Body cameras in the PBC budget?

Palm Beach County’s proposed $4.3 billion budget includes money for lots of things. But it doesn’t include a penny for law enforcement body cameras.

For Commissioner Shelley Vana, that’s a problem.

Vana agreed with a call made by fellow Commissioner Priscilla Taylor that body cameras should be purchased for use by Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies.

The cameras, supported by some concerned about law enforcement misconduct, were to be bought with money from an increase in the county’s sales tax. However, as the sales tax debate moved forward, the cameras were removed from the sales tax projects list.

During the first of two public hearings on the proposed 2017 county budget Tuesday night, Vana said she thinks money for the cameras ought to be included in the budget.

“I just think that, if we do a budget without body cameras, it sends a message we’re not serious,” Vana said.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has said he’d have his deputies wear the body cameras – as long as he didn’t have to account for them in his budget.

Commissioners will hold a final public hearing on the proposed budget on September 19. It’s not clear if commissioners will decided to amend the budge to include the cameras, which, according to County Administrator Verdenia Baker, would cost an estimated $10 million.

Several commissioners have said that, while they are open to the idea of body cameras, they are concerned about ongoing costs associated with their use.

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 frustrated but OK after loss in property appraiser’s race

Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana, soundly beaten in her race to be the county’s next property appraiser, said she’s frustrated but OK after the defeat to Dorothy Jacks.

“I’m OK,” she said after the loss. “I’ve won races, and I’ve lost races before. I’m happy with the way I ran my race.”

Vana did express frustration with news coverage of the race, which she said failed to point out the support Jacks got from the Republican Party of Palm Beach County.

The party announced on its web site that it supported Jacks, who had been a registered Republican as recently as 2010. A direct mail piece sent out to voters also attempted to link Vana, a long-time Democrat, to the Republican Party’s controversial presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

The property appraiser’s race was a non-partisan race, and Vana touted her long-standing ties to the Democratic Party.

That wasn’t enough, however. Vana, who had served in the state House of Representatives before winning a seat on the county commission, lamented what she described as not enough support from her party in the race.

“I want to thank all of the people who did support me,” Vana said.

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

Jacks to step into property appraiser’s office after win

Dorothy Jacks won’t face an opponent in November, and, by virtue of her victory Tuesday night over Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana, will be the county’s next property appraiser.

Jacks will succeed Gary Nikolits, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election. He endorsed Jacks, who has served as his chief deputy.

The filing of a write-in candidate, Charles H. Stahman, moved the date of the Jacks-Vana election from November to August 30.

Stahman’s name was not on the ballot, however, and Jacks, cruised to victory over Vana.

Dorothy Jacks
Dorothy Jacks

 

Taylor refutes claim that she traveled lavishly, missed votes

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, locked in a re-election battle against three opponents, is pushing back against claims that she has traveled lavishly on the taxpayers’ dime and missed important commission votes.

That’s the claim of a direct mail piece sent out recently to some of Taylor’s constituents by Keeping Citizens First, Inc., which is chaired by local political consultant Rick Asnani.

Asnani is working for one of Taylor’s opponents, Mack Bernard.

“When we needed Priscilla Taylor, she wasn’t around,” the mail piece tells constituents. “When Palm Beach County commissioners were voting on the critical fight to stop the spread of illegal drug distribution pill mills in our neighborhoods…Priscilla didn’t show up. When our County Commission was looking for solutions to prevent youth violence, Priscilla Taylor was sight-seeing somewhere else.”

The mailer then said Taylor missed the 2011 meeting because she was on a “6 night $2,600 taxpayer funded excursion to Portland, Oregon.”

Taylor
Taylor

Taylor is an officer in the National Association of Counties and missed the commission meeting to attend a NACo conference. Pill mills weren’t on the commission agenda, and commissioners received and filed a report on the Youth Violence Prevention Project. There was no vote.

Taylor took a dim view of the claims made in the flier.

“I think they’re all untrue,” she said. “I’ve never gone on any sight-seeing excursions when I attended any of those (NACo) meetings. I am an officer. I lead a committee. I have never gone on one of these trips for any vacations at all. Every trip I’ve taken has been strictly for business.”

The anti-Taylor flier isn’t the first one from Asnani’s group that has angered a county commissioner in the last few weeks. Keeping Citizens First attempted to link Commissioner Shelley Vana, a Democrat, to Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s controversial presidential nominee.

Vana is running for property appraiser against Dorothy Jacks, another Asnani client.

In an email to The Palm Beach Post, Asnani said Taylor has missed numerous commission meetings over the years and has made dozens of taxpayer-funded trips that cost a combined $52,000. He also slammed her for attempting to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Taylor has made numerous taxpayer funded trips during her time on the commission, including trips to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., as well as to various locations for NACo meetings. County staff and/or other commissioners have frequently made the same trips.

Taylor had sought to succeed U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is vacating the seat to run for one in the U.S. Senate.

“It doesn’t seem like she wants to be here,” Asnani wrote. “You can’t govern if you don’t show up and Taylor is spending far too much time in conferences and too little time on constituents.”

Taylor aborted her run for Congress in February and decided to run for re-election to the commission. She has said she was seeking to serve the same constituents in a different capacity.

Taylor defended her attendance at the NACo conferences, arguing that they have provided her and other county officials with ideas that help them better serve residents.

“The information you get is really priceless,” she said. “The value is something we can not replace. To me, it’s worth it.”

Proposed sales tax increase was great…before it was bad

A direct mail piece doesn’t just rip Palm Beach County property appraiser candidate Shelley Vana for attending what it described as a Donald Trump rally. It doesn’t just say she took gobs of money from developers and then voted for more growth.

The mail piece also says Vana, a county commissioner, voted for “the largest tax increase in Palm Beach County history.”

That vote, taken in May, was to have voters decide whether the county’s sales tax should be raised from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents on the dollar. That increase would generate an estimated $2.7 billion over 10 years for repairs to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.

Vana does back that sales tax increase. Her opponent in the property appraiser’s race, Dorothy Jacks, would not say if she supports the proposed sales tax increase, which will be on the ballot in November.

“I do not think it is proper for me to advocate for or against an issue which does not directly impact the duties and responsibilities of the Property Appraiser’s office,” Jacks said when asked about the sales tax plan in candidate survey from The Palm Beach Post. ” I am glad the voters get a chance to make a decision on this in November.”

Jacks isn’t taking a position on the sales tax proposal, but Rick Asnani, the man behind the anti-Vana flier, was squarely behind the proposal earlier this year.

Working with the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, Asnani made presentations and pushed hard in favor of what the anti-Vana flier describes as “the largest tax increase in Palm Beach County history.”

When the commission voted not to use sales tax money to pay for projects backed by the Cultural Council, Asnani’s role in the sales tax push diminished.

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

Commissioners ask county staff to look into sober homes

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor has directed county staff members to conduct an overview of sober homes in the county, which have generated opposition from those who feel the private, unregulated facilities lead to increased violence and drug abuse in some communities.

“We as commissioners really need to know what’s going on,” Taylor said during a meeting Tuesday.

It is not clear what staff will review, and there is no timetable for the completion of that review.

Taylor’s colleagues were in general agreement with the notion of a review. Commissioner Shelley Vana added that she wants to know what can be done to make sure sober home operators who solicit for out-of-town clients provide those clients with a way to return to their communities if treatment is unsuccessful and ends early.

Palm Beach County Commissioner District 7, Priscilla A. Taylor in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 22, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Commissioner  Priscilla A. Taylor (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

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.”

Vana, Jacks to square off at Delray Beach forum

Shelley Vana and Dorothy Jacks will participate in a forum tonight in Delray Beach to discuss what they’d do if elected as Palm Beach County’s next property appraiser.

Vana, a county commissioner, and Jacks, deputy property appraiser, are seeking to succeed Gary Nikolits, who is retiring after 23 years as property appraiser.

The forum, hosted by the Democratic Club of Boca Raton and Delray Beach, will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the South County Civic Center, which is located at 16700 Jog Road.

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

 

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

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