Politics: Show of Strength- Southeast- Aug. 2003
Now, organizers of the 3-year-old Palm Beach Conference of Black Elected Officials say the group is finally ready to flex some muscle on behalf of candidates and issues important to the black community.
At a retreat in mid-June, approximately 85 black civic and political leaders gathered to map strategy. The nonpartisan but predominantly Democratic group includes 31 elected officials -- every black elected official in the county but two -- and some nonelected government officials and other black community leaders. Most of the organization's elected officials represent small communities with large minority populations such as Riviera Beach, Belle Glade and South Bay. Two hold countywide office. Democratic State Sen. Mandy Dawson is a member. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose district includes Palm Beach County, is the group's highest-profile member.
The conference's chair, Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene, a founding member along with South Bay Mayor Clarence Anthony, says the group seems to have finally come together. Early efforts were overshadowed by divisions that arose from Greene's 2000 defeat of popular county Commissioner Maude Ford Lee.
Plans to hold a fund-raiser at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in 2001 were sharply criticized by Lee supporters, who saw it as a bit out of step with the needs of the African-American communities the group represents. "We had to mend some fences," Greene acknowledges. But Greene says such divisions are healed and members are ready to test their political clout in upcoming countywide elections.
Greene believes the group can take credit for the decision of Sheriff Ed Bieluch not to seek re-election in 2004. In news conferences and radio addresses, the organization sharply criticized Bieluch's record of promoting minorities.
The group also wants to expand its scholarship, mentoring and leadership training efforts, assess the priorities of Palm Beach County's black communities and build an efficient fund-raising machine.
Public relations consultant Bruce Lewis, whose LB Limited & Associates firm organized the retreat, says fundraising and the developing of a unified political agenda will be critical to the organization's success. "The communities here are very fragmented and very fractious," he says. "This group, I think, could be the glue."
Mikel Jones, general counsel and Palm Beach district director to Hastings, agrees the time may be right. Republican-dominated politics have created a wide field of issues that resonate with all African-Americans. For black voters, he says, "every issue now transcends political party."
IN THE NEWS
Boca Raton -- Florida Atlantic University Foundation Chairman Herb Gimelstob has withdrawn a $750,000 pledge for the construction of a Judaic studies center because state budget cuts eliminated the university's matching donation.
Broward County -- Sheriff Ken Jenne has concluded an arrangement that will put the county's fire rescue operations under his control. Jenne is promoting the takeover as a way to better coordinate the county's public safety system.
The school day for Broward middle school students will be a half-hour shorter to give teachers time for planning and parent conferences, under a plan approved by school board members.
Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant's office overbilled seven Broward cities by $159,332 for costs associated with the November elections, a review by the Miami Herald shows. The office later sent corrected bills.
Broward County's tax rolls reached $100 billion in 2002, according to preliminary numbers released by property appraiser Bill Markham, up 7.4%.
Davie -- A Hollywood woman's $100,000 gift in honor of a gay son who died of cancer will fund a scholarship program at Nova Southeastern University's Center for Psychological Studies for graduate work in promoting community and self-acceptance of homosexuality. The first A. Gordon Rose scholarship is expected to be awarded next month.
Fort Lauderdale -- Low-fare Delta subsidiary Song has begun two daily flights from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The carrier says it will expand to 19 daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to Boston; Newark, N.J.; Las Vegas; Hartford, Conn.; and Washington by October.
Holiday RV Superstores has removed three members from its board of directors: Lee B. Sanders, William H. Toy and David A. Kamm. The company has appointed Paul E. Schedler chairman and Anthony D. Borzilla CEO. Schedler is vice president of Holiday Finance. Borzilla, the company's sixth CEO in four years, had been CFO.
Hallandale Beach -- City commissioners have banned churches, synagogues and mosques from a mile-long strip of Hallandale Beach Boulevard in an attempt to preserve the stretch for the development of office and hotel projects that will boost the city's tax base.
Hollywood -- Commissioners are moving forward with plans for a 15- to 19-story condominium project along downtown's Young Circle. The project will include a restaurant and retail shops on the first floor.
Jensen Beach -- Martin County commissioners have approved the sale of a six-acre site in Jensen Beach to Port St. Lucie-based Renar Fine Homes for $1.3 million. Plans call for a mixed-use project, including a 300-seat community theater.
Jupiter -- Pop singer Celine Dion sold her 15,000-sq.-ft., Mediterranean-style home in Jupiter for $9 million to NetJets founder Richard Santulli, who paid an additional $7 million for the mansion's furnishings.
Palm Beach County -- Nearly a third of Palm Beach County voucher students returned to public schools within a year, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Schools Superintendent Art Johnson says he will ask state legislators to approve a pilot program to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test with internet-based tests taken several times throughout the year. ... Also, Johnson, fearing that too many substitute teachers may be hurting student performance in Belle Glades schools, has promised to fill area schools with certified teachers evenif he has to transfer some from other facilities.
Port St. Lucie -- Plans to build a sewer plant on the center portion of a 408-acre tract in western St. Lucie County have sparked a petition drive by nearby residents afraid the plant will create noise and odors. City council members say they are facing the possibility of a building moratorium if the new plant is not built. The city expects its existing system to reach capacity by 2006.
West Palm Beach -- The arrival of a conservative fund-raising organization has liberal organizations on full alert, the Palm Beach Post reports. The Scaife Family Foundation, formerly headquartered in Pittsburgh, opened offices in West Palm Beach in May. Chairwoman Jennie K. Scaife, the daughter of conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, says the organization has nothing to do with her father and is committed to animal welfare, among other issues.
WEST PALM BEACH -- Mayor Lois Frankel has fired the city's human resources director, Karen Riches, economic development director Sharon Jackson and two employees in the city's small-business division in an effort to remake the departments.