Palm Beach County commissioners spar over school “choice” proclamation

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)
Burdick
Abrams
Abrams

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.

Palm Beach County Mayor Berger: ‘State of County’ is ‘thriving”

Palm Beach County is on the move, attracting new business, and ready to get around to some much-needed handyman

Berger
Berger

projects, County Mayor Mary Lou Berger said Wednesday at the annual “State of the County” breakfast of the Chamber of the Commerce of the Palm Beaches.

“This truly is, together as a community, a perfect place,” Berger told the gathering at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

In the last year, the county has experienced “record tourism and a robust real estate market,” Berger said.

And, herself hours removed from being reelected Tuesday as District 5 county commissioner, she cheered the passage of the 1-cent county sales tax surcharge for schools, roads and parks.

“We’re going to get that stuff done,” Berger said.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Palm Beach County Mayor Berger gives ‘state of the county’ Thursday

Berger
Berger

With the fallout from Tuesday’s national election still settling, Palm Beach County pivots back to local politics Wednesday morning, as the county’s mayor, District 5 Commissioner Mary Lou Berger, presents the annual “State of the County” address at a breakfast meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches.

Berger also will know by Wednesday morning whether she herself is a lame duck, or has fended off a challenge by suburban Boca Raton GOP newcomer Taniel Shant.

She also likely will weigh in on whether voters approved the 1-cent sales tax surcharge the county proposed in order to generated what it said is much needed money for schools, roads and parks.

Wednesday’s event is from 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Palm Beach County Convention Center,  650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Call (561) 833-3711.

Many new faces when Palm Beach County commissioners, legislators next meet

palm-beach-county-logoNew faces will abound when the Palm Beach County Commission and the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation hold their annual joint meeting early next year.

County Commissioners and Palm Beach County’s state senators and state representatives will meet from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 4 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

At least two, and as many as four, of the seven county commissioners could be different. District 7 commissioner Priscilla Taylor was ousted by Mack Bernard in August. District 3 Commissioner Shelley Vana stepped down because of term limits. And commissioners Hal Valeche (District 1) and Mayor Mary Lou Berger (District 4) face challengers Nov. 8. Commissioners Melissa McKinlay, Steven Abrams, and Paulette Burdick are in through 2018.

Of the 13 state legislators in the Palm Beach County delegation, only one definitely will return to his post: Rep. Bill Hager, who was reelected without opposition.

Rep. Kevin Rader has been elected to the State Senate. Sen. Joseph Abruzzo moved to the House side and was elected without opposition.  Rep. Dave Kerner left to run for Vana’s county commission seat and Rep. Bobby Powell Jr. stepped down to run for State Senate. Irv Slosberg left the House for a failed State Senate run.

Out by term limits: Sen. Maria Lorts Sachs and Rep. Mark Pafford. Sen. Pat Rooney opted not to seek reelection.

Sen. Joe Negron, scheduled to be the incoming State Senate president, faces a challenger Nov. 8, as does Sen. Jeff Clemens and Reps. Lori Berman and MaryLynn Magar. 

 

 

 

County Commission election debate: two no shows

Wednesday’s debate at a luncheon meeting of the Economic Forum of Palm Beach County had a full house, but featured some notable empty chairs nevertheless.

The event was to feature three Palm Beach County Commission races but only one candidate appeared in two of the three, Forum Club President Rebel Cook said.

District 1 incumbent Hal Valeche, Republican, and his Democratic opponent, Tony Bennett, were on hand.

But Taniel Shant, a GOP challenger to Mayor and District 5 Commissioner Mary Lou Berger, did not respond to the Forum Club’s invitation.

Neither did no-party-affiliation candidate Sean C. Hogan, who will face State Rep. Dave Kerner for District 3.

Also on hand Wednesday: Mack Bernard, who will represent District 7 after defeating Commissioner Priscilla Taylor and a pair of other candidates on August 30.

The debate, at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse in West Palm Beach, was moderated by Randy Schultz, former editorial page editor of The Palm Beach Post.

Candidates for county commission to attend Economic Forum event

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.

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, 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 )

 

Frankel to push for FEMA to forgive counties’ storm debts

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel
Frankel

MDN1-FRANCES_MULCH_DEBRIS09A 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.

In January, Palm Beach County Commissioners agreed to give back $341,858 of the $3.28 million and appeal the rest.

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.”

Palm Beach County Attorney: Don’t ban comment at workshops

Nieman
Nieman
Berger
Berger

Don’t ban public comments at Palm Beach County Commission workshops, County Attorney Denise Nieman has recommended.

 

Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary Lou Berger had made the suggestion on Nov. 17, right after being selected and sworn in for the mostly ceremonial mayor’s post. She also had suggested eliminating the two regular commission meetings a year that are held at night.

Both ideas drew opposition and on Dec. 15, commissioners put things on hold while they asked Nieman to research the ideas.

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.”

Regulars sue Palm Beach County over “comment” limits

Lozman
Lozman
Larson
Larson

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.