Palm Beach County declares state of emergency


With super powerful Hurricane Irma churning its way toward Florida, Palm Beach County has declared a state of emergency, effective at midnight, County Mayor Paulette Burdick said Tuesday evening.

No evacuations have been ordered in the county, one of a number of South Florida locations where Irma could make landfall this weekend.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said residents who plan to evacuate should do so “sooner rather than later” to “avoid getting stranded on the highway.”

The county’s 6,000¬†employees are all considered essential employees and there is no plan to have them stop working before the end of the work week, Baker said, adding that she has no authority to direct other employers to let their workers leave early so that they can begin evacuating in advance of a potential landfall.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Irma was a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour – a far more powerful storm than Harvey, which lingered over Greater Houston and brought devastating flooding to that area. Irma is one of the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricanes on record.

Still, Baker said not everyone in the county will need to evacuate.

“Evacuations are based on storm surge, not on wind speed,” she said.

Residents who do not live along the coast and those who don’t live near Lake Okeechobee “do not necessarily need to evacuate.”

The county does anticipate operating shelters, including a special needs shelter for which residents must pre-register.

Special needs residents can pre-register at http://www.pbcgov.com or by calling 561-712-6400.

Baker urged residents to continue monitoring Irma and obtain enough supplies to last for five to seven days.

County delays vote on Iota Carol development project

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 5-2 Monday to postpone a decision on comprehensive plan changes to accommodate the Iota Carol/Delray Linton Groves development project west of The Acreage.

Commissioners had given preliminary approval to changes last year, which were then reviewed by state government officials. Two of the commissioners who voted in favor of those changes have been replaced by new commissioners, and new County Mayor Paulette Burdick – who has expressed concern about over-development in the county – now chairs commission meetings.

Burdick and Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes the project site, voted against the postponement.

The project, which calls for the construction of 1,030 homes on a 1,288-acre tract, will be reconsidered by the commission when it meets on April 8.

 

Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick talks about her desire to discuss issues regarding Uber and public safety, instead of putting it off, during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Sept. 22, 2015. The commissioners voted to extend Uber's temporary operating agreement until the end of March 2016 or until the state legislature makes any decisions. (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)

Melania Trump’s focus on bullying gets attention of PBC

Melania Trump said she’d make cyber bullying one of her areas of focus if her husband won the presidency.

Her husband, Donald Trump, is now President Trump. And Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay wants the county’s Children and Youth Services Department to reach out to the new first lady to see how the department’s efforts could dovetail with those of Melania Trump.

“That’s a great suggestion,” Children and Youth Services Director Tammy Fields said. “We’ll look into that.”

123116 PBDN Meghan McCarthy Melania and President-elect Donald Trump leave the dance floor before midnight at Mar-a-Lago Club Saturday December 31, 2016 in the Town of Palm Beach.

Some 42 percent of 10- to 22-year olds surveyed last year listed bullying as a social/emotional issue faced by young people.

That survey was part of an overview Fields gave commissioners Tuesday on the work her department did over the past year, including the establishment of a web site that has information on youth needs and services.

Commissioner Mack Bernard expressed frustration, saying the web site isn’t enough.

“I’m really bothered by that,” he said. “I want to know what are we doing?”

The department, established two years ago, has collected data on youth in the county and established a series of “community challenges” and “action areas.”

The work of Fields and the department were praised by McKinlay and County Mayor Paulette Burdick.

Commissioners get committee assignments for 2017

Palm Beach County commissioners have their committee and board assignments for 2017, with the commission’s newest members – Dave Kerner and Mack Bernard – getting spots on the Criminal Justice Commission and the Homeless Advisory Board, respectively.

In addition to serving on the Criminal Justice Commission, Kerner, who succeeded the term-limited Shelley Vana as the District 3 commissioner, will serve on the Public Safety Coordinating Council and the Value Adjustment Board.

Bernard, who defeated Priscilla Taylor to win the District 7 seat, picks up a spot on the CareerSource Palm Beach County committee in addition to the Homeless Advisory Board seat.

Mack Bernard, middle,  greets guests at an election party at Revolutions at City Place Revolutions at City Place West Palm Beach Tuesday August 30, 2016. ( Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post )
Mack Bernard

The two new commissioners will serve as alternatives on the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Their five colleagues will serve as regular members of the MPO.

Kerner
Dave Kerner

District 1’s commissioner, Hal Valeche, will serve on the Artificial Reef and Estuarine Committee. He will be an alternate on the BioScience Land Protection Advisory Board and will serve on the Loxahatchee River Management Coordinating Council, the Northlake Boulevard Task Force and the Pal Mal Water Control District.

District 2’s commissioner, Paulette Burdick, will serve on the Children’s Services Council and the Water Resources Task Force. Burdick has been chosen by her colleagues to serve as county mayor.

Steven Abrams, who represents District 4, will serve on the Kravis Center board, the Multi-Jurisdictional Issues Coordination Forum Executive Committee, the Palm Beach Broadband board, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority and the Value Adjustment Board, where he will be chairman.

District 5’s commissioner, Mary Lou Berger, will serve on the BioScience Land Protection Advisory Board, the Palm Beach County Cultural Council and the Water Resources Task Force.

In District 6, Melissa McKinlay will serve on the Business Development Executive Board and the County Coalition for Responsible Management of Lake ‘O.’

Valeche, Burdick and Kerner will serve as regular members of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, with Abrams, McKinlay and Bernard serving as alternates.

Commissioners declare which boards and committees they want to serve on, with the mayor making the final decision on assignments.

“I’m a firm believer in, where possible, having a commissioner serving on each of these committee during their term in office,” Burdick said.

The county mayor said she also was mindful of commissioner expertise and interest such as Abrams’ extensive knowledge of transportation issues.

581-acre chunk of Ag Reserve could be up for sale

The South Florida Water Management District has designed a 581-acre piece of Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve to be surplus and available for sale, increasing the prospect of more development in a farming zone some fear is being gobbled up by builders.

The district co-owns the 581 acres with Palm Beach County. A majority of the seven-member county commission would have to agree to a sale.

Last year, when the district first began discussing the idea of declaring the land surplus and taking bids on it, Commissioners Paulette Burdick and Melissa McKinlay opposed private ownership of the land, which is part of a 624-acre tract purchased with public money in 2000.

Check back later today with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com for more on this story.

 

PostonGrowth Post on Growth sig

 

Jacks, Vana make their pitch to be PBC property appraiser

Seated side-by-side during a political forum Tuesday night, Shelley Vana and Dorothy Jacks made their pitch to be Palm Beach County’s next property appraiser.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Vana, a county commissioner and former state legislator, and Jacks, the chief deputy property appraiser, clashed on what they would bring to the office.

Jacks said she understands the technical nuances of the job. Vana said the office is a political one that is best led by someone who has served in elected office.

The candidates, both Democrats, are seeking to succeed Gary Nikolits, who is retiring after 24 years as property appraiser. The primary election will be held on August 30.

With about 70 people looking on at the South County Civic Center, Vana and Jacks returned to that theme of leadership again and again.

“It is a very technical job,” Jacks said, adding that, in her, “you will have an expert at the top. You won’t have a politician but an expert leading the staff.”

Earlier, during her introductory remarks, Vana had laid out her credentials.

“You have two very good candidates here,” she said. “One has been an employee and one has been in leadership. In this office, you need a solid leader who sets the tone. You’re electing a Lee Iococca, not someone who screws in the screws.”

Jacks took that jab in stride. Indeed, much of the forum, sponsored by the Democratic Club of Boca Raton and Delray Beach, focused on technical aspects of the office.

The candidates were asked about the prospect of raising the county’s sales tax to pay for upgrades to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.

Dorothy Jacks, chief deputy property appraiser
Dorothy Jacks, chief deputy property appraiser

Vana, who has supported the county’s plan to raise the sales tax, said she favors a mix of taxes. Jacks said she would first want to study how the county is spending money it already has before determining whether a sales tax increase is a good idea.

The candidates emphasized their endorsements. Vana noted that she is backed by state Reps. Dave Kerner and Irv Slossberg and a slew of other elected officials. Jacks said 18 property appraisers across the state have endorsed her, as have two of Vana’s colleagues on the county commission, Priscilla Taylor and Paulette Burdick.

While the candidates sparred on what they would bring to the office, each said they won’t be attacking each other on more personal terms, a point highlighted as the forum was ended when Jacks offer Vana a sip from her water bottle.

“Dorothy just shared her water with me,” Vana said. “And I wasn’t afraid to drink it.”

PBC Commission, school board members approve new sales tax plan

During a joint meeting to smooth over differences, Palm Beach County commissioners and school board members agreed on a joint plan to raise the county’s 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

Commissioners and school board members had previously agreed on the broad outlines of the tax increase, which would generate $2.7 billion over 10 years for repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings. School board members expressed concern, however, when commissioners changed the plan, stripping out a combined $161 million in funding for cultural projects and for economic development incentives.

On Tuesday at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus, commissioners and school board members agreed to a revised plan, which includes a provision to end the tax early if $2.7 billion is generated earlier than 10 years.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later for more on this story.

Sales tax meeting to be held at Palm Beach State College

A joint sales tax meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission and the county School Board will be held Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus.

School board members requested the meeting on Wednesday, a day after county commissioners changed the plan to raise the county’s 6-cent sales tax by a penny on the dollar.

A combined $161 million of the $2.7 billion the tax would generate over 10 years was directed to cultural projects and economic development incentives. Commissioners, however, stripped out that funding, angering school board members.

A majority of commissioners had to agree to hold a joint meeting with school board members. County Mayor Mary Lou Berger and commissioners Priscilla Taylor, Shelley Vana, Melissa McKinlay and Paulette Burdick signed off on the meeting, which will be held in the Wattenbarger Conference Room of the college’s Center for Bachelor’s Programs building.

Mary Lou Berger
Mary Lou Berger

 

Keep your information, thank you very much

As Palm Beach County commissioners sifted through challenges regarding the 2017 budget during a meeting at the Palm Beach County Convention Center Tuesday, Commissioner Paulette Burdick had an idea.

The county should look into tying insurance costs to the lifestyles of employees, Burdick suggested. Making healthier choices – say, quitting smoking or losing weight – could reduce an employee’s health care costs.

The county has a voluntary program like that now, and Burdick’s colleagues made it clear they didn’t want it to go beyond voluntary.

After several skeptical questions – Commissioner Steven Abrams wondered aloud if employees would be asked to provide blood for testing; Commissioner Shelley Vana asked how the county might learn about an employee’s binge drinking on the weekend – Burdick told county staff she still wants her colleagues to get information on how such an insurance program could work.

“It’s clear they don’t understand it, or I am not articulating it well enough,” Burdick said.

That comment didn’t sit well with her colleagues.

“I don’t want the information,” Abrams said, saying he’d oppose implementing such a program, which he described as overly intrusive.

Vana didn’t want the information, either.

“If I need more information on a topic, I will request it,” she said. “I don’t need another commissioner to request it for me.”

After an uncomfortable pause, County Mayor Mary Lou Berger stepped in: “Moving on to another topic…”

Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick talks about her desire to discuss issues regarding Uber and public safety, instead of putting it off, during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Sept. 22, 2015. The commissioners voted to extend Uber's temporary operating agreement until the end of March 2016 or until the state legislature makes any decisions.  (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)

 

County to explore ways to get more affordable housing

Palm Beach County commissioners will hold a workshop Tuesday to explore ways to increase the amount of affordable housing in the area.

The county has a program that requires builders to include affordable housing in their development plans, and the workshop session – scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Weisman Governmental Center at 301 N. Olive Avenue in West Palm Beach – will give commissioners an opportunity to determine its success.

Commissioner Paulette Burdick has raised objections when developers choose to pay a fee in lieu of including affordable housing in their plans.

Commissioner Paulette Burdick (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)
Commissioner Paulette Burdick (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)