Democrats could grab 6-1 advantage on Palm Beach County commission

Boca Raton City Councilman Bob Weinroth (left) chats with Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner in Tallahassee in January. Democrat Weinroth is well-positioned to join Kerner on the commission.(George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Democrats are well-positioned to claim a 6-1 advantage on the Palm Beach County commission after Republicans failed to field candidates for two seats and were left with only a political unknown to run in a seat the GOP has held for more than a quarter century.

Democrats hold five of seven commission seats now.

As the candidate filing deadline passed at noon Friday, no Republican filed in commission District 2 or District 6 — seats that are already held by Democrats and where Democrats have strong registration advantages.

In Republican-held District 4, which includes coastal Delray Beach and Boca Raton, the only GOP candidate to file was William “Billy” Vale, who through May 31 had raised a mere $5,522 for his campaign. Boca Raton City Councilman Robert Weinroth, a Democrat, opened a campaign for the District 4 seat earlier this year and had raised more than $112,000 by the end of May.

District 4 is divided nearly evenly between Republican and Democratic voters and has elected only Republicans — Mary McCarty and Steven Abrams — since the commission went to a district-by-district election format in 1990.

Palm Beach County Commission District 4 includes southern coastal communities and all of Boca Raton.

With Abrams facing term limits this year, many expected former Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie to keep the seat in GOP hands. But Haynie withdrew from the race after being charged with official misconduct in April.

County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett announced plans to run for the seat, as did former Delray Beach City Commissioner Christina Morrison. Barnett backed out last week and Morrison, after holding a campaign kickoff event Wednesday, said Friday she concluded she couldn’t win.

“I just didn’t see a clear path to victory. I got in way too late,” Morrison said.

Barnett said it’s too soon to write off the seat.

“There will be a race,” Barnett said. Asked about Vale, the party chairman said, “I don’t know much about him. I’d like to talk to him, like to meet him.”

Similar cash piles, different sources in Palm Beach County Commission race

State Rep. Lori Berman and community activist Gregg Weiss are among five Democrats running for the Palm Beach County Commission District 2 seat.

State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, and community activist Gregg Weiss began August with similar bank accounts — but from vastly different sources — in their 2018 race for the Palm Beach County commission District 2 seat.

Four-term state House member Berman has tapped Tallahassee connections and fellow politicians to raise $69,011 through July 31. Weiss collected only $11,970 from contributors — but has also chipped in $50,000 of his own money.

Weiss began August with about $61,000 in cash on hand while Berman had about $59,000.

Berman and Weiss are among five Democrats running for the heavily Democratic District 2 seat of term-limited Commissioner Paulette Burdick.

The three other Dems in the race — Alex Garcia, Sylvia Sharps and Emmanuel Morel — have raised less than $2,000 apiece from contributors. Garcia has also put $5,000 of his own money into his campaign.

Berman has received $1,000 from state Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, and $100 apiece from fellow Democratic Commissioners Dave Kerner and Mary Lou Berger. Former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein contributed $500 to Berman and Coastal Construction — the family business of former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy — chipped in $1,000. Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson‘s lobbying firm gave Berman’s campaign $1,000.

Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons, who used to represent District 2, gave $500 contributions last month to Berman and Weiss. School board member Erica Whitfield has also supported both Berman and Weiss, giving $50 contributions to each campaign.

Democrats have a 47-to-23 percent registration advantage in District 2. Democrat Burdick beat Republican Sherry Lee by 16 points in 2010, then went unchallenged in 2014.

Boca Raton mayor weighs GOP bid in district where Clinton beat Trump

Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie with Gov. Rick Scott in 2016. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie appears close to launching a 2018 Republican campaign for the coastal District 4 seat of term-limited Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams.

“I am considering it and I will be making my decision shortly,” Haynie told PostOnPolitics. She later said “shortly” means within the next 30 to 60 days.

Palm Beach County Commission District 4 includes southern coastal communities and all of Boca Raton.

Abrams is one of only two Republicans on the seven-member commission.

District 4 is 35 percent Republican and 34.4 percent Democrat. Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the district with 49.9 percent of the vote to 46.2 percent for Republican Donald Trump last November.

In 2014, Democrat Charlie Crist beat Republican Gov. Rick Scott in District 4 by a 50.2-to-45.7 percent margin.

But in a county race, Haynie’s Boca connection could be more important than partisan factors.

She has held nonpartisan office for 15 of the last 17 years in Boca Raton, which makes up 44 percent of the electorate in County Commission District 4. Abrams was also a Boca Raton mayor before being appointed to the commission in 2009, then winning elections in 2010 and 2014.

The open seat in a midterm election year — when the party out of the White House typically makes gains — should draw some Democratic interest.

Democrat Andy Thomson, an attorney who lost a March bid for Boca Raton city council, is one potential candidate for the county commission seat. But Thomson says he’s also looking at another council bid in Boca.

“We’re working on it,” Democratic Club of Boca-Delray board member Mark Alan Siegel said of his party’s efforts to recruit a commission candidate.

State Rep. Lori Berman ponders Palm Beach County commission bid

State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, in the Capitol today.

TALLAHASSEE — State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, says she’s “very seriously considering” a 2018 run for the seat of term-limited Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick.


Palm Beach County Commission districts.

Berman said she’ll make a decision after the current state legislative session ends. That was supposed to be Friday, but lawmakers are now scheduled to finish their work next week.


If she decides to run, Berman said she would move into commission District 2, which includes parts of West Palm Beach and Greenacres.


Voters in commission District 2 are 47 percent Democratic and 23 percent Republican. Roughly one-quarter of District 2 voters are in Berman’s state House District 90.


Another Democrat, Sylvia Sharps of Royal Palm Beach, opened a campaign for the seat last month.


Berman faces term limits next year in the state House.

Melissa McKinlay begins fundraising for 2018 commission re-election bid

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay on election night in 2014 (Bill Ingram/The Palm Beach Post)

Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who quietly opened a re-election campaign for her western-county District 6 seat earlier this month, has begun hitting up supporters for campaign cash.


She’s the first commission candidate to open a 2018 campaign. McKinlay’s seat and two others will be on the ballot next year. District 2 Commissioner Paulette Burdick and District 4 Commissioner Steven Abrams face term limits in 2018.


McKinlay was elected to the commission in 2014. In 2015, she opened a campaign for Congress — then pulled out of the race after deep-pocketed businessman Randy Perkins got in. Perkins won the Democratic nomination but lost to Republican Brian Mast.


A McKinlay fundraising email says she hopes to raise $38,000 by April 30. The election is more than 19 months away, but, her email says, “this is an important time to show potential challengers that we are up to the task – and that you are on my side.”



Does population surge mean Florida will be parched?

Will Florida have enough water for surging population?
Will Florida have enough water for surging population?

With Florida’s population poised to climb by 15 million people in coming decades, demand for water – already one of the state’s scarcest resources — is poised to spike 54 percent if development goes unchecked, a new report shows.

The agriculture region east of Lake Okeechobee already is one of the state’s biggest users of water. But as the site of big residential developments already approved in Palm Beach County, the demand will intensify by 2070, analysts said.

A similar threat to the availability of fresh water also exists across Central Florida and in Southwest Florida, where thousands of new homes are planned in areas once considered off-limits to development.

“I agree that the situation does look dire,” said Ryan Smart, president of 1,000 Friends of Florida, which joined with the Florida Department of Agriculture and University of Florida’s GeoPlan Center in preparing the report.

“But I take hope in the fact that there are relatively simple things that we can do as Floridians, to dig us out of the hole,” he added.

Florida in 2070: Development will dominate, report warns

South Florida's growth is projected to span south of Lake Okeechobee.

South Florida’s growth is forecast to span area south of Lake Okeechobee.

Florida in 2070 will be a state brimming with almost 34 million residents — 70 percent more than currently — but with many of the same growth problems, a statewide management organization concludes in a report released today.

Balancing development against nature preserves and farmland will be a recurring theme of the next half-century, 1000 Friends of Florida says in its Florida 2070 report.

But the organization maintains that through smart growth management, there is a way to lower the trajectory Florida is on, which puts on course to having one-third of the state developed, up from less than 19 percent during the report’s 2010 baseline year.

If  many residents are already feeling the pressures of crowded roads, neighborhoods and schools, there is certainly more to come, the report shows.

But 1000 Friends argues that by relying on a more compact pattern of development and increasing the state’s protected land holdings, the percentage of Florida under development can be held to 28 percent in 2070.

South Florida, so long home to rapid growth, is projected as slowing in coming years, relative to the rest of the state.

Within South Florida, the most dramatic potential changes in 2070 can be seen in the areas south of Lake Okeechobee, including in Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades counties, as well as in Lee and Collier counties, the report finds.

Still, land devoted to cities and suburbia in the region should cap at 30 percent of the region — below the state’s 34 percent average, analysts said.

The area of most overwhelming growth in the next half-century? Central Florida.

By 2070, almost half the region from Tampa to Daytona Beach will be devoted to roads, homes, and the other trappings of development, 1,000 Friends forecasts.

Scott says mega-building is generating dollars that help Florida fight environmental problems

Gov. Scott says mega-developments are helping state pay for environmental problems
Gov. Scott says mega-developments are helping state pay for environmental problems

Florida’s building boom, which followed Gov. Rick Scott’s rollback of growth management laws, is alarming many community activists and environmentalists.

But Scott sees the spread of mega-developments, from the Panhandle to the heart of panther habitat in Southwest Florida, as helping the state pay for widespread environmental problems facing the state.

The Indian River Lagoon on the state’s Atlantic shore and Caloosahatchee River on the Gulf of Mexico side have been badly fouled by freshwater runoff from Lake Okeechobee, carrying pollutants from neighborhoods, farms and cities.

At the same time, freshwater springs, concentrated mostly in Central and North Florida, have proved particularly vulnerable to pollutants from nearby development. Such landmark sites as Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs and Fanning Springs are choked by nutrients and algae.

Scott, though, said his administration has steered $880 million toward advancing long-stalled Everglades’ projects while backing major efforts for cleaning the Indian River Lagoon and endangered springs.

These initiatives would not be possible without the dollars provided by the building projects that are flourishing in Florida, he said.

“All that’s happened,” Scott said, “because we’ve turned around our economy.”

Palm Beach County’s unincorporated western area is the site of almost 14,000 new homes planned in coming years, spread across four new communities, including Westlake, whose developers want to make it the county’s 39th city.

On what had been timber and farm land in Charlotte County on the Gulf coast, a city whose acreage is bigger than Manhattan is beginning to emerge. In Orange County, 4,000 homes are on their way east of the Econlockhatchee River, long a dividing line between urban and rural Central Florida. Prime Florida panther habitat is targeted for development in eastern Collier County, just southeast of Palm Beach County.

What’s happened in Florida since growth oversight has been reduced?

More here:

Florida’s building boom has financial and political pay-off for state’s ruling Republicans

Tax collections from real estate transactions are returning to their pre-recession heights in Florida
Tax collections from real estate transactions are returning to their pre-recession heights in Florida. Graphic by Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

The spread of mega-developments across Florida five years after Gov. Rick Scott sharply reduced growth management laws is yielding both a financial and political pay-off for ruling Republicans.

The wholesale building boom can be traced in state statistics.

Real estate tax collections, a strong barometer of growth, soared 17 percent last year in Florida to $2.1 billion.

That was the highest level in the state since 2006 when these documentary stamp taxes paid on real estate transactions began toppling from a pre-recession high of $4 billion in 2005, a towering mark propelled upward by two straight years of hurricane rebuilding.

The most building permits in a decade also were issued last year in Florida after five years of growth.

The rising tax receipts not only are proof of a rebounding economy, but also helped fuel a state budget that hit $82 billion this year for the first time. That allowed Scott to make good on his re-election promise to give back $1 billion in tax breaks.

Full story on how reduced regulations are spurring runaway growth:

Five years after Scott reduced state growth laws, mega-developments are booming

Palm Beach County’s unincorporated western area is the site of almost 14,000 new homes planned in coming years, spread across four new communities, including Westlake, whose developers want to make it the county’s 39th city.

But similar, multi-thousand-acre projects are also in the works this spring across remote stretches of scrub and wetland – virtually in every corner of Florida.

Such mega-projects as Babcock Ranch,Plum Creek, Lake Pickett and Deseret Ranch, are poised to add thousands of houses, millions of feet of commercial space and swell the state’s population through the next decade by converting vast amounts of rural land.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick, who fought much of the western growth in her county, traces Florida’s boom to Scott’s actions in 2011.

“It just kicked the door open,” Burdick said. “But the impact of all this development is ultimately going to be picked up by the taxpayers. They’re the ones who will have to pay for the needed roads, the schools and improving the bad water we’ll be left with.”

Full story here: