mizner 200

Mizner 200 Decision, Boca Raton’s Money Trail and More

mizner 200

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

No surprises with Mizner 200

There will be nothing much new Monday when the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency—the mayor and city council—considers Mizner 200.

City staff recommends approval, as the staff did before the luxury condo project got favorable votes from the community appearance board and the planning and zoning board. Opposition again will come most strongly from some residents of Townsend Place, to the south along Mizner Boulevard, and possibly from the owners of Royal Palm Place, on the west side of Mizner Boulevard. Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
portland maine

A Family Day in Portland, Maine

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Lobster, cool temperatures, fresh seafood, top notch museums and award-winning cuisine—wait, did I mention lobster? All of these things are available and more in Portland, Maine. The Greater Portland area (which encompasses the smaller city of Portland) houses almost one-fourth of the state’s population with about 230,000 residents, according to visitportland.com. It has also become a unique tourist destination for foodies, art aficionados and even sports fans, since the city is home to several minor league teams. Read more

Michelle Olson-Rogers, a native to Boca, is the founder of ModernBocaMom.com, a lifestyle website for the stylish & modern South Florida Mommy. Modern Boca Mom features family events, activities, classes, fitness, dining, travel, home improvement and shopping options—as well as a weekly MOMpreneur spotlight! She and her husband Andrew have one daughter, Avery.
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Nova Student Breaks Hand Walking World Record for Charity

 

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Ashwin Kalyandurg breakdancing on his hands in front of a crowd at Nova Southeastern University. Photo provided by Ashwin Kalyandurg.

A Boca Raton resident plans to compete in November’s New York City Marathon and next year’s Boston Marathon—challenges that are difficult enough on two feet. But Ashwin Kalyandurg, a fourth-year medical student at Nova Southeastern University, plans to navigate the 26.2-mile course on his hands, to raise money for charity. Read more

Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has had the luxury of reporting on health, fitness and other hot topics for more than 23 years. The longtime Boca Raton resident, University of Florida graduate and fitness buff writes for local, regional and national publications and websites. Find out more on wordscomealive.com.
Spanish River Park. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Boca on the Waterfront, Delray Considers Going After Big Pharma

Spanish River Park. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Spanish River Park is one of 11 parks that would be improved under Boca’s developing waterfront plan. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Waterfront plan

Boca Raton residents can find much in the developing waterfront plan that is reason for excitement.

Last Wednesday, Kona Gray of EDSA, the city’s consultant, presented renderings of improvements to existing parks and two concepts for the Wildflower property. The presentation at the downtown library was the company’s second. The renderings built off comments at an earlier public meeting.

Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
panorama-2117310_1280

Summer in the City

 

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Miami’s glittering skyline provides a worthy summer escape without renewing your passport.

My editor’s letter in this month’s magazine is all about wanderlust—that summer itch to hit the road, book a flight, shoot over to Europe—go anywhere. But I am still working and travel is not in the budget, so I’ve been staying close to home this summer.

And loving every minute.

I have become part of a posse of people who like to dip into South Florida’s more interesting corners—places we always say we want to go but never do—followed by lunch, a Happy Hour somewhere. These field trips are daylong wonders.  There is often bacon involved (the classic breakfast car picnic) and a robust discussion on where to eat lunch, why we love the big bowl of sky that arcs over I-95 en route to Miami. Or stories about our families, our growing up, whether we believe in ghosts (we do), great binge-watching tales and recollections of other trips, other times. Brian always drives and we get anywhere in record time. Carla keeps reminding him to actually look at the road and Mary is good at remembering every good bar/café at every exit between here and points South. Kelly is up for anything and a superlative shopper; Joyce is hilarious. In fact, every one of them is pretty funny, maybe because they are all smart and alive and engaged and irreverent.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I could go anywhere with these guys (and there are more here) and have a great time—but we’ve already started knocking destinations off our list: The Perez Art Museum and lunch at The Standard. The Homestead International Orchid Festival. The new Frost Science Museum, The Hollywood Yellow-Green Market.

There are more places to come, more kicking around in the heat that bothers everyone else (we don’t mind it), more cocktails on the water, more odd discoveries only an hour from home.

This is how I am dealing with my summer wanderlust—and tapping into the South Florida I fell in love with 26 years ago. It’s still here, the Miami skyline shimmering by the bay, Royal Poincianas in full bloom, wood storks wheeling across the interstate, piles of mangos for sale. The dark wall of an afternoon storm coming in, smoked fish dip and crackers, the sound of my friends telling stories, ice clinking in their glasses, as the afternoon light changes.

This is my summer now, and I am happy to be home.

delray

Who Will Run Delray, Road Rage in Boca and More

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Downtown Delray at night. Photo provided by the Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority.

More Delray turnover

Turnover at the top levels of Delray Beach government continues.

Assistant City Manager Dale Sugerman has resigned. The former town manager of Highland Beach lasted less than a year. His departure leaves Delray Beach with Caryn Gardner-Young, who holds the other assistant’s position under Interim City Manager Neal de Jesus. Read more

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
boca raton bowl

Who Will Be The Next Boca Raton Bowl Idol? You Decide!

Deep House/pop singer Kendra Erika performed the national anthem at the 2015 Marmot Boca Raton Bowl. Image provided by Kaye Communications, Inc.

Deep House/pop singer Kendra Erika sang the national anthem at the 2014 Boca Raton Bowl. Image provided by Kaye Communications, Inc.

Absolutely nothing, I repeat, *nothing* is like a college football game in Florida.

The crazy tailgating, team rivalry, unbearable heat and excessive beer add up to unforgettable college experiences. (Note: The amount of beer you consume on college game day might make you forget the experience.)

Right now we’re stuck in a football-free period of the summer. But before college football officially starts in late August, you can get a whiff of things to come by voting for the 2017 Boca Raton Bowl Idol. The winner will perform he national anthem during opening ceremonies of the Bowl, which takes place December 19. The winner also gets 10 tickets to the game, so, you know, if you know one of the idols it’s worth spreading the word.

FAU Stadium held the first Boca Raton Bowl in 2014, and it is one of 41 postseason college bowl games in the country (and the only in Palm Beach County.) The Bowl matches teams from the Mid-American Conference with either Conference USA teams or American Athletic Conference teams every other year.

Online voting for the idol opens Thursday, where you can choose among the top 20 finalists ranging from singers and musicians, amateurs and professionals, groups and individuals and young and old. Online voting (you can vote here) will run through Sunday, July 23 until 11:59 p.m., and you can vote for your favorite semi-finalist once each day until closing.

After the online votes are in, the finalists will be whittled down to eight, and they will perform onstage for a panel of judges and a live audience on August 1 at the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery in Boca Raton. A combo of judge selections and audience votes will determine the top three, who will perform again that night. By the end of the evening, a winner will be chosen.

Tickets to Finalists Night are $10 and sales will be donated to Spirit of Giving. You can purchase tickets at spiritofgivingnetwork.com/bocabowlidol.

Until I make it to another Gators game (can I get a “Go Gata!?”) I’ll let the hype around the Boca Raton Bowl fill the void in my heart and stomach that is mostly longing for beer on a hot Gainesville game day. But there is one thing FAU Stadium has to offer that no other stadium in the nation can: Views of the Atlantic Ocean from the skybox and press box.

Now that’s something to look forward to.

Shayna is the Web Editor of Boca Magazine. She is a 20-something sorta-recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. Most of her time is spent fawning over cats and kittens; cooking food at home for her family; and observing Florida’s greatest asset: nature.
The Florida Panthers' Michael Haley helps a Learn To Play participant sign a mock contract to the hockey team. Photo provided by the Florida Panthers.

Florida Panthers Aim to Teach, Make Hockey Accessible to Local Youth

The Florida Panthers' Michael Haley helps a Learn To Play participant sign a mock contract to the hockey team. Photo provided by the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers’ Michael Haley helps a Learn To Play participant sign a mock contract to the hockey team. Photo provided by the Florida Panthers.

The Florida Panthers’ Michael Haley helped initiate kids into the world of ice hockey last weekend. Haley was part of the team’s Learn To Play program, which invites local children to get fitted into gear and sign mock contracts to join the big leagues.

During Sunday’s event, which took place at the BB&T Center, Haley donned his red Panthers jersey and took photos beside dozens of 5-to 9-year-old kids. “Once they get a taste of hockey, it’s hard to get out of your system.” Haley tells Boca. “Anytime you can introduce the sport of hockey, and especially with giving them gear, I’m sure they’ll have lots of fun.”

Now that the boys and girls have been fitted into gear, they will participate in a six-week long course, taught by Florida Panthers Alumni and USA Hockey Certified Coaches, with the aim of turning them into the next generation of hockey players and fans.

“Learn to Play is a pivotal part of the Florida Panthers outreach efforts. Our goal is to introduce kids to the sport and put sticks in kids’ hands,” said Panthers Director of Community Relations John Colombo. “ With Learn To Play we are able to provide equipment and on-ice training at an affordable cost for all families in South Florida to have the opportunity to allow their children to get out and try the sport of hockey.”

In conjunction with USA Hockey’s “Gold Standard,” which uses an age appropriate long-term developmental model, the curriculum of the Learn To Play program is designed to ensure that kids not only have fun, but also learn the skills necessary to play the game well.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to introduce my son to a sport I didn’t think he’d be able to play,” says Kimberley Miller about her 8-year-old son, Finnley. “He’s so excited. He has not put his stick down since he received it and I’ve never seen him take to a sport so quickly.”

There are still slots open for sessions during the summer. If you are interested in signing your kids up for the August classes, you can sign up at Palm Beach Skate Zone. If September works better for you though, you can sign your kids up at the Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs.

The cost of entry is $150 and every participant will be given equipment that they can use during the program and keep at the conclusion of their course. To learn more about the event, you can read more by clicking here.

Jonathan Kendall is a published writer with bylines in the Miami New Times and the New Times Broward-Palm Beach. He was born and raised in sunny South Florida and is a graduate of Harvard University, where he studied journalism under several Nieman Fellows.
delray parking

Planning Boca’s Next Half-Century, Delray’s Big Decision

Waterfront meeting

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is just one property covered in the EDSA study. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Boca Raton is about to receive two important consultant reports.

One will be from EDSA, the company that is helping the city design its waterfront upgrade/access plan. On Wednesday, EDSA will hold a second community meeting at the Downtown Library from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. According to a city spokeswoman, EDSA has completed about 60 percent of its work. The contract is for roughly $100,000.

Mostly likely, the company will report to the council in September on ideas for properties covered in the study: 11 parks, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, the Wildflower property and Ocean Strand, the 15 undeveloped acres east of the Intracoastal Waterway that the city bought but Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District now owns.

The city council then will choose from among the ideas and decide which ones should be priorities. One factor will be money. The spokeswoman said Wednesday’s discussion would not include “cost projections.” It will just be “another opportunity for the public to give input.”

Some work has been paid forward. Plans for Lake Wyman/Rutherford Park and Phase 2 of Hillsboro El Rio Park are underway. The council almost certainly will want to do something with the Wildflower and Silver Palm Park, though hopefully mindful of the restrictions imposed by the ordinance voters approved last November.

I will have more after Wednesday’s meeting.

Downtown Boca campus meeting recap

Image provided by Song & Associates.

Image provided by Song & Associates.

 

Next month, the council likely will hear from Song & Associates about the downtown campus. Though the November ordinance brought much attention to the waterfront, the campus has far more potential to shape Boca Raton for the next half-century.

On June 21, Song held a similar meeting to what EDSA will hold on Wednesday. About 75 people, according to a city spokeswoman, showed up to offer their ideas for the roughly 30 acres that include City Hall and the area around it.

Song divided downtown into quarters—in the French Quarter sense, not the 25 percent sense. The quarters are centered around Mizner Park, Sanborn Square, East Palmetto Park Road, Plaza Real, Camino Real and City Hall. There were lots of pictures and graphics. Attendees placed dots to indicate their answers.

The questions were correctly basic: Should City Hall remain part of the downtown campus? Should the police station? Should there be a large public space? If so, should that space be a gathering plaza, open, natural or a formal garden? Should there be a fitness trail? A place for public assembly? What about a community garden? There’s one near the Downtown Library, but a Tri-Rail station for the proposed Coastal Link would displace it.

Image provided by Song & Associates.

Image provided by Song & Associates.

And, of course, Song asks whether there should be a performing arts center and about the idea of holding festivals and other events in the new space. That leads to the future of the Mizner Park Amphitheater, which Song also asked the attendees. Finally, there were questions about the community center, ballfields, skate park and tennis center that are part of those 30 acres.

Most interestingly, there were questions about possible road changes, such as extending Northeast Second Street to Crawford Boulevard. Street reconfiguration is one aspect of the campus I hadn’t considered, but if the goal is to think big, Song was right to add it. In a related transportation issue, Song asked about the importance of a parking garage as part of the campus. The council discussed that idea at its last meeting.

It was unfortunate that comparatively few residents turned out for the session on the campus. The potential cost is much higher than for the waterfront plan. One source of money could be proceeds from the sale of the western golf course. Another could be revenue from the one-cent sales tax increase. Boca Raton has not earmarked that money, which the city is placing in a trust fund.

It’s summer, of course, but it would have been a mistake to wait until fall. The council will give more shape next month to the campus proposal, at which time interest probably will pick up—at least that’s the hope. Of all the projects before Boca Raton, the campus could bring the most benefit if done well and the most harm if done badly.

Fire & police contract

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Three years ago, fire and police contract negotiations were a major issue in Boca Raton. This year, they’re routine, which is a good thing.

During the 2014 mayoral election, Susan Haynie stressed the need for public safety pension reform. She defeated Anthony Majhess, a Palm Beach County firefighter who had the union’s backing. Haynie and a like-minded city council then sought concessions on pensions from the unions. City administrators had concluded that unfunded pension liabilities represented the biggest long-term threat to Boca Raton’s finances.

Negotiations got tough. The city council declared an impasse, at which point the council could have gone to a hearing and imposed its own terms. Eventually, however, the city and the unions agreed to benefit changes that will save Boca Raton nearly $100 million through 2044. Jeremy Rodgers was the only council member to vote against approval of the contracts. He wanted more concessions.

In the 2014 budget year, the city’s contribution to the fire pension fund was almost $8 million. This year, it’s about $3.2 million and is projected to be $4.5 million next year. The union and the city also worked together to get the city another $500,000 a year from the state program that provides money for municipal fire and police pensions.

With that work done, there’s little drama at this point about new contracts. Meetings with the unions are planned for this month and next, but no one expects controversy. Perhaps the biggest sign of change from 2014 is that the unions backed Haynie this year for re-election.

Delray parking options

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The Delray Beach City Commission has a menu of options on parking. Indeed, the menu is almost too long.

Last week, the staff presented the commission with— count ‘em—13 proposals for the conversion to metered parking throughout the city. There are four choices for the beach district east of the Intracoastal Waterway and nine options for west of the Intracoastal to Swinton Avenue.

Further, there are options within each proposal. How much to charge? When to charge? How long to let people park? The Downtown Development Authority, whose members have much at stake with the choice, met Monday to discuss the options and asked for more time before making a recommendation.

According to the staff presentation, the downtown options could net the city between roughly $1 million and nearly $2.3 million. Not surprisingly, Option A would set the highest rates.

From Monday to Friday until 4 p.m., the hourly rate on Atlantic Avenue would be $2 and the limit would be two hours. After 4 p.m. daily and after 4 p.m. Friday through the weekend, the rate would be $3.50, also for two hours. There would be no charge between 12 a.m. and 8 a.m. Elsewhere downtown, the rate would be $2 or $1 per hour, with four-hour limits in some places and unlimited time elsewhere.

Parking lots would charge $1.50 per hour for a maximum of four hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Parking in the city garages would be $1 hourly and unlimited. As the staff had suggested, one goal is to encourage more turnover on Atlantic Avenue—to help businesses—and to get more people into the garages, away from the avenue.

On the barrier island, one option is to keep the current system. It would bring the city about $740,000 per year. The most expensive of the four options would net Delray Beach an estimated $1.8 million. On-street parking between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. would cost $3 per hour on weekdays and $4 per hour on weekends, with a two-hour limit. Lots would charge $2 per hour with no time limit.

Yearly permits would be available. Rates would range from $240 for all public parking except on Atlantic Avenue to $95 for garages and $60 for the beach.

Commissioner Jim Chard told me Monday that the plan needs to be simple enough for residents to understand and for the city to administer. Revenue, Chard said, is “third or fourth” in importance to him. First is reducing congestion, including from people circling as they look for someplace to park, and second is generating more money for local businesses.

Chard believes that the commission wants to make a decision in time for tourist season. “It’s been batted around for 10 years,” Chard said, “and there’s a sense that we should be able to get this done in a month or two.” There is agreement for the switch to meters among the DDA, the chamber of commerce and the parking management advisory board. Now, it’s about the details.

The commission could go for the most money, but would higher rates drive people away from the city and from merchants? How would the plan apply to employees as opposed to residents? Those are just two of many questions. When you consider that the commission can mix and match the options, the possibilities really mount. So does the pressure on the commission to get it right.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page, and subscribe to the magazine for more City Watch columns in every issue. You can also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, which will deliver the latest column directly to your inbox. 

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Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
chabad

Chabad Losers Appeal, Delray Fills CRA, Delray’s Reading Goals

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Chabad East Boca, located at East Boca Raton Boulevard and Northeast 1st Avenue. Photo courtesy of Chabad East Boca.

Chabad case going federal

The lawsuit by two Boca Raton residents who allege that the city conspired with a Jewish congregation has gone to a federal appeals court. The plaintiffs’ latest filing is more of the same.

Gerald Gagliardi and Kathleen MacDougall—you can see her on the BocaWatch website conducting interviews—have lost twice in their lawsuit against the city and Chabad East Boca. And they haven’t just lost. Each time, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra has granted the city’s motion to dismiss. Gagliardi and MacDougall haven’t been able to persuade Marra that they even have a case.

But now, the plaintiffs argue not just for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear their argument. They want oral arguments.

Plaintiffs can’t appeal, though, based only on the fact that they lost. They have to demonstrate that the trial court ruled wrongly. So weak is their argument that they try to borrow for another case against the chabad.

That lawsuit, in state court on behalf of a separate plaintiff, challenged the 2015 approval of the chabad’s facility on Palmetto Park Road near the beach on the grounds that city rules didn’t allow a museum as part of the project. The court ruled against the chabad, which then withdrew its development application.

But the chabad could refile with an application that doesn’t include the museum/exhibit hall. So Gagliardi and MacDougall—who in their first filing made clear that each was “a member of a Christian religion”—continue to claim some supposed damage from a building that does not, and will not exist. They continue to claim that Boca Raton violated the First Amendment ban on establishment of religion by cutting a deal with the chabad to put the congregation’s new home on East Palmetto Park Road near the plaintiffs and not east of Mizner Park, the chabad’s preferred site that Golden Triangle residents opposed.

In this latest filing, Gagliardi and MacDougall continue to insist that allowing the chabad would increase the risk of flooding on the barrier island. Yet as city staff noted, the chabad is less intense than some use of the property the city could allow.

As I have said for two years, one wonders whether approval of a Christian religious center would have resulted in all this legal action. One also wonders why Art Koski—who deals with regularly as executive director of, and attorney for the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District—took this case. I will have more on the chabad lawsuit when the city files its response.

Final Delray CRA seats filled

The Delray Beach City Commission has filled all four seats that opened on the community redevelopment agency board.

At its June 20 meeting, the commission chose Annette Gray and Allen Zeller for the final two vacancies. The commission previously appointed Morris Carstarphen and reappointed Chairman Reggie Cox. The four-year terms took effect July 1. Cox will have to leave the board in 2021 because of term limits.

As I had hinted, Gray got a second chance. Commissioner Shirley Ervin Johnson nominated Gray on June 6, but she failed on a 2-2 vote, with Mayor Cary Glickstein and Commissioner Jim Chard voting against her and Shelly Petrolia joining Johnson in support. Mitch Katz, though, was absent. He and Petrolia often vote in sync. Both wanted to abolish the CRA board and put the commission in control.

Sure enough, at the next meeting Katz used his nomination on Gray, whom the commission approved 4-1. Chard switched his vote to yes. Glickstein remained opposed, saying that he preferred someone who lives within the CRA. Gray lives west of Interstate 95. On her application, Gray said she wants to “realign the board with the true mission of a CRA and improve fiscal responsibility.” Gray owns a real estate firm and a marketing firm. She lists herself as an adjunct professor of Palm Beach State College and Broward College, though the PBSC website does not name her as a faculty member.

Petrolia then nominated Allen Zeller, who has served on homeowner associations but no city boards. Zeller, though, has been a Delray Beach resident for 14 years and brings to the CRA board a lifetime of relevant experience as a land-use attorney in New Jersey. “The regulations there are a little different than they are in Florida,” Zeller told me, “but the concepts are the same.”

Zeller, who now lives in Lake Ida, said he began following city issues with the Atlantic Crossing and iPic projects, both of which the Marina Historic District has monitored closely. Though Zeller’s background was part of his appeal to a commission seeking change at the CRA, another surely was his description of the CRA as a “bloated, out-of-touch agency with poor governance that has abused its mission.” The commission approved Zeller’s nomination unanimously.

Delray rewarded for improving at-risk students’ reading performance

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I reported on June 20 that Delray Beach won its third All-America City award. During that night’s city commission meeting, Mayor Cary Glickstein detailed some of the important numbers behind that award.

The National Civic League based the 2017 awards on cities helping at-risk students, especially with reading. Delray Beach, Glickstein said, set up a system to share data with the Palm Beach County School District. Among other things, the city learned that 10 percent of at-risk students—with lower incomes, from broken homes—were chronically absent. Missing school is an obvious risk factor. Glickstein said the rate is now down to less than 1 percent.

Another problem is the summer slide or slump. At-risk children lose ground during vacation while students from stable homes get their work reinforced and prepare for the next year. In 2012, Glickstein said, only 60 at-risk children were in summer programs. That number is up to 1,100.

Delray Beach faces a huge task. The data showed that 70 percent of at-risk children in kindergarten through third grade were not reading on grade level. Children who haven’t caught up by the third grade likely won’t ever catch up. Poor reading then affects work in other subjects that depend on reading ability.

Glickstein noted that children of parents who attended college hear 30 million more words in the home by the time they are ready for school than children whose parents didn’t attend college. Glickstein acknowledged that even the best effort can’t even out all of that imbalance, but he noted correctly that programs like the one in Delray Beach could help give such children “fair access to the starting line.” By 2020, the city hopes to have doubled the number of at-risk children reading on grade level.

Boca wants to step-up its schooling

Though Boca Raton has far fewer at-risk students than Delray Beach, the city council expressed interest in a greater education role for Boca at its goal-setting session.

Scott Singer proposed that the city have a liaison with the schools. He also asked about providing a mental health counselor at Boca Raton and Spanish River high schools to deal with issues such as bullying. There was talk of help for Boca Raton Elementary, which many of the city’s less-affluent children attend.

Greater involvement would be good policy in many ways. For many years, the Boca council seemed to care only about what city schools received under the still-bogus state grading system that often more reflects the socio-economic status of the students and parents than the school’s actual performance. For the record, almost all schools in Boca Raton or that draw Boca Raton students scored an ‘A.’ Boca Raton Elementary, Boca Raton Middle and J.C. Elementary got a ‘B.’

Singer’s ideas would push the city to look beyond the superficial, just as Chicago wants to require that all high school graduates have a college acceptance letter, plan to attend a trade school or an apprentice program or join the military. Businesses seeking to move, expand or start always consider the education system, for their employees’ children as a source of talent. The need in Boca Raton may differ from those in Delray Beach, but the goals may be just as important.

It’s electric!

Boca Raton announced last week that the city has installed three more electric-car charging stations. Two are at City Hall. The other is at the Spanish River Library. Boca Raton previously installed a charging station at the Downtown Library.

According to a release, the stations can handle two cars at a time. Municipal Services Director Dan Grippo called the first station “a success” and said the city wants to support and encourage drivers of electric vehicles.”

Proposed senior living facility clashes with property land-use

The Boca Raton City Council may face a tricky vote soon on a different sort of project.

A developer proposed to build the Boca Raton Senior Living, Wellness and Medical Care Campus on five vacant acres along Congress Avenue near the Delray Beach line. The complex would include a 115-bed adult living facility, a 36-bed memory care unit and a clinic. The developer proposed a partnership with Boca Raton Regional Hospital, which would bring the expertise of its Marcus Neuroscience Center to the memory care facility and run the clinic as an urgent care center. The hospital recently got permission to turn the former Blockbuster Video store downtown into an urgent care clinic.

As the staff report noted, however, Boca Raton has designated that area Planned Mobility Development. Projects within such areas are supposed to reduce the impact of traffic. The medical campus would create more traffic, the staff said, and more demands on the city’s emergency services. It would require a land-use change. The report finds the project “incompatible” and recommended denial.

That’s what happened. Board members Larry Cellon, Kerry Koen and Janice Rustin praised the project and the presentation by attorney Michael Marshall, but they voted to recommend that the city council deny the needed approvals. Arnold Sevell and Larry Snowden voted to endorse the project. Chairman William Fairman and board member Richard Coffin were absent.

The project likely will go to the council for the July 24 or Aug. 22 meeting. There seemed to be agreement that the project is high-quality and might fill a need. Sevell said he discovered, through doing work for his business, that roughly 17,000 people age 85 and over live in that neighborhood. The question will be whether that neighborhood is the right place for the project.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page, and subscribe to the magazine for more City Watch columns in every issue. 

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.