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.

 

Two Consecutive Terms are Good Enough for PBC Cities

Not all of the municipalities in Palm Beach County have Term Limits – but most of the larger ones do.  See the chart below.  Note that none of these allow for more than TWO consecutive terms, except for WPB where the Mayor is limited to 2 consecutive 4 year terms, and the Council to 4 consecutive 2 year terms.  All have more meetings and workshops per month than does our Council – and their council and/or commissions have comparable or more complex  jobs (due to the population of their cities)  than does our council, and are all part-time positions.  Most are silent but some specify whether a term-limited member can run again.

Click on the image for link to PDF version with links to city charters, and League of Cities pages.

Click on the image for link to PDF version with links to city charters, and League of Cities pages.

Other cities that are similar or larger without term limits, but have term  and election descriptions:

  • Jupiter – 3 year terms, Majority Wins, Run-off required
  • Riviera Beach – 3 year terms, Majority Wins Run-off required

Why do Politicians Always Break your Heart?

It’s so disappointing.

What is it about political office that turns rational human beings seeking public service into tone deaf politicians out of touch with those who elected them?

None of the PBG Council has been in office longer than 19 months, three for only 7 months. None of them would be there if not for term limits. During their brief tenure, they have gathered respect and appreciation from a citizenry that is willing to give them the benefit of a fresh start after years of arrogance and lack of transparency from the Council they replaced.

So why are they willing to sour the relationship so soon? Why are they picking a fight with the very citizen activists who helped them succeed?

Term limits did not come easy. It took several attempts over years of effort. It took standing on corners and going door to door to get petitions signed. It took a lawsuit to force the city and the Supervisor of Elections to put it on the ballot. It took money and hard work.

Even when 16,000 voters gave term limits a resounding “YES” in 2014 by a 4 to 1 margin, the fight was not over. A candidate who was ineligible under the new rules ran anyway, and the city seated him. It took a lawsuit and an appeal to the 4th DCA to get the city to obey the law and seat the rightful winner Carl Woods.

Now the Council wants to throw all that out and redraw the charter to give themselves 9 years of eligibility instead of the 6 year limit the voters approved. They want to change it again to allow those term limited out to run again. And they want to tinker with the election process to throw out votes cast for withdrawn candidates and not require a majority to win.

As someone who put time and money into this effort, I feel betrayed. As someone who supported Carl Woods and contributed to the effort to seat him in the lawsuit I feel doubly betrayed as he makes the rounds of media appearances telling all who will listen that “everyone I know wants me around for 9 years”. No Carl, you ran with the understanding that 6 years was the limit. Perhaps in your case it should be only 3.

If the Council goes ahead with this it will all appear on the ballot in March of next year (2018), at a time when no candidates are up for election and the turnout is expected to be very low. You can bet that the council and the city will do all they can to drive their cronies to the polls to support this betrayal of the voters, and those who believe in term limits will have to spend more time and money to defeat it.

So sad. And so avoidable.

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.

The PBG Budget and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR)

The 2018 PBG Budget raises $4.1M in new taxes, up 7.4% over last year. See the Proposed Budget here.

Prior to the passage of the sales tax surcharge last year, PBG staff had said they didn’t need the money, and if passed, would return some to the taxpayers in a millage reduction. That all changed of course when the full 10 year revenue stream was captured in a bond and allocated to projects starting immediately, including $11M for a new park.

As the new budget is considered, so far only Vice Mayor Mark Marciano, following in the Bert Premuroso tradition, has suggested they consider a millage decrease. The rest, along with staff, plan to proceed for the third year with the millage rate set in 2016 at 5.55.

This millage will raise $59M in taxes, an increase of $4.1M over last year’s $55M, up 7.4%. (Note that we compare the budget figures, not the calculated “rollback rate” which overstates last year’s budget.) The sales surtax provides another $3M windfall each year.

Is this growth in taxes (and expenditures) justified by the growth of Palm Beach Gardens? How much taxation is enough?

In 1992, the state of Colorado amended their constitution to restrict the growth of taxation. Under the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” (TABOR), state and local governments could not raise tax rates without voter approval and could not spend revenues collected under existing tax rates without voter approval if revenues grow faster than the rate of inflation and population growth. The results of this Colorado experiment are mixed, and TABOR has its pros and cons. (For background on TABOR, see: Taxpayer Bill of Rights ) Population growth and inflation though, would seem to be a way of assessing the appropriateness of the growth of a city budget, at least as an initial benchmark.

Since 2005, the population of Palm Beach Gardens has grown by about 14% to its current 55,637 (est.) Inflation, measured by the consumer price index, was 26%. Taken together, TABOR would suggest a growth in city spending and taxation of about 45%. (see graph below).

Over the same period, ad-valorem taxes grew 69% and total expenditures (budget less debt payment, capital and transfers) grew 54%. Both are above the TABOR line, but note that in 2013, reductions in tax collection had actually returned to the trendline. It is only since then that we seem to be off to the races.

It should be noted that ad-valorem taxes fund only a part of city expenditures, the rest made up from impact fees, fees for services, other taxes, intergovernmental grants, etc. and have varied from 66% of the total in 2005 to about 73% now. That is why taxes and expenses do not track each other on the chart.

So if you trust TABOR as a measuring stick, is this growth in taxation excessive? You be the judge.

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.

 

Council Eliminates Liaison Role to City Committees and Boards

Following is a summary of the June 1st meeting.   The key policy change that was made was the elimination of council member liaisons to various City boards and committees in Ordinance 14, 2017 described below.

June 1, 2017

Announcement and Presentations:

  • State Representative Rick Roth spoke on several bills – the most discussion with the Council related to the impact on local or home rule by “WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY: Limits local governments from regulating types of equipment known as “small wireless facilities” in public rights of ways that are used for new 5G wireless technology. (HB 687)” which could over-ride local zoning in placement of towers/devices.
  • Marcum LLP, the City’s external auditor, gave the 2016 budget documents rave reviews with a ‘clean opinion’ and ‘no findings’.

Items of Resident Interest and Board/Committee Reports:

Council Member Woods asked the Council (who agreed) to ask that the City Manager have a Workshop by FDOT on the three I-95 interchanges (Northlake, PGA and Central) to inform the public on proposed traffic movement and right-of-way issues in August. Most of the FDOT workshops have been interchange specific which doesn’t get at City-wide issues and traffic movement.

Comments from the Public:

  • John Channing – of the PGA Corridor Association, took over from his brother Joel Channing. He mentioned the 4th Annual Mid-Year Economic Update, given by Dr. Weiss and mentioned a 9/13/17 event to be held at the Embassy Suites on Mobility Around the Gardens
  • Don Mathis – discussed the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) stating an issue with all projects scheduled for the same construction year and referred the Council to WPB or Boca for ideas on how to change this.
  • 3 Employees of Gander Mountain spoke on the imminent closing of Gander Mountain (Travis Holmes, Jon Bagley and Lance B (sorry – he didn’t give address)), the potential loss of 70 to 100 plus (in season) jobs, if the new owner, Camping World is prohibited from displaying RVs outside dues to zoning. They and fellow employees who did not speak, were asked to wait until later in the meeting so the item could be addressed by Council and staff.

City Manager Report:

City Manager Ferris highlighted several recent awards, gave a brief presentation on before/after pictures of the impacts of Code Enforcement and mentoned a city-held event on Weather The Storm (hurricane preparedness) this Thursday, June 8 from 6-8.

Consent Agenda:

Council Member Lane asked that Item D on Consent be pulled for a presentation by Purchasing Manager Km! Ra on Municipal Complex Renovations ($668K). The rest of the Consent Agenda passed 5:0 as did Item D.

Ordinances and Resolutions:

  • Ordinance 11, 2017 second reading and adoption of Specialty Pet Boarding passed 4:1 with Council Member Lane objecting. He pointed out that while the facilities themselves would have to be entirely enclosed, the animals would have to be brought in and out of the facilities and at some point ‘neighbors’ would object.
  • Ordinance 14, 2017 Second Reading and Adoption regarding Procedures to fill board/committee vacancies, modify how absences are handled, and (most importantly,) alter the policy of having Council Liaisons to various Boards and Committees. County Attorney Lohman’s primary position was that the County Ordinance regarding the Sales Tax called for independent boards, and by expanding the City’s Budget Oversight Committee’s role to oversee the handling of the ‘penny’ sales tax, that committee was precluded from having a Council liaison. Don Mathis made public comment declaring the Council Liaison, especially on the Budget Oversight Committee, invaluable. The Council briefly explored having the Budget Oversight Committee divide their meetings into Budget and Sales Tax, with the Liaison only participating in the former. Vice-Mayor Marciano rightly pointed out that the voters, who the Council  represents, would be left out by the lack of liaison. Both Marciano and Council Member Lane reiterated their transparency and value issues from the prior Council meeting. To Mayor Marino and Council Member Woods, the issue seemed clear cut, and the value of liaisons to other boards seemed of lesser import. Mayor Marino compared the City policy to that of Jupiter, who didn’t have liaisons. Council Member Litt was torn, opining that all the input she got favored the continuance of liaisons, but she couldn’t see treating the Budget Oversight Committee exceptionally. With the vote of 3:2 (Lane, Marciano opposing), the Council ‘threw out the baby with the bathwater’ by eliminating board and committee transparency and interaction with our elected representatives while not modifying the Ordinance in any way to allow for interaction with the boards .
  • In passing 5:0 both Resolution 42, 2017 – Opposing Conversion Therapies and Resolution 43, 2017 – Opposing Use of Exotic Animals in Circuses, our new council veered into Social and potentially Religious issues – passing non-binding, opinion resolutions.  Here is the Palm Beach Post’s coverage of Resolution 42, 2017./

Items for Council Action/Discussion:

  • Gander Mountain – Mayor Marino thanked the Gander Mountain employees for staying. Natalie Crowley, Director of Planning and Zoning, gave a recap on the original Gander Mountain zoning (which would not have allowed for outside RV display). She had not yet been formally contacted by Camping World and was willing to work with them through issues, eg with such a display would there be adequate parking. Director Crowley needs to see a plan from the owner before discussions can proceed.  See Palm Beach Post coverage here.
  • Charter Review CommitteeVice-Mayor Marciano had requested a time-line and proposal.  Staff suggested that any proposed Charter changes be on the March 2018 ballot. The Council did not dispute staff’s opinion that the changes could not be on the November ballot, and accepted staff’s comments that August 2018 would be too busy a ballot reiterating the ‘voter fatigue’ meme that was used by staff in 2012 and with term limits in 2014 – not mentioning that both proposals were on the November ballots in 2012 and 2014 respectively, and voter turn-out is largest. 
  • Lastly, Finance Administrator Allan Owens discussed the impacts should the expanded Homestead Exemption to $75K be approved by voters in November 2018. He and the City Manager made the case that had this not passed to be placed on the ballot, perhaps a small decrease in ad valorem tax rate could have been entertained, but now, not so much, by threatening the budget stabilization reserve fund which the prior Council spent down earlier in the year.

Reminder – the July City Council Meeting will be held on Thursday, July 13 at 7pm.

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