Politics: A Strong Mayor?- Southeast- May 2004
Harold Ostrow and Martin Ellis, who formed the political action committee Leading for the Future to get the proposal onto the November ballot, say their proposal is simply about good government. They cite research by Florida Atlantic University political science professor David Niven, which suggests that counties with a strong elected executive can get more federal funds and use their money more efficiently.
They point out the benefits of having a strong single voice to represent the entire county, both in sensitive negotiations and in crisis. They invoke the image of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani taking charge after the terrorist attacks. And they insist they are not looking to create a "czar," but rather an elected executive whose hiring and veto power could be overridden by the commission.
Ostrow says having seven county commissioners trying to represent the county during recent negotiations to bring Scripps to Palm Beach highlighted the need for a strong mayor. "We almost blew it," he says.
The county's business leaders, most notably the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, do not agree, however. The current system, with a county manager who reports to the seven single-member district commissioners, is more businesslike, they say, and the Economic Council's 17-member executive committee voted in February to oppose the idea.
Council President and CEO Mike Jones says the group was persuaded by arguments put together by the international city and county managers' association in concluding that a professional manager, insulated from political pressures, is more effective.
Leading for the Future organizers, who need nearly 50,000 signatures by July to get the issue on the ballot, also must convince Palm Beach County voters that the proposal isn't "The Ron Klein Employment Act," as some of the county's Republican leaders assert.
Term limits are forcing state Sen. Ron Klein, a popular Palm Beach County Democrat, to leave the Senate in two years, and he is widely viewed as a potential candidate for the job. A similar proposal for a strong mayor in Broward County was voted down four years ago after opponents questioned whether it was being orchestrated as a vehicle for personal political ambitions.
Niven says such concerns are shortsighted. "The debate right now is over very superficial reactions -- over who could benefit immediately. The office could persist for hundreds of years."
IN THE NEWS
Boca Raton -- Citing the high cost of complying with SEC regulations and documentation requirements, executives with software sales company Daleen Technologies (OTCBB-DALN.OB) have announced plans to buy out shareholders holding fewer than 500 shares and take the company private.
Broward County -- The State Attorney's Office is looking into the method by which the Broward County Sheriff's Office deems cases closed. Last year, the sheriff's office reported a clearance rate significantly higher than the national average.
County commissioners may ask voters to weigh in on a plan that would allow voters to decide changes in a development's density. Opponents believe the measure is designed to undercut the effect of a legislative proposal to shift much of the authority over development from counties to cities.
County aviation officials are considering a range of options, including ticket surcharges, for building a "noise bank" to compensate nearby homeowners whose homes may need to be soundproofed or abandoned to accommodate the planned expansion of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Brenda Snipes, appointed in November to step in for suspended elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant, has announced plans to run for the job in November.
Dania Beach -- Over the strong objections of its namesake, the Graves Museum of Archaeology and History board of trustees has voted to sell the museum to The American Maritime Officers. The museum, which has struggled with mounting debt in recent years, was named for archaeologist Gypsy Graves, who has vowed to oppose the sale.
Davie -- Town council members killed a proposal that would have put a 99-acre corporate park on property originally slated for homes following protests from nearby residents.
Plans to open the first Florida Ikea furniture store have snagged over mounting objections from residents. A company spokesman told the Miami Herald that the retailer has withdrawn its land-use application for the 310,000-sq.-ft. store so that it can develop a site plan and try to address specific concerns before moving forward.
Hollywood -- A temporary building moratorium to accommodate a U.S. 441 beautification project has raised the ire of some businesses along the stretch; two companies have sued to prevent the city from enforcing some provisions of the moratorium, during which no changes to existing businesses will be approved.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has settled a lawsuit with its partners in a $10-million Coconut Creek casino with terms that will leave the tribe as the casino's sole owner.
Lake Worth -- A proposal to build a five- to six-story luxury condominium project at a 1.5-acre park on the Intracoastal Waterway has drawn opposition from some residents who are circulating a petition to prohibit the city from selling the land without voter approval. A recently passed referendum requires voter approval to sell off city-owned oceanfront land. Developer Leslie Evans says the project could generate nearly $2 million a year in city and county tax revenue.
Anne Boykin, dean of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University and a member of the JFK Medical Center board of trustees for the past five years, has been appointed to a two-year term as the medical center's board president.
Miramar -- Two homeowners have sued the developer of their subdivision, alleging their homes do not meet the hurricane safety standards required under the South Florida Building Code. The homeowners are seeking class-action status on behalf of similarly situated homeowners. Lawyers for Shoma Development Corp. have called the allegations "frivolous."
FLORIDA TRENDLINE?WAGESPalm Beach County Wages
The average annual salary in Palm Beach County tops the state average of $31,500:Average Wages -- Select OccupationsAccountant$51,730Admin./Executive Assistant$33,860Computer Systems Analyst$58,700Computer Programmer$58,270Electrical Engineer$60,280Machinist$35,570Palm Beach County average$35,265Sources: Palm Beach County Business DevelopmentBoard; Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, Labor Market Statistics -- OES Wage Estimates 2002Palm Beach Gardens -- A tentative agreement between city and county officials would give the Scripps Research Institute's Florida center a Palm Beach Gardens address. The deal calls for the city to annex the now unincorporated property shortly after Scripps moves in.
Plantation -- The Social Security Administration will take over 22,000 square feet of space on the third floor of the Fashion Mall at Plantation, which has struggled to retain and attract tenants in recent years.
Sunrise -- The massive Sawgrass Mills outlet mall on Broward County's western edge plans to add a 110,000-sq.-ft. promenade designed to attract high-end luxury retailers and elegant eateries.
West Palm Beach -- Austin, Texas-based Cypress Realty will oversee development of the 2,000-acre "science village" to accompany the Scripps Research Institute's Florida research center. The village will consist of homes, commercial and industrial projects and a town center designed to complement the research center.
The Palm Beach Opera has agreed to sell a 3.2-acre downtown tract once set aside for a $100-million, 1,500-seat performance center for $16 million. Proposed buyer BAP Development of Miami wants to build two 20-story condominium towers on the site.
FROM KIDS TO COPY PAPER
DELRAY BEACH -- Office Depot (NYSE-ODP) plans to acquire 124 former Kids "R" Us stores for $197 million and assume leases on the stores not owned by parent Toys "R" Us. The company plans to convert up to 60 of the stores into new Office Depots and resell the remaining properties.