Martino: “Fixes”…no thank you!

On March 13th the Palm Beach Gardens registered voters are being asked by its City Council to answer yes or no to 4 ballot questions that significantly change the City Charter and dramatically alter the recently passed City Council Term Limit Law. From my perspective, these changes do not upgrade, enhance, or provide forward momentum for the residents and their City Charter or government. In my opinion, the 4 ballot questions deserve a NO 

The City Council and others that support these changes offer nothing of consequence or necessity in the way of rational reasoning. Their basis of reasoning for these substantive Charter changes is…  

  • Recommendations of Charter Review Committee 

Rebuttal: This committee was appointed by the City Council. Two of the members were City lobbyists and one of them does not live in the City. The committee was not balanced geographically and no appointment was made from any of the older original Plats of the City. In a hasty fashion, it held only four meetings causing the hired consultant  to remark about the brevity of the process. Finally, recommendations are only that and need not be accepted, adopted, or approved, as has happened in the past.    

  • Learning curve for new Council members is steep 

Rebuttal: My answer is simple; the intricacies of the office one seeks should be learned before standing for that office. If you cannot be productive from the first meeting don’t run for the job. In various campaign forums and meetings, these City Council members asserted their experience and fitness for the job. In their campaign literature that is mailed to voters the council members ballyhoo loud and clear about their readiness to perform.  I guess we should not have believed their exclamations.  

  • 6 years is not enough time to do the job 

Rebuttal: Above the assertion is the learning curve to do the job is steep. If two terms of three years, or 6 years, is not enough to do the job. Well, are 9 or 12, or 15 or 28 years enough? How much time is enough to be competent in a part-time job that has it work product implemented by a well-paid, well tenured, Administration and Staff.   

  • Institutional memory 

Rebuttal: The meshing of the two words, institutional memory, sounds important. Is it politically correct to have it? It’s almost scary to think you may not have it. So I looked it up.  Institutional memory is a collective set of facts, concepts, experiences and knowledge held by a group of people. Institutional memory has been defined as stored knowledge within an organization. There are different ideas about how institutional memory is transferred, whether it is between people or through written sources. It is my opinion, in the case of a Council-Manager form of local government whose elected officials are part-time and elected on a staggered basis, as Palm Beach Gardens does, the main source of memory comes from input by people to be recognized in and through formal hearings, meetings, and then by documentation into public records, and not by any particular individual, elected or otherwise. Institutional memory than, as it applies to a Council-Manager government, is not vested in any one City Council member, but its City Council as a group, augmented by transparent public documented records, and an Administration with Staff that has some degree of tenure and longevity.  

  • The City Charter is bush league and broken 

Rebuttal: That’s right; according to our City Attorney’s comment at the October 5, 2017 City Council meeting we have a “Bush League” City Charter. The charter is the constitution for our City. By extrapolation then, is the City Attorney with his “Bush League” utterance inferring that Palm Beach Gardens is a second tier, minor league, City? Probably not is my hope, but his other comments also smacked of insolence for the City Charter. Our City Charter has evolved, been amended, and guided our City over time since 1959, long before our current City Attorney was around to completely understand its history to present day. It has stood the test of time. It has been tested in the Courts and upheld in almost every instance. Our City Charter is not broken. It does not need the 4 “fixes” the City Council is trying to foist on the residents.  

This City Council was elected under the language and laws of the current City Charter which includes the Term Limits, election laws, legal vote counting, and other regulations which they now claim, after the fact, need “fixing”, and  right now. Where was the urgency during their campaigning? Why didn’t they offer these “fixes” as platform issues during their campaigns? The Term Limits that they want to change allowed them to be elected. The above reasoning for the Charter “fixes” they say are necessary are feeble at best and almost approach the absurd. In my opinion, this City Council, that has not yet completed one 3-year term in office, has been a bit self-serving and less than an “honest broker” in this “fixing” process. 

The information I have learned says each of the 4 referendum questions should be answered with a “NO”. 

Martino: Say NO to the ‘Kool-Aid’

In part due to the overwhelming passage in 2014 of Term Limits the City of Palm Beach Gardens elected five new City Council members. Council members’ faces have changed and the dais nameplates have changed. But so far not much else has changed. The “newbies” promises of change have not materialized. The expectations of term limits have not kick-started the change in governmental style and culture as some expected. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Ten months into having five new Council voices the “newbies” sound and act like the “oldies”. A sense of arrogance still permeates the singular monthly scheduled Council meeting. The administration is still “stroking and cajoling” and the “newbies’ seem to like the “Kool Aid” being served. The pledge of transparency is still wanting. The promise to hold regularly scheduled workshop meetings on agenda items remains unfulfilled. The 2018 budget expenditures did not decrease as alleged during the Council campaign but actually increased by approximately 7.4%. Even though 16,000 Gardens registered voters approved the new 2014 Term Limit Law, the “newbies” voted to shatter term limits as mandated, as well as, disenfranchising the registered voters from the democratic election process in Palm Beach Gardens under the pretext and ruse of modernizing the City Charter.

Ten meetings and what innovative and fresh initiatives have the “newbies” offered? What of substance to improve the everyday lives of Gardens residents have they accomplished or even discussed? Unfortunately, from my perspective, there is not much of consequence that I can relate too. For what it’s worth, I would suggest that the Council’s agenda would better serve the residents if it attacked some of the real and everyday neighborhood problems facing a sixty year old City. Permit me to list just a few in no particular order…

  • neighborhood cut-through traffic on streets, such as, Holly Drive, MacArthur Blvd., and Lighthouse Drive
  • Town Hall-Plat 6 Foot Bridge
  • upgrading and code enforcement in City areas that contain multi -family Duplex units as found on the east side of Holly Drive between Ironwood and Lighthouse Drive in Plat 1
  • median landscaping improvements along Alternate A1A from PBG southern boundary to Hood Road
  • influx of sober homes in older neighborhoods
  • discussion of management of Brightline train expected problems and status of upgrading of PBG crossings
  • discussion assessing needs of older original Plats and neighborhoods of the City

So am I being unfair, or overly negative, opining as I do. I think not. I am just reflecting on the obvious. Yes, Palm Beach Gardens is a great place to live and 94% of residents in a recent survey say so. Yet there are issues and problems that need solutions. I have lived in the Gardens for 53 years and it has always been that way no matter who the Council members are.

My advice to the current City Council members is to resist the “stroking and cajoling” and to say no to the “Kool Aid”. Oppose self-serving tendencies and the temptations of the special interests. Reclaim the prerogative of the City Council to create “policy and direction” for the Administration to implement. Generate policy for innovative and fresh initiatives that serve the needs and pleasures of the residents who gave you their trust.

VOTE BUT VOTE NO ON QUESTIONS 1 THROUGH 4

Palm Beach Gardens has 4 referendum questions on the Tuesday March 13 Municipal Election related to our city’s Charter – which is its constitution. It is vital that you DO VOTE however since so few residents vote in our city’s elections. The Council is taking advantage of the expected extremely low-turnout election with no candidates on the ballot, to get rid of the 2 3-year term limits that more than 16000 of us voted for in November 2014 by adding an additional term and allowing term-limited council members to run again.

They are trying to get rid of “majority wins” (which means 50%+1) by arguing it saves the cost of run-offs which rarely happen; but “majority wins” ensures that the person who is elected is the choice of most of the voters.  The Council does not seem to see the irony in spending the $70,000 or so for the no-candidate election plus the additional $60,000 plus for the related marketing materials – the cost of two run-off elections, in the guise of saving the taxpayer money on future run-offs.

The Council vote was NOT unanimous with Council Member Lane voting NO on all four referendum questions.

The public information campaign will claim that the city’s Charter is simply being modernized – hiding the fact that a yes vote also gets rid of required Charter Reviews, city manager residence, city manager reviews, changing how council vacancies are filled, disenfranchising voters in determining ‘total votes cast’ and more. This was tried previously in November 2012 and rejected by over 11000 of the voters.

Who benefits from all of these changes? The ‘insiders’ and the Council – none of whom have even completed a single term yet.

See details on each ballot question here:

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 1

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 2

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 3

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 4

 

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 1

Vote NO on Question 1

Vote NO on Question 1

Why vote NO?  If you don’t know, understand, or agree with what is in the details of the Referendum Question 1 you should vote NO!  And there’s a lot to understand!  This post cannot possibly cover all the changes – but the following are NOT internal consistencies, conflicts with state law, or have anything to do with formatting.  This is a very lengthy post because the simple YES/NO ballot question encompasses so many topics.

Definition of Terms used in the Ballot Question

  • The Charter is the City’s Constitution.  It is the City’s framework.
  • The Charter Review Committee was an unelected group of 5 individuals appointed by the City Council for a short period to review the current Charter and recommend changes.  They were an unelected body – and 5 other people most likely could have come up with different recommendations.  Two of the members of that committee are lobbyists who represent very large interests that come before the Council.  One of those lobbyists, while a property owner in the city, does not reside nor vote in the Gardens.   They presented a set of recommendations to the Council, most of which were similar to, if not identical, to those recommended by City Attorney Lohman in 2012 and rejected by 11360 voters in November 2012.
  • The Charter Review Committees report is just a set of recommendations – it is the Council that decides which if any are to be placed on the ballot and those on the Council are the only ones accountable for what is on the ballot. (Note:  4:1 with Council Member Lane voting NO).
  • Exhibit A, referenced in the ballot question, is the proposed replacement Charter.  It does not show what was removed from the current charterit is a REPEAL AND REPLACE.  And a lot has been repealed!
  • As a voter – try and find Ordinance 26, 2017 Exhibit A and the Charter Review Committee Report and any explanation of what was changed although all are referenced in Referendum Question 1*

Need for Charter Reviews

  • Currently the Charter is required to be reviewed every 5 years.  THE PROPOSAL REMOVES THE REQUIREMENT TO EVER HAVE A CHARTER REVIEW!  This matters because the only way there would be a charter review in the future is if a sitting  Council votes to initiate one.  Residents’ only  other recourse would be to gather petitions of over 10% of the registered voters in the city to get a charter change on the ballot – a difficult task.  The City is growing rapidly both through annexation plans plus future growth in Avenir, and one could anticipate the need for changes to the government structure such as districts or a strong-mayor and without a Charter Review this will not happen.  The Charter Review Committee recommended that the need for Charter Reviews be maintained in order to maintain trust with the voter, however the City Attorney removed the requirement in developing the proposed replacement Charter.

City Manager Residence and Annual Performance Review

  • Controversial in the 2012 ballot question was the proposed removal of the requirement for the City Manager to reside within the City.  Difficulty in finding a qualified resident to fill the position, lack of affordable housing for a prospective City Manager to move here (who in 2017 according to the FL League of cities, earned $225,834.51 with 50.5 sick days, 100% health insurance costs paid and also provided: car, laptop, cell phone, frs retirement, additional retirement package, severance package), or requiring a candidate who lives closeby to move, were discussed as the rationale for removing the requirement. The Council discussed making it a requirement in any prospective City Manager’s contract – but did not pass an ordinance stating that.  They are expecting the residents to ‘trust’ them to do so when negotiating with a future City Manager.  IT WILL NO LONGER BE POLICY.
  • Additionally, the proposed Charter no longer references an annual review of the City Manager.  Yes – the City Manager serves at the will and vote of the Council, but a public review, no matter how spurious, forces the Council to at least state their positions on the City Manager’s performance.

Redefining the Definition of a Term

  • In the current Charter, a term is what a Council Member is elected to.  There is no parsing parts of a term.  Changed in the proposed charter – is the sentence “Service of one-half or less than one-half of a full three (3) year term shall not count toward the subject term limit.”  The rationale given by the Charter Review Committee was that it is consistent with the 22nd Amendement to the US Constitution for President.  But discussion rationale by the CRC was that someone may leave office for illness or some other reason and should not be term-limited by having been elected to two consecutive terms and not serving at least 1 1/2 years of the final term.  At the same time, they felt it was reasonable, if one has served over 1 1/2 terms, that a council member should be considered to have served two consecutive terms to avoid situations like arose when one on the council resigned to run after having served almost his complete term.

Redefining ‘A Majority of Votes Cast’

  • The current charter states that “the candidate receiving a majority of the votes cast at such a election to fill such office will be declared to be duly elected.”  Majority means getting 50% plus 1 of the votes cast.
  • A real-life example of a situation where a candidate was named the ‘winner’ by the City Clerk (and then removed by the courts for a different reason) was the March 2016 election between David Levy and Carl Woods.  Kevin Easton withdrew after ballots had already been printed and absentee ballots sent out.  Almost 8% of the voters legitimately cast their votes for Mr. Easton – because they either supported him, or were voting ‘None of the above’.  In this result, Mr. Levy only received 47% of the majority of votes cast and thus it could be argued that he did NOT receive the majority of votes cast and should not have been seated.  The voters cast legitimate votes and these would be discarded, and those voters disenfranchised by the proposed wording in Exhibit A.  
  • Note the very lengthy new wording in the proposed charter in order to avoid future court challenges:

If death, withdrawal or removal from the ballot of a qualified candidate occurs after the ballots have been submitted for printing, have been printed, and/or after the deadline for mailing vote by mail ballots, any such previously qualified candidate shall no longer be considered and Commented [RML4]: This single sentence, along with Section 4-1 imbues the city council with all of the legal authority that it may currently possess pursuant to the Florida Constitution and general law. Commented [RML5]: Amended to allow the timing of the election to be changed by ordinance. Amended to provide for the method of qualification to be established by ordinance in accordance with Section 100.3605, F.S. shall no longer be a candidate, qualified or otherwise, for the office for which their name appeared on the subject ballot. Such deceased, withdrawn, disqualified, or removed candidate shall be defined as and referred to as a “former candidate.” Accordingly, votes cast for or ballots submitted in favor of any former candidate shall not be counted in the total number of votes and/or ballots. No vote for a former candidate shall count or contribute toward the total number of votes, number of under votes, or number of overvotes. A ballot marked, annotated, or which in any way could be interpreted to constitute a vote in favor of a former candidate shall be treated as a nullity, as it relates to that specific contest for election. It is the express intent of the City of Palm Beach Gardens that votes cast and ballots submitted for a former candidate shall have no effect on the outcome or results of any city election. This provision shall be strictly construed by all courts having jurisdiction in the State of Florida.

Changing How  a Vacancy is Filled

  • Currently, if there is a vacancy on the council, it may be filled by appointment of a temporary new council person until an election can be held to fill the vacancy.  It shall be held within 60 days after the vacancy unless there is an upcoming election within 180 days.  The proposed change would have the temporary council person serve until the next scheduled general municipal election as follows

The city council or so much of it as shall remain, shall have the power by a majority vote of the remaining members to fill a vacancy on the council by the appointment of a qualified elector to hold such office until the next available general municipal election when a successor shall be elected and take office. Should the council decline to fill a vacancy, the vacant seat shall be filled by a successor at the next available general municipal election. The successor so elected shall then serve the remaining portion of the three- (3) year term for the council seat in which the vacancy occurred.

The public information campaign will claim that the city’s Charter is simply being modernized – hiding the fact that a yes vote also gets rid of required Charter Reviews, city manager residence, city manager reviews, changing how council vacancies are filled, disenfranchising voters in determining ‘total votes cast’ and more.

This was tried previously in November 2012 and rejected by over 11000 of the voters.

*References:

 

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 2

 

q2

 

In reading the above Referendum Question No 2 is it obvious to you that the City already has Term Limits of 2 consecutive 3-year terms?

  • Sure doesn’t read like that.  So if you aren’t already aware that Term Limits was just on the ballot as recently as in November 2014, and passed by 16,186 voters, over 79% of those voting in a General Election, you would never know it.  
  • None of those currently on the Palm Beach Gardens City Council have even completed their first 3-year term
  • We expect a very low turnout election on March 13, where there is nothing on the ballot but proposed changes to the City’s Charter.  Thus, the will of over 16,000 voters who voted for 2 3-year terms may be over-ridden by as few as half of the turnout – which we estimate may be as low as 1000 voters.  So it’s possible for 501 voters to over-turn 2 3-year terms and change it to 3 3-year terms.  IS THIS RIGHT OR FAIR?
  • More people signed the petitions to get Term Limits on the November 2014 ballot than will probably vote to alter it in March.  IS THIS RIGHT OR FAIR?
  • Rationale given by four on the Council (Matthew Lane voting NO) by placing it on the ballot was:
    • The Charter Review Committee, appointed by the Council, recommended it.  While this was discussed in depth by the Committee, there were no true opponents in voting for a longer serving time by any on the committee who voted unanimously.  There was no strong opposition to changing what was just passed recently and a different mix of members on the CRC may have voted differently.
    • The Charter Review Committee acknowledged that incumbents almost always get re-elected.  Thus they knew that they were granting the current council, not a disinterested group, an additional term.  And some on the CRC were lobbyists doing business before the City.
    • Some on the Council suggested that voters weren’t given a list of options in 2014 so perhaps they didn’t really understand that they were voting for 2 3-year terms and might have wanted longer terms or more terms.
    • Voters were only voting for term limits because they really want them in Congress so they were taking out their wrath on local officials.
    • Council members NEED more time to see the results of their actions and to overcome the steep learning curve in their positions.  Learning curve?  So should we cast out all of their votes in their first terms since they were ignorant and unqualified?
  • Passage of this question 2, along with Referendum Question No 3, would allow Council to serve indefinitely, with a 3-year sit-out between  limited-terms.  So serve 9 years, take a break, serve another 9 ad infinitum.  Sound like Term Limits to you?
  • Most of the text of the ballot question references retroactivity and most of the discussion by Council centered around that point because they didn’t want past council members, themselves or future council members to have an unfair advantage in a perceived flaw in the existing Charter wording.

Who benefits from this change?  Clearly the incumbents and clearly the various interested parties with business before the Council who want stability.

 

 

 

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 3

q3

VOTE NO ON QUESTION NO 3

The ballot question says that the current charter does not specify the minimum time that a term limited council member must be out of office before running again.  Is this true?  We think not and that the Ballot question is misleading.

  • The current charter states “No individual shall be elected to the office of council member for more than two (2) consecutive full terms.”
  • It has been interpreted that the 4th District Court of Appeals in deciding Levy v. Woods determined that 2 consecutive terms IS the limit and that term-limited Council Members may not run again.

Rationale for proposing this ballot item rests on the supposed lack of candidates wanting to run for the office and the need to retain qualified and experienced (meaning term-limited former Mayors and Council Members) involvement in the community, by allowing them to run again after a sit-out period of a term.  The interruption in their consecutive term of office would lessen their overwhelming electoral advantage as an incumbent, and sever perceived ties with those with interests with the City.  (Note:  Council passed this 4:1 with Council Member Lane voting NO)

However passage of this question 3, along with Referendum Question No 2 (expanding term-limits to 3 consecutive terms), would allow Council to serve indefinitely, with a 3-year sit-out between  limited-terms.  So serve 9 years, take a break, serve another 9 ad infinitum.

Sound like Term Limits to you?

Why Vote NO on Referendum Question 4

q4Vote NO on Question 4

First some definition of terms:

  • Majority Wins – in an election, the candidate receiving at least 50% of the votes plus 1 is the winner.  In a multiple candidate race this clearly demonstrates that the winning candidate represents the majority of the voters.  Rarely (in our City’s history), no one candidate receives the majority, and thus a run-off election is required.
  • Plurality Wins – in an election, the candidate winning the most votes is the winner.  In a two-person race, the winner will have received the majority of the votes.  In a multiple candidate race, the candidate with the most votes will be the winner, even if that candidate actually has a minority of the total votes cast.  There would be no run-off election.

Rationale used by the Charter Review Committee and the Council:

  • The cost of having a run-off election was cited by both the City Clerk Snider and the City Attorney Lohman
  • Clerk Snider stated that in the last 15 years, never has the winner of the plurality vote not also won the run-off
  • The City already has a very low turn-out for Municipal (March) elections and the run-off two weeks later has yet a smaller percentage of voters.

Why  Maintain Majority?

  • The City’s most recent election gives an example of the case where the winner of the run-off would have won in either Majority Wins or Plurality Wins.  Mrs. Litt had 38% of the vote, Mr. Russo had 34%, Mr. Wicker had 20% and Mr. Easton had 9% of the 6331 voters.  Thus 62%, the majority, voted for someone other than Mrs. Litt.  In the run-off, Litt won over Russo with 58% of the vote – a clear majority of the 5235 voters.  With a different set of candidates or had the Mr. Russo been able to gather the votes of the other candidates, the outcome could have been different.  With plurality wins, one could question that Mrs. Litt had not earned the confidence of the majority of the voters who cared enough to vote.  With the run-off, Litt can totally claim to have earned her seat.
  • Run-offs happen rarely (2 in 2004 and 1 in 2017), and while the statistics that Clerk Snider states are true for the last 15 years, in the almost 60 year history of the City there has been at least one case where the winner of the plurality lost the run-off.
  • At all levels of government, it is a not uncommon technique to fill a candidate slate with ‘faux’ candidates (friends of an incumbent as an example), who divide the vote and make it easier for the incumbent or candidate with more name recognition to eek out a win by popular vote.  The run-off eliminates those candidates and lets the ‘legitimate’ candidates ‘duke it out’ in the run-off.
  • Some municipalities that have Plurality Wins require the winner to have at least 35% of the vote.  Referendum Question 4 does not have such a limit – thus a candidate with 4 or 5 opponents could clearly have a very small percentage of the total vote.
  • In the 2012 Charter Review, the then sitting council was presented with the same recommendation by the City Attorney, and wisely removed it from the proposed referendum.  (Note:  Council vote was 4:1 with Council Member Lane voting NO)
  • Cost of elections should not be the primary reason for eliminating elections – why have elections at all?  The March 13, 2018 election will only have the four referendum questions on it with no other candidates.  The City will be spending the cost of at least two run-offs on having this election.  

There is no compelling reason to change from Majority Wins to Plurality Wins

Now It’s Up to the Voters

The chambers were packed at the start of the first 2018 City Council meeting. The majority were there to honor the Gardens Gators for winning the Pop Warner Super Bowl. At the conclusion of that portion of the meeting, about half of the chamber emptied out.

Items of Resident Interest and Board Committee Reports was dominated by Council Member Woods decrying emails generated by an action alert regarding charter changes and term limits, and then seconded by Council Member Litt  who added that there was also a facebook ad with their faces on it. She cautioned residents to  be careful of what one forwards or hits send on. Council Member Lane recounted the incredible Hanukkah celebration which included Ms. Litt and former Mayor Jablin, bringing all the temples together for the celebration. He also mentioned a Senior luncheon where the Council were the wait-staff. Mayor Marino covered a PBGYAA fund-raiser, toy drive and plugged the City resident survey results with 94% approval citing police, fire and recreation as the top issues of importance.

January 4th

City Manager  Report:  Police Major Paul Rogers was recognized for graduating from the FBI National Academy – see the article in the Palm Beach Post , the City’s Holiday Joy Drive benefited over 1600 local children, including displaced victims of Hurricane Maria from Puerto Rico, and discussed the new brush trucks that the City bought, and the item on consent of the purchase of a public education trailer on fire safety – covered by Purchasing and Contracts Director  Km! Ra and Fire Marshall Dave DaRita.

Comments from the Public included heartfelt pleas by Carol and Kevin Easton referencing their long time battle with Code Enforcement and the unfairness of the entire situation. Anthony Badala, President of PBGYAA, thanked the Council for their votes regarding the new County Park and added his support for extending term limits to 3 consecutive terms citing continuity for his organizations successes. Joan Elias, long term resident and a presence at city council meetings for over 23 years, announced that she and her husband will be moving to be closer to their daughter. She also exclaimed her disagreement for term limits and said term limits is wrong for this City.

Public Hearings and Resolutions

Ordinance 24, 2017 pertained to the Annexation of Bay Hill Estates, The Preserve at Bay Hill Estates and Rustic Lakes – second reading and adoption rusticlakeswould result in this being placed on the March 13, 2018 ballot for residents of those communities. The majority of those remaining in the chambers were there to speak for or against placing the involuntary annexation on the ballot. Several in Rustic Lakes, while not opposed to annexation, want the vote to be delayed in order to answer their concerns about this ex-urban community being annexed into the city. Others from the community felt that there was adequate time remaining to get educated and get questions answered by election day. More than 10 people spoke, and one individual brought a list of names of Rustic Lakes residents who wanted annexation. There was some discussion between City Attorney Lohman and Mayor Marino explaining the differences between property tax homestead exemptions versus the definition of homestead used by the state for debt or lien protection, as that was one of the concern cited by some of the residents with large properties. Council voted 5:0 to proceed with placing the annexation question on the ballot.

Ordinance 26, 2017 –  Comments pertained to the referendum questions on the charter and the proposed charter replacement.  Speaking against placing the charter questions on the ballot were Kevin Easton and David Parks. Mr. Parks pointed out that Question 1 posits itself as a housecleaning exercise when it does so much more than that – including removing City Manager Residence, and the requirement for Charter Reviews.  Council Member Litt stated that the contract should be place for residence discussion.  Vice-Mayor Marciano – upset by some believing the theory that ‘the fix is in’, and that the Charter Review Committee (CRC) was a result of a conspiracy, explained that the review process has been discussed in the open for 7 months or more, that emotions have been raw and and council members have disagreed. The easy thing would be to buckle under the negative emails and wait. They’re doing the hard thing by placing it on the ballot. He hoped that the election turn-out would be good. Council Member Woods agreed with Council Member Litt – city manager requirements don’t need to be in the charter. Final vote: 4:1.  Lane No.

Ordinance 27, 2017 -The Council had to choose between two versions of the ballot question on changing term limits.  City Attorney Lohman spoke about retroactivity wording in 27B, which he suggested was the best choice as he had during the December workshop. Comments were made by : Nadine Smith – for 27b – she apologized for the email generated by completing a form which sent a letter where she said that she had NOT entered her email address or seen the letter, Linda Monroe, first Gardens’ female mayor – saying she was for term limits, but not for 2 terms and thus was for 27b, Sid Dinerstein was against 27b and suggested the city consider a district structure since some areas of the cities have no representatives, and Jane Feinstein voiced her support for 3 3-yr terms. The council rejected version 27A.  Council Member Litt stated that throughout campaign she had always said that she supported term limits but had voiced her concern about lame duck council and frequent turnover. Palm Beach Gardens is so much better than other cities and county so comparisons with those are invalid.  It takes time to learn and council members need that time. Council Member Lane said why he was for 2 4-year terms. Council Member Woods – attacked Attorney Dodger Arp (not present at the meeting) as the author of wording on the original term-limits referendum petition. He also spoke about  the retroactivity issue, and the council was taking on the hard topic of fixing the charter and not having a lifetime ban. Vice Mayor Marciano explained that having 2 4-year terms was discussed by the CRC and was logistically difficult.  Mayor Marino said that more people have spoken to her supporting 3 3-year terms. She also supported  27b since it  clears up the language  on retroactivity. As to districts, she said that ungated communities have been represented by former mayors Premuroso and Levy, and the candidates we get are those who want to do the work. The public will be deciding the fate of the council and the charter. She’s sure there will be campaigns and if the voters come out their voices will be heard. Council Member Lane said that the electorate had already voted on term limits.   Final vote: 4:1. Lane No.

Ordinance 28, 2017 –  the run again with 3-year sit-out – had been rephrased  in the workshop. There was no public comment.  Council Member Lane had trouble with the ballot language – because it was unclear to voters what they would be voting for versus what is currently stated in the charter and the results of  4th District Court of Appeals which stated that term limited council members could not run again. Council Member Litt reiterated retroactivity. Council Member Woods remarks were addressed to Lane, saying that the time to discuss this was at workshop.  He once again brought up Dodger Arp.  Lane replied that the proposed ballot language on all the questions are legally deficient and will be struck down by the first court that has an opportunity to review them and that the residents will once again pay for a losing case on term limits. Mayor  Marino finished the discussion by saying that the Counicl was NOT getting rid of term limits and that those who voted for term limits were never given a choice as to how many terms, and whenever term limits is on the ballot, it passes.  So the Council was just giving voters an opportunity to decide 2 vs 3 3-year terms and requirement to sit out before running again.  Final vote: 4:1 Lane No.

Ordinance 29, 2017 – plurality vs majority – Public comment by David Parks stating that  70% of Florida cities equal or greater in population to Palm Beach Gardens use majority (50% +1) wins vs plurality. Why is this changing? Where was the outcry to change this? He used PBGWatch’s phrase from 2012 – “Incumbent Protection Act”. Council Member Litt asked City Clerk Snider to list costs for recent elections – however Ms. Snider combined the costs for the entire March 2017 election plus run-off coming up with cost of $191K including advertising.  The discussion most often surrounding plurality vs majority revolves around voters’ rights and turn-out versus costs of run-off elections.  Vice Mayor Marciano  reiterated how great the CRC was, and yes, while the committee included  two people who do business with the city, that it was well run and he was happy with what they did.  Final vote: 4:1 Lane No.

2nd reading and adoption of Ordinance 30, 2017, Ordinance 31 2017 and Resolution 5, 2018 – all pertained to the fleet operations parcel rezoning and future sale and was passed 5:0 with no public comment.

Ordinance 1, 2018 – first reading, amended the budget for FY 2017/2018 with presentation by  Finance Administrator Allen Owens – budget amendments and adjustments relating to the budget stabilization account.  Passed 5:0.  Ordinance 3, 2018 – first reading of annual update to comprehensive plan – capital improvements budget.   None on council wanted a presentation.  Passed 5:0.  Resolution 3, 2018 – Artistry neighborhood in Alton timing of construction of perimeter wall.  Passed 5:0

Resolution 6, 2018 – exclusive franchise agreement for Solid Waste Collection and Recycling with Waste Management – $27 million contract over 10 years, non renewable. Km! Ra – Director of Purchasing and Contracts, reviewed the process, and described that the reason they chose to go with a 10 year contract when going for the proposal was that it made it more appealing to bidding companies. It also takes into consideration the growth of the city over that period. This will require a new contract after 10 years. Passed 5:0.

CITY RESIDENTS WILL SEE 4 BALLOT QUESTIONS ON MARCH 13, 2018;  RESIDENTS OF COMMUNITIES FACING ANNEXATION WILL HAVE A QUESTION REGARDING THE PROPOSED ANNEXATION ON THEIR BALLOTS.  ALL NEED TO GET INFORMED AND VOTE!

An Open Letter to the Palm Beach Gardens City Council

Dear Mayor Marino, Vice-Mayor Marciano, Council Member Lane*, Council Member Litt and Council Member Woods.

I like all of you. I think you love the City. I don’t think you’re doing your jobs for the money. I think you are well intentioned. Thus I am saddened by the mistake you are about to make tonight in placing the 4 questions on the March ballot – where there are no candidates and no other reason for voters to come to the polls.

  • You cannot hide behind the Charter Review Committee (CRC). Most of you told me before the committee was even chosen that term limits was what the review was going to be about, and you selected your committee accordingly. You are the ones trying to alter term limits and run-again and plurality and you are the ones who will benefit from this self-serving action. Even the CRC acknowledged in their deliberations that incumbents are almost always re-elected so that they, the CRC, knew their proposal was most likely extending your terms of office.
  • You selected CRC members – two of whom are lobbyists for the City; and one of whom, while a property owner, is NOT A RESIDENT OF OUR CITY OR A VOTER IN OUR CITY. The requirements wording posed to you by the City Clerk originally were modified to be guidelines – but the requirements would have disqualified those individuals from serving on the committee. Conveniently, the Resolution 49, 2017 which you passed, modified the word ‘requirements’ to ‘guidelines’ – thus making their appointment technically ‘legal’.
  • None of the City charters in the County that I have looked at look anything remotely like the content-free ‘modernized’ Charter that the City Attorney has proposed.
  • The Charter Review Committee, while reviewing each item, essentially took each of the 2012 City Attorney charter suggestions and accepted them.
  • The wording of most of the ballot questions are entirely misleading at best, and possibly – false.
  • You are removing the requirement for Charter Reviews
  • You are removing the requirement for City Manager residence.
  • You are removing the requirement for City Manager Reviews
  • You are removing the merit system which was a fairly recent addition to the Charter added to protect employees, not harm them.
  • You are throwing out votes.
  • You are using the opposition by the Supervisor of Elections on placing any questions on the ballot in November as a convenient excuse – because you know the turnout will be minuscule in March and not representative of the 16000+ who voted for term limits in November 2014 and those who voted against the base charter changes in November 2012.

You are leaders all right – none of the other cities that have term limits in this county have taken such a brash action as to change those terms, and none of you have even completed your first term. Is this what you each want to be known for? Is this what you want Palm Beach Gardens to be known for? Because should these changes pass, due to your actions, this WILL BE YOUR ONLY LEGACY, over-shadowing anything else you may accomplish.

Please reconsider. There is no rush to do this. If not November 2018 – then place it on the March 2019 ballot where you will have to run on your choices.

Sincerely,

Iris Scheibl

*Council Member Lane – thank you for previously stating your issues with the proposed changes.

Next City Council Meeting on Thursday January 4th at 7pm

The next City Council Meeting will be on Thursday, January 4th at 7pm.  The agenda includes 2nd reading and final adoption of the 4 ballot questions regarding the City Charter.
Announcements/Presentations:
  • Recognition of the Gardens Gators for winning the Pop Warner Super Bowl
Consent Agenda: 
  • Resolution 1 2018 and 2 2018 concern agreements with the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) to appoint her (Susan Bucher) to be a member of the canvassing board and to conduct the March 13, 2018 Uniform Municipal Election for the City
  • Purchase Award for Janitorial Supplies and Chemicals – 3 year piggyback/access contract for $210K
  • Purchase Award for Fire/Rescue – Public Education Trailer (a training aid) – $85K

City Manager Report  – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions: 
  • Ordinance 24, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption of the Annexation of Bay Hill Estates, The Preserve at Bay Hill Estates and Rustic Lakes – the voters in the affected communities will have this on their ballot in the March 13, 2018 election.  See the Palm Beach Post article here
  • Ordinance 26, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption – lists all of the March 13, 2018 ballot questions (1-4) related to the proposed replacement for the City Charter;  it includes a subset of the Charter Review Committee report, a list of the 4 questions with modifications shown, and Exhibit A which is the replacement ‘base’ charter.    Ordinances 27A, 2017 and 27B, 2017 is a choice which the Council must make in order to place their choice of language on the ballot for Question 2 regarding Term Limits.  Ordinance 28, 2017 relates to the sit-out provision, and Ordinance 29, 2017 changes elections from Majority Wins (50%+1) to Plurality Wins.  See our summaries of the last two council meetings with respect to the proposed Charter changes: Council Forges Ahead to Change Term Limits and Elections 4:1  and A Workshop at Last!  
  • Ordinances 30, 2017 and 31, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption – are regarding the 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.  Resolution 5, 2018 is a related resolution.
  • Ordinance 1, 2018 – First Reading: An amendment to the Fiscal Year 2017/18 budget to adjust fund balance carryovers to actual amounts; re-appropriate amounts committed from the FY 2016/2017 budget for outstanding purchase orders and open projects.  This also includes transferring $1.8 Million from the Budget Stablization Account for 1. Tennis Center Clubhouse ($1.3 Million) 2. Police Department and City Hall Generators ($425K) 3. Golf Clubhouse Generator ($124K) – After the above transfers are made, the Budget Stabilization Reserve Account will total $1,801,124 in FY 2018, which is a net decrease of $718,658 from the originally adopted budget. Unassigned General Fund Reserves are unaffected and will remain at $23,066,106. 
  • Ordinance 3, 2018 – First Reading:  update the 5-Year Schedule of Capital Improvements (Table 9A) and Summary of Capital Improvements Program for Palm Beach County School Board (Table 98) of the Capital Improvements Element (CIE) of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  The proposed amendments are primarily housekeeping in nature and will provide for consistency with the current 2017 adopted budgets of the City and School District.
  • Resolution 3, 2018 – Alton Artistry Neighborhood – amendments related to perimiter wall and landscape plans
  • Resolution 6, 2018 –  Exclusive Franchise Agreement for Solid Waste Collection and Recycling Services – with Waste Management as the selected provider, (and otherwise known to the public as the Waste Management Contract) – which is one of the largest contracts the Council decides.  This is valued at $27 Million over 10 years!  The new agreement is for 10 years with no option to renew.  The summary cites the selection committee ranking and the City’s Resident Opinion Survey for rationale.   Here is also a link to the actual Recommendation to Award with background.  

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

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