Here’s What We Think… An Open Letter To Commissioner Katz

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Dear Commissioner Katz:

Can we call you Mitch?

We don’t ask to be familiar as a sign of disrespect. We ask as a sign of affection because we’ve known you for years and have mostly gotten along.

But things have gone seriously astray and we’re concerned.

On issue after issue you seem to be on the wrong side of the community, the facts and the people who are hard at work improving Delray.

And we don’t understand why.

Let’s go back a few months to the debate over who should serve as the interim commissioner when Al Jacquet left for the State House.

The community came out in force for Yvonne Odom but you didn’t listen and insisted on pushing Josh Smith. You refused to compromise, refused to listen and along with the mayor and other commissioners willfully violated the city’s charter leading to two lawsuits.

Your refusal to consider Ms. Odom led to a schism with a large swath of voters in the city’s northwest and southwest section. Your preferred candidate, Dr. Smith would go on to lose 2-1 to Shirley Johnson in the March elections. In fact, both of your endorsed candidates lost badly.

The election results could have prompted a rethinking of your policies and governing style.

But the rocky road has continued.

The recent debate over the CRA saw you lead a failed effort to take over a citizen board that historically has done yeoman’s work in Delray.

You grandstanded on Channel 12. You alleged a lack of accountability and continued to peck at the iPic deal wrongly labeling a parking payment (more than offset by revenue) corporate welfare despite the efforts of community leaders to walk you through the math that clearly showed why this is a good deal for the community.

The effort led many to conclude that you are unwilling to change your mind even when confronted by the facts.

Your social media posts attempt to position you as a profile in courage standing up for your beliefs and taking satisfaction in frustrating the mediocre minds who don’t agree with you.

We’ve seen this type of stance before and we don’t understand it. This desire to poke at people.

Former Commissioner Jordana Jarjura took you to task in a memorable and embarrassing dressing down at a commission meeting. Laudably, you promised at the time to do better.

But you didn’t.

When Better Delray, a volunteer movement pushing positivity and progress launched in January you attended and then cynically bought a similar URL and made fun of the effort.

That’s just wrong, Mitch.

Your blog previewing commission meetings and then giving a post meeting recap also contains some alarming statements.

In a recent post, you double down  on the anti CRA narrative stating that not much has been done for neighborhoods whose leadership you have been ignoring and indeed antagonizing.

You state–wrongly and disrespectfully-that the CRA should stop making excuses.

Funny, we have never seen the CRA make excuses.

We have also seen progress: $60 million plus invested and the impact is easily seen if you and some of your colleagues would simply open your eyes.

Atlantic Grove, beautification to I-95, the Spady Museum, the Community Land Trust, Catherine Strong Park, Northwest /Southwest Fifth Avenue rehabilitation, a new library, facade grants, clean and safe programs, the Elizabeth Wesley Plaza, the mitigation of sinking homes, the Fairfield Inn, the Carolyn Quince Apartments and the list goes on and on.

Of course, there have been missteps and disappointments. The loss of Uptown Delray was a major blow–but one where the mayor and commission failed to step in and lead.

Our point is that words matter. Your words matter. Because you are an elected official. And when you label an agency and criticize its existence you deflate, discourage and dismiss a whole lot of hard work.

We know the CRA staff and board members past and present. Like any agency or effort there are good players and those who fall short.

But for the most part, the CRA staff and volunteers get up every day and try to do their best for Delray. That effort needs to be honored and respected. They have accomplished great things.

So far, you haven’t.

We know that’s harsh. We are rooting for you to change course.

In fairness, you are not the only elected official falling short.

Mayor Glickstein has failed to lead and collaborate and his words have left scars that will outlast his term.

Commissioner Petrolia’s blistering criticism and belief that she could do better would be laughable if her comments weren’t so biting. They are however ridiculous.

We had an election in March that clearly showed that the Delray electorate is tired of the criticism, backbiting, lack of progress and dysfunction.

You and your commission colleagues weren’t on the ballot. But your record as a group clearly was.

We urge you to reflect on your positions and your style.

Before more damage is done.