Lozman sues Riviera Beach over street address


Fane Lozman, who fought the city of Riviera Beach all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, now is suing it over his address.

Lozman famously beat the city when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it wrongfully seized his two-story floating home, saying just because something floats doesn’t necessarily make it a boat. Now, in a suit filed Feb. 12 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Lozman alleges the city is trying to punish hm for his victory.

The suit, which Lozman filed without an attorney, demands a judge order the city to assign street addresses for the five Singer Island lots of what he calls his “Renegade” complex. Without one, his suit says, his location can’t be entered into the city’s police and fire dispatch system. He said he called dispatchers once and spent several minutes trying to explain his location; “when seconds count, this needless delay could result in serious injury or death,” his suit says.

Lozman also demanded the city be stopped from abandoning a public road near his property, an act he said would remove his access to the beach and ocean, just 50 feet away. He said the property “has a vested right for the last ninety-two (92) years.”

The suit claimed city Building Official Peter Ringle and Community Development Director Mary McKinney both have told Lozman his properties never will be issued an address. It  said the county’s property appraiser’s office wrote the city calling for the address designation, concurring that it’s mandatory for 911 service, and also saying the appraiser needs an address to mail its notice of proposed taxes. But, the suit said, the city has ignored the calls.

Neither Ringle, McKinney or Riviera Beach City Attorney Pamala Ryan could immediately be reached Tuesday.

In December 2014, a federal jury rejected Lozman’s claims that the city was abridging his free speech rights.

Last week, besides the Riviera Beach suit, Lozman and another regular at Palm Beach County Commission meetings, Alex Larson, sued the city over time allotted for public comment on the commission’s “consent agenda.”

Attorney General opinion sought on fire rescue tax swap law

An attorney general’s opinion is being sought to clarify a key aspect of a 2009 law allowing governments to raise their sales tax to pay for fire rescue services while reducing property taxes used for that purpose.

The Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of Palm Beach County Local 2928 has pushed the tax swap, but county commissioners and County Attorney Denise Nieman have raised questions about how excess sales tax revenue could be used.

The law says sales tax revenue is to be used for fire rescue services and requires governments to cut property taxes by the same amount generated by the sales tax hike.

What’s not clear, commissioners say, is what happens if the sales tax hike raises more money than it costs to pay for fire rescue services. Commissioners fear they would have to cut property taxes – and the services they pay for – while excess sales tax money piles up, untouchable because fire rescue services are covered.

Union officials have said the law would allow governments to use the sales tax revenue. Commissioners aren’t so sure.

Nieman and a lawyer for the union met on Friday and could not come to agreement on the law. They did agree to seek an opinion from the attorney general.

“It is difficult to predict with any certainty when or even if the attorney general will issue an opinion,” Nieman wrote to commissioners.

The fire rescue sales tax would have to be approved by voters through a referendum, but commissioners would first have to agree to place it on the ballot.

Union officials say they want to go to voters in August. Commissioners are exploring the idea of having a separate sales tax increase on the ballot in November. That sales tax increase would raise money for roads, bridges, buildings and school equipment.

County Attorney Denise Nieman (center) speaks with County Commissioner Hal Valeche during a meeting of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, January 27, 2015. Commissioners voted unanimously to ask Uber to stop operating in the county unless the company follows the current county law regulating taxis and limousines. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
County Attorney Denise Nieman (center) (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)



Justice scholar: police review boards can work


Independent community review boards for police can be useful, a criminal justice scholar said Monday at the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission’s annual goal-setting retreat.

“It’s not an easy thing,” Thomas Blomberg, dean of Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Justice, told the justice panel’s half-day gathering at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

But, he said, “It can work. And it has worked in a number of jurisdictions.”

Blomberg, the planning meeting’s keynote speaker, was responding to a question by justice commission member, and defense attorney, Nellie King, who said the justice commission has not really weighed in on the cjclogo150issue.

County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, who’s on the justice panel’s executive committee but did not attend Monday’s retreat, has been a vocal proponent of a police review board, especially following an April series by The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 that found people shot by deputies have disproportionately been black. The county commission shelved the idea in September, saying such a board would have no authority over the Sheriff’s Office.

Blomberg said Monday that “evidence is mixed” on the effectiveness of such panels, depending on where they operate. But he said they work only when police and the people they serve work together rather than against each other.

“This is a good way to begin discourse, and it’s useful not just for community members themselves but officers as well,” Blomberg said. “The police officers and community, they’re part of a whole. It’s not either-or.”

Palm Beach County Justice commission holds retreat today

cjclogo150Members of the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission, a body already undergoing a shakeup, will spend a half day today mapping out where they want to be in the next year.

The council will hold a planning meeting all morning at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.  It will decide how it wants to tackle public safety, rehabilitation, and justice system reform.

Earlier this month, Palm Beach County Commissioners shot down colleague Priscilla Taylor’s plan for each of them to appoint someone to the panel.  In the first of two votes — a final vote is April 19 — the county commissioners went along, for now, with reducing from 12 to 10 those picked by the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. And it provisionally OK’d having a member of, or someone nominated by the Palm Beach County Clergy Alliance, with the caveat that commissioners want to learn more about how that would work.

Regulars sue Palm Beach County over “comment” limits


Two regulars at Palm Beach County Commission meetings have sued the county, saying limiting them during some public comment violates the state’s public meetings laws.

 In a suit filed Wednesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Alex Larson and Fane Lozman demand the county either stop using a “consent agenda” or stop limiting speakers during consent agenda discussion.

The “consent agenda” is a list of items, most of them housekeeping, which the commissioners dispense with in a single vote unless one wants to pull one in advance for more discussion.

Larson said that at the commission’s Dec. 15, meeting, she rose to comment on nine of the several items on that day’s consent agenda. She said she was limited not to the usual three minutes per item, but three minutes in total. Lozman said he wanted to speak on two items and also got only three minutes total.

Click here to read more on mypalmbeachpost.com.



Poll: Should Palm Beach County raise sales tax rate to pay for fire rescue services?

(Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
(Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County is considering raising the sales tax rate by a penny per dollar to help pay for fire rescue services — and the plan is facing some opposition.

Earlier this week, the Palm Beach Post reported that the county’s Fire Rescue department is one of three government agencies proposing two sales tax referendums that, if passed, would bump the county’s sales-tax rate from 6 percent to 8 percent — the highest in Florida.

One group supporting the increase says even a one-penny jump would raise more than $200 million a year for Fire Rescue, while cutting the burden on property owners.

We want to know what you think. Vote in our poll below.

Read more on the proposed referendum.

Images show massive scale of planned Westlake project near Acreage

Minto Communities Vice President John F. Carter said his firm’s giant development project on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road will create thousands of jobs in Palm Beach County and have an economic impact of $1 billion over the next two decades.

This layout shows the plans for the town center portion of Westlake, a Minto community. (All images provided by Minto)

The project, formerly known as Minto West and now to be called Westlake, has been the subject of intense debate about growth in the county.

Carter offered updates and details on the project during an Economic Forum luncheon Thursday at the Kravis Center.

Complete coverage of Carter’s presentation can be found here.

Plans for Westlake include commercial, residential and recreational areas.

13-0518_S3T WESTLAKE




Taxi, limo firms refile tossed Uber lawsuit

020115-UBER-3As Palm Beach County lawyers had expected, a group of taxi and limousine drivers have resubmitted their Uber-related lawsuit, which a federal judge had thrown out on Feb. 4.

County Attorney Denise Marie Nieman told county commissioners and staff Thursday in an email that she’d received the new, amended complaint in the class-action suit, which claimed Palm Beach County gives special treatment to the Uber app-based ride program.

“I will keep you posted as this matter progresses,” Nieman wrote.

In their lawsuit, originally filed in May 2015, the plaintiffs — Boyce Transportation, which operates A1A Airport and Limousine Service; Prestige Limousine; North County Transportation; Apollo Transportation Services; and Metro Premier Car Service — demanded monetary damages, a declaration that Uber is a vehicle-for-hire firm, and an order barring the county from “selectively enforcing the laws of the state and county applicable to plaintiffs’ business for the benefit of any (vehicle for hire) company willing to pay PBC to do so.”

But U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg wrote in a ruling from Fort Pierce that the firms’ “broad allegation” that they were the same animal as Uber and similar firms “is not supported by sufficient factual allegations.”

A plan to create statewide rules for app-based ride programs is working its way through the Legislature.