A routine vote on a Palm Beach County proclamation at Tuesday’s county commission meeting prompted a lengthy discussion on school choice.
Commissioner Steve Abrams was asked to introduce declaring Jan. 22-28 as “School Choice Week in Palm Beach County.” The motion passed, but Mayor Paulette Burdick and new commissioner Mack Bernard voted no and did not sign the proclamation.
“If you go on their web site, it is very much about charter schools. It is very much about using public funding for vouchers and scholarships,” Burdick, who sat on the county school board from 1994 to 2010, said of the group National School Choice Week.
Abrams said the group is non-partisan and doesn’t lobby and that it fully supports the option of public schools.
“It’s not about charters,” he said. “It’s not about vouchers. It’s not about tuition tax credits. All those controversial type issues. It’s about appreciating that we offer choices in the county.”
Abrams said that after hearing fellow commissioners weren’t comfortable with the group’s original proposed wording, he rewrote it himself “to best reflect the types of choices our parents and
The proclamation “does not have to do with certain types of schools that some of us, myself included, are not happy about,” said colleague Mary Lou Berger, who said she and her siblings spent their youths in parochial schools. “It’s about the choice that parents have.”
Abrams then offered to change the wording to refer only to choice in Palm Beach County; “then we don’t have to affiliate with that group at all.” He even changed the date to Feb. 22-28.
Burdick still felt the commission, by approving the proclamation, was at least indirectly supporting the national group. Bernard did not speak on the issue.
Candidates competing in three Palm Beach County Commission races are scheduled to participate in an event hosted by the Economic Forum of Palm Beach County Wednesday at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse in West Palm Beach.
Commissioner Hal Valeche and Tony Bennett, competing to represent District 1, Dave Kerner and Sean C. Hogan, the candidates in District 3, and Commissioner Mary Lou Berger and Taniel Shant, vying to represent District 5, are all expected to participate in a forum.
Randy Schultz, former editorial page editor of The Palm Beach Post, will moderate the discussion.
The forum will also introduce Mack Bernard, who will represent District 7 after defeating Commissioner Priscilla Taylor and a pair of other candidates on August 30.
A meet and mingle begins at 11:30 a.m., with the forum/luncheon starting a half-hour later.
Reservations are $70 for non-members and $50 for members and their guests. For more information, contact Jon Kline at 561-373-5488 or 561-622-9920.
A bill that gets Palm Beach County out of most of a $3.28 million federal tab for hurricane cleanup has passed the U.S. House and is on its way to the Senate, U.S. Rep Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said late Monday.
The amount owed by the county government, and other local entities within the county, totals $14.1 million of the total $35 million owed by entities in Florida, Frankel said.
Potentially off the hook besides the county: the cities of Boca Raton: ($4.7 million), Lake Worth ($3.8 million) and Palm Beach Gardens ($351,000); and Jupiter Christian School ($90,000.)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Division of Emergency Management had given more than $120 million to the county to help recover from 2004’s hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, and 2008’s Tropical Storm Fay. The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, of which FEMA is a part, later did an audit, leading to the calls for repayments.
The current legislation, introduced in the House by Frankel, who was West Palm Beach mayor from 2003 to 2011, gives the feds a 3-year window to recoup claims, except in cases of fraud.
“This provision will give FEMA the necessary time to review grant awards while providing certainty for communities so they can plan their budgets accordingly,” Frankel said in a release. It quotes Palm Beach County Mayor Mary Lou Berger as saying. “It is unconscionable for FEMA to propose de-obligating previously awarded disaster funds for projects that have been certified complete by the State.”
Nieman wrote commissioners late Thursday to say she’d planned to bring both to next Tuesday’s commission meeting for debate and possible action.
But, she said, on the comment part, “as I attempted to wordsmith an amendment to ensure that the (commission’s) desire for public participation and efficient and effective meetings were both addressed, it became obvious that there are too many scenarios that may be difficult to reconcile with absolutes defining Workshop days. For example, there may be a time when a motion during a Workshop is desirable, at which point public participation may be legally required.”
She added, “my recommendation is to leave the Rules as they are as it pertains to public comment.”
Nieman said the commission can drop the night meetings with a simple vote Tuesday; and “should this or future Boards want to resume evening meetings, a motion is all it would take to make it happen.”
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.