Next City Council Meeting on Thursday March 3rd at 7PM

The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, March 3rd, at 7pm in City Hall. While there is only one Public Hearing currently on the agenda, there are 2 Presentations and 2 items on the City Manager report which should be of interest to many residents. This is also the last City Council meeting for Council Member Joe Russo, who is term-limited – so expect Council and resident discussion and comment.

Presentations:

  • Palm Beach County’s Proposed 1-Cent Tax Increase – This is an item that will impact EVERY individual working or residing or visiting Palm Beach County. If you have not heard the details yet, please attend or watch the meeting streaming. The increase is being considered for the November ballot and should the voters pass it, will bring in sales tax revenue to each of the municipalities.
  • Design/Build of the New Golf Clubhouse – associated Resolution 22, 2016 and associated Purchase Award for $4.5 million, competitively bid, is on Consent Agenda

Consent Agenda includes:

  • Resolution 22, 2016 referenced above
  • Replat of City Centre II – PNC Bank,
  • Purchase Award – Piggyback/Access contract for $113K for Community Service Department to replace outdated radios with those similar to ones used by the Police Dept.
  • Purchase Award – Piggyback/Access contract for $660K for Lighting for the new areas of the City Park (expansion)
  • Several Proclamations

City Manager Report (Note that this falls after Comments From the Public on the agenda; anyone speaking on these subjects should stay to hear from the City Manager):

  • Flax Court Update
  • Shady Lakes Update

Public Hearings and Resolutions:

  • Resolution 15, 2016 requesting a Signage Amendment for Gardens Commerce Center PUD. (The Gardens Commerce Center PUD is approximately 4.45 acres in size and is located on the west side of Riverside Drive, east of Interstate 95, north of Plat 5, and approximately 300 feet south of Burns Road.)

There are no items listed for Council Discussion or City Attorney Report.

The agenda (with links to full detail) can be found here. Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting.

Remember to Vote on March 15th!
Watch video of the 2/25 Group 4 Candidate Forum

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.

 

2016 PBG Council Candidate Forum Synopsis

On February 25, PBG Watch, along with the Palm Beach County Tea Party, the Palm Beach Gardens Residents Coalition, the Republican Club of the Northern Palm Beaches, the Republican Club of the Palm Beaches, and the North County Democratic Club hosted a candidate forum for the City Council election. In Group 4, Vice Mayor David Levy and challenger Carl Woods shared their thoughts with us on a variety of prepared questions and some from the audience, and we heard a statement from Council Member-elect Maria Marino.

A Word about the Video


The video of the event, recorded for youtube by PBG Watch, can be viewed in full HERE. The video icons in the table below are links into the full video that start at the question of interest. If you have trouble viewing any of it, you can click on the “youtube” link under the video frame and view it there using the index provided.

Moderated by 12 term Gardens Mayor Michael Martino, the candidates were asked a set of questions about current issues facing our city, some of which proved to offer a real choice between the candidates.

Present for the forum was Gardens Mayor Eric Jablin and Council Member Marcie Tinsley, along with former County Commissioner Karen Marcus and former Gardens Mayor Linda Monroe..

The meeting was kicked off by PBG Watch Co-founder Fred Scheibl, who introduced the leaders of the other sponsoring groups including Mel Grossman, President of Palm Beach County Tea Party, Kevin Easton, President of Palm Beach Gardens Resident’s Coalition, Marilyn Parmet, President of the Republican Club of the Northern Palm Beaches, Rob Shannon, Outreach Chairman for the Republican Club of the Palm Beaches and Iris Scheibl, co-founder of PBG Watch. Timekeeping duties were performed by Barbara Grossman of the Palm Beach County Tea Party.

Below you will find a summary of the event, with the questions that were asked, and a link to a video of that section of the forum.

Forum Questions
Opening Statements:


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Maria Marino:
Question 1: Term Limits – The voters overwhelmingly approved of term limits for Council, and made them retroactive. The spirit of the charter change is that no Council Member can run for re-election if they have been elected to two consecutive terms. One of you is interpreting it differently – assuming that completion of the two terms is the criteria and resigning shortly before an election establishes a sufficient “gap” to allow a new run for the seat. Please state your opinion on how the new charter limits should function.


David Levy:
Carl Woods:

Question 2: Council Salaries and Perks – Most Council members have “day jobs” and will tell you that being on the Council is part-time. While they certainly work more than the 3-4 hours a month in a Council meeting, it is supposed to represent public service, not a livelihood. Currently though, each Council person receives over $60,000 per year in salary and benefits, and over $90,000 per year when other perks (memberships, seminars, office supplies, etc) are included, and this amount is subject to automatic cost of living increases. What is an appropriate compensation for this position, and should a part time position get pension and health insurance benefits?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 3: “Ex-Parte” meetings – Prior to quasi-judicial hearings, the Council disclose their ex-parte communications with petitioners, but not what they discussed. Many residents where outraged at the conclusion of the Avenir meeting when after hours of public input on the proposal that had been recommended by staff, Mayor Jablin announced that he had negotiated a reduction in the allowed units in return for his support. Should this have been either disclosed at the outset or discussed in front of the public? What is your view of what occurred at that meeting?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 4: Growth in Spending – With property valuations continuing to rise, there is less pressure on programs and tax rates. Assuming this continues, how can we prevent the explosion of spending that occurred during the last period of rising property values? With low expected inflation and modest population growth, how do you decide what is an acceptable level of spending growth?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 5: Intergovernmental Grants – The county funds a lot of its operations and capital budget through state and federal grants, in excess of $500M in 2012, down to $315M this year. Palm Beach Gardens has not sought nor used intergovernmental grants very much in its budget, but lately has applied for some HUD grants for housing, as we are eligible as a city over 50,000. Since it is not really “free money” and grants usually come with strings. What is your view of this kind of grant use?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 6: County-wide Sales Tax – This month, the county commission has begun to consider a staff proposal for adding 1 cent to the sales tax (worth $2.3B over 10 years) to fund infrastructure projects for both the county and the School District, and provide money to the Cultural Council for expanding museums, theaters and other cultural attractions. This would have to be approved by the voters on the November ballot. The cities would get 40% of this if passed. What do you think of the county proposal, and what should be done with the PBG share if it is passed?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 7: Older Neighborhoods – The City of Palm Beach Gardens is 57 years old. The original platted areas of the City are starting to show their age. These plats do not have Homeowners Associations to provide neighborhood and property value upkeep but depend on the City’s codes and services to protect their neighborhoods and property values. How would you as a councilperson protect these areas from degradation and property value deterioration?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 8: Sober Homes – The City of Palm Beach Gardens has a growing number of Sober Homes (Drug Rehabilitation Businesses) and Assisted Living Homes infiltrating many of the City’s older neighborhoods. These are private businesses enabled and allowed by certain State legislation. These private businesses are setting up shop in residential single family neighborhoods which can and often do have a deleterious effect on property values and neighborhood tranquility. As a Councilperson what would you offer as safeguards to the residents of these affected neighborhoods?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 9: Deteriorating Properties – There are currently a significant number of multifamily duplex apartment units in certain areas of the older neighborhoods of the City of Palm Beach Gardens. In most cases these duplex apartment units are rental properties in the hands of absentee owners. These units often are not maintained to the standards of Palm Beach Gardens’ codes and ordinances, thus, causing neighborhood deterioration and a deleterious effect on property values. As a Councilperson what, specifically, would you offer to improve this situation?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:


Question 10: Cut-through Traffic – Traffic is a significant problem in the City of Palm Beach Gardens. Northlake Boulevard, PGA Boulevard, Alternate A1A, Military Trail, Hood Road and even Burns Road are the major roadways that most residents think of when vehicular traffic is part of their conversations. However, another traffic contagion, cut-through traffic, is commanding almost equal attention for problem solving. Cut-through traffic is turning residential neighborhood roads which are not designed for the increased traffic counts into major collector thru-ways posing safety, noise, and other traffic attendant problems. As a Councilperson how would you combat this growing residential traffic problem?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 11: Shady Lakes Extension – The city wants to improve traffic flow on 117th around Timber Trace and Duncan and the City owned sports complex by running Shady Lakes Drive through from PGA to 117th. The neighborhood is mostly against it and a lawsuit may be in the works. An alternative is acquiring 117th from the School District and widening it. How should the city proceed to solve the traffic issues and also satisfy the concerns of the neighborhood?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 12: Incentives – Attracting businesses and jobs to the city can be approached in a number of ways. One is to provide tax incentives and outright payouts for infrastructure development like the county did with Scripps. Another is to subsidize private business directly. Another way is to make the city attractive as a place to create or expand a business by reducing the tax burden and simplifying the permitting process. What is your preferred approach to economic development?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Question 13: Business DevelopmentProcess – A couple of years ago, the one issue that generated the most controversy in the city was the matter of the stadium proposal for 117th street. Public opinion was divided – business interests supported it, neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity did not, but many residents wanted to hear a full proposal before deciding. The way the city conducted the process – in secret and through misleading statements by both staff and Council, was a large part of the problem. Although the Business Development Board requires confidentiality for its projects, those of large impact must have early public involvement. How would you propose that projects like this are handled in the future?


David Levy:
Carl Woods:
Audience Questions on development in Brigar, trucks on MacArthur, I95 / Central interchange, daily rental of houses, people skills of the candidates, land use restrictions at Avenir, Panama Hattie’s property, climate change, and the Congress Avenue extension.

Closing Statements


David Levy:
Carl Woods:

Martino: Flagrant Disregard for the Rights to Open Government

On February 12th the Palm Beach Post published a letter from a former Palm Beach Gardens resident, Mr. Gary Alexander, who now lives in Ibis Golf & Country Club in West Palm Beach. From my perspective his letter struck at the heart of what is wrong with the government that the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens is perpetrating on the Gardens residents. That wrong is a flagrant disregard for the rights of the public to open government.

Mr. Alexander desired information on the Avenir project that he was, and is, rightfully entitled to. He did the right thing. He requested to review the pertaining documentation at the City Hall. According to the article, apparently, there was no City employee available to watch over Mr. Alexander as he reviewed the documents. If there had been an employee available to babysit him “the hourly fee could be $43 on up, depending on who was free. No one was free, so no review was possible”. This is an all too familiar, but feckless attempt, at open government.

This arrogance toward the public’s right to information is a continuing saga of betrayal of the trust bestowed to Gardens City Council members upon their election. It is my opinion, that this City Council continuously deprives the public of the thought processes, discussions, and policy directions that they employ in their decision-making process as required by the Sunshine Law. Whatever the issue, how the City Council members determine their vote seems to be a mystery.

I ask the City Council to solve the following mystery votes at a regular City Council meeting…

* As the “baseball stadium fiasco” became a deepening mystery that the City Council claimed to know nothing about, the City Manager was flitting around the USA and Canada from Houston, to Arizona, and to Toronto, coercing baseball teams to come to a spring training baseball stadium in Palm Beach Gardens. Money was spent to hire a Public Relations firm, with close ties to one of the baseball teams promoting the Gardens site, to sell the baseball stadium to the residents. Money and time was spent for presentation materials at various public and private meetings. Where did these monies come from and who authorized these monies to be spent? Who selected the site? There are so many unanswered questions about the secretive process this “baseball stadium fiasco” tracked. City Council members claim to know nothing about anything. Why? Who does? And on and on the mystery goes…

* Mystery! The Palm Beach Gardens Municipal Golf Course is mysteriously renamed to Sandhill Crane Golf Course and the City Council knew nothing. If they don’t, who does?

* The City Council voted to move the Avenir project on the road to approval at a Quasi-Judicial Public Hearing after the Mayor announced a mysterious 485 reduction in housing units which was never discussed in the public hearing or any other public forum. At the hearing the City Council did not acknowledge the density reduction or question the process or ask how or when did this happen. Thus, I am asking the City Council when and where the mysterious density reduction discussions were held, what was the content of the discussions, and who where the mysterious participants.

* A City Park is named after a sitting City Council member but no vote by the City Council at an advertised City meeting was held. How, when and where was this mysterious decision made, and by who, and why?

It’s time for the City Council to answer these lingering questions and solve these mysteries, publicly.

Martino: Lack of Transparency Thwarts the Intent of the Sunshine Law

It’s a new year, 2016, but it’s the same old business as usual concerning the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens. The Palm Beach Post delivered new, and heretofore, unknown information concerning the “baseball stadium fiasco” of 2013 and 2014 further delineating unknown facts about the City’s deep rooted secretive involvement, such as, the City Manager gallivanting around the USA and Canada promoting a Gardens site for a $100,000,000 baseball stadium while the City Council claims it knows nothing. The Avenir project was given initial approvals to join the City after 485 housing units were mysteriously deleted from its application without any acknowledgement of same at the scheduled Quasi-Judicial Public Hearing. The City residents of Shady Lakes brought their concerns to the City Council regarding the extension of Shady Lakes Drive and were berated by the Mayor before being dismissed without answers. A City facility was dedicated to a City Council member for the first time in the City’s 57-year history yet, shamefully, it was not an advertised agenda item for Public consumption and comment. There is a common thread that binds all of these “accomplishments” together.

That thread is transparency or in these particular issues the lack of it. Florida has an exacting Sunshine Law that applies to all levels of government. It demands that the thought processes, actions, conversations, and subsequent votes that governing bodies take be subject to the Public’s scrutiny at all intervals of the process. Concerning the above issues, it is my opinion, that this current City Council has violated, or at the very least ignored, the intent of Florida’s Sunshine Law.

One might ask how that can be. The answer is a simple one. From my perspective, transparency, in an acceptable form was absent in the decision-making process concerning the above. The City Council did not advertise, publish a notice, discuss, disclose in Ex Parte, vote, and or meet in the Council chambers, to inform the Public of their conversations or policy intentions, as and where appropriate, concerning these issues.

Taking into consideration just these three issues, it is my opinion and conclusion, that the City Council has a problem or two or more:

  • One scheduled regularly meeting a month with the Public is totally insufficient to properly keep the Public informed, therefore, a problem.
  • Not holding regular workshop meetings is a problem.
  • Not recognizing that the City Manager meanders into the policy realm is a problem.
  • Presenting a hostile attitude toward residents, who address the City Council with their perceived problems, like them or not, is a problem.
  • Not making concise and clear motions for policy directions is a problem.
  • Decision-making without regard for Ex Parte, transparency, and the Sunshine Law is a major problem.

Residents Simmer over Long-standing Grievances

The February 4th Council meeting ended up taking about 2 hours although the agenda was very light, with only 1 new non-controversial resolution (7, 2016 – Mirasol flag/flag pole) and 2nd Reading on the Budget amendment (Ordinance 2, 2016) – both of which, along with the Consent Agenda, passed 4:0. Council Member Premuroso was unable to attend.

Mayor Jablin started the meeting with a moment of silence for Tory Buckley, long-time dedicated resident. Others on the Council also honored his service to the community. Charleen Szabo, Director of the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, was presented with a check for $21K – money raised through the City’s 10th Annual Mayor’s Veterans Golf Classic. The Golf Classic has raised over $233K over the last 10 years. The PBG Police Foundation also presented Ms. Szabo with a $5K check.

February 4, 2016

Carol Westmoreland, Executive Director of the Florida League of Cities, presented awards to Mayor Jablin and Council Member Russo for their over 23 and 27 years of service, respectively on the Council. Council members Tinsley and Levy too gave kudos to Russo and Jablin, as did resident Joan Ellias.

Comments by the Public covered a range of issues, none new, but all unresolved to-date:

  • Fire Station 64 staffing – has been an issue for Abby and Matt Baker for awhile (see PB Post article here). They seek full staffing of 5 rather than current 3 fire/rescue personnel. The couple last spoke on the issue in September during the Budget hearings.
  • Shady Lakes Extension plans – continue to be a subject of resident dissatisfaction. There appears to be a significant communications breakdown, with staff insisting that the various HOA refuse to meet with staff, while the residents say that alternative proposals are rejected and that the project appears to be marching along. Speaking at the meeting were Carol Levinson, Kathy Beamer, John Frost and Vito DeFransceso. Unheard by the residents, who left after public comment, was discussion by the Council. Council Member Levy suggested that perhaps a workshop was in order to gather resident input. City Manager Ferris said that the Shady Lakes HOA refuses to set a date for a meeting and that they have hired an attorney, so that meeting with them further would not be a good idea at this point. Tinsley suggested that this be discussed while the people are here. Russo lamented the unhappy residents and potential legal action which further stifles interaction. Jablin cited Kyoto Gardens Drive as an example of how it could go smoothly. Ferris said that all the info is online, that there is a traffic study, that there is an engineering study underway, and that the City doesn’t own 117th Ct. Ferris said the City doesn’t even have a plan yet. City Attorney Lohman gave status on the Quit Claim Deed request to the School Board re: 117th Ct. and lack of response. Residents who left the meeting should replay Items XI-XIII part of the meeting video to hear the discussion.
  • 4385 Flax Court (Plat 6)Margaret Collins, Terry Pitchford and Gary Pitchford spoke regarding the longstanding, over 2 1/2 years complaint about the status of this property. This item was last discussed back in the July timeframe and the residents have seen no progress. Mr. Pitchford will be seeking court resolution for the damages incurred.
  • Central Blvd/I-95 traffic relief proposal – Don Mathis spoke on his concern that the FDOT proposals don’t relieve the traffic on PGA/Military Trail area.
  • Michael Marsh of Vero Beach, spoke on Corey Jones and Mr. Marsh’s business on body-cams and dash-cams, and legal issues re: those devices

Note to residents – there will be an FDOT workshop  on Thursday February 18th on the I-95/Central Blvd Interchange