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 gets sobering update on efforts to redevelop urban area

Palm Beach County commissioners got a sobering update Tuesday on efforts to revitalize urban areas along Okeechobee Boulevard and Congress Avenue.

The county had designed a 29-mile section of the county an urban redevelopment area with special rules and requirements designed to spur economic development.

But the Great Recession and ongoing storm water retention problems hampered redevelopment efforts, much to the chagrin of commissioners.

“The plan failed,” Commissioner Shelley Vana said. “It failed miserably in my district. If anything, we made it worse.”

Compared to the county as a whole, the urban redevelopment area has higher unemployment and poverty rates and a lower per capita income.

County staff, which made a presentation on the area during a series of workshops Tuesday, is working on some changes with an eye to spurring redevelopment.

Commissioner Steven Abrams noted that the county’s plan to raise the sales tax could help pay for projects that would aid redevelopment efforts in the urban redevelopment area.

Commissioner Shelley Vana
Commissioner Shelley Vana