Commissioners Debate, Appoint Old, New Faces To City Advisory Boards

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By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

Every summer the city commission spends several meetings filling its volunteer advisory boards.

Some boards require people with a specific skill set others just a resident willing to spend several hours meeting a month on a topic.

This summer, some of the nominations became contentious with commissioners blocking their colleague’s selections and not always agreeing on who should serve.

When it came to filling the Downtown Development Authority board, commissioners were in sync. The DDA’s role is to market the downtown and promote business. It was created by state resolution in 1971. It receives money from levying a tax on downtown property owners. Board members oversee the budget and serve four year terms.

Two members were reappointed to their posts, Frank Frione and Mark Denkler. Commissioner Jim Chard appointed a new face, Dr. John Conde.

“This is a gentleman who has moved into West Atlantic and has been committed to the growth of that area and has expanded his business,” Chard said of his nomination of Conde. “I think we need a representative from the west on the DDA.”

Commissioner Shelly Petrolia agreed.

“I am very glad to see his name on here,” Commissioner Petrolia said of Conde. “He’s a great guy. Getting some new blood on that authority is a really good thing. He is really active in the community.”

Those nominations were unanimously approved by commissioners. Commissioner Mitch Katz was absent from the meeting. At a subsequent meeting, Katz appointed Mavis Benson, a downtown art gallery owner to the board.

When it came to appointing new faces to the CRA, the unity between commissioners wasn’t as evident.

The CRA is responsible for eliminating slum and blight and prevent it from returning in its district, which consists of 20 percent of the city, including the downtown. The board is independent of the commission. Members are appointed by commissioners to four year terms.

The commission recently considered taking over the board by sitting themselves as the agency’s board. Commissioners Katz and Petrolia supported the takeover. Mayor Cary Glickstein cast the swing vote that kept the agency independent. But, he did so on the contingency of seven changes he would like to see implemented.

He outlined what he called suggestions in a letter to the agency. His continued support would hinge on those seven items, which include the city reviewing any requests for proposals for redevelopment projects of public land greater than one acre and that city priorities in the CRA district are funded as priorities.

Commissioners discussed the letter and decided to wait to see how the new board responds to the mayor. He reiterated that the letter was from him and not the entire commission.

Commissioner Shirley Johnson ended up losing her nomination after her two candidates failed to garner support by the rest of the commission.

Her first pick, Annette Gray, has previously served on the CRA board. Petrolia supported Gray for the spot.

“Annette was a very positive person on that board years ago,” Petrolia said. “I had the opportunity of renominating her and unfortunately I didn’t. I think she will do a great job.”

But Commissioner Chard and Mayor Glickstein voted against Gray. With Commissioner Katz absent, a 2-2 vote is considered a fail per the city’s rules.

Commissioner Johnson then tried to appoint Samuel Spears Jr. and again her nomination failed.

After the vote, Johnson said she was disappointed her nominations weren’t supported. She said she selected people who she believed would carry on the redevelopment plan for West Atlantic Avenue.

“I did my homework,” she said. “I researched and I read every application. I tried to pick the best candidates that I thought would serve the city well. I am disappointed. I am deeply disappointed. I believe they were the two best.”

That gave her pick over to Chard, who wasn’t scheduled to make an appointment.

He selected former DDA chairman and our publisher Ryan Boylston for the spot. His selection failed in a 2-2 vote with Commissioners Petrolia and Johnson dissenting.

Johnson said after the vote that she felt there were other candidates that were better for the seat, which is why she voted against Boylston. She said he wasn’t on her short list.

Chard successfully garnered unanimous support for his next pick, Morris Carstarphen. After the vote, he said he nominated Castarphen because he founded a business involved with upgrading housing, has participated in WARC and mentored high school students.

“Citizen-based municipal boards play a critical function in the ongoing governance and the future prospects of Delray,” Chard said. “I believe it is the highest form of dedication to our “village by the sea” to serve in such organizations. Therefore, it is critical that a candidate has a recent track record of participation, of contribution. It is also important that a candidate has shown an ability to work with others and help drive toward a consensus on difficult issues. Finally, our boards need to have demographic balance, participation by young and old, and residents from throughout the City. So I made my nominations and votes based on the above criteria. While not all my colleagues will agree with my selections, I believe by holding true to these criteria, I can best serve the City. Hopefully those not chosen will persevere, either for the same positions or other boards, not-for-profits, or task forces. It took me a few tries before I was finally voted on to a board so I know the frustration and disappointment.  Make yourself heard, speak up at Commission meetings (or other public meetings of the CRA, DDA, etc.), and send emails.

Mayor Glickstein kept current chair Reggie Cox as his appointment. Cox narrowly was re-appointed in a 3-1 vote with Petrolia voting against Cox.

Later in the meeting, Glickstein said he supported Cox’s reappointment because he was the only one who didn’t support the recently failed redevelopment project on West Atlantic. He said because of that, Cox was villainized by his own community.

“My criteria for supporting all board appointments are the same: they must have: (i) a solid understanding of subject matter – both in current and historical context; (ii) where appropriate, historical knowledge and/or fresh perspective as a result of age, education, training); (iii) if needed, provide diversity to a particular board; (iv) are professionally able to participate relative to family and work commitments; few, if any, recusals from board agendas; and (v) can work well with other board members and staff,” Glickstein said when asked about his picks after the votes.

Petrolia then nominated Sandy Zeller, which failed to gain support. So, she deferred her pick to the next meeting where she successfully appointed him to the board.

“During my tenure on the commission I have always strived to support individuals I feel are most qualified from the  names that are provided to us by city staff,” Petrolia said after the votes. “It has always been challenging to get people to apply for volunteer board positions. Stating the reason(s) I didn’t support a particular candidate will not encourage more people to apply to serve on our boards.  For that reason, I will only state that when I did not support a board nomination, I believed there were other applicants who were more qualified, or more knowledgeable, or possibly more enthusiastic or even a better fit for that particular board.”

Johnson ended up receiving one of her picks when Katz selected her original pick of Gray for his nomination to the CRA board.

Glickstein voted no saying he would like to see board members who live in the district serve on the board.