A Workshop at Last!


The Gardens’ City Council finally had an almost 1.5 hour workshop on December 21st – although poorly attended by the public on the Thursday right before the holidays. There was significant discussion. So all in all having workshops is a practice which the Council should consider more frequently.

December 21 Special Workshop

Unfortunately, the Council spent less than 10 minutes on Ordinance 26, 2017 which is (like question 1, in 2012), a repeal and replace of the entire Charter.

  • The only discussion was on residency of city manager and why it’s important not to limit choice in hiring a city manager, or the future manager’s ability to find a residence in this expensive city. The proposed new charter eliminates all mention of  City Manager residence – and Vice Mayor Marciano  brought up the topic because this was a matter of some resident concern in 2012.  It could be done as part of the hiring contract.  Council Member Woods agreed – and both referenced North Palm Beach and Jupiter as examples. Mayor Marino exclaimed it should be a contract issue not a charter issue.
  • Not debated at all were other changes to the Charter such as: definition of what constitutes a term, how vacancies are filled, the elimination of requirements for charter reviews, the elimination of requirements for city audits, the elimination of city manager evaluations, throwing out actual votes in definition of ‘total votes cast’...apparently nothing to see here as far as the Council is concerned – and the voter won’t be seeing it in the ballot summary language either.

Ordinance 27, 2017 (Term Limits) has two versions of ballot question 2 – A and B and the Council will have to decide on which one to select at the January 4th, 2018 city council meeting. Council Member Lane asked if A and B wording could be combined into one question. City Attorney Lohman didn’t respond to that question but thought Lane meant combining all the charter change language into 1 question and thus it was not considered. (The retroactivity language could have been included in version A to make the wording more comparable.) Lohman recommends B.

Ordinance 29, 2017 (Plurality instead of Majority) – The issue of plurality vs majority took all of about 3 minutes – with City Attorney Lohman lamenting the even poorer turnout for our City’s municipal run-off elections than for regular Uniform Municipal Elections.

The remainder of the workshop debated primarily life-time ban on running again (Ordinance 32, 2017) versus the provision to sit out and run again (Ordinance 28, 2017). The council discussed the pros and cons which would then be considered once again in the Special Meeting which followed after adjournment.


The purpose of the special city council meeting was to discuss specifically the selection of either Ordinance 28, 2017 or Ordinance 32, 2017 for inclusion on the ballot. Public Comment was made by 3 individuals:  Lois Kleinberg, Meg Shannon and Jane Feinstein all recommended that the Council choose Ordinance 28. Ms. Shannon, a member of the Charter Review Committee directed her ire at those residents who disagree with placing the proposed changes before the voter in March. She asked ‘what were they so afraid of? (We would answer – having the votes of 16,000+ voters  from the November 2014 election overturned by possibly 500 or so votes in a woefully attended Uniform Municipal election in March).

December 21 Special Council

The Council then discussed again the merits of each proposal – with the final vote 3:2 (Lane/Marciano against) for Ordinance 28, 2017.

In more detail, Mayor Marino led off and proclaimed that the recommendations of the Charter Review Committee cannot be ignored, spoke out against term limits in concept (citing stability), said it’s for the voters to decide, that the election had to be in March because SOE Bucher says so, and that the Council was being courageous by placing the questions on the ballot. Council Member Litt summarized that a lifetime ban was never intended. Council Member Woods (he of ‘3 terms and you’re out’ verbiage over the last several months) reconsidered and was now for the ability to run again after a sit-out. Council Member Lane disagreed with the City Attorney’s interpretation of the base Charter language on term limits and the retro-activity provision, feeling the current charter language was clear. As explained in the Palm Beach Post article summarizing the meeting results and  the contentious ending to the meeting here, Vice-Mayor Marciano explained his concern with possible voter confusion on the wording in Ordinance 28, 2017 and described Ordinance 32, 2017 (life-time ban) more clearly worded.

Expect the January 4th meeting to have a heavy agenda – however other than choosing the ballot language for Ordinance 27, 2017 (term limits choices A or B) the discussion by Council on the ballot questions will most likely be pro-forma.

Alert: December 21st City Council Special Mtg and Workshop at 7 PM on Charter

There will be a City Council Special Workshop, concurrent with a City Council Special Meeting on Thursday, December 21 at 7pm in City Hall.  The special meeting was called at the December 7th City Council meeting when City Attorney Max Lohman pointed out that there were issues with the implications of the ballot language wording for Ordinance 28, 2017.  Council was to discuss revised language for either an outright ban of term limited council members running again or to allow for a 3-year sit-out. 

There is now an additional agenda for a City Council Special Workshop to discuss all of the proposed ballot ordinances:

Public Comment will only be permitted for agenda items Ordinance 28, 2017 and Ordinance 32, 2017.

The Ballot summaries and ballot language have changed from the December 7th City Council Meeting.  There is a lot being modified in quite a chaotic rush in order to meet the need for 2nd reading and adoption on January 4th and the January 19th noon deadline for getting on the ballot March 13, 2018.  (This will get scant attention from even involved citizens as all head into the holiday period.  Thus our Council will attempt to meet the ‘letter of the law’ while not meeting the ‘intent’ of transparency and full disclosure.)

Please read our summary of the December 7th  meeting entitled Council Forges Ahead to Change Term Limits and Elections 4:1 and the latest Martino Minute entitled Charter Changes – No need, No reason, No urgency.

Martino: Charter Changes – No need, No reason, No urgency

At the tail-end of the December 7th Palm Beach Gardens City Council agenda scheduled for 1st reading considerations and Council votes were Ordinances 26, 27, 28, and 29. Each of these ordinances concerned ballot language for the City Charter changes that were recommended by the Council appointed Charter Review Committee. It is the City Council’s intent to offer these major Charter revisions as ballot questions to the registered voters of Palm Beach Gardens in a March 13, 2018 election in total.

Ordinance 26 basically decimates the existing Charter as it is currently written except for City boundaries. Ordinances 27, 28, and 29 foment radical changes to the 2014 Term Limit Law that was voted into the Charter by 16,000 yes votes. These ordinances drastically alter the City’s election process. The City Council agenda spent 173 minutes on these ordinances as delineated below, 135 under public comment, and 38 minutes to approve the ordinances. The Council members contributed little discernible justification for their decisions…

  • The City Attorney occupied 53 minutes of the Public Comment time giving an excellent presentation but one that should have been given at an earlier Council workshop that was never held.
  • The Public commented for 51 minutes both pro and con on the 4 ordinances.
  • The Charter Review Committee Chairman spoke for 9 minutes and the City Attorney for 3 minutes defending points of contention.
  • Finally, the City Council members entered the Public Comment discussion for a whole 19 minutes. One Council member voiced his objections to the whole mess for 7 minutes while another Council member berated his fellow member’s comments of objection with anger and annoyance for another 7 minutes. That left about 5 minutes for the other 3 members to show their stuff and approve Ordinance 26.
  • Ordinance 27 which changes the Council term limits from two-three year terms to three-three year terms took all of 12 minutes to discuss and approve.
  • Ordinance 29 changes the mandate that a majority of votes are necessary to win City Council election to a simple plurality wins was discussed and approved in a 4-minute blink of the eye.
  • Ordinance 28 which establishes a sit-out provision before an incumbent Councilperson can run again for a new set of three-three year terms was so perplexing that no one understood whose ox was being cored. So after 22 minutes of confused discussion the City Attorney was directed to bring back new language to be discussed at a Special Meeting called for December 21st.

Okay, so where are we? The Charter Committee has met as required and submitted its recommendations. The City Attorney has provided his best efforts to legally support the City Council’s directions. The City Council approved on 1st reading the ballot language to ask the City electors to consider these drastic Charter changes. All that remains is the final Council approvals scheduled for the January 4, 2018, Council meeting.

Okay, so what is missing, wrong, or inappropriate? Quite a bit I would say! Missing is the demonstrable need, reasoning, and urgency for these City Charter changes. Wrong is the less than transparent approval process that the City Council has foisted on the Public for these Charter changes. Inappropriate is the self-serving perception of current City Council members who understood the Term Limit Law existed and applied to them when they very recently stood for election to the City Council and have yet to complete a single term but now recommend changing the Term Limit Law to their benefit using their appointed Charter Review Committee recommendations as a shield and an excuse for these Charter changes.

Okay, so what are my observations? Recommendations from appointed committees are not mandates to the City Council or its constituents; translation:  it is not a requirement, legal or otherwise, to present a ballot question on any or all of the Charter Committee recommendations. A requirement of transparency is communication of thought and reasoning among Council members themselves with the Public in attendance; translation:   workshop meetings should be held to explain positions of each Council member within the body and to the public so clear and concise policy direction can be developed. Perceptions can be altered by changing direction before finality prevents the opportunity for course corrections; translation:  stop now and start over to correct a flawed process and course of action.

My message to the City Council is a simple one…

Don’t touch our elections! Don’t touch our term limits! Leave them alone!

Council Forges Ahead to Change Term Limits and Elections 4:1

In their zeal to put proposed Charter changes on an expected very low-turnout, no-candidate electon in March, the Council spent more time debating whether or not an issue City Attorney Lohman found with ballot wording and the existing Charter for allowing term-limited council members to run again than they did the significant changes that reside not just in term limits, but in the base charter. Only Council Member Lane, voting against all four proposed ballot questions, raised significant issues with ballot language, the failure of the Council to conduct workshops or actively debate the changes, and need for such a rush to make these changes with so little debate and so early in the new council’s incumbency. His comments were met with derision and offense taken by the remainder of the Council and the City Attorney. Shame on them!

December 7th

We make no attempt to be objective on this issue – Matthew Lane was taking the correct position and raising precisely the issues that should have been raised at this meeting. He should be commended for taking a stand. While Mayor Marino proclaimed that the Council was to there to make policy and not legal arguments, the Council once again hid behind their appointed Charter Review Committee and avoided discussing the issues inherent in the ‘cleaned-up’ charter. It’s the often quoted “Let the People decide” which the weak use when unwilling to debate the issues and make difficult decisions. It is possible that some on the Council don’t even recognize that there ARE issues.

PBGWatch – as a blog, was formed in 2012 directly as a result of the actions that the (different) Council then attempted to take in introducing significant policy modifications in the guise of modernization. Sadly, history is repeating itself – although with a little more transparency but not much more deliberation by the current Council.

As in 2012, the proposed charter is a total replacement. As such, it is totally reorganized and renumbered. Whether originating in the work of the Charter Review Committee and/or the City Attorney, the voter will not know about the details within. Nor will those details have been discussed at any length or at all by the Council. There are changes that affect how elections are handled and how votes are tallied – but the voter will NOT know that.

While there were many members of the public speaking for and against extending term limits, allowing term-limited to run again and for/against majority vs plurality wins – not much new ground was broken on either side. Nor did it matter as the Council was already firm in their positions.


Expect Council votes to be pro-forma on these ordinances in the January 4th, 2017 City Council meeting since this council feels it has adequately addressed the issues.

The December 7th Council meeting was a long one – starting at 6pm. The first two hours were spent on the presentations, items of resident interest and board/committee reports, and other agenda items, all passing 5:0.

A more detailed list of items within the proposed replacement charter – Exhibit A in Ordinance 26, 2017, will appear as a separate future blog post.

Here is a link to the Charter discussions during the meeting. And here is the Palm Beach Post article on the topic.

Next PBG City Council Meeting on Thursday Dec 7th at 6PM!

The next City Council Meeting will be on Thursday December 7th at 6pm.  Note the changed start time due to a very lengthy agenda.  Note also that first reading of the Ordinances related to Charter and Term Limits changes (Ordinance 26-29, 2017) are last on the agenda preceded by several presentations and other ordinances and resolutions.
  • Honda Classic Community Impact Presentation
  • St. Marks Church, Inc. – conduit debt obligation – bond acquisition (this corresponds to Resolution 83, 2017 which is on the Regular Agenda)
  • Lease Agreement for District Park – (corresponds to Resolution 54, 2017 on Consent Agenda)
  • Design Build of Public Services Operations Center – (corresponds to Resolution 79, 2017 on Consent Agenda)
Consent Agenda is lengthy but includes the following Purchase Awards:
  • Miscellaneous Public Works Projects – This Agreement is the City’s exercise of a three-year option to renew of the original Contract – 3 year total contract value $10M
  • Portable Truck Lifts for Fleet Division  – replacement of existing trucks – one time expenditure – $77K
  • Bleacher Covers for North side of Gardens Park – piggyback/access contract – $103K
  • Trackman Simulation Equipment for Golf Training Center – bid waiver –  will allow the City’s Sandhill Crane Golf Club to purchase a golf training simulation and swing analysis equipment and accessories for the Golf Training Center – $100K

City Manager Report  – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions:
  • 2nd reading and Adoption of Ordinances 20, 2017 (micro wireless facilities) and Ordinance 21 (Tesla Showroom)
  • Resolution 77, 2017 – Art In Public Places for Clarity Pointe Assisted Living Facilities in Alton
  • Resolution 83, 2017 – Conduit Debt Obligation – Bond Acquisition – $10.5 Million – covered in Presentations
  • Ordinance 30, 2017 and Ordinance 31, 2017 – First reading – Small scale comprehensive map amendment and rezoning from Public to Industrial for city property located on SW corners of Burns and Ironwood – in preparation for the sale of the property when the new Public Works Building is completed.
  • Ordinance 24, 2017 – first reading – placing the annexation of BAY HILL ESTATES, THE PRESERVE AT BAY HILL ESTATES, AND RUSTIC LAKES on the March 13, 2018 ballot for residents of those communities.
  • Ordinance 26, 2017 (and related ballot wording ordinances 27-29, 2017) – First reading of  Proposed Charter changes to be placed on ballot on March 13, 2018. Ordinance 26, 2017 – Update the 1976 City Charter to be in compliance with State Law. Ordinance 27, 2017- Extend Term Limits to three – three year terms, Ordinance 28, 2017 – Councilmembers leaving office due to term limits may not be elected again for a period of three years, Ordinance 29, 2017 – elect Councilmembers by Plurality rather than by Majority.

Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting here.