Baker Co. commissioner reaches out to McKinlay on opioids

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Baker County Commissioner Cathy Rhoden reached out to Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay for tips on how to start an opioids task force, an email exchange between the two commissioners shows.

“Our county, Baker County, is heavy into meth addiction and now we are seeing heroin move in,” Rhoden wrote to McKinlay.

But Rhoden has a more personal motivation to get involved in the fight.

“With a daughter who is a heroin addict and a grandson who is in prison from meth addiction I would like to do whatever it takes to educate and help our community about this issue,” Rhoden wrote.

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The daughter of a former aide to McKinlay died of an opioid overdose in November, a day before The Palm Beach Post published a series of articles on the devastation the crisis has brought to the county.

McKinlay has become a vocal advocate for more state and local action to combat the crisis, which has not only devastated families but wreaked havoc on local budgets.

The commissioner pushed for Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency, a move he ultimately took. And McKinlay has asked the county attorney to research the possibility of bringing suit against pharmaceutical companies, whose potent products are at the heart of the crisis.

GENERATION HEROIN: Read The Post’s award-winning coverage

Delray Beach has decided to file suit against Big Pharma, a decision McKinlay shared Wednesday with other elected officials as they participated in a joint meeting between the Palm Beach County Commission and the Palm Beach County League of Cities.

Responding to Rhoden about forming a task force, McKinlay reached out to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Houston Park.

“He led the charge,” McKinlay wrote. “I’ll ask him to call you.”

McKinlay invited Rhoden to Palm Beach County to attend an opioid task force meeting and offered sympathy for her family’s struggles.

“Thanks for sharing your story,” McKinlay wrote. “I am so sorry your family has been dealing with this.”

Tiny houses considered in addressing big problem in PBC

Darrin and Jodi Swank’s 520-square foot house in Loxahatchee. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

The scarcity of affordable housing in Palm Beach County is a big problem. One county commissioner thinks tiny houses could be, well, at least a tiny part of the solution.

Earlier this week, as county commissioners were getting an update on redevelopment efforts in the Westgate/Belvedere Homes community, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay offered a suggestion: Why not allow tiny houses to be built there?

Tiny houses – the subject of HGTV’s Tiny House Builders show – are an increasingly popular choice for some who want to reduce their impact on the environment, save money and push back against over-consumption.

“Perhaps we could look at some pilot language,” McKinlay said.

There was no vote on the idea, but no one spoke in opposition to it, either. The Westgate Belvedere Homes Community Redevelopment Agency is looking into it, as is county staff.

Commissioners had just finished getting an overview of the county’s workforce housing program and lamented, again, the dearth of affordable housing.

Tiny houses could be an option for single people or young families, McKinlay said, adding that Leon County has already begun approving plans for tiny houses there.

“Maybe we could look at them for an example,” she said.

Darrin and Jodi Swank are raising their three children in a 520-square foot house in Loxahatchee.

“It’s five people in one little house,” Jodi Swank told The Palm Beach Post in July. “We try to live simple. And we’ve loved it.”

PBC looking to boost spending to combat heroin/opioid crisis

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche at county budget workshop, March 25, 2015 (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche (Staff photo/Eliot Kleinberg)

Palm Beach County commissioners, opening discussions about their 2018 budget, are considering setting aside $2 million to combat the ongoing heroin/opioid crisis.

The Palm Beach Post has provided extensive coverage of that crisis, which has devastated families and strained the resources of first responders and hospitals.

Commissioners are considering dipping into its reserves to boost current year spending to $1 million to combat the problem.

“I think this is a drop in the bucket given the scale of the problem,” Commissioner Hal Valeche said of the proposed expenditures.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay agreed.

“Anyone who fails to see this as the public health crisis that it is is walking around with their eyes closed,” she said.

Check with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com later today for more on the county’s initial budget discussions.

Pinto, McKinlay have sharp exchange on car burglaries

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto recently exchanged sharply worded emails over a public safety issue in the village, a break from the usually harmonious dealings between local public officials.

The flare-up was especially remarkable because it occurred between officials who share constituents. Typically, such officials are eager to be seen as working together for those constituents.

Pinto was elected to the village council in 2003 and was elected mayor in March. McKinlay was elected in 2014 to serve a district that includes Royal Palm Beach and other municipalities west of Florida’s Turnpike.

Their dispute centered on McKinlay’s response to a complaint from a Royal Palm Beach resident and council member about a rise in car burglaries in the village.

McKinlay reached out to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and sought to hold a community meeting on the issue.

Pinto, displeased, admonished the commissioner for not first reaching out to him or the village administrator, Ray Liggins.

“Any issues or concerns regarding crime activity in the Village should have been brought to the Village Manager’s and my attention,” Pinto wrote to McKinlay. “Members on the Village Council will be advised that any ‘official business on behalf of the Village’ with The County Commissioners Office, or other agencies must go through the Village Manager and the Office of the Mayor.”

McKinlay fired back.

“My apologies but when residents in my district contact me and one of your councilmembers, I feel obligated to respond,” she wrote to Pinto. “I fail to see the problem here. We simply were trying to address some concerned citizens’ worries and all I did was ask my contacts at PBSO if there was a possibility we could do a community meeting with the worried residents.”

McKinlay later added: “Of the seven cities I represent, no other city censures their elected members from contacting me directly. I am here to help whenever someone within District 6 contacts me. My apologies if anyone felt their toes had been stepped on, but such a strong censorship is not necessary.”

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

Palm Beach County Vice Mayor McKinlay now chairs Solid Waste Authority

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McKinlay

Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay is the new chair of the Solid Waste Authority’s governing board.

County commissioners who sit as the authority board selected McKinlay Wednesday morning at their regular meeting. The vote was 7-0.

The board then selected as officers two new commissioners; Mack Bernard as vice chair and Dave Kerner as secretary.

Mayor Paulette Burdick had nominated Bernard as authority chair but there was no second. Mary Lou Berger then nominated McKinlay.

McKinlay has been the authority board’s vice chair. She succeeds Hal Valeche, who also has been county vice mayor. By tradition, the county commission’s vice mayor heads the authority’s governing board.

Meetings of the governing board are held every other month at Authority headquarters, 7501 Jog Road, West Palm Beach. Call 561-640-4000 or visit www.swa.org.

Pot summit draws PBC officials

The Florida Association of Counties has organized a pot summit that will be held in the Orlando area on Saturday, and, no, neither Cheech and Chong nor Snoop Dog are expected to attend.

Instead, county officials from across the state – including Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay – are gathering to discuss the issues surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana.

The county is waiting to see what state legislators do in the area before crafting its own set of regulations.

County officials hear from the director of the Florida Dept. of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use on what steps DOH have taken so far in regulating and implementing medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

Other presenters will include county attorneys, law enforcement and officials from Denver, whose high-profile legalization has come with a few snags.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

 

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)

Housing Seminar set for Jan. 23 in Belle Glade

022215-met-pbg-house-repair-04Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay will host a seminar for homeowners and local contractors from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Palm Beach County Public Library Belle Glade Branch, at 725 NW 4th St. in Belle Glade.

The event will provide information about low-interest rate loans for home improvement projects. Financing is available at below market-rates and homeowners with poor and limited credit history are eligible to apply. Local contractors also are invited to learn more about how these financing programs can help their businesses:

Programs:

  • *U.S. Department of Energy low-interest rate loans to for energy efficiency improvements.
  • The non-profit Solar and Energy Loan Fund, which provides low-interest rate options for improvements. Call (772) 468-1818.
  • Contractor recruitment for SELF. Approved local contractors can use SELF financing options.
  • Job training programs available from the building trades.

Palm Beach County holds closed talks Tuesday on lifeguards’ ‘risk’ status

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County ocean lifeguards’ years-long fight for “special risk” status is set to go behind closed doors Tuesday.

County administrators plan to meet with commissioners before Tuesday’s regular meeting to discuss the concept. Because it’s a form of collective bargaining, the meeting will be behind closed doors. County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay would say Wednesday only that it will cover “the staff direction we gave at previous meetings.”

The lifeguards have tried to get the county to grant them a state-permitted classification, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier. The county has balked.

But in late September, commissioners directed staff to research supporting state legislation that would automatically apply “special risk” to ocean rescue guards.

Commissioners also have asked county staff to look into changing the job description for ocean rescue guards, perhaps to have them automatically declared EMTs — emergency medical technicians — which also would help the county avoid having to give back-benefits to previous lifeguards.

And the county has suggested across-the-board raises.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Palm Beach County Commission to congratulate Trump

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. (Getty Images)
Trump (Getty Images)
Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)
Burdick (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

Part-time Palm Beach County resident Donald Trump will get a congratulatory letter from the Palm Beach County Commission, but it will be more in the spirit of unity than enthusiasm.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Steven Abrams suggested drafting such a letter to the president-elect, “wishing him the best in his presidency.”

New Mayor Paulette Burdick, a longtime Democratic activist, looked like she’d bit into a lemon.

“Thank you, Mr. Abrams. Good suggestion,” she said, appearing to want to let the issue die. When Abrams persisted, she said, “If I am directed by the board to do it, I will do it.”

Abrams cited post-election national calls for unity and noted Trump’s connections to the county and the prospects of a “second White House” at his Mar-a-Lago compound in Palm Beach. Where, coincidentally, Trump will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday.

“It shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” said Abrams, a longtime Republican who noted many people crossed party lines on Nov 8,  but didn’t say how he voted.

“We in Palm Beach County are always gracious,” Burdick said. “I’m sure we can draft an appropriate letter to Mr. Trump.”

And Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, also a strong Democrat, said, “it does send the right tone that we’re willing to cross the aisle.”