By: Delray Newspaper Editorial
Editor’s note: The Delray Newspaper has decided to endorse in two of the three commission races this year. We have agreed not to endorse in the Mitch Katz vs. Ryan Boylston race because Mr. Boylston is a former owner of the newspaper. Individual owners and investors in the newspaper have endorsed and contributed to candidates including Mr. Boylston. This editorial also references Atlantic Crossing. One of our principals, Jeff Perlman, is an executive at CDS International Holdings, which used to own the site. The company has since sold the property. At no time, has Mr. Perlman been an owner or partner in the project and his compensation has never been tied to its success or fate. These endorsements are based on questionnaires sent to candidates, our viewing of candidate forums and our observations of candidates in the community.
They’ve had their turn.
Five years ago, Shelly Petrolia and Cary Glickstein were elected commissioner and mayor respectively in a contentious election in which Delray voters opted for change.
Both candidates ran on reform platforms vowing to bid contracts, restore the Town Hall meeting and initiate strong budget controls.
Five years later—we are bidding contracts, a step in the right direction, but hardly a profile in courage. Bidding large contracts is required by city ordinance—so merely following the rules –while laudable– is hardly groundbreaking.
But the Town Hall meeting was never restored—replaced by a Mayor’s Lecture Series in which a long list of urban experts came to Delray only to have most of their advice ignored by the commission. A cynic might conclude that the series was designed to show what is possible everywhere but here in Delray. It’s like going to a restaurant and being shown delicious specials only to find out the kitchen has no intention of cooking them.
As for budgetary discipline, it’s hard to make a case for fiscal responsibility when you are engaging in endless and costly litigation, turning away revenue generating investments and experiencing record turnover at City Hall including a series of city managers, city attorneys, finance directors, department heads and rank and file employees. Anyone who has ever run or managed a business understands that turnover is costly (in more ways than one). Anyone who has been involved in litigation knows that lawsuits are expensive.
While Mayor Glickstein decided against another bid for office—a move we support, Commissioner Petrolia has decided to seek a promotion.
We don’t believe she deserves one.
She’s had her turn.
And despite a yeoman’s effort to reinvent herself during this campaign by claiming she has been misunderstood and that all the negativity of the past five years (which also includes commission infighting, disrespect of staff, volunteers and civic leaders) falls on Mr. Glickstein, we can’t help but remember her record.
As Maya Angelou once said: when people show you who they are, believe them.
As a result, Petrolia cannot hide from her record by conveniently blaming the lame duck mayor or saying that all of her detractors don’t understand her. We would argue that they understand her all too well.
So while Glickstein may or may not own a lion’s share of the dysfunction at City Hall, Petrolia certainly has earned her fair share of responsibility.
There’s a reason why a five year incumbent does not enjoy the endorsement of scores of civic leaders past and present, nor the support of the police, fire and general employees unions. Even Ms. Petrolia’s own profession—the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches—has endorsed Mr. Chard.
A virtual who’s who of Delray Beach—the volunteers who give their time, talent and treasure to the community—the police officers, firefighters and general employees unions are overwhelmingly backing Vice Mayor Jim Chard for mayor. Can they all be wrong? We don’t think so.
Yes, they are impressed with Mr. Chard’s credentials and demeanor. But they also know Jim, have worked closely with him for years and feel he will listen and collaborate if elected mayor. We have not had that basic expectation met in quite some time and it’s hurt our community.
Leadership is about showing up—not just during election time but to do the grunt work with the people in the trenches. Vice Mayor Chard sits on the Drug Task Force (the only elected official in Delray to show up consistently or in most cases– at all), he works closely with Old School Square, the Arts Garage, WARC, the homeless task force, the Green Implementation Advisory Board, local schools, Community Greening, the Chamber of Commerce and the Congress Avenue Task Force. He is deeply committed to historic preservation and efforts to make Delray a safer place to walk and bike.
He puts in the time, understands the need to collaborate and has innovative ideas to grow jobs and increase the tax base while preserving what makes Delray special.
He understands why it’s important to engage with “The Set”, the Beach Property Owners Association and all groups in an active city. Mr. Chard’s opponent has antagonized many of these constituencies right up until announcing her campaign this summer when suddenly her demeanor changed and she became the candidate who “listens.”
She did not listen to three dozen volunteers who were asked by the city to volunteer for a year to create a plan to jumpstart Congress Avenue. After voting to “accept” the plan, she let it sit on a shelf for two years only to attack and misrepresent the plan for craven political gain. That behavior is emblematic of a slash and burn “leadership” style that has polarized the city and sapped the energy of volunteers and city staff. It should be noted that when the plan was published Ms. Petrolia sought and was granted a “special thanks” in a booklet even though she never attended a single meeting of the task force. That behavior fits a five year pattern.
She has not worked with Old School Square’s staff and board to strengthen Delray’s most important civic project. Instead, she criticized the volunteers and philanthropists who are trying mightily to improve that community treasure. Volunteers are not above criticism and the status quo always needs to be challenged. But effective leaders know how to collaborate not polarize, they unite, they don’t divide.
Delray’s business community has also suffered the wrath of a dysfunctional commission and a hobbled, dispirited City Hall. Commissioner Petrolia has led the charge to fight investment by voting no on virtually every job creating project downtown and even on the Congress Avenue corridor when she was alone in her opposition to a corporate relocation on a derelict property that created over a hundred good jobs.
While it is Ok to vote no, it is not OK to continue to fight once the vote is taken—undermining your colleagues and seeking to sow doubt about why projects were approved. Government cannot function if commissioners refuse to move on.
It is not OK to litigate developers who follow the city’s rules—which is the untold story of Atlantic Crossing– which had no waivers or variances and 80 plus conditions of approval based on neighborhood input. Instead of exerting leadership and seeking to collaborate to design a project that the community could embrace, Petrolia followed the mayor and shut off communications to score political points with her base. That’s not leadership.
Petrolia and company inherited an approved project. While they may not have liked it, they missed an historic opportunity to work with the development team to craft a better project. Instead, they spent taxpayer money on a lawsuit, lost a $500,000 donation to Veterans Park, years of tax base that can never be recouped and ultimately voted to approve a new road that two of their own outside consultants said was not a wise plan.
The litany of these kinds of stories go on and on.
iPic, the Kaufman Lynn Congress Avenue relocation, the relentless attacks on the CRA, the inability to compromise with event producers (which ultimately harmed key non-profits and local businesses) and the violation of our city charter when commissioners refused to agree on a temporary commissioner to fill a vacant seat—a move that triggered two lawsuits– are other examples of dysfunctional leadership.
In the latter example, the community came out in force to support civic icon Yvonne Odom, but Petrolia and Commissioner Katz refused to listen and supported a candidate who did not elicit any vocal support and later lost an election via landslide. During that pivotal debate, to fill a seat that historically has been a voice for the northwest and southwest neighborhoods, Petrolia backed a candidate that the community had rejected and ignored a long time contributor who just wanted to serve out a few weeks of an unexpired term. This is when leaders seize opportunities—to say “hey you know what, I like another candidate, but Mrs. Odom is terrific too, and we can’t ignore the voices of the community nor can we violate our charter, which is our governing document.” Needless to say, that moment didn’t occur and we went to court—again.
Leaders are supposed to listen. Effective mayors need to listen or they just won’t succeed.
Leaders are also supposed to act.
This lack of action on Congress, on homelessness, resiliency, green initiatives etc. etc., is why Vice Mayor Chard decided to give up a safe seat to run for mayor. He wants to get things moving again.
He also wants to give the newly hired City Manager a chance to build a team, so that City Hall can function for all of Delray’s stakeholders. If you think it’s functioning now, try calling the city and see if you can navigate a costly phone system that doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.
Shelly Petrolia has had her turn.
Mr. Chard was elected a year ago on a platform of restoring collaboration and re-establishing a functioning relationship between the city and its many stakeholders. Those relationships have been dismantled over the past five years at a terrific, incalculable cost. It is a testament to past progress and hard work that momentum wasn’t completely zapped in Delray Beach. But the city is at a crossroads. Other cities are gaining—competing for jobs and investment. Delray Beach has problems it needs to solve ranging from heroin and a need for better schools to a lack of middle class housing and a diverse economy to weather the inevitable storms. We are caught in a cycle of division, distrust, bullying and ‘my way or the highway’ gotcha politics that took root and spread on Ms. Petrolia’s watch.
She’s had her turn.
We believe that Jim Chard has the intelligence, demeanor and vision to bring people together. We recommend you vote for him on March 13.
In another contested race, voters have a choice between three candidates former Commissioner Adam Frankel, newcomer Eric Camacho and two-time candidate Richard Alteus.
The Delray Newspaper recommends that voters choose Mr. Frankel.
A local attorney, Mr. Frankel has the support of the police and fire unions, is past chair of the Delray Beach Police and Fire Pension Board and has the support of a range of past elected officials. Mr. Frankel has a pleasant demeanor and has been supportive of economic development initiatives that will add jobs and grow the tax base. He would like to see a more collegial body on the dais, having experienced some infighting in his last years on the commission.
While we recommend his candidacy we are hoping that Mr. Frankel has grown from his past experience which included some questionable votes that cost him the confidence of some community leaders, particularly in The Set. We think he has the ability to build on his past experience.
We are also impressed with Mr. Camacho, who has shown kindness and civility in a heated election season. We’d like to see Mr. Camacho get more experience on city boards and are hopeful the new commission will encourage him to stay involved.
Mr. Alteus ran in 2017 and never showed up at any campaign forums, an odd choice. This year, he has shown up but has shown virtually no knowledge of city issues and has had no involvement in the community.