change at Downtown at the Gardens, and purchase award for additional benefits – health, life insurance
  • Public Hearings:
    • Resolution 52,2014 which is an abandonment of a right of a platted right of way by the City – upon which ownership will revert to Paloma HOA and South Gardens LLC – both in agreement with this proposal
    • Resolution 48, 2014 approving and ratifying a 3-yr contract negotiated with SEIU

The agenda (with links to full detail) can be found here.

See a summary from July’s meeting, an open letter from former Mayor Martino on the PBG Watch website.

We get the government we deserve – and it’s up to us to watch what they do.  Hope you can make it.  If you can’t make the meeting try and watch live-streaming or on-demand.