Tallahassee Impacts on Home Rule a Significant Concern to City

The February 2nd meeting was fairly brief, ending before 8:30.  All ordinances/resolutions passed 5:0 or 4:0 when one of the Council Members wasn’t in the chambers.  The most significant items were those not specific to Council votes.

Presentations:

  • The recognition and honoring of Evan Travers, Palm Beach Gardens Fire Explorer Post #705, who last April, assisted in the rescue of a driver and passenger in car accident, with the assistance of other passers-by – getting the crash victims to safety before the crashed car burst into flames.
  • Joe Corrao of Public Works explained the new Fleet Leasing Program (covered on Consent), which will allow for turn-over of all vehicles on a 5-year schedule instead of the current 10+ year schedule, reduce fuel and maintenance costs, reduce mechanic hours on vehicle maintenance and also save money.  The vehicles will also be turn-key – ready to use, instead of the normal 90 days it takes to configure a new vehicle for use after purchase.
February 2nd

City Manager Report:

  • City Manager Ferris, in explaining the Home Rule resolution (on Consent Agenda), outlined the bills currently being considered in Tallahassee which will severely impact municipalities’ Home Rule by taking away rights of those municipalites to control their own policies at the same time causing significant fiscal impacts. It is worth watching Mr. Ferris’ presentation for the list of bills and their impacts!  Or read the Palm Beach Post article entitled “Palm Beach County cities take fight to Legislature on home rule bills“.

Items of Resident Interest

  • Most on the Council mentioned that they attended the Palm Beach County Commission meeting where the County passed the final agreement approving the District Park.
  • Announcements made by Mayor Marino:
    • Jack Doughney, Assistant City Manager recently retired. Chief Stepp is assuming the position of Interim Assistant City Manager and Clint Shannon is assuming the Interim Chief of Police Chief.
    • Sandhill Crane Club House Grand Opening will be held on February 18 from 2-6pm – all are welcome.
  • Council Member Litt on the profound affect on  attending the screening “I am Jane Doe” – at the County Chambers, on Human Trafficking which occurs in all 50 states. She also mentioned that teachers and first-responders in the County are being trained to know what to look for.

Comments from the Public:

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  • Mayor Marino started this portion of the Agenda reading the newly changed Comment Card procedure – which states that cards must be submitted before the start of the specific agenda item.
  • Paula Magnuson – expressed dissatisfaction with a council member saying that he would visit people’s homes if they sent him negative emails and praising another for his votes. This was met with an admonition by the Mayor stating that the speaker must address the Council as a body. Ms. Magnuson also handed the Clerk an envelope outlining other issues.
  • Adam Gee, Damien Murray – both of the Palm Beach Gardens Soccer Program, and Tony Badala of PBGYAA, all made comments congratulating the Council and the City for completing the agreement with the County for the District Park.
  • Carol Easton – wanted the Council to understand the history of Kevin Easton’s conflicts with the City as he tried to make improvements to the Sunset neighborhood, with her perceived heavy handed Code Enforcement as the repercussion.
  • Former Mayor/Council Member David Levy gave an update report as the City’s representative to the Loxahatchee River Management Coordinating Council; he was just appointed/elected to be Secretary of the Council. He talked about a wet district called Palomar, spanning Martin and Palm Beach County. The Council ask that he also give them a written report.

Items for Council Action/Discussion:

Mayor Marino and others on the Council were concerned about an email that Council Member Lane wrote to FDOT on behalf of the Steeplechase HOA. Proper procedure was discussed:  that such issues should be brought before the entire council or to staff, and then the Council would issue such an email or corresondence in the name of the Mayor or the City Manager.  (As an observer, what was also interesting was the attendance of most if not the entire Council at a private HOA meeting.  While they did not make policy or vote on anything there, they attended to hear the subdivision’s concerns. While this doesn’t seem to be a violation of Sunshine, it certainly wasn’t a meeting open to the public.)

City Manager Ferris will give the Council, for the next meeting,  details on the code enforcement activities regarding the Easton properties over the last few years, plus a brief explanation of Ms. Magnuson’s issues.

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!

A Workshop at Last!

CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL WORKSHOP

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.

CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL MEETING

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.

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.

NOTE – THERE WILL BE A SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING TO DISCUSS AND CONDUCT FIRST READING ON ORDINANCE 28, 2017 REGARDING TERM-LIMITED COUNCIL MEMBERS RUNNING AGAIN ON DECEMBER 21 AT 7PM. COMMENTS WILL ONLY BE ACCEPTED SPECIFIC TO THIS ISSUE AND NOT ANY OTHER TOPIC OR NON-AGENDA ITEMS.

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.

Some…Are More Equal Than Others!

And our Mayor and Council apparently agree!

The November 2nd City Council meeting didn’t start with a bang, nor end with one – but the 8 minute ‘rant’ by former Mayor and Council member Eric Jablin (as covered by the Palm Beach Post here) provided for fireworks. It also demonstrated that our Council has one set of rules for some, and another set for others. It would have been interesting to see if Mayor Marino would have allowed some other former Mayors/Council members with whom she didn’t just happen to agree, the same courtesy of speaking longer than the allowed 3 minutes. Perhaps, but more likely, not.

November 2nd

Last month, several opponents of changes to the City’s term limits or allowing those term-limited, to run again spoke at the meeting. So this month, proponents of the proposed Charter changes came out in force to support 3 3-year consecutive terms (all but acknowledging that incumbents are always re-elected) – which is their right – including Steve Mathison (a member of the Charter Review Committee), Meg Shannon (also a member of the Charter Review Committee), David Markarian, Patrick Connors, Anita Carbone, Stan Klett, Bill Champlin (President of Ballenisles Community Association) – speaking for the Community on hurricane relief and personally on term limits, Jane Feinstein and finally Eric Jablin who was conveniently speaking last.  Iris Scheibl asked the Council to make City Manager Residence a separate ballot item, that the Council need not put anything on the ballot, and that they ponder who of the public are clamoring for longer terms in office.  Apparently, to hear the proponents of 3 3 year terms speak – no other City has ever had 2 consecutive Term Limits  (see:  Two Consecutive Terms is Good Enough for PBC Cities)

It was hoped that the Council would use the relatively light agenda to explore the proposed Charter Changes in more depth – however it was not to be. At the end of the council meeting, Council Member Marciano lamented the tone of some of the emails he has been receiving with implied threats of ‘we’re watching you’ – that the Charter Committee consisted of well-respected members of the community and that he welcomed input from anyone who wanted to discuss things whether or not in agreement with him. He insisted that no one is trying to eliminate term limits. Mayor Marino echoed Marciano’s comments and also said the Committee consisted of an ‘independent’ group of volunteers….. But other than that, none of the Council spoke to the Charter. Council Member Lane nominated former Mayor/Council Member Levy to a council position usually filled by one of the Council Members.  City Attorney Lohman saw no issue nor business conflict and Mr. Levy’s membership was voted 5:0.

Speaking on unrelated topics during Public Comment were Katie Gettinger on a Solar Cooperative in Palm Beach County , Andrew Heim on PBG Soccer and the Predators, and Kevin Easton on traffic issues and Sunset Drive.

Also on the agenda –

  • The CEO of Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center Dianne Goldenberg on the economic impact of the center
  • students at the Weiss School speaking on their Cube Sat project ( for background see Here’s Why NASA is Sending a Gardens’ School Satellite into Space)
  • presentation on the City’s participation in the FPL Solarnow Program – brought to the City’s attention by Council Member Litt.

City Manager Ferris also thanked two Police Dispatch Supervisors – Kirsten Tucker and Sharlotte Theriault for the grueling 6 days they spent in Marathon working night shifts after Hurricane Irma providing huricane relief.

Passing 5:0 on First reading were Ordinance 20, 2017 to provide for the collocation of small wireless facilities or micro wireless facilities on existing utility poles or the installation of new utility poles to support the collocation of small wireless facilities or micro wireless facilities in City-owned rights-of-way and amending the definitions to be consistent with Florida Statutes, and Ordinance 21, 2017 allowing land development section 78-159 to permit Electric Automobile Showrooms. Tesla will be bringing their proposed showroom before the Council in December.

Next month is already planned to have a heavy agenda – so be assured – the proposed Charter Review ballot items will probably get short shrift on discussion – because it appears that the Council has already made up their minds and not scheduled any kind of workshop on the topic. We hope they prove us wrong.

 

Proposed Term Limits Weakening Dominates Meeting

The October City Council meeting had a fairly light agenda, with the exception of the Charter Review Committee Final Report – which was expected to generate a lot of discussion. Mayor Marino reordered the agenda to leave the report until Council Member Lane, who was delayed, could be there to hear it. So the Consent Agenda (4:0), City Manager Report, and Items of Resident Interest preceded the presentation.

October 12, 2017

Prior to the Council meeting, several supporters of the Palm Beach Gardens Needs Term Limits Committee, demonstrated outside City Hall carrying signs. During the meetings, opponents of the Charter Review Committee recommendations regarding Term Limits and elections sported stickers stating “Don’t Touch My Term Limits – Leave it alone!!”

Charter Review Committee Final Report agenda item:

The Charter Review Committee met several times in August and September.  The Committee, selected by the Council , consisted of Craig Allgood, Ian Helsby, Steve Mathison, Meg Shannon – Vice Chair and Brian Seymour – Chair – all City residents.  They developed a set of recommended modifications including simplification and removing conflicts with Florida State Statute.  They also made recommendations with respect to Council terms and elections.  Present from the committee were Brian Seymour and Meg Shannon.

Mr. Seymour presented the Committee recommendations, focusing on those known to be controversial. Copying directly from the report those are:

We recommend that term limits remain and that they be provided as three full three (3) year terms and that it be clarified that after being elected to three consecutive three (3) year terms and serving at least one-half of the final term, a person may run again only after sitting out a full three (3) year term. We should also clarify that service of one-half or less than one-half of a full three (3) year term shall not count toward the subject term limit.

We further recommend that some of the language relative to “a majority of the votes cast” be clarified to provide that only votes cast for a qualified candidate whose name appears on the ballot and is eligible to take office at the time of the election shall be counted. No vote for a deceased, withdrawn, or removed candidate should count or contribute toward the total number of votes, number of under votes, or number or over votes

We recommend that elections be determined by plurality and not majority of votes cast for a candidate qualified to be on the ballot at the time of the election.

City Manager residency was also one of the issues during the 2012 charter review however not discussed at length:

We recommend removing the residency requirement for the city manager as follows: “The city manager need not be a resident of the city at the time of appointment, however, must be a resident within one year following the appointment, though residency as soon as practical after appointment is encouraged.”

See the report and rationale for each point here: 2017 Charter Review Committee Final Report.

There were numerous residents who made comment on the report.  The following summary doesn’t do justice to their comments:

  • Tom Cairnes – representing himself,  not speaking for the PGA Corridor Association – praised Irma cleanup  then spoke on the charter: projects take 30 years to happen, need continuity to carry through on original concepts and make sure what was in original plans are followed up on over time. Tri-rail is an example – in support of  Review Committee’s recommend changes.
  • Roma Josephs – member of the Board of Ballenisles – takes a long time to get anything done – need the experience and will to see it through. supports the charter committee. Ballenisles will vote for it.
  • Kevin Easton – against any changes to Term Limits  – proposed changes disenfranchise voters by changing term limits
  • Sid Dinerstein –  proposed changes reflect utter contempt for the PBG electorate by putting on a March ballot when no candidates are on the ballot. More voted for term limits than voted for any of the Council. Plurality instead of majority is a scheme to tilt election odds in favor by adding straw candidates. Already can’t trust you, the new council
  • Philip Blumel –  Lake Worth, President of US Term Limits – commended those who got it on the ballot and got 80% of the citizens to get it approved. nothing about the current term limits allows those to run again. Simple and just like the ones everywhere else. It’s typical for electeds to try and circumvent – first went to court, next resort is always a new and improved version – always includes letting them sit for additional terms, and not count their existing term and put on a low ballot election – typical.
  • Vito DeFrancesco – very impassioned remarks – With small turnouts it can be tilted. For 30 years elections have been tilted by powerful, well organized high-end communities that will turn out their voters despite what the majority wants. You’re going to try and sneak in, back-dooring everyone who voted and that our opinion means nothing. Not right. Government at its worst. Voices of people don’t mean anything – government can’t be trusted, gets what it wants, government sticks together and the people are puppets meaning absolutely nothing in your opinion. If you change it, we’ll put it back, get it back on the ballot and make it so you can’t touch it again – what you’re doing may be legal but surely isn’t ethical.
  • Iris Scheibl – who had attended most of the charter review meetings, read the text of the 2014 ballot question, pointed out that none of the Council would be there had it not been for term limits, that just because the committee made a recommendation doesn’t mean the council has to accept it, and asked that any election or term limits change be on a November ballot.
  • Fred Scheibl – recounted Council’s history of losing trust – and is trust is rarely regained. Term limits was a grassroots petition effort and city fought it at every step. courts validated the law despite the city’s objections. you were elected by these rules and should abide by them. not enough time to evaluate. Make no changes regarding the conduct of elections; changes to basic principles means of gaming the system. if you go forward – the campaign organized to opposed it – you will be on that ballot.
  • Marilyn Parmet – agree with previous statements – she was one of those who got term limits petitions signed – no one turned her down in signing the petitions – this is the will of the people, please respect and do the right thing
  • Nick Tomboulides –  Melbourne – Executive Director of US Term Limits – if term limits are too short – that means it’s working. on one side is 80% of the voters; on the other side – those who are affected by that term limits law. It’s a conflict of interest – you shouldn’t be discussing let alone placing on the ballot – should recuse yourself.  Hands off term limits
  • Barbara Grossman – another person who collected petitions and no one turned her down.  All were losing faith in the council due to the stadium.

The Council, after some debate on two 4-year terms, which Council Member Lane favored, discussed their views on the proposals and directed City Attorney Lohman to present 4 ballot questions to them next month – a base question updating the Charter, and the 3 questions related to term limits and elections. The Council will then vote in December and January (first and second readings), in time to place the questions on the March 2018 Uniform Municipal Election. Watch the Charter Review part of the City Council Meeting here, for complete discussion and read a summary of the subject from the Palm Beach Post here.

After the extended Charter Review discussion, passed 5:0 were:

  • Ordinance 22. 2017 – Ban of Medical Marijuana Treatment Center and Dispensing Facilities. While one person made pubic comment saying that it was silly to wait for allowing such centers in the City, Council Member Litt had Police Chief Stepp address some of the safety issues due to the fact that all transactions have to be done in cash. He also pointed out that patients can have the medical marijuana directly delivered to their homes. Rachelle Litt then gave an outstanding in-depth explanation for her ‘No’ vote – articulating how the current legislation is an attack on Home Rule, covering medical concerns as a pharmacist, and that this was an ‘all or nothing’ proposition. Watch the discussion by Council here and the Palm Beach Post summary here.
  • Ordinance 23, 2017 – Moratorium on Micro wireless Facilities until December 31, 2017 – this is another attack on Home Rule. Staff will come back in the November Council meeting to cover recommended policies.
  • Resolution 71, 2017 – allowing for 3 Entry Signs to the Burwick Residential Community within PGA National

Additionally – Appointments and Reappointments for AIPP, Parks and Rec, and PZAB Advisory Boards were discussed and voted on. Council Member Lane spoke at length about the candidate process. He pointed out that candidates apply for many boards, don’t have to outline their qualifications for each (any) of those boards, nor make the case why they should be considered. Not all votes were unanimous – see the  City’s Board and Committees page at a later time – the website has not yet been updated with the new names as of this posting. Staff was asked for a future recommendation on enhancing the application process for Boards and Committees.

Two Budget Hearings result in 7.4% Increase in Property Tax Revenue

The City Council voted to hold operational millage flat at 5.55% at both Fiscal Year 2017/2018 Budget Hearings on September 7 and 25, 2017.  Even for those on the Council who would have liked to reduce property taxes somehow they concluded that it looks worse to residents, and is worse to lower the tax rate now and then have to raise it later. Legislative issues, potential passage of the 2018 ballot question on additional homestead exemptions as well as need for reserves due to storm impacts, all weighed into the debate. See Taxes to rise for many in Palm Beach Gardens from the Post, which covers some of the Council’s rationale.

The Council meetings spanned Hurricane Irma. On the 7th, City Manager Ferris gave a detailed update on Storm Preparation  and then on the 25th gave a summary of the actions taken to recover from the storm and bring the City back to full function as soon as possible.

The September 7th council meeting also passed 5:0 first readings on:

September 7, 2017
  • Ban of Medical Marijuana Treatment Facilities and Dispensaries
  • Moratorium on Micro Wireless Facilities until December 31, 2017 – allowing regulations to be developed consistent with State statute
  • Rearrangement of Floodplain Management Regulations

Also passed were:

  • 2nd Reading and Adoption of Operation of Mobile Food Trucks
  • Art in Public Places resolution for La Posada
  • Approval of FPL Watts Substation on utility parcel at Alton

The September 25th council meeting featured a short presentation by Joseph St. Germain on the 2017 Resident Opinion Survey. The survey can be read in its entirety here  and the Post has a short recap. The survey was quoted in several places in the budget documents to bolster rationale for future action plans.

September 25, 2017

Summaries by the council during Items of Resident Interest raised issues with recent (and expected) actions by the State Legislature that severely impact Home Rule.

Besides the adoption of the Tax Levy and Millage rate and the adoption of the FY 2017/2018 Budget, the council passed 2nd reading on the two ordinances related to the Floodplain Management Regulations 5:0.

The October 12th City Council meeting will feature the recommendations and report of the Charter Review Committee.

Flush with cash for $50 Million for Capital Improvements

Save the dates!

  • Thursday August 24FDOT Workshop – Staff and their consulting teams have been invited by the City to present at this workshop to provide the most recent plans regarding upcoming Interchange Improvements at: I-95 and Central Boulevard I-95 and PGA Boulevard I-95 and Northlake Boulevard, Northlake Boulevard and Beeline Highway This workshop style meeting is designed to allow the public to engage with FDOT representatives and have their project questions answered. This was a workshop requested by Council Member Woods earlier in the spring and should be of interest to residents and anyone who travels in North County.
  • Thursday Sept 7  and Monday Sept 25 for FY 2017/2018 Budget Hearings
  • Also – for those interested in the meetings of the Charter Review Committee – those will be on the City Calendar and are open to the public.
August 3, 2017

The August City Council meeting was relatively brief. Fire Explorer Nick Swan was honored for his heroism in a Tequesta fire in August 2016. See the PB Post article on his bravery. The City’s Police Explorers placed Second in the state for this years’ competitions.

All items passed 5:0 except for Consent Agenda Item Hospitality Staffing Services for Sandhill Crane Golf Club from which Council Member Lane recused himself.

City Manager Ferris gave an update on the current status of the numerous Capital Improvement Projects in the City. The $30 million in Sales Tax related projects coupled with the $20 million in budgeted construction projects are project managed by a team of 3 staff who Ferris will acknowledge in September. For a detailed list plus status see here or watch Mr. Ferris’ segment of the meeting. In addition, he played a short clip of the City’s Head Golf Professional Sherri Pla which can also be seen above.

Resolution 44, 2017 – Adoption of the City’s Annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Action Plan was accompanied by a video (some of it taken with the Police Department drone) highlighting three re-roofing projects accomplished with the prior year’s grant. Resident Christen OConnor, one of the homeowners assisted by the grant gave a heartfelt thanks.

When Resolution 50, 2017 – Appointment of members to the Charter Review Committee came up for discussion, Vice Mayor  Marciano wanted to open discussion on what the others on the Council were looking for in their nominees. However, Mayor Marino countered that clear directions and criteria was given to the Council and that the nominees should be listed and voted upon immediately. No other  council member made comment other than to give their nominations and all were approved with a single motion. Congratulations to the following active residents on their nominations:  Craig Allgood – nominated by Rachelle Litt; Ian Helsby nominated by Matthew Lane; Steve Mathison nominated by Carl Woods, Meg Shannon nominated by Mark Marciano and Brian Seymour nominated by Maria Marino.

Additionally – Mobile Food Trucks will now be subject to streamlined permitting by Ordinance 17, 2017. Also Eric Bruns of West Palm Beach, a recently returned veteran, spoke about his 501c3, Voice for Veterans which aids with education, training and mentoring for recently returned vets to obtain meaningful employment.

The City Attorney was not asked if he had a report and the meeting was concluded.

Effusive Praise Abounds

After Mayor Marino called for a moment of silence for Fire Rescue Lieutenant Gary Bussey – the City Council Meeting proceeded through numerous recognition events with accompanying picture taking sessions. Items of Resident Interest continued the highlighting of additional city employee accomplishments by Council Member Woods, and proceeded through the City Manager Report where there was even more praise – culminating in the annual City Manager Evaluation – which couldn’t be better.

Interspersed in this love fest was some new City Business. The Consent Agenda, and Resolutions all passed 5:0.

July 13, 2017

Highlights:

  • State Senator Bobby Powell delivered an outstanding power-point presentation summarizing the just completed Legislative Session and pointing out those items of special interest to the City of Palm Beach Gardens. Here is a link.  It is well worth watching for an easy to understand summation.
  • Vice-Mayor Marciano asked that Resolution 45, 2017 be pulled from Consent; Planning and Zoning Director Natalie Crowley gave a quick overview of the future Palm Beach Gardens Tri-Rail station area planning, and introduced Kim DeLaney, Director of Strategic Development and Policy for Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council who will serve as the project manager on the strategic plan development. There will be public workshops in the fall – watch for them.
  • Council Member Lane requested that the Purchase Award for the new Tennis Center Clubhouse be pulled from Consent. Director of the Purchasing Department Km! Ra and Laura Schuppert, Recreation Director – described the need for an enlarged Clubhouse, explained that the $3 million is covered by the Sales Tax funding, and presented the Council with an animated walk-through of the new Clubhouse.
  • Mayor Marino had two proclamations pulled from Consent as well – to recognize two Entrepreneur Score Winners who were given an opportunity to speak about their businesses.
  • After a brief overview by Finance Administrator Allan Owens, the Council set the Maximum Millage Rate for fiscal year 2017/2018 to its current Operational Rate of 5.55 mils and slightly decreased .1178 debt service for an overall millage of 5.6678 – which will be used by the County Property Appraiser to send out the Trim Notices in August. This represents a tax increase since property values have appreciated significantly.   (It should be noted that the city has not made the budget proposal detail available to the public yet – so the total dollar amount to be raised in taxes (which expected to be more than 5% over last year) or how it is to be allocated was known only to staff, the council and the budget committee. This effectively precluded any intelligent comment by the public before they set the maximum millage rate. The county, and many other municipalities are much more open and transparent in this regard.) Discussion during the item, and later during Items for Council Action/Discussion was mixed. Vice Mayor Marciano, who had served on the Budget Oversight Committee for five years, asked the Council to individually think about whether there was possible room for at least token relief to the tax-payer. Mayor Marino and Council Member Woods were firm that there was no room for consideration of any such tax relief. The first Public Hearing on the Budget will be on September 7.
  • The Council approved the establishment of the Charter Review Committee and Timeline. Resident Iris Scheibl requested that any proposed Charter changes, especially pertaining to something like Elections, be placed on the November 2018 ballot instead of the March Uniform Municipal Elections due to the expected very low turnout in March. Vice-Mayor Marciano replied that he spoke with SOE Bucher and that she rejected November out-right. There was no other discussion. The Council Members will put their nominations for the Charter Review Committee members to staff by July 24th and they will be voted upon in the August 3rd City Council Meeting.
  • City Attorney Lohman informed the Council that the City lost on appeal the case with Sears  and that he recommended that the Council repeal Ordinance 20, 2012 which was found to be unconstitutional. The Council will vote on such an ordinance next meeting. The City will be responsible to Sears for legal fees yet to be determined.
  • During Public CommentTom Cairnes, of the PGA Corridor Association, praised City Manager Ferris and reminded the public of the 9/13 Mobility Around the Gardens event that was mentioned last month.  Tom Murphy of the Police Foundation described the 10th annual Police Foundation Golf Tournament to raise funds for the Police Explorers.

The next council meeting will be held on August 3rd.

 

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