CHANGE MAY BE IN THE WIND, OR IS IT?

By:Al Zucaro

Randy Schultz, in a recent Palm Beach Post Op-Ed piece, offered an essay on how “voters still can’t get respect” from government.  His examples were the City of West Palm Beach and the State of Florida.  Regretfully, his major premises may also be seen right here in Boca Raton as well.

PREMISE ONE!!!

Elected officials demonstrate little regard for those who elect them…

No better example can be seen then that of the political discourse and dialogue around the February 14 city council meeting where a large group of concerned citizens came forward and requested the council to allow for a two week extension on the approval for the Archstone project only to be informed two weeks later that the public discussion had been closed and that the project had already received approval from the council.

PREMISE TWO!!!

City administration fails to react to the citizen’s referendum petition on the Archstone ordinance…

On March 26, 41 days after passage, the citizens submitted 1,100 signatures to the city clerk supporting a referendum on the Archstone ordinance.  The clerk accepted the signatures but informed the petitioners that state law prohibited such an action and has, to date, refused to move the petition forward.

After consulting with counsel, petitioners have identified a state legislative act which modifies the growth management rules and that seems to provide a path for the referendum vote.

On April 6, 51 days post the council’s action, Governor Scott signed HB 7801 into law.  HB 7801 seems to ‘grandfather’ pre-existing charter provisions and seems to remove the objections raised by the city clerk and city attorney.

On April 9, Petitioners addressed a letter to the city clerk requesting that the petition now be processed according to the dictates of this new law, a request that remains unanswered as of this writing.

What actually does this new law allow for???

To date, neither the city clerk nor city attorney have opined on the legislation in question.  Considering the complexity of the question presented, this is understandable.  The open question is whether this new legislation allows for the previously submitted petition to move forward.  Issues as to retroactivity are in play as well as whether the signatures were submitted properly and in a timely manner.  It appears that perhaps only a judge will sort these vital and conflicting issues out.

For every legal action, there is a legal reaction!!!

For sure, if the city attorney decides that this legislation is not applicable under the circumstances, then the petitioners are looking at a costly legal challenge against the city.  If the administration determines that the legislation does apply, one should expect that the developer will intervene and bring an action in opposition to placing the measure on a ballot for vote.

In politics a day, a week or even a month can be a lifetime.  One minute, in favor, the next not…

This axiom is especially true now for us here in Boca Raton.  Apart from the very recent public scolding of the city council, community involvement seems to be on the rise citywide.  In the last few weeks, I have been invited to community get-togethers in both east and west voting precincts.  The most refreshing take away has been a sense of directional purpose, a sense of common goal.  That is very refreshing and so very important.  Boca Raton is but one city where all citizens benefit from good governance and managed growth is a good thing.  Open access and communication being the main ingredients for good public policy and the need to increase the tax base.  Increasing the tax base is not mutually exclusive to quality of life when the governing body remembers to weigh the needs of the neighborhoods with the needs of the developer.
Since the election a lot has happened.  The referendum petition is now in play; citizens met with the city manager to discuss policy and planning; and, the individual council members are being encouraged to take the time to listen to the voices of those that are most at risk by the actions of the council.  Finally Tallahassee may have aided and abetted the efforts of our citizens with the Governor’s signature to the growth management legislation which now may allow the petition to move forward for council action and/or a vote of the people.

With such progress the ‘great’ city of Boca Raton may avoid the circumstances described in Mr. Schultz’s essay.  By ‘respecting’ the voters and by letting the people be heard, a healthy balance between quality of life and measured growth is possible and desperately needed to preserve the sense of place that is so attractive to all of us who live here and to those that are still to come.

Thank you citizens for your continuing diligence, determination, and drive.

Please press on and keep the dialogue going.

The results are already apparent.

Al Zucaro

See Al’s internet show, ‘Citizens of the World’ on WWW.WRPBiTV.Com and

See his newsletter at www.alzucaro.com

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About Pedro Heizer

I'm a person of simple taste, all I need is some country music, Batman, Star Wars, sports, coffee, and most importantly Jesus Christ, because what profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? View all posts by Pedro Heizer

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